Humor keeps us alive. Humor and food. Don't forget food. You can go a week without laughing.
Sora temporarily solved the issue of answering nature’s call by washing out and setting up an old chamber pot in one of the rooms upstairs. Dubious rags were left near it as ‘wipes’, and yeah, you didn’t think you’d have much of choice when the time came. While you didn’t fancy using a non-flushable loo in the cold of a dusty room with a skeleton in one of the other rooms nearby, it did beat out having to go outside with your butt at the mercy of the cold and beat out having the chamber pot in the common room with you and Sora. At least by setting it up in an abandoned room you wouldn’t have to risk someone seeing you.
Or ‘something’ as Sora said and has yet to clarify despite you asking.
The fact that Sora picked out the strongest piece of broken wood and was trying to sharpen it with a dull knife from the kitchen was doing little to appease your growing paranoia.
It was night outside now, and your smartphone said it was getting close to ten o’clock.
Sora paused in his task at the light from your phone and looked over at you. “Hey.”
You looked up at him as he pulled out his own phone. The light came on and he scowled down at it. He lifted his gaze to yours.
“I haven’t seen any plugs or light fixtures. I don’t think this place has any electricity, like, at all.” He waggled his phone at you, looking reluctant. “Plus, since we don’t have a signal anyway, we should probably try to conserve what charge our phones have. I’m going to turn mine off, and you should probably do the same.”
You frowned, seeing the logic in his words but not liking it. Your shoulders slumped. “Yeah, that makes sense.”
Sora finished turning off his phone just a couple seconds before you did. After the phones were off, the only light in the room was coming from the fireplace. Then, you both pulled out your ‘work’ phones and turned those off as well. Hearing the wind howling outside, you hugged your knees and stared at the flames.
You could feel tears wanting to well up in your eyes, and some did, but you did your best not to cry. This situation probably wasn’t any better for Sora—heck, it was probably worse since he was doing the dirty work, plus you were clearly relying on him for your safety—so you didn’t want to add another burden on him with your crying. Trying not to sniffle, you decided to settle down to try to sleep.
The noise from Sora quickly tapered off and you heard some rustling from close to you. He settled down nearby, his head close to yours, and you thought that he was probably facing the fire, same as you. It was uncomfortable there, lying on a couple of ragged, dirty blankets on a wooden floor, no blanket to cover up. Not to mention, the room was still cold away from the fire. In that moment, it felt as though it was only you in Sora in the whole world.
You reached out a glove-covered hand and Sora’s own quickly came up to grasp it. He was real. He was there with you.
You weren’t alone.
Was it selfish that you were glad he was there too?
Boss lady’s breathing had finally evened out. Without looking at her, Sora could tell that she was asleep at last. He could probably let go of her hand now, but he honestly didn’t want to, not when the only other sounds he could hear was the crackling of the fire and the wind blowing around this empty inn. It isn’t exactly silent, but this is certainly the quietest night he’s ever experienced.
He doesn’t like it.
He hates it, really. Give him the bustle of the city any day, with its constant lighting, dark alleys, crowds of people, and abundance of stores and eateries. This place is practically hell. Wasn’t there a cold level of hell?
Closing his eyes, Sora reflected on the past day. Someone probably used their Quirk on them and teleported them into the middle of fucking nowhere. That would be the most logical explanation for their current shitty situation.
But. That snowman, those runes in the kitchen, the skeleton upstairs, the lack of electric sockets in this place, the fact that their phones couldn’t get a signal despite being top of the line… Sora didn’t like the picture that was forming.
Then, earlier, while he was out fetching water, those shapes on the hill on the other side… Of all the modifications boss lady has given him, better eyesight is one of them. Sora—along with Daiki, Katsu, Shizu, Kyoko, and some of the other guys—can see a lot better than most people without a vision-related Quirk. He’d been able to make out what the shapes had been and he hadn’t liked what he saw. Did that make him racist? Speciescist? Whatever. The point was, Sora was about eighty percent certain that he saw freaking goblins.
He was pretty sure they were goblins. That, or people with a mutant Quirk that made them small, green, ugly, and gave them pointed ears. He was probably lucky that they were on the other side of the stream, but he’d have to be extra vigilant going down there again. He should probably find a weapon of some kind, maybe a knife from the kitchen, or even a pointed stick. He could probably kill them with a pointed stick, right? In self-defense, of course, if anyone asked.
Grumbling under his breath, Sora shifted, trying to get more comfortable on, well, the floor, basically. He was still for a moment before the day flashed by him again—teleportation to a place without cell service, a violent snowman, runes, and now what were possibly goblins. This was like those manga he and Katsu were briefly into back in middle school, but—
But that was impossible, right? It was just a plot device for light novels, manga, and the occasional game. It couldn’t be real. They were just in the middle of nowhere, right? They couldn’t be…
His brow furrowed as he shoved aside the uncomfortable word and tried to believe that they were still home.
(still on Earth)
Daiki is the first person to suspect that something is wrong.
It’s one thing for (Name) not to update him on her whereabouts, but it’s another story altogether when Sora fails to check in at all. Calling Sora’s phones—both ‘work’ and personal—don’t connect at all. Texts and emails bounce back, undeliverable. When the same things happen when trying to contact (Name), Daiki doesn’t waste time alerting Shizu and Kyoko. He checks in with Katsu but Katsu hasn’t heard from either of them either. Within two hours, the four of them gather at headquarters.
The girls try, and fail, to contact (Name) while Katsu did the same for Sora. Daiki waited, hoping they would succeed, but their results were the same as his. Shizu was the last one to stop trying, turning a grim look on him, a look mirrored on the faces of Kyoko and Katsu, and no doubt on his own face as well.
The somber mood was shattered by a comment from Kyoko.
“Did they elope?”
Katsu looked at her, completely baffled as that thought hadn’t occurred to him in the slightest.
Kyoko deadpanned, “No, separately, with partners we’ve never even heard of before.”
Katsu opened his mouth but Shizu held up a hand and he fell silent as she talked.
“Be serious, you two. (Name) wouldn’t elope, nor would Sora easily let her. If he had lost sight of her, he would have called, right?” She glanced at Daiki who nodded. She continued. “Maybe their phones are dead. It’s not impossible to think that they’ve run afoul with some Quirk that messes with electronics, even our enhanced phones. But then, Sora would have found an alternative means to contact us by now. Did anyone think to check the newsfeeds for that area?”
When everyone confirmed negative, there was silence as they all did an internet search. When nothing showed up, Shizu made the decision to call (Name)’s parents’ apartment, something they were generally forbidden to do as (Name) insisted she had a phone they could call if they needed her.
As they watched, Shizu’s frown became more pronounced as she listened to whoever was on the other end of the call. Just by listening to her half of the conversation, they could tell that (Name) wasn’t at home either. After ending the call, she shook her head at them.
(Name) and Sora were missing.
If it had just Sora, then they would have waited at least until dawn before becoming worried and beginning a search. However, (Name) was the foundation of the gang, and without her Quirk they would lose the majority of their income. They could not afford to wait in beginning a search for her so they wasted no time. Daiki immediately sent out his boys while Shizu began the investigation, hours before the police would begin their investigation at the behest of (Name)’s parents.
It is Shizu who finds the first real clue. It comes in the form of the video surveillance from the lone train station. As they watch at her insistence, they see what they’ve been told is the last known recording of both (Name) and Sora. Between one frame and the next, the two of them just vanish in attempting to board the train.
They all head out to the station in question, determined to find some answers, not yet aware that there are none to be found.
(none of them care about the thin blond man that stumbles onto the train at the last second
not yet, anyway)
It’s cold and uncomfortable on the floor, and you wake up each time Sora gets up to put more wood on the fire. You don’t say anything though, being exhausted and suspecting that Sora is even more exhausted than you are. This is easily the most miserable night of your life.
You wish someone would come and rescue you both.
That said, you don’t blame Daiki and Shizu too much, not with there being no signal out here. If there had been then surely rescue would have already been on its way. No doubt the two of them were looking for you and Sora right now. You just had to hold on until they could find you.
Your friends wouldn’t dream of letting you down.
Although, you wouldn’t say no to even a professional hero at this point. Endeavour would be really handy right about now, but he was more into criminal catching, right? You’d probably have a better chance with the Wild, Wild Pussycats since they were a rescue team. But didn’t they tend to lean towards mountain rescues? Wait, there were mountains outside, right? So it’s not totally beyond the realm of possibility…
(he wonders if she knows she’s mumbling)
It feels like forever before Sora finally drifts off for the first time that night.
[Carer Class Obtained!]
Only for him to jerk awake at the intrusion of a voice in his head. Worse, he doesn’t even know what the voice said, though he does suspect it was said in English.
With narrowed eyes, he also suspects that the voice hadn’t finished speaking.
Part of him wants to yell at whoever is dicking with him to come out and face him, but (Name) is sleeping. Whatever bothered him apparently hadn’t bothered her, so there’s at least that small mercy.
Bristling, Sora tried to stay awake, but he was exhausted. His day was more physically exerting than boss lady’s had been, and while he could pull an all-nighter he knew that he would have to be awake the next day so that (Name) wasn’t alone. Daiki would never forgive him if (Name) got hurt doing something foolish while he was sleeping. Reluctantly, he laid down to try to sleep.
The voice came back and he clenched his eyes shut. It didn’t speak for long and it left even though he shouted at it in his head to show itself. He called it names but got no response.
He fell asleep before he knew it.
Morning doesn’t bring relief, exactly, but at least there’s daylight to see by. After returning from the makeshift toilet upstairs, you find Sora at the door with the water bucket on hand. The two of you had used one of the old pots in the kitchen to warm up some of the left over water from yesterday to wash your faces and now he had to fetch more. You asked Sora if you should go with him this time, but he told you to stay inside where it wasn’t as cold. He reassured you that he would be back as soon as possible, but until them you were to stay inside and lock the door.
He disappeared out into the grey day and you dutifully locked the door behind him. Left alone once more, you couldn’t help but notice just how much dust there was in the place. There were trails where you and Sora had walked. Shaking your head, you made a mental note to either take some water from the bucketful Sora was getting or melt some snow to try and clean the place up.
Cleaning the place was probably useless, but it would be something to pass the time. Plus, if you and Sora were going to be stuck here until rescue came then at least you’d like the place to be cleaner than this.
A lightbulb goes off in your head as you remember the chipped bowl with the water you used to wash your faces. Surely that wasn’t good for much else now, right? And if Sora got mad at you for using it… well, what could he do except maybe yell at you? Though if so much as raised his voice at you over freaking water…!
Shaking your head, you went over to the designated wash bowl and stared down at its contents. Hm. Maybe you should use a different container since the water was going to get filthy from all that dust in the main room. Opening cupboards—while avoiding the one with the food and runes—you soon found another old bowl. Blowing out the dust, you then poured water into it.
That left you with the need for a washcloth… Hm. The only cloths around were those dirty rags Sora brought from upstairs. Okay, you’ll use one of those.
With your cleaning materials in hand, you stood in place as you face the common room. The filthy, caked in dust common room.
Well, it was either clean or do nothing. Thinking about it, if you were here long enough, then you would eventually buckle and clean anyway, so why not cut out middle part and jump right into it?
You let a minute or so pass before sighing. Okay.
Cleaning it is.
Sora was not exactly happy as he trudged back to the inn. It was an inn, probably. It had rooms upstairs, a common room, and a kitchen to make food, so it fit the definition. Then again, maybe it was a bed and breakfast? Heaven knows that it isn’t a respectable ryokan.
Fetching water was one thing, but he’d been paranoid the whole way to the stream. Just because he couldn’t see anyone or anything around didn’t mean he was actually alone. That snowman yesterday popped out of the snow, so it wasn’t as though the snow was a reliable indicator for the presence of other things. He had a knife concealed on him, but it was dull as hell. It didn’t exactly fill him with confidence. He wished he had thought to carry a butterfly knife on him yesterday. No, instead all he had was a lighter, his phones, and a practically worthless Quirk-negation gun with two shots. What would two darts do against, well, anything that wasn’t a person with a Quirk?
The only good thing about this most recent trip outside was the fish he was dragging in his other hand. It wasn’t much of a bonus since it nearly slammed itself into him by leaping out of the water without warning, but at least it was something. Cold kept things relatively alive, right? He doesn’t want to put it in the bucket because then he’ll have to fetch another bucket of water, and really, Sora doesn’t want to come back out here for at least an hour.
Shivering as he arrives at the front door, he kicked the door instead of putting down either the twitching fish or bucket of cold water. He yelled out that it was him. A moment or so later, he heard the lock click and the door opened, revealing (Name) with her sleeves pushed up. Hustling into the building, she closed the door behind him as he walked over to the nearest—and suddenly clean—table to put the bucket of water down.
“What the hell is that?”
He glanced over his shoulder to see (Name) staring down at the fish he was dragging. Her nose was wrinkled and she clearly didn’t like the sight of it any more than he did.
“It’s a Nopefish,” he said sarcastically, raising it up. He held it a little more away from him as it twitched in response. “Gross.” He looked hopefully over at her. “Do you know how to make, like, normal fish?”
She waved one hand in a so-so motion as she explained. “Dad loves Bluefin tuna, but do you know how big they are? Plus, it’s, like, expensive.” She shook her head. “Anyway, I asked Shizu to get me a live Bluefin tuna back just after we graduated high school, so that I could learn its ‘shape’, so I might be able to here and now? It won’t be the whole fish, though.”
Sora was already drooling at the thought of fresh tuna. He held out the fish to her. “Quick, before it completely dies.”
She wasn’t wearing her mittens so she reached out and put her hand on the slimy subject. She made a face but kept her hand there. Gradually, the strange and unpleasant fish morphed into a heavy slab of tuna flesh. The slime on the scales collected off to one side and (Name) wiped it off, letting the slime splat on the floor. There was also a protruding blob and when he eyed it she explained that it was the unusable material they were going to have to throw out. She pulled away the blob and what was left in Sora’s hands was a beautiful slab of ‘tuna’.
They both stared at it and (Name) was the first one to break the silence.
“I wish I had thought to learn how to make eggs.”
Sora broke his gaze from the glorious tuna. Yeah, eggs would have been good, but he couldn’t picture boss lady sticking her fingers into an egg yolk for no reason, but on the other hand he’s definitely seen her touching other things with her bare hands, so…
“Do you know how to make fruit?”
She blinked. “Uh…”
Several minutes later, the tuna flesh was smaller, but they now had an apple, a mandarin, and a tomato.
“Why do you know how make tomatoes?”
“I used to eat them like that back before middle school.”
“Like, just a whole tomato?”
“I had a tomato phase.”
“…Can’t say I’ve heard that phrase before.”
“Should I make another tomato?”
“Stop shrinking the tuna!”
“…You really like fish, don’t you?”
The tuna boss lady made was completely free of mercury levels and void of any potential bacteria, so Sora had no second-thoughts about cutting off a slice to eat right away. (Name) pointedly stared at him until he cut off a piece for her too, and then she wandered off to the kitchen while he took a seat. Sitting there, he kept taking small cuts of tuna to munch on while (Name) cleaned up the kitchen a bit. The tuna wasn’t perfect, but it sure beat whatever it originally was.
Eventually, boss lady yelled out to him to bring in the fish and stuff. Feeling content now that his stomach wasn’t attempting to eat itself, Sora did as she asked and brought her the now dead tuna flesh and the fruit.
“Why is a tomato a fruit?”
Boss lady just stared at him. “I… don’t know?”
He stared at the tomato and shrugged.
They both stared down at the counter where the food was now laid out. Neither of them moved or said anything until Sora addressed the elephant in the room.
“Do you know how to cook?”
Boss lady shook her head. Sora scratched a finger against his cheek.
“Well, I don’t either, not unless it comes prepackaged and with instructions, anyway.” He brightened. “At least we can eat the fish uncooked.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Without rice?”
Sora’s eyes gleamed. “I don’t eat sushi for the rice.”
“Of course not…” She sighed. “Well, you’re right about the fish thing. But maybe we could fry some of it with the butter? I’m pretty sure there was a frying pan here somewhere…”
Eventually, they did manage to fry up part of the tuna. It wasn’t exactly good, so they decided to leave the tuna as it was. (Name) ended up rolling her eyes at him as he cut up a section of the tuna and served it up as is. The rest of the tuna was sliced up and carefully put into the cupboard with the runes, sticking it in around the flour and butter.
After that, Sora seemed to be in a better mood. He surprised you by saying he was going to check out the rest of the dilapidated buildings, and he wanted you to stay in the inn.
You blinked. “This is an inn?”
He blinked back. “What did you think it was?”
She shrugged. He scratched his cheek again.
“Well, I’m heading out. Lock the door behind me.”
She nodded and he left.
Standing in the middle of the abandoned village, Sora slowly turned in a circle as he critically eyed everything.
“This place is a dump.”
He paused and scowled as he remembered the night spent on the floor.
“I’d set fire to the whole place for fun if we had anywhere else to go.”
Sighing, he trudged over to the nearest building that looked least likely to collapse on him. The door to the place was hanging open with some snow drifting inside. The shutters in this place were hanging loose so there was light inside. He couldn’t see much from where he stood, but the place had an even more abandoned feeling to it than the inn had before they arrived.
Steeling himself, Sora set about carefully exploring the place. The last thing he needed was to fall through the floor or stumble into a zombie unawares. Healing boss lady could do, but he had doubts she’d be able to turn him back if he got turned into a zombie. Why was he even thinking about zombies? It’s probably that skeleton’s fault. If the ground wasn’t frozen and hidden beneath a fuck-ton of snow, then Sora would bury its bony ass six feet under!
Wait, that sounds like too much work. Four feet under? At least three feet deep, anyway.
Sora smacked his face. “Focus, man. You got a job to do.”
Nodding decisively, he returned to the task on hand.
(but still kept a keen ear and eye out for the undead)
The human with the shield had left the other human in the building. The door was locked but there was more than one way to get inside. Yellownails led the way, planning to get in through one of the upstairs windows.
Coming up the hill from the side neither human had yet climbed, three goblins stealthily approached, closing in on what they thought would be easy prey. Two lone humans who didn’t look or act like adventurers or the dangerous guardsmen from the nearby city? They had no weapons and while one looked like they could use magic, the other one didn’t seem to have any skills at all. Now, while the shield human was away and exploring the furthest building, they would take this opportunity and hunt the other human! Winter was hard, and bringing down at least one of the humans would provide them with food.
This place was where the bad sickness was four springs past but the two humans weren’t sick. They would have been screaming with agony if the sickness was still around. Since they were not already dying then the sickness is not a danger. Or so chieftain said before sending them.
Holding back grumbling, they came to a stop below a window with a broken shutter. That would be their way inside. Two lifted the third one and he managed to climb up and into the window. It was dusty from being empty for so long. Truthfully, Yellownails would prefer to be one of the two outside because there was more space to run away, but the other two were heavier than he was so he ended up being the one they picked to go inside.
Sniffing the air, Yellownails thought he could smell human piss. They were probably using one of the rooms to pee in instead of going outside. Yellownails wished he could pee inside the cave but chieftain does not let any goblin do that, not even himself. Scratching under his nose, Yellownails carefully walked over to the door to crack it open.
There was only one human, but it would be best if he could catch it by surprise, to give it no time to fight back. Clutching the rusty dagger chieftain gave for this hunt, he slowly crept out of the room and into the hall. There was some noise from downstairs, the human moving around. Tilting his head, Yellownails did not hear more than one human. Good.
Still creeping carefully, Yellownails made it to the top of the stairs. He felt the urge to sneeze, but he must not! He must not sneeze or the prey will know he is there. He must either kill the human or open the door so Rocknose and Grasseater could get in and then the three of them together would kill the human. But they must do it quickly and quietly before the other human came back!
Stalking silently down the stairs, Yellownails paused at the bottom. The human was in the kitchen but he was frozen. He wanted to cough! Of all times, why now? Why did his nose and mouth want to make noise? He must be quiet!
Shutting his eyes tight, Yellownails held a hand over his mouth. His chest heaved with the urge to cough and his nose tingled with a sneeze that wanted to come out. He stood there shaking for what seemed like forever—
When Yellownails opened his eyes, the human was already swinging a chair at his head.
We each survive in our own way.
~Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass