AN: In all honesty I've been itching to write this chapter for some time :3c So I hope you'll enjoy reading~
Eishirou's head was swimming as he tried to open his eyes. But his eyelids felt so heavy. He knew he had to open them, though. He felt…strange. Almost weightless, yet his limbs were heavy. There was…something around his upper back and his legs were, well, dangling over something else.
He couldn't feel the ground.
Ground…wait, the ground gave way!
He unwittingly uttered a soft groan as he scrunched up his nose. With a lot more effort than it should require, he opened his eyes. And was met with…darkness. Not pitch-black darkness, but there was no sign of sunlight.
Why was it so dark? Did night fall already? Where was he?
His name caused Eishirou to roll his head to the right only for his gaze to fall on the emblem of the Silverleaf Academy. A tilt of his head backwards then showed him a pair of purple eyes looking down at him in concern.
An expression that was of genuine relief appeared on Zayne's face. "You're awake."
Eishirou soon realised why he wasn't able to feel the ground and why he felt as if he was somehow weightless…he was being carried by Zayne. An arm around his shoulders. Another under his knees. And they held him securely against his chest.
"Wh-what?" he practically squeaked as his face flushed with embarrassment.
That soon died down, however, when he abruptly remembered why the ground beneath his feet have given way. "Wait, that ShadowDweller?"
"It's dead," Zayne answered sharply.
In other words, he fought it by himself. But did he do so easily or…?
"Are you hurt?"
There was an expression of mild amusement on Zayne's face. "Worry about yourself."
His blush made a swift return. "I'm fine. Could you, ah, put me down?"
It was kinda awkward having a conversation with someone when they were carrying them in their arms. S-sure, he felt safe and all. But it was still…strange.
Zayne complied, bending down to place Eishirou's feet to the ground before letting him stand under his own strength. He did keep an arm around his shoulders, however. Which was fortunate as soon as Eishirou stood to his full height, he had an unexpected dizzy spell. And promptly fell back into Zayne.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm…fine," Eishirou automatically replied. He, however, sighed a moment later and touched his forehead. "Just feeling a little light-headed for some reason. Did I hit my head?"
"Let me see."
Only when Zayne suddenly, but gently raked his fingers through his hair, did Eishirou realise that it wasn't a blow to the head that was making him dizzy. He was…giddy. From embarrassment.
A-ah, what should he do?!
His heart was racing. Why was it racing?
"Can't see anything," Zayne commented before a sense of frustration edged into his voice. "Though it is hard to see down here period."
Which was somewhat fortunate for Eishirou. Ooh, boy. He must be blushing up a storm right now. He hoped that Zayne couldn't hear or feel his racing heart.
Zayne suddenly smacked his forehead with his hand. "Duh, I can fix that."
Eishirou wanted to ask what he meant, but the Elite prompted him to step away from him. Zayne than closed his eyes in concentration.
Flickers of blue light suddenly appeared behind him. Lights of mana. He was calling forth his mana to give them some kind of illumination?
A second later, wings of condense mana appeared from behind him. Not from his back, but inches from him. They were a blue in colour and not made of feathers. Rather condense mana in the style of feathers. Advanced Elites could summon wings for battle. And to fly, allowing for greater advantage.
"That's better," Zayne said with a grin as the blue light from his mana wings illuminated the area. "Now we can see where we're going."
That was true. But…duel weapons, able to battle against ShadowDwellers alone, wings – Zayne must be quite the skilled Elite!
There were a lot of questions running through his head. But Eishirou would have to wonder about the enigma of Zayne later. He had more pressing matters to attend to. For example;
"Where are we?" Eishirou asked aloud as he turned to look at their new surroundings. "That ShadowDweller, it came from underground."
"Yeah. Appears that we have an underground passage here."
He was right. Stone walls surrounded them, linear and cubic. The air was stale and stifling. And every few feet sturdy wooden support beams were seen, though they were old and crumbling in some areas.
"A man-made one at that," Eishirou commented as he brushed his hand against the stone wall closest to him. The stone was cold, covered in dried moss. He brushed the moss aside to reveal telling markings and scraps within the stone.
He idly looked down at the ground and kicked at the dirt. Again, there were pick marks there, too. Though, they did appear different. Deeper.
"Old, though. They must have used pick-axes to work on this. It could have been a mine."
"Mining for what?"
Zayne was likely wondering why there would be a mine in such a dense forest and a remote island. But the era of which made these tunnels were millenniums ago. The environment would have been different back them.
Eishirou shrugged. "Anything. Gold, silver, other ores. Maybe something else entirely."
If it was once a mine at some point, then there had to be an exit or two. The paths, though, were also likely to similar to a maze. And who knows how many other cave-ins had occurred during the years.
They needed a map.
"Wait, my tablet?" Eishirou abruptly remembered that he had thrown his tablet back into his bag during the chaos of the ShadowDweller battle earlier. And he was still carrying his bag when he fell.
He immediately dug around in his bag, silently hoping that it wasn't damaged during the fall. His fingers brushed against the smooth screen and he pulled it out. Turning it on seemed to take longer than usual, but the light of the screen soon flickered on.
"Whew, it's not broken," he said around a sigh of relief and tapped at the screen to pull up the location scanner. "I should be able to create a map now. Hopefully it will prevent us from walking in circles."
"We can't go back the way we came," Zayne stated. "A cave-in prevents that."
Zayne turned to look behind them, directing the illuminating light of his wings in that direction, too. And just as he said, piles of stone and rumble blocked the path behind them. From floor to ceiling. Though there were small gaps within the stone, allowing for only the softest of light to filter through. It would take ages for them to remove all the stones and clamber up that way.
So close to freedom, yet so far. How frustrating.
That was likely the very hole that Eishirou fell in. And Zayne…
He…really jumped down to rescue him, huh? He was a dedicated bodyguard.
He was glad, in a way. He didn't have to navigate the mine alone. That would have been very unnerving.
Oh, before they do anything, he had better try to reach Jacob. He was no doubt extremely worried about him. Unfortunately, as he pulled out his communicator, it revealed that there was no reception. It wasn't sporadic or weak, there was simply none to be found.
That was disconcerting, to be completely honest. Did they fall a long way, or was there something in these tunnels blocking reception?
One question would be easy to answer. Eishirou turned his attention back to his tablet and the locator revealed that he was approximately twenty feet beneath the ground. Hm…they might cause interference.
"No reception," Eishirou sighed and put it away.
"Mine's dead, too."
"Well, I guess we have no choice but to go forward," Eishirou said as he turned away from the pile of rubble. And down the long, dark corridor before them.
"Right, I'll need to stay close to my side," Zayne instructed as he placed a hand on Eishirou's shoulder and physically pulled him against his left side. Practically nestling him against him and his wing. "And stay in front of my wings so I can keep an eye on you."
"Ah, ok," was all that Eishirou could utter.
The sounds of their footfalls were the only thing that they could hear. And it was unnerving, to be honest. It was so quiet. True silence, where nothing was heard, was just unnatural. Everything made noise. Insects, animals, even water and flowers had the capacity to make noise.
They soon reached an intersection. Three different paths to choose from. Well, two actually. The one to their left was partially caved in. Thick roots and vines barred the way with large stones.
Zayne pulled out one of his mana holsters. "Want me to cut through the vines?"
Eishirou thought for a moment before he shook his head. "I'm not confident in the structure of that area. It could cause a greater cave-in. Let's continue moving. If all else fails, we'll have to come back to it."
He tapped the screen of his tablet. "I'll make a note of its location just in case."
"Then, we've got two paths to choose from," Zayne stated.
"Well, it's fifty-fifty at this point," Eishirou returned as he made another note on his map. "Let's just take the path in front of us. If it's wrong, we can always come back."
Zayne just nodded his head. Though, it was easy to tell that he didn't fancy having to spend more time down here than necessary. And Eishirou could agree. He didn't mind exploring new areas, but he could do without the threat of cave-ins and ShadowDwellers.
Once again, only the sound of their footsteps accompanied them as they walked down another dark, dank hallway. The light from Zayne's wings were reassuring, though. As was the Elite himself. Eishirou was so glad he wasn't alone. Though, did feel a sense of guilt that his new roommate had been unwittingly dragged down with him.
What a first day for Zayne, right?
As they turned a corner, they were presented with another fork in the road. Again, two options. Although, there was also a large crack in the wall. There was no sign of debris. And it looked big enough for them to slip through if necessary.
Before Eishirou could even begin to weigh up his options, Zayne suddenly slipped his arm around Eishirou's waste and tugged him firmly against his side. Eishirou just kinda fell against him. He didn't even have the chance to utter a sound of surprise when the wings illuminating their ways flickered out and only the light of Eishirou's tablet was seen.
The next thing he knew, Zayne had all but shoved him into that opening in the wall before he squeezed himself in, too. His arm around him once more, as the other gripped his mana holster.
A blush raged across Eishirou's cheeks as he looked up at the stern and serious Elite. "Wha-?"
"Shh," Zayne hushed quietly. "Something's coming."
Eishirou hadn't heard a thing, but he trusted Zayne all the same. Even though he made his heart pound in his chest. Was…was it necessary for him to hold him so close? Like, he wasn't complaining. Not really. Maybe a little.
His…his chest was firm. And his abs feel the same. And his arms felt just as strong…
It was just hard to concentrate, ok! J-just don't let him hear his racing heart and comment on it!
A strange sound pulled Eishirou from his inner panic.
It was a scraping noise. Something, lots of little somethings were…scurrying across the stone ground. Scraping, kicking stones. Making a ruckus that was moving closer. At a rapid pace.
Eishirou subconsciously pressed himself against Zayne's chest as the sound grew. He had inwardly complained about the silence before, but that sound was worse!
The sound of scurrying grew louder. And menacing. The ground around them and under their feet began to quake, causing Eishirou to unconsciously press himself against Zayne further. And that noise…it was thunderous! The very air around them seemed to tremble.
He was almost afraid to look, yet curious at the same time. He peered around Zayne, who in turn kept a firm grip around his holster and stared through the opening with a piercing glare.
His gaze had grown somewhat accustomed to the darkness around them. And he was able to make out a shape. Though, it was honestly more like a blur. It was pitch-black, even blacker than the world around them. Large. Compassing floor to ceiling.
And that kind of all-consuming darkness meant one thing.
The trembling earth around them intensified from both the movement and sound of trundling of many scraping feet as it sped past their hiding spot, not slowing down for even a second. It moved so quickly. And it was so large. Absolutely relentless in its forward movement. He didn't even want to imagine getting struck by the thing.
Long body, long spindly legs. It looked like a giant centipede. Of course, he couldn't really tell since it was moving so fast.
As abruptly as it had appeared into view, it trundled out of view. Though the sound of its many legs scraping against the stones lingered.
A few minutes later, that disappeared, too.
Slowly, Zayne edged the two of them from their hiding spot. Eishirou continued to hold onto the front of Zayne's jacket, however, as the Elite quickly inspected their surroundings for further threats.
"…It's gone," Zayne finally uttered as his mana wings flickered in existence.
Eishirou breathed a sigh of relief and glanced down at the rocky ground at their feet. And he saw new scuff marks across the stone and moss.
Maybe it wasn't pick-axes that made those chisel marks on the floor after all.
"There's ShadowDwellers down here, too?" Though, that wasn't entirely a question. More like a comment of exasperation.
Zayne nodded his head nevertheless. "Different to the ones we encountered above. They're prowling for something. Likely us."
Eishirou winced. That sounded about right.
Zayne stepped away from him, only to suddenly snare his right hand with his left. "Stay close to me."
Eishirou felt himself blush again. "A-alright," he muttered weakly as Zayne led the two of them more cautiously through the dark tunnels once more.