He followed her through the darkness, his eyes still not completely adjusted to the low lighting. Shadows swam before him, inky masses that seemed to be vented from escaping squids.
The image brought Archi to his mind, and a hope that she hadn’t been brought in yet. They had told him everything in an effort to break his resolve: the slow but successive defeats of different Protagonists; the handles and names of the furnace’s latest victims; and the breaking of Archi Teuthis.
“Jack,” the voice rang from ahead of him. “You’re falling behind. Try to keep up, eh?”
“Alright, alright,” he whispered back.
A few paces later, a thought struck him, a fear that had eluded him so far only on account of his sudden salvation:
“Wait,” he stopped walking as he said this. His sight was now completely restored, pupils wide to bring in any and all light, allowing him to make out the back of his rescuer's head: long black hair cascading down and tickling in subtle curls at the blades of her shoulders.
“I’m not quite sure who you are, y’know.”
The woman turned, finally revealing her face.
“It’s not like you haven’t played cryptic in the past, Jack,” she said, grey eyes flashing though her smile did not. Instead, she arched an eyebrow and brought her lips together into a tight crease, almost pouting.
“Besides,” she added, a slight sparkle of a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. “You can’t hope to know every member of the Revolution, can you?”
Jack shook his head, opting not to answer the woman. He felt hardly at ease with her, though he was never one to throw trust about carelessly. His gut was telling him to beware: he had identified her eyes as grey, not gray. All that is grey is lifeless, cold, bleak, and colourless. Grays offer subtle hints of life, of warmth, of hope, and of colour. A single splash of pale green gained an inkling of his trust: a stylized P emblazoned on a small circle.
“Then help me know more of them,” he retorted, a little ice in his voice.
It was her turn to shake her head, before saying, “Knowing more simply gives you more to tell should the unfortunate opportunity arise.”
“I prefer to think on a positive note –”
“Don’t fool yourself, Jack,” the woman interrupted. “You’re a self-professed pessimist, and you’ve already got yourself caught once.”
Jack was taken aback, and stumbled out a few soft sounds in the absence of coherent words. The pair stood still, two dark shadows in a dark hallway: indiscernible at first glance, but embodying two opposite sides of each and every coin: grey and gray.
The woman turned and made a few strides, assuming Jack’s silence meant his compliance was in order.
That was hardly true.
“How do you know so much about me?”
“There’s a lot that we know about you,” she answered, while a low chuckle drifted over her shoulder.
“Referring to Jack,” he murmured, almost rhetorically, “or to the Protagonists?”
He didn’t see the cruel smile weaving across the woman’s face.
“Just follow,” she cooed. Her hips swayed gently as she moved forwards, obviously falling back on every means of persuasion she had mastered.
A sigh, and Jack answered, "If I don’t?”
“You have an imagination. I trust it hasn't grown stiff with disuse.”
She couldn't see Jack's scowl behind her back, but his metronomic footfalls told her he was indeed following.
"So," Jack ventured, a scowl still planted above his chin. "You aren't a Protagonist, but you can't be LitPol either. After all, you did interrupt the interrogation to free me. But now, after admitting to not being aligned with our cause, you continue to slink through the bowels of this place."
She stopped suddenly, spinning on her heel and causing her mane of black hair to fly in a circle about her, like the dress of frills upon the pirouetting dancer.
"First, I admitted to nothing," she whispered sternly. Jack mumbled something about silence speaking louder than words, though this brought only a red tinge to her pale face. "And second, the place is no place. Nowhere. It does not exist except to those who know it."
"Then it does exist, doesn't it?" Jack prodded. "You know it, ergo it exists. Now, I on the other hand, don't quite know this place, so I can say it doesn't exist."
"Writers, taking everything both literally and metaphysically in the same instant," the woman muttered.
Jack continued, "Though if this place doesn't exist and I am somehow in it, then I also don't exist, and am therefore of no help to you, miss."
He smiled, then, as if he had accomplished some great feat.
"So can you let me go?"
The scowl returned, though his body obeyed.