Everything felt so cold, as if my entire body has been incased in ice. Weakly, I moved my fingers without opening my eyes.
The sensation of movement spread across my frozen body as I felt the twitch of my muscles.
A feeling of inner warmth arised, as it slowly moved to meet with the bitter outer coldness that surrounds me.
My eyes remained closed as the two mix of feelings brought about a dreamlike trance. Half-awake, half-asleep, the lucid change of temperatures danced throughout my entire body.
Warm...cold...warm...and cold again...
Where my head was resting, I felt a familiar sensation as it was elevated above the ground. The gentle comfort of another person's lap; a strangely cold yet tender touch.
Am I still sleeping? Am I still dreaming?
I kept my eyes shut, even as blotches of light appeared in my eyelids like fireworks in the night skies. This moment of peace, I was afraid of breaking it.
"If I am to move...if I am to open my eyes; would it all end?" Came the selfish thoughts in my dazed mind as I felt tears flowing down my cheeks.
"Asumi..." Weakly, the words left my mouth. It was the only luxury I could afford, in this delicate state where my mind and body fought to stir yet remained still.
"Do not cry, Takatora Ryuuko..." Came the reply of a familiar voice, as I felt a cold yet gentle finger wiping the tears away from my face.
My eyes popped open as I leapt to my feet, only for my still slumbering legs to give out on me.
"AH!!" I screamed, bracing myself for the impact. But as I fell on what should be ground, there was no pain.
Where I landed was instead emptiness, as if I was stand floating in a void, yet every touch sent ripples throughout the place.
Looking down through the translucent floor I could see below me a field of flowers that stretch further than my eyes could see. Their image was reminiscent of a mirage.
Furiously shaking my head to ensure I wasn't hallucinating, I watched as they swayed and danced despite the lack of wind.
Everything was so confusing, I struggled to wrap my head on all that is around me.
Neither below nor above made any sense, where even what is to be the skies was nothing more than an empty abyss of white with no beginning nor end.
Yet even so, despite the bizarre scenery that is laid before me, my focus instead was turned towards the person standing right in front of me.
"Alma!" I called to them, spitting the name out like poison as I met with their soulless eyes.
There they stood like the ghastly image of a phantom, floating slightly above the lucent grounds yet continuous ripples formed beneath their feet.
Hearing me called their name, they responded with a disturbing smile and a small wave.
"Hello again, Takatora Ryuuko. It is good to see you." Alma spoke in a overtly casual tone, as if addressing a close friend. "I must say, you have done very well.
Thanks to you, I am once again able to step foot in this world. Ah...how wonderful..."
"Wha...what are you talking about?!" I exclaimed as I nervously looked around. What did they mean, "thanks to me"? What have this psychopath done?!
"I wonder can you feel it as well, Takatora Ryuuko? The flow of emotions that pour into this world. Endlessly being spun into threads that strangles both the sinners and the innocents.
How marvelous...how sickening..."
"Huh?! What are you even--I don't what you're saying at all!" I scoffed, baffled at their sudden senseless words. Yet, for some reason, I felt a curiosity to understand what they meant.
Against my better judgement, I closed my eyes.
Faint heartbeats not of my own suddenly rang out in my head, taking me by surprise.
It was weak and small, yet the rhythmic beat was as if I was hearing the sounds of numerous other people all at once.
BABUMP BABUMP BABUMP
Slowly, the echoing of hearts grew louder, along with the gnawing feeling of panic that ate at me. But just as I was to re-open my eyes, my body suddenly got calm.
No longer was my heart racing but instead was beginning to beating in sync, like beautiful music that danced throughout my mind.
It was strange, as for a brief moment--I felt a sense of indescribable happiness.
Everything...everything felt at peace.
"Ah...what...what was that?" I choked as I finally opened my eyes. I felt tears rolling down my cheeks as the mysterious, yet wonderous feelings vanished as quickly as it came.
"As I have expected, you felt it. How was it, the feelings of pure bliss?" Alma snickered. I looked up to meet with a condescending smirk as they continued to speak. "But not yet.
You are yet to be able to sever and free it from the cruel grasp of paradise, my dear Eve."
"Eve...you called me that before. What does it mean? Please tell me, where are we?" My voice cracked as I begged for answers.
The tears were still flowing uncontrollable from my eyes as I carefully ruminate the lingering feelings from mere moments before.
"This is Eden's "garden of mercy"; Kardea. I welcome you, Takatora Ryuuko." Alma responded as they gave me a small bow. "For you are Eve; my friend, and..."
A terrifying grin slowly spread across their emotionless face.