ㅤㅤㅤDaniel sat close to the fire, keeping his dirtied hands close to the quaint and gentle flame, which danced with a rhythmic flicker. The more his wants were being met, the more his greed would urge him to inch closer, with his loose retention of awareness being the only naysayer to these instincts. Still, fearing his sense of reason would falter in the coming minutes and allow irrational instinct to voice as a sole arbiter, he retracted his toasted palms, fearing the punishing ire of the dancer's bite.
ㅤㅤㅤHe slouched back against the contrastingly frigid metal wall, conjuring a cloudy breath in frustration. His eyes fell on the younger woman across from him, carefully tuning her makeshift guitar. She bathed in a stronger amber glow than he, a reward she earned for possessing a better fortitude, but admittedly, more so due to her prior hours of rest.
ㅤㅤㅤ“You waiting for me to die of old age before playing something?”
ㅤㅤㅤThe girl looked up with an apathetic glare, then softly averted her eyes back to the strings. One by one, she plucked, listening to the ring of the wire when compared to the previous. Displeased with how the third sang, she twisted a corresponding knob at the end of the neck. With a repeated test, her demeanor gained a bit more spark. The guitar gave a descending melody as she glided her thumb across the lines. Even on its own, this simple strum was a lovely sound to Daniel, and it seemed the guitarist shared the same appreciation. The whites of her teeth peeked through as her excited hand indulged in a few more chords.
ㅤㅤㅤAfter soaking in the profit of her successes, she looked back up to the old man, who was desperately fighting the weights of his eyes. Quickly, her smile faded into a wash of annoyance.
ㅤㅤㅤ“I can’t play a song if it’s gonna make you pass out.”
ㅤㅤㅤDaniel shifted himself to get what little comfort he could take from a wall.
ㅤㅤㅤ“I could use the rest.”
ㅤㅤㅤ“Yeah, but what if they show up?”
ㅤㅤㅤ“They might. But that’s even if they know to look in the derelict sector first. Once they do, they’re still left with a lot of ground to cover. We’ve a good twelve hours, my guess.”
ㅤㅤㅤSlightly taken aback by the statement, the girl loosened her hold on the guitar. With a raised brow, she asks,
ㅤㅤㅤ“Only twelve..? Don’t you know anywhere else we could go before then?”
ㅤㅤㅤLosing his small bit of comfort to the change in tension, he removed himself from the wall and leaned forward.
ㅤㅤㅤ“I told you from the beginning this was going to be temporary. I promised a break from the hold, not from the entire Tournament. These collars make sure of that.”
ㅤㅤㅤDaniel took a moment to deliver a harsh cough into his arm before continuing,
ㅤㅤㅤ“They will eventually find us, that ain’t an if. At some point, we will be taken back to the holds, probably with extra security measures.”
ㅤㅤㅤThe girl's eyes drooped down to the floor in defeat. For a moment, she sat lost in silent anguish, unable to grip with the fleeting nature of her freedom. Her focus peered to her crafted instrument, a replicated relic from a past life. A relic that had brought back memories she had long forgotten, absorbing them into its wooden frame and allowing their recollection to be echoed with greater nostalgia.
ㅤㅤㅤHer vision blurred as the emotions just barely trickled over the dam. Refusing to look away from her cherished belonging, she asked,
ㅤㅤㅤ“They aren’t gonna let me keep it, will they?”
ㅤㅤㅤThe question was enough to spark a bit of dread in Daniels's heart. Originally fully accepting the natural outcome of their little getaway, there was now a small part of him that shared the pain for what will inevitably be lost.
ㅤㅤㅤ“That’s why you should make the most of it while you still have time…”
ㅤㅤㅤSilence made itself an unwanted guest by the fire, with the girl desperately searching for the words that could dispel the heavy air made by its presence. After a few minutes, she would use her sleeve to wipe her eyes. Then, with a final sniffle, she readied her instrument, choosing to take after the bright dancer in front of her and use rhythm to soothe the room. Her hands in position, she began to play,
ㅤㅤㅤHer strums slowly drifted off as her words seemed to fail. Coming to an end, she gave a disappointed huff, now no longer able to accompany her melody with lyrics.
ㅤㅤㅤ“Sorry, I just can’t remember the rest…”
ㅤㅤㅤAttempting to keep her spirits kindled, Daniel would still praise her performance with,
ㅤㅤㅤ“I don’t blame you; It’s not a very memorable song to begin with. Still, you’re easily the best I’ve heard it done.”
ㅤㅤㅤPerhaps not expressed in the most considerate way, his well-intentioned phrasing only resulted in her responding with an unfulfilled sigh.
ㅤㅤㅤ“It’s a song that makes its rounds throughout the holds occasionally. With so much empty time, you’d think I’d have it memorized by now.”
ㅤㅤㅤ“You seem like you know your stuff, kid. I’m sure you got other songs that you know.”
ㅤㅤㅤHer sight darted across the floor as she dug through her thoughts, searching through the years for anything she could reliably recall.
ㅤㅤㅤ“So much of what I practiced back on earth… My constant deaths and new bodies have muddied the memories. I don’t…”
ㅤㅤㅤ“This is your show. Speaking as someone whose memories aren’t holding much better, don’t beat yourself up. Play what you remember, even if it's only a few lines.”
ㅤㅤㅤWhile not completely restoring her confidence, it was enough to get her hands positioned for another go.
ㅤㅤㅤThe song abruptly ends with an erratic chime of chords as she lightly smacks the strings in frustration.
ㅤㅤㅤ“Augh, there was more to that one too, damn it. It was going well; it was catchy, had a good feel for it.”
ㅤㅤㅤHer displeasure was partially accompanied by a playful tone, seemingly colored by the similarly whimsical feel of the song. Daniel thought it to be unfortunate that the lyrics escaped her, but was relieved it was still able to temper her composure for the better.
ㅤㅤㅤ“Was tapping along with ya, bud. You did great.”
ㅤㅤㅤA smile had fixed itself on her face. While it wasn’t stretching from ear to ear, it was certainly enough for her cover her mouth in embarrassment.
ㅤㅤㅤ“That one was another song I first heard in the hold, really need to start paying more attention to them from now on.”
ㅤㅤㅤ“Ah, why bother with that? You’ll just be memorizing thirty different tunes about the same guy. Make your own songs that’ll drive the hold crazy.”
ㅤㅤㅤFor the first time, the girl let out a bit of soft laughter, amused by the prospect of making her own music, something that she had given up the moment she was captured. But now the suggestion didn’t sound too insane.
ㅤㅤㅤ“Now that you mention it, yeah. Those two songs do kinda sound like they could be talkin’ about the same guy. What do you think he must be like? You know, like, what’s so special about this old fart that it led to a bunch of songs talking about him?”
ㅤㅤㅤ“I can’t say, but I’d put money down he’s heard the songs a thousand times, and just wants someone else’s past put into an ear worm for once.”
ㅤㅤㅤMockingly, the girl strumed her guitar and sang,
ㅤㅤㅤ“That sounds like something… a scruffy old fart… would sayyyy”
ㅤㅤㅤDaniel chuckled to himself.
ㅤㅤㅤ“You don’t say.”