shamera: ffxiii: hope and lightning (ffxiii: I'll keep you safe on the way)
Shamera K. Tsukishirou ([personal profile] shamera) wrote2015-05-21 06:14 pm

[FFXIII/RER2] Upon A Shining Star (6980words)

Title: Upon A Shining Star
Fandom: Final Fantasy XIII / Resident Evil Revelations 2
Character/Pairing(s): Natalia Korda, Hope Estheim... eventually Snow, Sazh, Lightning... and Barry?
Rating: PG-13, mostly for violence and monsters
Warning: crossover galore~
Summary: Natalia wakes up earlier than anticipated and finds shelter in a garden full of crystal statues.
Notes: Thanks to these fanarts! Because wow, Hope and Natalia are my babies which makes them sibling in my head-- I mean, what?

She had gotten used to the idea that she might really be the very last person left alive on this island.

This ingrained concept made it especially hard for her to accept that her special garden, the one she found which none of the monsters could get into due to lack of doors or crumbling walls (but she could by squeezing through the smallest of holes just cracked enough to let her through), had been broken into.

Natalia huddled down by the tall grass at the very edge of the garden, right next to the crumbling hole just in case she needed to make a quick exit. The garden in itself was rather large but entirely fenced over, green and sprawling like a small forest just off the edge of town, blooming with flowers and other beautiful plant life she had never seen before. In the time coming here, Natalia mentally dubbed it the crystal garden, because the centerpiece of the place wasn’t the large wildflowers, but beautiful crystal statues of people scattered through the area.

It had only been a week since she woke up alone here, but Natalia found herself spending the day in the garden whenever she could. Mostly because of the lack of monsters, but also because…

Well, at least the crystals were humanoid and it was easy for her to lean against a statue and pretend that there were people there looking out for her. Like guardian angels, although none of them were carved with wings. She could spend hours there just huddled with Lottie and whisper stories to herself about who the statues might be—- brave knights guarding a beautiful princess! There was only one girl there, but she looked so pretty Natalia found herself once telling the statue shyly that she hoped to grow up to be like her.

It was… hard. Being alone. The first three days were the worst, spent shivering and scared and working out the kinks of how to avoid the monsters on the island. She learned that if she was very quiet, she could walk around them so long as they weren’t looking at her. She learned how to throw things to make noise somewhere else, and found bottles that made a lot of smoke when it was broken. She learned how to look for food, to hunt around for unopened cans and then started to bash it open with a sharp rock… although the experience led to cuts all over her fingers and on her lips when she ate. Natalia was still on the look out for a can opener, and bags of dried food were things she would grab off the shelves of abandoned stores and horde in the tiny area she settled in to sleep for the night.

She had been thinking of moving her meager amount of possessions to the garden despite it being too open to be comfortable, because at least then she had a rotten sheet of wood to cover up the entrance when she left, and covered the hole with handfuls of dirt when she was inside the fenced area. She could pull some blankets in through the hole and set up a sleeping cubby against the wall somehow…


Those thoughts were all dashed now.

Natalia stared intently from her place in the tall grass, alert and wondering why she didn’t see anything in the garden with her. She could always see where the monsters were. That’s how she could avoid them. But the garden was different and she couldn’t see anything here with her at all. Nothing should have been able to get in. The walls were high and really strong, and it was quiet here. The monsters liked noise.

Yet the garden looked as peaceful as ever.

It was still pretty and quiet and if Natalia hadn’t been coming in every day for the past week she might not have noticed anything wrong at all. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. She would have noticed immediately after the first visit that there was a path of bare dirt in the garden where one of the statues used to be. Was, in fact, just the previous day.

She liked all the statues in the garden, but the one now missing was her second favourite, after the pretty lady. Natalia didn’t understand how the statue could be missing — even if the monsters had broken into the garden (and it didn’t look like that at all), why would they just take one of the statues and leave? Or else…

She bit her lip even as she continued to stare accusingly at the blank spot. Unless there was someone else on the island with her that she hadn’t run into yet. But even then, she couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to just take a statue from the garden and leave everything else alone.

But then again, she thought, why would anyone kidnap people and leave us here?

It couldn’t be Alex. At least, she didn’t think it was. Natalia hadn’t seen the scary lady around at all, and hadn’t heard anything coming in through her bracelet. Before she first went to sleep, there had been a lot of different people on the island, all running around and shouting a lot and shooting everything that moved. Natalia learned to stay low, to hide, and to dart from one spot to another as quickly as she could so that she was never seen.

It wasn’t that she didn’t want to stay with people back then, but it was also that she had seen the woman who tried to take care of her be ripped to pieces by monsters, and then she saw other people who shouted too much start turning into those monsters. By the time Claire and Moira ran into her, Natalia had already resigned herself to waiting to be rescued from the island.

She didn’t know how much time passed since then. The grass seemed so much taller than before she went to sleep, and there were no more gunshot sounds or people shouting. In fact, she hadn’t seen another person at all and there hadn’t been the slightest clue someone else might be there… until this.

The garden wasn’t safe anymore. Whether it was monsters or people… well. Natalia hoped desperately that it might have been people. Maybe people like Moira and Claire. Nice people. It just didn’t make sense why anyone would— well, nothing made sense to her, not really.

The one thing it did prove was that her plans of shelter here wasn’t a good idea anymore. Maybe it was a good thing that she found out early instead of being attacked in her sleep.

She was moving to leave when she saw the flash of light a bit beyond the garden walls. There was a loud noise to accompany it, although the noise was strange— like thunder? Except not loud enough. She remembered thunderstorms. Those were deafening and scary, whereas this one seemed much softer. Even the light wasn’t as bright as a lightning flash, although it certainly did look like a series of flashing light like that.

Immediately after, Natalia could hear the roar of several monsters from where the light came from, and another series of flashing lights and noise that sounded like a muted version of thunder. She huddled even lower to the ground, as low as she dared while still keeping a position so that she could run at any moment.

The noises didn’t stop. It sounded like fighting! But the monsters didn’t fight each other, did they?

She felt her breath catch in her throat from— excitement? Fear? Joy?

That might mean there really was someone else other than her left on this island!

With that in mind, Natalia pulled Lottie along with her as she shimmied through the makeshift hole in the garden wall, taking care to ensure there weren’t any monsters who might see her before she appeared on the other side. The area was clear, and she ran as quietly as she could toward the light and sounds of fighting.

Don’t get too close, Natalia told herself carefully. It could be a trap.

Not that she knew any monsters that could make traps. Most of them were just monsters. But some, she found… well, she avoided those ones. In fact, she made sure to keep as far away from those ones as she could.

(When the monsters could actually say words, be it stilted and repetitive or not, she just got a very bad stomach ache thinking about that.)

Along the way, Natalia stopped once only to pick up a crumbling brick with one hand, switching Lottie to the crook of her elbow. Just in case she was wrong, or it was monsters fighting each other, then maybe she could distract them with noise elsewhere. Or… or attack them if they tried to attack her (which, luckily, had never really happened before since Natalia was very careful about being silent where she stepped).

The noises got stranger the closer she got, past half demolished buildings and stone pathways through the tiny town. She stayed as cautious as possible the closer she got, and settled in behind a torn down house, the walls plenty high enough still to cover her short stature.

Natalia couldn’t hide her audible gasp when she peeked past the wall.

There were two monsters there — the tall ones with strangely thick legs and shining parts in their joints and looked really mean — that were… frozen? They were frozen to the ground! She didn’t know where the ice came from because it was always warm on the island and none of the fridges worked and — ice! It looked like the ice was climbing up their legs as well, holding those monsters in place. In fact, the monsters looked rather battered and charred, movements slow and pained.

But that wasn’t the most surprising part. The most surprising thing Natalia could see was the boy who stood not ten feet away from those monsters, one arm dangling down and bleeding a lot. He had a nasty cut on his head, too, and his hair was really white!

Natalia watched with wide eyes as the boy raised his uninjured hand and clenched it into a fist, only to see a… was that a boomerang? It came down into view from the sky and hit the monsters hard on the head, one at a time. The boomerang went back to the boy, who caught it with a jump and wow it was really big because it looked like half the size of him.

And after that… after that…

Natalia must have been dreaming. She must have been, because it looked like lightning had just come down to strike the monsters! Except it wasn’t cloudy and there wasn’t a storm coming from what she knew and both the monsters were hit again and again while they were held to the ground with ice. By the end of the barrage, the ice had melted entirely and the monsters…

The monsters were on the ground, still.

The boy was still as well, eying the monsters for a long moment before he even lowered his boomerang, and in one quick movement, snapping the boomerang closed (did boomerangs close? She didn’t remember anything like that!) and sliding it into a pocket behind him. She didn’t understand how that was possible either, since it really did look half his size, but she wanted to know more about the lightning more than that.

She watched cautiously as he brought his right hand up to the injury on his other arm and watched as he left the hand there for a moment before pulling away, trying to wipe away the blood. He eyed the monsters wearily for another few moments, before turning to go in another direction.

Wait! Natalia wanted to call out, but she was too scared to do so. What if he was a bad person? What if he was just like everyone else at TerraSave who weren’t bad people but ended up as monsters?

She watched as he stopped at a wall, and then picked up a bag of something before he disappeared around a corner.

Natalia hadn’t even known she had held her breath the entire time until she took a very deep breath of air long after the boy was gone.

Natalia spent the rest of the day torn between following the boy and getting as far away from him as possible. At first she went down the path that she saw him go down, but quickly ended up losing where he might have gone once she hit an open field. Then she retreated back into town and dodged past a monster who was shambling along the side streets, making her way to the tiny alcove she created for herself to be safe enough that she could sleep at night without worrying about… everything.

“Lottie…” She told her bear once she crawled into the small opening of the alcove, far too small for any of the monsters on the island. “Maybe you should stay here.”

Lottie didn’t respond to her, but Natalia already expected that. She bit her lip in thought, fingers brushing over Lottie’s stuffing and the torn parts of fur and fabric. Natalia didn’t want to leave Lottie behind, especially as now her bear was the only one left there with her, and Lottie had always been with her for years and years.

But this island wasn’t good to Lottie. And it was dangerous outside. She didn’t know if she should bring her bear along anymore, especially if it might be even more dangerous than usual. Monsters they could handle, but… people?

Natalia didn’t know what happened to Lottie while she had been asleep. It had taken her nearly two days to find Lottie’s remains, ripped and strewn over a large area. Even now Lottie was still missing her legs, and was much more deflated from lost stuffing. Natalia had done what she could with what little she could scrounge up on this island to put Lottie back together again, but…

Well, she wasn’t very good with needles. And the glue here was old.

She just didn’t want her precious bear (friend) to be hurt any more than she already was.

“How do you think he stayed here for so long?” Natalia whispered to Lottie, the two of them curled tightly against the blankets that Natalia had gathered in the tiny place. “Was he sleeping, too?”

Had he met Wesker as well? She shivered at the thought, remembering nothing but the vague feeling of pain and mild terror. Alex Wesker was not a nice person at all, and she was the reason Natalia had slept and woke up after everyone was already gone.

She wondered if he was just like her: lost and alone here. Then she wondered what if he hadn’t been sleeping, and was just like everyone else from TerraSave who was here before she fell asleep. Was he more like Moira and Claire, and like Gina who tried to keep her safe in the beginning? Natalia hadn’t met any bad people here (outside of Wesker, that was) but a lot of bad things happened nevertheless.

“Should I follow him?” She asked Lottie, because she didn’t want to be alone anymore. It was better with her bear there, but… someone else would be good. Natalia wanted to hold onto someone’s hand again, or at least be able to watch a living person. She wanted to see and talk to someone, even if she didn’t know what she could say. “Do you think he would let me stay with him?”

It wasn’t that she was clingy— Natalia knew better that that. People didn’t like clingy kids. It was just… she didn’t want to be alone anymore.

Which made it extra hard to decide whether she should leave Lottie behind or not.

In the end, Natalia took Lottie with her.

Despite being an abandoned island or what looked like one, there was still a lot of food around. Maybe it was because monsters didn’t eat people food anymore, and a lot of people either died or became monsters before they could eat all the food. The thing was, there was still plenty of bottled water and canned food, and even things like beef jerky and boxes of macaroni and cheese. Natalia didn’t know what to do with the dried noodle and cheese bits, but she kept a few boxes anyway.

Once she knew he was around, the boy wasn’t hard at all to find again. Maybe it was because she was so used to the silence, but she could always tell when he was near, mostly because he was so unintentionally noisy. Not noisy enough to catch the attention of monsters (except when he was fighting them! Then it was loud and chaotic and Natalia always hid far away to watch, and she always watched) and so she could follow him around through the day.

He went through a few stores before coming out again, looking rather dejected, and then starting heading up and down several trails. One would lead to the prison, Natalia knew, and another into the more robust town on the island. Maybe the main town, rather than the little one they had both ended up in. Natalia didn’t really like the main town because there were just too many monsters, and she didn’t like the prison because… well, it was a really creepy place. She just didn’t like it.

There were also sewers and factories and places that were still under construction when it suddenly stopped, and even the mines. But those were all bad places; dangerous places. She didn’t want to follow him through any of those places, especially if he was going to be so noisy.

It didn’t take her long to figure out that he was looking for food and water.

It took her even less time than that to leave what he was looking for out in the street while he was browsing through a dilapidated store.

Natalia hid behind a building at the very end of the street and watched as the boy stopped when he came out, clearly started by the cans of food and two bottles of water she managed to scrounge up in that short time frame (and she was more than a little proud because it had taken her a few days to find where all the good food were at and now she knew all the places and he just wasn’t looking in the right places). She clutched Lottie tighter to herself as she watched him look up and down the street, face surprised. He was really pale, and didn’t look very tall. Maybe not half a head taller than her. He didn’t look like a grown up.

She hid further out of sight when he searched around for where the food might have come from, and hid underneath the seat of a broken chair inside a room just across one he searched.

After a few minutes without finding her, the boy stopped looking and put the food items into the tattered bag that he had picked up earlier after the first fight with the monsters. It looked like it might have gotten that bad from the island, since it didn’t look like something he would have carried with him originally (and that was pretty easy to see from the way he was dressed and just how shabby the bag was).

Then he went down the path toward the prison, and Natalia followed along best she could without being seen. She watched as he looked over the impressive walls and walked around the perimeter a bit. He pushed at the door, but it didn’t budge, and Natalia breathed out a quiet sigh of relief. She was glad he couldn’t get in. There were really bad things in there, and it had taken her a long time get out, she remembered vaguely.

The boy looked around for a bit longer, but luckily didn’t encounter any monsters. He then took a different path, and Natalia and Lottie followed along in the tall grass, hunched down nearly to the ground whenever he looked behind himself. He didn’t see her though, and she was glad of that. She still wasn’t sure if she wanted him to know she was there.

(Well, she did, but she didn’t know what he would do when he found out about her.)

The road lead up, and it didn’t take too long for them to come to somewhat broken bridge. There was a locked shed on one side and the other side looked like something like a lighthouse, but not. She held her breath as the boy looked the place over, desperately hoping that he wasn’t going to try going over that bridge. It didn’t look very safe, and she wasn’t sure if she could follow him across that without being seen. She wasn’t that good at hiding.

He didn’t seem to hear her thoughts, seeing as he went ahead and crossed the bridge anyway as Natalia held her breath and despaired.

Well. Even if she couldn’t follow him, he had to come back at some point, right?

Nearly half an hour later, Natalia was itchy from blades of grass against her skin, uncomfortable, and needed to find somewhere to go potty. There was no sign that the boy was going to leave the building across the bridge any time soon, and she eventually decided to give up for the moment. The sky was starting to get dark, and didn’t want to be caught outside with the monsters after dark if she could help it.

It started raining even before she got back to the small town, soaking through her hair and nightgown easily until she was shivering and muddy as she crawled through the hole into her tiny alcove. And hungry. She had spent most of the day following the boy around, after all, rather than scrounge for food for herself. Not that she really needed it… Natalia knew where to find food, and had horded some away just in case.

Her stomach grumbled as she opened a mostly crushed bag of crackers, and poured a bit of the powdered cheese from the macaroni and cheese packets into the bag before shaking it slightly to mix. Lottie sat next to her while she ate, watching the tiny entrance for her.

After she finished eating, Natalia bundled herself up in the dirty blankets and laid down to listen to the plitter-platter of rain, her eyelids growing ever so heavy with each second.

The next day, she woke to the buzz of the red misty monster too close to her little alcove, and Natalia held her breath for the long moments until the monster passed by, clutching onto Lottie tightly as she listened to the terrifying sound and watched from underneath her blankets as the red haze slowly faded away in the distance.

At least those monsters never seemed to care about her, so long as she didn’t make any noise.

She made her way out slowly, the rain having made everything muddy the previous night. At least the air smelled nice, though. It smelled so much better than the previous day, when the heat of summer was heavy and made everything feel too itchy. Natalia wondered if the boy stayed in the building across the bridge the whole night.

Maybe. If the monsters were gone, then it might have been a good idea. Unless, of course, the monsters decided to go inside and get out of the rain, too.

She wondered vaguely if he moved the statue in the garden. But if he did, how did he get it out? Where would he have taken it?

Was he staying on the other side of the island? Were there more people on the other side, who maybe made it past Wesker and were just fine? Maybe there were more people like her, who fell asleep and woke up to this different place.

But what would they think of her?

Natalia stretched in the sunlight, feeling dirty and grimy. Maybe she should go down to the ocean today and take a bath, even if the water made her skin itchy and salty afterward. She would rather that than be covered in mud all the time. And maybe she’d be able to wash her hair as well.

She wondered how far into the sea the island was. Would anyone ever think to come here? She hadn’t seen any fishing boats around, and for that she was half glad because at least it didn’t seem like anyone would come and be eaten by the monsters, but at the same time she wanted fishing boats to come. Because then someone might realize that she was here, and take her away.

“Maybe we’ll find more of you today.” She told Lottie brightly, holding her bear up to inspect the dirt stains on red fur. Her bear was starting to look a little brown, and Natalia hadn’t even had Lottie back for more than a week. How was she supposed to keep her poor bear from falling apart more without someone to help her?

She frowned, and then lowered Lottie until her bear was safely against her chest again. That could be another reason to actually talk to the boy. If there were other people, then those people might be able to help Lottie. She wondered where he came from.

With that in mind, Natalia made a search not for food this time, but signs of human traffic. It was almost exciting pretending that she was hunting down people, making sure to stay extra quiet when she saw a monster hanging around. It was almost like a game. The only thing was… she wasn’t sure what she was looking for. Footprints, maybe, but the area was so trampled that she doubted she’d be able to actually find footprints in the dirt despite the mud. Especially since most of the path was stone, anyway.

Food wrappers? But there weren’t any here that were new, other than the ones she had probably left. Natalia made her way around the little town, counting four different monsters patrolling, before making her way up the path to the prison again, before making the turn to go to the bridge.

She stayed in the damp grass for several minutes to gather up her courage, and then took a very deep breath and hugged Lottie tight before just deciding to run right over the bridge before she could change her mind.

It was rather… anticlimactic. The bridge didn’t fall out from underneath her, and it didn’t seem like anything at all had noticed her presence. Maybe the building there really was safe, and there were no monsters inside. She couldn’t see any monsters around, anyway, although Natalia still wasn’t a hundred percent sure that she was able to see all the monsters around the island. She hadn’t been able to see them like this before she went to sleep, after all, so maybe things had changed?

“Don’t worry, Lottie,” she whispered down to her bear as she contemplated the metal door in front of her. Natalia hoped that the boy was still there, and wondered how she should introduce herself. She wondered how he had fought the way he did, and if she could learn to do something like that. It was pretty cool. “We’ll be in and out real quick. Just to find him.”

The building felt a little ominous despite the last of monsters, and Natalia nodded sharply before—

Pushing futilely against the stuck metal door. She turned the handle and pushed. Pushed hard. Braced her shoulder against the door and dug a foot against the ground to use her weight and get the door open. Then she stood back and put Lottie down on the ground gently, putting both hands on the handle and pulling with all her might after she turned.

The door was stuck! It wasn’t locked, oh no, but it certainly wouldn’t let her inside either. How had the boy gotten in yesterday? Had he gotten in? Natalia had to admit that she hadn’t seen him go inside, hadn’t even seen him approach the door because she was too far away and there was an incline that prevented her from being able to see far past the bridge at all. He had crossed the bridge, had inspected the building, and… what?

Natalia huffed, dropping slightly arching hands to her side and deciding to glare at the door for good measure. No way he would have been able to get past this door! Not unless he was super strong and could— punch through walls or something! The metal door didn’t look like it had been moved in months. The hinges were probably rusted over, and the door had probably melded to the frame somehow.

Picking Lottie back up carefully, Natalia made her way further around the building, but there were fences that didn’t look disturbed and there were walls that blocked the rest of the place off. Where could he have gone? Did he just go right past the building? Was this a path to somewhere safe?

No, that couldn’t be it. If that were the case, why had the boy looked so intent before, like he was studying this area for the first time?

“He wasn’t just a dream, was he?” She asked Lottie, although her bear offered no reassurance that Natalia wasn’t actually going crazy. “He was really here!”

Lottie’s head fell forward limply, and Natalia took that as agreement.

He had definitely been there.

Her search continued, although Natalia took the time to get as clean as she could down at the beach, washing and wringing out her nightgown as well before putting the damp article of clothing back on. She shivered— maybe she should look for more clothes, too. They couldn’t be that hard to find. She just hadn’t wanted to take any before, but it felt… strange. Off. Weird. Not to mention the clothes were all dusty and somewhat dirty, left behind to rot for maybe the past year. She didn’t know how long. How long did it take for all these plants to grow so big, and for the grass to get so tall?

It was warm now, but it might get cold soon. The rain last night was pretty cold. If no one came for her, Natalia would have to find a way to survive, and that meant not getting sick, but sick people sneezed and coughed and any sort of noise might draw the monsters’ attention.

“We need to find new clothes.” She told Lottie, and then frowned. “I know. I don’t like it, either. But it’s not really stealing, right? No one’s here anymore. I don’t think so, anyway… it’ll be like the food. We’ll need it if we want to keep going.”

She would have to go down to the main town soon, the one filled with so many monsters that she didn’t dare to breathe half the time. It took her far too long just to walk through the town, so she would have to dedicate all day to this. She didn’t want to end up stuck in town after dark if she could help it.

Natalia made her way down to the town and wondered if she should visit the garden again. She was usually already there by this time, basking in the sunlight and finding comfort in the bright flowers, pretending that she was somewhere else. That maybe the garden was part of a palace somewhere, and she was a princess there, surrounded by people and beloved by all.

The large town was just as eerie and monster infested as ever, with almost two on every street. Natalia found a few smoke bottles and took it along with her, careful to only use them when she needed to, because the smoke meant that she couldn’t see where she was going either, and she didn’t want to actually run into the very monsters she was trying to avoid by accident.

She slipped her way through the broken window of what looked like a small clothing store, taking extra care so that she didn’t cut herself on the glass. The store was mostly bare with shelves and other furniture upturned and broken, but there weren’t any monsters inside.

She really should get other clothes. Any other clothes. Everything she could find.

“We’ll just get a jacket,” she whispered to Lottie. If she could find proper pencils and paper, then Natalia would leave behind a note of apology as well, but she hadn’t been able to find anything like that (not that she had searched very hard— those weren’t exactly high on her list of priorities). “Just take what we need.”

She wished she could find a proper shoe store, though. Her slippers were soft and it made her feet hurt after walking around all day, especially on broken parts of the road and on pebbles.

It was still too warm for a jacket, but she was being prepared in just case. That wasn’t bad, right?

It took her several minutes of careful rummaging through dirty piles on the ground (she didn’t want to move and of the furniture in case it fell over and made a lot of noise) before she found a knit zip up hoodie that looked to be in her size. Everything else was far too big, but that one was bright and cheerful and it made her feel happier just to feel the yarn underneath her fingers.

It looked like something any other kid would wear, like something a parent would give their child before they went to school to make sure said child wouldn’t catch a cold.

“”You think so?” She asked Lottie, who was seated in an upright position not two feet away where Natalia could easily grab her and run if anything happened. “I think it’s pretty, too.”

She pulled it on, and immediately felt too warm. Still, she gave a little twirl to show the jacket off to Lottie, and smiled. Somehow, it made her feel a little bit more normal.

There was a clattering noise from outside, and Natalia stilled immediately. Another clatter, and the sound of footfalls on the ground— not monsters! Those were definitely feet, definitely shoes on pavement. She crouched down low underneath the windowsill full of broken glass, and reached to pull Lottie to her. When the footfalls slowed and passed, Natalia bravely leaned up to peek out the broken window.

It was that boy!

He looked like he might have been running away from some monsters, but had stopped because he got far enough away and…

The boy was hunched over, head in his hands as if in pain, and Natalia startled to realize that he was directly facing a red mist that was slowly heading his way— already far too close to him, and it would be less than a minute before it hit him… that was, if neither of them saw each other first.

Why was he just standing there? Natalia’s eyes were wide as she reached up with dirtied fingers to clutch at the windowsill, feeling dulled glass push roughly against her skin. Why was he just standing there? Couldn’t he hear the buzz? Couldn’t he see the monster coming his way?

There weren’t any monsters in the store with her, but she could sense that there were three far too close to her location if she made a noise. If she did anything, then they would know somewhat was here. They would—

It didn’t matter!

When the boy continued to stay there, Natalia cupped both hands around her mouth and shouted as loud as she could, “There’s a monster over there!”

By the time the boy could look for where that voice had come from, Natalia was long gone.

She didn’t want to stay alone, of course she didn’t!

More than anything, Natalia wanted… she wanted…

She squeezed her eyes shut tightly and pushed her face against the dirty fabric of her nightgown, which had been pulled over her knees. Lottie looked on next to her as Natalia tried to convince herself that she hadn’t just messed everything up. The boy escaped, right? She hadn’t the time to check, not when she could see the monsters already moving toward that little clothing shop after her shout.

Of course she didn’t know what the red haze monster would do. Maybe it was actually really friendly, but she doubted it. Whenever one passed, she could always feel… hunger. Like it was hungry. All the monsters on the island felt that way: a lot of hunger and a lot of rage and despair. It was a scent that Natalia could almost taste at the back of her tongue, like when she had nosebleeds and tilted her head back and could then taste blood down her throat without it ever having been in her mouth.

The monsters were bad. It wasn’t even because they looked scary, it was because Natalia already knew that if the monsters found her, they would kill her. Same with anyone else.

But the boy knew how to fight them. Natalia wondered if he was nice. Everyone she had seen around had been people from TerraSave… maybe he was one of the original people who lived here? (And just how long had this place been filled with monsters, anyway?)

Or… he might be someone who worked for Wesker.

Natalia shuddered lightly at the thought. No way. Wesker wasn’t the type that had other people help her and then let her go (she didn’t know how she knew that, but she did), so whoever the boy was, he might have escaped. Now… now Natalia really wanted to know.

She got up again, wiping at her face with the edge of her sleeve, and picked up Lottie reverently.

“What should I do, Lottie?” She asked in a voice barely above a whisper. Should she wait for him? Look for him? Natalia didn’t want to be on this island alone anymore if she could help it. If it had really just been herself and Lottie, then the decision would have been simple. But there was someone else there, and…

Her bear didn’t respond, and Natalia tucked her broken stuffed animal under an arm as she made her way down an overgrown path carefully, staying silent as she had gotten used to in the past several days while sneaking past monsters. She learned to run when there wasn’t anything around, and go slowly when there was something that might sense her.

It didn’t take her long to get back to the garden — the very same garden that had been invaded, but she couldn’t help the feeling of attachment still. It was the place that felt safe for the longest time, and right now she just wanted some kind of reassurance, or some kind of answer. Lottie wouldn’t answer her, and the statues wouldn’t answer her, but at least she might be able to ask in peace. She could pretend that she was going to the princess and her knights for answers and protection, even for a little while before she would leave again.

Maybe it would be easier if she could make another hole in the wall somehow. That way if someone came in from one direction, she’d be able to leave from another… or would that just be tempting fate?

As she approached the hole in the garden wall, she looked both ways carefully to make sure there wasn’t any monsters before getting on her knees and crawling through the small space, once more entering the colorful garden of wildflowers.

Everything looked just as pristine as ever— more so, even, now that the flowers fed on an entire night of rain. The grass and earth within the walls were still damp, and Natalia was glad she had her jacket on now seeing as it was soaking through the hem of her nightgown easily enough. She didn’t care, though, sitting within a patch of damp and overgrown grass whose stalks were far taller than her when she sat down. She placed Lottie in her lap and gazed up to the princess statue.

Now that she was here… she didn’t know how to ask her questions. What would a princess actually tell her?

She must have spent a few minutes just thinking about it before she heard a strange shuffling sound. Tensing, Natalia hunched down and searched around. Maybe it was an animal? She hadn’t really seen any other than the infected pigs sometimes, but…

There was movement coming from the hole in the wall. First a raggedy bag was shoved through, and then…

And then the boy squeezed through as well, although he seemed to have more trouble than Natalia did, having to actually lie on his stomach rather than just crawl through as she did. He took some time to shimmy through as well, huffing as he got mud over his clothes.

Natalia held her breath and clenched Lottie closer to herself, eyes wide.

He got up again afterward, trying to brush the mud off his skin and clothes before picking up his bag again and then freezing as he saw her sitting in the grass. She could have hidden better, but…

“It’s you!” She blurted out unintentionally, but couldn’t seem to hold back her shock. She hadn’t gotten a close enough look at him before, but she knew him! The island was strange enough that she didn’t think this was out of the ordinary at all, because— “You’re the missing statue!”

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