'Mossy.' You step toward her and hiss her name under your breath. You have to get back downstairs, as quickly as possible. You need to get back to Mary, if those things are on the move. A dozen possible worse-case scenarios race through your mind; Yoshika might not be able to deal with whatever's happening - or about to happen - down there. You need to be there, yourself. The heavy grey air of the room suddenly feels as thick as tar, pressing in on your face and slowing your limbs, obstructing your path back. 'Mossy come on, grab your things, come with us.'
Moscow looks round, turning those huge red lantern-eyes on you.
'Come with you?' She asks, devoid of inflection, considering the offer with childlike patience. 'Okay.'
'Good, good.' You force yourself to let out a slow breath as Moscow hops to her feet and picks up her colouring book. A plan, a crazy plan, is already forming in the back of your mind. A hard oval of clarity, like a pebble held flat in your hand, ready to toss it in any direction, no matter how things fall.
'Renko.' Sakuya finally finishes picking herself up and stands next to you, unsteady on her crutch. 'I can't move that fast.'
' ... yeah, you can't. Right.' You stare at Sakuya, toying with the idea of just carrying herself yourself You could sort of- no, no, she's too tall for that.
'I could stay here until-'
'No.' You hold up a finger, feeling very certain about this. 'No more splitting up, you come down with us.'
' ... okay.' Sakuya nods after a moment, her eyes set and understanding. 'Renko, calm down. I can see the tension in your face.'
'Yeah, yeah.' You look away, down the corridor you came from, where Moscow's "brothers" are moving through the gloom beyond your sight.
Moscow slips her colouring pencils somewhere inside the white folds and frills of her dress, and then does the same with three of the little pile of books, passing over the others with a heavy hand, reluctant to go anywhere without them. She must know what you're planning. What you're planning whatever the situation is downstairs.
She hurries over to the chair-door and moves it aside, skirts held up in one hand, freeing her white-clad feet.
'Let's go.' She says, small and quiet. Her red eyes turn away, into the gloom.
The corridors of the ruined hotel have gone quiet. The door to the brothers' room is wide open as you pass, and you take a quick peek inside: rotten and stained mattresses, large items of shapeless discarded clothing, and a smell of fouled meat.
But you can't linger long, keeping close to Sakuya and with Mossy barely two paces in front. She floats through the half-light of dust and rain like a ghost, turning her eyes at every doorway you pass, saying nothing to her silent sisters.
Alice's other daughters ignore you completely this time. The chattering ones have stopped talking. The painter has hidden under her bedcovers, easel abandoned. Girls stare at you with wide, spooked eyes as you walk. One stubborn, dogged writer still lingers at a desk, scribbling words in a rapid, furious hand and ignoring her other sisters piled together in the bed at the back of the room. You almost call out to her, to ask her what's happening. But she doesn't look up, focused on her work, long orange hair a wild mess as she rakes her fingers over her skull just to get it out of her eyes.
Mossy doesn't stop, you can't spare the moment. You leave the writing sister behind.
Down the long corridor, down the sweeping staircase and out into the hotel lobby once more. Moscow's little black shoes dance on the ancient carpet, and the rain blankets the filth-covered windows with a soft hum.
All is gloom.
A figure stands just inside the doorway that leads through to the huge empty dining room. A figure obscured by the angle of the door and some kind of high collar. A long, shapeless coat hangs down, covering the legs, hands tucked up inside the sleeves. You can just see a hint of a pair of large brown boots below the dragging, dirt-caked hem of the coat.
Moscow stops dead and you hurry to her side.
'Mossy, what is-'
She turns, almost as if to run, but her little feet patter and stop again. You turn and see another, similar figure to the first; it stands just inside the entrance to the hotel, shadows too thick to make out any features, turned at just the wrong angle to see anything except the long coat and the big boots.
'Mossy-' You start again, reaching out for her shoulder. Sakuya tries to stand up straighter on her crutch, directing a piercing gaze at one of the shadowed figures, and then at the other.
' ... can't go in.' Moscow presses herself against your side. 'Can't go out.'
'We go where we damn well like.' You reply on instinct, reaching down and slipping your hand over Moscow's much smaller fingers, squeezing them in yours. With your other you reach over and take Sakuya's free hand. 'Come on.'
'Renko, we-' Sakuya starts, but you shake your head.
You walk toward the doors. Mossy follows. Sakuya picks up her crutch and adds her footsteps to yours.
[ ] Just walk. Don't look at it. Don't try to make eye contact. Walk.
[ ] Look at the brother, make eye contact. What on earth is it?
[ ] Stop just short of the figure. Talk, say where you're going. If you're not challenged, keep moving.