(Well, this is it, the last chapter of TtCoF. I am sure that some of you are curious as to why I am posting both of the final chapters at the same time, and to this, I invite you to check out my blog, sylvaniusostephans dot wordpress dot com. I will be explaining a few things on there. But, for now, enjoy the final chapter of Turning the Cards of Fate)
Four days later, Trish was still plastered to his side as they headed towards the cafeteria. She never wandered from him unless she had to. If they kept her from meals, he would sneak his own out to her.
The first time, she had asked how he had gotten seconds, as if she expected an answer, but he just kept watch so that she wouldn't get in trouble. He didn't know how to tell her that he didn't get seconds, so he didn't. The second and third times, though, she stayed quiet.
Cashel was fairly certain that she had figured out the truth by this point, but had known better than to ask. That was alright though. He didn't want her to know the truth. If he came back to the cell after being dragged away for something after an hour or so, he wouldn't tell her it was because she made eye contact with an Agent, and he had taken her punishment for her.
The Guards and Agents certainly weren't protesting, if they noticed at all. He was strangely hopeful that they didn't know, because they might use it as an excuse to cut his meals, leaving Trish to go hungry, or start hurting her.
He mentally shook his head. No, it was better that he didn't say anything at all, he thought to himself, opening the door just enough for him to squeeze through. She followed less than a second later, and grabbed onto his hand.
He had seen several of the younger ones watching them, jealously. He knew why, of course. They didn't have the solid presence of an older person who had been in this hell longer than they had been alive. They didn't have anyone to hide behind when the Guards came in to make sure everything was going smoothly. They were alone. Trish wasn't.
He had tried for years, to protect the younger ones, and most of them knew it, but it was one thing to take a punishment for them. It was another to be able to hold them and comfort them when they were scared.
If it was possible, he would have hidden all of the younger kids in his cell, and protected them in the same way he kept an eye on Trish, but with so many of them brain washed, and broken so that they killed on command, it wasn't safe for them, or for him.
Cashel glanced around the room, looking for an open set of spots for them, before grabbing Trish and pulling him under him as he fell to the ground. A whizzing sound passed above him, and he shoved her towards a table where several of the other kids were cowering.
The only ones that weren't were the ones that were secretly hoping to get hit. He pushed himself up, and turned on his heel to see where the attack had come from. In the shadows was a person dressed in all black with a pure red mask and no eye holes.
He mentally cursed. He had a bad feeling that they weren't exactly a Normal Human. It was confirmed for him when a table was lifted and thrown at him. He was somehow, in the middle of a pack of Perfect humans, with only one of them bothering to hold a human shape.
He had no weapons, no clothing to shield his body. Nothing. Moronic Perfects. He glanced around the room, easily moving out of the way, and cursed when he realized there was nothing he could do when surrounded, not only by the Perfect Humans, but by the children.
He ran towards the table he left Trish under, and yanked her into his arms, before bolting towards the door. As soon as they were out, he ran towards where he knew the armory was.
It was a bit ironic, in his mind. He had been planning on raiding the armory today, but not until after they had eaten. The Perfect Humans, of course, came to screw with his timing. That was alright though, as he already had the codes needed to get inside. He ran as fast as he could, through the winding halls and towards the only place in the entire Rehabilitation Center that could actually help him.
Cashel knew that they were playing with him. If they actually wanted to, they could have out run him, cornered him, and devoured him. But they didn't, they were either herding him, or playing with him. Seeing as they seemed content to follow his lead, he assumed it was the latter.
He punched in the codes to the door, ignoring the screams as the Perfect humans feasted on the Guards and Agents stupid enough to get in their way. He shoved the lock into place, and glanced around wildly. He sat Trish down in the corner, out of his way so he could move around freely. His back was aching, but he ignored it as he dug through drawer after drawer, looking for his stuff.
The first thing he found were his boots, which were somehow still in one piece. He slipped them on his feet, and pulled a pair of trousers that belonged to a Guard on, as well as throwing a shirt to Trish.
For a moment, just one, he allowed himself to smile a bit, this was exactly what he had done with Zephira, before he had ever even know anything about her. He had decided to save her at the last moment, and he hadn't regretted it, until he had woken up here and found out what they had done to her.
He hoped that the same thing wouldn't happen to Trish, but there was no way to be certain in this world. That didn't mean he wouldn't fight until his last breath to make sure that she got through this.
He armed himself far more than he probably should have, and took a deep breath. Trish grabbed his arm, and he glanced at her over his shoulder. She held up a small box in one hand, and he smirked.
This had to be the most resistant bow in existence for it to still exist, he couldn't help but think as he pressed the button on the side. It clinked back to life, and he glanced at her. Where had she found this? He had been looking everywhere.
"Under the bench, C.J." She whispered. Thankfully, she wasn't cowering right now. He needed her to be strong, and she knew it. She cracked a small smile as he walked quickly over to the bench and crouched down. She couldn't help the gasp that escaped her lips. He ignored it.
Sure, he was in pain, and his entire body burned, but it would only get worse if he was forced to stay here. He really wanted to give his body a chance to heal up, and hopefully, to get rid of the static in his blood. He found half a dozen of his retractable arrows, and set two in the bow.
He glanced around, looking at the more barren walls, and bit his lip. He really didn't want to give Trish a weapon, because he didn't want her to have to take a life. On the other hand, if they got separated, she would be completely at the mercy of whoever found her first.
A part of his soul protested as he pulled out two smaller Iron Fire Shots, and gave her as much ammunition as she could carry. With that, he opened the door to hell. He was immediately jumped on by a guard, which he shot in the head with the Iron Fire shot in his non dominant hand. His right hand hated all things guns, but for some reason, he was better with that hand than he was his left when it came to guns.
The man's brain exploded, and he ignored it, eyes already moving onto the next target before his last even had a chance to reach the floor. He heard footsteps following him, and tried not to grimace. This would get annoying.
Trish was loud, and he wasn't used to working with her. He couldn't afford to carry her, though, as his bow, when he used it, required both hands to let off a shot. If he was just using guns, then maybe, but he personally preferred either his knives or his bow. It made things so much easier on him.
Two more shots were fired before he had a chance to think about it, and two more bodies dropped to the ground. He moved forward, trusting both his instincts and Trish to watch his back. A second set of feet ran up behind him, and he turned on his heel, firing just over Trish's head. A fourth body fell, and he forced himself to move faster through the winding white hallways. Sometimes, he ducked into the shadows, pulling Trish with him, others, he fired and killed before they had a chance to understand what was going on.
He was thankful about one thing though, it seemed like the Guards and Agents were keeping the Perfect's busy. He knew he wouldn't be able to take them down even half as quickly as he did anyone else.
The final hallway came and went, as did the door blocking their way to freedom. He only had a second to let his eyes adjust, before he pulled Trish to the ground as a bullet whizzed over her head. He had his own Iron Fire Shot pulled out and shooting back before he could think.
He forced himself to get up, and shot a few more times at the people shooting at him. He cursed when the Iron Fire Shot clicked on him. He was out of ammunition. Great. Quickly and efficiently, he plucked one of the weapons out of Trish's hand and resumed fire on the poor idiots that thought they could take his life without him taking down a few guards of his own.
He did a few quick mental calculations, and spotted a bubble carriage within sprinting distance. This one was so interesting, because he knew that this was the type of carriage that Vladislav rode it. It was bullet proof. He crouched a bit and gestured for Trish to get on his back with one hand as the other fired another life ending shot.
If he was going to get her safely in the bubble carriage, then he needed her to be able to keep up. Even if she hadn't been punished as he had been, it didn't mean that she wasn't weaker than usual; and he couldn't afford to let that weakness slow him down.
She was reluctant to touch his back, and he understood why. The scabs and burns were the least of the injuries, but at this point, it was either this, or she got left behind. Since the later wasn't an option, she had to wrap her arms around his neck.
It was more uncomfortable than he would even admit, but at least here, he could make sure that she was safe.
He fired a few more shots, and once they ducked out of the way, as he knew they would, he sprinted with every bit of strength he had in his body towards the carriage. He opened it, pulled Trish off his back, and got in within a few seconds. He closed the carriage behind himself, and started it with a quick flick of his hand. It closed and formed a protective bubble around them.
It took less than a second to get it moving towards his destination going far faster than he had ever dared to before. He wasn't exactly a good driver, per say, but he was good enough to get them out of the lawn next to Valos Rehabilitation Center.
He mentally thanked Vilmos, and even the Perfect's, because without them, he would have still been stuck in that place. He blacked out the bubble, put in the coordinates to the guildhall, and collapsed on the seat beside Trish.
He never wanted to do that again. Ever.
"Are you alright C.J.?" Trish asked in a small voice. He shrugged his shoulders. He would be fine. He looked her over, and she giggled. "I'm fine, promise." He gave her a skeptical look, but at this point, he didn't really have a choice but to believe her.
He looked at the other benches, and thanked Vilmos again. Two sets of clothing, actual clothing that he would have worn, and a set for Trish, had been laid out against the seat. He picked up the mint green button up shirt, and ran his hands over the soft material. Vilmos had also stocked him on weapons and food. There were, to his delight, two dozen more bundles of his arrows, a spare bow, and several dozen more knives. He knew most people would have considered it overkill, but he wasn't most people. He knew what happened when he ran out of supplies before he should have.
His favorite thing on the bench, though, was a pair of sturdy, but shinning, black boots. He slipped the shirt over his head, and gestured for Trish to take the soft pink top and light blue jeans. She slipped on the jeans, and they turned away from each other to finish getting dressed. Once they had, he started stuffing every pocket and space that he had open with weapons of some kind.
Trish wouldn't know, but he had carefully attached two knives in their holsters to his thighs, as well as slipped a couple of them up his sleeves. He knew exactly how to move to make sure that his weapons wouldn't show.
That done, he slid on the black jacket over the shirt, and buttoned it closed. It wasn't a suit, no, he was dressed in a light green shirt, black jeans, and the black jacket that made him look slightly bulkier than he actually was. The only guns they had were the ones they brought from the armory, but that was a good thing, he didn't really like Iron Fire Shots at all. He slipped as many arrows as he could into his boots, then into the hidden pockets of his jacket. The weapons he couldn't fit on his person were put in a black satchel for him to keep.
He felt more confident as he approached the guild hall. As long as Trish kept her head down, she wouldn't attract that much attention. The only thing that gave her away as a Partial Human was her eyes. That said, instead of relief growing in his stomach, something else did.
He wasn't sure why, after all, they had proven that they could stand the presence of Partial Human's when they let Cadis stay.
In fact, he didn't understand why until the guildhall came into view. He felt his breath catch. It looked normal, far too normal. It was staged, that much was obvious, but he wasn't sure why.
Cobwebs were everywhere, and the ivy that Kalystia kept a close eye on had climbed higher than before. That was something odd, but that wasn't what had caught his attention. There was a card on the door that normally blended into the wood. He knew that it had been there since the founding of Turning the Cards.
On the other side of it, it was pure white, with a single bolded black word: Fate.
That was the equivalent of someone leaving on flashing red lights to him and the others. No one would turn the card over unless there was literally no other choice. It was supposed to be a sign for those who had been out of the guildhall to not come back. It meant that death had found them. He had been warned that if he ever saw the word on the other side of the card, he needed to pass by, and not stop. There would be nothing he could do anyway.
The guildhall would have been abandoned by everyone still surviving, and somehow, he doubted it was a high number. Instead of following the rules and passing by unnerved, he stopped the carriage.
He gestured for Trish to stay there, and since she didn't know what the card meant, she wouldn't understand exactly why he was so cautious. That was alright though, her innocence was refreshing in a way.
He slowly made his way over to the door, keeping a close eye out for traps. He twisted the knob slightly, and it fell open. A corpse fell on him, knocking him to the ground. He bit his teeth and shoved the rotting body off of him.
His breath caught again when he realized who it was.
Kalystia, with her eyes torn out, one barely in the socket, had probably turned the card of fate with her last breath as a warning for those outside the walls.
He wondered what happened, but he knew he would never know. If even Kalystia had been killed by whoever had done this, he knew he didn't stand a chance. that said, he knew the guild fought until their last breaths, and set as many traps as they could. It wasn't enough though, and Kalystia probably realized that, bleeding out and missing an eye. She had probably staggered over to the door and turned the card with the last beat of her heart.
Cashel let out a long sigh, but he knew better than to actually go inside. He straightened his shoulders and pushed himself off of the ground.
He glanced at her corpse, and considered leaving it as a warning, but dismissed it quickly. Whatever had killed her would be back, that he didn't doubt. He just couldn't let himself leave her here.
That decided, he stood, dusted off his jeans and grabbed a large spear that was more for decoration than an actual fight. He dug the sharp end into the ground and started digging.
It took the better part of two hours, and he knew that Trish was watching him from the safety of the carriage, but he finally dug a big enough hole for her to rest in. A little bit more effort, and she was resting at the bottom of the shallow grave. Her eye had fallen off finally, and seemed to watch him from the sidelines. He slowly covered her body with the dirt, and couldn't believe he was doing this.
Hadn't he been thinking of her just a few days ago? Hadn't he been thinking of ways to get her away from the guild so that she could enjoy her last few years? Hadn't he laughed to himself that she would be one of the few members of Turning the Card's that actually managed to retire?
While he had been thinking of them fondly, relatively safe at that point, she and the others had been fighting for their lives and losing. It was a strange thought. He knew that the only difference that he would have made if he had been here was a slight difference in body count, but that didn't stop the guilt from welling up in his chest.
A part of him wondered if it had anything to do with him, after all, everything else seemed to. This whole mess had started because Vladislav had freed him. Oh, he wasn't arrogant enough to think that it was all his fault. Nor was he shallow enough to not realize that this would have happened, most likely, even if he had never met Osred or any of the others.
He glanced over at the fate card, dusted off his hands, and sighed silently. He was numb, and couldn't exactly resent it. He leaned on the spear that had become his shovel, and stared down at the fresh grave.
Would this have happened no matter what? Was he somehow a catalyst for the events that had happened since his release? Or had he simply been a convenient target to blame the events on? Either way, he hated it, and wanted nothing more than to scream and yell.
He forced the anger down to a simmer and took a deep breath. He needed to decide if he was going to risk his life for information that may not even exist, or if he should go. Most of him wanted to go find Osred, Terina, and Cadis, but a little part of him shied away from the thought.
What if he had to be the one to tell Cadis and Osred what happened to their home? What if they didn't know what had happened? What if he had to let them know about the turning of the card of fate?
He may not be able to talk, but that didn't mean anything. Not really. It just meant that they would have to ether read about what he had seen, or guess. That said, he wasn't sure he was strong enough to do this on his own.
His eyes moved to the grave again, and he sighed. He had already made a decision, he just had to admit it to himself. He sagged slightly against the spear, and let his eyes fall shut.
For the first time since he had gotten through the doors of Valos, he regretted the meeting with Vladislav. He knew it was irrational, but he also knew that if he hadn't gotten out when he did, there was a chance that the events that had happened would have been postponed for a few more years. Terina would probably still have her dad, and Zephira wouldn't have died knowing that Sector Z had lost all of its former glory that her dad worked so hard to create.
He wanted nothing more than to curl up and die next to the corpses of the people he had lived with. He brought a hand to his face, and smiled bitterly. He couldn't cry. He wouldn't cry here, not when he still had to fight for someone.
If he had to fight for himself again, he wouldn't be able to. No, he had used up all of his chances with himself to be happy. He didn't deserve it after everything that had happened. Zephira had been tortured for him, and Ulric was most likely dead thanks to him.
This time, though, he wasn't fighting to make sense of a world that twisted around him like a whirlpool. No, he was fighting for Trish, for her future, for her life. For her, at least, he knew life was a little better since he had gotten her away from the slave traders. She may not have been safer with him, but he valued her, and he wouldn't break because she still needed him.
There was a chance to fix this. All he had to do was to get Osred, Cadis, and Terina out of where they were being held. Once he did that, Osred would be able to guide them, and he would just have to fight in the outward battles. He would help them see safety and freedom again. But once they were, once he was useless again, he would be able to shatter.
Until then, he had to hold on.
He took a deep breath, and shoved away all the feelings of regret that threatened to drown him, before he headed towards the carriage. He glanced for one more second, at the card of fate on the back of the door, and cracked a bitter smile.
Fate had dealt him a crap hand, but he would turn them around. Yeah, he thought with a small smile.
He could turn the cards of fate. He would do so until he found a hand that he could actually live with the consequences of.
He opened the door to the carriage, and wasn't expecting the flying ball of blonde that fell into his arms. He rubbed Trish's back soothingly and just held her close.
"Are you alright C.J.?" She asked in a whisper.
He quirked his lips slightly, "I think so." He mouthed.
Her eyes widened, and his did too as soon as his ear realized what he had heard. He brought a hand to his throat, and rubbed the scar lightly.
"Did you just… C.J., did you just talk?"
She was clearly waiting for a response, and he considered just giving her a secretive little smirk. Instead, he turned away from her, starting the carriage, and plugged in the coordinates for Sector B.
She tugged on his arm. "C.J.!" She whined. "Can you or cant you talk?"
He held a finger to his lips, and smirked. If he could, it was going to be their little secret. Already, he had turned the cards that fate had dealt him, and he made sure that she couldn't see his lips.
"Maybe." He muttered out. His voice was scratchy and weak from disuse, and he knew he wouldn't be able to talk again for a little bit. He was alright with that though, he could finally speak up when he got the urge.
It was funny in a way, that the person he was fighting for more than the others was the only one who had ever heard his voice. He didn't mind, though, and from the feeling of her leaning against his side, curling up contently, she didn't mind much either.