I'd like to think it wasn't fate that brought us here. Rather... it was something else, and trying to wrap my mind around it wouldn't help. A lot of crazy shit had happened in the past year, but this one took the cake. I tried to stand, but it was way too hard; it felt like the muscles in my legs were completely shot, and any effort I put into them only caused pain. I could taste and feel the blood falling out of my mouth, this only made me more sick than I already was.
I don't know why I screamed that, it was completely pointless...
The voice was silky smooth, it pissed me off...
The rain wouldn't stop...
I was soaked to the bone, and the asphalt under me was harder than I thought.
I heard him walking towards me before I saw him; he continued, that smug tone of his never changing, "I truly wonder, what is it that you fight for? Friends?" He accentuated the question by kicking me square in the fucking stomach, "Family?" Only to add another, "Hope?" And another, "JUSTICE!"
I coughed up blood, and it was washed away by the heavy rain almost before it even hit the ground.
I looked up at the blond man grinning down at me like he was mad. He spread his arms wide, as if to welcome the rain, "What did you expect to gain out of this? It baffles me completely."
My hands were empty, my sword lay broken a good few yards away, and I could hardly move.
Why did I fight anyways?
How did it come to this?
What was the point?
Cloud Strider Presents:
Chapter 1: Tarot
It was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I wasn't going to live there anymore. My dad got some job offer that required he move to the neighboring city, so here I was, heading towards some town called Hina. While my parents established themselves in the new area I was headed off to live with my grandparents. The situation... could have been better. Apparently it could also be worse. The train ride over was long and dull, and the scenery hardly helped the situation. I tried to think positive, I really did, but it was useless.
My parents had moved once with me, before I could even walk, and now here I was heading to some town in the boonies that I'd never even heard of.
By the time I finally got off the train at Hina I was about ready to pass out, but I still had a ways to go apparently, as there wasn't a building with in sight minus the train station itself and a small gas station. I couldn't tell what the station was called, as it appeared the letters had fallen from the sign over God knows how many years. The scenery was pleasant but boring, flat plains as far as the eye could see, stretching into some small mountains off to the west.
The voice startled me out of my observations, and in front of me stood my grandparents, both of whom I hadn't seen in quite a while, so at least there was that... I tossed them a smile, "Good to see you again Grandma, Grandpa."
My grandpa was of tall stature and had a rough appearance, he was a tough man, but he was never in the self defense force or anything like that. My grandma on the other hand was a stark contrast; she was hunched over slightly, and possessed a cane to help her walk... not to say she wasn't full of energy.
"It's good to see you again dear," she said with a soft smile, and I couldn't help but feel better about what was happening.
My grandpa stepped forward and planted a hand on my shoulder, "Let's get outta here, we've still got a long drive into town."
I nodded and we made our way away from the train stop to the gas station next door. By the pumps was a small family oldsmobile. I threw my carry on in the back and followed it promptly.
I was asleep in the backseat in under a minute.
I felt... heavy...
Like I was soaked to the bone with water.
I heard the light pitter patter of rain around me, and when I opened my eyes...
I was standing on a lone street under a street lamp. It was hard to see anything past the circle of light I was standing within, but I was definitely drenched.
I tried to remember how I'd gotten here, but it wasn't coming to me. As far as I knew this was where I always was. Wasn't that strange though? It felt like there was something more to this world than a lonely little street lamp.
"Truth is fickle, but you will always be alone."
My feet started to move...
I didn't really feel like I was walking though.
"All one needs is himself, that is the way of things."
"That's not true..."
I could barely hear my own voice.
I felt a pressure in my gut.
When I looked down all I could see was the large blade protruding from my stomach, and when I looked back up...
I saw the grin of a madman.
"You are alone."
His voice sent a chill down my spine.
My eyes snapped open and the feeling of being drenched and dying was still with me, along with the cold sweat on my forehead. It was hard to breathe, but I composed myself when I noticed I was still in the car and we were pulling into the driveway.
It was dark outside.
That dream hit way too close to home...
I was alone out here.
I had said goodbye to all my friends.
My parents were gone.
I had just got out of a bad relationship.
I was happy to see my grandparents, but I realized that I didn't even know them all that well. This weighed heavy on me. "We're here kiddo," Grandpa said happily, "Your room is upstairs on the right, ours is at the end of the hall, and the living room and kitchen are downstairs. It's not much, but it's home."
He was right, the place was small but comfortable. It didn't feel too cramped, and the air was warm when we walked in the front door. "You go on up to bed dear," Grandma said with a smile.
I gave her a nod, "Thanks, I'll try not to be too much of a burden."
She waved her hand, "Don't even fret over it. I'm sure you're tired so get going."
I made my way up the stairs hesitantly, my bag bouncing against them as I did so. A bed was already set up when I entered the room, along with an empty desk and a recliner. It was a comfy little room.
'I guess this is where I'll be sleeping for a while,' I thought, dropping the bag and letting myself fall onto the bed. I let my face sink into the pillow and took a deep breath. My first day in Hina would be tomorrow.
I checked my watch...
Another deep breath... and I let myself drift off to sleep.
I woke to the sound of rain and thunder...
I sat up and realized I was no longer in my new bed... or room for that matter. My surroundings told me that I was probably in some sort of mansion. The rug below me was a comfortable blue color, and as I stood I began to notice more.
At the far end of the room were several bookshelves, and to my right a fireplace ensured that the cold of the rain did not penetrate the walls of the room. In front of that fireplace was a recliner and a table. A slim woman stood by the table smiling at me warmly, her attire consisted of what looked like a flight attendant's uniform, hat and all. She ushered me over hurriedly, the smile never faltering from her face.
The table was oak with a perfect shine, this became more highlighted as I approached the strange woman. Her blonde hair trailed all the way down to her hips, and it seemed her dimples had developed quite nicely from smiling so much.
"I see we have a new guest..."
It wasn't the woman that spoke, and the voice was strange, it reminded me of something you'd hear from a movie. It was high pitched and mysterious, and held a great undertone of mischief.
The woman kept ushering me...
There was another recliner on the opposite side of the table...
Strange; I hadn't even seen a recliner there before, this one was blue, just as the one across from it.
I followed her gesture hesitantly and sat in the empty chair. It was then that I saw him, his back was hunched, and he had a very strange and very long nose. He grinned as if it were a natural state for him, and yet...
It wasn't the grin of a madman.
I don't know what it was; I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
He nodded to the woman, who had stopped smiling finally, and she took her place by his side as if it were the most natural thing in the world. "Welcome to the Velvet Room."
For some reason I felt goosebumps trail across my skin when he said that. He continued, not heeding my discomfort, "You have come here for a reason that you are not quite sure of. You are different from my previous clients, but nothing that I cannot work with."
"Um..." I swallowed deep, trying to understand what was happening, "What is this place?"
The strange man laughed, "I just told you that, did I not? What is your name?"
I looked into the fire, weighing whether or not I should tell this strange man anything personal.
He turned to me, still with that grin, "You don't have to tell me, but keep in mind that without my help you will find yourself backed into a corner very quickly."
There were the goosebumps again. For some reason...
I believed him.
"I am Igor, the proprietor of this place, and this is Veronica, my assistant, she is also a resident here."
"Pleased to meet you," she said softly, bowing to me. Her voice was like silk.
"Why am I here?"
Igor leaned forward, crossing his hands together, "In the coming year you will be presented with a challenge." He waved his hand and Veronica brought a deck of tarot cards from seemingly nowhere.
Igor shuffled the deck in an almost absent minded way.
He then laid four of the cards in a strange pattern and began to flip them one by one. When he was done he turned his grin to me. "The first card, Lover reversed..."
Veronica continued where he let the sentence hang, "You will face a great conflict with the threat of excluding those close to you."
Igor's grin wasn't helping this strange situation, he gestured to the next card "The second card, the Fool, represents your open mindedness and willingness to accept adventure and excitement. You will face many hardships, but this quality will help you overcome them."
He gestured to the third card, and Veronica picked up again, "The third card, Temperance, represents your ability to think rationally and not act before you should, trying to understand and accept what's around you is the best thing to do. In order to do this however, you must think through things carefully, or suffer the consequences."
Igor continued with the fourth and final card, "Prudence reversed," he said, still with that grin, "Remember, no matter how tempting it may be to jump into action, you must look at the larger picture of the situation. Focusing on the bare aspects of what lies ahead is likely to put you in harms way, so be weary."
I didn't really understand, but something told me that whatever I was doing here was important.
Igor still continued, drawing another card from the deck, "The fifth and final card," he said, amusement lining his voice, "Dominion, this card represents your ability to gather others to you and lead them through the hardships that lie ahead, this will be your greatest weapon and your greatest defense, for without others... you fight alone."
That sounded ominous.
"Take this." Igor leaned forward, setting a blue key on the table.
I picked it up without hesitation and pocketed it.
"In the coming days you will enter into a contract and return here of your own free will."
Veronica gave me that charming smile of hers, "I look forward to seeing you again Kurosawa-san."
And then I woke up.
It was raining outside, lightning and all. I looked at the clock...
I rubbed my eyes and rolled over, trying to get back to sleep, but it was a bit tough after having a dream like that.