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Cause [1.5.4]

“Gah!”

Cassie fell to her knees and stared at the ground beneath her. The sword that had been knocked out of her hands landed beside her, clattering on the ground. Rana sighed – it was imperceptible, almost silent, but Cassie heard it, and she burned in shame.

“That was good.”

Cassie knew Rana was lying.

“I’m sorry.” she said, getting to her feet shakily.

Geoffrey stared at Cassie’s form as she got up, but for once, it wasn’t to admire it – he could see that she was at her limit.

“Hey, gal, you’ve been going with Cass for like, well over two hours now. Can I get a turn?”

“You’ve proven to be more adept. You require less training – I will get to you in time. Be patient.” Rana replied from the other side of the rooftop.

Cassie leaned down and picked up her sword. “…OK.”

“Did you see what you did wrong?” Rana said. Cassie shook her head.

“You spend so much time focussing on your future vision, and all the attacks coming in advance, that you fail to recognise the threat right in front of you.” Rana replied. Her voice was harsh, but Cassie knew she was speaking the truth. “If you want to truly use your psychic ability to your fullest potential, you need to learn to utilise double vision: seeing what’s in front of you and seeing what’s ahead, at the same time.”

“…Yes.” Cassie said. “Yes, I will try.”

Rana lifted her sword and pointed it directly at Cassie. “Again. Go!”

She lunged, and Cassie prepared to fight. She blocked the initial strike, and there was a flash in her mind – slash from the left, forward lunge into a spinning slash – but the momentary distraction had allowed Rana to lunge once more. Cassie dodged out of the way and tried to counter, but Rana was too quick. She moved like a purple flash of lightning, her armour deflecting Cassie’s blow and ramming into the girl. However, as Cassie stumbled back with a gasp, she realised that what she had forseen was about to come to pass.

The slash from the left. Cassie moved as quickly as she could, deflecting the attack. Rana moved into a forward lunge – ordinarily,  a fast and unpredictable move, but Cassie had anticipated it and lunged herself. Her sword knocked Rana’s blade aside and the girl leapt back in reaction, moving into a spinning slash. Cassie ducked under the initial spin and struck out with her blade, knocking Rana further off-balance. With practised expertise, Rana regained balance and lashed out again, parrying Cassie’s follow-up attack and striking the side of Cassie’s face with the flat of her blade.

Cassie had momentarily lost concentration after she’d predicted Rana’s attacks, and without more future sight to aid her, Rana had easily overpowered her. The blade hit her in the cheek and she was thrown to the ground again, landing heavily and dropping her sword once more. Lying on the ground, facing the dark sky, breathing in and out, she felt her lips tremble and realised she was about to cry.

“You did well part of the way through that sparring match. I presume that was your future vision.”

“Yeah…” Cassie gasped.

Geoffrey sighed. “Rana, let up.”

“I can’t!” Rana said, suddenly gripped by a fierce intensity. “Don’t you understand? You two, with Lola, will have to face Eidolon in single combat if we are to have a hope of success. I understand that you aren’t strong, and I know I’m pushing you hard. I don’t want to be, but we have no choice!”

Cassie got to her knees. “I… I must… rest…”

“That’s fine.” Geoffrey said. “But sheesh, lady, let a girl get some rest! Train me, and you won’t find me lacking. Just because we were all summoned, doesn’t mean we all need to put in the same amount of effort. If Cassie can’t face Eidolon one-on-one, then, fuck, I’ll do it for her.”

Cassie, visibly shaking, walked to the stairway leading down the tower. Rana watched her go, and felt a twinge of guilt. “Fine. Geoffrey, you and I will continue sparring. Impress me, or else!”

The night swirled around Cassie as she took the steps slowly, making her way down to the apartment. It had been a day or so since Mizar had left, but after their sleep they had spent virtually all day doing nothing but sparring. It had started simply; with quick breaks for breakfast and lunch, there had been a somewhat positive approach. Cassie’s body, however, had started to complain, and she was losing focus. Her future sight told her very little in her tired status. All she knew was two things: she would speak to Zack shortly, and in the future, Lola would point a gun at Geoffrey’s head.

She couldn’t see much more. For the first time in a while, the thoughts were distracting rather than comforting, and she wanted nothing more than to sleep and forget her psychic powers. Entering the apartment, she walked over the sofa where she had spent that first night, and gratefully laid down on it, lying the sword on the coffee table. After a few moments of her eyes being closed, she lifted her wrist phone and typed out a message to Zack. He had just woken up from a nap of his own, she knew, and they were soon to encounter the Voidians. She had a short while to speak to him before that.

 

Hello. CJ

ZL Hey, Cass. How’s it going?

It’s fine. I just wanted to talk to you for a bit. The training I’ve been doing has been… somewhat relentless, you might say. CJ

ZL Sounds tough! It’s been pretty relaxing in the Reaches, but I did learn the basics of fighting with a spear yesterday, so that was cool.

I’m glad you’re alright. CJ

ZL ‘Course I am. Still, I get the feeling that’s not what you wanted to discuss.

…Seeing right through me as usual. CJ

I just feel afraid. I’d seen flashes of this life, and now it’s upon us… CJ

ZL Flashes? So when you said you had those brief glimpses of the very distant future as a kid… this is what you saw?

Yes. Shadows, purple and gold armour, swords and spears. Bits and pieces of the apartment… I find myself familiar with them. CJ

ZL If you feel afraid, I can guarantee it’s because I do too. It’s change, and drastic change at that. Anyone would be worried.

Precisely. My life before now feels utterly meaningless. Having money and wealth is nothing here; I’m not strong enough to fight Eidolon. CJ

 

She let her arm fall to the floor and sighed. Was her God still watching over her? Was he even further above Zion and Void, still puppeteering events for his loyal disciples? Would he allow her to come to harm?

Before, where her life had been a series of answered questions, there was now nothing. Her dream of being a lawyer seemed so far removed from the life she had been thrust into that for a moment, she wondered why she kept trying.

Zack replied. She ignored the message for a few seconds, but eventually heaved her body into a sitting position and tapped the wrist phone gingerly, as if she would damage the screen if she tapped with the force of her bottled emotions.

 

ZL Whoa, whoa, what’s this about? Just remember, it’s that “meaningless life” that you’re here to protect. Your family? That’s who will benefit from us protecting the universe.

ZL I mean, it sounds fucking crazy when I say it like that, but it’s true. I thought it was a crazy vision or something, but it’s not. We’re actually here, and we actually stand in the way of Antumbra’s goal.

I’m not strong enough to do that. Geoffrey and Rana don’t think I’m up to the task. That’s what they just said. CJ

ZL You are. I admire your strength and courage, and I always have. Just because you’re not physically strong, doesn’t mean you’re worthless. Your ability to see the future has been invaluable, and I’m sure it’ll continue to be as we keep putting this plan together.

ZL And after that, I want to come see you. It’d be depressing as hell if we didn’t get to meet up when we’re just a journey through the Reaches away from one another.

Thank you. It means a lot to hear that. CJ

You… want to see me? CJ

ZL Of course I want to see you! You’re a good friend.

 

A good friend.

Good friend.

Friend.

“No. Please.”

Cassie had been holding back tears now, but at this revelation she let the tears flow freely. They were not mighty emotional waterfalls, but the piteous, quiet sobs of someone who had physically felt their heart tear into pieces. She tried to wail, but her voice cracked and fell silent, leaving her confined in the arms of the sofa, letting silvery tears drop from her face down onto the fabric below.

 

ZL Cass? Was that all?

Sorry. I was busy. That sounds nice. CJ

ZL Alright, cool. I think I need to pay attention now, looks like Yasen has found something. Talk to you later, OK?

Bye. CJ

 

In the darkness of the empty hub room, the only sound was the jarring intakes of breath as Cassie sat and cried. Visions tried to comfort her, but she pushed them away, not heeding their warnings. In all her years, he’d never directly said what they were to one another.

And she’d thought, just for a moment-

Such foolishness, she thought. What was I thinking?

Her hands visibly shook. The sword on the table glinted, almost invitingly.

No amount of money pays for love. I learnt that, at least.

Her hand reached up and wrapped around the hilt of the sword. Small scars on her wrists seemed to pulse with fear.

He wanted to visit. Because we’re SUCH GOOD FRIENDS.

The sword clattered against the wall as Cassie threw it across the room.

Serafina would be furious if she knew I’d been thinking these thoughts again.

With a feeling somewhere between resolve and sadness, Cassie sat back on the sofa and rested her head on it, allowing her eyes to close.

I made her a promise. I won’t do it. Not now, not ever again. I just have to get through this.

“Get through this.” she whispered to herself. With that phrase echoing in her mind, she felt herself falling backwards into the void, and entered into sleep.

Cause [1.5.3]
Cause [1.5.5]

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