Chapter 10: Unexpected Enemies
I spent the night at Annie’s home sleeping on a guest bed that is meant more for traveling and felt more like a flat wide table than a bed which was difficult to sleep on. Wasn’t too bad but would have still preferred spending the money given to me to have a more comfortable bed. Anyways, many people in Delidaware woke up early before the sun could fully set and the streets were already plenty crowded and busy. When we arrived at the stables Mato put us to work immediately with the others to prepare for the dangerous journey. Many High Rollers were present but none had rare souls like me or Mato. It was still more than enough to corner Uisai and kill him since judging from their expressions it wasn’t their first time they would hunt down dangerous people who threaten Delidaware.
It only took thirty minutes to finish preparations and we hit the road on our horses and left Delidaware City. Once out of the range of the spice barrier that protected the city those countless lost souls that waited right outside tried devouring ours. But our horses were well equipped with spices and everyone also had their protective talisman just in case and we moved through with no problems. I rode alongside Annie whom I noticed was slightly nervous about heading far out from Delidaware for the first time in years.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked Annie thinking she was beginning to regret coming.
“I’m sure… got a bit too comfortable in Delidaware City is all,” Annie said but still had a worried expression.
“I hope I’ll be prepared to face whatever awaits me out there.”
“You won’t, no one ever is.”
We went off-road to the west and as we rode deep into a green land, many more souls wandering about tried to attack our group. Despite all the noise from the running horses I was still able to hear those souls each having different feelings as they’re trapped in-between the realm of the living and the dead unable to move on. After a whole day riding, we camped near some trees with a few men heading out to secure the area for the night while others helped set up tents, cooked, and tended the horses. Everything was efficient due to Mato’s leadership and intimidating aura which makes no one want to even think about complaining against his leadership. Either way, there was nothing to complain about when Mato was doing an amazing job leading people who are of different ethnicities.
We didn’t stay up long and went to sleep soon so everyone could wake up early in the morning to hopefully catch up to Uisai in the middle of waking up to a sunset full of gunpowder. However, Mato had different intentions for me not wanting to risk anything with someone new who hasn’t proved themselves. He ordered me to go along with Annie and ten others to wait east of the mountain. From there, our group would wait there and kill anyone from the Nahr’Shak who managed to slip past the main group. Just in case we wouldn’t shoot anyone friendly the main group won’t chase after anyone and left it to those who will ensure no one could escape. Wasn’t thrilled being in the backline waiting but I understood Mato’s reasoning since he was responsible for everyone’s life in that group and wanted the highest chance of everyone making it back alive.
A few hours passed since the plan went into motion and I simply stood around on guard prepared to ambush anyone coming from the mountain. The cold weather made it difficult to find any comfort being idle but I knew my path wouldn’t be a leisure one and if I couldn’t endure a couple of hours standing in the cold then I could forget about exploring the wild side of Velorian and just drop dead. Thankfully someone from our group made some hot coffee and went around to hand it out with bread.
“Sir, I heard you have a rare soul?” It was a young male Negro who made the coffee and passed it around. He talked to me with a genuine interest in High Rollers.
“Yeah, I do. And thanks for this.” I replied to the young Negro and drank some of the coffee which tasted a bit bitter but was good enough to keep my body warm. “I could see you’re not certain of something. What is it?” I asked as the Negro still stood around wanting to talk more about the topic.
“Sir, I just… want to know if there’s a safe way to become a High Roller?”
“You’re asking the wrong person. I only have a few days of experience being one. But from what I have heard there’s no safe way. To be able to do things a normal person can’t requires you to be willing to put your life on the line. Otherwise, everyone and their mother would become High Rollers nor it would be called that either. And depending on the soul you could be putting yourself in danger forever.”
“I… understand.” The young Negro said and I could sense his unwillingness to risk his life to become a High Roller but still wanted to be one.
“…Kid!” I called out to him before he left. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“James, sir!” The young Negro replied respectfully.
I walked up to James and put my right hand over his shoulder.
“James, I may not know much about being a High Roller. But my intentions in Velorian would have inevitably led me to risk my life to become one. Depending on what you seek then it will only be a matter of time for you to take that gamble. Don’t think about it too much for now and keep living normally until that time comes.” I told James and his uncertainty faded away after hearing my advice but not fully.
“Alright, I’ll try not to think about it. Thank you, sir. For your words.” James said being grateful. “May I ask for your name, sir?” James asked.
“Levi, now go on. There are still others who could use some hot coffee.”
“R-Right! Thanks again for your words!” James ran off to hand out coffee to the rest of our group standing and waiting in the cold.
Normally, I wouldn’t go that far for some stranger but I was able to see that James was a good kid with a sense of responsibility. James genuinely wanted to help others just like how someone once helped him from the pits of despair and gave him a chance of freedom. At that time, I didn’t know much about who showed him the light but I would later find out. I continued to stay on guard watching the mountain drinking away at my coffee slowly. Eventually, after another hour passed unexpected things started to happen. Because I was a High Roller, I was able to sense killing intent from the opposite direction of the mountain.
“What the!” I immediately reacted towards the direction knowing someone aimed at me and fired a shot. I attempted to dodge but the enemy knew I was a High Roller and predicted I would try dodging and the bullet managed to hit the edge of my left gut. “AAGGHH!” I dropped to the ground and quickly crawled behind the rock for cover.
I sensed six killing intents which meant six enemies were firing from a distance with clear intentions of wanting to kill everyone from my group who were waiting for the Nahr’Shak. As seconds passed three more enemies revealed themselves and I was fortunate enough that I was shot at the very edge of my stomach. It wasn’t anything lethal but was still losing quite the blood. I first ripped some of my clothing to wrap it around my wound and sensed two enemies approaching cautiously towards the rock I hid behind on.
“Get ’em! I know I hit that bastard!” A man shouted out which surprised me since I thought it was the Nahr’Shak but it sounded like a Cracker.
“Grace, do your thing!” I told her and I leaned out from the side of the rock with my pistol.
That Cracker who was a High Roller got utterly shocked wondering why he couldn’t sense my intent to kill. He quickly jumped to the left side of the rock away from my line of sight and I fired two shots but only one landed on his left leg.
“AAHH! Fuck!” The man screamed in pain.
“Damn!” I quickly moved back into cover as the other one fired away to cover his partner.
“Hey! I thought you were a damn High Roller!?” His buddy yelled out to him wondering how he couldn’t properly dodge or see that I was going to go out of cover.
“Shut up and kill him!” The man with an injured leg yelled out. “He’s moving from the top!” He yelled out to his partner.
However, Grace tricked that High Roller, and I showed myself from the left side and because his buddy that wasn’t a High Roller thought I was going to appear from the top I was able to sense his killing intent which made it clear where I would aim. Upon showing myself that High Roller was dumbfounded as to how he sensed wrong but from that second time he figured out the power of my rare soul. It was too late though and I managed to shoot his buddy on the head and tried going for the High Roller but he reacted by firing at me and I retreated to cover.
“Damn tricky bastard! Come out!” The man screamed out waiting for me to make my move.
I knew he figured out the power of Grace but it didn’t matter since he spent his entire time as a High Roller being able to sense killing intent. Because of that he completely forgot how to deal with an enemy he couldn’t read. I kept tricking him that I would suddenly appear to kill until I finally showed myself and shot him in the throat. Didn’t have time to worry about Annie or the others because more started to show up and were surrounding me. Being in a bad state I immediately started to run towards my horse nearby who tried running off on its own being frightened by the chaos but was tied with a rope on a stick impaled onto the ground.
“He’s getting away! Kill him!” Someone shouted from afar.
“Shoot the horse!” Another shouted.
I shot the rope since there was no time to untie it and jumped right onto my horse who instantly started to run upon being set free. I struggled and nearly fell off the horse because of the wound on my gut but in a desperate situation and strong desire to live I force myself through the pain and properly climbed onto my horse. Sensing many enemies behind with their intent to kill me I tried maneuvering in a way to avoid my horse getting hit or myself. However, there were too many enemies firing and I only managed to get a short distance away near a place with plenty of trees for cover until my horse got shot too many times and collapsed.
“RRGGH! Dammit!” My horse landed on the right side of my leg which hurt and I desperately tried setting myself free.
In the middle of doing so, I sensed an enemy approach on horseback with a rifle about to fire at me. To my advantage, he wasn’t a High Roller and managed to predict when he would fire allowing me to dodge and I returned a shot at him managing to hit his shoulder.
“AAHHH! BASTARD!” The man screamed out in pain almost dropping his rifle as his horse turned back around and ran away with him.
Had little time as more were rushing towards me both on foot and on horse firing and when I freed my leg, I ran straight through the trees to make it harder for the enemy to land a shot. And because I was a High Roller it made things easier for me to know the moment when shots were being fired which helped my timing on taking cover for a moment. With limited ammo and time, I eventually ran out of bullets to keep those on horseback from getting close and I got shot on my right shoulder. Despite a heavy injury I still kept running doing my best to try and survive such a grim situation until I reached a downward hill where I fell straight into and rolled through uncontrollably. The enemies continued to fire and one shot managed to land onto my right leg as I rolled down the hill.
“Ughn… ugh….” The moment I reached the end of the hill I couldn’t move and my consciousness barely stayed active for a short while until I passed out.
As time passed being unconscious and injured, I ended up dreaming about the life I once lived where I would come home from work and see Isabella taking care of our kids. She looked utterly beautiful and just by seeing her, I felt a bliss of warmth and peace. Despite her condition of being unable to move around freely Isabella to me was a perfect portrayal of a goddess and a lucky bastard like me through so much effort managed to make her fall in love with me. I walked over to be with them treating the dream like it was real and disregarded the present like it never happened. But when I approached them and their eyes looked over to me Isabella and the kids went from being all smiles and happiness to sudden fear.
“Isabella?” I called out to her in confusion wondering why they looked at me with such fearful eyes until I looked below seeing myself covered in blood. “Wha…” I was confused wondering why I had blood on me.
Isabella started to back away scared and also confused to the point where she moved out of her chair and fell to the floor while trying to stay in front of the kids. The kids also backed away from me standing near Isabella frightened of me trying to help their mother move.
“Wha… I...” I didn’t know what to say or think and oddly enough I could sense that blood wasn’t mine and realized I was also holding a gun. At that moment, I remembered the present I was living in and the people I have killed. “Isabella…. I- “
Before I could utter another word Isabella began to cry and her expression was full of disbelief like our entire life, we lived so far was a lie.
“How could you?” Isabella asked like she no longer knew who I was anymore.
“N-No, you don’t… understand. I- “
As I tried to get closer something grabbed my right arm to stop me and I turned around to see it was one of the Negro’s I killed when I escaped the Nahr’Shak cave. Their touch felt unpleasantly cold while having visible wounds with no blood. Then the officer I killed who stopped me from killing Logan Campbell also suddenly appeared on the floor grabbing my leg. Then more of the people I killed after deciding to go to Velorian showed up preventing me from getting close to my family.
“Get off me!” I yelled out trying to free myself but their grips were tight and it was difficult to fight off all those hands pulling me away from my family. “Let go of me! Bastards!” They dragged me towards a pit of darkness and all I could do is watch as Isabella and the kids were holding each other tightly crying. “Isabellaaaaa!” I screamed out her name until the dead people I killed covered my eyes as I got dragged into complete darkness and my entire body felt like the same cold I experienced when I first washed ashore on Velorian.
Moments passed being in that darkness feeling nothing but a dead coldness until a small light from a distance appeared. It was quite blinding and those hands which bounded me in darkness started to free me and as that light got closer, I felt a nice warmth which pushed away that horrible coldness.
“Levi!” An echoing voice called out to me. “Levi, sir! Please respond!” The voice cried out with worry.
I then felt a warm small hand touch my face and saw that the light was Grace. She was able to enter my dreams and got rid of that nightmare. Grace returned everything to normal how the dream first started with Isabella and my kids having smiles. However, that time I was outside the house watching them through a window. I wanted to go inside to be with them but Grace suddenly floated in front of me getting in my way. Grace told me it was only a dream and that I had to accept reality or I wouldn’t be able to move forward in finding Logan Campbell.
“The hell are you saying? I don’t care if it’s a dream! I want to be with my family!” I angrily yelled at Grace and disregarded her.
I walked over to the front door and when I grabbed the doorknob it wouldn’t budge. Impatience and frustration started to set in because Grace let me know she was capable of manipulating my dreams preventing me from entering and I tried kicking the door down but she made the doors too sturdy. I then attempted to break the windows but they were also unbreakable.
“Dammit! Let me inside Grace!” I demanded and walked over to her soul. “Let me in!” I insisted and tried grabbing her soul but my hands went through. “God fucking! I swear Grace… if you don’t let me fucking inside to see my family you can forget about finding your damned brother!” I tried threatening her but Grace didn’t budge.
Even though I kept throwing insults towards Grace I could feel that she only felt pity for me as those angry threats slowly but surely turned into begging.
“Grace… please… I’m begging you.” I pleaded as I got onto my knees crying.
Grace had the power to give me what I wanted but it would all only be a dream and she wanted me to understand that. No matter how much I wished for that life of mine to return it’s never going to happen. By using Grace to give me those wishful dreams I will not be able to properly move forward with the present and the result wouldn’t be happiness but more misery since I’d have to return to the real world and remember that my loved ones were murdered. My mentality couldn’t bear such a thing and Grace wanted to spare me that suffering. It was difficult and I shed many tears in that dream but I had to accept reality. My loving wife and kids were dead and no matter how much I wish for it they are never coming back.
“…I… I understand…” I slowly stood up and wiped away my face covered in tears. “Thank you, Grace. I’m really glad you became part of my soul.” I told her and looked back at my house. “Just… grant me this wish one time, Grace. I know it’s only a dream of your making but… I still want to say goodbye to them.” I told Grace still wanting to see my family.
Although I could sense Grace was reluctant she could also see that I was being truthful about it being the only time I’d ask her to give me a pleasant dream with my family. Grace pointed at the door to let me know she was no longer keeping it closed.
“Thank you,” I told Grace and walked towards the door.
Despite being a dream I took it seriously like that would truly be the last time I would see them and took deep breaths to prepare myself. I opened the door and walked through my big home until I reached the edge of the entrance where I would see my family. However, I stopped in my tracks hearing Isabella and the kids enjoying themselves. I wanted to cry and appear before them with utter joy but unfortunately, the man I once was is long gone. Even though it was a dream my heart couldn’t handle showing them what I have become and, in their eyes, I would look like a stranger.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered as my tears returned while I turned back around deciding not to see them.
My heart felt the same as that dreadful day when I arrived home to find out my family was killed. Heavy like I was lifting tons of despair and sadness as I walked out of my home to see Grace who floated near me to hug me. Thanks to Grace she soothed that pain I was feeling in my heart.
“Levi!” The echoing voice kept calling out to me and only then did I realize it was the Negro kid James who called out to me.
Grace told me that James managed to find me on time and tended to my wounds. If James had arrived some minutes later, I probably wouldn’t have survived and bled out.
“It seems… there’s something I must be destined to do if I have escaped death by the brink this many times.” I looked at Grace. “Wake me up, we have a lot of work to do.”
Grace floated near my face and wanted to make sure I was truly ready to move on with my life.
“Yeah, just like you said. They’re never coming back.” I said as I turned back around to give one final glance at my home.
The house started to move away as a pitch blackness began to fill everything around me which was the doing of Grace who was putting away that dream. After it all went dark a sudden burst of light flashed before my eyes that would return me to the present where I would continue my journey in the exiled west.