Untitled

Chapter I

ALICE

She takes a deep breath as she aims her rifle, prone on the ground, her eyes lining up the sight with the end of the barrel. A target rose, she pulls her trigger and knocked down the target as another rose, she pushes the lever of her rifle forward and reloads another bullet into the breechloader, pull the lever back and fires another round. It pierced the second target.

She glances to her left after she had shot down all six targets under one minute, her brows furrowed as he was already watching her with a smirk. She takes a deep breath and regains her focus, her finger gently touches the trigger, watching impatiently for the next set of targets. Another set of targets rose, much further away than the first set but her bullets struck them down regardless.

She reloads as fast as she could after the final shot, gets up, and sprints for the next shooting position. Her breathing ragged, her lungs filled with air as she inhaled deeply before aiming but her heart barely slowed down. The target rose, her aim still shaky but she pulled the trigger regardless and the target went down.

A smile escaped her.

"I'll admit it, you're good." he approaches, staring at her with beautiful bright blue eyes, and her heart stirs from it. "That was some great shooting, begs the question, what are you shooting for Miss Lavellan?"

"I have my reasons." she slings her rifle over her shoulder.

"Ofcourse, I would not impose." He inspects the rifle in his hand, its golden inlays were designed intricately, a beautiful piece of weapon. With a sleight of hand, the rifle spins around his wrist and he tosses it before catching it as it falls back down. Offering it. "It's yours, a gift."

She turns her face away, as much as she loves its design, it seems inapropriate to accept such luxury. "I am honored, your royal highness. But I can't accept such a lavish gift." she bowed her head low.

"You dare refuse a prince?" her eyes widened and he takes a step closer.

"Ofcourse not, I-"

He shoves the rifle into her hands, she looks up to him, in the moment he seems taller than usual. "Then take it, a prize for beating me." he walks past her and a smile escaped her, her fingers traces the intricate design, the gold inlay felt great against her skin.

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A mansion built around an ancient oak tree, a home embraced by its surrounding nature, the flora flowed within it as much as around it. Lively and beautiful, her friends stood before the ancient tree, waiting. "A new rifle? Sure wish I was a Lavellan." Percy's bright green eyes laid their attention on her, her estranged childhood friend that she reconnected with during the academy.

"Beautiful, isn'it?" Cass's sapphire eyes watches apathetically, cold and apathetic, that is the vibe that Cass always exudes since childhood. But out of everyone, Cass is the only person she feels safe around, her closest and only confidant. A senior of one year both in age and military. "Look at these gold inlays."

"I think this is beyond Lavellan." Percy brushes his fingers across the barrel, giving her an insinuating look. "I didn't take you for a gold digger."

"I won it." She stared at him.

"It has come to my attention that you made it into Special Operations." Cass stares at Percy, to which he smiles sheepishly. "How did you get in but I didn't?" Percy's eyes widened at the question. "You pulled strings, didn't you?"

"And why would I need to?" His tone was defensive, angry even. "I don't doubt your skills, it's working together that's the problem." Cass's brows furrowed. "Special Operations is all about trust and teamwork."

"I can work with people."

"That you like, and you don't like a lot of people." Percy shrugs, turning his face away from them. "Take it up with recruitment Cass." Percy seemingly shrinks as Cass held her stare, "Anyways, I need to be somewhere. Some other time perhaps?" He forces a smile at her.

"Sure, give Robert my regards." he turns and walk away. "So, How are things?"

Cass lets out a disappointed sigh. "I could use more exciting work." Cass crossed her arms. "Do you want to join our little adventure? It'd be nice to have an overwatch, an operation deep in the Lower City."

"Would that be okay?" She meets Cass's gaze, the First Regiment has no jurisdiction in the Lower City, and even the Third tread carefully in that district.

"Why wouldn't it be? We'd be doing the city a big favor." A mischievous smile on Cass. "Come on, it'll be fun."

She places a hand on her hips. "Just how exactly did you come up with ideas for this operation?"

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A woman with golden hair stood under the dark sky, lean but muscled, she had heard of Cass's new partner but never had the opportunity of meeting the woman before. The lights barely illuminated the streets as most of them were not working, "This your friend? She doesn't look tough..." She forced a smile at the remark, people have a habit of underestimating her.

"But she's a good shot, and I trust her." Cass moves to stand beside the woman and gestures in an introducing motion. "This is Nana."

"Pleasure to meet you, Alice. Cassandra's -friend-." Nana pressed at the word friend, offering her hand with a smirk, inspecting her top to bottom with soft amber eyes. She shakes Nana's hand but could not pull it back, "I heard a lot about you." She steals a glance at Cass who is wearing her usual apathetic look, Nana let her hand go and her brows furrowed, wanting to know what Nana heard of her.

Her hand on her rifle as she passes through the corridors, hidden beneath her oversized trench coat, the eyes that watched them are anything but friendly, the district appears more and more abandoned as they go deeper. The structures are not well maintained and beggars litter the streets as they coughed with sickly expressions, and there were no signs of patrols anywhere. "The place where only the most pitiable souls dwell, it's where most refugees lived, a hive of crime." Nana seems to know the place well.

A group of men stared back as she stops, but Cass pushed her to keep moving, they were discarding a corpse into a trash container. "Its survival of the fittest, a feeble and foolish man to enter is likely not to be heard from again." a sad tone in Nana's voice. "There it is, one of the warehouses I mentioned."

They went around the warehouse and a lone guard watches the back entrance, Nana pushes her into cover and walks towards the guard, she turns to Cass. "Just wait." A whistle, it was just loud enough for them to hear, she follows behind Cass and enters. She caught sight of the man lying further away from the backdoor, barely hidden out of sight, unconcious.

"He's not dead, is he?" The two moved to hide behind several crates and she hurried beside them, a group of people took out packages from a wagon, they looked rough and shady. A group of thugs and criminals. "Should've brought more backup..." she kept her voice low to which Nana smiled. "Are you sure about this?" Cass pointed to a mezzanine off to the side.

"Stay there and cover us, got it?" Cass was determined, she nodded and makes her way towards the high ground. "You got permits for those goods?" Cass and Nana had approached them, walking casually into the center of the warehouse.

"Permits?" An amused tone on the answering thug as he pats his pockets, "I guess not. I must've dropped mine in a dumpster, along with the last idiot who stepped to us." She snapped her rifle up, Nana had dived into the fray, taking one down immediately in the opening.

She snapped her aim to another one coming at Nana but before she could pull the trigger, Nana had sliced his hand away, finishing him off with a thrust through the heart. Nana pulled out a dagger and sliced another man's thigh as she ducked under his swing, killing him from behind as he fell to one knee, She was fast.

Nana turned to look at her with a proud smile, 

Nana, her heart melted.

Her eyes widened as she snapped out of her awe, she shook her head and focused her attention on Cass instead, she rests her finger gently on the trigger. Whoever it was Cass is fighting handled himself pretty well, Cass fell on her back as the man kicked her.

Nana lunged forward, her dagger fell short as the man leaned back just enough, dodging her following strikes left and right before catching her blade hand. Her rifle kicked back as she pulled the trigger, the man staggered back as her bullet caught him on the shoulder, disarming his knife-hand. He stared at her before stumbling away, she loads another bullet and aimed at him but he had gotten away. 

I should've aimed for his leg.

A few rushed in her direction, she got up and watches the stair that leads up to her. "Stand down!" the man halted for a moment before charging, he fell facefirst into the ground, she had caught him right on the knee. "Shit." the bullet slipped from her fingers as she rushed her reload.

She ran towards the other end of the mezzanine but was grappled and struggled to free herself, a grunt escaped her as she is thrown against the wall, she reached for her baton. A wince escaped her as she is pulled up by the hair. A curse escaped the thug as she smacked his leg with the baton, then his thigh, his arm, and finally his head though he covered it with his hand.

Her back crashed against the wall, he had rammed and pinned her, she pushed back but the man was strong. A grunt escaped her as the baton is torn away from her clutches, she slammed her forehead against his jaw, kicked him between his legs, he fell to his knees and her fist cracked against the side of his skull. Her breaths were ragged.

She rushed for him and struck him on the face, she mustered her strength and struck him again, she grunted with the third punch and all her strength withered. She catches her breath but the man was still conscious, in pain and weak but conscious. She crawled for her baton but her hand fell short of reaching it.

He had caught her legs. She dragged herself closer but an inch remain, the edge of her fingers touched it but he was already on top of her, her breaths suffocating as he held her down by the neck. "You little bitch." his hold tightened. 

Cass. Her voice did not leave her throat.

Sweats were all over her, her vision blurring as pain radiated in her chest. Her limbs were worn out, a moment longer and she'd be dead of asphyxiation. The world was silent around her, her breath stuck in her throat, her head hurting. Her heartbeat stopped racing, a painful but awfully calming and fleeting sensation, scary yet peaceful. Like a dream, a nightmare, it was just another nightmare.

A gasp escaped, Her eyes widened as her breathing resumed, and the world returned with it. Her breaths ragged as the weight is lifted off her, and beautiful bright blue eyes watched her. "Christian?" her vision cleared. "Oh." It was Cass, she was always a handsome woman.

"Are you good?" She pushed herself up and pats the specks of dust off her uniform, taking a deep breath before she returns her attention to her, trying her best to appear calm and collected. "Christian huh? You two that close now?"

"You heard nothing, got it?"

She sheathes her baton and picks up her rifle. "He's handsome, and a prince at that, a perfect candidate." Cass pulls her knife that was stuck behind the man's head, she places a hand on her mouth, retching as she held back an expulsion, she turns her face away and moves towards the rail. "Right?"

"He is perfect."

A scoff escaped Cass and her brows furrowed. "What?" Cass ignores her and walks away. "You don't like him?"

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She waits at the lounge and stretched her backaches, it was still hurting from last night, Major Reinhart of the Third Regiment had pulled Cass into his office over their operation. She brushed at her wrapped knuckles. They too hurt still. Raised voices escaping from the Major's office, a lot of shouting for a job well done. The door banged open and a frustrated look is apparent on the Major's face before the door closed behind Cass. "He didn't sound too happy."

Cass's face was apathetic, though she is sure Cass is just as frustrated. "How's the hand?" her voice never did betray her face, at times a hint of emotion escape them but not this time.

"I am fine." She shrugs. "Why is he all worked up?" Cass crosses her arms, and looks at everyone around, they avert their gaze and Cass returns to look at her.

"I understand it was unsanctioned, but who cares? We stopped a criminal operation."

"I am sure he was more pissed off about you talking back." Nana smiled, holding back a laughter. Cass can be quite confrontational, her voice never needed to be loud, her words alone are enough to hurt feelings. "Thanks for pitching in last night, it was a close call." Nana's eyes gazed at her fondly. "You're a good shot."

"I am an excellent shot."

"I wouldn't argue, but next time." Nana points at her head.

"I wanted to make arrests not kill them." She takes a step closer to whisper. "How do you suppose they managed to smuggle those drugs?"

"Corruption, how else?" Cass turns to look at the Major's office. "And I think I know who's behind it."

"That's one hell of an accusation."

"But one I am inclined to agree." She turns to Nana. "He personally inspects the goods coming in every once in a while, I bet one of those times were when the illegal goods are being carried in."

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She looks at the rifle that Christian gave her, mounted on the wall, as much as she loved it the rifle her father bought her held more sentimental value. She traces her hand across the rifle, her jaw tightens and she takes a deep breath. 

It's in the past. 

"Miss him?" a gasp escaped her as she spun to look behind her, it was Cass. 

When did she get here? 

"You should learn to lock your door."

"Oh please. We're in the Upper City, why worry?"

"It doesn't hurt to be safe." Cass sits on the bed and watches intently, "I am sure he is proud of you following in his footsteps." A wide smile escaped her as she put on her uniform, her father was a war hero before he was made Viceroy, keeping law and order in the region. She had thought to do the same on a smaller scale though her uncle did all he could to keep her safe inside the Upper City walls.

"Would he? He was a soldier who risked his life on the field." She sits right beside Cass and met her gaze. "And here I am, restrained within the confines of the Upper City."

"You mean...dating the prince?"

"I am not dating him." She turns her face away, her cheeks burning. "Do you think he likes me?" a smile escapes her.

"That's not what I was getting at, people are talking Alice." Cass stares menacingly, her voice teeming with anger, it was unlike her to have strong emotions. "I don't mind that you're seeing him but don't abandon your duties, you're team Captain, have some responsibilities."

"He's only free at night, and you know my uncle doesn't let me out unless I am working the night shift."

"That is not an excuse."

"Fine." She folds her arms and turns away from Cass. "Tonight will be the last time." a frustrated sigh escapes Cass. "I promised to see him." a tense silence hangs between them and she lays her head on Cass's shoulder. "Why don't you like him?"

"I wish that was enough to stop you from seeing him."

"You're not mad at me, are you?"

"This will be your last time seeing him on duty, right?"

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She fights her urge to smile as he did, his eyes watch her intently, taking in every detail of her. His every stroke masterful, precise, she stretches her neck subtly but he took notice. "Tired?" She shakes her head gently and maintains her pose, taking a deep breath. "I think we could finish this next time, when's your next shift?"

He puts down his paint brush and gets up to approach her, her heart races, wanting to tell him how she feels. Wanting to ask him how he feels. "If I may ask, your royal highness." She averted her gaze, clearing her throat. "Do you like me?" He is standing close to her, too close.

"You'd like that wouldn't you?" He smiles. "Have I not made it obvious?" he turns her face towards him, a gulp escaped her as he pushes her right fringe back and holds it against her head. She closes her eyes as her heart beats furiously against her ribcage.

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Bright blue eyes watched her fondly with a smile just beneath it, her eyes closed as he embraced her, she could feel his warmth as he pulled her head close to his chest. His hug tightened and his chest heaved. "I love you."

"I love you too." He pulled away though his hands held hers still, he tilted his head slightly to the side as his thumb brushed at her cheek. His eyes were on her lips. A kiss on the side of her forehead, warm at the touch, and then quickly heated up. Her brows furrowed, sunlight had cast heat on her face.

"Sweet dreams?" Her eyes widens as she turns to the voice, she had just dreamed of him and he had appeared out of thin air, heat all over her as she turns her face away.Wake up. 

She pats her face as she shakes her head, sneaking a look at him, the door to her room still open behind him.

"Are you...real? Am I still dreaming?"

"Is it possible for two people to share a dream?"

"What are you doing in my room?"

"You're in my room." She takes in her surrounding and her cheeks burns at the realization, 

did I? 

He approaches and sits on the bed, "I remember we were sharing childhood stories on the sofa..." she places a hand behind her neck, her heart racing as her thoughts flustered. "I-"

"You dozed off and I carried you to bed." A gulp escaped her. "Can you imagine that? A prince sleeping on a sofa?" she turns to look at him, a devilish smile on him. "I wondered last night, are you guarding me or was I guarding you?" her face turned away from him.

"I should leave..."

She gets off the bed but his hand caught her wrist. "When's your next shift?"

ETHAN

The tavern was filled with all sorts of people, from the average joe to thugs, on one table Arthur is robbing people's money in a game of cards. And on one end, Jon was arm-wrestling one of the Imperials, his peers chanted his name but Jon's hand was unmovable like the mountain.

A thump. Jon had slammed the man's hand against the table and celebrated himself, Isabella swiped the betting coins into her pouch while Jon gulps down ale from his mug. "Again!" the man slams at the table and everyone turned silent, drunk, and angry.

"Why not?"

Jon laughed and sat back on the table, the two wrestled their arms once more but Jon wins easier. "Again!" the man proved both stubborn and foolish, 

does he expect it could end differently?

"A man who can't see when he is beaten." Most laughed at Jon's comment, though the man's peers were bitter, unsure if it was Jon's comment or the coins they lost. "Do you even got any more coins on you?" the table shook as the man slammed a knife on the table, its blade dug deep into the wood.

He pushed his shoulder off the wall and leaned his face close to Jon. "We don't want trouble." he kept his voice low.

"Just watch my back." He stands tall and edges closer to the stool beside him, the night is going to end badly, Jon wrestles the man again and it ended it before he could even blink. The man reached for his knife but Jon swung, the punch sent him tumbling off the bench and he picks up the stool. Ready for a brawl.

"Everyone stay cool." Most had risen from their seats, tense and ready. "We don't want trouble, right Jon?" He stares them down, the stool tight in his grip. Jon kicked the table and sent it crashing against them, he slammed the stool and broke it on one of the Imperial's heads.

Glass bottles shattered, tables broken, stools flying amidst thudding punches and frightened screams of women. It was a one-sided affair. The Tavern was a mess, with splintered woods of broken tables and chairs everywhere, they are definitely no longer welcomed here.

"Well some things never change." A familiar face among the group of men that had just entered, an old friend. "There is hope after all."

Nazeer strokes at his beard, it was thicker than the last time they saw him, and he had let his dark hair grow long. It actually made him look like his name, the Black Lion. "I changed, just not for the better, what do you want?" Arthur stared.

"Catching up with an old friend?" Nazeer places a hand on Arthur's shoulder as he approaches, as much as he hated Nazeer, they did owe him. A cruel and ruthless man, but a reliable ally on the battlefield nonetheless. "We had a good thing together, if our past means anything to you, hear me out." his tone imploring.

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A labyrinth of shantytowns, corridors, and hexagonal courtyards. The abandoned parts of the Lower City, beggars littered the streets as he walks deeper and deeper, there wasnt so many of them before, derelict and destitute people. He pushed his crimson scarf over his nose as someone coughed, careful not to catch a disease.

"It's been a year but I never could get over it, they made us lambs for slaughter and took all the glory, even went as far as hunting down survivors on grounds of desertion." He places a hand over his head, fighting back the images that had surfaced. Nazeer leads them through the district and into an old warehouse. "I was content to live out the rest of my mercenary life but..." Five men stood before them, cloaked with a hood over their heads.

"It's been a long time, hasn't it?" One of them steps forward, pulling back his hood to reveal cold blue eyes. It was their Captain, Chester Hawke, they had thought that he died in the forest. "How does it feel to be renegades after risking your life for the Empire?"

"I wish I died in the ambush." Arthur steps up to meet Chester. "I abandoned my uniform and started over, I never believed it when they offered redemption but, it still hurts. Betrayal always hurts."

"Our people hunger while they feast, they dance on the corpses of our fallen brothers, reaping the rewards of our harvest and persecute us in the same breath. It is past time we turn our blades to the real enemy." he drew his sword. "Maggots who had grown fat on endeavors corpses."

Arthur kneels to one knee. 

I am done fighting. 

Jon and Isabella moves to kneel beside Arthur, Nazeer stares as he inhales the smoking pipe in his hand. "Might as well die fighting for a cause." smokes puffed with each spoken word. He turns his face away.

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Tall trees surrounded them, the leaves and brushes made it hard to see but as they went deeper, mists slithered among them. It made it harder and harder to see. "What the hell are we doing here? We could be falling into an ambush."

"Don't jinx it, Ethan." Arthur kept his attention ahead, dismissive but seemingly occupied by the same thoughts, they were pushing the advance.

He clasped his amulet in hand, the symbol of god close to his chest, his eyes closed. 

Would it make a difference? Would it change anything? 

He hung his head low. 

God, please forgive us, your wayward children. We who remember you in times of distress but forget you in times of comfort. His heart trembled, he had always been drenched in wishes that never came true. 

Protect us, give us strength.

A cracking sound ahead of them. A large tree had fallen before them, more cracking echoed, trees were falling behind them. It was a trap. Blades grazed against their sheaths as everyone drew their swords, a tense silence hung in the air as the specks of dust settled.

He ducked as a spear grazed past the side of his head, screams and shrieks echoed, arrows had rained down on them. The soldiers around him dropped dead, his heart raced as Rivellionian soldiers appeared out of the mist like ghosts.

He swung and caught one of them, he kept swinging as he retreated but everyone around him fell one after the other. Sharp pain on his chest, his back against the ground, his chest held down by a heavy boot. The man had him pinned down and raised his battle-ax to finish him.

Blood splattered. The man got his head cut off by Gunther, "Get up!" He got up and inspected his cloth, the battle-ax had cut halfway through his mail armor. "Ethan." he turned to look at Gunther. "The Ca-" blood sprinkled over his face, Gunther dropped dead before him, a crossbow bolt had caught him in the neck.

He searched the fighting ahead, the white horse disappeared into the trees, riderless. 

Captain. He caught his balance as he was sent reeling back, barely managing to block the unexpected blow, dodging and parrying further assault. Striking back at the few openings his assailant made in his wide swings, his strike cut cleanly but it only made his assailant swing harder and faster with each wound he inflicted.

The famed warriors of the Rivellonian Army, a berserker, warriors who became more ferocious as they grew closer to death. He lunged for a strike and ducked under the counter, weaved away before finally parrying. His sword flew out of his hand and he jumped back, his hand reached for the kukri that hung behind his waist.

He has to time it perfectly, a quick-draw strike, first to land wins. The berserker lunged forward but dropped dead before him, caught by a stray arrow. A sigh of relief escaped him, he never liked gambits.

An arrow whizzed past him and he ducked, his eyes searched for the archer but could not find him in the chaos, a shriek escaped him. A blade had pierced the left side of his lower back. He swung as he turned and decapitated an enemy soldier, he stumbled forward, someone had bumped against him from behind.

"Look out!" Kevin shoved him, he crashed down and the muddy waters splashed on his face. 

We're not going to make it. 

His heart raced as it pumped life into his veins. 

What have I got to lose? It'd be easier if I died anyway. 

Blood splattered all over him. 

I could just die right here.

A wince escaped as he placed a hand on his wound. "You're alright." He pushed himself up to a knee, his wounds started to sting. "You're alright." he convinced himself. He looked into his reflection from the bloodstained pool of muddy water, 

Do you think you're going to make it out alive? 

his jaw tightened, it was his own reflection trying to pull him down. 

Just stop.

His vision blurs and he wakes to his body being shook, it was Arthur. "Having nightmares again?" He gets up to a sit, it had been a long time since he had nightmares from the war. "Let's go, it's already midnight."

ALICE

It was a quiet night, as it usually is in the Upper City, their patrols are nothing but empty walks in the streets. Used to be thugs from the Lower City would try their luck but they hadn't been a problem for the past years, it had made almost everyone lax. "Don't you have a prince to meet?" she turns to large light eyes.

"I've been a bad Captain, haven't I?" she averts her gaze. "I am sorry I've been shirking the night shifts." She takes a deep breath. "I had no idea what was going through my mind, I-" Carla puffs smoke in her direction with a stare.

"Relax Captain, you're not the only person shirking night shifts." Carla laughs, fighting back the smile that had escaped. "We've been taking turns too while you weren't around."

Reiner lifted his head off the wall and looked up to them. "Let's go for a walk, loosen up a bit." he stretches before getting up to scan their surrounding. "Where's Cooper? Did he start patroling on his own again?"

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"Any regrets yet?" it was the same question always asked of her in the training camp, it seemed that people expected her to quit at a moment's notice.

"No Carla, no regrets. Never." What was there to regret? She had always wanted to be a soldier. Most of her teammates were drafted for the war, it explained their bitterness and resentment during training, but the war ended during their graduation and they live better lives now being a soldier.

Carla places her arms behind her head, walking with closed eyes. "I wonder what you would be doing right now if you weren't a soldier, I imagine being in a big mansion, probably naked in a hot bath with servants feeding and massaging you, ah...it must feel so good." hot flush escaped her.

"Carla!" Carla snapped her eyes open as she kicked her leg, it was not an image she would want the rest of the team to imagine, considering they're all men.

"They're alright." Carla turned to her left, Marvin and the rest of the boys were quiet, acting as if they did not hear anything. "I'd worry more about Percy, he seems interested." Carla's attention returned to her.

"Percy? Please. He's a childhood friend."

"You're not children anymore."

"Not Percy. He wouldn't think of me that way."

Carla glanced at the rest of the boys, "You're right, I think our friends here are a bit suspicious." They all turn to her, "Except Marvin of course, you're alright Marvin." Carla flashes them a wide smile.

"Carla..." She placed a hand over the left side of her face to block out the men from her sight, she had caught Cooper smirking, he probably didn't need Carla's help to imagine her that way. He had always been watching her with an odd look.

"I am joking, I am sure neither of them ever thought of us that way, right boys?"

"Right." They all answered at the same time.

"This is our last point, right?" She distracts them from the topic at hand, refusing to make any further eye contact with any of them as beads of sweat escapes her.

"It's well past midnight." Reiner lets out a disappointed sigh. "Why did we take so long?" he turns to Marvin, Marvin needed to take the bathroom break and halted their patrol.

"It's no big deal Reiner, I am giving everyone permission to report and hour later than usual."

"That's our Captain!" A wide grin escaped Reiner but his smile died as soon as it had appeared. "Is that our problem? Our shift ended a while ago." She turns to look behind her, one of the buildings is burning. "Captain, wait!"

A figure stood ahead of her wearing a grey mask that looks like a skull, the bloodied remains of another patrol group around him. "Don't move!" she whips her rifle up, he bolts for her and she fires her shot, the left side of his mask shatters with traces of blood. He barely managed to dodge her bullet. 

Impossible.

She reached into her pocket, her hands trembling and the bullet slips from her fingers, she takes a deep breath but her hands would not still. Her eyes widened, they were upon her, she reaches for her blade and blood splattered over her.

For a moment her heart had stopped beating, it was Marvin, he had came to her rescue but found himself struck down in an instant. Her body paralyzed. Her thoughts pleaded for her to run but her body would not move. "Captain!"

Damn it. 

Her jaw tightened. Her hands clenched. She rallied herself but even her voice was stuck in her chest. She was encased in ice. Reiner crashed to the ground, it's just Cooper and Carla now, her hand was already on the hilt of her sword but her body refuses to draw it. Her jaw tightens. 

God save us.

She broke free, with great effort and will her hand pulled out the sword from it's sheath, free from the reins that held it back. She takes a deep breath to calm her ragged breaths, her racing heart, her face turned away as she blocks the coming blow that sent her staggering back.

She places a hand on her shoulder, his blade caught her still. He struck and she dodges, deflecting a sucession of strikes as she is forced back, a sharp pain on her stomach. His blade had found her as her own blade missed him in a counter strike. A groan escaped her, her grip loosened and her sword clangs to the ground, he had shoved the blade deeper.

She reaches for his mask, her mouth tasting salt. She musters her strength but could not tear away his mask, her back crashed into the ground with a shove, her visions blurs as colors drained away to leave only darkness behind.

"Beholder." A voice called from the darkness, like a whisper at the edge of her thoughts. "Your flesh, my spirit. Do you accept?" the voice echoed, seemingly louder. "I can save you..." 

The voice sounded like a winter wind, bitter and ragged. "Let me in."



Chapter II