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Cyanide Scene 4

Ghosts of the Past

Cold. Hard. Unyielding. Those were the first things Cyan felt as he tumbled through the latest portal. Fog flew up into face, mostly insubstantial mist but much of it from his own boggled mind. As it cleared, his hazel eyes took in the sight of a cobblestone walkway. A star-studded sky shone overhead, lighting an abomination the retainer had never wished to see again.

The Phantom Train. Exactly the place he’d wanted to avoid.

As Cyan staggered to his feet, he heard the familiar whistle from the train. It was soon to depart and good riddance. The last time he’d laid a foot on that damned vehicle the retainer feared he’d never escape. Worst of all, part of Cyan hadn’t wanted to. With the aid of Sabin, Cyan understood the implications of remaining on or returning to the train. It had almost cost him his life once. What would happen if he’d boarded it again?

You swore to do anything to protect Doma. That train will lead you to redemption.

“To redemption?” Cyan said as he brought a hand to his forehead, feeling weary. “How much must I sacrifice?”

Anything. Everything. The very breath from your body…those were your words, were they not?

That moved his feet. Ironically, that also seemed to move the train, for its whistle blew hard and it sprang to life down the tracks. The retainer blocked his mind of all thought, save one: boarding that train. His footsteps pounding in his ears, Cyan flanked the train for a time but even for one of his endurance, fell further and further behind.

In a moment of desperation, the retainer threw himself at the railing. His fingers closed around the cold steel, holding fast. Gasping, Cyan pulled himself fully aboard. As he slumped against the door of a boxcar, his thoughts returned with a vengeance. What madness dictated his actions this time? Grief had prompted him to climb into the train the first time. That was a somewhat acceptable excuse. As for this…

One should really only chance death as many times as strictly necessary.

His hands slipping to the two hilts, Cyan glanced through the tiny porthole of the door. Apparitions roamed the lush interior, as they had in his first visit. Occasionally the ghosts had been benign, helpful even, but most proved a threat. Though he did not fear them the retainer had no desire to lock blades with the apparitions. What would be the point?

Up the side ladder Cyan climbed, wind stinging his face like Sabin’s catclaws. The steel felt cold beneath his naked hands. Upon reaching the roof, the retainer leapt on and cast his gaze at the next few boxcars. Over a dozen separated him from the engine. Cyan breathed nosily, frustrated.

“Where are you taking me? How does this lead to the betterment of the kingdom?” Despair clung to edges of his voice, though Cyan fought hard to mask it.

Whether his ‘friend’ deigned to answer, the retainer had no time for him. Hearing the shuffle of robes, Cyan glanced down to see the ghosts creeping towards his boxcar. He supposed he should have made allowances for that, especially considering the last time. Dispatching them would probably be swift but again the retainer viewed it as a wasteful effort and so made his way to the next boxcar.

Cyan did not like to consider what would happen to him should he fall.

He was granted the opportunity to learn, however. The retainer miscalculated his next jump, jarred as he was by a ghost grabbing at his arm. Cyan slipped and struck his head against the roof. That momentary disorientation cost the retainer for he stumbled off the roof. Random chance saved him, as the train took a bump and a chain wrapped around the retainer’s hand.

Ghosts pressed him from all sides now, their ghastly half-faces leering at him. Worse, his fingers began to retract one by one. Cyan fought for every ounce of strength. Warrior’s instinct shouted his brain, and his hand reacted by whipping out Tempest. The sword clanged hard against another metal weapon, a flail, then reversed the stroke to parry a spear thrust. Cyan understood that he could not hold out much longer. Either he’d miss a blow from the numerous attacks or he’d fall away into whatever awaited him in the darkness beyond the tracks.

That darkness was momentarily dispelled as Tempest emitted a searing white light, blinding Cyan and nearly causing him to release. A mini-maelstrom swept across the boxcar, dousing the ghosts in winter-bitten sleet and rain. A few ghosts tumbled from the boxcar and those that didn’t staggered back, stunned.

That was exactly the opportunity Cyan had been looking for. Using the momentum of the train’s next bump, the retainer heaved up to the railing. Immediately he ascended the ladder to that boxcar. How long the ghosts would be incapacitated, he knew naught. As long as he reached the engine the retainer guessed that disabling it would halt the train. It had in the past.

Of course, things weren’t exactly the same as the last time.

As he continued hoping from boxcar to boxcar, it was to the retainer’s astonishment to discover that the engine was in the next boxcar. He was almost certain it was at least another two boxcars away. Sighing, opting not to question his fortune, Cyan continued onto the engine boxcar. Then he dropped down from the roof and slid the door open. With some difficulty the retainer closed it shut again.

Inside was a familiar sight; the control panel on one side and the levers on another. Smiling grimly, Cyan made a bee-line for the latter. For a long moment, the retainer stared at them, working to recall the combination Sabin had used to shut the train down. That smile warmed to genuine pleasure as it came rushing back. The rusted levers creaked as Cyan flipped two up and one down.

Nothing happened. The train was still merrily on its way, unslowed even.

Crossing his arms, the retainer stared hard at the levers. What was he doing wrong? Had he not pushed them up or down enough? Additional attempts at doing just that proved that theory invalid. Was he remembering the combination incorrectly? Two down and then one up? No, that didn’t work. First up, second down and the third up again? That didn’t provide any other results either.

He was a sad example of a person fiddling with technology. Edgar or Sabin would have been better suited to the task.

“I hath longed so desperately to board this train and now here I am so desperate to escape,” Cyan whispered as his fists clenched. The Phantom Train might continue along its course, delivering him to the world of the dead. His hands drifted to one another. Though many times the retainer could barely stand the agony of his life, he still fought to preserve it.

“How does one halt this abomination?”

Whoever said that the Phantom Train needed to be stopped? The test before you is not as simple as that…You wish to leave the train?

A tint of sarcasm bleeding into the tone, Cyan said, “I should think that would be obvious, but yes, that I do desire.”

You must jump.

“Jump? Jump where…?” Cyan’s black brows flew into his forehead. “You can not mean I must leap from the train…that is madness…”

And what of any of this is not? If you do not, the hope for Doma shall remain ever from your grasp…

Step by step Cyan walked over to the door and pushed it open. Immediately wind rushed up to his face. He made it a point to stare straight down. Nothing lay beyond the tracks that the retainer could see. He took a deep breath and secured his blades. Should he actually survive the jump Cyan didn’t want them coming lose to impale him.

Cyan dove in.


Scene 5

All That Glitters Is Cold 2 Fanfic Competition
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