“WHAT THE HELL!”
I pressed my back against the wall with my heart literally going into a cardiac arrest. I was hyperventilating and the only thing I wanted to do was to make a hole and hide. My mind got stuck on the image of the blood in his mouth. And those eyes. They had a rage and a perversity that not even the most dangerous animal would have.
Apparently, my fear was evident, and Cassius was trying to give me psychological support to the life or death situation. But I wasn’t hearing anything. I just closed my eyes and prayed to my non-existent god to help me to get out of this one alive.
Suddenly, my entire body was shaken with violent force and I opened my eyes to see Cassius standing in front of me, his hands grabbing my shoulders firmly, with a very serious look.
“You need to listen if you don’t want to die. Understood?” he said coldly, handling the situation with presicion.
“Damn he is the man of steel...”
I nodded quickly and took deep breaths to calm myself. The sound of another growl made me quiver in fear and I just wanted to cry, but I put my attention on Cassius because it was the only available option left that would make me live another day.
“I need you to help me with this, but you need to be calm and ready. What I am about to ask you to do is dangerous and it will risk your life. You need to know that.” His eyes had something that helped me calm down, and again I nodded, this time more slowly.
“I can do this. I’m a strong woman. I can deal with a meat-eating giant troll that looks worst than the shark in “Jaws”. I’m brave.” I said this to myself like a mantra to help me get through the unknown assignment.
“The only way to kill a troll is on the head. And I don’t mean throwing him a stone to the head. The plan is...”
When he finished I swear I almost fainted. How the hell was I supposed to do that? He was crazy. Definitely cray-cray.
“I’ll die the second I jump! I can’t do this!” I grabbed my hair in frustration and my eyes were glossy with fear.
He grabbed my face in between his hands and looked straight into my eyes.
“You will not die. I promise. You need to trust me.” His eyes held so much trust and security, that my confidence boosted up just a little.
Another growl left the beast and I jumped at the sudden noise.
After a couple of seconds of intense internal debate, I sighed and gave up on the situation.
“I’ll do it. Now go.” I said with a newfound confidence that came thanks to him. Cassius looked at me for a couple of seconds to reassure that I was fine. He closed the space between us and whispered in my ear.
“See you later Lib.” His eyes didn’t leave mine until he turned around the corner to face the beast. I was left stunned while a shiver ran down my spine. Maybe excitement and anticipation provoked it... or something else.
Some seconds passed and I had to shake my head to free my mind of distraction and when my mind started to react, I started to develop my part of the plan.
I put the knife in between my teeth, and with the help of the relief of the wooden wall of the cabin, I started to climb to the top of the roof. Multiple times I almost slipped, but my mind kept on repeating to keep going. I got to the top of the roof and grabbed the knife with my right hand. The roof was higher than the troll for some feet which was perfect given the plan. I looked at the scene below me and I was left stunned.
Cassius was distracting the beast while at the same time expertly stabbing the legs of the troll. Words can’t describe how well he was fighting. Not even the best action movie actor with the best effects could get to his heels. He was like a samurai mixed with a warrior and a Viking. How can a person have all those mixes? I don’t know, but he fought damn well.
“Hurry up!” he shouted from below.
I shook my head to get out of my trance and focus on the task at hand. And this was the difficult part. Jump. I took deep breaths, clutch and un-clutch my hands and closed my eyes.
I opened my eyes and jumped. The troll was just below me, and I landed hard on top of his head. The rotting smell almost knocked me off and his greasy and dirty hair made me slip. Fortunately, I grabbed firmly his hair and avoided falling to my death. His movements were more violent and his hand almost trapped my leg, probably feeling that I was pulling his hair. Bad for him, his movements were too slow.
Adrenaline kicked in and with all my strength, I climbed to the top of his head fast without slipping, and in a fast movement, with both of my hands, I stabbed the center of his head.
Not even the slightest sound left his mouth. Like it had been shut down, his legs gave up and I was falling with its dead weight. I panicked and before it hit the ground I jumped onto the grass. I hit the ground and rolled to my side like those parkour videos on youtube, but with less grace.
My breathing was fast and my head felt dizzy with the fall. The muscle of my arms burned with all the force I did and my whole body was tensed.
Cassius came running to me and glanced my body for any injury. He knelt beside me and gave me a dazzling smile.
“You good?” he asked without even being out of breath.
I nodded and let out a breath to calm my nerves.
“You were brave. To be honest, I thought you were not capable. You proved me wrong.”
I gave him a slight glare and put my hand up for him to help me stand up.
“It’s dead, right?” I asked a little terrified that it was still alive and looking for revenge.
I stood up completely and looked at the murder scene. A pool of blood grew bigger beneath his head, and his eyes that once were full of rage, they were void of life. The scene made me sick to the stomach and a sudden urge to throw up rose through my body. I clamped my hands to my mouth and run to the nearest tree to empty my already empty stomach. I had forgotten to eat breakfast.
I walked away from the vomit smelling tree and sat on the grass with my head in between my legs trying to process everything. You will think I felt excited and super proud of myself because I killed a troll, that I felt invincible.
I felt lucky I was alive because so many things could have happened that would have finished with me six feet underground. I felt vulnerable and small to the crazy world I was in. One minute you are a very happy person in the forest, the next moment a creature kills you and that’s it. You disappear from the world and the worst of all is that no one would care. By that moment, the situations where I could have died since I arrived at that world were plenty. And I was tired. Tired of being “saved by the bell”. Coincidences and luck we’re the ones keeping me alive and I couldn’t rely on them all the time
I felt Cassius kneeling in front of me.
“Are you good?” he whispered.
“No, I’m not. I’m scared. Never in my life had I been so scared...” I swallowed and decided to not talk if I didn’t want to cry.
He moved to my side and hugged me.
“It is alright. I can protect you.” he said caressing my short hair.
I lifted up my head and looked at him straight into his eyes.
“And what happens when you are not there? You are not all the time with me and I told you I was not going to be locked up all day just because I depend on you. And this is not the first time I fear of my life. Last time, I don’t know what the hell grabbed my legs and I almost ended up being its lunch. And I’m done with feeling scared and vulnerable.”
He looked at me with an indecipherable look, not saying anything, probably not knowing what to say.
“I want you to teach me how to fight.” I said without hesitation.
I had thought about that a long time ago, and it was the right time to tell him.
He didn’t look surprised at all. He passed a hand through his hair and sighed.
“I knew you would ask that sooner or later.” he chuckled and looked at the dead troll that laid a few meters ahead of us.
I didn’t say anything and kept looking at him with a straight face. I was very serious about that matter and I waited for his answer. He suddenly spoke, startling me a little.
“You have to know, if I train you, it is going to be hard. I’m not going to make an exception just because you are women. At the end of each day, you will wish you did not ask me. If you don’t want to be more afraid, then you’ll have to sacrifice things. And most important, you will have to be able to kill.” His face was now dead serious like he was trying to scare me.
I smirked at him, which took him by surprise by a split of a second.
“Do I ever hesitate?” I asked in a challenging tone.
He sighed and chuckled humorlessly.
“I guess you do not.” he muttered loud enough for me to hear.
The next day came in a flash. Cassius took care of the dead body of the troll. And to be honest, I didn’t even want to imagine what he had to do to get rid of it. It was surprising to me that every time situations like that came up, Cassius was so natural about it. I knew he was raised in this strange bizarre world, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of monsters and weird-looking creatures.
This day was supposed to be my first day of training. I got up early and went to feed Lucy. Every passing day, she was trusting me more. It was going to be soon that she would let me check her injuries so she could finally recover and be free. Although the thought of her leaving it saddened me, Lucy belonged to the forest and the wild.
Lucy drank and ate her leafs a little nervous. She was still with her nerves at point after the incident of the day before.
“Let’s go.” a deep voice said behind me.
I slightly jumped at the sudden noise and put my hand over my heart to calm myself. I turned around to see Cassius watching me, amused at my reaction. I glared at him and crossed my arms over my chest.
“I’m not in the mood to be scared after yesterday, so please try not to do that.” I didn’t wait for his answer and walked past him to the front of the cabin.
“Someone is happy...” I heard him mutter. Obviously, he wanted me to hear that. I decided to ignore him.
We arrived at the front of the cabin and I turned around to look at him and realized something I didn’t before. Besides the sword he had on his belt, there was another one on his right hand.
“Where did you take that?” I asked looking surprised at the sword.
“Laying around in the woods.” he said nonchalantly, but the lie in his voice was evident. I looked at him suspiciously but didn’t say anything else on the matter.
“Is for me?” I said excitedly that finally, I was going to have my own weapon, without being stolen from Cassius.
He nodded. “Only for training.”
My expression dropped and I rolled my eyes. “Whatever...” I muttered.
I went up to him to take the sword but he moved it out of my reach.
I frowned and look at him. His hazel eyes looked at me amused and he was trying to hide a smirk.
“You thought I was going to hand over you the sword like nothing?” he started to chuckle, his chest rumbling.
I glared at him and tried to grab the sword. He was way taller than me so trying to reach the sword was impossible.
“I’m not going to train you in fighting, yet. You think you can fight when you can’t even run for five minutes without getting tired?”
A small blush crept up to my cheeks in embarrassment. It was true I was a little out of form, but coming from him it embarrassed me. I turned around so he couldn’t see me.
“Fine. What do you want me to do?”
I turned around looking confused.
“But how much-”
“Now.” his tone was firm and a little threatening.
I started jogging around the clearance almost immediately.
“I said RUN!” I heard him shout behind me.
I started to speed up my pace and my legs started moving faster. When I was passing through the back of the cabin and there was no sight of him. I stopped and walked. I caught up my breath. Lucy was watching me curiously, her gaze never leaving. I pointed a finger at her and mouthed “Not even a word.” This reminded me of sports class in my school. Whenever my teacher forced me to run, I always ended up walking.
I started to run and Cassius appeared again in my line of sight. He was watching me suspiciously like he already knew I had stopped. I gave him a smile and kept running. I knew he couldn’t watch me at every moment, and my plan of stopping at the back of the cabin was perfect.
Content with my plan I kept running. But I shouldn’t have talked to early.
I heard footsteps behind me and when I turned around, I saw Cassius running to catch up with me. He didn’t have his sword with him and he looked like it was as normal as walking. He caught up to me and ran beside me.
“What are you doing?” I said in a serious tone.
“I am going to run with you. I do not trust you.” He said it so simple I thought he was joking. But he wasn’t. My pretty little plan went down the sink.
We kept running and when we passed through the back of the cabin, Lucy looked at me, and I swore she was laughing at me. I glared at her and kept running.
Five minutes passed, and I was a mess. I felt drops of sweat on my temple, on my back, my armpits, everywhere. I was struggling with my breathing and my legs felt like they were on fire. I looked at Cassius, and not even a drop of sweat was on his forehead. He was running like he had just started. I huffed in annoyance and kept my gaze in front of me. Maybe if I looked too much time, a sudden impulse to kill him for being so perfect would rise.
More minutes passed, and it felt like I was going to faint in any moment. My pace turned slower every passing second and my sides hurt.
“I-I need- breathing hard - to stop” I finally said with some strength I found somewhere in my soul. I didn’t know how my legs were still moving.
He took a small glance towards me and then kept his gaze in front of him.
“What?! Oh common!”
He pretended he didn’t listen and kept running. I closed my eyes in annoyance and opened them fast to prevent falling. It was curious how many injuries I had gotten in my short time there. I wasn’t hoping to get another one.
More minutes passed that felt like agonizing hours. Never in my life had I ran for so long. If Cassius had told me at first that running was also part of the training, I would have seriously reconsider it.
At some point when I was thinking Cassius abruptly stop.
I stopped further ahead and my body dropped to the floor. My breathing was ragged and my chest felt tightened as well as my neck. I opened my arms to an extent so my lungs could have more space for air. I closed my eyes and started to calm my breathing.
“Get up. This is not even the first part of the training.”
I cursed under my breath and opened my eyes. I stood up and shook my legs a little. They felt wobbly and numb. I looked at Cassius and he was watching intently, probably thinking of ways to torture me next.
The next following hours were a series of exercises, such as planks, crunches, push-ups, the usual kind of stuff. He also made me climb trees to the top for an hour and brake branches with kicks.
At the end of the day, my arms, legs, back, butt and feet hurt like hell. When the training session ended, I went almost immediately to the river to take all the dirt and sweat away. After that, I went to the back of the cabin to spend some time with Lucy. I sat next to her and supported my back with the side of her neck. I sighed and passed a hand through her fur. It was still very overwhelming how Lucy trusted me and let me touch her when in the beginning the mere thought of being a few feet from her was a huge accomplishment.
“Sorry for leaving you alone all day Lu, I was occupied by being tortured.” I chuckled at my comment and sighed.
Lucy was staring something ahead and turned her head in my direction like she was listening.
“I’m going to check your injuries soon, but promise me you’re not going to do something that would hurt me. Like kicking. That would end up really bad. And pinky promise I’ll do my best not to cause you too much pain. Deal?” I said expectantly
“You know she does not understand what you are saying, right?”
I turned my head to look at Cassius, who was casually leaning against the wall, watching me curiously. How did he manage to always sneak behind me without me realizing? That was a mystery I was never to solve.
I shrugged and looked at Lucy, which was watching Cassius suspiciously. She probably didn’t forget the whole episode of trying to eat her.
“I think she understands me in her way. There is a reason she trusts me enough to be with her. She understands I don’t want to harm her.” There was a slight pause before I continued. “Having faith and trust in something or someone can do a lot of things. You should do it sometime.”
A dark expression crossed his features. “Having faith and trust is what gets you killed.” He turned on his heels and walked away to the front of the cabin.
Surprised and worried at the same time for the sudden change of mood, I decided to follow him.
I stood up and went to the front of the cabin. A bonfire was lit up, illuminating the place. It was already dusk, and although you couldn’t see the moon, it was also illuminating the forest. I quietly sat down next to Cassius and supported my head in his shoulder.
“You trusted me and here I am. I’m alive thanks to you and you’re not dead.” I said in a quiet voice, watching the sparks jumping around the fire.
“Sometimes I think you’re going to be the death of me.” he said in such a low and quiet voice, that I thought it wasn't meant for me to hear.