THE MISSING CARDS: DEATH

A ball sinks into the hole.

"Whoa, Viri. That's the third in a row! I didn't know you were so good at this." Kipper said while hoping Viri messed up the next shot.

"It's all very simple once you understand the mathematical principles behind it." Said Viri in a matter of factly voice.

"Is that so?"

"Yeah, It's all got to do with angles and vectors." Viri sank yet another ball in the hole.

"Maybe you could give me some pointers."

Viri finally missed her shot "I'm kidding. I just practiced a lot. Math is useless. For pool, at least."

Kipper sniggered as she set up her shot "You got to play a lot back when you were in school?"

Viri was drinking a beer "Kinda. My classmates really liked to spend the dead hours between classes by going to a nearby pool place. I went on my own several times just to get some practice. I planned to invite them one day and impress them with my skills… That was the plan at least."

"What happened?" Kipper sank the ball.

"Ooooh~ You know what happened."

She did. Knowing Viri, she got really good at pool but choked whenever she tried to ask her classmates out "Awww Viri~" She sank another ball.

"Yeaaaah~ " She took another sip "Im just discovering pool is way more fun when you're not doing it alone."

Kipper smiled "Hmph. Even if you're losing?" She sank another ball.

Viri nodded "Yup."

Viri snorted and sank another ball "Can't relate." She set up her next shot "Still… It's a shame you were kidding. We could've used your scientific skills to earn some easy bucks."

"Like a sitcom? But those always turn out bad in the end. Like my arm getting hurt in a high stakes game, or my glasses getting broken, even though I don't wear glasses."

"Ah. But don't forget how the gang always gets saved." She sank another ball.

"Is your dad a hustler?"

"You have not been paying attention to the game, have you?" She put her cue down on the table. All of the numbered balls were gone.

"Oh. Well played! … Wait. Are YOU a hustler?"

Kipper was wiping her nails with an innocent expression while whistling. "Who? Me?"

Viri put down her drink "When?"

Kipper tried to look reluctant to tell her "Well… I never actually cheated or pretended to be bad at playing. Because—"

"It leaves a bad aftertaste?"

"Because you can only do it once or twice per establishment."

"Ah."

"Overall it's a much better choice to do straightforward games. Nowadays people are much more aware of hustlers. Maybe it has to do with all those sitcoms."

"How did you convince people you weren't one?"

"Before they accepted I warned them that I was a hustler. That made them laugh and lower their guard."

"Hmmmm…" Viri took another sip "How did it go?"

Kipper shrugged "You know. I won some. I lost some. The matches I lost helped me get better and all. It was fun for a while then I moved on."

"So… You're not actually a hustler, then."

Kipper winked "At least not at pool. Wanna play again?"

Viri smiled "Ok."

They started gathering the balls on the table. Viri was thinking about something.

"Um… Kipper?"

"Yeah?"

"I… Don't get me wrong, I'm having a lot of fun. It's just… Do you… Remember why we came here?"

"To play pool."

"To play pool?"

Now Kipper was thinking about something "Now that you mention it… That doesn't sound right."

"I thought we were gonna hunt for a card user."

"Yeah. That WAS what we were doing wasn't it?"

"Then why are we playing pool? Is this part of a plan?"

"Nooo…"

Viri poked Kipper "C'mon. Just tell me already."

"Honestly! I don't know!"

"So we really are just here to play pool?"

"I guess?"

Viri was holding onto her cue "Oh… We better be on our way then! That card ain't gonna hunt itself, right?"

Kipper looked at Viri. She seemed reluctant to let go of the cue. She wondered how many times she played by herself.

Kipper pouted "Aww~ But I just ordered my first drink! I'm really sorry but can't we hunt for cards some other time?"She joined her hands in a prayer pose " Pretty please?"

Viri was trying her best not to start hopping of joy. "uh… O-okay. I mean, yeah. It's fine."

Kipper wrapped Viri around her shoulder "I'll even go easy on you this time."

Viri smiled "No you won't"

Kipper smiled also "No I won't"

After a few more games they went out into the street.

Kipper stretched her arms and yawned "That was nice. We should do that more often."

"I guess we could try."

Kipper nudged her "Not bad for your first time."

"But I only won once."

"And I was planning to win every game. I gotta say-" She made finger guns at Viri "You're pretty good."

Viri copied her "Pretty… good?"

As Viri was wondering what this meant she stepped on something and picked it up "What's-" She recognized it right away "I think you dropped this." She gave Kipper a tarot card.

Kipper grabbed it and looked at the name. Number XIII: Death "Hmm… Nope. Pretty sure this isn't one of mine. And this isn't the card we were hunting for either." She kept looking at it from all angles "Seems like the real deal though."

"What does this one do?"

" I don't know. My uncle didn't tell me anything about number 13…" Kipper shrugged "Only one way to find out"

She held the card up

"Dea—"

A few hours prior to this moment, an exchange was happening between 2 men on the very same pool establishment.

One of them was a short scruffy looking middle aged man with dirty clothes, a receding hairline and several bruises.

The other was a young adult boy with short brown hair, a long cape, and an eyepatch.

"Have you brought the item?" Said the young man.

The grubby man looked around his pockets "Yeah! Yeah! Here it is! You would not believe the trouble I went through to get it." He took out a tarot card. It was card number XXI: The World

The boy inspected the card "Excellent. Here's the agreed payment. He gave the man a briefcase"

The man quickly grabbed and started chuckling "Honestly I don't understand what you want that thing for. Even the chosen card user in our group, well… My former group, couldn't make the thing work."

"That is not an issue you should concern about" The boy turned around flipping his cape dramatically "Farewell."

The man was looking at the inside of the case "W-wait! Just this? Where's the rest?" He quickly scooted towards the boy.

The boy kept walking "Fool. You think I would prance around this godforsaken city carrying around that amount of money? There's a sheet inside the case with an address for the location of a safe. The combination for the safe is also included."

The man looked inside the case until he found said paper. "This address… That's on the territory of my former group!"

They were now outside on the parking lot. The boy took out the keys to his expensive looking car "Yes. I figured that would make things easier for you."

"B-but I stole that card from them! If they see me again they'll kill me!"

The boy was entering his car "And how exactly is that my problem? I don't recall asking you to steal it."

The man was suddenly feeling very upset. Upset enough to do a lot of harm to the person who had caused his grievances "You little!—" He lunged at the car.

"The Emperor" Said the boy

The man stopped, apparently without any willingness "W-wha—"

"You will step away from my vehicle" Ordered the boy

The man did. "What's going on?!"

"You will stop with the incessant complaining."

The man did.

"You will put your index finger on your mouth and give yourself… How do you call it? A moist William?"

"A wet willy?" Suggested the man wishing he had not.

"Yes. That."

The man did "Urrgh"

The boy laughed "Now. I do feel somewhat sorry for you. So I'll do you a small favor" He pulled out a tarot card. It was the Death card. "This will help you get to your destination safely"

The man took the card and looked at it "B-but I can't do magic. I wasn't chosen."

"Oh, you silly man" The boy took out a notebook and started scribbling something. It took him a while, but man was desperate and the boy was his only lifeline. When the boy was done he ripped out the page and tossed it over to the man. He hurriedly grabbed it.

The boy closed the door of his car "Just follow all the instructions on that paper and you will be fine."

He turned on the engine and rushed off leaving the man by himself.

The man read the instructions. There were some weird symbols drawn on the paper with some sort of pact he had to say out loud in order to use the card. After saying it, he turned the paper over. Here were the instructions on how to use the Death card.

"Death: Represents endings and beginnings. The card itself allows you to erase yourself from the memories of whoever is in your vicinity once the card is activated."

The man gasped and looked at his card. Forget the money! With this kind of power he was untraceable! He could go wherever he wanted and do whatever he wanted!

As he was thinking this a car approached. It was Kipper's car.

"Is this the place?" Said Viri

"Yeah, he's supposed to be making some seedy exchange here. If everything goes well we will be netting at least 5 cards." Said Kipper

Viri was uneasy "That's 5 cards he could use against us"

"We have more than 5. AND we have the one that let's us stop time. Don't worry, I have tons of backup plans if things go south." She looked at Viri's anxious face " Maybe you should wait in the car."

"No. Two casters are better than one. I want to help you."

Kipper nodded. Bringing Viri along sounded like a constructive exercise for their relationship at first. Now it sounded more along the lines of being needlessly reckless and stupid. Thankfully she thought about this on the way here and lost them on purpose for a while. Just enough time for the card user to finish his exchange and go on his business. Now all she had to do was act annoyed about arriving here too late and losing her chance. Yeah, this was a perfect plan…

Man! She must really like Viri a whole awful lot cause she would not be giving up on 5 WHOLE CARDS on any other situation. Viri better be grateful she has such a caring and generous girlfriend like her. Next time she was on the hunt she would make sure NOT to tell Viri.

They both came out of the car with cards on the ready.

The man was hiding behind another car as she inspected these newcomers. He noticed they were holding cards just like his.

They're after me! He thought. Better get out of here while he could. As he was about to another thought came into his mind.

You have a card that erases memories, idiot. Now's the time to test it out. If all goes well you can even take their cards in the confusion. Then you'll have three!

The man made an ugly smile and took out his card. He waited for Kipper and Viri took walk past him. Then when they had their backs turned against him he jumped out.

"Death!" He said.

On the highway, the boy realised something. He forgot to mention that using the card would not only make the target forget everything about the user and the circumstances towards meeting them. It would ALSO make the user forget everything about themselves.

The boy shrugged. Oh well…

There was a flash of light. It engulfed the entire parking lot.

Once it faded, Kipper and Viri stood still for a moment, then quietly entered the building.

The man stood still for a much longer moment. He dropped the card and the case. When he came to his senses he wandered off looking lost.

Then the rest of the events of the evening took place as previously narrated. When Kipper and Viri came out of the building they found the Death card but they did not see the case.

"Only one way to find out" Said Viri as she held out the card.

"Dea—"

"Wait!" Viri pushed the card down "This card has death written on it. Surely it can't be anything good. What if you kill somebody" A cold air ran up her spine "What if you… die"

She looked at the card "The cards tend to not be so literal" She put it away "But I've never used a card without knowing what it does first. That's why I prefer to fight the user before snatching it." She scratched her head and pouted"Maan! This sucks! I got a new card and I can't even use it!"

"Im sorry."

Kipper shrugged "Oh well… That's just how it is sometimes… " She snapped her fingers and pointed at Viri "What about bowling?"

Viri had lost the plot by now and couldn't remember what they were talking about before that flashback. "Bowling?"

Kipper helped her a little "Yeah. You said you didn't feel like doing pool again for a while, remember? How about bowling?"

Viri considered this "Can you do a 7 and 10 shot?"

Kipper tried acting innocent but gave up "… yeah"

Viri giggled "Bowling's fine actually."

Kipper lit up "Great! Let's go!"

"It's almost midnight. I'm pretty sure it's closed by now."

"Right. Time to go home."

They got on the car. On the street outside the parking lot they almost ran over a man wandering on the street.

"What was he doing?!" Viri gripped onto her seatbelt.

"Just some drunkard trying to hail a cab" Went Kipper.

The man was the same man that had been holding the Death card earlier. It hadn't been mentioned before but his name was Marco. However he did not remember this. He continued walking throughout the night. His current whereabouts are unknown.

THE END