A Gift from the Goddess Chapter 101

…Dead?

No… that couldn‘t…..

I could feel my heart racing at hearing her words.

Why would she have done that? Why do something before…

Unless… unless she expected me to rush into war regardless of whether she used him as bait. Because she knew I wouldn‘t have any way of knowing he was alive and would assume that I would come for him blindly anyway.

‘It‘s just another move made to hurt me.

During our stay in the cabin, I‘d always avoided the topic of Aleric marking me. I hadn‘t wanted to tie him to me knowing I might not be long for this world, and I didn‘t want to put him through feeling that pain upon my death. But I hadn‘t anticipated for the reverse to now become detrimental to me. If only I‘d actually done it, I would have known the minute it had happened and saved everyone from rushing in to save him

So then, was he actually… dead?

And the most guttural, animalistic growl then escaped my lips, forcing several people nearby to flinch and shy away from the pressure.

This wasn‘t how it was meant to go.

He wasn‘t meant to die from my own failure to save him in time.

He wasn‘t meant to die before me.

I could feel Thea‘s eyes watching me closely, feel the smirk on her face.

…And suddenly I knew what I needed to do.

My legs started sprinting towards her, pushing myself to move faster and faster. Several people were fighting between us but I didn‘t let that distract me, manoeuvring around them with ease without breaking stride even once.

“Aria!” I heard someone yell.

But I wasn‘t stopping.

This was because of her. It was her fault. She needed to pay.

I kept on running to the tree line, towards the figure waiting for me there. Nothing would be able to stop me…Not even the ten or so rogues I could now feel following me.

They were trailing behind just close enough that they would probably catch up soon, having the advantage of four paws over me But just before I could make it to the trees, I sensed as one of them went to lunge at my legs, trying to pull me down.

Not that this would be nearly enough against me though. Not when I could see their next move.

I effortlessly dodged their attack, countering with a dagger into their side, and their body slowly rolled to a stop two feet away.

The others became frenzied at seeing me kill the rogue and began circling around me, snapping and growling towards me as they waited to strike. They were now laking their time to size me up as their pack mentality kicked in.

But I didn‘t have time for this.

I looked up towards the trees, now close enough to meet Thea‘s eyes, and a mixture of frustration and desperation consumed me. I needed to get to her in time. To catch her before.…

And then my heart sank as she did exactly what I feared,

With a final smirk at my situation, she quickly turned around and began running into the woods, away from the battle.

F#ck.

“Get lost already!” I yelled at the rogues angrily. “I don‘t want to fight you.”

Clearly, they took this the wrong way though as I watched them begin eagerly approaching closer. They stupidly ignored what I‘d just done to their comrade and took my words to mean that I was afraid of fighting so many of them at once.

….Something they then acted upon, attacking me under that false belief.

Without any further hesitation, they all began to charge me, trying to overpower me with sheer numbers. Unfortunately for them though, I saw every one of their attacks,

‘Left… dodge… Swipe….‘

I moved around all the rogues fluently, swiftly taking them out one after another.

‘Drop… side–kick… stab….‘

And before even five minutes had passed, soon I was all that remained. Standing in a circle of dead rogues around me, covered in their blood as I looked down with distaste. They‘d failed to land even a single scratch on me.

All they‘d accomplished with their lives now lost was wasting my time. Time that could have been better spent going after Thea. What a meaningless death indeed.

Aster one final look at the bodies around me, I then resumed running towards the woods, tracking Thea‘s disgustingly sweet scent through the trees. I could feel as the branches scratched against my skin as I ran through the foliage, not caring to take the extra seconds needed to slow down and avoid them. My mind was set on one thing, and one thing only.

Thea

“Suddenly, another clearing came into sight, opening up into a large empty plain. I could see how the trees surrounded the area in a circular way, giving it the appearance of being almost like an arena. And yet. something about this place felt familiar. Something that was impossible given I‘d never travelled anywhere near here before,

However, I didn‘t get the chance to think on it further as I finally caught sight of Thea, standing in the centre as is waiting for me. Expecting me to attack.

…So much confidence for a woman now isolated from her army

I approached her cautiously, gauging her carefully for any sudden movement, but she remained completely still. Her demeanour was telling me to face her, wanting me to close the distance. And I obliged her request willingly

“Aria,” she greeted with a smile, sending a chill through me.

How I hated that voice. Despised the way my name sounded on her l!ps.

But I didn‘t waste time with pleasantries though. No, I decided to immediately get to the point instead. We both knew there was only one question to be asked here, one that she would be expecting from me.

“Is he dead?”

And I held my breath as I waited for the answer, my heart beating deafeningly loud in my ears.

It was as if the seconds that ticked by were actually hours, dragging on so excruciatingly slow. I could feel the heavy weight of my impatience crushing me, needing to hear the confirmation more than anything

But Thea barely reacted, appearing in complete contrast to myself.

She merely tilted her head to the side slightly, her eyes watching me closely.

“…Yes,” was all she said.

And, instantly, I exhaled as if the wind had been punched out of me.

She‘d answered me so plainly. As though the question was as simple as the answer she‘d provided. None of our lives mattered to her, I already knew this. But it felt like salt in the wound to hear her confirmation as if we were only discussing the weather.

“…I‘m going to kill you,” I whispered under my breath, staring at the ground in disbelief.

I could feel as tears stung at my eyes but I barely acknowledged it.

“What did you just say?” she asked.

“I said I‘m going to kill you!”

I repeated the words loudly, looking straight up at her with a burning hatred in my eyes. All I saw was red, saw my own anger and the blood on her hands. The blood of every person she had ever killed.

Slowly, I then took a few steps closer and pointed my dagger up towards her, my hand shaking.

“Enough is enough,” I said. “You have taken everything from me. Everything. I don‘t care what it costs anymore. I‘m ending this. Now.”

She immediately laughed at my words, finding it more amusing than anything, and it only acted in fuelling my fury inside.

Fuelling the bloodlust pulsing through my veins.

…And, without even taking another moment to think.., I charged at her.

I saw as her hand came up in defence, looking to deflect my arm by hitting it to the side, but I read her like a book. Using my other hand, I then unsheathed a second dagger and brought it up to strike at her side, aiming for her ribs.

Only she caught on at the last second, narrowly missing the attack to leave merely a small scratch behind. It was barely more than a surface wound.

I thought that was going to be it and tried to move back to begin my next attack, but somehow she moved faster than I expected. Before I could stop her, she caught me on my retreat and kicked the second dagger out of my hand, wielding it for herself instead,

“Interesting,” she noted, finally jumping backwards to create some distance. “This dagger seems familiar. Wasn‘t this the same weapon I killed your friend with?”

And a low growl escaped my lips menacingly.

“The only death you need to be concerned about right now is your own,” I warned. “After all, the last time we fought, you had to stab me in the shoulder first to make it even.”

Her eyes immediately narrowed at that, no longer finding the situation as humorous as before.

“Don‘t mock me, child….”

There she is. The real Thea. The one who speaks how she really feels. As if we‘re all beneath her.

Quickly, before she could do or think anything else, I then charged at her again, moving faster and faster as I tried to land multiple different blows on her body. Pushing myself to hit her even once. And, before too long had passed, soon only the sound of our daggers colliding filled the air as they matched perfectly. With every strike, it was as though she was somehow able to narrowly dodge or redirect the attack.

…As if she could sense my moves as I could hers.

…Oh.

I looked up to see her smiling at me once more, confirming the answer I‘d just come to.

She was in my head.

So, this meant… this meant the fight was basically impossible for me to win.

We were both mirroring and anticipating the other person‘s moves. All she had to do was wait it out until | reached my absolute limit, something dangerously close already after ordering the rogues.

“You know, I‘m a little surprised, Thea,” I said, straightening back up to catch my breath. “I would have thought that you could defeat me easily without cheap tricks. After all, you should possess a wealth of knowledge with endless experience… or is it that you’re becoming senile in your old age and need all the help you can get?”

I watched as her smile instantly contorted in to a scowl, messing up those normally angelic features.

…And it ended up being the very last thing I saw before she lunged towards me again.

Clinnnnk.

Our daggers collided once more, the sound of the metal kissing screeching into the air around us.

I‘d brought my dagger up just in time to defend against hers, barely with a second to spare, and it marked the point of our fight resuming.

Each person was seeing the other‘s move before it could land in what felt like an endless dance, soon becoming more just a game of speed. The one to win this would be whoever could execute their attack o in the other first. The loser would face death.

In a battle such as this, one moving so ridiculously quickly, faster than even my eyes could properly follow, even the smallest mistake here could end in a lethal blow.

I was now completely reliant on my instincts as I moved, putting complete trust in my ability to sense her attacks. Despite already being so close to my limit, I needed to hold on for a little longer.

“Die already!” she finally screamed, jumping back to rest a moment. A drawback of her mortal body, I was sure.

I had watched her becoming more and more frustrated as our battle progressed, her movements becoming progressively more forceful as opposed 10 swift. It was only a matter of time before she got this angry

“What‘s the matter, Thea?” | asked, now smiling in my chance to gloat. “Having some trouble?”

“Oh, shut up!” she barked back. “You would have been dead thousand times over by now if it weren‘t for my ability that was stolen from me.”

“And yet you‘re struggling this much,” I noted. “Almost as if a mortal were of equal power to you. Really makes you think, doesn‘t it?”

She roared out in anger before launching herself at me again, her attack now focusing on her full strength rather than speed. It was something I‘d anticipated… and yet was helpless to defend against. I knew it wouldn‘t be possible to keep this up forever… I‘d finally reached my limit,

But the fact the battle had lasted this long meant something so incredibly important. Something worth fighting for. Something that gave me hope.

Thea then quickly sent a kick directly to my chest, sending me flying backwards until I hit the ground roughly. I‘d tried to cushion the fall with my arms but still ended up rolling a few feet along the grass regardless.

Ouch. That had hurt far worse than I‘d expected.

I turned onto my side to try and get up but winced from the pain instead.

…Get up. Make her pay.‘

It sounded weaker than normal. Apparently, I wasn‘t the only one losing grasp on their ability. If anything, that alone would make all of this worth it.

“…What was that?” she then suddenly asked, walking over to me.

“You‘re going to regret doing that,” I said, ignoring her comment. “A lucky shot isn‘t that impressive.”

She frowned and closed the distance between us.

“That‘s not…,” and she sent another kick to my chest, forcing me onto my back once more, “…what I was talking about.”

I coughed and wheezed at the air, desperate for the oxygen that had been stolen so aggressively. My whole body had already been aching so much from just the initial fall.

“What are you…,” she started, a frown forming between her brows.

And then I felt it. The rummaging in my head.

“Kill her. End her. Get up and finish the job.‘

–Protect him.’

‘Don‘t let her into

““There,” she said, straddling my waist to hold me down. “…What are you hiding?”

“I have nothing to hide,” | spat, squirming under her weight.

“Don‘t lie to me!”

She quickly struck me across my face, blood starting to ooze from my nose once more, and I couldn‘t help it anymore. I started to laugh.

She had me. I was out of strength, defenceless and pinned to the ground. There wasn‘t much use in fighting her anymore. All I could do was just delay the inevitable.

“Stop that and show me!” she demanded furiously.

Her hand reached for my neck and my mind instantly started to burn up. It was as if I could feel her sifting around inside, now far more intense than before as she looked for her answers. But despite how much it hurt, despite how much I wanted the pain to stop. I held on.

I screamed against the agonising Intrusion but resisted giving her what she wanted,

“Show me” she yelled,

I needed to think of something else. Anything else. Anything other than that,

…For just a little bit longer.

And so I thought about my time in the cabin with Aleric… our small moments spent together savouring his warmth. About how much I craved the inner peace he brought me and how thankful I was for his acceptance despite my mistakes. That I was both capable of forgiveness and forgiving others

“Enough!”

..And I thought about Cai and how he‘d helped me to lead the different life I‘d led, to become stronger and more confident. To step out of my comfort zone and to see that I was capable of being more. To challenge the roles that were chosen for me.

I felt as Thea‘s hand then tightened against my throat, constricting my airways, but I still held on regardless

…And I thought about Myra. About how she opened my eyes to a world beyond the walls of my Luna quarters, helping me learn to trust others again. That it was okay to be vulnerable. And about how everything is not always so black and white, that there can be another side to every story told,

…I‘m sorry, Cai… I can‘t…–‘

…And I felt myself finally buckle, unable to hold her off any longer. My mind was now burning to the point that I felt as though I would melt if I resisted any longer.

“There it is,” Thea sneered, moving closer.

She finally released her grip on me as she searched my head, allowing me to cough and wheeze at the air. I‘d been so close to passing out but had somehow managed to hang in there. Just a few more seconds and I would have been done for.

“… What is this? I don‘t understand,” Thea said quietly to herself as she got the information she was after

And another weak smile formed on my lips despite my position, knowing too well what she was finally seeing inside. Knowing that she‘d been playing *my game this entire fight.

…That I was actually the bait the whole time.

“Hang on, if that‘s the case then…. –.”

But Thea didn‘t get to finish her sentence though.

No, instead she was suddenly cut off by something biting into her shoulder and tackling her off me.

A something that was large and covered in midnight black fur.

“Aleric,” I cried out in relief.

He‘d made it. He was safe. He was here.

The black wolf turned its green eyes towards me protectively for just a split second, confirming for me what I already knew. There was no mistaking the size and colour of his wolf. I would have known him anywhere.

Every ounce of my being wanted to immediately run and embrace him but I fought against it. It wasn‘t safe to do so. The last thing we needed was to create a distraction for Thea to act on.

But this all meant that I was right. Everything went just as I‘d expected. I‘d had to give myself over entirely to the idea he was dead, to convince Thea I was playing into what she wanted, but… but deep down I knew. No, rather, I had to believe and trust in Cai.

If Aleric really was already dead then I knew Cai would have come to meet up with me sooner. There wouldn‘t have been any reason for the delay in his assistance. It was something I’d had to try so hard not to think about during my fight with her.

And if Aleric was already here then this also meant….

I instantly looked up to see Cai had arrived as well, running over to my side to check on me.

“Are you okay?” he asked, wasting no time to look over my injuries carefully.

Except the minute I saw him here… everything seemed to click. As if I was having an intense episode of déjà vu.

| stared up at him strangely, unable to find the words to reply. Something… something wasn‘t right here.

Cai… an arena like plain… Aleric‘s black wolf….

I‘d seen this once before… No, more arcuately was that I‘d had a vision of this.

But when…?

And, with a jolt of shock freezing up my body… I finally realised.

I‘d known about this very day for four years now. I‘d seen the outcome but hadn‘t interpreted its meaning correctly.

Truthfully, I‘d never stopped to wonder why a vision would show me my past, nor why it would allow met o be a participant when I was never there. But the answer had been there the entire time. It was because would actually be there one day.

I should have stopped sooner to look at it more clearly, but it was so long ago. A time when I barely understood what was happening to me.

Because this had been one of the very first visions I‘d ever had. The one I‘d repressed believing it to just be a bad memory of the past.

… This was the vision I‘d had of Cai.

The one where I watched him die.

And whilst Thea‘s lies were one thing… my visions always told the truth.

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