I could remember it so clearly now.
The way Cai had feebly tried to cover the wound on his neck, bleeding profusely as the ground simply absorbed it. I‘d grabbed his hand and cried into it, stroking his hair as he died. As the light in his golden eyes slowly faded.
And then there was Aleric as his wolf, walking away from his body with blood around his mouth. It wasn‘t because he attacked him. No, it was because he was giving us privacy. A chance to say goodbye. Naturally, the blood would have been Thea‘s from when Aleric bit her.
So then, what even happened to her?
In this vision, does she finally perish for good? Or… or does she merely escape?
…Is there a way to avoid his death and still win?
Confliction swirled around me inside, making me want to throw up. In this vision, I‘d seen a world where Thea was absent. A battlefield gone peaceful with her presence now silenced. Was it worth taking the chance that Cai‘s sacrifice might mean her death?
Had I seen this from the beginning as a warning? A warning that he would need to die in order for us to succeed? Perhaps this had been a way for the universe to show pity on me. Trying to tell me that I should not get too attached after watching us become friends.
Not that it mattered now. It was far too late for that.
How cruel that I should be asked to make this choice.
…And how stupid of fate to let me of all people decide.
I grabbed Cai‘s shirt weakly and pulled his face down, forcing him to meet my gaze. Staring into the familiar eyes of someone I loved.
I would not let him be sacrificed. Not ever. No matter the cost.
“… Run,” I croaked out, my voice still sounding hoarse,
It burned from where Thea‘s hand had constricted me, making it a little difficult to speak. But some things were more important than the discomfort.
‘Things like saving Cai‘s life.
“W–what?” he said, pulling back confused. “What do you mean? We‘re here to stop Thea. Your plan worked, Aria. I managed to sneak into the camp and get Aleric out. Now is our chance to finish her.”
But I quickly shook my head, hoping he could tell from my expression just how serious I was.
“Cai… You need to get out of here. You‘re not safe. If you stay here, then you‘re going to get kil–.”
Suddenly, a loud yelping noise filled the air, cutting me off, and I sharply turned 10 see Aleric limping away from Thea.
…His shoulder must have still been hurt from the human weapon. Something she would have known all too well. Judging from her position on the ground, it looked as though she‘d just kicked him exactly where his wound was.
I watched as Thea then got back onto her feet, bleeding from the bite Aleric had given her earlier.
However, if It hurt her in any way, she didn‘t show it. In fact, the only thing she was displaying was anger.
“Pathetic,” she huffed, “You‘re all so pathetic. Forfent now and save yourself the additional pain. Two of you are severely injured and the third is no match for me in combat. Don‘t drag this out any longer
A growl then came from Aleric as he took a step forward, but his eyes betrayed just how much it hurt for him to do so Technically, we should have had the advantage here, now outnumbering her. This should have tipped in our favour to become an easy fight only
…Only our injuries potentially made us liabilities.
If we decided to fight, knowing we were vulnerable, we may end up only getting further hurt by trying to save one another
with Aleric‘s shoulder and my own weakness from fighting Thea, we were both badly impaired Perhaps the safest thing to do here was retreat and wait to fight another day. If we left now, then at the very least i meant we could stop the vision from coming to fruition Bide our time until –
I immediately looked back towards Cai to see he had picked up my dagger, now fallen a foot or so away. and he slowly moved to stand back up. His face was completely serious as he looked at Thea, never taking his eyes off her. A coldness filling his gaze.
“Cai, no,” | blurted out in shock. I tried to quickly sit upright to grab him but was too slow, my fingertips just missing him. “You can‘t fight her. You need to leave.”
“Stop underestimating me, Aria,” he argued. “Or are you forgetting who originally trained you? This is my fight too. You‘re not the only one she hurt.”
“That‘s different. Your ability doesn‘t work on her, remember? And your fighting skills are not even why I‘m objecting. You need to leave now or she‘s going to kill you.”
But he simply ignored me and cautiously took a step towards Thea instead, watching her movement carefully. Clearly, he didn‘t realise that I was referring to a vision and not just an assumption
“Cai, listen to me, goddammit!” I yelled, causing my throat to burn up.
I instantly began coughing again, only making myself appear weaker, and frantically tried to clear my airways I needed to get the words out. To explain to him before he recklessly dove into battle
“Enough, Aria,” he said, taking another step. “…I‘ve got this.”
He‘s going to die.
“. Cai, no!”
But I was helpless to stop him.
He lunged towards her, dagger poised, and began his attack. A fight between two skilled warriors, albeit one was a goddess
And, truthfully, he was even doing a great job.
It was no surprise that Cai was an impressive fighter I‘d known it since the moment we first met and had even seen it for myself. Where Aleric was more strength–based, Cai did a much better job al unpredictable moves. And, for someone like Thea, it was a tremendous edge, especially since she couldn‘t get into his head like she could mine, or even Aleric‘s. She was now having to rely completely on just fighting skills alone, something that made for a far more balanced fight.
But this was a battle that fate had already decided.
I crawled a foot forward along the ground, moving on all lours as I weakly tried to re–join the battle, but the pain just ached through me, acting as a reminder that my condition was still very fragile. Too delicate t o be of any use to Cal in a head–on battle.
“Fuck!” I hissed in frustration, cursing my own body.
I should have realised sooner and adjusted the plan. Maybe if I‘d just fought against Thea harder, been better, then there would have been no need for Cai to fight right now.
If I hadn‘t been so weak.
A bark then came from the side and I looked over to see Aleric staring at me. He‘d been holding off joining the fight, probably thinking that Cai was capable enough to finish her off. After all, i‘d weakened her during our fight and Aleric had also bitten her.
Only I knew better.
“Aleric, please,” I cried desperately. “He‘s going to die.”
And I didn‘t need to say anything further.
Aleric immediately sprung into action, ignoring his pain, and went in to back up Cai. I hadn‘t needed to specify why or how certain I was. Aleric just did it. He did it because he trusted me.
And yet I was sending him in there, at the risk of more injury to himself or even his life.
What a despicable m ate I was.
I watched in mute horror as Cai and Aleric fought Thea, saw how she was still able to avoid their moves despite her condition. And as every second passed, she increasingly became more furious.
Now it was a gamble as to whether that would work in our favour or whether she could harness it to her advantage. But this was a gamble that would have lethal consequences if miscalculated. I shuddered to think what she was capable of if she truly channelled that rage.
Aleric and Cai continued their relentless attack, dodging and striking at her as they worked together as a team. Cai was acting as the main fighting force whilst Aleric played it safer, hanging back and calculating the right moments to lunge in, knowing he was limited by his injury. Yet despite their hard efforts, I was still stuck on the sidelines. Merely watching as they risked their lives for, not only me, but thousands of others,
I was… useless.
And then another thought came to me. One I had been too frantic to consider earlier.
… What if Aleric‘s involvement wasn‘t enough? What if… what if the outcome wouldn‘t even change?
And, suddenly, Aleric yelped out again as Thea caught him mid–lunge, sending him flying backwards to the ground. I could see as blood was starting to trickle from where the skin must have split, reopening the wound the silver had originally made. An injury bad enough to keep him from getting immediately back up again.
“Aleric,” Cai yelled, stepping in Thea‘s path to protect him.
He quickly brought up his dagger and prevented her from being able to finish Aleric off, saving his life by just seconds.
And, with that, a horrific realisation came to me….
…Cai couldn‘t do this alone.‘
He was now protecting himself and Aleric, all the while keeping Thea‘s attention off me. This was exactly what I was afraid of. The reason for why we should have retreated instead.
‘He‘s going to die. We all will.’
With Aleric now hurt, what if I‘d now changed fate to include his death as well? What if Aleric was the one who was meant to finish her off originally, possibly after an opening Cai‘s death created?
…. This was my fault.‘
My body started to shake with fear, feeling as a pulsing sensation ran through and paralysed me.
This was it. We‘d failed. This was the end.
All this pain, all the heartache…all this loss and suffering… for nothing.
Unless. I did my duty.
There was only one reason I‘d been brought back and it wasn‘t for redemption or revenge. It wasn‘t for love or friendship, nor to finally live a life I’d been deprived of the first time.
My one and only true mission had been simple from the beginning.
…I was to kill Thea.
Not a Saintess, an alpha, a wolf, nor just a girl. None of those things mattered. There was only one title applicable to me in Selene‘s eyes… And that was soldier.
This was my purpose. My only reason for being allowed to live.
So, why was it that I was so scared of something I‘d prepared myself for?
Surviving this day didn‘t mean anything. Not really. My life was inconsequential, bound to a Goddess who would eventually come to claim what was rightfully hers anyway.
Aleric… Cai… they were what truly mattered. To me, Thea‘s death was to just cement their safety, to ensure they had a future. With or without me, I was fighting for them to live.
I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing, feeling as a protrusion attached to my shin was then brought to my attention. A reminder that I still had one more chance.
One last dagger.
Something I‘d specially made just for Thea.
And, as I thought of what I needed to do, it was as though time itself began to slow around me. This was the last strategy I‘d ever come up with. The one to end things here and now.
One that almost certainly demanded the steepest cost.
My options were limited, already painfully aware of my weaknesses and capabilities. No longer strong enough for combat, no longer able to use my ability. There was only one conclusion to my plan, regardless of how hard I tried to think of a way around it.
I would be able to kill Thea, I was positive of that… but she would almost assuredly take me with her.
The ultimate sacrifice would most likely be demanded in exchange for this to work. Something that felt surreal as I came to terms with what that meant….
… That today would be the day I died.
I groaned from the pain as I slowly stood up, my shaky legs threatening to buckle under me, but I persisted
A new energy was pushing me on now as I began to walk towards the battle Like an inner peace as I accepted this ending. I was sore, sure, but what was pulsing through me now was like a whole new type of adrenaline. A drug helping me to move forward and ignore the pain.
…Just a little bit further.‘
Thea‘s back was turned to me as she persisted in trying to attack Aleric, Cai still having to work overtime to protect them both. I could tell he was getting tired, struggling with the demand Thea‘s never-ending assaults were doing to him. Any second now might be his last.
‘Would they remember me when I‘m gone? Would Aleric move on and find someone else one day? Would Cai ever find his real mate?‘
Neither Thea nor Cai noticed me as I moved slowly towards them. I walked with a clear mind, completely numb to what I was about to do; an advantage in itself against Thea. Stealth was of the utmost importance here.
‘Just a few more feet. I was close enough to smell her scent.’
Cai‘s eyes then suddenly caught me, seeing me approach from behind, and panic consumed his features. He must have realised what I was planning to do, recognising the risk involved.
And I paused in my spot, returning his gaze with just a small smile.
“Everything is going to be okay,” | mouthed silently, hoping he understood.
… It‘s time.’
I readied myself and tightened my grip on the dagger, knowing what I needed to do next.
Cai instantly kicked into gear and tried to jump past Thea, but she caught him before he could, stopping him in his tracks immediately. With one swift movement, she had grabbed his head in her hands and cried out in rage.
“Enough!” she roared, pulling his face forward. “Stay down already!”
And whilst I‘d already factored into my plan that Cai would try to stop me, I hadn‘t expected what happened next.
Screaming suddenly filled the air as Cai pushed himself away from Thea, a small light bursting from their direction. A light so bright it was almost blinding.
s knew that if it was this bad from where I stood behind Thea, I could only imagine what it was doing to Cai who she was directing it at. From just his reaction alone, the pain of his sight being stolen must have been extreme.
‘So, this was what Thea was capable of. This was the result of her anger being channelled.’
Whatever this was, I knew she would have had to use immense energy to achieve this. Something she was already limited on after dealing with me.
…And it meant she already believed she‘d won. It was her final, finishing move. The remaining scraps of all her energy combined in one last attempt to stop Cai.
As awful as it was, I was at least grateful her attention was still directed elsewhere. A fault of her own overconfidence, as usual.
Cai began rubbing at his eyes wildly as he staggered a few steps backwards, unable to now see what was happening. An opportunity Thea saw to take advantage of.