Chapter One Hundred & Three
The ground came crashing towards me as I fell roughly down, unable to cushion the fall. All I could do was accept what had happened and feebly cover the wound at my gut; a futile dream of survival pushing me on.
A dream I knew would die as quickly as I did.
“Aria,” I heard Aleric yell, apparently having shifted back.
My breathing was shallow as my body started to become numb to the pain; a coldness slowly spreading through me.
…It wouldn‘t be much longer.
“Hey, there,” I said weakly.
A small smile crept to my lips as I looked up at the man I loved.
His face was wrought with panic, his eyes holding so much fear in them. And yet it was his wound that drew my attention the most. There were signs of infection on the skin, surrounding where it had been split open again. Since Thea had no intention of Aleric living for long, it made sense she didn‘t have him properly treated. He needed to get to the hospital soon.
“You… You should really… get that looked at,” I huffed out.
“Are you insane? You‘re the one you should be worried about right now,” he yelled back. “What you did was so stupidly reckless, Aria. Why do something so senseless? Why….”
I knew it wasn‘t me he was actually angry at, despite his words. He was just scared because things were ending this way
I wheezed at the air, finding each breath slowly harder to take than the last, but managed to still speak.
“I did it… to save you,” I whispered. “…I did it… because I love you.” 1
His teeth gritted as he furiously wiped at his face, failing to completely hide the evidence of tears there. A sight I never thought I would ever see in my life. Seeing him so suddenly vulnerable only made the situation feel more real.
That this was it. This was goodbye.
Knowing there was nothing further I could do to stop my bleeding, I brought my hand up and cupped his ‘cheek instead, feeling the warmth from his skin against mine.
“Hey… it‘s okay…,” I soothed. “I always knew… this day would come and… I just want you to know… that I don‘t regret it. You shouldn‘t… either.”
“F**k, Aria,” he growled and grabbed my hand tightly to lean into, covering his eyes. “I don‘t know what I‘m going to do without you. I–I… I need you.”
I would have laughed at that if I could have, knowing that he would be perfectly fine without me. Aleric would live on and become the Alpha destiny had chosen for him, I had no doubt about that. I was just happy to have finally met the man he was always meant to be. The man I was meant to have spent my life with.
Without him, none of this would have been possible. It was only because of Aleric that I was able to fight back against Thea. Only he believed in me when I‘d lost my mind, and only he managed to help me see who I could still become despite my condition.
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Coapter One Hundred & Three
“You don‘t… need me…,” I said, ‘You‘ve got it… backwards.”
“Don‘t say that.”
“Aria?” another voice then interjected, though further away.
I recognised it as Cai‘s immediately.
His face soon appeared next to me, trying to look down with a similar expression to Aleric‘s, but having trouble focusing. It seemed that Thea‘s attack on him was still giving him grief, the effects of the blinding still evident
“Aria… I’m sorry,” he said. “I–I couldn‘t see. I didn‘t know what happened until it was too late.”
But I just weakly shook my head, knowing there was nothing he could have done anyway. This had ended i n the exact way I‘d predicted. It was the most probable outcome.
“It‘s fine… you have nothing… to be sorry for.”
He then started trying to shift me, hoping to maybe pick me up, but the jostles to my body only sent fresh waves of pain through me. Small whimpers left my lips at the movement, but I didn‘t have the strength to push him away.
“We need to get you to a hospital,” he said desperately. “We need to get you help.”
However, Aleric then quickly intervened and pushed him back.
“Stop…,” he said sharply, still keeping Cai at bay with one hand to his shoulder. “It‘s done. We can‘t… she won‘t make it. You’re only going to make her last moments worse.”
“…But… but this is my fault. 1-I didn‘t… I didn‘t do enough,” Cai said, his face contorting with pain. “I can‘t let her die like this.”
But Aleric‘s grip on Cai only tightened and instead pulled him closer, forcing him to concentrate. An attempt at getting him to calm down.
“It‘s our fault. Our burden to share,” he clarified. “Or everyone‘s, if you want to be more accurate. Aria sacrificed herself for all of us to survive. She lived through two lifetimes of hell, fighting for that very thing. Let her final moments be peaceful. She more than deserves that at least.”
So cold now.
I was feeling so goddamn cold.
The kind of feeling where you want to curl up next to a fireplace, wrapped up tightly in a fluffy blanket and just take a nap
I could… close my eyes for a bit, right?
Wouldn‘t that be okay?
Or maybe I should try to hold off for just a little longer..
Cai began shaking and grabbed onto Aleric in turn, the two needing each other for support. I was glad to see evidence of a bond forming, feeling relieved that maybe they would continue to get closer. There was no worse outcome ihan if my death were to start a war between them. To see them die at each other‘s hands would only make my death in vain.
A light then shone brightly to my left, stealing my attention from the two men I adored. A light heralding the appearance of someone I knew all too well.
She walked towards me slowly, her gaze watching me as I laid on the deathbed of her own devising.
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This blood was her blood. This new body only borrowed for her.
A cruel, merciless master.
“…Selene,” I rasped out in greeting.
She stood over me without an ounce of expression or concern for her public attendance. An odd sight given her aversion for interference.
However, it was something quickly explained once Aleric and Cai began looking around, trying to see who I was speaking to.
It was confirmation of what I already knew about her natural laws; that she could not interfere with the living… only the dead.
“…Is… it… time?” | continued, struggling to speak.
In reply, she simply nodded her head, crouching down beside me. Even in my dying breath, I could feel the effect of her presence. Feel the weight of her aura around me. 1
“… Time to be at peace, child,” she whispered soothingly.
And with that, she touched my forehead, a wave of tranquillity spreading through me as she did so. An invitation urging me to let go, to leave behind the pain and finally be free.
There was no compromise to be made here though. No time for questions or arguments. I simply could only oblige the request, greedily caving into the need for an escape.
…And everything went black.
Tawoke with a long, satisfied stretch in bed, feeling more content than I had in years,
The last few days had all blended together so much that I could barely keep track of time anymore. Was it a Tuesday? Morning? Night? I didn‘t know. All I knew was that my last week had been spent with Aleric in the cabin, living and breathing every moment he could spare for me.
With one final yawn, I left my room, walking down the stairs to the only place I wanted to be right now.
“What are you reading?” I asked softly, standing in the doorway of the living area.
It was gently raining outside, the sound of the drops hitting the roof in a soothing way. The clouds outside were also darkening the sky enough that, once again, I couldn‘t be sure what time it was.
Aleric was sitting by the windowsill, book in hand, and only looked up after I spoke, a small smile warming on his face as I did so. His eyes reminded me of the moss and trees within the woods when he looked genuinely happy, almost as if he were a living personification of my little sanctuary outside.
“Nothing really,” he answered. “Did you have a good sleep?”
“I don‘t know if I can call that ‘sleep‘, since there wasn‘t much of that happening… but it was good. Some might even say… great.” 1
“…Is that so?”
And I crept closer until I stood in front of him, intending to look at the book in his hands, but instead he reached out and pulled me into his lap, forcing a squeal of surprise out of me at the sudden movement. Not that I was complaining though.
And, as he positioned me to sit comfortably against his broad chest, I‘d never felt so cosy an
‘This isn‘t right.‘
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Chapter One Hundred & Three
I paused for a second frowning, wondering why that thought suddenly popped into my head.
This was Aleric. Of course, this was right. I couldn‘t think of anywhere else i‘d rather be.
| quickly cleared my throat and shook off the thought, concentrating back on the conversation instead.
‘This… this looks like one of my books,” I said, reading the words on the page. “Only a small portion of this is in–.”
…I‘ve done this before.‘
I could feel it now. That feeling of déjà vu, freezing me as I tried to chase down the memory it stemmed from inside.
Had we sat like this before?
The last few days had been a blur, but I couldn‘t recall doing anything quite like this yet.
Suddenly, I felt as my stomach then began to churn, a wave of anxiety setting in.
… This would be my choice… and mine alone,‘ a voice alike my own then spoke inside my head.
Was this Thea? Had she found me?
“Well, it‘s raining and there isn‘t much else to do for entertainment around here…,” Aleric said, speaking like he hadn‘t just noticed me abruptly pause. Almost as though he‘d already known what I was going to say despite me stopping mid–sentence
“Aleric… I think something is wrong…,” I started, my hand now covering my gut as the pain increased.
‘Today, I decided when and how I would die,’ the voice continued.
I felt as Aleric then tilted his head down towards me, proceeding to nip at my ear. “Unless you had something else in mind.”
“Aleric? Didn‘t you hear me? Something is…. –Oh, f**k.”
And as I looked down at my stomach, I saw as blood began to seep out from a wound slowly forming there.
‘Not Thea‘s decision or influence attempting to sway me…,‘ the voice said, ‘but of my own volition.‘
“Aleric, help… It hurts-,”
I cried out in pain but Aleric didn‘t move an inch to help me, almost as if he wasn‘t really aware of what was happening. He held me in his arms as if nothing was wrong… as if I weren‘t slowly bleeding out in ‘excruciating pain.
“Aria,” he said in a low voice behind me. “Make up your mind.”
“W–what? Aleric, please!” I screamed. “Please.….”
…I would face the end as myself.‘
Suddenly, everything became black as the Abyss showed it‘s true form, becoming that same black hole of cold empty surrounding me. A timeless world that deprived you of any true awareness.
‘That‘s right… I remember now.‘
…I was dead.
This meant that whatever I‘d just experienced had only been a memory… A happy memory spent with
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Chapier One Hundred & Three
Aleric in the cabin from before it all came crashing down. 1
My chest ached with longing at recalling it so clearly.
…I wanted to go home.
“…Were you not satisfied with the memory of your heart‘s desire?”
A light then sprouted in the darkness, revealing her person. Finally facing me after who knew how long. Since the Abyss was timeless, a century could have already passed by now without even realising it.
I hated how just her mere presence alone still made me want to give myself to her, despite everything she had put me through. Her light brought warmth… something sorely lacking inside this place. A true manipulator, just like her mother.
“I think you mean to ask, ‘was I satisfied with the simulation I was trapped in; one that was showing me the life you robbed me of?‘”
She pursed her lips slightly at my words, a sign of her irritation. “Your will must be strong if you were able t o break free of the Abyss‘ vision. But I suppose that is to be expected, given your success in facing Thea. I am a little surprised though that you wished to free yourself so badly. Do you prefer the cold empty over the warm memory of your mate?”
“You should know by now, Selene, that anything involving you is usually a cause of grief for me,” I said bitterly. “If given the choice, I will always choose to live with the knowledge of what you did to me, never forgetting the reality of your ‘love‘. Our oh–so ‘Great Mother‘. Because I did exactly what you asked of me. | saved you from Thea, just as you wished. And yet you still allowed me to die once more. A testament to your own selfish desires.”
“I did not allow you to do anything, child,” she replied harshly. “You were given free will. The choices you made, as well as this death, are all of your own making.”
A humourless laugh quickly escaped me, unable to contain it. “Surely, you‘re joking, right? Surely, you‘re not actually implying that, for the majority of this life, I wasn‘t being controlled? That I wasn‘t being manipulated into actions I didn‘t choose? Where was my protection from divine interference when your mother was having me mercilessly slaughter and hurt people around me? Where was my free will? Mortality or not, she was of your* flesh and blood. *Your responsibility.”
“You fought valiantly,” she said, ignoring my accusation. “You should be proud of your achievement.”
“But I‘m not… I‘m not proud of leaving so much behind. I yearn to go back.”
Silence then spread between us. A moment as I reflected on everything I‘d sacrificed. Everything I‘d given up on so this deity could live, fixing her error from centuries prior.
…And something inside me suddenly snapped.
“… You… owe me, Selene,” I whispered, a new fiery determination spreading through me. “You have a debt that has yet to be paid. Two lifetimes of needless suffering, to be exact. Lifetimes forced upon me because of your mistake.”
“Child, I am unsure of what you expect, but you were already aware of your borrowed time,” she said. “You consented to go back, just as we discussed the first time you were here. These were the terms of your revival.”
But I disregarded her words, knowing that there was actually only one important factor worth mentioning here.