Chapter Fifty She was dead. Myra was dead.
The words kept repeating themselves in my head but I was struggling to come to terms with it being real
Unfortunately, I had only remained unconscious for a few minutes before Aleric had managed t o wake me up. I found myself on the couch inside and answered all of his questions as best I could, though albeit very robotically. By the time I had finished describing where Myra was and her current state, Aleric had quickly left to go get the patrol team scouring the area for rogues. I told him about my dagger that was used, the one from the cave I’d left behind, and even about Thea. What she looked like, where the two of them had been, and that I’d told Myra to talk to her. No one really listened to me after I’d mentioned the rogue knife though. They all immediately went on to high alert mainly looking for them, not Thea. Everyone had thought since my missing dagger was used, that it was the rogues trying to retaliate for killing their comrades. And so, I sat on the couch, just watching the chaos ensue around me for hours.
People running in and out of the house, giving status reports and confirmations about Myra’s body. People becoming frantic as they tried to find leads. An argument between officials over who was going to inform Myra’s family. I felt sick just listening to it all.
But I couldn’t move, let alone function enough to be of any help.
I just sat on that couch… and watched. Silently. The entire time just feeling dead inside. As dead as Myra now was because of me. And I knew it had been my fault. Everything. She’d said so herself; it was because of me that her life had become so abnormal. Maybe she might have lived long enough to have that average life she’d mentioned. She might have had that ordinary mate… those children… and died of old age. Died naturally.
Not dead now because of me.
But I hadn‘t known. I hadn’t known asking her to talk to Thea would lead to this. I hadn’t known her life would be in danger.
“…Miss,” a voice suddenly said in front of me. I realised then that I’d been staring at the torso of someone standing in front of me for Goddess knew how long.
I looked up slowly, blinking several times as my eyes came into focus, and saw Lucy there.
“…Miss, I’m here to take you home,” she said gently.
She looked worried and I didn’t need to guess why. It didn‘t make me feel any better though. “…I saw Thea,” I answered quietly, ignoring whatever she’d said. My voice sounded far away and still very hoarse. She flinched in surprise, almost in disbelief at what I’d just told her. “What…? Thea?”
She sighed. “That might explain a few things then.” “… Like what?”
She paused, unsure if she should answer that, but she did eventually speak.
“I found out about an hour ago what happened to our private investigator,” she said. “He was killed a couple of months back in a neighbouring territory. The pack there have been trying to contact us so they could ask about his last case, but we kept our identity so well hidden that they didn’t know how to reach us.”
I closed my eyes, feeling the wave of exhaustion this new development brought. “…So it actually was Thea’s doing then.” “Miss.. ?”
I had already suspected as much, but hearing this news now only made me more certain.
Thea had been the one to kill Myra.
“She must have realised someone was tracking her down and kept her distance until the investigator met up with you last time. It explains how she was able to find me. She just had to follow your trail all the way back here. The investigator’s death was most likely just so he couldn’t alert us when she crossed over into the Winter Mist’s territory.”
How much did she know about me then? She must have been watching me since even before the Golden Blade attack. If that was the case then she probably knew all about me… about Myra, and possibly even about Aleric and Cai too. And that silver knife? Was she working with the rogues as well then? Was Thea herself a rogue? It might explain why we never found any information about her belonging to a pack.
But I never would have taken her for someone who could do this though. A cunning, power hungry b***h? Sure. Physically murderous and violent? …Not so much.
In my past life, she had been conniving, manipulative, and had brought about my death like a snake behind the scenes. As far as I knew, she’d never done the dirty work herself. In fact, I hadn’t even realised she’d had an active role in my death until I saw her smirking right before my conviction. Her style had always been to act the innocent and win the hearts of the people. It made me wonder what her plan was now and whether she was still looking to become Luna. Didn’t she realise I could pin part of the blame on her for Myra‘s death? That I could tie her into the whole mess and accuse her of working with the rogues? It seemed unlikely that anyone would let her into the pack one day with an accusation like that against her. But… then there was my silver dagger. I needed to realise that the entire thing could now be passed off as only a rogue attack. Maybe she had staged it intentionally like that. Coupled with
gelen the sightings we had not long ago in the woods, it seemed very likely that no one would believe me if I said it was Thea without proof. The only real evidence I could provide was that Myra had been with her last… and that the Pl I’d hired to find her from two years ago was now dead.
Not that this option was any better though. Revealing to the pack I’d hired someone to find her would only lead to questions that I couldn‘t answer. It would mean telling the truth about my true past and future.
A future that I apparently couldn’t see anymore. A future that I was suddenly so blind to. And it occurred to me that I’d been completely helpless this time to save Myra. I hadn’t seen it i na vision like I had two years ago. So why hadn’t I seen it? What had I done wrong this time that this stupid ability had let me down during a moment I needed it most?
… But then a thought came to me. Maybe instead of focusing on getting physically stronger to fight this whole time, I should have been spending some time learning about my mark and how it worked. I had always acted as if I never wanted any free handouts from the Goddess and had been trying to reach my goal without her wherever possible to prove a point.
…Was this Selene’s way of making me regret that? To prove to me that she was all-powerful and that I needed her in some way to survive? “Aria?”
I looked up and saw Lucy had been watching me the whole time I‘d been silently lost in my own thoughts.
“…You’re not entirely at fault here,” I said, realising I’d last left her last thinking she was to blame for not knowing about the PI. It was true that Thea most likely followed her to me, but I knew I was to blame just as much. “We should have been checking in more regularly to avoid this. Please ensure a year’s worth of salary is sent to his family with my condolences. It won’t make up for him losing his life, but at least maybe it will give them some comfort until they‘re able to move past this tragedy.”
Lucy pursed her lips slightly. “And you?” I frowned a little, my face too puffy and sore to give any real expression. “Me..?” “Yes… how are you going to move past this?” she asked. I could tell she was genuinely concerned for me, but I didn‘t have an answer for her.
“I‘m not,” I finally replied after a small hesitation. “I don‘t deserve any solace for what I did.”
“Aria—.” “Enough,” I said, cutting her off before she could disagree with me. I could hear my voice holding a mild tone of rank authority over her which she couldn‘t dispute. “That will be all, Lucy. I will drive myself home so your assistance won’t be necessary tonight.” She reluctantly bowed her head and I shakily got to my feet. It had been hours since I’d moved and my entire body was sore, stiff and itchy from the dried blood scratching against my skin. I didn‘t let it stop me though as I walked outside, now seeing how the sky had already darkened completely into the late night, and headed directly towards my car.
“Aria! Where are you going?” a voice called out to me suddenly.
It was Aleric’s voice. I recognised it too well, of course.
I hadn’t seen him since he left to contact the patrol teams and hadn’t expected to speak to him again before leaving. He was helping to orchestrate the entire search party so I knew he was incredibly busy. “…Home,” I said quietly as I kept walking. “Like that? At least stay and clean up first. You’re still… ah.” ‘You’re still covered in Myra’s blood, ‘I said in my head, finishing his sentence. “It’s fine. I’ll clean up at home.”
I went to turn away but he quickly covered the distance between us until he stood next to me. I couldn’t meet his eyes though, choosing to focus on anything else around me. “I don’t think you should be alone right now,” he objected gently. “Please… just stay a bit longer. You can wash up and I’ll organise some fresh clothes for you.”
He was worried about me. Just like Lucy had been. Just like everyone else who had been staring at me over the last few hours, all while they walked through the lounge room I had sat comatose in
But no, I knew I needed to be alone. I thought it would be best if I stayed like that from now on. “Really, it’s fine, Aleric,” I said, shutting down his suggestion almost instantly. He paused for a moment, possibly thinking of what else he could say to convince me, but finally he sighed in defeat.
“..Okay,” he said, an almost awkward tone to it. He shuffled in his place a bit as if he had something else to say, but instead, he did something I wasn’t expecting
…He pulled me into his arms… and hugged me.
Into an actual embrace.
“I‘m sorry this happened,” he said softly, talking close to my ear. “She didn‘t deserve that. And neither do you.”
My entire body tensed up instantly at his contact, becoming completely unmoving and rigid. I t was the first time I’d been so close to him that I could smell his familiar scent. And yet, even after all this time, I still found it odd to be able to smell his crisp forest smell without the mate bond. For six years this scent had been heaven to me. And then, upon his forced rejection, it had become my hell.
But the embrace was the last thing I‘d expected him to do; the last thing I’d ever thought he was even capable of doing. And given that I’d just suffered the cruellest of reminders about Thea and my past on this day, it only made me feel more uncomfortable.
This was the man who had loved that disgusting woman. Who had chosen her. Who had given her his mark.
…And she had killed my best friend. She had killed someone who had held no threat to her at all.
She had killed Myra only because she was someone I cared about. Over these last few years, I’d adapted and learnt to be able to disassociate between the two Alerics; the one who had abused and tormented me, and the one who was younger and seemingly different, kinder even. The one I felt I could help change. But tonight, it was hard for me to do that in light of everything that had happened. Because tonight I was no longer the ‘me’ I had become accustomed to. I wasn’t the brave, strong, willing to overcome any issues ‘Aria’. No, given the state I was in, I felt closer to being the old Aria.
And I now felt scared. Alone. Worried.
I felt afraid that at any moment I could lose someone else I cared about.
And Aleric only stood as a reminder of those very emotions I was too familiar with. He finally let go of me after several seconds, but I still felt completely frozen in place, struggling to comprehend everything that was happening inside my head. “I’m sorry…,” he said quietly after I hadn‘t said anything.
A part of me might have felt guilty on a normal day. Maybe I would have even been strong enough to finally hug him back. But I couldn’t feel anything for him at that moment. There was physically no more room inside of me to be able to feel anything else. “… Thank you for all your help, Aleric,” I finally said flatly. I could feel his eyes staring into me but I still refused to look at him. Instead, I chose to look down at the keys in my hand before walking the remainder of the way to my car.
And as I sat in the driver’s seat, looking ahead, all I could focus on was the steering wheel in front of me. The steering wheel where b****y handprints had wrapped around it, reminding me once more that this was all real. That today had actually happened; that, unlike a car, there was no turning back
Not for Myra anyway; the girl who had considered herself to be completely average. … The girl who had died without me being able to tell her just how important she was.