“My last words?” I asked, my breathing heavy. ‘Yeah… I guess I have something to say.”
Or at least, I have something to do.
“F**k you,” I spat.
And with that, I grabbed the blade firmly within my one good hand and pushed it backwards with all of my strength in one quick movement. Strong enough for it to fly right into Thea’s face, sending her straight to the ground.
I waited a moment to make sure she was down before proceeding to throw the sword into a corner as far away as possible. With two injured hands, it was impossible to wield it so removing it from the field entirely was better.
I didn‘t waste time after that though. Somehow, even though I was still weak, I then slowly managed to get back on my feet. I had to use the wall to support me, pressing against it until I could stand on my own unsteady legs.
However, my legs were probably the least of my current issues. After all, with two severely damaged hands and a sword wound to my shoulder, the condition of my body was already terrible.
Despite my grim situation though, I was thankful for one thing at least. Thankful that she hadn‘t anticipated my attack. I‘d picked up on the fact that she was acting as though she‘d already won. Her grip had been loose, barely even trying to hold it steady against my chest, and that had cost her. A mistake born from her over–confidence.
“You b***h,” she yelled, getting back to her feet.
But I didn‘t wait
Immediately, I stepped forward and kicked her directly in the chest with all my strength, sending her flying right into the opposite wall.
…And everything instantly swayed around me. As if the walls were living creatures.
I wanted to throw up.
Before I could fall down, I quickly shot my leg out to the side and steadied myself, allowing me a short moment to balance again.
“You think that will be enough to hurt me?” I heard her say from somewhere in front of me.
And with that, a blow was then suddenly dealt to my face, stinging pain replacing where her hand had just been… and, before I knew what was really happening, the ground looked a lot closer than I remembered it being.
I reached out with my arm, grabbing for the wall desperately, and thankfully prevented myself from completely falling down at the very last second.
“You think a child like you is worthy of such a thing?” she continued.
…And it was followed by yet another blow. This time it was a kick to my ribs that forced all the air out of m y lungs… and a metallic taste to fill my mouth.
‘*“It‘s a good plan… but you need to adapt better,‘*‘ | suddenly heard Aleric‘s voice say in my head. They were the words he‘d said to me the day we were sparring in the gym, an echo of a distant memory now.
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*You can‘t expect the other person to just stand there and not counter it. You need to think ahead more. Visualise how your opponent will move.”**
But that was easier said than done when it was already taking all of my energy just to not pass out. I could forget about using any of my abilities to sense her moves right now. I would be lucky if I just somehow managed to survive the next few minutes alone.
Though I couldn‘t help but think it was a little ironic. How, of all times to recall that memory, I was remembering that day in the gym right now. Because, just like how Aleric had been during that practice fight, I now, too, didn‘t have use of my hands anymore. With one dislocated thumb and another with slices embedded into it from the sword blade, it was almost as if the roles were reversed. Though, obviously, I would rather my hands be handcuffed behind my back as opposed to my current painful situation
… But maybe that was the exact reason I had dredged up the memory.
Just a little longer. I wanted to survive… for just a little longer.
And so I pushed myself off the wall, immediately turning my body as I saw her move in for another hit, and narrowly managed to dodge her attack. Once again, it seemed she had underestimated me severely and was surprised by my quick evasion. In fact, she had underestimated me so much that she didn‘t even expect me to use her own momentum against her, kicking her leg out from under her mid lunge, and sending her flying back to the ground.
It was the same technique Aleric had once used against me. I‘d spent so long trying to win against him that day that I must have learnt a few of his tricks in the process.
But the move came at a cost though, one that immediately took its toll as the whole room began to sway once more. Worse still, it was followed shortly after by specks of black dots that began to cloud my vision. I wouldn‘t be able to keep this up for long. My body was already past its limit.
“You stupid…,” Thea started, pulling her leg up in what would have been an attempt to kick me from the ground.
But I quickly jumped away as fast as I could.
Although, that ended up being maybe a little too fast.
The sudden jerk to my body caused me to wince from the pain and I grabbed at my shoulder, teeth gritted.
“Enough!” Thea roared, now completely furious.
…And I cautiously took another step backwards to be safe.
Her eyes were filled with nothing but malice as she got back on her feet. So much anger… so much hatred. It was as though she wanted my death more than she even wanted Selene‘s in that moment. I could feel the sheer frustration and aggression rolling off of her in waves.
*This was the creature inside my head all these years.
“Why are you prolonging the inevitable? Do you think you can actually win against me? In your condition?” she sneered
And I barely dodged another hit to my face, avoiding it by not even an inch as her fist flew past my eyes. I didn‘t respond though, instead I just silently countered the attack by kicking her knee out from the side, focusing everything on just my will to keep going. The move was weak but it at least forced her to spin into a crouch in order to prevent herself from hitting the ground again.
Unfortunately for me though, she didn‘t let it stop her for long. Instead, she took advantage of the new position and used it to try and counter kick me, this time aiming for my shins in an attempt to submit met
o the floor. If she could manage to get me down, we both knew the fight would be over. I wouldn‘t have the strength to get up again.
And, though I did end up successfully jumping backwards to dodge her attack, I quickly realised she‘d done just that anyway.
Whether her last attack hit me or not, it didn‘t matter. No, she had just been betting on me being too injured to have any real sense of spatial awareness, jumping away from her until my back was suddenly pressed up against the corner.
…I was trapped.
“Answer me!” she demanded and threw another punch towards me.
…But I moved quickly, bringing my sliced up hand in front of my face and grabbing her fist before it could make contact. And, as a result, I could feel the cuts there begin to bleed once more.
“You keep…,” I tried to say between breaths, my body beginning to slump. Already my grip on her hand had slackened, forcing me to release her. “You keep underestimating me… because of what I am. Because… because you think you‘re better than us.”
“If you think we‘re equals then you‘re grossly mistaken. Possessing a piece of a God does not make you better than what you are. The fact you have even tried to fight me like this is proof of how delusional you are.”
“But I wasn‘t…,” I said weakly, now starting to slip towards the ground. “I wasn‘t trying to win, Thea. I knew i t was over… the moment you pulled that blade back out of me.”
“Then I don‘t understand. What was the point in attacking me? In causing yourself further needless pain?”
“The point was… the point was to distract you… to keep you here… Just long enough for….”
And then the thunderous sound of footsteps suddenly exploded from the top of the stairway, a melody of growling to accompany it.
I’d never heard such a sweet song before. A fitting tune to die to.
It was the sound of allies… the sound of my pack.
Brayden had done exactly what I hoped he would do. He‘d rallied up an attack unit. Not just a few stray warriors who had been standing around upstairs… but a real force, with substantial enough numbers to be able to handle someone like Thea. It meant he had figured out that I was planning to delay her.
And a small smile crept to my lips as Thea‘s face slowly turned to one of horror, the realisation of her situation now dawning on her.
She may possess strength far greater than any Alpha but even she wouldn‘t be able to defend herself against an army of trained wolf warriors. Not in such a small enclosed area as this.
…Your move, Thea.
She looked frantically between where I sat to where I could only assume her secret passage was located. It was like I could see her trying to calculate the time required to complete each task in her head, the cogs quickly moving to figure out what she should do… and it would have made me laugh if I physically could have
| already knew if she took the time to kill me now, that she would likely be surrounded by wolves upon finishing the job. Even almost dead, I wasn‘t going to make it easy for her; something she should have realised by now. I would squirm and dodge as much as possibly could just to make every second count.
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Which meant she had to put her faith in me dying of my own injuries. It was the only way to utilise the time needed to escape. However, for someone like Thea, I knew that even that would be excruciatingly difficult for her. The only person Thea truly trusted was Thea; even if it was just to put trust in me to die of injuries impossible to recover from.
And with every second ticking down, she had maybe a minute before my pack made it down all those flights of stairs.
“Better… start running. Thea,” I smirked.
But she had other plans.
She immediately reached down and grabbed at one of my ankles, now determined to drag me away with her. It was almost suicidal to waste time doing something like that. Something she surely had to realise, especially since the unit was so close by.
“What are you…?” I started asking before I used my other foot to kick her hand away. It was the very last ounce of energy I could muster but it was luckily just enough to free myself.
It seemed even Thea was surprised I had enough in me for that, her anger only burning further. In fact, if looks alone could kill, there wouldn‘t have been a reason for Thea‘s current dilemma. For someone with such a pretty face normally, that scowl sure did not suit her.
The real question now though was why would she attempt to bring me with her..? To attempt something s o reckless?
Not unless she needed my body too. That my death alone wasn‘t going to be enough to retrieve her power back.
Well, then. It looked as though I‘d managed to royally screw her out of her long–awaited victory. My last ditch effort to stall her might have been far more effective than I initially intended. Maybe my death wasn‘t going to be the beginning of the end as I originally thought.
We stared at each other silently for a moment, our faces resolute as we both refused to let the other get what they wanted. But unlike Thea, I wasn‘t playing a game as bad as hers. For her, the situation was growing more dangerous as every second ticked by.
But, in the end, it resulted in just the way I thought it would. One where, finally, with a last curse spat towards me, she bolted towards where a stack of boxes laid in the corner, shoving them aside and disappearing behind them.
…Finally, she was gone.
I breathed out a sigh of relief upon her exit and laid staring up at the ceiling. And every time I would startt o feel myself let go, I would quickly reel myself back into consciousness.
I still wanted to hang in there… for just a little bit longer.
That memory from earlier was still dancing in the front of my mind; the one that had helped me to fight against Thea for as long as I had. I‘d been so reluctant in agreeing to spar with Aleric that day and yet it had ended up being the thing that possibly just saved thousands of people. Now I wouldn‘t even get the chance to tell him or thank him.
I’d won that fight too,’ I recalled with a small smile. I remember squealing in delight over how happy I‘d been to knock him down. And I remember… I remember how it had been the most excitement I‘d felt in years That, in that moment, it was a reminder of how I was still strong despite it all; despite the collar and my situation
And, as I continued to reflect, I remembered something else too. Something I‘d buried over the last few months. I remembered what happened right after that match.
…How we‘d kissed.
What would have happened if I hadn‘t fallen asleep that day? If I‘d gone back to speak with him and worked things out like I wanted to? There never would have been a misunderstanding about Lucy, no confusion over my parents‘ death… I never would have given in completely to Thea due to my feelings of grief and betrayal.
Thinking back now, it had been her voice screaming at me to pull away from him that day, filling my head immediately with doubt instead. But then… didn‘t that mean the feelings I‘d had for him were genuine during that moment?
I guess I wasn‘t going to find out.
But if I was lucky… maybe, just maybe, I would get to see him one last time if he arrived with the attack unit. Was that too much to ask? To want to die with confirmation that he didn‘t loath me for my actions? That, even in my last moments, he didn‘t lose faith in me despite everything I‘d done… despite that being more than I deserved? More than I ever did for him in either life…?
I‘d let him become his own destruction the first time, too weak to save him from Thea. I despised him for years because of the things he‘d done that were out of his own control. And, unlike him, I had missed all the obvious signs. The signs that he had immediately picked up on inside me; the anger, the rash behaviour… his inability to feel the mate bond. Because they had all been there the first time… I‘d just wrongly assumed that it was purely because he hated me so much.
He became a monster in that life, completely unrecognisable from the man I knew today. A creature of pure hate and drive to acquire power. Now, knowing exactly what Thea‘s influence felt like, it was a wonder he held on as well as he did for the almost ten years he was involved with her. I‘d lived through just three and already I‘d succumbed to almost killing everyone.
And yet, with the roles reversed, he hadn‘t once doubted me in this life. He‘d kept fighting, kept believing that whatever made me become this way, wasn‘t actually my fault. That I was still me deep down… somewhere. Something even Cai had given up on.
He might not have been able to fix what Thea did to me… but he did save me. Save me from myself… and save others from me.
He‘d been doing it since almost the beginning too. Countless times he‘d stopped me from making mistakes based on negative emotions, quickly becoming the only one to truly get through to me; a task that even my father and Cai had previously failed at. He‘d been a voice of reason to call me out on my rinsanity, never being afraid to step in if he thought I‘d gone too far. It was the sort of thing I could have
used most after giving in to The…. yet l‘d imprisoned him.
If only I‘d trusted him sooner, if I‘d judged him based on the man he actually was instead of continuing to believe he would inevitably become the same person I‘d known. Maybe I would have been able to rely on him earlier and prevent all of this from getting so messed up.
“I‘m sorry.” I whispered, closing my eyes.
I wanted his forgiveness as I plunged into the darkness; for leaving now and making him pick up the fight i n my absence. Leaving behind a world where I, once again, was unable to save him from Thea.
I was sorry to Cai too. I‘d turned a good man who once only saw good in others, into someone who hated even the sight of me. For a time, he was my best friend… someone who I loved and relied upon. If not for him, I would have followed in those same steps which led me to becoming another docile Luna. Who
knew where I‘d be now if he hadn‘t shown me that I could be more. That I was stronger than what others
saw me as.
“Aria.” I heard a voice yell nearby.
The warriors had arrived. They would need to hurry if they wanted to catch Thea. I knew they would be able to track her scent through the hidden passage without any issues but they would have trouble finding her if she made it outside. With her skill, it would be too easy for her to hide once she was back in an open space.
“…I‘m sorry,” I replied weakly, unable to open my eyes again. “I wasn‘t… I wasn‘t strong enough.”
“Hang in there.”
But it was too late for that. ‘Hanging in there‘ implied that there was a chance of survival, of which no person was capable of doing. Everyone knew the effects of silver were merciless.
“Protect… the morgue,” was all I could say with my final breath. My last and final warning to help them in their future battle.
And I let myself relax, the pain finally shutting off as I gave in to the darkness enveloping me.
I didn‘t get my final wish but maybe that was only fair. I didn‘t deserve the absolution I desired. I hadn‘t done anything worth receiving that blessing.
For what it was worth though, I couldn‘t be too disappointed in my current state. After all, my regrets and guilt did tell me one thing in my final moment.
…It told me that I truly was still capable of caring. That I truly was still myself… deep down.