Raven II

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10. Licud


I set her down softly on the couch, shifting as I sat myself on the ground next her, leaving my hand on her's. I turned and glared at Keena, and she looked at us in horror. She hadn't moved from her spot since Aria began to freak out, "What just happened?" She whispered.

I scoffed, my fingers tracing over Aria's hand, "You act like you know her better than me, like you can decide things as big as this for her, but you don't know anything about her." I turned my gaze, now softened to Aria's soft features. "We need to get her home."

"You love her." The lady whispered. I shifted my eyes to her and saw her surprised face, confusion written on her brows.

"It's not a secret." I shrugged.

"But you're not a Raven." Her eyes shifted to my hair, her eyes widening further, "You followed her here. Crossing realms, for love." She snickered. "Would you be willing to give up your reign?"

"What?" I sneered, annoyed.

"If you stay, and she ascends to the throne. She will reign this world, not you. I can tell you had authority in your realm, will you be willing to let that power go for her? You will never be a power-wielding king again." She spoke with determination, trying to drill every word into my brain.

But her words didn't reach my brain, they reached my heart. I would, I would give all of that up, but I wouldn't have to. Aria hasn't chosen me to be by her side, and I doubt she ever would. My jaw clenched as I looked back at Aria with longing.

"Oh." Keena's voice shook. "You-you are not together?" She clicked her tongue, "She does not love you."

My eyes flickered up, catching Sarn's pity-filled eyes. It reminded me of the way Aria looks at me when she talks about Dastan. "Don't look at me like that." I growl. His features harden and he looks away from me, shaking his head.

"If you really love her, you must convince her to stay. It is her duty, her fate to bring-"

"No!" I growled at her loudly, causing Aria to shift, "For fuck's sake, no! No one here, not even me, is making a decision for her. She will be the one to choose." She wanted to scowl at me, I could see her lips as they trembled.

"You choose one life over millions of-"

"It is neither wise nor fair for the entire weight of a people, of a planet that existed before she was even born, to be placed on her shoulders." I sneered back. "She's been through enough." I whispered, more to myself than anyone else.

A soft hand landed on my shoulder and I turned to face Aria, who had woken up completely and looked at me with a thankful smile.

"You choose." I whispered.

"I don't think-" Keena interrupted.

I turned back to her, "We can find somebody else if you are truly backing out."

"You won't find anyone willing." She croaked, walking toward the disastrous shelves that lined the walls. Her hands wrapped around a small vial, which she opened and inhaled quite sharply. She turned back to us with her eyes closed. "I'll do it."

"You will?" Thijs spoke from his quiet corner. I looked at Aria only to find her already looking at me with wide eyes, a glint of happiness in her eyes.

"Well, I don't really have to do anything, Ilo- Aria does." She nodded toward Aria, almost wincing from calling her a different name, who frowned and pointed toward her chest in question. Keena frowned back, "Why do you not speak?"

"Like I said, she's been through a lot." I answered, quickly, knowing Aria did not like the details of her experiences to be voiced.

"What do I have to do?" She signed to Keena.

"What is she saying?" Keena looked at me desperately, finally relieved to have Aria give her some attention.

"She wants to know what she has to do." I say, though I never take my eyes off of Aria.

"I-I have to open the bridge...in her mind." I could sense the confusion in the air as we all turned to face her. "When we sent her to your realm, I had to cut off the access she had to the Licud." We all tilted our heads, looking at her as if she was out of her mind, "It's what allows her family to rule. A sort of enlightenment, if you will."

"If her father has that enlightenment, and still rules as he does, I'm not sure-"

"He already had evil in his heart." She shook her head, "It is a risk either way, but I do not believe Aria harbors such evil." I shook my head, and she nodded before looking at Aria, "Come." She waved her hand toward herself.

Aria looked down at me, pleading me to tell her what to do, "You choose." I whispered. She nervously bit her bottom lip before nodding and inhaling sharply. In a swift movement, she found herself on her feet and walking toward Keena.

"I do not know how she will react to it, so please, stand by her in case her body knocks out." She nodded toward me and I stood up, standing behind Aria, ready to catch her if I needed to.

I was always ready to catch her.

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