The Shadow

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I watched as she fell to her knees, walking behind her as she went down. It worked. Whatever she did, it worked. The ground shook beneath me like an explosion had gone off, but there was no ignition, no fire. Even the water was moving like a bomb had gone off next to it. It all originated from her, from Caeli as she screamed and hit the ground to let it all out.

I watched as the assassins fell to the ground like dominoes around the edge of the lake, each being hit with her power. Whether they were dead or unconscious, I didn’t really want to know. At the moment it didn’t really matter either.

I walked over to Caeli as she stood up from the ground, the forest around us silent as I touched her shoulder. She flinched but allowed herself to relax when she saw it was me. I looked around the lake once more, seeing every cloaked assassin on the ground.

“What the hell did you channel?” I asked. She was breathing heavily like she had just run a marathon.

“Everything.” She replied and judging from how tired she looked... I expected nothing less.

“We better get moving before any other come here looking for us,” Vince stated, Caeli nodded slowly, and Ny led the way around the edge of the lake to where the helicopter was closest to the edge. The silence of the forest was putting me on edge, and I could sense that we were being watched.

“I don’t like this,” I said as we treaded around the assassins on the ground, but Caeli didn’t seem too worried by what I had said. She was at the back of the group, probably watching for movement in the trees.

“Let them come, we’ll see what happens...” She said ominously, I wasn’t sure who exactly she was referring too, but there wouldn’t be many assassins left in the forest if any. She probably meant the Priest and Leopold.

“Caeli, can you even do that again?” I asked her, and she shook her head. Her demeanour had changed, something was off.

“No, that power ran out. But my mind is clear, and I don’t need that magic anymore. There are only a handful of Temple assassins left, easy pickings.” She stated, her body stiff but not to make it difficult to move. She was tensed, ready to fight. Her hands were in loose fists, her eyes predatory as she scanned the trees. Her voice was distant.

I don’t know how much she had felt when she let out that power, but it would have to be unimaginable. And from someone who barely understands emotion, who shuts them off purposefully... it wouldn’t surprise me if she had reverted to how she was trained. To an emotionless, cold killer, to make sure we got out of this alive.

Nylah, Vince and I all began wading back to the helicopter, Caeli stayed on the shore to be the last one in. To keep us safe if assassins jumped out. We were moving calmly before two simple words echoed over the water.

“Get in!” Caeli shouted as a bullet struck the water an inch from my left hand. I ran as fast as I could to the helicopter but didn’t hear Caeli entering the water behind me. Once I had reached the aircraft, I turned to look back at her, she was still on the ground, a gun pointed at the Priest and Leopold who had just walked through the treeline. The latter holding a weapon, the gun he had just shot at me with.

“An impressive performance, Caeli, screaming was a pleasant touch.” The Priest said, his words carried over the water. I wasn’t too far away, maybe I could go back and help her...

“I was trying to get your attention.” She told the two of them, and I could too easily picture the smirk that was undoubtedly on her face.

“Seems your family aren’t coming back to help you...” The Priest pointed out next, his eyes on me as I had one hand ready to pull myself into the helicopter, but I stared right back at him

“They know I can take care of myself.” She replied loud enough that I could hear her like she was right next to me. She had let us help until this point, each of us sharing the responsibility of getting back here, to our only way of getting away from this damned city. But this was different. This was something personal. I thought back to Hansen and how I had only made everything harder for her. She was in control then, and she was in control now.

If she said she could handle something, it meant she could handle it. I knew that she didn’t make these decisions lightly, and if she thought something would go wrong, she would ask for help. She was a girl, but she was far more capable than me, and I would be more of a hindrance to whatever she needs to do than a help. She had a plan, one that she had probably been going over since the caverns. Possibly even before then.

Vincent grabbed my shoulder and pulled me into the helicopter.

“What are you doing?” I asked as I clambered in and he closed the door behind me, all of us stationed at a window to watch.

“She was waiting for us to be safe.” The man told me, as he spoke, Caeli looked over her shoulder for a second. She was making sure we were all in the helicopter. She looked back to Leopold and the Priest; threw away her gun and stretched her hands and her neck. Leopold’s gun was also thrown to the side. Obviously, it was an attempt at a fair fight.

We couldn’t hear a word since the doors were closed, but we watched as she ran towards Leopold and swung a punch directly into his nose. The hit was so hard it knocked him to the ground, and I didn’t feel sorry for him in the slightest. The Priest only moved once Caeli knocked out his heir.

The older man lunged at her with a knife towards her back, but she quickly turned away from the swing and used her forearm to deflect the attack. She used the opening to kick his ribs and send him back a few steps, she seemed more pissed that he had tried to stab her in the back than anything else. She was saying something I couldn’t hear as she took a dagger out of her boot, using his shock at whatever she had said to swipe at him with her blade.

He barely dodged it in time, the blade missed his body by less than an inch.

The Priest then seemed to kick himself into action, once again trying to strike Caeli with his knife but she caught his arm and twisted it behind his back. She forced him to drop the knife, and she seemed like she was about to force him to the ground when Leopold re-entered the fight.

It took everything in me to stay on the helicopter.

Hearing Leopold coming, Caeli used the Priest’s back as a jumping board. The move caused enough momentum for the Priest to fall into the water and propelled Caeli high enough that she kicked Leopold in the head. It was safe to say he went down into the water.

As she waited for one of them to stand up, she spun a dagger around her finger. To her surprise, they both moved at the same time, Leopold getting a hold of her shoulders and the Priest taking her blade from her grasp and holding it against her throat. But I didn’t even move to help her, because from the helicopter it looked like she was smiling.

She said something before she stamped on Leopold’s foot and kneed the Priest in the genitals. She used their shock to take hold of Leopold’s body and use it as a battering ram into the Priest. She then jump-kicked into Leopold’s chest, winding him at the very least, breaking ribs at the most, before the Priest jumped towards her once more. She ducked to avoid the Priest’s blow but then kicked his knee so fast he couldn’t stop her, and so hard that an audible crack still reached my ears. The Priest went down. She broke his knee, there was no doubt about that. Leopold then took Caeli’s attention once more, going to kick her knees, but she jumped over his attack before landing and grabbing his arm, flipping him over into the water.

“She needs to hurry up,” Vince stated, sitting down in the pilot’s seat, almost bored with Caeli’s display of deadly and graceful prowess.

“She’s fighting two assassins at once.” Ny pointed out. Vincent shook his head before he stuck the keys into the ignition.

“She’s toying with them, like a cat with a bug,” Vince explained. Although I didn’t understand the simile, I believed she was toying with them. She almost seemed glad for the challenge.

“A cat with a bug?” I asked, still not looking away from Caeli as she elbowed the Priest in the face the second he stood up on one leg and avoided a strike from Leopold before flipping him into the water once more. She seemed to enjoy this more than she probably should.

“Why are all three of you from broken homes where you didn’t have any pets?” Vince asked rhetorically.

“Caeli technically never had a home at all.” I pointed out. Apparently, I made a valid point because instead of replying, Vincent just turned the engine on. Caeli looked at the helicopter with a disappointed look on her face, similar to how I imagine a child looking when told playtime is over.

She turned her attention back to the two men she was facing, shaking her hands before she punched Leopold in the temple. He immediately fell to the ground again before she turned back the Priest who was standing once more, all his weight on one leg.

I saw her mouth move, saying something, before she punched him in the jaw and grabbed his arm, flipping him to the ground. His face down in the water. She held an arm behind his back, a knee on his neck to hold him down. I could see the Priest struggle to break free of the grip, but his attempts were useless against Caeli’s strength.

The Priest’s body then stilled.

She had killed him with her bare hands and the thought—the fact of it, didn’t frighten me.

She then turned to where Leopold had collapsed, but he and his gun were both gone. He had made the smart choice to run away from a fight he couldn’t win. Caeli looked to the trees and shouted the next words so loudly that I could hear them over the helicopter engine.

“You can run, Leopold, but I will find you, and you will pay!”

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