As I Wake

Ashes & Blood

Leda wasn’t in school the following day, or days after for that matter. Mae and I sat outside the Academy eating lunch.

“And he talked about when he was given Akamaru and how they have been inseparable ever since. It was such a cute story,” Mae squealed.

I wasn’t listening. My mind was on Leda and whether she was alright.

“That’s was when Akamaru licked his face. Ugh, I was so jealous.”

“Mhm, yeah.” I brushed her off. Ever since Kiba walked her home, she has been telling the same story like a broken record.

“Hey, are you even listening?” Mae accused.

It took several moments before realizing she even asked me a question. “What? Sorry, I’m listening. Just have stuff on my mind,” I admitted.

“You’re worried about Leda,” Mae said, more as a statement than a question. “She’s probably just skipping.”

That was a very possible explanation. Leda was notorious for skipping class, smoke by the dumpsters, or stroll the marketplace, any excuse to get out of class.

But, something was eating at me. She didn’t tend to miss this many days. It made me feel on edge. “I don’t know. For three days? Don’t you think that’s a bit odd?”

“Yeah, perhaps. Evaluations are tomorrow, too,” Mae admitted.

“Exactly. Everyone knows evaluations are tomorrow. She wouldn’t miss the days before unless something was up.”

Mae nodded slightly, looking in the distance. From her expression, this conversation as over. “Did I mention how cute Kiba’s triangles are?”


In class now, Shiri-Sensei finished up today’s lecture. “That will be all for today, you blood sucking leeches. Remember there will be no lesson tomorrow due to evaluations.” The class moaned.

“Better be prepared,” he warned. “The evaluations tell you how far you have progressed and determine whether you waste of spaces are worthy enough to graduate. Many of you will not like what I will have to say,” he said, smiling.

That’s because you’re an evil bastard, I thought.

With that, the class dismissed themselves.

I came to the conclusion that I might as well ask the devil, I mean, Sensei for Leda’s homework. She couldn’t afford to fall behind any further than she already had. The classroom was practically empty by the time I approached the front desk.

“Excuse me, Sensei?” I asked as politely as I could muster.

Shiri-Sensei looked up with diamonds in his eyes. “What can I help you with, Quorra?”

Someone help me. “I was hoping you could provide me with Leda’s homework so I could give it to her.”

He gave a scrutinizing look before nodding. “You are too kind-hearted, Quorra. Only someone as giving as you would worry about a fellow student. Even the delinquents.”

I used all my humanly strength not to roll my eyes. “I wouldn’t want her to fall behind.”

“No, of course not,” he rubbed his hands together. “Especially with evaluations being tomorrow. Want to be in the best situation for them. Of course you have nothing to worry about.”

Yeah, I wonder why. “Thank you, Sensei.”

“Here you are,” he gathered Leda’s assignments and handed them over, not before he clasped my hand.

As his sweaty claw was on my skin, “See you tomorrow,” he said with a sickly smile.

Casually, I ripped my hand away. “Right…Bye, Sensei,” I said, scurrying the fuck out of there. I rather had stuck my hand in an animal trap before ever doing that again.

“You owe me big time, Leda.”


It doesn’t take long before I arrived at Leda’s house. Even now, the house didn’t look welcoming with its broken shutters and chipped paint on the door. I didn’t even want to walk up to the door. What if the father opened it? Recalling his haggard appearance and lifeless eyes made me shiver.

Before I could muster the courage to step foot on the porch, there was a loud crash within the home.

I quickly sheltered myself alongside the porch. Cautiously, I peered over the railing. The crash followed by screams. Not out of fear, but rather anger. The source came from a high-pitched woman followed by a deep, angered man. I managed to duck before the front door swung open.

“Fuck you, old man!” Leda screamed. “You and your slut girlfriend can go fuck yourselves!” She stomped down the stairs and ran for it, not noticing that I was right beside her.

“Leave her out of it, you whore of a daughter!” Her father yelled, his words slurred.

But it was too late, Leda had already vanished. Spared from listening to her father’s horrendous comment.

My body pressed even closer to the porch. Praying he doesn’t venture towards the rail for then he would for sure spot me. Luckily, he just mumbled angrily before slamming the door.

I exhaled the breath I didn’t know I was holding.

Leda…

Shoving her meaningless homework into the crook of my arm, I dashed after her. I didn’t know which way she ran but I had a clue.


My hair whipped violently in my face as I climbed up the final rung. It was a lot colder and winder being it was so late in the evening. The wind absorbed through my jacket, into my bones.

Please be here.

Walking towards the end of the rooftop, a sob sung in the air. “Leda?”

Following the sound, I found a fragile girl with obnoxious red hair, crouched behind a storage container. Leda was ferociously striking her lightener, desperately trying to light the cigarette that hung from her mouth.

“Leda?” I tried again.

This time she heard me and jumped, but soon settled once recognizing my voice. “Go away,” she said, half-assed.

She reattempted to light her cigarette, but the light flickered out by the wind each time. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck,” she cursed with each attempt.

I crouched down and took the lighter from her frail fingers. “Here,” holding my hand up to block the wind, I lit it.

Amber light glowed bright in the dead night. Leda inhaled her gateway drug; letting the fumes cloud her tormenting mind. “Thanks,” she muttered, sadly.

Together, we sat and leaned against the storage container. The brutal wind changed its course, meaning we were somewhat protected.

We sat in silence with only the sound of howling wind and smell of tobacco to break our train of thoughts.

“I hate him,” Leda said.

I didn’t bother sugar coat it. Leda cursed and fought with her father, but that didn’t give him the right to fight back with the same hatred. He was supposed to guide her, not tear her down. “I hate him, too.”

Leda showed a sad smile. “It wasn’t always like this.”

“Yeah?” I didn’t say anything else until she was comfortable.

“Yeah,” she continued. “When my mother was around, we were always together. Laughing, smiling, having dinner together. Talked about the generic bullcrap. ‘How was your day?’, ‘Did you learn anything today at school?’, ‘pass the vegetables.’”

Leda let out a shaky breath. “Dare I say we were happy? But we weren’t. Maybe we were never truly happy. One day, my mother sat silently at dinner. She wasn’t acting herself and ever since then, was never the same.

“That’s when the fights and arguments began. My mother slowly started to disappear from the dinner table. My father followed soon after.”

She took an unsteady breath of smoke and tobacco. Goosebumps protruded from her ghostly skin. She had little clothing to protect her in only a black cropped top and cargo pants.

“What happened?” I dare asked.

Leda laughed uncomfortably. “Turns out. Mother was even more miserable than I thought. She completely cracked one day. Went hysterical about how she hated my father and wanted a divorce but he refused.”

Leda couldn’t hold herself back any longer as tears streamed down her face. “That night she left and never came back.”

Her face contorted with confusion and anger. “She left us. She left me. Did she hate me and my father that much? Sure I was a bit of a troublemaker, but I thought she loved me.”

It made sense now why Leda was the way she was. She was hurt and acting out in order to protect herself. She was abandoned as a child, of course she would be guarded. It broke my heart.

“That was when my father started drinking. That’s when the fights started. When he became the monster he is today. And I can’t help think it was all my fault.”

“You can’t think like that!” I snapped. “You can’t blame yourself for an action your mother did.”

Leda didn’t look convinced. “Yeah, maybe.”

“No, maybe!” I grabbed her hand and made her look me in the eye. “You are a young, smart girl. You are a bit of a wise ass, but you have a heart of gold. If your mother doesn’t want to watch you grow into the young woman; the young badass woman you are going to become, then she doesn’t deserve to be your mother.”

Leda stared at me for several moments before wiping her stained cheeks. She rolled the short bud between her fingers. “Do you know why I smoke?”

“To be in control,” I answered, reciting the answer she gave me once before.

Leda nodded. “Sure, I might get lung cancer or throat cancer or some other bullshit. But, I want to be the one who controls my faith. If I die, I want it to be because of me. I want to control when I die, not the bastards in my life who slowly destroy me.”

What didn’t make sense to me before did now. All the hurt others put her through; all their actions that affected her life. She wanted to be the one who controlled when she dies. She wanted that one thing, that one freedom and no one was going to take that from her.

“I would miss you if you died,” I admitted.

The bud that rolled between her slender fingers was now rubbed on the rough rooftop. Her doe brown eyes shined. “I don’t plan on going anytime soon, Quorra-bean.”

“You better not, or else I would kick your ass beyond the grave,” I joked.

I threw my jacket over Leda’s shoulders and guided her off the roof. She followed without hesitation.


I unlocked and opened the door to my apartment. “Home sweet home,” repeating Kakashi’s selection of words from when he first introduced me to my place.

Leda walked in, looking around critically.

“It’s not much,” I admitted, suddenly embarrassed by its small size and lack of anything. “But it’s something.”

“It’s your home,” Leda corrected as she smiled and back-flopped onto the bed. “I like it.”

I sat at the edge of the bed. “Well, you can stay as long as you need to. You’re always welcomed here.”

It was also lonely here since Kakashi and Team Seven have been gone on their mission. But, I wasn’t going to admit that.

Leda stared silently at the ceiling, still laying on her back. She wore a pondering expression. “You’re too good to me.”

Shocked at the comment, I smiled. “That’s what friends are for.”

This time she was the one who was shocked and smirked. “I guess so.”

“Now go take a shower, so I can get to bed!”

Later, Leda took her shower and I provided her with a change of clothes. We laid in bed in the dark.

“Goodnight, Leda.” I yawned.

“Night, Quorry,” Leda said.

I was so exhausted, it didn’t take long for me to fall into a deep sleep. Not before I heard what sounded to be in the far off distance, an echo over the dark horizon:

“Thank you.”


I didn’t know where I was, but that wasn’t anything new. I was used to strolling into the grasps of the Unknown; trudging through the jaws of the demon into the darkness.

The demon’s insides were what one would expect; damp, slimy, cold. It was the kind of place that would ward off any logical person, but welcomed the shattered pocket watch hearted.

My feet were not bound this time, allowing me the freedom to roam. It was even more terrifying.

There was so much more to the Unknown. That spiny bastard, it was. Pretending to be nice as its Cheshire smile grew even wider. Luring its prey in through its bioluminescent light that shined in the emptiness.

I walked in the vastness of the demon’s insides. Not much was laying around. Tables, chairs, bits of lab equipment sprinkled here and there. One apparatus, however, twinkled in my eye.

Traipsing towards it, I saw it was a thin glass piping that flowed from the ceiling and flowed into a small container filled with a bruised, red liquid.

Was the monster bleeding?

The sickly, red syrup was dripping out of two connecting pipes. Their fit being slightly mismatched as the fluid seeped out, in fact, similarly to a bleeding wound. Tape was wrapped in a failed attempt to close the wound. A Band-Aid for machinery, preposterous.

Something pressed me to touch the crying tears. It looked forbidden, like a spinning wheel begging to be touched, but drove me to mend. The slightest curious touch was soon deeply regretted. Immediately, my fingers burned as I ripped my hand away.

Was Unknown’s blood poisonous?

My God, it felt like my fingers were stuck in acid. Looking down, blood from the apparatus plus my own dripped from my fingers. My fingertips were cut open. Deep cracks as if my fingers were trying to dispel the venom. My black blood mixed with the red, marble swirling into a whirlpool. Bubbles formed, eating my skin alive. That’s when I felt it:

FEAR.

“Run…” said a low grumble.

There it was again, the pair of sea foam green eyes, floating in the nothingness.

FEAR.

“Run!” it gargled, louder.

FEAR- as I ran.

I shot up from my bed with a fresh layer of sweat. I examined my finger, knowing full well I wouldn’t find any blood. Even seeing the clean fingers, my brain was tricking me. Neurons shot to my brain convinced there was pain but my eyes reassured me there was not.

“What’s the matter,” Leda grumbled, still half asleep.

I almost forget she was here. “Nothing. Just a nightmare,” I explained. “Go back to sleep.”

She obliged with as she turned over and returned to her blissful rest. I tried to do the same as well, if it was only that simple.

Now I really missed Kakashi.


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