17. This is the real world
I crawled over to where Ignis cradled her mother in her arms sobbing uncontrollably but instead of soothing words, she quarreled her voice wavering harshly.
“You lied to me! Why did you lie?... you made promises you couldn’t keep and now look at you” she raved. It was as if the anger she had pent up over the years now overflowed into this moment.
“You spent nineteen years avoiding me and now you expect me to forgive you in two minutes! I won’t” she sobbed. “I swear I won’t!, if you die I’ll never forgive you. I have so much to be angry about and now look at you... ” her voice cracked as she bawled her eyes out.
Aunt Mae then raised a hand weakly to her daughter’s face and I could only watch while refusing to accept that this was the end. “I know princess, I know how angry you are. I’m so sorry” she cooed cradling the side of Ignis’s face while her eyes welled up also.
“Then why didn’t you come back?!” Ignis bawled.
“Because I was... ashamed. So much time had passed while I gave myself reasons to stay. I was scared but I’m not anymore” she explained to her daughter.
Ignis bit her lip angrily “I never stopped being afraid. I waited...” her body shook as she tried to wipe away the tears and snot running down her face.
“Can I ask one more thing of you? My brave little princess” Aunt Mae pleaded and it broke my heart to see her this way. I cried too, feeling helpless.
Ignis nodded slowly while she sobbed “anything” she replied softly.
“Forgive me for leaving you. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t miss you” she said. Ignis’s cries grew louder as she turned her gaze upward as if she were about to pray.
I turned to Sonny remembering him then “What can I do?” I asked him earnestly. He turned his gaze to me an unreadable expression on his face.
“You can’t do anything in your condition” he advised dreadfully.
“When have you ever cared about my condition? Tell me!” I shouted at him the panic in my voice evident.
“You can share your aura with her own, but doing so now would most likely kill you” he explained.
I let out a staggering breath as I made my decision without another thought. “Ignis move over” I ordered getting close enough to hold Aunt Mae’s cold hand.
“Liv, it won’t work” she spoke seeming to calm down a bit.
“We won’t know unless we try...right?” I replied my eyes once again welling up with tears.
“Olivia, it’s ok” Aunt Mae assured smiling weakly.
“Just be quiet for once, you think you’re always right but your not this time” I argued while trying to focus on my aura.
“Olivia, I want to see my sister. I’ll tell her how wonderful you’ve grown and that there’s no need to worry about you anymore” she voiced.
“Shh” was all I said.
“There is something that I need you to find. Leah knows--” she then fell silent, her eyes glazing over and the person looking back at us didn’t feel like my Aunt Mae.
“One day you’ll look at me like that” the voice spoke sounding like my Aunt but I knew it was not her. There was no life in her gaze, it was as if a puppet had taken her place.
“Mom?” Ignis wondered hope filling her voice.
The eyes of my Aunt held my own but I knew that something else was looking back. “You will forgive me for this moment... and every moment after... that...because...” she struggled trying to form her last words while Ignis stared at her mother confused.
The glaze then lifted from her eyes as she let out her last breath her eyes closing slowly as she rested her head gently on her daughter’s rigid arms.
Ignis sat quietly as one last tear escaped her closed lids.
“She was at peace when she died so she’ll be fine” Del reassured me now as I sat resting against the cool damp wall of the cave entrance while looking out at the pond, where this all started.
“Where do Aelfe essence go when they die in the real world?” I asked my body feeling numb.
“This is the real world” Del began and I sighed not wanting to argue. It was night now and the rain still pummelled the earth as if the sky was having its own battle. The cold was the only thing keeping me from collapsing from the pain and the lack of pain was the only thing keeping me from going insane.
‘This is the real world’ I repeated mentally as this realization completely sink in. I felt like I hadn’t understood what real meant, until now or maybe I had forgotten.
“Ok I know what you meant but--” Del started once more but I cut him off with a question of my own.
“This is normal... right?” I asked through clenched teeth as the cold wind seemed to settle into my bones. “People die all the time, so why is it so hard everytime it happens?”
“Because you care about them and losing someone you care about will never be easy. It was never meant to be ordinary and that’s why it hurts every time” he answered.
“Now come on, finish healing or you’ll never hear the end of it once Kelu is done taking care of the crowd outside the infirmary” he offered as he stood up to face me.
I watched him tiredly. An angry looking scar running down the side of his face which missed his left eye by inches. “It’ll be gone by tomorrow” he assured me touching the part where my eyes rested.
He came closer, his eyes seemed troubled. “Why are you doing this to yourself?” he asked sounding concerned.
“I’m not doing anything” I replied but my voice was lost in the heavy shower of rain. I didn’t have the strength to raise it.
“Look at me” he ordered gently resting his warm hands on each of my bruised shoulders. I winced slightly at his touch and he removed his hands just as carefully. I shivered uncontrollably once again but still, I couldn’t find it in me to move from where I sat.
He leaned forward slightly as he continued to address me. “You’ll get through this, I know you will. And I know it’s not what you wanna hear right now and I don’t even know if you’re still listening to me. But you’ll be ok, I-- we’ll make sure of that” he finished.
I closed my eyes not wanting him to see me cry or notice just how comforting his words were to me, so I focused only on the sound of the pounding rain. In the next second, the pouring became a bit less angry and then a feverish warmth surrounded me blocking out the cold.
It was his warmth and surprised I opened my eyes as one hand circled my back gently, the other cradling my head on his warm damp chest. I could hear his heart beating wildly and so was mine, drowning out the rain and melting the cold.
The pain returned but I didn’t want to pull away so I reached out circling my hands around his waist even though the action took much more effort than I had anticipated. It seemed as if he were struggling with the decision to hold me closer or let go completely. I could tell by the way he simultaneously tensed then relaxed the muscles in his arms.
I pulled away first but not completely and he took a quick step back releasing his hold on me. A sliver of cold air crept steadily between us.
My hands slid from his back but held his arms and he paused looking down at me confused. I tightened the grip on his arms staring boldly into his eyes. I didn’t know what had come over me now that I felt the impulse for a different kind of warmth.
I knew he saw the intent in my eyes as his burning gaze traveled to my lips first, then mine to his. I reveled in the feel of his warm skin grazing mine as he came closer his hands securing my elbows.
My heart zipped about anxiously in my chest as I watched him lean closer or was that all me, I wasn’t sure. It didn’t matter. He tugged my body closer then and I didn’t resist, I was unable to look away or think as our eyes met and held, disturbing the butterflies in my stomach further.
Inches apart I stretched up to touch his lips when a sudden pain shot up my spine making me whimper audibly with discomfort. The daze from his eyes lifted and suddenly he was standing straight as he let go of my arms.
“I don’t think we should do this,” he said softly stepping away. He then cleared the huskiness from his voice “you’re not exactly in the best of headspace right now.”
His words were like cold water to my senses and I stifled my embarrassment not wanting an air of awkwardness to settle between us. “You’re right” I stuttered breathlessly ” it must have been the fall” I tried jokingly as I slid from where I perched walking swiftly past him despite the pain racking my body.
‘What had I been thinking!’ I scolded myself harshly.
“Great you’re on your feet” he commended with sincerity. “Now let’s go and give that pain to someone who deserves it more than you do” he suggested matching his stride with mine. I nodded stiffly doing everything in my power to keep a straight face.
I had soothed the worst of my injuries, but not all the way. I needed a reminder, something to keep me grounded and carry out confidently what I was about to do. The rain had cooled off a bit but the droplets seeped into my skin as cold as ever.
“You’ll regret what you’ve done once you find out the truth about everything, you’ll see that this was pointless and that you were wrong!” Erdos ranted as I approached the small group surrounding him.
Shine and Sonny stood side by side like pieces of a puzzle right where the other belonged, then there was each member of the patrol, their deadly gazes focused on Erdos’s seemingly brittle frame. He looked even more pathetic now holding his mangled hand which had been deliberately left untreated.
“I’m sure a lot of people would like to do many things to you, that you’d think they’d regret. I think our biggest regret is not just killing you where you stand!” Del spat angrily.
“Please Del, do not engage with him, we just want this to be quick and have him out of our sight before something else happens” Sonny spoke up now as he managed to tear his hostile glare from Erdos’s face. I was sure he had an even bigger reason for despising Aelfe without Nese abilities.
Del grumbled but kept quiet while joining the glaring party. “Olivia, you must understand why this needs to be done,” Sonny said addressing me. I nodded looking up at him briefly. It was strange hearing him speak to me without the usual animosity lingering in each word.
“Olivia I know things” Erdos stated pleading now.
“I would never believe a word you say after what you’ve done. I thought I would have a hard time doing this but I think I’m actually looking forward to this” I told him honestly moving in closer to where he stood.
“Spear me and I promise you, you won’t regret it” he whispered so that only I could hear.
“Do not listen to a word he says, they’re all lies!” Shine blurted out suddenly then winced holding the part where her bandages were wrapped around her chest.
“If they’re all lies, I guess there’s no harm in hearing them” I replied suddenly feeling suspicious. There may be some truth to Erdos’s words after all if she felt inclined to advise me so strongly against them I thought.
“There is no harm” Erdos assured eagerly. I could sense that he more than anyone wanted this to be over.
I sighed taking his arm and began leading him away from the center of the crowd around us. Erdos smiled expectantly as he followed without resisting.
“What are you doing?!” Shine asked and I turned to her my expression calm.
“I rather not have a bunch of eyes on me while I destroy a person essence. He might be an evil bastard but I’m not. I won’t be taking any pleasure in doing this” I lied firmly. Del stepped out to follow me and I shifted my attention to him.
“It’s ok, he can’t do any more damage than he’s already done. I just need some space” I reassured him confidently. I turned away quickly walking a good distance away from the prying eyes and ears of the group.
“It’s good to be dealing with someone reasonable--” Erdos began which made my blood boil.
“Shut up! I would love to watch you die as much as they would. I only wish I had the heart to do it. I’ll never forgive you for what you did to my aunt!” my voice cracked as I finished and I took a deep breath to steady my ragged breathing.
“Tell me what you know before I change my mind” I ordered.
“You’ll really not do it?” He asked in awe as his eyes shone happily. I glared at him while I couldn’t help imagining snapping his neck over and over in my head. I hated him more than he would ever be able to comprehend. So, I kept quiet waiting for him to say what he had to.
“I’ll get on with it then,” he continued taking in my glare, ” about your... grandparents- did I mention how different you are from them?”
I sighed heavily my patience wearing thin “maybe this was a mistake” I started.
“Do you even know why Sonny hate’s us so much?” He said quickly
“Sonny hate’s a lot of Aelfe get over it!“I replied.
Don’t you think it strange how pathetic he looked while I stabbed your aunt? Or why it was so easy for us to capture him?”
I hissed “Are you trying to encourage me to kill you?” I asked confused.
“Did you know only Nematons can become Elders?” he stated “It was a kind of rule created by none other than the famous Shine and Sonny”
“Ok this history lesson is over” I began taking hold of his arm.
“No, it’s just getting interesting, you see Sonny himself possesses no Nese” I looked at him confused while I listened. “He never has and never will, he is what he hates the most, a lesser Aelfe,” he said spitting out the words with hate. “He is just like us yet he treats us like he is better. They have broken the law that they created. They cannot be trusted” he urged.
I scoffed at his use of ′us′ but this was the last thing I was expecting to hear. I didn’t believe it, Sonny a regular Aelfe. It didn’t make any sense.
“I don’t believe you,” I said half-heartedly as my mind raced with the possibility.
“You don’t have to, I just wanted you to know” he confessed.
“It doesn’t matter now, they’re already the Elders...”
“Did they tell you about your sister?” he asked smiling pleased with the look on my face.
I looked at him dryly now unimpressed by his pathetic lie “I’m sure if I had a sister someone would tell me about it” I stated.
“Oh but they would not if that sister died... or did she?” he implied with feigned curiosity. “Your father didn’t end up in Elme by mistake, he went there to try and save his daughter, you should find out more about it from your family over there,” he said and looked past me.
I studied his eyes closely, not sure of what I was looking for there as I swallowed this unusual information. I fished through all of the reasons why this was all impossible, ‘there was no way’ I thought over and over.
“At least the Elders were honest about one thing, the only thing your good at is spinning lies,” I said then reached over to hold both his wrists as Sonny had instructed me to.
“Wait... you said...” Erdos stuttered panicking now.
“I know what I said. I lied” I said a bit of satisfaction filling me as I looked at his face, confirming his worst fears. I looked him in the eyes as I drained the aura from his fata, pulling it all into my own body. I watched as his forehead crumpled and his eyes fill with tears of agony.
His body trembled as he tried uselessly to wriggle free and instead he fell to his knees moaning at first then screaming like a wounded animal. His agonized cries ripped through me and if the thoughts of my aunts dying moments weren’t swimming over and over in my mind I would have stopped.
Instead, I continued watching as the light died from his eyes and he writhed in pain while I looked down at him with great loathing, so raw it scared me once I became aware of it. ‘This is what it meant to take revenge.’ I reveled in his suffering at this moment. And even when the steady flow of energy stopped I still held firmly onto his wrists.
I then looked past his dull eyes to where I held him. See that I was the only thing holding him up and I saw that the hand that had been damaged earlier was now bleeding. My fingers had gripped his hand so tightly that they had burrowed themselves into his barely healed, charred flesh and I drew my hand away horrified. “I’m...” I began but then halted my apology remembering what I had gone through.
In no life would he ever get anything close to sympathy from me. Before I could step back any further two Aelfe from the Elders patrol took hold of each of his arms and carted him off. “You’ve done your part and done it well Sonny said coming to stand beside me, I must have heard him wrong because to me he sounded proud. I stayed quiet not knowing what to say.
“Let’s go get you bandaged up,” Del said coming up behind me and taking my arm.
I shifted from his hold awkwardly without looking at him. “It’s ok, I’m all healed up” I lied not feeling quite like myself. “I need to clear my head... I can’t eat fruits and veggies after all of this mess” I joked half-heartedly as I started off towards the checkpoint portal where all this had started.
He hurried to match my stride as he spoke “You are... coming back, right?” he asked trying to sound nonchalant.
I smiled for a moment imagining the expression on his face. “I will... I can’t have you hunting me down for wanting to live my life” I teased and this time he smiled nodding appreciatively.
The rest of the journey was endured in silence and I walked faster trying to get to the pond before my anxiety stifled me.
" Maybe I could come back with you since you won’t be--”
“That’s not necessary... I’ve got some, personal matters to take care of” I stated uncomfortably as we arrived at the entrance of the portal. “I’ll be fine and I’ll be back, tell everyone I’m ok for me,” I said the words quickly as I focused on the lake by the campus.
“Olivia about earlier...” he began seeming nervous.
I turned to answer him quickly “It was nothing, I must have been out of mind. Let’s just not talk about it” I blurted out sheepishly. The water in the pond melted away forming the entrance and I stepped towards it purposefully.
“You really think I could...” He tried once again and I stepped into the portal it’s warmth surrounding my body like a soothing embrace.
One more chapter to go guys. Thank you for making it this far.