I don’t know how long I had been running, but my chest felt so tight with anxiety that I could barely breathe. However, the adrenaline high was pushing me to continue moving my legs.
Ascanius had warned me, and I didn’t listen. How could I have been so selfish, when rescuing one man could have meant the death of another 5? I would have never been able to forgive myself if something happened to one of them. Hell, even if something happened to Gerardus I would kill myself. And I didn’t mean that in a figurative way.
For some reason, luck was on my side every time something like this happened, and thank God, this was once again the case.
As I rushed through the pine trees, I saw what gave me hope. I had never been so happy to see a black cape (literally). They were way closer than I had expected, and I knew it was because they had come to look for me.
The guys probably listened to my fast footsteps and rushed to me. I stopped and looked frantically around, all of them healthy and unharmed. They kept talking to me, but my mind was unable to pay attention to their words. I kept looking everywhere around us, knowing it wouldn’t be long until the vextalons came to join the party.
It wasn’t until Leo was grabbing my arms forcefully, standing a few inches away from me, looking at me more worried than I had ever seen him, that I realized the state in which I was.
I was in full hyperventilation, my breathing coming out uneven, tears staining my cheeks and that same despair nagging at my chest. And as I looked into his sky blue eyes, I finally felt oxygen entering my body, my mind finding peace after the terrible earthquake that had shaken me to my core.
“What happened Lib? Talk to me.” His tone of voice seemed alien to my ears, noticing for the first time he was actually worried.
However, before I could even respond, I felt our surroundings changing. I reacted by pushing him away from me, taking my knife out of my belt. If I was going to defeat those monsters, I had to do it my way and with the weapon I felt most comfortable with.
Leo’s confused expression changed as he also started to realize the change around us, but it was too late. Time froze around us, the sounds of nature disappearing in just a second. The guys were still able to move, the swords absorbing the magic thanks to the calieum, but it wasn’t enough. Their hands moved towards their swords in slow motion, and if the situation hadn’t been one as serious as life or death, I would have cracked up in laughter.
I spun around, trying to decipher where the hell the vextalons were, my knife ready to cut through their throats. As my head turned to my left I saw one of them approaching me fastly through the trees, and I turned around in time to stab it in the chest, a loud screech leaving its mouth full of sharp teeth. I took the knife out and its fatal claws moved to my face, creating a huge gash from the corner of my right eye to my mouth. I gasped and took a step back, the pain filling all of my senses quickly. My free hand reached my cheek in instinct, the blood staining my whole hand as it ran down my face and neck. The anger didn’t take long to replace the pain (thank you adrenaline) and I was ready to fight once again.
The vextalon fell to the floor badly injured, and I took the opportunity to kick it in the face with all of my strength and before it could move again, I kneeled and put the knife through its head, ending its life.
That seemed to loosen the magic that was stopping time, but the guys were still to slow to help. The magic still held on as there was still one vextalon left to kill, but I was too slow, again.
Before I could even process it, the other vextalon slammed into me with full force, sending me flying through the air into a tree. My back received the impact, knocking all the air out of my lungs before falling to the snow harshly. As I gasped desperately for air, I saw through my distorted vision as he approached Gerardus ready to have his blood for breakfast. I started to stand up using the tree for support and when I was securely on both feet, I charged towards it, tackling it to the ground right before he could snap his teeth on Gerardus’ throat.
The creature started to thrash below me while snapping its teeth inches away from my face. I had the knife ready to stab it on the chest as one of its claw stabbed me deeply into my shoulder. A scream left my lips, tears sliding down my blood-stained cheeks. The claw went out of my shoulder quickly, and before it could strike again I finally put the knife down into its chest, my hands moving the knife and twisting it making sure to kill it as quickly and efficiently as possible. The plan didn’t work though when the vextalon kept moving and screeching, making me anxious.
“Fucking.“- I took the knife and stabbed it again. “Die!” Finally, the knife was out, and with all my might I went for the throat, slicing through it so quickly that blood showered all over me.
I rolled away from it, my right hand holding on painfully to the knife. I gasped for air, starting to whimper as I felt pain in every joint and muscle of my body. My eyes closed as I tried to control the jumble of thoughts and emotions passing through my mind, knowing all too well I had been looking at death directly into its eyes, yet I was alive.
In just a couple of seconds, the guys were over me, talking hastily among themselves with nervousness.
“Back off! She needs space.” That was Tybalt, always being so nice, and all the emotions from before came back in a wave. I felt like an absolute piece of trash.
“I’m sorry, I’m so fucking sorry.” A sob escaped me involuntarily, and all of them shut up at once. I still had my eyes closed, and I couldn’t dare to open them to see their expressions of hatred.
“I shouldn’t have ever run away like that, it was stupid and selfish. I put your lives in danger and never gave it a thought, I just...” I couldn’t speak any further. “I wanted to save the man that gave me the happiest moments of my life.”
Of course, saying that was out of the question, so instead, I started rambling nervously, probably making the situation even worse. ”You all probably hate me right now, and you are in your every right to do that. If you want to leave me here to die, it’s okay, I really understand. Or if you want to kick me out of the Black Knights, that’s also fine. I don’t deserve having teammates like you, I am really the worst of the worst. And I-”
“Liberty!” His steel cold voice stopped me from rambling and forced me to open my eyes. His eyes were on mine in such a deep gaze that I felt a brutal tremor going down my spine. “Shut up.”
I opened my mouth to reply as the stubborn head I was and he took the opportunity to put a glass bottle on my lips and pour its content down my throat. The familiar taste of grape-flavored soda reached my senses and my eyes opened like plates knowing what comes after.
Leo didn’t take long to give me a canteen with water and lifted my head so I could drink without choking. I drank from it like a thirsty animal in the desert the moment my tongue and throat started to burst in flames at how spicy it was. I finished drinking and kept coughing, the spiciness really hard to get rid of.
“Why would you give it to me? You shouldn’t have wasted the ad remedium on me...”
“Stop Liberty. We are mad at you, but that doesn’t mean you deserve torture or death.” Tybalt said behind Leo, who was still crouched beside me with my head resting on his hands.
“You did give us quite the fright when we realized you were gone. We thought the mages had kidnapped you or something, but then we realized all your stuff was also missing, and we knew you had run away.” Quinn said with a sympathetic look on his face, not angry at all.
“Why would you go after me? You should have just left.” I asked remembering all the times Leo had threatened me of leaving me behind.
“Because we don’t leave anyone behind, ever,” Leo said while lifting me gently into his arms. My body was slowly becoming numb because of the medicine, and walking was out of the question.
“Did he seriously bullshit me all this time? I can’t believe it!” I thought amused, not really angry. I cast my eyes downwards, embarrassed at my own attitude. I left them, not respecting any codes or rules, and I seriously started to wonder if I belonged with them.
Then I realized in the compromising position I was with Leo and sparks started to erupt over my body, giving me goosebumps and a giddy feeling in my stomach. I cleared my throat in an attempt to forget the amazing feeling of being close to him and asked the important question.
“So, I guess if you are not leaving me to die, are you going to kick me out?" I asked gazing at everyone except Leo. I wasn't too keen on looking at him at the moment when I felt my whole body exploding in fireworks.
They looked at each other, their silence the only answer. But then, the person who I less expected to say something said enough to leave me and everyone there in shock.
"She should stay. Even though she left, she came back in time to save our asses. And she saved my life. I think that makes her worthy to stay." Gerardus said shuffling his feet, not very comfortable with his disclosure. But he looked at me anyway, a small grateful smile on his face.
To say I had my jaw on the floor is an understanding. I was definitely not expecting that, and not ever from him.
"I knew he had a heart somewhere inside his chest."
"Good to know that you don't hate me anymore." I smiled at him, grimacing instantly when I felt the pain on my right cheek.
"Who said anything about that? I still do not like you." His joking tone making a chuckle erupt from all of us.
"If Gerardus is saying that she should stay, then a miracle has happened and she needs to stay," Quinn said, sighing as if there was no other choice.
Tybalt and Althalos agreed on that, and I couldn't avoid my eyes tearing up a little with emotion.
"Then you can still be a Black Knight, Liberty." Leo said from above me and I was ecstatic with happiness.
"Thank you so much, I promise to be loyal to all of you. Brotherhood before anything." I promised, meaning it with my whole heart. I sniffed as a few rebel tears escaped my eyes.
“And If I do this kind of shit again you have my permission to tie me up and throw me into an ice-cold river.” They laughed as they started to joke and talk to me, everything going back to normal. Well, as normal is it could be with me on Leo's arms and my whole body feeling numb.
We started to move towards the horses, ready to get the hell out of there. Leo's head suddenly moved downwards, his mouth on a direct level with my ear.
“I would tie you up, but throwing you the river is not the first thing that comes to mind.” he whispered quietly, his tone husky and sexy. He then proceeded to lift his head and act as if nothing had happened.
As my brain analyzed his words and understood the implicit meaning, a full blush covered my face as embarrassment flooded my entire being. Thank God my face was covered in blood and it wasn't noticeable. And if it was any possible, the sparks turned to full electricity, going up and down my spine in a way that was so not appropriate. I had never wanted to be far away from him like in that moment.
"That kinky bastard..."