Spirit of Fire

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Chapter Twenty: Shatter

Coburn

Saf and I freeze.

They’re here. They’re actually here.

“How are you . . . you can’t leave the Shadow Realm,” Saf trails off, her voice shaking.

Midnight scoffs, “where’s the fun in knowing how a magician does their tricks?”

It has to be the eclipse.

It increased the dark energy of our world enough for them to be able to travel here.

How did this slip past everyone?

Midnight’s cold gaze pierces me through the darkness. It’s enough to make my nerves stand on end, as though a monster is lurking behind her dark eyes and is waiting to pounce. I try my best to keep my fear to myself, lightly squeezing Saf’s hand.

“We have to get a signal out to Luna,” I mutter.

In the next breath, she holds her hand straight up, sending a small firework high into the air, watching the light explode in the sky. The sparks gently cascade down, fading away before they can hit the ground below.

Now we just have to stall them until Luna and the others can get here.

Nox raises an eyebrow, “fireworks are a bit much, don’t you think? Luna and the others can’t help you now.”

Saf rolls her eyes, but doesn’t say anything in return.

“It’s the eclipse, isn’t it?” I start, “that’s how you’re able to do this.”

“Very good, lover boy,” Midnight says with a sickeningly sweet tone.

I hate it when she calls me that.

I grip Saf’s hand tighter.

“Don’t worry,” Midnight continues, “our plan won’t take long, I’ll be sure to leave time to properly say goodbye to you.”

My stomach lurches, chills crawling over my skin before I quickly glance over at Saf, her eyes burning with intense anger.

“Stay the fuck away from him,” she hisses.

Midnight scoffs, “who are you to say what I can and cannot do?”

“Someone who knows what you did and is going to make sure it never happens again,” she says forcefully as sparks shoot out of her free hand.

Midnight raises her eyebrows and blinks, the smile still on her face, “fine. Have your vendetta then, see if I care.”

Saf clenches her teeth together, taking a deep breath, but doesn’t respond.

“What’s your plan here, anyways? Why are you doing this?” I ask, shifting into an attack stance.

“I would think you would know,” Nox starts, “you two are the ones that stole from us.”

The colour drains from Saf’s face.

“Well, it’s been fun, but we really must go, especially if I’m going to have time with you later,” Midnight winks at me with an evil smirk.

No. That’s not going to happen. It won’t. It can’t.

Saf lets go of my hand and puts both her arms out in front of her, sending a flurry of flames in Nox and Midnight’s direction as they quickly dive out of the way. The flames illuminate the area, my eyes taking a moment to adjust.

“I said stay away from him!”

Saf . . .

“You little bitch,” Nox rushes at Saf and I quickly put up a wall of rushing water so that neither of them can get close, allowing Saf and I to catch our breath.

“Ready?”

She nods with a small smile as I let the shield down, sending a wave towards the twins, “we can do this,” she breathes.

“The others should be here any second,” I mumble before I catch a glimpse of a shadow from Midnight heading right for Saf, “watch out!”

She looks up the moment before it hits her and she’s able to shoot a fiery beam in direct opposition to the darkness, pressing against Midnight’s attack.

Sparks fly everywhere as Saf’s fire pushes against the collection of shadows, contorting her face.

Out of the corner of my eye I see an attack from Nox heading my way, and I quickly duck my head to avoid it, putting up a defensive barrier in response.

He sends never ending waves of shadows towards me. The inky black attacks bounce off my shield, but I know I need to have some kind of attack plan; I can’t just rely on my defensive abilities.

I glance at the now crashing waves of the ocean, watching the waves get higher and higher as an idea forms together in my head.

With one arm I manage to keep the shield up to prevent myself from getting hurt, using my other hand to see if I can gain control of the now unruly ocean waves.

They respond.

I focus my energy and manage to take control of a small section, manipulating it so it rushes towards him, the water resembling gray ink due to the lack of light. His eyes widen and he moves out of the way, but not before hitting his arm.

I glance over at Saf for a moment, still in a locked attack with Midnight. I notice Saf’s hands beginning to shake, her body looking as though it is fighting to stay upright.

Nox narrows his eyes at me; he must be able to tell I’m concerned about her.

“Since you have a good idea at what we’re planning, why don’t we see if it’ll work,” he looks between Saf and I.

What is he suggesting?

I throw an attack at him before closing the space between us, “stay away from her! She’s suffered enough at your hands.”

He shrugs, “I’m well aware of that.”

Suddenly Saf lets out a yell and I turn, watching as Midnight’s attack hits her side, knocking her to the ground. She clutches the sides of her head, grimacing, shutting her eyes tightly.

The last time she looked like that was back in the Manor, when . . .

My thoughts click together, and I realize what he’s doing.

I’m not watching her go through that again.

I can’t.

Nox swiftly dodges another one of my attacks and I put up a shield of water around Saf to prevent Midnight from hurting her, “let her go!”

He grins, no remorse in his eyes, “no. She’ll be your downfall.”

I narrow my eyes, “what’s that supposed to –”

I suddenly feel the pain I’ve heard so much about radiate through my head, and I drop to the ground.

Unable to fight back.

No.

My worst fear, it’s coming true.

I can’t. I have to fight this.

The memory of Midnight comes rushing back to me, every ounce of fear I felt on that day pulsing through me, as though I’m being forced to relive it.

Every feeling.

Every emotion.

How badly I wanted to scream.

I cry out, covering my eyes, the pain enveloping me.

You let this happen, the voice says.

“Stop!”

You wanted this.

It’s your fault.

Before the pain gets any worse, I hear a voice that sounds vaguely familiar from several meters away. I can’t make out their words. Seconds later, the entire area of the beach is covered in a pitch-black mist and the pain subsides as quickly as it appeared.

I become more aware of my surroundings, finding Saf next to me. I take her hand in mine. She’s clutching her side, curled up in the sand, her eyes shut tight, breathing hard.

“Are you okay?” I cup her cheek with my fingers.

She looks at me with a shaky exhale, blinking several times before a small, relieved smile appears on her face.

She nods, “I am now,” she contorts her face for a moment, “what’s going on? I can’t see anything.”

I look up at the dark mist that surrounds us, noticing the shimmer that ripples through it.

There’s only one person I know who creates fog like this.

Luna.

The mist dissipates and my eyes meet Luna, Ana and Ehren standing a few meters away at the forest edge. Luna is housing a look I haven’t seen on her before. The usual kindness in her eyes is nowhere to be found and is instead replaced by a bitter hostility; anger etched onto her face as she analyses her siblings. This must be the first time she’s seeing them in years, and I don’t think it’s going to be a happy reunion. Even from here, I can sense her intensity.

She glances at Saf and I, mouthing ‘get behind me’ as we get up and join her.

“You two okay?” Ehren mumbles.

Saf shrugs and shakes her hand as if to say ‘so-so,’ grimacing.

I wrap my arms around her and pull her close to me as Nox and Midnight get up to face us. Luna must have attacked them through the mist or something; I was too out of it to fully realize what was going on around me.

“Half breed,” Nox mutters to himself, glaring at Luna.

I see Luna clench her fists together, but she doesn’t attack again.

She takes a deep breath.

“I assume the eclipse is the only reason you’re even able to be here. You can’t last much longer. Why even bother?”

“Hello to you too, Luna,” Midnight mocks.

Shadows form in Luna’s palms, “after the way the two of you treated me my entire life, after what the two of you have done, you don’t deserve my kindness anymore,” her tone is so sharp I’m sure it could cut them in two.

I’ve never seen this side of her before.

Nox scoffs, “nothing was ever serious.”

Luna sends a shadowy attack towards them, “are you kidding me? Nothing was ever serious?” She steps forward, “I guess killing Ryker wasn’t serious then. Neither was mentally traumatizing everyone who stands before you right now. Not to mention using a Fire Wielder as your puppet for destruction. No, everything was always serious, you liar!” She’s shouting by the end.

I hold Saf tighter as she rests her cheek on my chest, her face still towards the scene in front of us, my fingers curling through her hair.

“You’re not going to stop this, Luna,” Midnight starts, “this island and everyone on it will be ours. Think of how happy father would be for the two of us.”

“I could give less of a fuck about father right now!” She cries, “he’s been in this world for too long, he can’t do anything.”

My eyes widen.

He’s been around all this time?

And Luna knew about it?

“You’re saying father is alive?” Nox blinks at her.

Luna covers her mouth with a sharp inhale, stepping back.

“Luna!” Midnight shouts, nothing but pure rage in her voice, sending a flurry of shadows towards us.

Luna quickly puts up a shield, causing the shadows to bounce off before they can hit us.

“I need to put a protective barrier around the city,” she explains, “cover me and keep them occupied, I shouldn’t be too long.”

“Sounds good,” Ehren starts, “get behind me, guys.”

Luna retreats to the forest edge as a wispy dome begins to take shape around the trees and heading upwards, to encase the city.

Ehren puts his arms out as the ground begins to shake where Nox and Midnight are standing. The sand shifts beneath them, the grains flying into the air in response to the vibrations, making it impossible for them to move a step without losing their balance. The wind in the area begins to pick up and I notice Ana concentrating as the wind grows stronger and stronger, nearly at the pace it was when she was compelled, but without the same level of the cold. Her wind coupled with the small earthquake is enough to knock the twins over, before Ehren and Ana lower their hands.

Saf looks at me with a determined grin, nodding.

The four of us run over to the twins as they get up. Nox makes a beeline for Saf and Ehren, while Midnight starts attacking Ana and I.

The fighting forces our groups apart, Ana and I near the ocean’s edge.

Perfect.

“You know,” Midnight starts as she throws shadows at the two of us, “I can’t help but notice how comfortable you and Saffire are with each other. Reminds me of another couple I knew, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I glare, sending a wave in her direction.

“You don’t get to comment on that,” Ana hisses.

Is Midnight seriously comparing Saf and I to Ana and Ryker?

“Hmm, just think, if we deal with Saffire, then maybe we could compel you to jump off a roof too!”

I feel the colour drain from my face as I take in Midnight’s words, before all my fear surrounding her morphs into animosity.

If she wants to taunt me about our past, then fine, but she crossed the line. Not only for me, but for Saf and Ana too.

“You have no right to say that, ever.” I throw another wave in Midnight’s direction, which only narrowly misses her as she quickly dodges the attack.

I glance over at Ana and see rage building in her face.

She catches my gaze, and it’s as though I can read her thoughts for a split second.

Hurricane.

She builds a whirlwind between her fingers as I send wave after wave of water towards the small tornado, watching it build larger and larger until it’s twice the size of us. The force of the attack causes the wind to wrap around us, Ana’s hair flying in all directions before she directs the cyclone towards Midnight. She throws shadow after shadow at it, but it’s no use, and if anything, only causes the small hurricane to spin faster. The force of it finally hits her and sends her flying backwards, giving us a moment to catch our breath.

Ana looks at me, offering me a high five, which I take.

“I suppose all that practice with Raphael paid off,” she laughs, taking a breath.

I smile . . . before the pain comes back.

I place my hands on my head, trying, fighting to stay upright. I glance over at Ana and notice her grimacing, her hands wrapped around the back of her neck, clutching her hair tightly between her fingers as she quietly cries out.

“Not again, I can’t do this again. I can’t,” I hear her mumble, her voice breaking.

I grab her hand for a split second, “it’s okay,” I try to reassure, but I can’t ignore the pressure building in my head, my heart pounding, the pain feeling as though something is trying to crush my head. I catch a glimpse of Ehren and Saf a few meters away, and they both appear to be in a similar state to Ana and I.

Nox looks as though he is concentrating hard, unable to focus on anything else that’s going on around him.

I could attack, but I don’t have the strength to focus on anything other than the pain.

It’s demanding to be known.

To be the only thing I can focus on.

I fall to the ground, my vision blurring, my heartbeat echoing in my ears. I try to resist the voice, but I can’t block it out, the pain getting worse and worse with each passing second.

I lay on my back, feeling my hands shake.

You wanted it.

You want this.

Just give in.

I catch a blurred glimpse of Luna finishing the protective barrier, and she rushes towards her brother, taking his shirt in one hand and holding dark shadows to his neck.

“Let them go!”

He glances towards Ehren and Saf, a smirk on his face as he puts up his hands in a surrender formation, the pain subsiding, leaving as quickly as it appeared.

I catch my breath as I get up, Ana joining me.

“You all right?” I whisper, my energy starting to feel drained.

“Yah,” she shakes her head, looking at Luna, who looks angrier than ever, “doesn’t look like they’re going to try that again.”

I glance behind us and see Midnight starting to get up, a scowl on her pale face.

I turn back to Nox and Luna, with Nox still smirking, as though he knows a secret as Ana and I make our way over to the area.

Luna’s eyes widen at her brother before she shoves him backwards, “what did you do?” She demands, suspicion and disgust in her face.

I glance at Ehren and Saf. Ehren looks okay, if not a little shaken.

But Saf doesn’t look like herself.

She stands perfectly still, her teeth clenched together, something resembling pain in her face. Her normally bright eyes have dulled to a dark green, like that of a forest; a haunted forest full of darkness. Flames form in her palms, ready to attack at any moment.

Ehren looks between her and I, giving me a confused look, but there’s some semblance of panic in his expression as well.

I look back at Saf, and notice the dark energy surrounding her, confirming my suspicions of what is happening.

No. She can’t be.

She whips her head towards me and glares at me darkly, running towards me.

“Saf?” I back away and put my arms out before she sends a flurry of flames towards me, and I barely have enough time to put up a watery shield to protect myself.

I glance over at the others, who are now busy dealing with the twins, Midnight rejoining the fight.

This is my battle.

Saf sighs loudly after her attacks prove futile, and I lower my shield, stepping closer to her.

“Don’t do this, Saf.”

I go to reach for her before she grabs my forearm tightly, the area feeling hot as a fire sparks in her palms.

I grimace, but manage to slip my arm out of her grasp as my adrenaline causes the burning sensation to subside slightly, but not enough for me to completely ignore it. She lunges at me and tries to get a fiery kick at me, which I only narrowly miss as I dodge out of the way.

She has to be in there.

This isn’t her.

How can I get through to her?

I remember what Luna said about possession back when Ana got compelled: it affects everyone differently. So, what helped Ana break through might not work for Saf.

I have to figure out some way to connect to the real her.

“Don’t pretend you care,” she hisses.

Her words hit me like a dagger, knocking the wind out of me.

This isn’t her, Coburn.

It’s not her.

I grab her wrist, “that’s not true and you know it.”

She fights against my grasp, and I manage to push her backwards towards the waters edge. She glances towards the water, grimacing.

An idea pops into my head: help her remember who she is.

“Remember why you love the ocean,” I start, watching as she shuts her eyes, hard, contorting her face.

Is it working?

She snaps her head up moments later, breathing hard, but with no light in her eyes.

No.

Keep fighting Saf.

She lets out a yell and hits the sands of the beach with her hand, a shockwave of flames pushing outwards in a circle, the force of it nearly knocking me over. I feel my body radiate heat, but I can’t focus on it now. It feels dulled somehow, like my body is helping me to block out the pain.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” I put my hands up in defense again, “you can fight through this.”

She clenches her teeth together and sends another wave of attacks towards me. None of them get through and I manage to keep the shield up, but I can feel myself getting weaker by the second.

I know my limits, and I know I’m not going to last much longer.

What if I can’t do this?

She snarls and clasps her hands together, the ground igniting in a line towards me, sparks flying in every possible direction, and I jump out of the way, pulling her back to me.

“I know you’re in there,” I whisper, catching a glimpse of her ring, “remember the reason behind your name.”

I let her slip out of my grasp as she backs away, placing her hands on her head, grimacing in pain, a shout escaping her.

She’s not giving up.

She can do this.

I look back over at the twins, who are still battling the others.

Just let her go!

I can’t watch her suffer like this.

I lower to the ground, catching my breath for a moment. Parts of my arms are bright red, making my skin look splotchy. A wave of panic washes over me, but it leaves as quickly as it appears.

With a deep breath, I get up again as she narrows her eyes at me.

Her gaze looks as though it’s darker than it was before, the green colour of her eyes almost completely gone.

She manages to get an attack in that hits my right shoulder, the area radiating a dull pain; I can tell it’s going to hurt much worse later. I contort my face before she begins to run at me. I back up as quickly as I can, towards the area where the forest meets the soft sand.

I put up one last shield, but it doesn’t stop her in the slightest. She completely dives through it, as though she is diving through a layer of glass, knocking me over onto the sand. Before she can do anything, I take her shoulders and use what momentum I have to push her onto her back.

“Saf, please, remember who you are,” I whisper, unable to catch my breath, the soft sand in my palms.

“I know who I am,” she says darkly, narrowing her eyes, “I’m an orphan who only knows how to destroy.”

So, they did use her parents to take advantage of her.

Evil snakes.

She puts her hands on my arms as a fire sparks in her palms, causing me to jerk my hands back as she pushes me off balance.

I do my best to ignore the dull throbbing pain, contorting my face as she moves on top of me. I envelop her fist with my hand just as she tries to get another hit in. I’m thankfully able to use my abilities to extinguish any flame that has the chance to form on her fist.

She tries to push her arm down against my grasp, but I hold her steady, “This is not you,” I say softly, emotion peeking through my voice.

“This is me. Why won’t you fight back?” She demands.

“I’m not fighting you,” I say without thinking, tucking some of her hair behind her ear with my free hand, “I’m not going to hurt you.”

She blinks at me for a few moments, grimacing, before she removes her fist from my grip with a frustrated groan.

“Fine. Then this will be easy,” she taunts.

I have just enough energy to create a barrier to protect myself with my arm, but my strength is almost completely gone.

“Saf, don’t,” I breathe.

But it’s no use.

I keep the shield up as much as I can, but every attack she lands on it makes the barrier crack. They’re small at first, but they gradually grow, larger and larger.

I can’t hold this up.

I can’t do this.

I dissociate, remembering the first time we met, flying my kite with her in the late afternoon as kids, her bright red curls blowing in the salty breeze. The sun shining on her skin, making her freckles stand out on her pale face. Her smile that seemed to light up everything around her. Fast-forwarding to the day I threw her over my back into the ocean. She was beautiful, her bright green eyes reflecting the blue tinge of the water. She captivated me. Her laughter was the sweetest sound in the world, her happiness radiating from her in that moment.

I’m vaguely aware of Saf breaking through the barrier, shattering the water in all directions as I’m pulled back to reality.

This is it.

I can’t hold her off.

I’m not going to hurt her.

I look up at Saf, a flame forming in her fist as she gets ready to attack me one last time, before she stops, her eyes locking on mine.

“Saf . . .”

She glances around the surroundings before blinking at me, the flame around her fist evaporating.

Her emerald eyes push through the darkness enveloping her, the colour returning to her face. I notice her shaking, the shock and confusion on her face.

I cough, my whole upper body and parts of my legs feeling warmer by the second, the pain intensifying in my bad shoulder as my adrenaline begins to subside slightly.

“Coburn?” Her voice is barely audible, shaky, but she’s there.

She’s back.

I place my hand on her cheek, “hey, Sparks.”

She blinks a few more times as she analyses me, “what happened? One second I was fighting the voice and the next . . .” she gasps, covering her mouth, “oh my God, I did this to you,” she trails off, tears forming in her eyes as I carefully sit up, trying not to aggravate my pain further.

“It wasn’t you,” I start, before she pulls me into the tightest embrace I’ve ever felt, feeling her sob into my good shoulder.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she says between sobs, “this is where we first met, and I almost killed you here. I almost killed you in one of the most important places to me. He used my parents to take control of me. I couldn’t get it to go away, I couldn’t. I couldn’t. I was so scared. The word sorry isn’t even enough to tell you how awful I feel about all this. Are you okay?”

I can’t imagine how she must be feeling. I know it wasn’t her behind her actions. She was manipulated, turned into some kind of unrecognizable monster. It wasn’t her. I just want to give her everything right now, but I think the best thing I can do for her right now is just be there for her. She’s doing the same thing for me, whether she’s aware of it or not.

“I’m all right,” I whisper, tears forming at the corners of my eyes, “Luna can heal me. None of what just happened was your fault.”

I glance up at the sky, and I see the moon retreating away from the sun, filling the area with light.

The eclipse, it’s almost over.

We’re almost through this.

“Saf, look at me.”

We pull away from the hug, and I wipe away the tears from one side of her face with my thumb, a weak smile forming on her lips.

“It’s okay. I’m okay. I’m okay because you fought through it.”

She lets out a shaky exhale covering her mouth with her hand before shutting her eyes, her whole body vibrating as she leans against me.

“You’re so strong, Saf,” I breathe against her, kissing the top of her head, “you never stopped fighting.”

The sky gets brighter and brighter as I hold her, the sun chasing away the darkness. My adrenaline hasn’t quite slowed down enough quite yet for me to completely feel the burns or the rest of my injuries but they are beginning to feel sharper.

I watch the others as they stop the fighting, Nox and Midnight getting visibly weaker and weaker as the sky brightens. Their attacks become less frequent, their shadows lightening, becoming translucent instead of opaque.

Saf looks behind her as we get up, slowly approaching the scene.

“The eclipse is almost done,” Luna’s voice comes into earshot, “you can’t stay here.”

“This is not over, sister,” Midnight snarls, though she looks out of breath as she creates a portal. Instead of our lilac coloured ones, theirs is the darkest shade of gray, maybe one shade lighter than pure black, with no light in the swirls.

Only darkness.

Saf wraps her arms around me and keeps her back to the twins; not that I blame her. I can barely look at them after what they did to Saf.

She is still vibrating, taking deep breaths, her head resting against my good shoulder. I lace my fingers in her hair, holding her close.

Ehren’s eyes widen at the sight of me.

I must look terrible.

“What the hell happened?” He mumbles.

“I’ll tell you after,” I whisper.

I glance at Ana, who blinks at me several times before giving me a weak grin.

“We made it,” her voice is barely audible.

Saf holds me tighter, a few shaky breaths escaping her, but she is starting to vibrate less and less with each passing second. Though she doesn’t look up, keeping her face buried against my chest.

I wish I could take this away from her somehow.

“Though, before we go,” Nox starts, one foot in the portal, “here’s a going away present for you.”

He twirls his knife between his fingertips before throwing it towards us.

Before anyone can realize what is happening, the knife sails through the air, coming closer, closer.

A stifled gasp escapes Saf. . . as the blade lands in her back.

No!

All the warmth leaves me, the blood draining from my face.

I break.

Shattering into a million pieces.

She collapses in my arms, her nails digging into me, as though she’s clinging to her life.

“Saf! Hey! You’re okay,” I let out a shaky exhale, tears forming in the corners of my eyes, “please, you’re okay.”

Ana collapses as Nox goes through the portal, and the last thing I see of him is a satisfied smirk on his face.

Ehren tries to run after the portal but is too late, letting out a frustrated yell as he clutches his hair between his fingers.

Luna rushes up to Saf, and I’m suddenly outside myself.

I lose all feeling in my body as I lay her down on her side. I can’t feel my burns, or any pain I was feeling before; everything is numb. I catch a look at the handle of the blade in her back, and I realize it’s the same one he had with him when he ambushed us back in the Manor’s library.

The sight nearly makes me throw up.

Luna begins to hover her hands over Saf’s back, concentrating, and I notice how exhausted she looks, her hands trembling slightly as she contorts her face. She has the same stony look to her eyes that she had when she was healing Ryker.

Before he died.

No, stay here in this moment, don’t go there.

I run my hand through Saf’s hair, watching her green eyes dull as the light begins to leave them, nothing but pain enveloping her features.

No . . . she can’t be dead.

She just can’t.

I take her hand, tears forming in my eyes, “stay with me, focus on me. Please . . .Saffire . . .” I trail off.

She blinks at me with a shaky breath, a weak smile tugging at the corners of her lips for a split second as she gives my hand a light squeeze, before she grimaces again.

“I don’t want to die,” her voice is barely audible.

“You won’t,” I can hardly speak, “I promise.”

Luna looks up at me for a moment, the kindness returning to her eyes as they begin to water, “Coburn, it’s okay.”

I nod as she brings her energy back to Saf, before I feel a hand on my shoulder.

Ana.

The tears roll down my cheeks as Ana gently lowers to the ground, comforting me. Ehren joins the hug moments later, but even his calming energy isn’t enough to break through my emotions.

“I’m sorry,” Ana whispers, “I’m so sorry.”

I can’t form words.

This is out of my hands now.

My best friend.

My love.

She’s dying.

She’s dying.

And I can’t help her.

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