Chapter Twenty Seven
Kyle’s lifeless body was still cradled in my arms as I let all the pain and wrath bubble within me. In the back of my mind, the fleeting thought of our crumbling relationship rushed around, reminding me of all the fights and misunderstandings we had shortly before everything went to hell. But even with that knowledge, the only thing I could think of as I stared into his still form was the fact that he died for me, and his killer was standing right in front of me.
“Kyle…” Catherine whispered, taking a hesitant step towards us.
“Don’t you dare speak his name!” the scream that erupted from my lungs was loud enough to stop her in her tracks. “Don’t you dare stand there and act all innocent, like you didn’t just kill an innocent man, like you didn’t try to kill me, like you didn’t sell out your entire species for a taste of black magic.” Slowly, as I if was handling a sleeping baby and not a cold dead body, I slid away from my ex and rose to my feet. Heat rushed through my veins sending flames out of my palms that I did not remember summoning. A sudden warm breeze surrounded us, seconds later turning into an ever-growing storm. A tiny, barely recognizable voice in my head whispered of the danger to come but I was too consumed in my fury to pay attention. Underneath my feet, the ground shook and rocks floated around in a dizzying manner, some even zooming by my face and barely missing it.
“I always knew you were selfish, it was obvious in the way you treated everyone. Hell, we all knew you were a conceited, back stabbing bitch but this, this is a whole new level even for you.” My hair was floating around me, strands of white locks getting in my eyes before the wind tore them away. A sharp gasp brought my attention to the rest of the group who were all staring at the scene unfolding in front of them in shock and barely masked fear. The heat that consumed me would have scared me once upon a time, but all I felt now was power.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Catherine’s voice trembled as she shielded her face from the onslaught of the storm. “I didn’t do anything you’re accusing me of, why are you making all this up?”
“A liar till the very end, I see.”
“I’m not lying!” She screamed again. “I didn’t betray anyone and I sure as hell didn’t mean to kill Kyle.”
“I said,” I took two steps towards her “Don’t you dare say his name.”
Flames, as fiery as the deep pits of hell, surged from my hands and consumed my entire body from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. I was nothing but fire and wrath and it was all directed towards my dear cousin.
“Lilith!” Kira screamed, “Don’t do this!”
“Why not? She didn’t have a problem with killing people, why should I?”
“You’re nothing like her!” Rose exclaimed, “Don’t do something you might regret.”
“Oh, I won’t be regretting this.”
“Aline!” Chase’s voice was like a bucket of cold water poured over my head. But what’s one bucket to do against the raging inferno?
“Don’t call me that!” I screamed against the loud wind.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something bizarre. My once white locks, now consumed by the flames were slowly darkening and turning back to the raven hair I once had. As if my own body was trying to remind me of whom I was.
But Aline was weak. She was too naïve and too trusting and it got her killed.
Lilith was nothing like that.
The gasps of shock that escaped my friends went unnoticed by me this time. All of my senses were focusing on the murderer standing before me.
“Kill her or we will.” Eli harshly wiped the tears off of his face.
“We won’t let her get away with this.” Kevin backed him up.
My decision was already made and I didn’t need to be told twice.
In a last attempt to protect herself, Catherine summoned her fire and launched another attack. Her power was not be taken lightly, which was clear after what she did to Kyle, but it didn’t even come close to grazing me. One flick of my wrist sent her flames into a nearby tree and my shield, as if insulted, flickered brighter. If I had any doubt in my mind of her guilt, it vanished completely.
A cry of pain, anger and betrayal escaped the deepest darkest corners of my soul and my flames leapt forward.
Rose screamed, Kira dived forward and Catherine stood still, paralyzed with fear. Fire surrounded us all and in a split second, Rose summoned a shield of branches, rocks and dirt to protect the rest. However, my target was left unprotected. Blinded by anger, and driven by the ever throbbing pain of her betrayal in my chest, I commanded the twisting branches of the tree to hold her tight. Unable to move or run away, Catherine began to squirm.
“Please don’t do this!”She cried.
“Please, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to, I swear I didn’t want to hurt anyone.”
I closed my fist and with it, all the air supply vanished from her body. As she gasped for breath, the twisted pleasure of not having to hear her beg anymore sent a shiver down my spine.
In a moment of weakness, I faltered. That was my cousin up there, hanging from a tree, gasping for breath. Was I really going to do this? Against my better judgment, I turned to Chase for, what? I didn’t even know. Support? Did I want him to be alright with this? Or did I want him to stop me? Between the veiny shields Rose threw up I caught a glimpse of him and our eyes locked. Was that a nod he gave me? I took a step forward, internally begging for guidance but my foot hit something –or rather someone- and my moment of weakness came to an abrupt end.
I guess we’ll never know now.
Summoning back the fire was natural at this point and just as she did to Kyle, my flames exploded into her chest. Her screams of agony did nothing to soothe my pain but as I watched the life seep out of her I knew nothing would ever soothe her betrayal, not even her death.
As the fire sizzled out and her screams stopped, the silence that engulfed the academy was haunting.
I had read a lot of books about the noble battles different mystics have fought for their species, and most of them depict the rush of the fight quite well it makes you feel like you were there. But as I sank to my knees, drained and miserable, I realized none of those writers tell you about the numbness of the ‘after’. No one describes the fist that keeps squeezing your heart to the point where you feel it about to explode, no one talks about the boulder stuck in your throat but you don’t know if you want to scream or cry, or both. No one ever writes about the hollowness in your chest when you realize that the battle is over, but at what cost? The loss is too great and the pain is too real and you just want to curl up in a ball forever and cry your eyes out and maybe claw them out too because you have seen so, so much. It would have been nice to know that these emotions also came with the adrenaline of the fight, at least I might have been prepared. Or maybe nothing could have ever prepared me for this.
A hand touched my shoulder and I almost screamed. I may have leapt 10 feet into the air, I didn’t quiet remember, but my knees were throbbing and my palms were scratched anew.
“Hey, hey it’s me.” Rose’s voice sounded like it was miles away, like I was underwater and her voice was nothing but an echo. I blinked a couple of times, begging for my eyes to focus on what was in front of me instead of the limp body still attached to the tree.
Rose’s face finally came into focus, then Chase’s, then Eli and Kevin and the rest of our group. I did a quick scan, praying that I didn’t hurt any of them when I lost control.
Did I lose control? Or was I perfectly aware?
Pushing that question aside I was relieved to note than none of my friends were charred or burned or hurt, aside from the injuries they sustained before my little outburst.
“Are you okay?” Rose asked, stroking my cheek.
“I don’t think I can answer that.”
“Yeah, it was kind of a stupid question.”
“Can you stand?” Chase asked.
“I…” I attempted to get up but my knees wobbled slightly.
“I got you.” Reaching out, he placed both his arms under me and helped me up.
“I can’t believe that just happened.” Gabby sighed.
“What happened exactly?” Skylar asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine!” Rose shrugged.
“You two are idiots.” Gabby rolled her eyes.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kevin and Eli heading towards Kyle.
“What are you guys doing?” I tried to rush over there but Chase still held onto me.
“We’re portaling back to Halitus.” Eli’s voice cracked.
“We’re taking him home.” Kevin finished for him.
The tear that slid down my face felt exceptionally scorching. I wiped it away hastily and nodded.
“Sky, Brad, take some freshmen with you and do a quick scan of the academy. Make sure those creatures are gone.” Chase spoke, his voice full of authority. “Gabby and Rose, you two look for survivors. Don’t leave anyone behind. We have to portal back to the kingdoms but let’s make sure Lixierra is safe first.”
Everyone nodded and split into groups.
“What about us?” I turned slightly to look at him.
“You need to rest before we go. Besides, I figured you might need a few minutes alone with your best friend.”
At the mention of Kira my head snapped up and at the sight of her my heart leapt in my chest. My best friend was disheveled, to put it nicely. Her blue hair was a tangled mess on her head, her clothes were tattered and covered in mud and ash, but it was the look in her eyes that almost brought me to my knees again. She looked like she had just seen a ghost, which I suppose made sense since the best friend she thought died two years ago reincarnated in the form of her blonde, powerless new roommate.
“Kira.” I whispered.
Her eyes were unfocused, unshed tears held at the rim by willpower alone. I took a step towards her and it looked like the veil finally lifted with that motion.
The name was like a dagger to my chest, but I let it slide. Now was not the time.
“Is that really you?” She breathed.
“Yes.” I took another step.
“But, how?” She stepped forward and I almost cried happy tears.
“It’s a very long story.”
“I thought you were dead!”
“I was. In a way.”
“I don’t understand.” She was finally close enough to touch.
“I will tell you everything, I promise.” Tears streamed down my face. “But right now I really need my best friend.”
I suppose, after all that went down these past two years, I wasn’t the only one who needed her best friend. As Kira held me tight and we sobbed in each other’s arms, the full weight of missing my old life hit me like a ton of bricks. I loved Kira so much, both as Aline and as Lilith, but as much as I thought I knew what friendship was meant to be this past semester, nothing could ever come close to the bond we shared since childhood. I knew what life was like without her and Rose, I had spent two years living it, and I don’t want to ever go back there.
Minutes passed and the groups that went to scout the academy came back but we never let go of each other. I was relieved to notice that Gabby and Rose found some survivors, and Skylar and Brad said the academy was finally clear of The Grim ones and their portals. So it was now time to return to the kingdoms.
“The fight is not over.” Chase declared. “We don’t know the state the rest of the kingdoms are in so we have to prepare for the worse.”
The dark cloud of despair settled around us again, and as we looked around, we knew that this could be the last time we see each other for a very long time, if ever.
We said our goodbyes, hugging each other and making sure we were all good to fight before portals started materializing around us again.
“You two be careful. I can’t lose you again.” I held Kira and Rose in the tightest embrace I could manage.
“You too. Please be safe, we have a lot to talk about after this is all over.” Rose pointed her index finger in my face.
“Don’t disappear on us again.” Kira glared.
“I won’t, I promise.” I hugged them both one last time and watched with a heavy heart as they each hopped in a different portal.
“Are you ready?” Chase came up from behind me.
“Yes.” I nodded firmly and held his hand. “Let’s go save our home.”