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Chapter Eighteen

He’s dead.

I still couldn’t believe it, even as I started at the body. Ryval’s laughter was ringing in my ears, and tears were welling in the corners of my eyes. I stood paralysed, unable to move or think. I could hear Lydia’s crying mixing in with that horrid laughter, the two juxtaposing sounds further cementing what had just happened.

My mouth felt very dry. Very, very dry, like the desert after missing out on its yearly rain. I could feel a lump in my throat as those welling tears began to dribble down my cheeks, and I slowly covered my mouth as I watched Ryval yank the spear from Nathan’s neck, not only tearing his throat open, but causing him to slump to the ground like a sack of meat.

Everyone… I’m so sorry, I wanted to whisper. But I couldn’t get words out. I couldn’t force myself to say anything. This death had come so soon after Aidan’s, and… there was something else bothering me about this particular death, too. I didn’t know what it was, yet, although those sinking feelings I’d felt earlier – the ones that had occurred each time I’d looked at Nathan – had something to do with it, I was sure.

Ryval’s laughter was beginning to annoy me, so I was grateful – and confused – when it ended. I could hear talking in the Nephilim tongue, and I looked over to see Ryval staring into the tree line, brows furrowed in confusion and caution. It was then that something moved in the shadows of a few trees, and I felt my bemusement grow, and then shock exploded through me as someone shot out and slashed with a steel blade. The metal sunk into Ryval’s arm and almost sliced right through it, sinking halfway into the bone before being dragged out.

Ryval screamed, and I jumped, hearing a frightened shout from Tiff. The scream made my ears ring and my head throb. It was filled with fury and agony, and I tried to block my hearing by clapping my hands over my ears, but it didn’t work. It was like her scream was more than vocal.

I winced, looking up as Ryval turned to face her attacker, only to have to suppress laughter as I watched her take the fist of her attacker – Lucion, I could now see – directly to the face. I heard a snort from behind me, and I looked over to see Soren covering his mouth, barely concealing amusement. I had to admit: seeing Ryval get punched in the face was hilarious. Especially because she seriously deserved it.

Ryval snarled as she stumbled back, but her eyes widened – as did mine – as I saw that Lucion looked infuriated. There was a vein prominently jutting out of his temple, and his fists were clenched so hard that his knuckles were turning white… and those whitening knuckles were splattered with black. It was that which caused me to examine the rest of the scene; Ryval was standing in a slightly dazed slump, blood dripping from her shattered nose, one eye bearing a dark bruise underneath it. Lucion stood directly in front of her, his face absolutely thunderous, and behind him – near to Lydia, Tiff, and Hailey – was Lilith, a small crossbow in one hand. Her eyes were trained on Ryval, and they held the same fury that Lucion was displaying.

Ryval wiped her face, wincing as she nudged her nose, and eyed the black smear on the back of her hand. Narrowing her eyes, she glowered up at Lucion, and hissed, “You bastard.”

“No,” he snarled. “You’re the bastard!” He leapt at her again, propelled by insane strength that was comparable to that of the Firstborn. Ryval, with her wounded arm, stood no chance of dodging, and was kicked hard in the side as Lucion twisted mid-leap and slammed the top of his foot directly into her ribs. I heard a cracking sound, and I winced as I backed off, going to Soren and watching the fight by his side.

“So,” Soren said softly, worriedly, as we watched Lucion strike Ryval more and more. “How do you feel about all this?” He gently touched my shoulder, looking into my eyes. I saw concern in his eyes, and I sighed softly. He knew how I felt; I could sense it.

“I…” There was no point in lying to him. No matter what, I still felt strongly towards him, despite all the arguments we’d had and the negativity we’d felt over the course of our ‘mission’. And I think he knew that, which was how he could easily read me. “I feel bitter, regretful… miserable.”

He nodded, eyes flicking briefly over to where Lydia, Tiff, Hailey, and Lilith were standing, before he returned his focus to me. “No wonder,” he whispered sadly. “Your mother is doing all of this, in some twisted revenge, for your sake…”

“I think it’s gone further than that now,” I sighed. “She’s psychotic. Insane, twisted, sick in the head. However you want to put it.” I looked up at the battle, and noticed that Ryval was bleeding more, now. “Maybe once, it had been an act of her love for me… but now, it’s just plain murderous intent. It’s almost as if she likes the act of killing Humans, and it’s transcending her motherly love for me.”

Soren nodded, trying to understand what I had said, but blinked and looked towards Lucion and Ryval just as he heard the sound of someone fleeing. Looking over as well, I realised that the Demon woman had finally retreated, to nurse her injuries. Lucion was unharmed, and grunted as he sheathed his sword on his hip, before turning to the rest of us and sighing. “Nephilim are few enough. This death is just another blow.” He looked at Soren first, then at the weeping Lydia, and then at me out of the corner of his eyes, but I was only using my peripherals to notice this. Most of my attention was focused on the direction Ryval had gone.

I could go after her, I thought, looking at the trail of Demon blood. I clenched my fists a little bit. I could end her insanity once and for all…

I shook my head. No. In this situation, chasing after her and eliminating her would be pointless. She would be expecting that, I knew, and would have her pack of Hellbeasts waiting to rip anyone who followed to shreds. So, instead, I exhaled heavily, before turning to Nathan’s body.

“We need to take Nathan back to the safehouse,” I said softly, walking over and kneeling beside him, carefully closing his eyes. “We can bury him beside Iris, and Aidan’s memorial.”

Lucion nodded. “A good idea.” He knelt down and picked Nathan’s body up carefully, with the utmost respect. I was glad that he showed that respect to our fallen friend; it showed that he was a good person. “Let us return to your designated safehouse.”

I nodded, looking over at Lydia. She was still sobbing, so obviously we couldn’t ask her to drive back. “Lucion, can you drive?” I mean, I could drive, but I preferred not to.

Lucion shook his head. “No, I cannot, but Lilith can.” He looked back at his twin, who inclined her head a bit. She didn’t speak, but something passed between them, and he turned his gaze back to me before saying, “Yes, she’ll drive us all back to yours.”

Soren walked over and smiled ruefully. “Thank you, Lilith,” he said directly to the Nephilim woman. She merely nodded at him, pursing her lips, and he blinked a bit. “O…kay…?”

Lucion sighed. “Lilith, sister, it is usually not I who speaks the most. Is something troubling you?”

“Our father seemed – rightfully – concerned with Ryval’s actions,” she simply replied. “We must help the Firstborn and her comrades take Ryval down, and very soon.”

Lucion nodded, saying little more as Lilith carefully helped Lydia up, and helped her over to the car. Hailey and Tiff followed, as did Soren, then Lucion carrying Nathan’s corpse. I hesitated, looking back at where Ryval had fled, and exhaled heavily. Last chance, Sai. Last chance, said the voice in the back of my head, but I forced it down and followed my companions.

Lilith got into the driver’s seat of Nathan’s car, sitting Lydia in the passenger seat. Hailey got into the back seat behind the driver, Soren sitting next to her, and Lucion sitting beside him after sitting Nathan behind the seats in the boot. Tiff and I sat in those boot seats; it felt a little creepy, knowing a dead body was behind me, but I ignored it. It was, after all, Nathan’s body.

Driving back was a solemn affair. Nobody spoke, and nobody turned the radio on. I hugged myself, looking over at my best friend to notice that she looked tired and miserable. Soren and Hailey were in no better condition, and Lydia had fallen asleep in exhaustion. Lilith and Lucion were very quiet as the female Nephilim drove, and neither of them spoke as we continued to drive, pulling up to the safehouse after a long while of driving. The drive back had seemed so much longer than the drive to Ryval’s locale…

I got out first. My heart felt like it was lodged in my throat, and I was beginning to feel choked up. Tiff, Soren, and Hailey got out, with Lilith waking Lydia and helping her out of the vehicle. Lucion carefully pulled out Nathan’s body, and soon walked over to where the other two gravestones were, laying Nathan to the side before turning to us and saying, “Here?” in a quiet, respectful voice.

Lydia slowly, tearfully nodded. “Yes. There.” Her voice was a mere whisper, and she was shaking, needing to be held upright by Lilith. “Bury him there…”

Lucion nodded, before using his Magic to create a grave. He laid Nathan in it, folding his arms so his hands were crossed over the centre of his chest, left hand over right, before carefully covering him up. He said nothing as he created a marker, stepping back so Soren could Magically engrave something upon it. I stayed back, watching as tears dripped down my cheeks. The weight of Nathan’s death was crushing me, and I didn’t understand why. Sure, I had been distressed over Aidan’s death, but nothing like this

I didn’t – or, rather, couldn’t – stick around for the eulogy. I excused myself from Tiff’s side and hurried into the trees, returning to the place where I’d first discovered Augral was my father. Here, I sat down on a log and… began to bawl. I lost it. I couldn’t help but begin to cry, my mind linking events. The pancakes. We had all eaten pancakes cooked by Nathan – as a sort of last meal – yet he had been the only one to not eat them. It was… stupidly coincidental. But at the same time, that mere coincidence was probably why I was so distressed. And those feelings. Why hadn’t I trusted those horrible gut feelings I had been getting? Every time I’d looked at him, I’d felt my stomach and my heart sink. I should have realised it sooner. I… I had subconsciously known all along, and I didn’t know how I had, but… I had known.

You will all eventually require the aid of the Demon Sage’s two Nephilim children, Lucion and Lilith, in place of Aidan... and another who is soon to die.

Oracle hadn’t wanted to tell us. I didn’t know why she hadn’t wanted to tell us… but maybe it was because of Lydia, the most bent up about Nathan’s death. Something made me wonder if Nathan had known, felt that he was next, and had kept it from everyone, accepted it. How he…

Her eyes lingered on him.

My eyes widened as I recalled this. Her eyes had – briefly – lingered on him as she had said those fateful words. That’s how he knew! I began to shake as I realised how blind I had been. How could I have been so stupid?! I buried my face in my hands as I cried. I could have prevented it, I thought, sobbing. I could have told him to stay back at the safehouse… If I had he would still be—

“Sai?” came a quiet voice, and my head shot up. I hadn’t heard anyone approach, but as I saw who it was, more tears streamed down my face. It was Hailey. “Are… you alright?”

I went to lie, but, “No,” came out of my mouth instead. “No, I’m not.” I looked away as she quietly strode over and sat down beside me, worry tugging downwards at the corners of her mouth. “I was blind. I should have guessed it was Nathan.”

“You had no way of knowing,” she said gently, not seeming to understand. “You couldn’t have known Nathan would be next.”

“But there were signs, Hailey,” I sobbed, looking at her, tears streaming down my cheeks. “Oracle’s lingering gaze on Nathan when she revealed to us what she’d seen was the biggest sign… and then… every time I looked at him I got a horrible feeling…” I shook my head. “It was all there. All the signs…”

Hailey reached over and set her hand on my shoulder. “Sai, it was inevitable anyway.” She carefully brushed her hair out of her face, revealing a strange golden eye underneath. “Oracle isn’t the only one with prophecy. I am too.” She sighed as she looked up at the sky, which was beginning to turn pink as the sun began to set. “I… Admittedly I did not see the same thing as she. But… I saw something, about Nathan’s demise, and… There was no way we could have prevented it.”

“What do you mean?” I whisper-asked.

She gazed at me. The golden eye seemed to bore into my soul. “It was prophesised Nathan would die at Ryval’s hands. Either this way, or… right before Ryval was chased away by Lucion.” She exhaled. “In my vision, she tried to throw a spear at Lucion, but he dodged… and it speared Nathan in the throat, completely accidentally.”

I winced. “So… basically… no matter what… a spear to the throat was Nathan’s demise.”

She nodded. “Correct.” She carefully pulled her fringe in front of her golden eye, concealing it once more. “Now. I came to you for a reason, and it was not to discuss how our friend would die.” She crossed her legs at the ankles. “I came to tell you something.”

I blinked at her, confused. “Did you see something that I should know about?”

She nodded. “I did.” And so, she told me. “There is… something else capable of destroying Humanity, of Nephilim design.”

Confusion sprung into my heart. “Hang on, that’s impossible. Only the Eversortorix was capable of such a thing. And that’s now a lump of scrap metal.”

“No. It’s not the only thing.” Her vision became slightly sorrowful. “But it’s the only thing you and the rest of the Firstborn knew to be that destructively powerful.”

“Rest of the Firstborn?” Has… Tharul… hidden something more powerful…?

“Yes. Your leader, Tharul… created something with the same power as the Eversortorix, and hid it away in a location nobody would think to look.” She looked at me, and I was about to say something, but… a creeping thought stopped me, and I swallowed, allowing her to continue. And she did, saying words that I honestly didn’t want to hear. “Except… Ryval is aware of its existence… and she knows exactly where it was hidden.”

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