Throughout this entire debacle, I completely forgot about George, who had managed to get up to his feet and jumped onto Vincent’s back.
Vincent gasped in surprise as he tried to get a hold of George. They were awkwardly wrestling with each other, while George held onto Vincent for dear life. I felt my mouth falling open, looking at the scenario that was happening in front of me, not even expecting that George had enough strength left to keep going like this.
“Alpha!” A man behind me shouted, and I turned around to see the man I had shot stumble onto his feet and over the unmoving Gunnar, holding his chest while blood dripped through his fingers.
My eyes lingered on Gunnar for a second longer, seeing his fingers twitching. My heart ached, hoping it was a sign of him being alive and not some sort of postmortem spasms.
The man bumped into my shoulder, making me stumble, as he rushed towards the two wrestling men. With one swift movement, he grabbed George off of Vincent’s back and threw him over the crumbly stone wall of the ruins as if he weighed nothing.
A piercing scream left my throat, but it soon died out by the dryness of my throat. Tears welled up in my eyes, and for a moment, I thought it could only be a dream. This could not be reality. It was impossible that someone could throw another person through the air and into their death like that.
Through blurry eyes, I saw Vincent running a hand through his hair, and straightening his suit after. “This is getting a bit too tedious for my liking.”
He pushed the man away, who fell to the floor with a loud thud, and he stayed there. His eyes were wide open and empty, staring into the sky. Just like the old woman in my neighborhood. A breath hitched in my throat, realizing he was dead. Not that he didn’t deserve it, but seeing a dead person wasn’t an image I wanted to have branded into my mind.
Vincent approached me with quick steps, his face red. I had no chance to avoid him, my limbs feeling as if they weren’t attached to my body anymore, when he grabbed me by my throat, lifting me into the air as if I was weighing nothing. I clawed at his hand, leaving red, angry marks on his skin, but he didn’t seem to budge or care.
The pressure on my throat made it hard to catch my breath, and it didn’t take long before I felt dizzy. My vision slowly turned black as I stared into his glaring eyes.
“I can’t believe that one girl is causing such big issues. Can you just die quietly before even more people die?”
His face was so close that I could feel his breath on my skin. It was hard to understand him over the buzzing in my ears, but I glared at him, understanding enough. If he thought I would end this quickly for his sake, he was dead wrong. It was too late to change course now.
He curled his lips and threw me to the ground. The impact made me wheeze, and I coughed, trying to get air back into my lungs. Vincent had turned around again, looking down at the commotion that was still going on, muttering something under his breath I couldn’t quite make out. My ears were still ringing, and every bone in my body hurt, yet I got on all fours and crawled towards Gunnar, grabbing his hand in mine when I dropped to the floor next to him. I sighed when I felt his warm skin on mine.
He turned his head to my side, his eyes bloodshot and face so pale, it almost looked like he was already dead. “I’m sorry.”
I shook my head. “No, don’t apologize. You did all you could have done. This is all my fault.”
He grunted. “This fight was inevitable. He was more prepared than we had expected. We shouldn’t have waited for so long.”
“Did you get to Svea?”
A weak smile spread over his face. “She is still there, and she is fine. We told her to stay where she was, and that we would pick her up when everything is over.”
“What will happen to her if no one returns?”
His face darkened. “Don’t worry. Someone will get to her.”
I nodded, wanting to believe him, but I couldn’t shake the fear of her remaining there, all alone in the dark cabinet in my living room. I promised to protect her, but it felt like I wouldn’t be able to keep that promise.
“The strongest pack around, huh? Hilarious, really,” Vincent said, interrupting us. “Soon we will take you all over, and you will be glad if we take you in.”
I looked at him over my shoulder, seeing him staring at us, his nose wrinkled as if it was disgusting to look at us. I dropped my head back, too weak to hold it up any longer, feeling my heart beating slower and slower. The world started spinning around me, and I closed my eyes.
“You can’t die, Mia. Don’t leave me,” Gunnar said, gripping my hand tighter.
I smiled. “And that’s coming from you? Aren’t you on the brink of death yourself?”
He chuckled, then groaned. “You aren’t wrong, but when I die, there is someone else to take care of my people. When you die, everything your pack worked for is gone.”
With lots of effort, I peeled my eyes open again, forcing myself to stay strong. Maybe Gunnar’s pack could defeat the Vindictoria pack. Any second now, someone could come up here, saving the day.
I heard the ruins whisper in a foreign language in my head, and even though I didn’t understand what they were saying, I still felt like I did. They filled me with a little more strength, easing the pain in my bones. For some reason, I felt like they told me to hang on for a while longer, that there is something I still had to do. But I wasn’t sure what they meant exactly.
I sat up and glared at Vincent. “You know, I never hoped for someone to die, but I kinda wish you a life worse than death.”
He grinned. “Too bad that I will be living, while you will die like the rest of your rotten pack.”
“It’s funny that those words don’t even matter to me anymore. My pack sacrificed a lot to protect the planet from your pack. I won’t let them down.”
Vincent arched his brow. “That’s interesting, coming from someone who looked like they already died twice. I’m surprised you even have enough strength to talk back to me.”
I held a hand up to my face, seeing the little lights dancing around my fingertips. “It’s interesting that you want to take control of this place when you can’t even see its magic.”
He tilted his head to the side. “Are you actually losing your mind now? It might not be too uncommon for someone to become delusional on their brink of death, but still.”
I laughed quietly, dropping my hand again, feeling satisfied that I could see something he couldn’t. Even if it might mean nothing to him at all.
Vincent shook his head and dropped his gaze to Jelto, who still sat on the same spot, slumping into himself, with a bloody arm. “I wish you would have been more useful, too. At this rate, you might die before I can fulfill your wish.”
Jelto’s fingers twitched, but he didn’t say a word. It would be wise of him to not add to this conversation. If it wasn’t for him, we might not be in this situation.
“How does it feel to be betrayed by a good friend?”
I glared at Vincent, who smirked at me. “I can see why you would be curious. You don’t have friends after all, and wouldn’t know what it feels like, right?”
His face dropped for a split second before he turned around. “I rather have no friends than friends who will cause my death.”
He had whispered those words, but I could still hear them. For a moment, I wondered what pushed him to do all this. What had caused him to be so indifferent to death, regardless of friend or foe? Was it only natural for someone in the Vindictoria pack to be this way, or is there more behind all of this? And did he really think that having power over the ruins would fulfill his dream to have power over the humans? Maybe I could bring him to a breaking point by finding his weakness somehow.
“Vincent, that power of yours. Is it your wolf trait?”
He glanced over his shoulder, and I expected to see a proud smirk on his face. Instead, he almost looked in pain, but when he turned around to me, his face was blank. “You could say that.”
I nodded. “Seems rather unique. Does it work on humans, too?”
He shrugged, avoiding my eyes. “Occasionally.”
A group of howling wolves echoed through the air, and my heart raced. Gunnar gripped my hand, lifting his head. “It’s them.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Vincent rushed to the edge of the ruins, running a hand through his long hair, cursing under his breath. Gunnar dropped back onto the floor again, his breath sounding rigid and more like wheezing.
I inched closer to him, lifting his face to make him look at me. “Gunnar, you will not die here.”
His eyes fluttered open. “You are beautiful, you know that, right?”
My heart clenched as I moved even close to him and pressed a soft kiss onto his dry lips. “And do you know that you are really handsome?”
My stomach fluttered, thinking about the night when we exchanged almost the same words. When the world still seemed fine, and when his touch on my skin left tingles all over me.
Gunnar’s eyes shut again, as he grew disturbingly still in my hands. A heaviness grew inside me, and my chest tightened, making it hard to breathe.
“No. Gunnar, this is not funny! Wake up!”
I leaned forward, shaking his body, but he did not open his eyes again. “You can’t do this to me. Listen to me, Gunnar. You have to stay with me. I still couldn’t tell you you were always my choice, never my escape.”
Tears ran down my cheeks, but he didn’t react.
“One down, one more to go,” Vincent commented, making me see red. I stumbled to my feet and reached out to my wolf. We both were on the brink of holding on to life, but we won’t be going down without taking revenge.
A scream left my throat as my wolf pierced through the surface, and with weak, shaky legs, I glared at Vincent. He grinned at me, but not for long, as I didn’t hesitate anymore. There was nothing to lose. If this killed me, so be it.
I jumped onto him, making him stumble backward and lose his footing. I took my chance and bit down on his leg. He let out a scream, kicking me away. I waited for him to turn into his wolf, but he kept cycling me in his human form. I jumped at him again, grazing his arm this time. Blood seeped through the dark fabric of his suit, and he wheezed. He was weaker than I expected him to be.
I was about to go in for another attack when he rushed forward, too, grabbing me and pinning me to the ground. I kicked him, but he didn’t edge away.
“If the ancient wolves had the power they deserve, no one would have gotten hurt,” he said, his eyes wide and feverish. “I sacrificed all I had to get to this point. I went through hell and back to become who I am now, and you won’t stand in my way to take it away from me.”
I did not know what he was talking about, but he looked like he was ready to kill me for real. His fingers pierced into my skin, and my wolf whined in fear. I again tried to kick him off of us, tried to bite his face, but he avoided me.
“It’s time to say goodbye,” he said, and again this dark and piercing energy rushed through me. My vision blurred before I saw nothing but blackness. My ears were ringing, and my wolf form slipped away, hiding away in the depth of my mind, away from this pain. I wish I could follow, but I couldn’t.
When I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, the weight got lifted, and I could see again. I sat up, seeing a wolf on top of Vincent, biting him in the throat.
“Mia! Are you okay?” I heard Tyra scream from the left, and I turned my head to see her run the rest of the way towards her dead brother.
“Tyra! Gunnar he is…” I couldn’t even finish the sentence before tears made me choke up.
Tyra reached me, and she pulled me into a hug. I grabbed onto her sweater, trying to find the strength to go on. How was I supposed to live with the fact that her brother died the same way as her husband? And it was all on me.
“He is not dead yet. And this is not over,” she said, pulling away from me. “We have to fight until the very end. Don’t give up.”
I stared at her, unable to believe her. The wolf who attacked Vincent howled in pain, and Tyra jumped up. “There is no time to dwell in self-pity. I’m sure there is something you could do! The ruins belong to you, Mia. Do something!”