Light of the Shadow – Chapter 15 – Part 3

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Light of the Shadow – Chapter 15 – Part 3

 

Chapter 15

 

 

“Time of Reconciliation ... Time of Rebalancing.
Reason over Emotion.
Reinforcement of the Sacred Bound between those who walk the Path.
The Moon, in the Sky, is Full and Bright.”

 

 

 

 

- The Prophet of Truth

 

Part 3

The wind whipping his hair made him raise his gaze to the dark sky embracing the world. Dark-gray clouds raced southbound, as if trying to escape some fearsome predator chasing them from the north. The weather was changing and it would probably rain soon.

Aaran knew the precise moment Alexis left his Territory. All he had to do was to quiet his mind and concentrate, to immediately know the exact localization of every Araphel currently staying in Assiah, as long as there was still a flick of light burning bright in their essences. Just a few days ago he’d sorrowfully lamented the fact that he no longer could feel Alexis', which could only mean that either he’d been destroyed or his light had gone out forever. He’d believed the last possibility more, since through their occasional mind sharing he’d known better than anyone just how close to the darkness he’d really been. And so he’d sent Hale looking for him, while he himself followed Farran all the way to Europe in search for clues. Only when Alexis had called him had he realized he was actually able to feel him again. There was light inside him once more, although it was still weak and frail. And yet he’d known in that precise moment that something extraordinary had happened. Something clearly close to a miracle, since there were no records of Araphel having ever found their lights again, once they'd been completely lost. Once extinct, the light that fed their shadowy essences gave room only to madness, and either the individuals looked for concentrated forms of Ishar, which would help them regain their senses for limited periods of time, or they simply became mindless machines of destruction, annihilating all and everything that crossed their paths. In either case the only viable solution was to destroy them.

Aaran looked down at his own hands, so many times stained with the blood of those he’d sworn to protect, and sighed heavily. There had been a time when he’d thought he’d have to destroy Alexis as well … although that would’ve probably been the last life he’d ever take. He felt too tired. Too heavy. And unable to lose yet again. Unaware of what she was doing, Sarah hadn’t saved only Alexis, she’d saved him as well. And now the light shining at the core of Alexis’ essence was strong and vibrant.

Standing on the balcony eaves where he’d been sitting, eight floors above the ground, he made his body dissolve into the shadows and quickly traveled from dark pool to dark pool, until he reached the street where he knew he'd find Alexis, as if he’d merely decided to take a night stroll.

Unlike himself, with his hands tucked inside his black leather jacket, Alexis mixed perfectly with the local Humans that, at that hour, still populated the streets in search of a pleasant place to have dinner or a cozy bar where to forget the daily worries for a few hours. With a resigned lament, noticing he was now in one of the busiest zones nightlife-wise in town, Aaran pulled the collar of his coat up, closing it over his chest, and left the shadow where he hid. Even so, the moment he stepped into the artificial light of the streetlamps, Human heads immediately turned to look at him with admiring expressions.

Clearly taller than most Humans, his long white hair and his apparent youth did very little in the ways of helping him go unnoticed. And yet not a single Soul dared get closer to him. In fact, as he walked down the street in his wide, rhythmic stride, most Humans just stepped back to keep a safe distance , instinctively choosing to simply let him through.

The most disturbing ones were the women, and the way their minds seem to transform into white sheets of paper the minute they laid their eyes on him. Their lascivious expressions, that told him that they wished they could simple devour him, filled him with disgust, brought upon by memories he’d decided to bury deep inside of him a long time ago. And yet, not even them dared to get any closer. With an ironic smile he recalled the natural way young Selena touched him, as if he were no more than one of her schoolmates, and he couldn’t help wonder if in a couple of years she too would look at him like that, with that repulsive expression on her face. On the other hand he couldn’t help appreciate even more the Human fate had sent to be Alexis' companion. He knew Sarah feared him, which always made her act with extra caution around him. However she’d never reacted like those Humans; not even the first time they’d met or when he’d kissed her at Alexis’ request.

It was for these and other reasons that Aaran normally made his rounds from above. Seen from the rooftops and balconies where he spent his nights Humans were simply another type of living beings, strolling down the streets in groups, their thoughts lost in their own individual worlds. Up there there were no looks or expressions, no whispers or comments. Up there they all seemed innocent, and for that reason, worthy of his protection and of the sacrifice of his People.

When he realized it, Alexis was waiting for him just a few feet away, and Aaran quickened his pace until he was side by side with him. They went on down the street together and Aaran couldn’t help smile. It was just like Alexis, he thought, no matter how angry he might be at him. Knowing Aaran like he did, he knew he hated being the center of attention, and that he detested the clearing of fear that always surrounded him no matter where he went, whether he was in the company of Humans or amongst others like him. And yes, he had to concede, his proximity was reassuring. The fact that he was no longer alone, like a piece that would never fit in the crowd, was truly comforting.

“This time I won’t ask for forgiveness, Aaran,” he told him dryly, a few steps later, and Aaran tucked his hands inside his pockets.

“I never expected you to,” he confessed. “The same way you don’t expect me to apologize either, right?”

Alexis seemed to fight against his own emotions for an instant.

“You didn’t have to do things that way! To go that far!” he finally accused in a rough voice and Aaran sighed.

“Of course I had. And I admit. Not only for you, but for myself as well. You know what expects us, sooner or later. And when the Lex Regis comes to condemn us all the problems with Farran and his followers will seem like mere children’s play. I swore I’d stand by you and I have no intention to go back on my word. In fact, I’d easily sacrifice my own existence without a second thought, only on your word that this woman is important to you. But if I have to gamble the existence of an entire Race then I have to be sure that I’m doing it for something worthy of such sacrifice.”

Alexis stopped where he stood and turned to face him.

“You said it would never come to that!”

“And that’s what I hope, as well. And yes, before we reach that, many others will have to step forward too. But you never know,” he concluded and smiled at the once again bright gaze that stared severely at him. “So you have to understand, Alex. She has to be absolutely certain of what she wants. And to be strong. It’s no use having us fight to keep you two together to only have her fall apart at the first threat.”

“Sarah is strong!” he declared with conviction and Aaran nodded.

“Right now I couldn’t agree more. Stronger than I ever gave her credit for.”

Alexis seemed to relax a bit and lowered his head, resuming his walk down the street. Aaran followed him in silence, watching him carefully.

“I see she returned your sight to you,” he purposely observed and Alexis clenched his fists hard.

“I can only imagine whose idea that was,” he grunted and Aaran placed a hand on his shoulder making him stop again.

“Alex, that guilt. Either tell her the truth or get rid of it as soon as possible!” he practically demanded and Alexis averted his gaze as if he’d just been reprimanded.

“I want to tell her the truth. I’ve tried dozens of times. But the words never leave my mouth … If you’d just seen her expression when I pulled her out of that hole. I wouldn’t be able to stand it if she were to look at me like that as well.”

“Then just forget it ever happened. Or that guilt you feel will end up transforming into a dark pit that will forever pull you two apart. Because she knows what you feel but doesn’t know why, and her mind will be constantly trying to find a suitable explanation to justify that emotion.”

“I know …” Alexis admitted with a sigh.

“That’s why although they’re said to be our salvation, the appearance of a Hridaya also means a complete revolution in an Araphel’s life.”

Alexis took a deep breath, and for the first time since he could ever remember, felt truly whole and complete.

“It’s okay. I like this revolution,” he declared, and in a fast move, so fast that no Human eye could have captured it, grabbed Aaran by his collar, pulling him down, forcing him to stand at his height. “But I swear, Aaran! The next time I even dream that you’re threatening her … The next time you make her cry, King or not, you’ll have to deal with me!” he assured severely, his gaze ablaze with threat, and Aaran drew a polite smile, clearly aware he wasn’t joking, placing a hand over his and readying himself to, if necessary, force him to release him.

“Now, Alexis, that wouldn’t be wise at all,” he reminded him, maintaining his calm. “You know you haven’t the slightest chance of defeating me.”

“Right now I couldn’t care less! I’m just letting you know what will happen. Are we clear?” Aaran just nodded, keeping his smile firmly in place so that the tension could be slightly diluted, and Alexis finally released him with another sigh. “And now let’s go and find that bastard!” he declared, referring to Farran, and looked around as if expecting to see him turn the next corner.

“Alex, let me deal with him,” Aaran suggested, like he’d suggested so many times before.

“No. We’ve talked about this and you agreed. Farran is my problem.”

“With which you could play around with as much as you wanted. But not anymore.” Alexis frowned, displeased with the way he’d phrased it. “Play time is over, Alex. If that woman is really that important to you, you can’t go on hesitating like you’ve been doing up till now.”

Alexis clenched his teeth, wishing with all his might he could deny those words. But, no matter how much it ate at him, he just couldn’t do it. And, if with Hale he could threaten him should he keep pressing the matter, with Aaran it was no use. Because Aaran knew his mind, his strengths and his weaknesses alike.

“I won’t hesitate again,” he guaranteed in a hoarse voice and Aaran sighed.

“Why must you be so stubborn. Why not let me handle it?”

“No!” he denied again and took a step closer, lowering his voice. “Much less you!” he insisted ferociously and Aaran gave up on their argument, guessing what would follow. “Have you forgotten what I said? As long as I’m around I won’t allow you to destroy another Araphel! That’s work for me and the others, not for you. And I intend to keep my word,” he practically growled. “And as for Farran, you promised me I’d be the one to end his existence and I intend to hold you to that. So …”

Aaran placed a hand on his head, as if he were no more than a rebellious kid, and Alexis felt the anger that had fed his words immediately break into pieces.

“I understand, Alex …” he told him softly and immediately had to take a step back and put some distance between the two of them. Alexis looked at him apprehensively, knowing that meant Aaran had sensed the shadow of an emotion stirring up inside him. However, when he looked at him everything was under control again, and he was back to being the same cold, distant Aaran he’d ever known. “Have it your way.”

 

 

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