Chapter 64: The Road pt. 2
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Lorelei and I arrived to a scene of carnage. We’d already passed the site where I was ambushed; the group had moved up to be ahead of the collapsed area, and that’s where this new fight had started.

We arrived in time to see a wounded Seyari facing down two people. Bodies were scattered around the trio; all of the dead had been sliced or burned by holy magic. Seyari herself was aglow with power, eyes and hair shining through the rain.

She looked a complete mess, one arm hanging limp and a leg that I was surprised she could stand on. The battered ancient sword was in her good hand. I didn’t recognize the two people facing her. One of them looked like the man I’d punched earlier, and the other was a young woman.

Scars from magic had turned the surrounding area into a ruined wasteland. From the way they circled, I had no doubt all three were mana exhausted, if either of the other two had been casters in the first place.

I set Lorelei down and ran forward.

Behind me, I heard her shout, “Markus!”

The three people fighting stole a glance my way. Surprise flashed across Seyari’s face. Fear across the faces of the other two.

My arrival was the distraction Seyari needed. She lunged and downed the younger woman with a slash across the neck. Then, Seyari’s bad leg gave out under her and she stumbled. The man brought his own blade down on her.

I was faster.

I tackled him at full speed and we skidded across the ground, rolling to a stop. I flipped us over and pinned him underneath me. I heard one of his arms snap, but I didn’t care. Behind me, I heard Lorelei mumbling frantically and Seyari cursing.

“Surrender,” I ordered.

The man’s sharp features twisted. I felt his rage burning bright and he spat in my face.

I slashed through his neck, nearly severing his head. The gory stump gushed blood. I stood and burned the blood off my claws.

“You killed him!” Lorelei screeched, turning the last word into a wail. “You monster!”

I turned, but she wasn’t looking at me. Lorelei was standing over the body of a tall, well-built armored man. Markus. A holy glow around his body faded away. She held his sword in two hands, shakily.

“Yeah. And you’re next!” Seyari shouted.

STOP!” I roared.

The sound made the two of them falter. I pressed the advantage and jogged over toward them. “No more death tonight, please.” I could feel anger raging through both of them, but Lorelei’s almost burned me with its intensity.

Lorelei turned to me, eyes frantic and face full of anguish. “You! You knew she’d do this! You tricked me!”

“Zarenna—“ Seyari choked on her words.

“Lorelei, I—" I wracked my brain trying to come up with anything that could defuse this situation. I pulled gently at Lorelei’s anger, but the mass wouldn’t budge.

“I don’t care! Markus is dead!” Lorelei screamed. Lifting Markus’ sword in a two-handed grip, she lunged at Seyari.

Seyari took a step back, but her leg collapsed again and she fell toward the charred earth.

I leapt forward and tried to place myself between them. At the same time, I reached out and pulled on Lorelei and Seyari’s anger, trying again to calm them. Both resisted me heavily. Fueled by fear and hope, I pulled and twisted and managed to drain most of the anger from both of them.

But I was too late to stop Lorelei’s charge.

The point of Markus’s sword dug into my chest. I felt hope for a moment that I’d stopped everything.

Then, everything came crashing down. Lorelei, trying to keep a hold on the wet sword, slipped and went down with me in a heap. Markus’s sword flew off into the rainy night. I landed on top of her and I felt something in the small woman snap.

I rolled off of her as quick as I could. Her arm was bent in a bad way, but she was breathing. Lorelei’s eyes stared up at me, full of pain, confusion, and the smoldering remnants of fury.

“Lorelei, please.”

“You—” Lorelei started to cough, hard. “I’ll never—I can never.”

Her voice got weaker and weaker. I looked down and saw a massive red stain spreading from her reopened wound. No! It wasn’t healed!? Quickly, I clamped a hand over the gash on her side and tore the rest of my shirt off. “Seyari! Please!”

“I can’t.” Seyari breathed heavily as she stood up behind me.

“I don’t care that she and Markus tried to kill us! We can’t let her die.” I lifted Lorelei and started to wrap my shirt around the blood-soaked cloth already covering the wound, pulling it tighter than before.

“I can’t, Renna!” Seyari’s voice was strained, and echoed with the unnatural timbre from her angelic side.

“Why not!?”

“I just… can’t.” Seyari sounded more tired than I’d ever heard her. “I’m sorry, Renna.” I heard Seyari collapse behind me, landing in the mud with a wet thump. She took a breath, deep but uneven.

No! No no no nonononono!

I had to do something! Anything! “Lorelei!” I looked into her lidded pale blue eyes, over the freckles dusting her pale cheeks. “Stay with me! Please!”

“Zarenna,” she choked the word out, and took a rattling breath back in.

“That’s it! Focus on me!” I felt tears sliding down my cheeks. “I’m so sorry! It’s all my fault! I could’ve tried to fix your anger sooner. Or kept you further back. Or—”

“Zarenna.” Lorelei’s rattling whisper stopped my rambling cold. “I… don’t think you’re evil. But… I’ll never forgive Seyari.” She took another shuddering breath, but seized halfway through.

“Lorelei…” I felt her go limp as I held her. “No! Come on! Please! Not like this! Lorelei! Lorelei!”

I shook Lorelei gently. She didn’t move. Her anger snuffed out, like a candle in a storm. From above us, the rain renewed its intensity, the heavy drops splashing onto my almost-friend’s unmoving face, merging with both our tears.

***

I can’t save everyone.

I can’t save everyone.

I can’t save everyone, but that’s no reason not to try to save those I can.

I failed Lorelei. Markus’ death hadn’t been my fault, but I could hardly convince myself that was the case. And his death had led in some way to Lorelei’s. I felt sick and my head was spinning.

I picked Seyari up gingerly, grateful for her steady breathing. I didn’t remember when I turned away from Lorelei’s lifeless body.

What do I do now?

I can’t just go on to Mordwell’s estate. I can’t stay near here, either.

I turned back to Lorelei’s body, lying only a couple meters from Markus’s.

I can’t leave them like this.

I set Seyari by a destroyed tree, careful to make sure she was laying so she could breathe. Then, I moved over near Markus and Lorelei and started to dig. My wounds had all healed, so I used all my hands to loosen the earth and my tail to sweep it away. I lost myself in the task and ended up with a larger hole than I needed. The rain didn’t stop, and my pile of dirt was turning into a pile of mud.

I turned to the bodies. I didn’t want to cover them in dirt. Lorelei, save for the red patch on her side and her porcelain-pale complexion, looked like she could get up any minute. Markus, however, was face down in a pool of bloody mud.

I looked around for anything to bury them with, keeping Seyari in my sight. I found her discarded pack. I took the tent and wrapped their bodies. Moving them was difficult and it took some time to work up the courage. Markus had been disemboweled and the sheer numbness of my mind was all that kept me from emptying my already empty stomach.

I didn’t want this to be their final resting place, where none of their family would know. I didn’t want to deny anyone closure. I just wanted to keep their bodies safe until whoever would look for them would check here. Loose dirt and a clear ring of stones to mark a shallow grave.

Would anyone look for them?

I looked through the other bodies. No one was old enough to be Mordwell. Not unless he had some magical way of keeping himself young. Perhaps he did, but from what Seyari told me, he wasn’t the type to risk himself. The other bodies hurt to look at, but less than my friends. Some of these people had deserved to die. Perhaps even all of them. Did they really? Does anyone?

I shook my head and picked up the two bodies wrapped in the tent. Carefully, reverently, I lowered them into the hole. Then, I started to fill it in. I couldn’t help but cry again.

All too quickly, I had Markus and Lorelei buried. The weight of their deaths pressed down on me. I hadn’t even been that close to either of them, but I felt like I had.

Lorelei was the first person I met since I became a demon. Those weeks together with her, Markus, and Salvador, nervous as I was, were great fun. I wondered where Salvador was. He wasn’t among the dead, to my relief.

Would I ever see him again? What would I say? Was he close to Lorelei and Markus? How much does he know?

I marked the grave as clearly as I could using rocks and two big branches stuck into the dirt, burnt at the ends.

Still in a daze, I picked up Seyari, put on her pack, and wandered in a direction. Soon, I ran into the slide where Lorelei and I had fallen into the river. If I could only go back in time just a few hours.

I stared out at the mudslide, frozen. I turned to leave, but as I did a glint of steel in the mud caught my eye. I looked closer, then turned on aura sight.

Was that my spear?

Still holding carefully to Seyari, I made my way down the loose, slick slope toward the enchanted bit of metal in a daze. I was still too out of it to realize how stupid and dangerous this was. Luckily, I was able to keep my balance by staying low and using my lower hands and tail, subconscious muscle memory from years spent surviving alone on an island.

Alone.

I didn’t want to go back to being alone. I didn’t want to leave my friends—especially Seyari—alone either.

I reached the bit of metal and pulled on it. It was my spear, unbroken. I held it in a third hand, keeping Seyari close with my upper two arms. Dirt fell away around where I had pulled the spear out. Some of the contents of my pack were there. I saw dark fabric. Aura sight lit up over it. Carefully, I pulled my dress from the remains of my worldly possessions, holding it in my fourth hand. Around me, the ground started to shift and slide again.

Suddenly painfully awake, I dashed back up the loose hillside as more dirt and mud slid into the roiling water below, taking the rest of my stuff with it. I nearly slipped, but was able to balance using my tail. All my arms were full, for once.

Once I got up on stable land, I picked a direction away from the road and opposite Mordwell’s estate and I dashed off into the night.

***

Just before sunrise, Seyari stirred in my arms. She tensed for a moment, then relaxed into my grip. I kept running until I could see the sun poking up through the trees.

“Renna,” mumbled Seyari.

I sidestepped a tree and chanced a look down at her. “I’m sorry.”

Seyari shook her head. “No. Not this time. This was all my fault.” She looked up at me with wet golden eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you,” I whispered. “What will you do now?”

“I… I still want to take that bastard down. But I think you’re right. I want to show the world what he really is. And I want to do all that with you.”

I teared up. “That sounds lovely, Sey.”

“Mmhmm.” Seyari pulled herself closer to me and wrapped her arms around my neck. “What happened to—”

“She’s dead,” I interrupted, unable to wait for Seyari to say Lorelei’s name.

“I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”

Mistakes were made.

Spoiler

Didn't Mordwell's ambush seem almost a little too easy to beat? Nah, it's probably nothin'

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