the choice – part 2
“So… you guys have any idea as to what we’re going to do?”
Alyah looked at both the demon and the angel, hoping they would come with a miracle solution. She wanted to be worlds away from here, escape this situation that had been forced on her. She didn’t like to admit it, but she feared what Rakiel would do to her and her friends if she didn’t make a choice. He hadn’t seemed like the kind of guy you can negotiate with. Do or die.
Kiriel had her own thoughts about it and she kept them to herself. She did care about the girl, but she couldn’t betray her duties. She knew that Dantalian felt the same, torn again between head and heart. It was ironic how they could find themselves in a similar predicament once more. History repeating itself; someone must enjoy torturing them. Was this punishment for what happened centuries ago?
The angel finally broke the silence.
“We can’t make this decision for you, Aly. So much is at stake, and we can’t.”
She met the eyes of the teenager on the verge of adulthood. She saw the despair and the fear, and she wished she could just take it away. It hurt her to see Alyah in pain. It had been only a year; how did she grow so attached to someone that was fated to die in this war? She knew better. Both of them did.
Glancing towards Dantalian, she asked for his help silently. The demon nodded and decided to offer Alyah an answer, the same one he had offered another terrified girl centuries ago. He would take responsibility, he would try to lighten her burden.
“Choose them, Aly. Choose Heaven and let me go. When Rakiel comes back, he will have no reason to harm you or Kiriel and I will be long gone.”
Tears started to pour from Alyah’s green eyes as she shook her head. Why was it so hard? If she just went with it, she could stop torturing herself. It could all be over.
“I don’t want to lose you… either of you.”
Her voice broke, her arms wrapped around her chest tightly trying to prevent it from exploding. She felt as if she had been stabbed. She understood why Dan had suggested it, but it still hurt to hear he would willingly leave her.
Watching Alyah break down, the demon’s first instinct was to hug her to stop her pain. He didn’t, he stood there and waited for the tears to stop. They didn’t. He was about to move forward, to try and comfort her, but Kiriel beat him to it. The angel softly held the girl, allowing her to be weak. He felt relief, as he wasn’t very good with these kinds of situations, but he felt he let her down again. For the redhead, it seemed to natural and easy. For him, well, he had been taught that emotions were a liability. Showing them or acting upon them would be his downfall. It almost had cost him everything once. Still.
Once Alyah had calmed down, Kiriel said :
“I’ll stay with you, sweetie. Choose me and you’ll have me.”
“You don’t have to lose both of us.”
The women looked at Dan, one still torn by the choice she had to make, the other one with so much sorrow. He nodded to the second, assuring her with a glance that it was alright, he would leave the girl in her care.
“I will go, now. We will see each other on the battlefield. When it does happen, do not go easy on me. I won’t.”
Alyah clenched her jaw and looked away. She didn’t want to see watch him leave, feeling a part of her was being ripped away. Holding on to Kiriel, she didn’t let go until she heard the door close. Dantalian was gone, he had made a choice for her. That was what she had asked for, she had asked for them to choose. He had, and it felt like betrayal.
The angel didn’t like it any better than her protegee. She would have preferred that Alyah had made the choice on her own, but this was the best possible outcome. Leading her towards the bathroom, Kiriel kept speaking to her softly, promising everything would be alright. They would clean her and change her before Rakiel arrived. There was the Oath to be told and it was preferable to have a witness for it.
Sitting on the couch in the living room, Alyah still in the angel’s embrace, they waited. As midnight struck, a flap of wings was heard and Rakiel made his appearance with his escort. He looked around before resting his golden gaze onto the women who had stood up.
“The demon is gone, I see. Wise choice.”
He smiled, but it was cold. Alyah felt like he was looking right through her, reading her most inner thoughts, and she shivered. She was so grateful for the warm Kiriel, who was holding her hand.
“She is choosing Heaven, Rakiel. We thought you could be our witness for the Oath.”
Kiriel stayed polite while talking to him, but she was uneasy in his presence. There was something about him that unsettled her. It wasn’t the way he stared, she could handle that. Sometimes, it felt like he was empty, without a soul. There was gossip in Heaven, stories about Rakiel losing something very important in a previous war, something that changed him.
“Not so fast.”
Rakiel raised a hand and Alyah could swear she saw a hint of a smile as he noticed Kiriel’s surprised look. The teenage girl herself wasn’t sure what was going on, she was simply relying on her friend to make all the talk. Unsure how steady she was anyway, she didn’t want to appear hesitant; she didn’t want to give any reason for Rakiel to decide she was the enemy.
“Who said you would be her Guardian, Kiriel? You are a recruiter. Your job is to convince unaligned Fighters to join our cause. You do not decide who will be linked to them.”
“I have been Guardian to Fighters before, Rakiel.”
“Yes, some officers have allowed you to stay with your recruit in the past. This time, we feel your judgement may be clouded by your feelings. Clearly, you care a lot for the girl.”
Was Alyah hearing this right? Was the white-clad angel saying Kiriel wouldn’t be with her? Eyes widening in panic, she looked up at Kiriel, but the angel was focused on Rakiel. She still felt the redhead’s hand holding hers, a bit tighter than before as if to assure her she wouldn’t let her go that easily.
“I don’t see why this would be a problem. Isn’t it better if a Fighter shares a tight bond with their Guardian?”
“It is, until you get too involved. Kiriel, you have spent a year with the girl and you look at her as you would a sister or a daughter. Will you be able to send her to war, to put her in the line of fire?”
Kiriel didn’t say anything and Rakiel laughed. He knew had won.
Alyah didn’t like the way things were going, or the dark resolute look on her friend’s face. She had never seen her like this before and it frightened her.
“Anyways, I have another assignment for you. There is another Fighter you must go to. Get them to join our side.”
“Rakiel, I am not leaving this girl’s side.”
Steady. Kiriel wasn’t sure what she was doing, but she wasn’t giving in an inch. Her silver glare against his golden one, she stood her ground. Defying orders, was she mad? Well, there was a first time for everything.
“Don’t make me pull rank on you, Captain. You may be the leader of your unit, but I am in charge of many squads like yours. You have orders from your Queen and you will follow them.”
Kiriel stayed silent, but her grip on Alyah’s hand loosened as she lowered her eyes.
She looked at the terrified girl and kissed her forehead.
“It’s alright, Aly. I swear, you will be fine.”
She hugged her tight and, hidden from Rakiel’s view, she added a few words so low Alyah wasn’t sure she heard right.
“Dantalian will be waiting outside. Go to him. Now.”
As Aly started to understand, Kiriel summoned her bow made of light and gold. She notched a bright white arrow and pointed it at Rakiel.
“Aly. Go. NOW!”
And the girl unfroze. She ran towards the door, stealing looks behind her as she ran for the exit. The angels wouldn’t let her go that easily and the two soldiers had their sword and shield out, defending against Kiriel’s arrows. She almost got there, but Rakiel was faster. He caught her wrist and held on to her tightly.
Kiriel threw an arrow their way, but the angel used his golden sword to deflect it with ease.
“I will take her, now. Your disobedience won’t go unpunished, Kiriel. Seize her!”
The soldiers lowered their shields and charged at the redheaded angel. Outnumbered, she couldn’t keep them both at bay with her arrows and she soon was in their custody.
Still held firmly by Rakiel, Alyah was trying to break free from him, without any success. Upon seeing her friend handled, she started screaming and pounding on her captor with her free arm.
“Let me go! Kiriel! Help!”
A loud crash interrupted her cries and everyone stared at the now destroyed dining room. Dantalian was there, his dark wings spread out and his obsidian sword drawn. He charged at Rakiel without hesitation and the angel tossed Alyah aside to block the demon’s attack.
Lying on the ground, Aly was now free. She got up with difficulty, her arm hurting from the impact with the ground and the wrist Rakiel had been holding was burning. More worried about her friend than herself, she ran to Kiriel who had been knocked down. There was blood on her forehead. Panicking, the girl tried to wipe it off and see where it came from, but it was hard to see.
Hearing the weapons clash, she looked back to see Dantalian struggle against three enemies. The two soldiers had joined with Rakiel after putting Kiriel out of combat. She thought she had to go help, but it was the first time she was in a real fight. She felt unprepared, inadequate. What could she do against the angels and their weapons? She had her sparks, but she feared it would only anger them more. Suddenly, she wished she had taken her training more seriously.
Kiriel moaned as she tried to get up. She had headache, but she knew she wasn’t too badly wounded. She drew another arrow and pointed it towards the fight, despite the protestations of Alyah begging her to lie down. The redhead wanted only one thing, and that was to make sure Aly was out of Rakiel’s reach. She didn’t trust him and she would much rather know the girl was safe with Dantalian than with that twisted angel.
“Dantalian!” she called.
It seemed as if she was about to shoot him and Alyah was more confused than ever. What was happening?
“What… what are you doing? Kiriel?”
The demon’s amber eyes seemed to flare up as he looked at the archer. Then, he smiled.
The arrow was set loose and there was an explosion of light. The angels were blown back, but Kiriel had protected herself and Alyah with a barrier of her own. As soon as it was over, she fell down, drained. She couldn’t use too much power, not while injured. Not when she wasn’t linked to a Fighter to feed her energy.
Alyah was about to reach for her friend and see if she was alright when she felt herself swept off the ground. Solid arms had grabbed her and held her up as they flew out the window, shattering it. The teenager was terrified to look up, but still did. Seeing the sandy blond hair first, her heart pounded. It wasn’t Rakiel, but Dantalian that had taken her away. How was that even possible? She wanted to ask so many things, but she simply wrapped her arms around his neck as he carried her far from the Black Diamond. Before they were out of sight, Alyah caught a glimpse of Kiriel, held up by the angels. They would have time for answers later. For now, they needed a safe place to stay.