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Powerless (The Powerless Trilogy): Chapter 59

Paedyn

I suddenly can’t breathe again, and I vaguely wonder if Blair is back, squeezing the air from my lungs with her invisible grip.

I sway on the spot, feet sinking into the sand beneath me at the edge of the circle.

I’m seeing things. I must be seeing things.

I stagger forward, tripping into a run. I force myself faster, ignoring the protest of pain shooting up my foot.

“Adena?”

This can’t be right. This can’t be happening.

Her beautiful form is broken and bleeding. Her knees sink into the sand, and her hands are tightly tied behind her back. Tears streak down her once glowing, dark skin, now dull and drenched with blood.

A shuddering sob escapes her, and my heart threatens to fail me at the sound. I’ve never heard Adena cry. Even after losing her parents as I had, after being beaten for attempting to steal those sticky buns she loves so much, after shivering on the streets—nothing has ever broken her. Nothing has ever dulled the light that is her.

She’s my light.

I’m stumbling towards her, numb and nauseous all at once.

This isn’t right. This can’t be right—

“Paedyn!” Her voice cracks and I think my heart does the same. She struggles to stand, trying to walk towards me even with her feet bound. Panic laces her next words, fast and frantic. “Pae, I’m so sorry. I—”

Time seems to stall.

The scene seems to slow, unfolding so vividly, so violently.

And I know in this moment that I will see it every time I shut my eyes.

All it takes is one brutally blunt branch.

One single, broken branch to break her.

The gnarled wood flies, guided by an invisible force before it meets her back, skewering her right through the chest. The scream couldn’t even tear from my throat fast enough.

“Adena!”

She sways, blinking down at the bloody branch protruding from her chest. Then her gaze slowly climbs up to mine as I stumble into a sprint, tears blurring my vision.

The sound of screaming fills my ears.

I think it might be coming from me.

She crumples.

And when she does, I catch sight of the leering smile and lilac hair at the other side of the circle, hand outstretched. The hand that guided and granted the gift of death, using nothing but her mind to meet the target.

“No!” My scream is raw, ripping from my throat.

I reach Adena before she hits the ground, gathering her into my arms as I gently lower her into the sand. I’m cradling her head while her bloody body is draped across my lap. Tears are streaming down my face. Screams are crawling up my throat.

Her skin is sticky with sweat as I push the dark curls out of her face, smoothing the uneven bangs from her eyes that she had me cut in the Fort with unsteady hands. Those wide, hazel eyes are staring up into mine, watery with unshed tears.

“You’re going to be fine, A.” My hands are shaking as I tenderly touch the wound, my voice is shaking as words spill out of me as quickly as my tears. “You hear me? You are going to be fine and when you are, I’m going to get you so many sticky buns that even you will grow sick of them. Okay?”

I look up frantically and scream, “Help! Please, somebody help!” But my cries are drowned out by the cheers of the crowd, leaving me to whisper my pleas. “Help her. Please. Please.”

I look down at Adena through the tears in my eyes. “You have to stay with me.” My voice breaks. I break. “You have to promise me you’ll stay—”

Adena draws in a sharp breath, weak and wavering. “Pae.”

The sob I’ve been smothering slips past my lips when she says my name, so soothing and sweet. As if I’m the one who needs to be comforted.

“You know I don’t make promises I can’t keep.” Her voice grows softer with each word, her energy spent. And with another wheezing breath, she pulls her cracked lips into a smile. Even in the face of death, she smiles.

Death.

She’s dying.

“No, no, no…” My words are a sob, a shaky cry. “Don’t say that. You’re fine. Everything is going to be fine!”

She’s still smiling at me as the tears slip down her face from those warm, hazel eyes now slightly unfocused. “Promise you’ll wear it for me?”

I blink at her, only blurring my vision with more tears. “What?”

“The vest.” Her voice is barely a whisper, forcing me to lean forward to hear her as she says, “Th-the green one with the pockets.” She takes a wheezing breath before ragged coughs rack her body. Blood stains her lips and slips from the corners of her mouth, but she continues, determined as ever. “The stitching took me ages and I’d hate for all my…h-hard work to go to waste.”

An equal part sob and hysterical laugh escape me. “I promise, A. I’ll wear it every day for you.”

She smiles the kind of sad smile one would think the sun does when setting. Warm and wonderful. Worn out and weary. Ready to say goodbye, to take a break from having to be a constant source of light. Relief at the prospect of rest.

Her eyes flutter shut, and I’m suddenly so terrified I’ll never get another glimpse of that hazel gaze again. “Please,” I whisper, pulling her closer to me. “Please don’t leave me, A. You’re all I have left.”

She’s the only person who knows me.

My heart aches.

Death is too dark for Adena, too bleak for her brightness, too undeserving of her dazzling soul.

Her eyelids crack open, revealing a sliver of those hazel eyes for me to memorize one last time. She struggles to speak, struggles to take shallow breaths. “This is not a goodbye…only a good way to say bye until I see you next.”

My body shakes with sobs as I stroke her beautiful face, remembering those words as the same ones she had said to me before I left Loot. Only then, her phrase was accompanied by smiles and waves, so sure that she would see me again.

And now she never will.

It should have been me. It was supposed to be me. I was the one meant to die in these Trials, not her. Anyone but her.

A wave of guilt crashes over me, threatening to drown me like my tears. This is all my fault. She’s only here because of my forgetfulness, my selfishness. I brought her here after I had forgotten about her. I brought her to her death.

“I need you to know that I will never forget you, A,” I choke out through my sobs. “Not in this lifetime or the next.”

Never again.

She barely manages a nod before her eyes flutter shut.

I sob, my body slumping over her as I press my forehead to her own. “You’re my favorite, A.”

With lips pulled into a soft smile, I hear her take a shuddering breath. Take her final breath.

Leaving me shaking.

Leaving me screaming.

Leaving me sobbing.

Leaving me.


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