Before the Fall

Fanfiction of When the World Falls to Darkness by DragonSoulJess.

The fall has begun. alliances are being formed, and guardians are being rounded up. In a small outpost called Ryoko, a small number of guardians still fight for their freedom.

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24. Regret

 

    Kylora woke in the back of a cart. There was a wooden roof above her head, and wooden walls that were sealed off. Only a little light trickled through between the cracks. Her wrists and ankles were chained tightly, and the metal stung against her skin. She blinked dazedly, and found Ash’s face a few inches away from hers. She let out a soft gasp, and jerked backwards, slamming her head against the side of the cart. Ash jerked backwards as well, eyes wide with terror.

    “Ash…” Kylora whispered. Instantly, she felt guilty for even speaking his name. She had ruined any chance of friendship between them. She had hurt him in an unfixable way. How could she even speak to him anymore? She didn’t deserve to even look at him.

    “I’m so, so, sorry,” she whispered weakly, knowing her excuse would sound pathetic to him. “Please, Ash, I was just trying to help you… I thought he would take your other eye. I thought he would take one of your hands, or one of your fingers. I couldn’t stand by and see that happen to you. I did it because I cared, Ash. Please, believe me.”

    Ash looked at her, his expression unreadable. He said nothing.

    Kylora looked away, tears prickling at the corners of her eyes. She had ruined everything. For trying to protect him, she had lost him. He would never be able to look at her in the same way again. He would always remember the pain she’d caused him. He would remember how she’d hit him- how she’d cursed him and hated him. There was nothing she could do to fix that. It was too late now.

    “Ash…” she whispered.

    “Kylora,” he replied. There was no emotion in the word.

    Tears began to run down her face. She had ruined everything. She had been so stupid! How could she think she was protecting Ash? How could she think that hurting him would solve anything?! She had ruined any chance she had at friendship with him, and now she would pay for it.

    Then, to her surprise, Ash spoke. “Why did you do it.”

    He spoke in the same emotionless voice, and Kylora looked up. His expression hadn't changed, but she thought she detected a bit of desperation in his voice.

    “I was trying to protect you,” she whispered.

    “Why did you really do it.”

    Kylora gritted her teeth. “I… was afraid. Ash, I’ve never had someone care for me in the way you cared for me. Everyone I’ve tried to help has suffered. The angel I tried to defend died. I led my sister and my best friend into a fight for the death because they would not leave me. I only cause pain and suffering to those around me. I can’t replace the angel you lost. I’m not River. I’m not as bright and beautiful and wonderful as you described her. I can’t be who you want me to be. I’m sorry.”

    Ash leaned forwards, eyes narrowing. Kylora could feel physical tension between the two of them, and it made her shudder. How could he even stand to look at her? He must hate her.

    “Did it ever occur to you that I didn’t want you to replace River?” he growled softly. “Did it occur to you that I wanted you, not her?” Kylora hesitated uncertainly, and Ash scoffed quietly. “Of course not. You could only see the surface. I’m not in love with you because I want you to replace River. I’m not even in love with you because I think you’re like River. I’m in love with you because of who you are. You’re brave and strong and loyal and wonderful and beautiful, even if you don’t see it. Look at me. You hurt me. You fought with me, and I can’t stop thinking about you even then. I should hate you for what you did, and yet I see why you did it.” The anger in his voice lessened, taking on a weak, helpless tone. “I was in love with you, Kylora. I am still in love with you. I know you don’t feel the same way. I can’t force you to. I understand that you don’t want me. It’s all right. I made a mistake. I would never force my feelings on you. Not when you hate me. Forgive me, Kylora.”

    She looked at him, and felt her heart racing in her chest. I would never force my feelings on you. Not when you hate me. He thought… he thought she hated him. And yet he was still in love with her. How could that be possible.

    “Ash…” she whispered. “I…” Words failed her. She struggled to move, and dragged herself to his side. She reached out, brushing her bound hands against the side of his face. “I don’t hate you.” Her heart was racing. His face was too close to hers. There was fear in his eyes, but beneath that there was something else. Wonder? She didn’t know. She had no idea what she was doing. “I was afraid.” She hesitated, and then leaned forwards, and kissed his cheek. Softly, she whispered, “I was afraid because I’ve never been in love before.”

    She heard Ash catch his breath. Then he reached out, and placed a hand on the side of her head.

    “You… love me?” There was hope in his voice.

    “As much as I can,” she murmured. “I can’t forsake the sky for you, Ash. I can’t call you my world- not when my heart is tied to others. But I do care about you. I’m so sorry I didn’t realize it sooner.”

    Ash looked at her in awe. “How can I be angry now? You told me you loved me. Kylora, I dreamed of the day where you’d wake up and realize there was something between us.”

    “It’s better than fighting,” Kylora agreed.

    She nearly kissed him again, to show him she was truly sorry, but the cart stopped with a violent shake, and Kylora fell against the side of the wall. Ash reached out to catch her, but he was interrupted by the sound of wood scraping against wood. The back of the cart opened, and the human stepped in. He studied the two of them, and then smiled darkly.

    “Well, it seems you two have come close after all, despite this one’s attempt at betrayal.” He flicked a contemptuous finger in Kylora’s direction. “How ironic.” He approached, holding a key. Kylora watched him warily. He unlocked the chains around her ankles, and practically dragged her out of the cart. He threw her onto the ground, and watched as she stumbled to her feet. Almost immediately, she lunged at him. He met her halfway, and caught her bound wrists, shoving her backwards. She fell, and the air went out of her lungs.

    The human raised his eyebrows, studying her with a trace of amusement in his eyes. “What were you hoping to accomplish by that?”

    “You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?” Kylora replied softly.

    The human let out a derisive snort. “Not yet. There’s something for you to see first. And besides, that traitorous guardian of mine must be taught a lesson.”

    Kylora’s eyes narrowed, but she climbed to her feet, taking in her surroundings. She was in what must have been the army encampment. All around her tents had been pitched. Humans lounged outside. Some were asleep, but those that were awake saw the human and hurried to their feet. They saluted him, then hurried to be elsewhere.

    The human lifted his hand, and another human, armed with a sword, ran to his side.

    “Sir?”

    “Take this guardian to see your prisoner.”

    “Yes sir.”

    The human placed the tip of his sword against Kylora’s back, just above her ribcage. “Walk, guardian.”

    Kylora obeyed silently. She wanted to know who this ‘prisoner’ was. Her heart raced in her chest, and she wondered if she may see her sister again. The thought of Hylla- sweet, innocent, wonderful Hylla- almost broke down the defenses she had built around her mine. She had never thought she would see Hylla again. And yet now her sister may be close.

    But surely she escaped into the mountains with Miel.

    The human guided her to a small, brown tent. “In there,” he ordered.

    She stepped forwards, and felt the human shove her sharply. She stumbled, and nearly turned back to the human, but at the last moment she caught herself. She took a deep breath, then entered the tent.

    The floor was dirt, and there was nothing in the tent, except for a single cot. Chains held the cot’s occupant down, keeping her from escaping.

    The cot’s occupant was a familiar angel.

    “Miel…” Kylora whispered. Her heart sank. If Miel was a prisoner, than that meant Hylla had been captured as well. Miel would never have left her sister. She had promised.

    There was an ugly gash on Miel’s throat, and she was covered in smaller cuts and bruises. She was dirty and weak and skinny, but even then all Kylora could see was how amazingly beautiful she was.

    “Miel,” she said again. She ran to the angel’s side, dropping to one knee next to her cot. She brushed the angel’s hair away from her face, running a gentle hand over the gash in the angel’s throat. She pressed her head to Miel’s chest, listening for a heartbeat.

    For a terrible moment, there was none. Then she heard it. A soft, broken rhythm. She nearly sobbed with relief. Miel was alive. If she was alive, then Hylla must be alive.

    “I thought you were dead,” she whispered weakly. “I thought I’d never see you again. Miel, after everything that’s happened…”

    “Ky… lora.”

    Her eyes widened. Miel’s hand was on her shoulder now. The angel’s eyes were still closed, but it had definitely been her that had spoken.

    “Yes?” Miel seemed to be trying to get her energy up to speak again, and Kylora gripped her hand tightly. “What is it, Miel?”

    “Hylla…” Miel whispered, and a cold hand of fear gripped Kylora’s heart. “Hylla… Kylora, forgive me… she…”

    “Is she dead?” Kylora whispered. “Miel, what happened to her?!”

    Miel gasped for breath. “Forgive… me…” Her hand in Kylora’s went limp, and dropped to her side.

    “Miel!” Kylora tighened her grip, desperate. “What happened to Hylla?!

    There was no answer. Miel had sunk back into unconsciousness.

    No,” Kylora hissed softly. She pressed Miel’s hand to her forehead. Grief and anger warred for a position in her mind. Must the humans take everything away from her? Who had slashed their sword across her friend’s throat? Miel wasn’t one to long for war. She was gentle and kind. How could any human do this to her?!

    There were footsteps, and Kylora turned to see a human approaching her. He held his weapon out, ready to fight her. “Guardian. Come.”
    She turned away, facing Miel again. “I should have been here,” she whispered to her friend. “I should have been able to help you. I should be the one begging for forgiveness.”

    The human grabbed her arm, pulling her away from Miel. She resisted, struggling to return to her friend’s side, where she belonged. She would stay there until Miel woke again- until Miel told her what had happened to her sister. But the human was stronger than her- weak as she was from her time as a slave. He dragged her out of the tent, despite her struggles. She fought to break free and return to Miel’s side, but the guard slammed the pommel of his sword into her shoulder blades, knocking her to the ground. Gasping in pain and rage and grief, she could only watch as the human closed the flap of the tent, cutting off her view of Miel.

    “Now come,” he growled, hauling her back to her feet. This time, she didn’t resist. Instead, she stumbled along numbly. Miel was dying. And, somewhere out there, something had happened to Hylla.

    Let her be alive. Please, I don’t care what has happened, please let her be alive!

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