“What are you going to teach me tonight?” The girl spun in a circle, her black hair flowing around her in a wave. “Flying?” she suggested. “Sword fighting? Maybe even dodging death-threatening blows?” I laughed and walked a few steps behind her. For once, we had taken most of the night off and talked—just talked—and I dreaded the fact I was actually enjoying myself. “I could teach you most of that,” I said, nearing the forest’s end. “But not the sword fighting—that doesn’t exist.” Except for the two descendants, and you’re not one of them, but I am. I locked my jaw, preventing an explanation of who I was. “No swords at all?” she asked, stopping. I stood at her side. “Of course not.” “Dang,” she sighed, her breath fogging out in front of us. “I was hoping I’d get to swing something at people.” “So pick up a stick.” She hit my arm. “Aren’t you the funny one?” “Your words; not mine,” I said, laughing to conceal a wince. She’d hit Luthicer’s mark. “What do you want to do tonight?” “Can we fly again?” she asked, widening her purple eyes. “We haven’t flown in three days.” “That’s because it’s tiring,” I pointed out. “And you won’t impress any of the elders if all you can do is fly.” Except you’ll never meet them. She frowned, shook her shoulders, and forced a smile. “So teach me something new,” she said. “I want to impress them.” My gut wrenched with guilt, but my mind raced with my twisted logic as I tried to justify myself. She was an outsider, we were in the middle of war, and I could’ve abandoned her or helped her—neither of which involved the elders for a reason. I didn’t want her killed over old laws not adapted to modernization. Especially with Luthicer around. He’d kill her to make a point with me. I wasn’t allowed friends, and I was definitely banned from relationships. But this girl—she reminded me of what it was like to believe in something. Her hope was naïve, but it was real, and I hadn’t felt something real in years. Nothing positive anyway. “Shoman?” She leaned over and blinked her purple eyes when she caught my gaze. She smiled. “Are you okay?” “You have to learn something new,” I said, repeating myself as I moved away from her. I couldn’t let her affect my feelings. “Like what?” Her gaze flickered over the empty space where I’d been standing. Pathetically, I had to concentrate from moving back over. I dug my feet into the ground and shrug. “Dodging would be a good place to start.” Dodging this friendship would be even better—expected even. “Dodging what?” Without a word, I smacked my palms together and slowly pulled them apart. A cloud of energy, bright blue and electric, collected between my hands, and I shot it toward her. The air flashed, barely shoving against her, and she fell backward, her mouth hanging open. I burst into laughter as she folded her arms.
“That’s not funny. That really hurt.” “I’m sorry,” I gasped through my laughter. “But that’s the simplest power to dodge; it doesn’t even hurt.” I walked over to her, offering my hand. “You only had to move, and it wouldn’t have knocked you over.” A purple light slammed into my chest, and I fell, slamming against the ground. Air filled my lungs, and I wheezed as she stood over me, brushing purple dust off her hands. She’d retaliated. “You only had to move, Shoman.” She used my words against me and winked. “How did you do that?” I asked, springing to my feet. I hadn’t even shown her how to create it. How did she know what to do? She was too accurate. She flipped her dark hair over her shoulder. “I watch and learn.” “You’re a natural,” I said, studying her. First, she avoided my radar, and now she was using Dark energy. What’d she have that others didn’t? Even though I’d be the strongest shade in less than a year, it took me weeks to learn a new power or spell. I couldn’t teach myself—especially from watching—yet she’d perfected her energy in one sitting. “Something’s wrong,” she said, wrinkling her brow. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?” “No,” I said. You only startled the first descendant. No big deal. “Then why are you so quiet?” she asked, lowering her tone, and I stepped forward, leaning out to rub her arm. “I’m fine,” I said, and she bit her lip. “Let’s take a break.” To distract you. “We can fly.” She lit up. “I actually wanted to show you something.” “Okay—” Her fingertips sparkled like a lake reflecting the stars, all silver and purple. When she swirled her hands back and forth, her nails shone, and her palms glittered, dipping in and out of the misty shadows. I’d never seen anything like it. “Isn’t it beautiful?” she asked as little droplets of energy fell from her hands and splashed across the grass like morning dew. The light never dissipated. Instead, it illuminated the grass, and I stepped back. “What is that?” It disappeared, and I caught her eye. She raised her brow. “I thought you could tell me.” I shook my head. Something wasn’t right with her powers. “Energy is only used for defense; that didn’t do anything.” “Why can’t you use it for other things?” I opened my mouth, but closed it when I realized I had no argument. “I’ve only been taught to use it for the war.” A slow smile pulled at her lips. “You can’t relax, can you, Shoman?” Not with you around. “You’ve been stiff all night,” she said. “Spill.” “It’s nothing.” “So there is something.” I rubbed my temples; she was relentless. “I wish I could tell you,” I said, mentally surrendering. I could feel my guard dropping around her, yet I couldn’t report her to the elders. “Why can’t you?” she asked. Because I’m the first descendant, you already know too much, and it’s my fault, because I stopped thinking. I’m not thinking. “Because I can’t,” I said, hoping she’d linger in silence, but she sighed. “I’m sorry if I was rude,” she said, sitting on the grass, small, purple lights waving around her. “I’m just worried about you.” My throat tightened. Worried? “I’m okay,” I said, sitting next to her. Her gaze shifted over my arm. “Then what’s with the bruises?” My hand shot up to cover Luthicer’s marks, but my clothes already did. I gaped at her. “How’d you see them?” She shrugged. “Your sleeve moved when we were walking earlier,” she said. “I see everything at night; it’s crazy.” I kept my face blank, but my heart was sinking. Her extreme senses weren’t supposed to develop until years of training. She was either lying to me, or something was severely wrong. I needed to report her. Could I turn her into the elders? I doubted it. “So—” She leaned against her knees and blinked her purple eyes. “Did you get into a fight or something? Is that why you didn’t show up the other night?” I nodded, knowing I’d left her alone in the forest for two days. I was too busy to train, and I couldn’t get away from the Dark. I hadn’t even gone to school. But I couldn’t tell her that. Not yet. “Talk to me,” she said, bumping her shoulder against mine. “Be human for a minute.” “If you haven’t noticed,” I said and laughed. “We aren’t exactly human right now.” She narrowed her eyes. “You’re avoiding the subject.” I groaned, laying my forehead on my knee. “I worked with an elder,” I said, and, when I looked up, she was smiling. “That wasn’t too hard, was it?” I chuckled and shook my head. “But you aren’t my therapist.”
“No,” she agreed. “But I’m your friend, and friends help each other.” Friend? I gaped at her. She considered me her friend? I tensed as she scooted closer to me. “So tell me about it already.” “The elders—” I paused, clearing the nerves from my throat. “They tested me the other day. That’s it.” She leaned back and stared at the bruises. “And they hurt you?” “It was necessary.” Her purple eyes flickered. “How is pain necessary?” “There’s a war coming, remember?” Her already white skin somehow paled. “And you’re a warrior.” I nodded. “The elders think I need to know what it’s like to be attacked by a light.” “The Light.” She let the word linger in the air, and she hugged her knees against her chest. “Those are the bad guys, right?” “Depends on who wins, I guess.” I smirked, but she didn’t smile. “When will someone win?” I sighed. “There’s a battle,” I said, hesitating. I shouldn’t be telling her so much, but I hadn’t talked to anyone in so long, let alone someone my own age. And a girl. “It’ll happen this December.” Her thin eyebrows scrunched. “It’s scheduled?” “It’s based on the first descendant’s birthday.” My birthday. “That seems really odd,” she said, and I shrugged before she pushed her shoulder against mine again. “Especially with these cranky elders dictating it all.” I chuckled. The prophecy was dictating it. The elders only wished they had that kind of power. “It isn’t their fault,” I said. “Really.” “But you have to fight in it?” My gaze darted away until I could control my expression. “I choose to.” Lie. “Defending my kind is the honorable thing to do.” “You’re eighteen,” she said. “You’re not supposed to care about honor.” “I’m seventeen.” “What’s the difference?” she asked, and I opened my mouth to tell her, but I couldn’t—not because I didn’t want her to know, but because I still didn’t want to accept it. “There’s a big difference,” I said. She huffed. “One year.” “Yeah,” I agreed. The one year I had left to live. “A lot can happen in that amount of time.”