Part VII


51


-in which they are worlds apart-


the darkness sneered about humans today.
so they fall, and they break,
and they make the same mistakes,
like they always, always, do.

-x-

Jenna felt as if her heart would burst through her ribs any moment. She clutched onto Vincent, trying to focus only on his oblivious face, trying to smile back at his toothy grin, trying to act composed through this ordeal, and trying most of all not to start crying now.

She bit her lip.

"Z-Zeph, can you take Vince, please?" Jenna managed to say. Quickly, she rose up – far too quickly – and placed her son into the thief's arms. Zeph staggered for a bit, his gaze darting between her and Eidan, asking a million questions in his golden eyes and yet staying thankfully silent for merciful reasons.

Zeph's eyebrows furrowed slightly; nevertheless, he hefted the baby up in the air and walked off. A quick look was spared over his shoulder, nodding supportably at her and somehow grimacing at the predicament at the same time. Before they left for the elevator, Vincent waved his arm – but not at her – at Eidan.

Eidan's eyes, which were the same exact shade as Vincent's, widened.

Jenna looked on, unsure whether she should hate it or be relieved.

When the creaking groan of the elevator echoed through the metal walls of the lobby and Zeph left with Vincent, Jenna stood in silence, watching Eidan from the corner of her eyes and listening to the sickening rampage of her heart. His gaze was fixed on the elevator's doors, as if still seeing Vincent through the metal.

Jenna ran a hand over her knuckles. She squeezed them; not enough to crack her knuckles, but enough to form a tiny sense of distraction for her brain.

Eidan turned back to her. His lips parted, stuttering something under his breath before he abated and fell mute.

How many times had she imagined this very scene? Dreaded it with every ounce of her heart, or dreamt of it as a solution to her grief, or a penance for her anger, or a path into rage? How many versions of this scene had she thought of – where Eidan would beg for forgiveness, or she would demand answers, or he would look at disgust at their child, or she would cry and cry some more?

Jenna waited for him to speak, because her voice was lost in her throat.

"Is he…" Eidan swallowed. "Is Vincent… mine?"

She nodded and closed her eyes. Call it stupid, but she didn't want to see his reaction. No, it was not out of bitterness and grudge. She just didn't want to see the possibility of him being appalled at this. For many years, she had dreaded that Eidan would turn Vincent away, think of him as some hindrance that he did not need in his already messed up life. Vincent was just a child born into this curse; he deserved a life of peace and happiness, unlike what his parents had been forced to savage through in recent years. It was motherly instinct that Jenna wanted her child to have an average life free of curses and darkness.

But was that possible if Eidan was his father? Was it possible for Vincent to lead a normal life when his father was the prince of the shadows, a creature feared by humans today?

Was it possible for Vincent to lead a normal life if he was half human, half shadow?

"It was after when we nearly got burnt alive, wasn't it?" Eidan asked, his voice still trembling. "When the darkness took over me, I… I-"

"You raped me," Jenna interrupted him. She didn't know why, but that was the moment where she finally opened her eyes. And she was faced immediately with the look of sheer agony in Eidan's eyes.

Jenna swallowed, although it did little to help the dryness in her throat. Suddenly, she felt sick. Her head hurt, pounding her temples until she actually had to hold them with her hands. In truth, there was a strong part of her that wanted to pry all of the answers from Eidan, to somehow understand him despite all of this – but she was afraid.

She didn't know why or what of, but she just knew that she was afraid.

And so, her feet moved on their own accord. She spun around and fled the room.

"Jenna."

Eidan's voice stopped her. It occurred to her that she could have continued to walk away from him, but something in the tone of his voice prevented her from even moving a single muscle. She stayed rooted on the spot, her back facing him, feeling the coldness of the atmosphere run like needles across her spine.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

His voice was quivering. She could barely understand it through the painful thumping of her heart. At that moment, she tried to recall his words and form a suitable answer, but all she felt was a sickening pit in her stomach.

"Why – Why didn't you tell me that I – that I did t-that to you?"

Her nails dug into her arms. Slowly, she turned around to face him.

She fumbled for words. "I just… I just knew it would destroy you if you found out-"

Eidan's eyes darkened. Instinctively, Jenna took a step back, her own eyes widening at the clear turmoil in his face.

"Destroy me? What about you, Jenna?" he snapped. For a moment, it looked like he was about to grab her shoulders; but his hands stopped in midair and he snatched them away as if her presence burnt.

Or maybe because he couldn't touch her. Not after what he found out.

"So why did you leave?" she asked. It irritated her that her voice sounded weak and feeble, but she supposed that was only to be expected.

He winced.

Something inside her stirred. She realised now that she did want answers; she wanted to know why he left, what he had been doing for three years, she wanted to understand. And she wasn't sure if it was good or bad that she was allowing this, but all Jenna felt was a rage inside her. A burning rage to pry out all the words from him, all the days and years she had missed, in the hopes of at least trying to understand.

Eidan averted his eyes away. She studied his face, finding it quite saddening that she had missed three years of seeing him grow into this person. She knew she had changed tremendously herself, but the change in Eidan was notable as well. As much as Jenna hated to admit it, she regretted being apart from him now.

But she wasn't going to tell him that.

"I needed to control the darkness," he finally said. "I heard you talking to Mana during the morning and you sounded so upset that it just… scared me. I knew that what I did was bad, but I didn't think it would have been this bad…"

She frowned. "So… you went back to Balandria to control the darkness inside you?"

He nodded. "Ethel was the one who suggested it. I was desperate for a solution at that time, so I just agreed. And I stupidly thought that it would have been better if I stayed away from you."

Then, he turned back to her, his face suddenly desperate. He took a step forward and she was surprised to find that she did not shuffle away. Jenna remained on the spot, looking up into his eyes with an unfaltering gaze. It felt as if he was a breath away, and yet they were still miles apart.

"Jenna, please know that I never – I never wanted this to happen. I can't begin to imagine what you went through and I don't even know if I'm worthy to apologise to you, but I am so sorry. I thought I was-"

She held her hand up, silencing him instantly.

"I'm guessing you've controlled the darkness now," she said, unable to come up with anything else to say.

It occurred to her that she should at least have told him that she forgave him and that it wasn't as if he had intended to do that to her, but she couldn't bring herself to say those words. Was it because, deep down, she didn't forgive him at all?

Eidan nodded, averting his eyes down.

She pursed her lips. He was too close for her liking. Taking a step back, she kept her fists clenched as she willed herself to speak again. Eidan had already explained himself. Now, it was her turn.

"Vincent is half-human, half-shadow," Jenna blurted out.

Eidan looked up, slight puzzlement in his eyes.

"I don't know what that means for him, but I… I don't want him to be involved with this curse. He's only a child, Eidan. I want Vincent to have a normal life away from anything related to this curse or darkness or-"

"Away from darkness. As in, away from me." Surprisingly, Eidan's voice sounded empty, but his face betrayed his emotions.

Jenna looked away.

"It's… It's not because of what you did to me. I just don't see this working anymore, Eidan. There's too many things keeping us apart and I'd rather not have anymore complications in my life. I need to start thinking of my responsibilities rather than… other things. The two of us… W-We can't go back to what we used to be."

She dreaded having to look back at his face and if anything, Jenna was tempted to keep her eyes focused on her shoes for the rest of the day. However, thankfully, the sound of the airship opening assisted her at that moment. She turned her eyes to the entrance.

Caelum entered the airship slowly, his frown growing deeper and deeper as he neared her and Eidan.

There was a thick silence in the air.

"Sorry about Celeste," Eidan muttered after a while, nodding slightly at Caelum.

The God frowned. "How do you know about that?"

"I found that grave you made for her."

"Ah," Caelum slowly nodded, letting the short subject drop.

"I think I might have some information about the curse actually," Eidan mumbled. His voice was quiet now, and he avoided catching Jenna's eye. But then again, Jenna did the same.

"I'll go get Mana and Zeph…" Jenna said, using it as an excuse to immediately escape the room, if only for a couple of minutes.

She practically dived into the elevator. When the doors slid close and trapped her in a safe cocoon by herself, Jenna slumped against the wall. Her eyes closed and she took deep breaths, listening to the rampaging pulse of her heart.

She recalled the words that she said to Eidan.

What if… What if she had been too-

No. No. It had been the right thing to do. She couldn't rely on him anymore. She had managed to survive three years without him. Just because he was back didn't mean that she could return back to her old ways.

Despite that, she spent a couple of minutes trying to silence her sobs.

-x-

They were all gathered around a table in the bar. It took Jenna much longer than she guessed to convince Vincent to stay in his room, but after promising him that she would buy him some ice cream later, he finally listened to her. Although, the thought of Vincent eating ice cream did not put Jenna's mind at ease. The child was already hyperactive enough; he didn't need extra sugar to exceed that.

"Wait," Mana said. She was frowning at Eidan, who had just spent the last few minutes trying to explain what he had been doing in Balandria for three years. "So… you went to Balandria to control the darkness inside you and because Ethel said she had a spell that could hopefully break the curse?"

Eidan nodded.

"But Ethel was a lying bitch and you only realised that now?" Zeph cut in, ignoring Mana's look of disapproval.

Eidan was more reluctant to nod this time.

"It was Grace who actually helped me realise it. She told me that the real way to break the curse was for me to kill her and for Jenna to kill Lucan."

Jenna raised her eyebrows. It wasn't an amazing display of shock, but as the information dwelled inside her for longer, an unsettling feeling spread in her gut.

She had to kill Lucan?

"How did Grace know this?" Caelum asked, folding his arms and scrutinising Eidan with hard eyes.

Eidan paused for a while. There was a slight frown tugging at his brow and that did not bode well with Jenna. It looked like he just realised something – something that was probably better off being known at an earlier time.

"Grace said that Ethel told her about it," he said slowly.

"Well, that's helpful," Caelum spat. "Ethel could have been lying to Grace about that as well!"

"This is ridiculous," Zeph muttered, walking away from their table. Jenna watched him from the corner of her eyes; he was pouring himself a drink at the bar.

Amidst the noise of Caelum complaining, Zeph drinking, and Mana sighing, Jenna studied Eidan's expression. He was thinking about something - that much was obvious – but no matter how much she tried to guess, she couldn't put a finger on it.

Wait. Why did she keep looking at him anyway? Chastising herself, Jenna glared and focused her eyes on the table instead.

"It wouldn't hurt to play it safe and kill the clones anyway."

An abrupt silence filled the room. It wasn't the words that surprised everyone, but perhaps the person who said it.

Jenna. She was the one who had blurted it out.

Eidan stared at her with wide eyes.

"What are you saying?" Mana asked her, her voice trembling. Even Zeph had stopped drinking, turning around on his chair to look at Jenna with a raised eyebrow.

"That's a safe option," Caelum said after a while. "But Jenna, that would mean that you would have to kill Lucan. Are you capable of that?"

"He killed Celeste." That was the only thing Jenna could think of to say.

"You don't have the guts to kill him," Zeph shouted over. "And how do we even know this will work-"

Jenna scowled at his direction. "It's better than doing nothing."

Mana shook her head. "This isn't right! Jenna, this isn't like you. Killing Lucan isn't going to make Celeste come back or-"

"Shut up, Mana!" Caelum snapped at the elf, glaring at her with blood-red eyes. Mana immediately fell silent, but she kept the look of defiance in her face.

"And that means you have to kill Grace," Caelum told Eidan, who had stayed silent for all this time.

Eidan looked down at his hands. His dark hair hung about his face, covering his eyes so that it was difficult to scrutinise his emotions.

"She's my sister," he said, and his knuckles clenched at this, tighter and tighter until they turned white.

Jenna narrowed her eyes. "Didn't you once tell me that you would do anything to break this curse?"

"Jenna!" Mana hissed at her, rising up at her seat.

Jenna regarded the elf with a straight face.

"You can't just tell him to kill his own sister! What's wrong with you?"

She was about to retort with something that sounded equally as angry, but Mana's words sunk into her.

She just told Eidan to kill his own sister.

Her eyes darted to him, only to find that he was looking at her as well.

Jenna rose from her chair.

"I'm going to check up on Vincent," she muttered, not waiting for any of them to reply.

She fled the room, perhaps out of shame or anger – she didn't really know anymore.

-x-

Eidan sighed.

After a long day, Mana suggested that he had a rest. And being friendly as she usually was, Mana even offered to clean his old room for him. Now, here he was, standing before the room he and Jenna used to sleep in, wondering just how he would manage to even sleep when that was the last thing he wanted to do.

He slumped down on the bed, throwing an arm over his eyes. He didn't even bother to kick off his shoes; no doubt that he would sneak outside for some fresh air later anyway.

Was it a really good idea to return here? What if he was just being a hindrance to everyone?

It was clear that Jenna wanted nothing to do with him anymore. And he couldn't exactly blame her. Not after what he had done.

An involuntary shudder escaped him. He couldn't even begin to grasp the severity of what he had done. Jenna was only seventeen when it happened. Seventeen. And he had left her to take care of a baby for three years. There was no way he could blame Ethel for managing to manipulate him. He had known that Ethel was a manipulative person for countless years now and yet, that still didn't stop him from falling right into her trap.

What was he going to do here? He didn't even know how he could help in breaking the curse – and besides, it didn't look like Jenna even wanted his help in the first place. Despite Mana and the others having no issues with his return, Eidan couldn't shake off Jenna's clear distaste-

His door creaked open.

He frowned, uncovering his eyes and sitting up on his bed.

Eidan froze.

The kid – Vincent – was now in his room, staring at his surroundings with large, blue eyes. He was eating ice cream, coating half of his chubby face with sticky chocolate. Once the child caught Eidan's eyes, he broke out into a large grin.

"Cae-Cae?"

Eidan blinked.

Vincent toddled over to his bed, holding his ice cream before him as if it was a precious artefact. The toddler hopped on the mattress, sitting beside Eidan and devouring his ice cream like there was no tomorrow. Eidan's eyes darted to the door. Jenna wouldn't be happy if she found out Vincent were here.

"Cae-Cae?" Vincent repeated, frowning slightly at his face.

Eidan copied his frown. What was he saying?

Vincent pointed at him. "No red eyes?"

It dawned on him now. "I'm not Caelum," Eidan told him, allowing himself to smile. Of course the child would get mixed up between him and Caelum.

Vincent tilted his head. "What's your name?"

Eidan was quite surprised at his ability to talk, but he supposed that three year olds could talk freely at this age. He wasn't really sure; his experience with children was limited. Even so, Vincent's voice had a faint lisp to it – although Eidan wasn't sure if that was because his mouth was filled with ice cream at the moment.

"My name's Eidan," he replied.

Vincent grinned again, showing teeth full of chocolate. The corner of Eidan's lips tugged upwards.

"I'm Vince!" Vincent held out his hand.

Eidan looked down at the chocolate coated hand and hesitantly shook it. He kept his face impassive as he felt ice cream sticking to his palm.

"Is Mommy your friend?" Vincent asked once he had finally let go of Eidan's hand. When the child wasn't looking, Eidan vigorously wiped his palm on his pants.

"Your mum is… Yeah, she's a… friend," Eidan mumbled, hoping that didn't count as a lie. Thankfully, three year olds weren't known to suspect lies or deceit, therefore Vincent carried on eating his ice cream.

"You have blue eyes!" Vincent said, pointing at his face again. He seemed rather proud of his declaration, perhaps showing off about the fact that he knew his colours. Eidan smiled again. It was hard not to.

"Like me!" Vincent pointed at his own eyes.

Eidan felt his smile fade away.

The door burst open.

Jenna stood by the door, staring at both of them with an expression that was hard to decipher. Eidan couldn't be sure if she looked angry or sad or hurt, but it was clear that she most definitely wasn't ecstatic about this situation.

"Vincent, I've been looking for you everywhere!" she snapped at her son.

Vincent pouted. "Sorry, mommy…"

"It's fine. Just… just come here." Jenna motioned for Vincent. And it occurred to Eidan that it must have been because she didn't wish to step further into the room.

Vincent groaned, kicking his short legs off the bed and stomping to Jenna's side. He muttered a dejected "Bye bye, Eidan" under his breath before returning to his mother.

"Vincent, you're covered in chocolate," Jenna sighed. "Clean yourself up in the bathroom-"

Vincent groaned again-

"-or else you won't have anymore ice cream in the future."

As soon as those words escaped Jenna's lips, Vincent was gone.

Eidan found himself grinning. However, he noticed that Jenna was looking at him now, having seen his smile. He dropped it.

"Sorry," he said, "I should have told you that he was here-"

"It's okay," she interrupted. "I should have been watching him. He gets a bit hyper when he has his ice cream… He didn't bother you, did he?"

Eidan shook his head.

Jenna nodded. "Right. Good. Okay."

They stared at each other. She remained by the door, her arms folded and her feet occasionally shuffling against the floor. He studied her, watched how her short hair shone against the faint light in the room.

"I'm sorry about earlier. In the bar. I was being… unreasonable, I suppose."

Eidan shook his head at her apology. "It's fine. You don't need to apologise."

Jenna looked like she was about to retort to that, but she quickly stopped herself. She pursed her lips, frowning slightly at him before shaking her head.

"We all decided that we would pursue Lucan for now," she began to say instead. "Maybe not kill, but he needs to be stopped. He's a danger to everyone at the state he's in."

He nodded at this. "I heard from Grace that he's been hanging around the Dark Abyss. I'm guessing that's why he's so powerful and… insane all of a sudden."

Jenna raised her eyebrows at his news. "Is that possible? If a human spends too much time in the Abyss, they can start to control the darkness as well?"

Eidan shrugged. "I've never heard of anything like it, but I suppose it might be possible. Besides, we can't be sure if Lucan is classed as a human if he's a clone."

"But he wouldn't have been able to open the Abyss in the first place. Even if he can open it now, he wouldn't have been able to open it when he was still sane."

"Yeah, which means someone must have opened it for him and intended him to stay there, knowing full well what it would do to him."

Jenna looked disgusted. "So he's just being possessed? Is that it?"

"By the darkness, yes. But there's someone out there who let the darkness take him."

Unlike before, Jenna didn't reply immediately. She was staring distantly at a wall, deep in thought. Eidan patiently waited, thankful that she was at least being civil with him. He knew he probably didn't deserve it, but he could not deny the fact that he craved her presence. Three years hadn't changed his feelings for her.

"Do you reckon it could have been Ethel who opened the Abyss for Lucan?" Jenna asked, turning back to him.

"I'm not sure, but maybe. It's possible."

Jenna said nothing. She looked over her shoulder, spotting Vincent still scrubbing his face in the bathroom with the largest scowl he could probably muster.

"We're going to speak with the Cardamonian King tomorrow. Considering that we're helping to save the Earth Kingdom, the least he could do is help us capture Lucan." Jenna returned her gaze to Eidan, if a little reluctantly.

"We'll also be evacuating the last town in the Air Kingdom. Wake up early so we can get it over and done with." With that, Jenna spun around to leave his room.

Before she did so, she spared a look over her shoulder. Slightly, she paused, as if reconsidering what she was going to say.

"Dinner's ready downstairs," she muttered. "Don't isolate yourself from everyone by staying up here. Everyone… Everyone's missed you."

Eidan felt his heart stammer. She still hadn't moved; she was waiting for a response.

"I missed you too," he said, unable to stop himself.

Jenna's shoulders stiffened. He could see that her fists clenched and that her head had risen, and he winced inwardly, instantly regretting his words.

"Jenna-"

"I wish you didn't leave."

Eidan froze at her words. Before he could say anything else, she hastily walked away, shutting the door.

He listened to her retreating footsteps, staring at the door that kept them apart from each other as the sound faded away into bliss silence. Yet, he knew it was much more than a simple door that kept them apart now.

She was worlds away from him, and he now knew that would probably never change.

-x-

the darkness told him not to trust anyone.
deceit is a plague in all of the worlds.
but the darkness coats all lies;
it hides truth and trickery and merges them
into nothing.

and he would rather be nothing.


I really need to start updating more quicker if I want to finish this story...

Okay, I need to clarify some things. Some people have been asking if Eidan killed Grace when he left Balandria... Nope, he didn't. He just sort of fled that place and left her with Ethel. So don't worry; Grace isn't dead.

And the italics. The italics have changed. I meant to say this on the chapter where the timeskip happened, but I kept forgetting. I'm pretty sure that people have already noticed that the person talking in the italics has changed though. Can you guess who it is now?

Anyway, I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! Here's a chapter as a late present, hehe.