Alexandra couldn't believe what she just saw. She was too unbelievably shocked by the scene that took place before her. She found herself struggling to breathe, and the flood of her tears made her throat dry, resulting in her consistent cough.
She was gasping for air, holding herself tightly. A brother. Kyros had a little brother, just about Aaricia's age. She knew his parents had died in the Great War, but she never even imagined he had a living family member. Kyros had been supporting his child brother since he was young. And she never knew about him.
She began hiccupping as she cried and cried. This wasn't like the times when she would continuously cry and feel like she could never stop. This time, she really couldn't stop the flow of tears, and it scared her to no end. Her heart was wrenched away from her the instant she found out that truth, and the weight of guilt pressed so forcefully on her slender shoulders to the extent that she felt dizzy and unable to support herself on her own legs.
"I can't believe," she gasped, falling to her knees, sobbing more and more. "How could I have never known?" she asked herself hatefully. She clenched her own hair in despair. That child could have been Aaricia. She understood Kyros' pain more than anything else. She wouldn't know what she would do if her sister had been harmed in that battle. If the roles were reversed, Alexandra was convinced she would be a much worse person than Kyros was being now. All of a sudden, his hatred and scorn seemed justified…even the pain and endless trouble he placed her under.
She felt like she deserved every poisonous word that came out of his mouth…every insult…every degrading word…every disapproving stare…every shove and yell. This was her fault. Because of her, his little brother was gone. The little brother she knew he must have loved with his whole heart.
"It's not your fault," said the Sage, kneeling down and placing a comforting hand on Alexandra's shoulder. She scoffed and laughed mirthlessly.
"Please don't try to say it isn't. I know a mistake when I see one…I've been judging for a long time now," she said, hating herself more with every passing second.
"But—" began the Sage once again, but Alexandra interrupted.
"But nothing. I know I'm not responsible for the attack. I know that the fact that it happened wasn't entirely my fault. Not entirely. I know that the people's losses aren't all on me either. But this. This I am fully responsible for. There's a direct line between my leaving and his brother's death."
"You don't know that," tried the Sage.
"Yes, I do. If I hadn't left, Kyros wouldn't be so busy substituting in my place. Meaning, he would have been with his brother. And he would be alive now." Alexandra said this despairingly as more tears fell from her bright fuchsia eyes.
She kept seeing images of Aaricia lifeless on the ground. Or blood pouring from a large wound on her little body. Or even someone hurting her…torturing her endlessly in any way they could. These thoughts made her sob more and more, and she couldn't help but feel all Kyros' pain…all his hurt. What she felt for a moment with those thoughts was what he had been feeling for more than a year now, every single day…every second of his life.
And every time he looks at me, that's what he sees, she thought. He sees the reason his only family is gone.
"This is why I'm very selective about who I choose to reveal events to," said the Sage. "Please princess, don't be too hard on yourself. You'll soon realize that a lot of what happened wouldn't have been in your hands anyway, even if you remained in the kingdom after all."
Alexandra didn't know when she stood up. She only knew that once she felt her legs upright once again, the sky was going dark and she had been left alone in the garden. She was thankful for the space. She walked away, heavy-hearted. Right before she left the garden, she felt a presence behind her. She turned and saw the Sage looking at her sympathetically.
"Thank you for your help," said Alexandra sadly. The Sage simply nodded and gave her a comforting smile that told her that maybe things would be okay. But Alexandra certainly didn't feel that way. Not this time. Whenever Kyros would bother her, she would console herself and her sisters would console her and tell her that it would be alright the next day. This time? No. There would be no 'alright' this time. Not with her newfound knowledge of what happened to Kyros. Of everything he had been through while she was gone.
"I have one more question," said Alexandra before departing. The Sage nodded, beckoning her to speak.
"What was his name?" asked Alexandra so softly, the Sage wasn't sure she heard her.
"Lucas," said the Sage. Alexandra turned and walked off, not knowing in which direction she was going. A new and fresh batch of tears replaced the first, and once again, she didn't know how to stop the flow of these ones.
She kept walking and walking until her feet were sore and her legs were hurting so much. She didn't consciously realize what she had been doing until she sat kneeling in front of a gravestone. This was the graveyard closest to Kyros' home. On her left was the grave of his mother, and on her right the grave of his father. Directly in front of her was the grave of a boy named Lucas. "Beloved brother," she whispered, hugging herself. The night air became chilly and the dark sky looked too beautiful for the circumstances.
Images of Lucas' little innocent face sent an even wilder stream of tears down her cheeks. He was so young. And he was the spitting image of Kyros. Black short hair and handsome features. She hadn't seen his eyes, though. They were closed. Alexandra began shivering uncontrollably and felt like her mind was exploding from the pain. Her throat became so excruciatingly dry that she was once again gasping for air.
"What do you think you're doing here?" asked a cold, hard voice from behind her. She gasped in fear of the angry outburst and turned sharply, still kneeling helplessly in front of Lucas' grave. Kyros stood before her. His features slowly became more and more angry to the extent where he began scaring her.
"I-I was just," she began.
"Just what?" he asked hatefully.
"I'm so sorry," she started. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry," she cried. "You don't know how—I'm just so sorry," she sobbed, shaking once again and gasping for a deep breath. He seemed to lose his scowl for one moment before he realized what she was apologizing for. His eyes darted to his family's graves for a split second before they acquired all the hate in the world and landed back on her seated figure.
"I'm sorry," she continued. "I don't know what to is all my fault. I caused all your pain," she sobbed.
"Stop it," he growled.
"I'm sorry," she continued, unable to stop herself. She felt his pain. It was bursting from within her. It was killing her on the inside.
"Stop it!" he said more firmly.
"—so sorry," she continued.
"I SAID STOP!" he screeched, pulling her up onto her wobbly legs in front of him.
"What are you doing here?!" he asked again, demanding an answer. She shifted on her legs, and tried to stay steady. The tears hadn't stopped yet. She didn't know what to say. What was she doing here? Visiting the boy she indirectly killed? Trying to release all her guilt? Crying uncontrollably? Apologizing for something unforgivable?
"How did you know?" he asked in a low, dangerous voice. Once again, she lost her voice, not knowing what to say or how to say it. I deliberately went to the Sage and asked her to show me what happened to make you hate me so? That wasn't a very good answer was all she could think of.
"I SAID HOW DID YOU KNOW ?!" he snarled, taking a few steps forward.
"The Sage," she whispered. "I went to the Sage. I asked her to show me what happened in the kingdom while I was gone that made everyone so hateful towards me. She showed me the battle that happened. The unexpected attack. I saw everything. And I also saw—" and here she trailed off, not knowing what to say either. She couldn't say it out loud. She couldn't bring it up. It was too painful. Thoughts of Aaricia filled her mind again, and more tears poured out. She wasn't sure of where they were all coming from.
"You had no right," he began. "YOU HAD NO RIGHT TO SEE ANYTHING! HE WAS MY BROTHER! HE WAS MY RESPONSIBILITY! AND BECAUSE OF YOUR IRRESPONSIBILITY HE'S GONE! AND HE'S NEVER COMING BACK! BECAUSE OF YOU! YOU WRETCHED SELFISH GIRL! YOU KILLED HIM! YOU MURDERED MY LITTLE BROTHER!" he continued. He was repeating the same words and yelling at her until his lungs gave out.
She cried and cried as he said all this. It was all so undeniably true. She couldn't take it anymore. She burst into a bawl, and couldn't stop crying. She tried apologizing more, telling him how she knew it was unforgivable but she was truly sorry anyway. She was truly sorry.
"YOU'RE APOLOGIES MEAN NOTHING! THEY WILL NEVER MEAN ANYTHING!" he screamed. His eyes lit up into the storm, and his face was so red he looked like he would pop. His muscles were so tensed, his jaw clenched, his fists balled. He looked like he was going to sizzle at any second.
His mind was taken by uncontrollable rage. Uncontrollable rage that he couldn't exact any part of his will over. He was consumed by it. He was driven by it. He kept yelling at her, accusing her, fighting her with his loud booming voice and taking step after step closer to her until he was standing right in front of her and she blocked his path.
He lifted his right palm and slapped her so fiercely across the face that her cheek immediately turned extremely red and his hand mark remained. He was still in a fit of rage, uncontrollably angry. She lifted her delicate hand to touch the area but it was stinging too much, and her even more numerous tears were burning her cheeks, especially the one that was struck by his hand. Pain. Physical, emotional, and psychological pain all in one blow…all in one strike.
He took another step forward and shoved her forcefully behind the graves and unto the rough ground…the rough rocks. The push was so forceful that she slid into the stones for a couple of meters. But, the stony-surfaced ground slid with her and into her skin, scraping her back, and forming a long gash that extended from the top of her right shoulder to a little under her right shoulder blade.
The cut was huge, and warm oozing blood poured out of it at a steady pace. Still, the storm in his eyes didn't clear. He clearly lost his mind in those few moments. But, at her lack of movement, he stalked away angrily, feeling ready to set the whole world on fire.
She struggled to stand, but somehow eventually managed to get to her feet. Barely able to move at her own will because of the scrape, she limped uncomfortably to the end of the graveyard and as far as she could towards the castle. She got considerably close before she felt so faint. She lost too much blood. Luckily, Atara was not far. She heard Alexandra's rasping breath and her collapsing unto the stony ground.
Atara ran in her direction and to her side, looking bewildered at the state Alexandra was in. Before she could run to some healers, Alexandra pulled her closer and whispered orders into her ear. Atara looked reluctant but nodded just the same. She called for Jace to come and carry her to the now-empty healer's ward since she was pregnant and could not carry all of Alexandra's weight herself.
Alexandra was in unimaginable pain in every way. But she didn't blame Kyros for everything he just did. She felt like, if he did the same thing to her everyday, or even worse, she would deserve it. She did deserve it, in her own opinion. And she knew that from then on, it was a losing chance. She would never be able to look at him without feeling the pain. She would never be able to apologize again, because it was unforgiveable. She would never be able to utter another single word against him, because she was guilty as charged. She was the villain.