Solana looked up at me. She struggled to make direct contact as her pupils trembled. I could hear her words become trapped within the back of her throat, causing Solana to cough. I patiently waited for her to continue, and when she did, her gaze averted from me.
“But, I swear, Elijah. It’s not like that anymore. It was after that day in Timorba, when we were searching the Dianoche. I wasn’t aware of just how much losing your parents affected you. After we returned to the Castle, I began feeling that emptiness from within you. I realized, at that moment, that you were hurting in ways I couldn’t comprehend.”
“The guilt has been eating away at me for weeks. I was exploiting you, even though you were in so much pain...what kind of Guardian does that make me? What kind of person does that make me? I let my jealousy, my wrath, and my shame guide my actions, and I feel horrible now because of it.”
“Elijah,” she called to me hoarsely, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t ever speak to me again. I’ll arrange for someone else to mentor you. I’ll make sure you don’t have to see my face for as long as you remain with the Order. I’ll even get someone else to help you find your parents. You don’t need someone as self-centered as I am.”
I was taken aback by her entire speech, but I pushed my feelings away. I didn’t even know how to feel about the situation. She basically told me that our friendship was all a scheme to bring back her family’s dignity. But, at the end of the day, she truly did care about me. She just said so. How was I supposed to respond?
“Is that it, Solana?” I asked, pressing any more information out of her.
“No. I told you everything,” she sniffled, drying the tears from her face.
I took a deep breath, finally pooling all of the information together in my head. She wanted to pay for what she had done, but I...I had no idea how I wanted to proceed.
I cared for Solana. Maybe not right away, but she did so much for me, even if they were for the wrong reasons. Our rapport kept growing stronger and stronger, but what was left of it now? Part of me felt betrayed, as if our friendship was artificial. However, this was the same cynical, wrathful side that took over back in Timorba. It was the darkness within me, the one that I could either deny or embrace.
Then I remembered my exchange with Keith. I had developed a third option. Doubt swirled into my head as I thought about those words. What good was the darkness within me? It wanted to alienate myself with Solana for what? Because she had an ulterior motive? Because she thought she could use me?
But what if that was all a front? What if she was still lying to me? What if the only reason she was apologizing was because she knew she failed, that there was no way she would be able to harness White Essence. What if she didn’t actually fail, but was using that as an opportunity to bring me closer?
No. These needless concerns were stabbing into me like Solana’s thorn. The light and darkness created a battlefield within my heart. What was I to do? What was I to do?
And finally, an answer skimmed by. I now knew exactly what had to be done.