“I think it’s finally over,” I panted, still enveloped by my Essence.
“I don’t know how long she’ll be out,” Solana looked down at Celeste’s sleeping body.
“What are we going to do with her?”
Solana shrugged, “We’ll figure that out after we get out of the city. This place is bound to burst into flames at any minute. But before we do...what on Earth did you do?”
“I’m not sure,” I answered, staring at my hands. “After she hit me with that Essence Burst, my Essence just...appeared. I couldn’t even feel it when she smothered me with it the second time. It felt like I was...absorbing it.”
“Absorbing Essence...I’ve never heard of such a thing. Well, we can worry about it later. Let’s just be thankful that everyone is safe now.”
I reluctantly threw Celeste over my shoulder and followed Solana out of the house. Old Tenebris still needed to be evacuated. It broke my heart to think that around me, my home was falling to ruins. Before I stepped out the door, I took one final look at Wyatt’s living room, my living room.
I truly was leaving for good. Two months ago, I promised I wouldn’t step foot in Old Tenebris until I found my parents. Ten years of memories. Ten long years living my best friend, and those days came to an end so fast, all because of me.
“No,” I said under my breath. “I can’t keep blaming myself for this.”
And with that, I shut the door and never looked back.
“I think that’s everyone!”
The final embers faded as Keith counted the refugees. Half of Old Tenebris was reduced to ash before the fire abated. Families held each other and looked upon the toppled city with solemn, empty eyes. They had lost something important to them, just as I did years ago. I wondered if any of their hearts were as desolate as mine.
“How many bodies?” Solana asked.
Keith shook his head, “Around fifty, none of which are salvageable. Now we have to figure out what to tell the families…”
“Forget about that! Where are we going to put these people?”
“Hm,” Keith pondered. “We could try Timorba…”
“I doubt it. Timorba’s crowded as it is.”
“Too far. Besides, a sudden migration of people could tip off the Rogues still in the area.”
Keith and Solana continued to brainstorm as I drifted off into my thoughts. I stared out into the ravaged horizon, focusing on the scattered corpses buried under the dust. Charred skin and terror-stricken faces were lost beneath the remains of apartment buildings and projects.
“So this is how it ends, isn’t it?”
I didn’t even turn my head to Wyatt. He approached me from behind and stood by side, flooded by melancholy. It was just as much his home as it was mine.
No. To Wyatt, Old Tenebris was his life. He didn’t have somewhere else to go like I did. Home for him was amidst the cinders. I at least had the luxury to leave, a chance to get away. He couldn’t. He had to stay and watch his life fall apart.