Jay stayed a respectful distance from me, dark concern clear in his crimson eyes. I closed my mind to his thoughts, which darted from anxiety to keep moving out of the open, to concern for me, to jealousy over the vampire who had clearly meant so much to me.
"You were the most human part of me," I whispered, my fingertips stirring little puffs of soot from the ground. "You were the only one who could bring me to my knees."
I could taste the salt as tears splashed around my splayed hands, turning the ash a darker shade of grey. I could sense Jay's growing impatience, despite his concern. I was loathe to leave the place, even though I could still hear him screaming in my mind, still smell the charring flesh. This was the place where he fell. I promised I would never leave him behind, but now, survivor's guilt burned like bile in the back of my throat. It should have been me to die here, not him.
I'm not the one that the world needs. There are too many killers, not enough good people. Not enough people like you, Jake.
"Asha.." Jay's voice was soft, but tense. We had spent too much time here already.
I closed my eyes against the poisonous wave of rage mingled with grief. I wanted to stay here until the Earth itself turned to dust. I heard Jay shift, his long shadow moving across the black grass. A light flared between the dark strands, like a sudden star. I moved to grasp it and found Jake's ring, in perfect condition amongst the ash. I closed my fist around it as a nameless, bittersweet emotion engulfed me.
"Thank you Jake." I whispered, feeling as though he had left this for me. I felt that with the ring, I could finally find the strength to move past the place. I slipped it onto the chain I always wore beneath my clothes and straightened, looking at Jay with renewed determination. He simply nodded, turning to run as I took a final glance, before following him into the deepening shadows.
We hit the trees of a forest and simply took to their branches, confusing our trail as much as possible. I let Jay set the pace, opting to allow his slower travelling speed to give my mind time to wander. It was as I was losing myself in alleys of memories and rhetoric that Jay called my name in the darkness, jolting me to reality. I looked over to him, those crimson eyes almost glowing in the gloom. I tilted my head, opening a link between our minds.
I thought we were going to be non-verbal?
You were in your own world and I thought you might want to know that there are Council Hunters below our feet. I'm not sure if they heard me, but they know that we are in the forest, I could hear them talking.
Okay, if they become a problem, leave it to me.
I tied my Shadow's mask on, just in case as we continued to make our way silently through the trees, with me now taking the lead. This was where I was the expert. We were no longer simple travellers. We were fugitives planning to attack the very people that we were running from. The irony of that was not lost and it occurred to me that Jake would love the joke.
From behind me, I heard the tiniest gasp and scrape of leather against bark. I turned to see Jay regaining his grip and three Council Hunters appear in the branches behind him. I cursed quietly as I felt the impact of more Hunters alighting behind me.
Drop to the ground and get back to back. I projected to Jay, allowing for no arguments as I dropped, using the flare of my coat caused by the wind to release my half swords, landing in a guard. Jay landed behind me a split-second later as agents encircled us. All had shields on their minds. We faced off silently, each side waiting for the other to make a move.