Chapter 34:

Chapter 34


Darkness. Emptiness. An unconscious void. Pain. Aching, searing pain. And the distinct feeling of something wet. Isaac awoke to those senses. He opened his eyes. Sat up and rubbed his head. He groaned with grogginess. His body was tired and weak, but quickly jolted awake and alert once tackled by Vera.

"You're alive!" She cried, hugging Isaac tighter. "I'm so happy!"

"Yeah? Why wouldn't I be? What happened? Why are you being so emotional?"

"Why am I? We JUST started dating and then you go and ALMOST DIE!!! How else am I supposed to react?!"

"That guy in the forest almost killed you, Isaac." Elizabeth explained. "We carried you to safety, but we barely made it out. We all almost died." Isaac finally homed in on his surroundings. The night sky. The smoldering forest fire. The lightning bugs. Elizabeth's wounds. Vera's wounds. And when he looked down, patting at his chest, seeing his cracked armor beside him, Isaac noticed his own wounds. His chest was stuffed with gauze. He had several stitches. And wrapped around Isaac, was a purple cloth. He weaved his fingers underneath and lifted it up closer to his face. He stared at it for a moment. His lip quivered slightly.

"You looked nice in this dress." He whispered. Isaac untied it from his body. Elizabeth let out a light chuckle.

"Now you tell me." She smiled softly, caressing the torn lilac. Isaac carefully stood up and shuffled over to his armor. He slowly suited back up, jagged metal scraping his skin. "What are you doing? Don't you want a new suit?"

"Nah. I'll stick with this old thing. Can't let you guys be the only ones walking around looking disheveled." He left his helmet on the ground. Isaac took the blood-soaked piece of dress and tied it to the collar of his armor. It fluttered in the wind like a pristine cape. "Besides, we're almost done! What's the point in stopping to shop now?"

"Oh yeah!" Vera beamed, Isaac sitting back down next to her. "We should have everything, right?"

"Let me just double check." Elizabeth pulled out the scroll. She unraveled it and stared at it confused. The couple took note of her perplexed face.

"What's wrong doc?"

"It's... different."

"What do you mean?"

"The words, it's different now. It's not a list of ingredients anymore, it's a recipe."

"A recipe? Like for the cure?" Elizabeth skimmed through the paper. It was an intricate detailing on how to combine all the ingredients, how each item should be properly utilized. But it also provided more, more steps, steps for after the fact. Take my instructions to heart, you'll know what to do when the time is right. That's what it read at the bottom of the paper, signed by Death with a little chibi drawing of himself.

"Yeah, yeah I think so." Elizabeth's unsureness quickly shot up into realizations. "My lab! We'll be able to engineer the cure in my lab! I've got all the proper equipment; we've just got to make it there, in the castle."

"I'm going to take a gamble and say that Grimwald is probably walled off inside the castle."

"Most definitely." Elizabeth nodded.

"And he'll probably keep things well guarded." Vera added.

"Right, Dullahan and Necros are still out there, and who knows what else Grimwald has planned. So, our next course of action should be obvious." Everyone waited with bated breath. "We need to take a short rest."

"What?!" Elizabeth panicked.

"Agreed." Vera said, starting to get comfortable for the night.

"Wait, wait, wait!"

"What?" The two warriors asked.

"Can't we stay up a little longer?" A bead of sweat dripped down Elizabeth's forehead. Isaac and Vera looked at each other confused. "I don't want to go to sleep yet."

"Why not?" Vera questioned.

"Yeah? We need to be rested in order to pull this off. And while I think we can spare a few hours; every second does in fact count. So, what's the point in stalling?" Elizabeth's eyes darted back and forth. She got choked up. Tears lightly overflowed, forcing Elizabeth to play them off as a yawn. It swiftly dawned upon her once more. She hadn't told them. And after all this time, all this time debating death, wondering if she was better off dead or alive, she realized. She wasn't ready. She's not ready. Her mortality stared her in the face, and she wasn't ready for it. This was her last chance. Her last chance to spend time with them. Not time fighting, struggling, or dying. Just. Time. Time to relax, to have fun, to be friends. This was the last of it. And she wasn't ready.

"I just... want to stay up a little longer." She sheepishly said.

"Yeah. Okay, Liz." Vera softly agreed. Elizabeth sniffled.

"What are you guys going to do once we're done? Not like big picture, like what do you want to do immediately after its finished?"

"Well, I'd probably want to help with the aftermath. Help clean up the kingdom, you know? But I'd probably get something to eat first." Isaac laughed. Elizabeth shakily smiled with him.

"And I'd probably go back and stick it to the council!" Vera proudly announced. "But something to eat also sounds nice. We should all go together again! One big congratulatory hangout before we part ways!"

"Although I'm sure we're all gonna stick together after this anyway." Isaac pointed out.

"Heh, right... You guys are going to be okay without me, right?"

"What do you mean?"

"Like when I'm gone, you guys will be okay?"

"Uh, yeah? I don't see why we wouldn't be."

"You're kinda freaking me out, Liz. You're talking like you're gonna disappear."

"Oh, s-sorry." Elizabeth looked away and rubbed her arm, too scared to look her closest friends in the eye.

"What about you, doc? What are you gonna do when this is over?" Elizabeth paused for a second. What could she do? Once everything is all said and done, she'll die. What can she do right before then?

"I'd like to see the sunrise. A brand-new day on a brand-new Ethros."

"I like that." Isaac smiled. "As much as I love a good heart to heart with you guys. We should get some rest." Isaac and Vera started to nestle into the soil, despite Elizabeth's frantic begs and pleas. "Goodnight doc, see you in a couple hours." And they left her. Isaac and Vera swiftly lost in slumber, cuddled together without a care in the world. Leaving Elizabeth alone, sitting all alone. Alone to face her mortality. How could they sleep so peacefully? A terrible battle looms around the corner, and they can sleep like babies. It's because they have a choice. If they win, they live. If they lose, they die. The promise of a good ending keeps them swathed in positivity. But not Elizabeth. The blanket of justice cannot envelope her. Win or lose, it doesn't matter. In the end, she dies.

"Can't we stay up, just a little longer?" She whispered.