Entry for the Straight thru the Heart Contest
Title: Ashes of Love
Summary: He is a forgotten god of Armageddon whose distaste for humans borders on hate. She is his fated soul mate, the most pious human soul. He is cruel, she is kind; he is vinegar, she is wine. Even with the help of the most unlikely source, will her love stand a chance in the face of his blind beliefs?
Pairing: Edward and Bella
Word count: 6,934
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
Humans, what a wretched breed!
Such a waste.
They'd made Earth so poisonous, so contaminated; he shuddered to walk its surface.
Where were the gardens of his father?
Where were the plentiful forests? The lakes which held the essence of their immortality in their very depths?
Where were the humans with pious hearts and hope in abundance?
Everything around Ed'vard was rotten—a festering wound eating away his father's precious conception.
Ed'vard had begged Cal'ile not to put him to sleep. Oh, how he'd begged, but his father only had the interest of his cherished humans in the forefront of his mind.
"You've grown reckless, Ed'vard," he'd said, his eyes shadowed over Ed'vard's transgressions.
Ed'vard was the God of Divine Judgment and Armageddon. Cal'ile had created him to test his humans.
Ed'vard had warned Cal'ile that Merosho—malice—had taken root in their hearts, but had Cal'ile listened?
Ed'vard had started to cleanse them, executing those who'd sinned throughout their lives. There'd been hordes of weak, sniveling pathetic humans who'd grovelled. Cal'ile had never understood eradicating them had been the only way.
Sins had started to turn the Immortality Lakes venomous. Gods had started dying.
Ed'vard had to save them. After all, they'd been his brothers, his sisters. He was the divine protector; saving them had been his duty.
Cal'ile had caged him in Irkalla—the underworld. He'd summoned demonic fairies, the Urvani, to lull him into enchanted sleep till the end of the Pyronian pantheon.
"I hope the moment of your awakening never arrives, Ed'vard."
His father's eyes had been sad, and his spirit had been broken—both effects of the misdeeds of his first and favored son. Cal'ile could've killed him, and yet Ed'vard's heartbeats proved that his father had loved him.
So, Ed'vard slept amidst the chaos, amidst the shrieks of sinners and cries of the damned. He'd slept till the Urvani had disappeared in dust and Cal'ile had breathed his last. He'd been awakened by the collapsing underworld, by the certainty he was the only one left.
Ed'vard walked on Earth after millennials only to realize the time was coming to fulfill his responsibility of being the god of Armageddon.
Two hundred years of loneliness, pain, and watching humans squander what had once been treasured wasn't something Ed'vard relished in.
He'd seen the world change with the turn of time. Ali'sh would've enjoyed the innovations humans came up with. The thought of his long-dead sister induced an ache in his heart. They were all gone. His father Cal'ile, his mother Ehsh'm, his brothers Jas'pe and Em't. He even missed the Goddess of the Moon, his brother's wife, Rosa'li.
Ed'vard hadn't dared to go back to Pyronia. He knew it still stood, ruined and empty as it always would be; a reminder of what happened when a god loved their creation to the point of becoming utterly ignorant. Sometimes, Ed'vard saw sunken heads and bare bones of his family in his dreams and woke up gasping for breath.
He didn't have the strength to go back, to see the merciless destruction Merosho had induced, and live—let alone be sane. Ed'vard had seen the first gods who'd gone mad from poisonous waters of the Immortality Lakes, and still remembered their screams when he'd beheaded them.
Ed'vard drifted in the world where kindness and hope weren't something in profusion, where sins ran rampant in the bloodstream. Humans didn't have any hope for salvation. They were living on borrowed time.
He'd wanted to destroy them the moment his eyes had opened, but in his haste, he'd forgotten Anima had to be sacrificed first to truly end a creation. And, when he'd risen from a collapsing underworld, Anima hadn't been born among humans yet.
The long-buried words of his father whispered in his mind, "A pious soul Ed'vard—an Anima. Someone who can show you even while humanity struggles with Merosho, they're worth saving. Search for that soul, Son."
He'd never searched for Anima because he knew it was something his father had created to save humanity.
Ed'vard didn't want to save humanity.
Why would he save those who'd forgotten his father—their creator?
He'd wait until Anima became of age, and then there would only be ashes where humans stood. Every creation was destined to end so something new could take its place.
Humans were next in the chain of many.
Ed'vard wandered with his thoughts for company, drifting through time pensively; waiting to make sure he didn't delay the oncoming demolition.
Ed'vard saw her for the very first time when she was five.
She was a quiet child, sitting beneath a tree with a coloring book in her hand, oblivious of the world around her. Her small brow was scrunched in concentration, as her cherry lips pouted at the paper she was greatly invested in. She was a beautiful girl. Her skin reminded him of blush-kissed roses from his mother's garden; her hair was the bygone reflection of the Vorori Mountain which had once stood mightily over Pyronia.
A frail human, as Ed'vard saw her, inspired curiosity in him and reminded him of all the things he'd lost.
He wanted to see what she'd drawn.
He walked leisurely to where she sat, beneath the shade of a birch tree, unaware of the danger who'd arrived for an introduction.
Maybe his shadow falling over her work alerted her of his presence, or maybe it'd been her instinct of survival. She hid the paper with her small hands, raising her eyes to meet his. They were brown—just like the color of the earth his father had created from chaos—pure and rich.
"Hello," Ed'vard said.
She whispered a timid, "Hi".
Where is her mother? Or her father? Who's brought her here? he thought.
No one whose blood ran in her veins was in the vicinity.
Humans usually didn't leave their young all by themselves.
Ed'vard sat beside her, leaning against the solid trunk, weary of his existence. He simply sat quietly as she started working on her drawing again.
Why wasn't she running away?
"I'm Bella," she said, thrusting the paper into his hand.
Ed'vard's eyes drifted on what she'd drawn, making his blood run cold.
It was a landscape illustrated in a clever, childish hand, depicting the Immortality Lakes. Her crayons had failed to capture the shimmer of their crystalline blue surface, as well as the detailing veins on the leaves of trees which once stood guard over his father's lakes. But there was no mistaking the place where he'd spent considerable time of his existence.
Ed'vard looked at her again, and then he felt it. Or rather, didn't smell it. There was no stench, no smell of rot clinging to her. He looked inside her heart just to make sure.
There was no trace of Merosho in her. There was no sin, either.
He'd found Anima, and he hadn't even been looking for her.
Bella still watched him with those eyes which remind him of home. He wondered what she saw on his face.
"Alone—" her eyes glazed over as she touched him "—so alone," she whispered before he pushed her hand away and left hurriedly.
In his haste, he'd forgotten her childish effort of picturizing his home was still in his hand.
He'd tried to stay far away from her.
Or as far as Ed'vard could get while still spying on Bella, pretending her life wasn't fascinating for someone as him.
She comforted him with smiles and honest disposition. Even while he watched from afar, Ed'vard didn't feel like an outsider in her life. She was a solace when sins ate at his psyche, when rationality threatened to desert him under the weight of loneliness.
Bella was an epitome of what humans had been created to be. Now, her mother… well, she was a different case. Renee would be one of the first on his list when he started his execution.
There'd been many nights when Bella's muffled sobs had almost made Ed'vard reach out to her. Despite what the world threw in her path, she always had a smile for others. Even for her vile step-father.
Bella was a rose surrounded by thorns.
He wondered if his thoughts would've been this charitable had he met her when she was a lot older than five. It was her innocence that drew him in. Even the aspect of his personality which thirsted for blood and carnage appreciated her ability to love everything and everyone.
One day, Ed'vard realized he was unable to restrain himself from reaching out to Bella when he'd heard her crying after Renee had locked her in her room without food.
And so, he'd started interfering in young Bella's life—something he shouldn't have done in the first place.
There'd been countless afternoons when he'd sat with her as she'd painted to her heart's content, and countless nights when she'd fallen asleep to the sound of his voice.
Her company made Ed'vard realize madness had taken him in its embrace. His single-minded quest had taken most of his level-headedness. Had he been the Ed'vard who'd roamed Earth and delighted in playing with children, he would've never thought about ending something his father had held dear to his heart.
When his madness got to be too much, when the thirst to obliterate everything was at its peak, she brought him back with her innocent questions and observations.
"Why are stars so bright, Edward?"
"Why are your eyes gold, Edward?"
"Are you really a god?"
"How do you always come when I call your name?"
Her questions always perplexed Ed'vard, making it difficult for him to respond.
It was an idyllic existence.
Ed'vard looked forward to the time he spent with Bella, and somewhere in between, he almost forgot humanity was supposed to die for its sins.
It happened one day as he should've known it would.
Bella was sleeping peacefully after a day out in woods.
He smiled, remembering her joy when she'd been chasing butterflies in their meadow.
"Edward, love you," she murmured, making his heart stop.
Heartbeats were gone and silence reigned. It was as if he'd been pushed inside a vacuum and nothing existed except for him.
No one existed apart from him.
How could Ed'vard forget her species was the reason he was homeless and without a family?
How could he forget his father had put him to sleep because he'd favored humans over him?
How could he forget she was Anima? That she'd be the first to burn in his quest?
He looked at the child who'd wormed her way inside his heart, and he hurt.
Why had he tried to know her?
Why had he let Bella comfort him in her own childish way?
Had he been so pathetic and weak to need a human shoulder to lean on?
Ed'vard desperately wanted to awake her, and demand her not to love him. "Don't do it, Bella…. I'll eventually kill you in the end!" he shrieked inside himself, remembering all the days he'd ever spent in her home. The anger descended on him like lava as he knew it would.
She was the reason for everything, something inside him seemed to say. Her species had made him an orphan and homeless.
Had he forgotten he wasn't human while trying to pretend he'd been one?
How could he forget the sinners who'd burdened his heart at the dawn of his existence? How could he forget they'd made him who he was today—bloodthirsty and insane beneath his mask of calm?
He would always remember the last moment when the only rational part of him untainted by his quest died.
She was human and she'd burn once she came to maturity. She would die along with her brethren.
He felt himself slip in an endless cavern devoid of light where sentiments were crushed beneath the weight of his only purpose.
He'd run far away that night from her presence, her innocence, and his memories.
Twelve years had passed in a blur since the day Bella Swan had taken his hand when she'd been five.
He'd been walking the sin-infested streets on the other side of the world when he doubled over in pain. He could feel his life force slowly draining, but no injury marked his skin. It took him a moment to realize it hadn't been his pain which had affected him but hers.
And yet, the pain throbbing inside him said otherwise.
What had Bella gotten herself into?
He materialized in her general location and found her bleeding in an alley. His heart missed a couple of beats.
What'd she been doing there?
It wasn't the good part of town. It was notoriously popular for streetwalkers and drunks, not a seventeen-year-old girl.
Kneeling by her side, Ed'vard took in her injuries and some of her recent memories. He saw flashes of a face which remained a constant presence in her life: her step-father's. She'd gone to search for that vermin in that muck.
Ed'vard wanted to leave her there, lying in some nameless street in an ordinary neighborhood. No one would bat an eye when they found her body. But then he remembered a girl who'd delighted in making him smile, the girl who'd eased his loneliness till the day he'd let her. It seemed the soft-hearted version of himself was still alive somewhere.
Her fading breath reached his ears. "Edward."
She'd called him that when she'd been a child.
He picked Bella up, cradling her gently, cautious of her wound so it didn't bleed further. He'd stopped the blood flow, but she still needed a doctor. An unwelcome tendril of anxiety started to unfurl in his heart for her well-being, so he crushed it.
Ed'vard materialized near a hospital and walked the remaining distance carrying her. The bright fluorescent lights emphasized the blood that'd soaked his clothes, as Bella whimpered in his arms.
"Edward," she whispered again.
Her bloodied hands dropped from his when they took her away, and for the first time, he felt her frail heart as if it were beating inside his own chest. Hers tried to match the rhythm of his until they slowly fell in sync. He'd heard tales about it from his brothers, but he'd never thought it would happen to him.
He was rooted to his spot, watching, as they took her away. Blood-drops fell from her fingers on the pristine white floor, and his heart broke bit by bit with every drop.
Ed'vard remembered a young Bella taking his hand, dragging him from place to place. He remembered the time when she loved the sound of his voice; the joy spilling from her earthly eyes in his presence. Silence cloaked him as it had once before.
Bella was his Inishen—hisfated other-half.
Why hadn't he understood it all those years ago? He'd felt the silence so steeply in that night when he'd run away, thinking he'd finally been awakened from his stupor after playing a human with her. Why hadn't he paused to think it could've been something else?
It had been nature's way of telling him he'd found his Inishen.
Her voice rang in his head, and her heart thudded in his chest. It echoed around him, caging him at the center of a crescendo which built, pushing him at its apex where it choked him in its embrace.
No. It couldn't be.
He couldn't be fated to her: the Anima he'd have to burn to end the world.
It'd been six months since he'd realized the blunder of the Fates.
Oh, how the gods would've laughed at his predicament if they were still alive. In the entire universe, he was the only Pyronian who'd been paired up with a human.
Why were the long-gone Fates so unkind to him?
Couldn't they spare him from such brutal heartbreak?
All those years ago when he'd run away, he'd forced his heart to be a stone. She'd called his name as she dreamt some nights, and yet, he'd never paused to listen properly. Maybe some part of him had known distancing himself from her was for his best.
He'd decided to end everything even if it meant destroying her, but then he hadn't known she was supposed to be his everything.
How was he supposed to hear her scream as she burned when he now knew who she was to him?
Ed'vard walked dejectedly through the forests of Gibraltar, pondering over the problem Bella had posed before him.
Humans had a romantic version of Inishens called soul mates, but Bella was far more than that. She was his other half, his conscience—his sanity.
A part of him wanted to take Bella and never let her go while the other yearned for her destruction. She was a change, and the vengeful part of him which was thirsty to avenge his father despised the mere thought of it. She was making him soft, making him a bit human again. But Ed'vard was a god; he could never be like her. Bella made him want to halt his plans for Earth's demolition, and simply stare at humans to experience the beauty of their choices and actions.
Ed'vard wanted to take Bella in shadowed hours of the dark sky, yet he despised her in the morning light.
If he didn't claim her, he was probably going to be alone for the rest of his existence. And if he did, she would divert him from his path of annihilating the world.
What was he to do?
His head reached a conclusion after many tussles with his heart. She wasn't important enough to renounce the quest which had defined his life. Bella was just a human, after all. Ed'vard wouldn't even notice when she burned with others.
"What a cruel lie," his heart recited, which he accepted.
Humans were a diseased breed, and his recent change of heart was nothing but a glitch by the Fates. Ed'vard buried his feelings in some tight corner of his heart, so they would never escape.
He wasn't going to claim Bella.
Ed'vard was going to burn the world along with her just as planned.
J'ames must've been standing entirely in the dark for Ed'vard to miss his pale blond hair and glittering blue eyes. He was Ed'vard's nemesis; the protector of humans and Inishen, and God of Love.
They sized each other up.
"Hello, J'ames," Ed'vard spat.
"Still the same crusty bore, aren't you, Ed'vard?" J'ames mocked, smirking at him.
Ed'vard ignored his jab. "Are we truly the only ones left?"
J'ames' silence was his answer. He wished J'ames could've told him his hate for humans was unjustified—that everyone was still alive; that his father and mother still lived.
How he wished for a different answer, but J'ames' silence had sealed Bella's fate.
Merosho hid in the heart of our own father, J'ames thought, startling Ed'vard.
Our mother gave birth to a lump of flesh, and father hid it in his heart. Cal'ile cast Merosho out among humans when it started poisoning the Immortality Lakes. Ehsh'm brought him back, for how couldn't she? To her, Merosho was her child, no more, no less than what you and I were. Would you have punished her for what she did? Everyone is dead because she was foolish enough to love. How is she different from humans, Ed'vard?
Ed'vard's rage was palpable as he advanced towards J'ames.
"Don't feed me your lies," Ed'vard snarled, wrapping his hands around J'ames's throat, choking him with ease.
You are different from us, Ed'vard. You were the first, and now in a way, you are the last. I survive on Ichor while you can live forever without it. Icharin runs in your veins. Can't you find it in your heart to see past your half-truths? Can't you discard the rage you feel toward the people father created in our image?
"Do you want me to recite my slow descent into madness; to tell you how it hurt to execute the same humans I'd been created to protect? Do you think you're the only god created to save them from my insanity? I protected them until they created Merosho."
Ed'vard's hold tightened, as J'ames squirmed.
Ed'vard—J'ames mentally protested.
"You think you know everything, but you don't know anything. Have you ever judged a father for killing his offspring? Or a sister for executing her brother in mad lust for power? I have watched this species decline. Tell me: do you see something worth saving in them?"
I think you know the answer to that.
A small, unbidden thought of Bella in his arms came and departed swiftly. No, he couldn't have her. Ed'vard couldn't sacrifice his quest for the momentary relief he'd once found in her company. Bella wasn't worth it.
Your Inishen is worth it, Ed'vard. J'ames's voice resonated around Ed'vard. Bella's worth saving a thousand worlds like this.
And then, J'ames disappeared from Ed'vard's hold.
J'ames was not dead, and Ed'vard's suspicion was proved right when he felt J'ames' energy manifest itself on a physical plane.
When Ed'vard materialized, he found himself on the fringe of a meadow; the same one where Bella had chased butterflies once.
Ed'vard could feel her there—his Bella.
When he rounded a clump of trees, his eyes beheld her for the second time in twelve years.
Somehow, Bella had always been a kid in his mind. The woman who sat amidst wildflowers in J'ames's arms was not the girl he remembered.
She was ethereal, enchanting.
Her brunette tresses held shades of red and gold, as J'ames threaded his fingers in it. Her pale skin was unmarred and perfect, flushed from something J'ames had said. Her rosebud mouth was perfectly kissable. She was smiling for J'ames.
Her eyes were pools of innocence, and J'ames held her steadfast attention.
Bella was his, and yet she was with J'ames.
Ed'vard concentrated on what J'ames was telling Bella for sympathy to be brimming in her brown orbs.
The conversation made Ed'vard's blood boil.
J'ames was telling her the story of Pyronia's ruin. Well, his version, of course. Saying their mother's heart was responsible since Merosho had poisoned the Immortality Lakes, and gods started to die.
Why was he skipping how Merosho originated because of humans?
"Merosho took hold of our father's heart," J'ames said. "In the end, the great Cal'ile was nothing but a puppet who beheaded his wife, smiling as he did so, and then devoured his children with relish. I ran, Bella. I ran like a pathetic weakling to save my own hide"—his voice broke—"I still remember the slow desiccation as Pyronia burned above me, as I hid like a mouse in the tunnels of Vorori Mountain. I would have choked for many thousand years more had you not pulled me to yourself."
Bella's hands moved to J'ames's back, offering him comfort. "I know."
All Ed'vard could hear was J'ames's voice echoing, "In the end, the great Cal'ile was nothing but a puppet…"
Everything inside him died again with that statement.
The woman the Fates had chosen for him was nothing but J'ames' whore in that moment: one who clung to him, believing his bizarre lies and comforting him for it.
Had Ed'vard thought she'd be different? Bella was human, after all.
Merosho wasn't stronger than his father's will. Merosho had been born because humans had grown faithless.
J'ames was lying. He knew Ed'vard was there. Everything was J'ames's elaborate scheme to save his precious humans, and aiding him in his misdeed was Ed'vard's unworthy Inishen.
The rage churning in Ed'vard's gut rose.
J'ames and Bella were still sitting close together. Hands entwined, foreheads touching, eyes closed.
J'ames wanted her, didn't he?
He could have her along with the ruins of this world.
The sound of clapping broke Bella and James apart. The newcomer who stood inside Bella's meadow was someone she'd known in her childhood; he was someone she was destined to know far better than anyone else.
He hadn't changed a bit, but then again, gods weren't supposed to change. Time stopped for no one, and yet, it looked as if time had stayed to caress him in its loving embrace. He was perfection in the flesh. His pale, sun-kissed skin glowed with vitality and power; his eyes were the purest shades of gold she'd ever seen. His straight nose was followed by the most tempting lips, which were pulled back in a feral smile. His icy cheekbones and angular jaw line were proof that no human could be so exquisitely breathtaking. His bronze hair glinted in the faint sun.
Her fated other-half.
She had seen Edward in her dreams; everything he was and everything he'd ever been. She had seen his madness, his cruelty, and his cold efficiency. And yet, she had cherished him in the confines of her heart—his name a litany which had escaped her lips many nights.
Bella might not be wise—she might be lacking the experience of ages—but she knew with certainty he was meant for her, as she was meant for him. She had seen the real him all those years ago when she'd been a child in need of a friend.
She knew his hopes, his fears, his dreams, and his tears. She'd witnessed his rage and his love. She knew who he really was beneath his madness and anger. But especially, she'd seen the man who spoiled a young child with attention, never tiring of her incessant need to know everything.
"What a show, J'ames! You've definitely acquired many talents in my absence," Edward mocked, bringing Bella out of her trance. The brutal glint in his eyes was unmistakable. "Did you think your world-weary tone could make me believe your lies?"
Edward walked toward James and Bella; terror emanating from him in waves.
"You went too far when you made Father a puppet in the hands of Merosho. How can you question our mother's dedication? The might of our father?!" he thundered.
Edward halted steps away from them, as James pushed Bella behind him; his body shielding hers. Although, Bella knew in her heart Edward wouldn't do anything to hurt her. He couldn't. She remembered the soft touch of his fingers when he had wiped tears from her eyes once.
"I spoke what's true, Ed'vard," James answered.
"Liar," Edward spat. The undercurrents of his anger were felt by nature itself. It was too painful to look at the fury etched in the curve of his mouth, in the slant of his eyes. "I should have ended you when you first dared to approach me!" he growled.
Icharin flew from his hands to form a blade, wicked and deadly, holding the very essence of death. Edward struck the earth beneath them, causing Bella's meadow to tremble as it cracked. Inciting James to attack him, Edward curled his fingers, while Bella looked in horror.
She was a mute spectator as James made his sword appear from thin air and charged Edward, fighting him instantly. Strike after strike of their blades, and blast after blast of cosmic bolt, James and Edward were Hell-bent on destroying one another. James was losing Ichor, and he still hadn't managed to nick Edward.
Bella looked at the man Fate had supposedly fashioned for her, and all she felt was desperation.
Edward fought as if he had been born for it. There was no hesitation, no error in his blows. It felt as if his sword were an extension of his arm. James managed to cut Edward's cheek, making drops of Icharin from his wound to spill and singe the ground. However, Edward's skin healed itself within a moment in front of Bella's eyes.
Strike after strike, Edward weakened James with ease, and he didn't even look winded. Suddenly, James fell on the ground. His sword left his hand, as Edward's Icharin slowly robbed him of his vitality.
Bella couldn't let James die. He had been there when she had no one; when Edward had left her to face loneliness and misery alone. She ran towards him as Edward raised his sword to pierce his heart; her hands touching James before the sword did. She wished James were in the Immortal Lakes instead of lying half-dead in that carnage. All of a sudden, James disappeared in a blue flash, and Edward's sword sank into the soft earth.
"Where did you sneak him off to?" Edward gnarled, gripping Bella's arms. The display of his strength caused her to flinch. "Answer me!" His voice felt like a welt on her skin.
Shocked, Bella simply shook her head, tears staining her cheeks.
As if he were disgusted to touch her, Edward released her immediately.
"Look at you—pathetic and weak—and the Fates thought you'd be my perfect match?" he derided. "You humans always need someone to fight your battles. You should never have been born."
The disgust on his face was a knife in her heart. Where was the kind man she had witnessed all those years ago?
"Am I so unacceptable?" Bella murmured, her voice mirroring her heartbreak. Edward had loved her when she was a child, so couldn't he love her again?
He laughed. "Unacceptable, little human? You're not worthy of laying your eyes on my shadow."
"Then why did the Fates pair us?"
"The Fates?" Edward mocked. "Haven't you heard, little human, about how cruel they can be?"
No, they can't be, Bella reasoned. Otherwise, they wouldn't have destined us together.
What Bella couldn't comprehend was Edward's hate. She couldn't imagine why he was nothing like he'd once been, behaving as if they were strangers on the verge of parting.
In her desperation to make him understand—to make him stay—Bella reached out and touched Edward's cheek. His eyes glowed blue, and for a brief moment, memories teemed his mind; memories that weren't his. Bella did it in an attempt to show Edward he only knew one side of the story.
He roared, shrugging her off as if she were some irritating insect. His force knocked her off her feet, and as she lay on the shattered ground, he loomed above, imposing and threatening over her.
When they locked gazes, Bella saw a resemblance of her own hell reflected in his golden eyes. She could feel his anger; it had a life of its own.
"I forsake you!" he cried, his voice ringing in her ears.
"No, Edward. Please," she heard herself beg, and something infinitely tender broke inside her.
"I forsake you for all the others." Icharin stung her skin as he dripped it on her face, burning and marking her for every other creature to see. "Had you not helped him, I would have spared you."
Her mind was slowly descending into darkness. He couldn't forsake her.
He has to claim me, she thought in panic.
If Edward rejected her, Bella didn't know what would become of her. She had been born loving him—had grown up loving him. What would she do if he took that from her?
No god had ever forsaken his Inishen.
He wouldn't. He couldn't. She prayed with everything she was for her god to have a moment of lucidity in the midst of that madness.
"No one after me—human, god, immortal or primordial—will ever claim you. I gift you loneliness, my once-fated human. You will forever be marked as abandoned—forever disowned. You will eternally be a tarnished Anima; a sullied Inishen."
His voice left an echo of barbaric ruthlessness as he departed, leaving her broken on her sullied meadow.
Her left cheek was burned. "Shien" gleamed like an ugly welt in Pyronion script on her soft skin. Humans would never understand what the arches and curves meant, for it would appear as a tattoo, etched in red-gold ink on her skin, but they would feel what the brand entailed.
Edward had carved the word on her skin, in her very being. He had made it her destiny.
Ed'vard gasped for breath, as his eyes opened in the starlit night. He was cold from all he'd seen in his dreams.
It couldn't be true, could it?
Bella had given him a glimpse of truth when she'd touched him. And he'd punished her for it.
It would've been kindness, had he burned her with everyone else. But he'd discarded her; humiliated her, marking her for everyone to see she was useless. He'd decided her worth with a single burn in his madness as if he were capable enough to judge her.
Ed'vard had done the most heinous thing a man could do.
Bella hurt and he'd felt it in his heart.
How could he ever make it right?
He needed to find the truth, not for himself but for her. What if J'ames was right and he was wrong? He shuddered at the prospect.
Forsaking her had taught Ed'vard he needed her far more intensely than she needed him. She was all the colors of his monochrome existence, and, in that moment, his soul yearned for her forgiveness; his body for her touch.
But he couldn't have either. Not now, not ever. He wasn't brave enough to go in front of Bella to beg her forgiveness, and plead she let him claim her. He wasn't selfless enough to take the burn he'd given her. He wasn't strong enough to see the hate in her eyes, and face the revulsion he so clearly deserved.
Ed'vard had to find the truth. He had to walk on the destroyed streets of Pyronia, and see the ruins of his home, which he hadn't dared enter since his awakening.
He, at least, owed Bella that much.
The stench of human flesh was nothing compared to the smell that emanated when gods decomposed.
He vomited when he saw empty sockets in his sister's decapitated head. Others' torn limbs were coated with a dried-yellow color. The barely there memories of those long-dead gods weren't hard to see nor were they what he so steadfastly believed in.
Ed'vard saw how their mother had brought Merosho back in Pyronia, and witnessed the poisoning of the Immortal Lakes. He watched in horror as gods went mad from venomous immortal essence, and his heart hurt when he saw his father executing his own children.
He could feel his heart shatter, the pieces cutting him from inside. Ed'vard burned his happiness for nothing. His Bella screamed in anguish at that very moment for nothing. She faced the gulf of loneliness because he'd been a proud bastard; because he couldn't understand love while he'd been wearing hate as his armor.
Why did he feel so human in that moment?
His desperation—his clawing regret—wasn't what a god felt, and yet, he drowned in those feelings. Did that make him a lesser being?
In the haste of his godliness, maybe Ed'vard had forgotten humans had been created in god's very image.
Once, he'd scoffed when Bella's childish hand had failed to capture the Immortality Lakes's sheen. Now, even a child could throw black paint on a paper, and it would resemble what his home had been reduced to.
He now understood what his father had grieved for when he'd caged him in the underworld.
Humanity was indeed something worth fighting for. It was a beauty of wrongs and miraculous second chances; of hope and optimism.
His Icharin burnt everything in its wake.
In moments, he was standing amidst the flames which held his brothers and sisters in their embrace—flames which caressed the bare bones of his parents. And Ed'vard burned along with them. All his memories and hate—his superiority—burned with forgotten carcasses and damned souls.
His tears weren't only for a time long gone, but also for a girl who could never be his. He cried for the woman who would never accept him after everything he'd done to her.
He'd gifted her loneliness, not knowing misery would be his eternal company.
He'd carved out a curse on her skin, unaware that his regret would be a far painful brand on his very soul.
Ed'vard had wanted to destroy Earth, and now it was all he had left.
Ed'vard watched Bella from afar.
And he wept when he got closer. The stick in her hand and the black shades on her eyes didn't reveal she was blind as glaringly as her stumble. Her glasses fell off to reveal her icy-blue eyes.
His tears flew unbidden while he watched her in front of him. His Icharin had taken her sight.
Ed'vard moved forward to take her hand and guide her toward the other side of the road. Memories came rushing, and this time, they weren't choking and unknown—they were familiar and damning.
He watched her life as it had gone for the past two years. J'ames was no longer part of her life because she'd forbidden him. He'd found his Inishen, and Bella had made him promise her he would never seek her out or materialize even when she called for him. She knew she was cursed, and that knowledge had propelled her to distance herself from everyone.
"Thank you for your kindness," Bella said with a small smile before turning around and walking away from him.
Kindness? Ed'vard was the one who'd made her life Hell on Earth. He was the reason she could never find love or live a happy life. He should plunge his sword into his very heart, but he was selfish, and his new need to experience the world was too tempting for him to even attempt an act of selflessness.
Ed'vard dared to enter her room in the dark hours of the night.
There were canvases all around containing heartbreaking beauty.
He moved toward the bed where Bella slept, aware he wasn't worthy of even a touch of her skin. Yet, he couldn't stop his fingers as they traced the red-gold abused flesh of her cheek. As he did so, Bella moved toward his hand, as if she were seeking comfort.
The thought that she needed him pleased him greatly.
What he wouldn't have given for her to look at him as she had looked at J'ames on that cursed day in her meadow.
Ed'vard knelt beside her bed, and she turned to face him in her sleep. It felt as if she instinctively knew he was here.
It was the first and last time he was ever going to taste her. He leaned toward her, and his lips met hers softly. She tasted like virtue, like a forgotten taste he didn't even knew he craved. He could feel her innocence on his tongue.
What were the Fates thinking when they had paired him with her?
Bella was going to have all the happiness in the world. He was going to reverse the punishment he so unwittingly had awarded her. After all, it was the least he could do for her after everything he'd done.
He couldn't stop the tear which fell on her cheek from his eyes.
It was goodbye.
Ed'vard watched her joy when Bella opened her eyes in the morning to take in all the colors she'd missed in two years. Her joy was the most beautiful thing he'd ever witnessed.
She got accepted into the Harvard Visual Arts Programme.
He made sure she would have nothing to worry about. Her fee was paid. She lived in a posh apartment and had a pricey car. She never questioned where these things came from. He simply signed the cards accompanying everything as "Yours." Because that's who he was—hers and only hers.
Maybe Bella knew. Maybe she smelt the guilt and regret in everything he did for her.
Did she ever feel his desperate love?
She called for him. Every night, she called his name. Edward. She only said Edward, and he found he liked it. Ed'vard was dead as he should've been when he'd first opened his eyes.
He saw the world when he wasn't looking out for her. Truth be told, he ran to the other side of the world when she went out with any boy. Her date nights were a source of his torture.
Thankfully, she'd only kissed a few. He didn't know what was going to happen to him when she finally accepted an invitation to spend the night at their place.
Bella was calling his name again that night, and his desire to materialize in her bedroom and see her face up close was very tempting. He wondered how she looked when she said his name.
"Edward, please," she called again. The yearning in her voice was very similar to what he felt. He couldn't stop himself this time.
She wasn't sleeping as he'd envisioned. Bella was propped against her headboard, her sketchbook opened in her lap.
Across the room, her eyes met his and she repeated, "Edward, please."
He didn't know he'd crossed the room till she was in his arms; her face so close to his. Her brown eyes held everything he felt. Somehow, she'd found in her heart to forgive him. He wasn't a fool enough to question it.
"I called for you."
Edward nodded. "I know."
"Why didn't you come?" Bella asked.
"I thought I didn't deserve you."
"Stupid man," she said before burying her head in the crook of his neck.
"I know," he sighed, holding her tightly.
He was never letting her go again.
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