Chapter 48

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ARLO held the bonfire the day before Lily had to leave.

Lily was dressed in a dark gown. Arianna had somehow fixed her hair to look pretty, had put powders and pastes on her face to hide the dark circles.

Everyone around was talking in hushed voices, shooting discreet glances at her when they thought she wasn't looking.

Arlo had tried not to let the news spread, but the entire settlement soon caught on, and Lily found herself a greater center of attention than she'd ever been, even when she first came to Arrian.

She'd had people come up to her—children, elderly—with little gifts and thank you's. She'd received flowers and hugs. Everyone seemed to think she was a hero.

She didn't understand why. She'd done nothing, except stand by and watch as Invida Monarcei killed Venix in cold blood.

Her jaw tensed and she pushed the thought away, before she started crying. The past few days had been full of too much of that. Instead, she glanced around at the bonfire.

It wasn't anything like the ones she'd been to before—no shouts, no joy. No life.

Lily hated it.

This was the last memory she'd have of Arrian—and it was this? Just a pale version of the boisterous event it had once been, once full of laughter and friendship, now only whispers and shadows.

Vena still didn't look at her. Didn't, or couldn't. Lily could hardly fault her. Ada and Iressa divided their time between her and Vena, she knew, but no one was getting Vena to open up. Vena hadn't showed up to the bonfire either.

She took an idle bite of a roasted potato when Arianna gave her a look. She had little to no appetite nowadays, but Elize always force-fed her. Said it would help her heal faster.

Lily wasn't sure she would ever fully heal.

It didn't feel like it. Elize didn't answer when she asked if she could ever fight again. A 'maybe' was not an answer. Lily could see the doubt in Elize's face anyway.

"Here," Arianna said, handing Lily her own stick, full of corn. "I know you like this."

Lily forced a smile. "It's fine. I'm not hungry."

"You need to eat, Lily." Arianna exhaled.

Lily bit her lip, watching the younger girl. She looked constantly exhausted nowadays, and Lily felt bad. Worrying about her on top of everything else must have been wearing Arianna down.

So, she took it and took a bite. It was a bit spicy, and she'd knew she'd have to get a glass of water later. For now, she welcomed the burn spreading through her mouth.

"Thank you," Arianna said, smiling.

Lily nodded back at her.

Arianna coughed, waving her hand in front of her face. "There's too much smoke. Do you mind if we move away?"

"No, of course," Lily said quickly. They walked to the edges of the group.

"Thank you," Arianna said finally. She let out another cough. "It was a bit too much."

"I understand," Lily said.

A heavy silence fell between them, and Lily tilted her head up, looking at the stars scattered across the sky. They were still the same, even when everything was so different.

"It's beautiful tonight," Arianna breathed.

Lily glanced over at her. Arianna was looking up as well, the starlight shining in her green eyes, highlighting individual strands of her brown hair.

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