Chapter 45: Awakening the Beast

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Hours went by, days, weeks. Maybe even years. Maybe, if I looked into the mirror, I would find an old lady staring back at me; maybe my legs would refuse to carry me anymore if I tried to stand up. Maybe the world had gone to hell already and I simply hadn't noticed. It would have been a relief.

At some point, I had started hallucinating. Or perhaps the Darkness inside me had truly manifested itself in a physical form in front of me, I didn't know. I didn't care. All I could think about was how my Dark self's nagging voice slowly made me go insane, and how I wanted to block out all the noise and enjoy the quiet. Oblivion, that was what I wanted. Yet, the Darkness reveled in my misery, telling me "I told you so" at least a hundred times, so I hid my face in my hands and concentrated on the warm feeling of a breathing Dragon body against my stomach.

My gaze fell upon my emerald green cloak, thrown so carelessly over the back of an armchair. The soft fabric, its color reminding me of the dark forest just outside the Monastery's land, had once evoked a great sense of nostalgia, but now it came across as repellent, as something that had belonged to another person. The mere sight of it opened a gaping hole in my chest, a hole that my Darkness was more than ready to fill. Red flares of anger flashed before my eyes. Without giving myself time to think about what I was doing, I pushed myself up and strode to the chair, grabbed the cloak and stuffed it deep into a trunk that stood in the corner of my room, collecting dust.

For a few moments, I remained where I was, staring down at the trunk that harbored one of my most tangible memories of the women who had stabbed me in the back. Images of Sister Harriett's tears when she had given me the cloak popped into my head, and my hands started shaking as I wondered if those tears had been real. Eyeing my Dark self, who leaned against the bed frame with a cruel smile playing on her lips, I doubted whether I still knew the difference between reality and dreams.

Dark Kenna took a step forward and put a hand on my shoulder. "You're tired, darling. Why don't you get some rest?"

I nodded, although the gesture was too rigid to be natural. The Darkness had already infiltrated my mind and body, controlling my thoughts and muscles. I felt myself slipping away like water seeping through fingers, and with every second that passed, Dark Kenna's shape became more blurred and my own appearance changed into hers. Without having to assess the levels of both forms of magic that coursed through my veins, I knew that the transformation was almost complete.

My shoulders heaved; I hadn't even realized that I had started crying again. Jaeger whimpered, although he didn't attempt to console me once more. It wouldn't have mattered anyway.

Weakness, the Darkness whispered. Must get rid of it.

I no longer had the strength to fight the magnetic pull of the Darkness, didn't want to anymore. Except for Jaeger, there was no one left to hold me up, and I knew that my Dark self appreciated the Dragon's worth enough to take good care of him. At last, I had crossed the line that separated the cliff from the void beneath, and I was falling. The poisoning of my heart had started a while ago. Now it was time to let it settle in for good.

I unlocked the cage in my mind.

The light pressure on my shoulder disappeared and my tears dried in small clouds of steam, my skin burning with sudden heat. The sadness ebbed away, making room for anger, apathy, but most terrifying of all, an emotional indifference that created a shield around my heart and anything that might cause it to fall apart. It wasn't quite like being completely emotionless; however, the feelings themselves were subdued, no longer so intense.

It felt surprisingly good.

Someone knocked on the door, gentle but resolute. With renewed energy, I reached out with my magic and the door opened on its own, revealing the tall, imposing figure behind it. Cain's dark hair fell over his elegant features as he strode inside, his amber eyes taking in every aspect of my appearance. They lit up with approval when they saw the change.

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