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Rhea heard a noise behind her. Turning around as fast as she could, she saw something that made her blood run cold - and then boil. It was him.
“You betrayed me,” she hissed at him. “I was your friend, I was there for you when no one else would be, and what did you do?”
“I - uh, well, uh,” he stammered.
For some reason, she did not find this to be a suitable answer.
“You’re kidding, right? I almost had the best place of my life, a place where I could actually be safe, and what did you do? Tell me. WHAT DID YOU DO?”
“Rhea, I - “
“Don’t waste breath explaining, not just for me,” she said sarcastically, and turned her back.
“Rhea, I, well, I’m sorry.”
Rhea turned back around. She stared into his eyes, and he was the first to turn away. “You ruined my life, Naga. I will never be able to stay in one place again, thanks to you. And all you can say is, ‘I’m sorry’? Well, I’m sorry, too. I’m sorry I trusted you, sorry I saved your pathetic life, sorry, I ever met you. I’m sorry that you thought that telling a lie that could destroy your best friend’s - I mean, your only friend’s - future was okay.”
“Rhea, it was an accident. I’m really sorry. I’ll never do it again.” Naga looked at his once-friend.
“Thanks to you, Gabria is dead. Do you expect me to forgive you? She was my sister, and now she’s dead. Gone. As will you be. I never want to see you, hear from you, even know you exist ever again.”
Naga heard the catch in her voice, and looked closely to see Rhea’s bright green eyes, brighter than ever at this time at night, fill with tears. Just as he was about to tell her that, no matter what she wanted to think, it was truly an accident, he heard a twig crack and stopped dead.
“Rhea, was that you?” he asked, knowing very well that it wasn’t. Rhea never cracked twigs.
She glared at him, and he knew that if he wanted his life, he should be quiet.
“They’re searching for me,” she whispered. “Thanks to you.”
Though she said it mildly, Naga flinched like she’d hit him. “But what are you going to do?” he asked. “They’re Hunters. You can’t outrun Hunters.”
“Thank you for sharing, Naga. Now go away.”
“I don’t what you to die, Rhea,” he whispered. “Though you hate me, and with good reason, I still consider you my friend. You’re the only one who didn’t despise me for my gift, and for that, I thank you.”
“Run, Naga. I don’t want you to die, either, and if the Hunters find you here, you will. Now go. Get out of my sight.” She sighed, and Naga heard the crunch of twigs even closer than before.
“But where will I go?” he pleaded. “Help me, Rhea, I don’t know what to do!”
She glared at him, and he saw nothing but anger in her cat-like eyes. “You messed up your own life when you messed up mine. Go figure it out yourself.”
He gazed up at her, puppy-dog style, until she relented. “Go find Ivy. She and her sisters will help you. Rose, Lily, Iris, Poppy, and Daisy know me. Tell them Rhea sent you.”
“And what should I tell them about you?”
“That I’m dead, or captured, and there’s absolutely no reason to go looking for me.”
“If that’s going to happen, then I’m staying with you,” Naga said firmly.
“Naga, you idiot, I have nothing left to live for. My family is dead, my friends can’t help me under order from the High Court, and, thanks to you, I can no longer show my face in any town with out being branded as a witch. You have a life to live, people to meet, lives to destroy…”
Naga felt hurt when she said that, though for once there was no malice in it. Rhea just was telling the truth, and he knew he deserved whatever was coming to him.
“Rhea, no! Please survive!”
Voices could be heard throughout the dark clearing. “There she is! I heard her!”
Rhea glared at them. “Naga, so help me, if you do not get out of my sight this instant I will kill you myself.”
Naga knew she wasn’t kidding. He turned and fled.
As soon as he left, Rhea (though she would never admit it to anyone else) began to feel a little bit nervous. Despite what she said, she didn’t want to die very much. Not without bringing the whole corrupt High Court of Almara with her. But she had made her choice and had to live - or more likely die - with it.
She picked up a rock and hurled it through the trees. It landed with a distant thump in another section, and she heard the Hunters running after it. Good, that should buy her some time.
She turned and ran through the path of trees that she had run along many times before, though never in fear for her life. Her eyes glowing, cat-like as always, she shrank and changed form until she was just another one of the felines that always roamed the forest.
“Who’s the witch now?” she muttered. “Lucky me.”