PART SIX: DESPERATE MEASURES
Leal vehemently denied Aurora’s assertion that he needed to leave both she and their daughter alone and pledge allegiance to her evil doppelganger instead. He frightfully pleaded, “No… Please Aurora, I cannot pledge allegiance to that monster because I was chosen as your protector and not hers… I made a gigantic mistake but I cannot change fate any more than you can…”
“You’re right when you said that it was foolish of me to conceal the truth from you but I… I cannot live without you, Aurora. Please… I understand that you are furious with me but please don’t chase me away, Aurora, I… I will do better, I will do everything in my power to make this right again,”
“You made the decision to live without me the moment you choose to use your connection to your doppelganger to invade his mind. You purposefully chose to leave me each time you left the confines of your own mind. How many nights were you with her while I was lying right next to you? How many times did you say I love you to me when it was truly her you were addressing?” Aurora countered coldly.
“I have never loved her, Aurora, you are the only woman I have ever and will ever truly love. Even when I was in his mind, I was always fully aware of the fact that she wasn’t mine and that I’d come home and I’d be with you where I belonged…”
“Aurora, I wish I could erase everything leading up to this point and it kills me that you got hurt because of my foolishness. Please, please forgive me. I know I am asking for a lot but please forgive me… I cannot lose you, please… Please, I am begging you,” he stated falling down on his knees and clutching her legs with all his might.
Aurora unsuccessfully tried pushing him off herself.
“Let go of me right now, Leal! I am so tired of being played the fool. Your actions have caused me so much hurt and pain and to assume that I’d just forgive you like that… You are so selfish, expecting me to just accept it. You don’t deserve my forgiveness I- I wish I could say that I hate you but I am not a liar like you so I cannot objectively say that in good conscience,” she stated. She broke down and started crying and it tore Leal to pieces and hurt him worse than anything he had been accused of during the hearing had.
“Aurora, I am so sorry I hurt you. I’ll do anything to make this right. Please tell me how to fix this. I’ll do anything, anything for your forgiveness. I’d sell my soul, if I had to. Please-“
Aurora hit him as hard as she could as he clung onto her legs. She grovelled inaudibly at her inability to get him to let her go as he held on for dear life. He could feel her tears pouring at the back of his head and each tear broke his heart more than the one preceding it. Aurora eventually stopped hitting him and just broke down entirely, something completely uncharacteristic for her to do.
Leal held her firmly in his arms as she wept and was ashamed that it was more consoling for him than he was sure it must have been for her. After a while, she began hitting him on the chest while he held her and he just let her, burying his head in her wine-red locks and drinking in her scent.
He got lost in her and suddenly had hope. So long as he had Aurora, he had the world. His future and his present were right there in his arms and Leal wondered why he had been distraught about the future in the first place. He was happily content just being her Protector.
“I wish that I could hate you, Leal, I really do. I am so hurt by what you did. You know, I really regret allowing you to pledge allegiance to me in the first place. I wish like Director Shaw, I had chosen not to get involved with you at all,” Aurora stated, resting her face on his chest and mumbling into his chest.
He kissed the top of her head and stated, “I know our bond has caused you a lot of hurt, Aurora and it is enough for you to have all these regrets. Don’t worry, I hate myself enough for the both of us for everything I have put you through. I am so disappointed in myself for how much pain I have caused you.”
“I don’t forgive you, Leal. I never… I don’t think that I ever will forgive you,”
“If that is the consequence of having hurt you, then I happily accept it. I just… I suppose you said it best when you called me selfish. I selfishly want to remain by your side for all time because there is no life without you. So long as I have you as my charge, I know that I can live,”
Aurora sighed but pushed him away and took off her engagement ring and stretched out her hand to give it to him. “I cannot marry a man who can so blatantly lie in my face for months and expect me to forgive him just like that afterwards. My trust for you has seriously eroded after learning the truth. You can stay here for as long as you want and care for Avery but you and I are done.”
“Please hang onto it for a while. I intend on working towards having your full trust and forgiveness someday. I understand your decision to postpone our wedding but I hope that someday, you will accept my proposal again.”
“I don’t think you understand, Leal. I am only letting you stay here because I have no choice in the matter but you and I are done. Do not entertain the delusion that there is anything you can do to fix this because it is broken beyond repair. I won’t keep your daughter away from you but I mean it, Leal, I am done,”
“Aurora, please-” he began but then she threw the ring at him when he refused to take it back and hastily retreated to their room, shutting him out. Leal stood outside and could hear her crying more and it broke his heart more than her decision to end their romantic involvement with each other altogether. He leaned against the door and hung his head in shame, trying to fight off a splitting headache as best he could without medication.
He had truly fallen from grace for he had not only lost his job but had also lost the love of his life. Leal began to feel empty and he wondered what life would be without Aurora’s love. He began to tremble in fear and it took everything in him not to scream in horror and pain. He shut his eyes willing for the world to disappear…
The disguises could only take them so far, Leal thought, but what other choice did they have? They followed the Summoning Ritual perfectly and waited for several minutes wondering whether they had correctly summoned the goddess or if they had somehow botched it. Suddenly the ground beneath them became wet and they barely managed to escape the black puddle suddenly forming around their feet unscathed.
In no time, the Lady of the Placid Lake had appeared before them poised to attack. Leal was ready to attack her but Aurora shook her head and he stood down.
“Well, well, well, what do we have here? I mean the sheer nerve of you two trying to summon my goddess. Did you think she was so stupid that she’d just appear before you two? And what exactly was your plan after you summoned her? It’s not like you can imprison her. Or maybe the Entity made you believe that you can somehow match her power,”
“We are not acting on the Entity’s orders, Amabel. We genuinely seek an audience with the goddess Ilya,”
“And I am supposed to just take your word for it? Give me a break,”
“That is enough, daughter. I appreciate your dedication and concern for my safety but I have determined that they are genuinely seeking an audience with me,” stated a disembodied female voice before Ilya suddenly teleported both Leal and Aurora to the dimension she was residing in.
Aurora and Leal got down on bent knee.
“Please, goddess Ilya… We have done our research and determined that you are the only one who can offer us help in our present circumstances. For your help, we are willing to pledge our allegiance to you and faithfully serve you-“
Ilya nodded. “I can see your resolve in doing so and you were right to come to me. I ask only for true soul worship and in return, I shall grant you what you so desperately seek but first before we proceed any further, I sense a presence lurking within your mind, Protector Leal. Though unintentional on his part, I believe the disgraced Leal should leave for us to make a covenant,”
The moment Ilya stated that, Leal found himself back in his own mind and came to in a cold sweat. He immediately rushed to call Avery and expected that she would be as cold and bitter as his Aurora had been given how harshly he had rebuked her but she sounded as concerned about him calling at 3 AM in the morning as she otherwise would have been even if he hadn’t rebuked her. Leal also noted that Avery still referred to him as her dad.
“Avery… Our doppelgangers are on the move. They… they are making a deal with Ilya. I don’t know what it is about but… but it can’t be any good,”
“What?” Avery asked in shock.
“I… I saw it, Avery. They want to make a deal with her and she is willing to accept their terms,”
TO BE CONTINUED…
What are the evil doppelgangers of Aurora and Leal truly up to? Why did the goddess offer to strike up a deal with them? Stay tuned to find out. Links to the previous parts are listed below;