Predatory Marriage - Chapter 185
The moment she saw the black smoke whirling around her ankles, Leah’s thoughts froze. The faint, hallucinatory sound of chains that had haunted her for so long was suddenly loud and clear, jangling in her ears.
Cerdina was trying to bring her back to Estia.
She realized it instinctively and suddenly it felt as if everything was collapsing around her and she was falling into darkness, cold and deep. She couldn’t breathe. Her vision went black and she was clutched by such terror, she was falling…
Leah’s whole body trembled. Her lips moved, but she couldn’t scream. Her voice was gone.
The sound of the voice calling her snapped her back. She was floating, enveloped in black smoke, as Morga and the other sorcerers surrounded her, shouting in Kurkan. The red velvet carpet had been moved and in its place was a magical pattern that must have been drawn beforehand.
The sea of white flowers had fallen and been trampled in the chaos, and Ishakan walked across the broken blooms, reaching out to her.
His hand went through her as if she were an illusion.
Others tried. No one could touch her.
Terrified, Leah stretched out to grab for Ishakan’s hand, clinging to him, but somehow he couldn’t grasp her. Somehow only Leah could hold onto him as the smoke coiled tighter around her. Somehow she knew that if she let go, she would be dragged to Estia. Her arms strained as if they might be torn off, but she clung to him with all her might.
“Ishakan! The blood…!” Morga shouted.
Unsheathing his dagger, Ishakan sliced his own arm. His blood gushed red and fell, absorbing into the glowing magic pattern on the ground.
The smoke around Leah receded.
One of the magicians standing at the corner of the pattern collapsed, vomiting blood.
“It’s not enough!” Morga screamed. His face was white. “It needs more, much more than I told you!”
He stopped, gagging as if he were nauseous, and covered his mouth with his hand. Blood spurted between his fingers and the Kurkan sorcerer wiped it away with the back of his hand.
“We are fine. Don’t worry. Give us more.”
Ishakan immediately slashed himself again. Every time his dagger flashed, blood gushed forth, instantly absorbed into the magic pattern. The sorcerers were obviously suffering, but they were standing firm.
Leah’s eyes filled as she watched. She watched as her husband bled. She watched as he sliced his body again and again and the pattern soaked it up.
But the black smoke wasn’t weakening. On the contrary, it was gradually thickening.
Three more gashes in Ishakan’s golden skin. Her heart seized with every new wound on his body. He had bled so much, too much, enough to be dangerous. But even if he poured out more, nothing would change. Even if he spilled all of it. The black smoke crept over her.
They both knew this could not be stopped this way. But Ishakan wouldn’t give up even if it cost him his life.
She had been happy. Her happiness in Kurkan had been like a dream. And now the time had come to wake up.
Strangely, she felt calm, as if she had known unconsciously that this would happen. The shackles on her ankles had grown thin and faded, almost invisible, but they had never really broken. She had known someday she would have to go back to that dark place, where no light would ever reach her. There was no need to make others suffer.
Looking at Ishakan, she couldn’t say the words she had wanted to tell him. She had to say something else instead.
“I’m sorry, Ishakan.”
His golden eyes shook. He knew what she was thinking.
“Don’t look for me,” she whispered.
His eyes widened.
“Leah, don’t,” he said thickly, as if through a blockage in his throat. His face was desperate as she let go of his hand.
The last warmth in her hand faded. Black smoke whirled around her, engulfing her even as Ishakan reached for her and tried to embrace her, calling desperately.
Even a stab to her heart wouldn’t hurt so much as seeing her husband like that. But she didn’t look away. She watched him until the black smoke consumed her.
When the smoke dissipated, she was not in the desert. The marble floor was cold underneath her and she shivered. Cold, so cold.
“Long time no see, Leah,” said a voice.
Sitting up, she slowly lifted her head. It was a familiar place. It was the hall of the royal palace of Estia, the same hall where she had welcomed Ishakan as the King of Kurkan. Marble columns lined the immense hall, and above them fluttered pennants bearing the royal emblem of Estia.