402 Enough… Enough of it all.
Rana stared on, speechless as a bright silhouette formed before them, taking the form of a being he didn’t think he would be seeing any time soon. The goddess looked as divine as ever… even when most of the natural tone of her skin paled in the form of a holographic visual.
The words that had come from her upon her arrival, though. Those felt like salt being rubbed into his wounds. The moon goddess materialised before them… something she had never done in history. This was the first time the goddess was appearing to anyone somewhere other than the Origin and without appearing to them through a dream.
“The girl you were supposed to be mated with was a rare one. A rare breed of talent indeed…
“What kind of talent, our Lady?” Rana spoke up, bowing in respect of the goddess, his voice filled with curiosity. What surprised the goddess was the beta alpha’s ability to speak in her presence. For a first-time appearance, the wolf was acting rather odd.
He was meant to be drooling at the mere sight of the goddess, but instead, this wolf was asking her a question. What was even more peculiar was that there wasn’t a hint of fear in her tone at all.
The prince, on the other hand, hadn’t bothered to how to the goddess when she’d shown up. Instead, he stood up from his place on the ground and turned his eyes away from the goddess. ‘That’s the last person I wanted to see.’
“She has the power to speak to and control nature,” the goddess explained, “She was blessed with this power when she was young. All her life, she was able to listen to the animals and communicate with them. She only realised the full potential of this power, though… The power to speak to nature itself. Not just animals, but plants as well.
You will find a shifting forest unnavigable. It can lead you in circles even when you feel like you’re travelling in a straight line. She can ask the forest to spread this scent of your following in the wrong direction and lead you in the wrong direction entirely while obscuring your entire path and stranding you in a natural prison from which you can never escape no matter what you try,” the goddess explained in a mix of fascination and melancholy.
“Can we talk to her?” Rana asked, dismissing the anger that the goddess’s fascination roused within him.
Celeste hesitated before answering, taking a moment to think herself through, “She’s… unreachable at the moment.”
“You’re a goddess.”
“Yes… that I am and I am always aware of that. I offered her the chance to help me conceal the Origin for me. Something she’s done marvellously, seeing as you’re extremely far from it right now,” the goddess replied.
The prince gasped at the revelation. Just how far had they run off course? How long had they been running in the wrong direction? Had they even been listening to the Great River in the first place or had she ordered the trees to carry that sound as well and misguide them completely?
The goddess continued, “I don’t expect anyone to find the Origin in this generation or the next and I will wither away the information of its location as time goes on. That place will never be…”
“I don’t care about the Origin,” Cirrus snapped at the goddess, finally turning to face the goddess. On the prince’s face was a look of rage directed towards the goddess. All her words were meaningless to him. He wanted her to speak about Jane and yet she went on and on about how her plan was going marvellously, “Congratulations on hiding the Origin from the rest of the world. Where is Jane?”
“Jane… is at the Origin. The one place you can never find…” the goddess answered, watching the prince’s hands ball into fists, “If it makes you feel any better, I am not holding her there to spite you. She decided to seclude herself at the Origin, despite all my efforts into convincing her against it.
It only got worse when she realised who you were. The Commander of the Death Platoon, Herald of Death and the royal that had killed more humans than any other royal in the history of the two Great Empires. She wanted nothing to do with you… On the upside, she had a greater motivation to conceal the Origin, but that also means… she’s stuck there.
You lost her when you turned away from her after she rejected you. If only you’d claimed her as yours at that moment. I wouldn’t have minded if you’d forcefully taken her away from that village. She would soon come to know who you are and the mate pull would work out the rest.
However, now that she’s rejected you and made it impossible for you to find her, that bond you share will wither away with time until you’re no longer bonded to each other.
Sensing the prince’s raging emotions, the beta alpha spoke up, “How do we escape the prison she’s locked us in right now then?”
“When I disappear, the forest will offer you a path back home. Do not stray from this path because the forest will imprison you once again. You will not be able to find your way back home if that happens,” the goddess spoke up, “I can’t appear like this too often,”
“You’re taking your time leaving then,” Cirrus grumbled, turning his back on the goddess, “I’ve had enough. Just leave me alone, Celeste.”
The cold in his voice was almost unbearable for the goddess. While she had been hoping the prince would find someone to give him a purpose in a world where killing humans was no longer their goal, she hadn’t seen this outcome.
It made sense to her now that he would be paired with someone as headstrong as Jane, but she’d never thought the same gift the girl had would act as a barrier to fostering a relationship between the two of them. The girl was too stubborn for her own good… and that attitude had just put a stop to one of the moon goddess’s wishes. Celeste had enough limitations as it was. The decision of a heartbroken village girl just had to be one more reason for her failures.
The prince already had his back turned away from him. She knew he wouldn’t listen to anything she had to say no matter what she tried. Disappointment rolled off him in waves, “Don’t give up all…”
“Just go already… Haven’t you ruined my life enough? I’ve had enough of your interventions for one lifetime. I don’t need you to find my own path to happiness,” the prince cut her off before she could speak. Just like the prince had been the first to experience the pain of rejection, this was the first time one of the goddess’s creatures was rejecting her as well.
“Very well,” with a defeated sigh, she vanished in a shower of blue sparks, leaving the prince and confused beta alpha to the darkness of the Shifting forest. As soon as she had left, the trees began to rustle unnaturally. The ground ruptured under the pressure of twisting roots.
The very trunks of the trees were slowly shuffling through their foundations, forming a pattern much less confusing than before. Instead of a maze of unnaturally organised trees, they lined in a specific manner and allowed streams of light to peek through the canopies, lining the path they had created with tendrils of sunlight.
“Let’s go, Rana…” the prince ordered, shifting into his grey wolf and dashing away at top speed in the path that had been laid out for them. At the rate the prince forced them to run, they reached the palace faster than they thought they would.
Either they had been really close to the palace or the prince had rushed them really fast. None of it made the slightest of sense, but Cirrus was in no mood to ponder the wonders of the powers that brought them back home in the span of a single hour.
Readjusting their sense of direction alone after the harrowing ordeal was a pain in and of itself. The prince reached the palace and rushed in, heading for his chambers without sparring anyone a greeting or caring for his appearance. He just wanted time to himself.
As Cirrus reached for his doorknob, a voice interrupted him, “There you are, Cirrus. We’ve been so…” the man stopped speaking when he took in his brother’s state. His previously exquisite clothes he’d worn were now dirty and torn, his boots worn out and muddy.
The king thought he’d imagined it, but now that he took a closer look at his brother, he could tell the man standing before him had clearly lost some weight.
“Is there something you want from me?” Cirrus asked him in a raspy tone.
“I don’t need a reason to call on my brother. If anything, I thought you would be interested in accompanying me on a hunting trip with the royals of the Sirius empire. It was Jeanie’s idea, so…”
“No, you’ll have to count me out of that one,” Cirrus replied harshly.
“Cirrus, did something hap…?” the question was cut short when the king’s brother entered his room without warning, slamming the door behind him.
From the inside of the room, he yelled, “Just leave me alone, Hamedale.”
Hamedale had never seen his brother act so out of character and when he tried to read his emotions through the mind link, he got nothing. The prince had locked himself out from the pack link.
Trying to get into his mind using his power as a royal would have been an invasion of privacy, so the king backed away from the door, “If you do need someone to talk to, you know where to find me, Cirrus.”
Cirrus listened to the king’s receding steps from the other side of the door. Leaning against it, he allowed himself to slide to the floor and wrapped his arms around his legs, “Nothing… I have nothing left. She took my purpose, and then had the nerve to mess around with my emotions like that. I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of it all…”