They were safe.
Their hands were torn apart in a joyful haze. She hugged Darian tightly and cried happy tears.
Nothing would ever be the same.
And she could live with that.
The next couple days they prepared to leave. It was a flurry of hugs and goodbyes. Darian and Andrea found themselves alone in the healing center, their hearts positively broken.
“What if I don’t want to leave?” Andrea asked suddenly, a sob bursting forth. “I love the Zahteva.”
Darian held her through her tears. “I know,” he said, pulling back. His beautiful hazel eyes shimmered. “But the people of this world need leaders. Without us, they’ll be lost.”
She found truth in his words. They needed to leave, even if their hearts didn’t want them to.
Finally, they found themselves standing in the middle of a crowd of Zahteva, who were crying as well, especially Verna.
“It is time to go,” said Pladen, his voice trembling. Andrea and Darian nodded, leaning on each other.
“Ready?” he said.
They nodded, not trusting their voices.
They felt their bodies being swept high across the earth, until finally, they stood in the silvery grand entrance of the palace.
Andrea felt strong and sure and . . .
A sharp pain was at her windpipe, and she found it very hard to breathe. She coughed, but the pain didn’t seem to be going away. She felt her body spontaneously burn with fever. She looked at Darian, and saw something she never expected to see: pale skin and bloodshot eyes that she assumed were the same as hers.
You must be very careful . . .
You still are vulnerable . . .
Dead bodies are still infected . . .
She knew that she was dying. She felt herself fall to the ground, but it was nothing more than pressure against her weak body.
Darkness clouded everything, but it wasn’t evil or anything like the dreamy oblivion she’d seen. It was peaceful. Warm. It promised hope for all of the people without leaders.
Her spirit floated high above the earth. She saw Darian’s spirit and joined hands with him. Hazel eyes smiled back at her. She loved him with all of her being, she realized.
And what did she see down below, on the hopeful earth? The Zahteva guiding, leading the people. It was a beautiful thing.
Darian’s hazel eyes looked questioningly at her, as if to say, Are you ready?
Was she really ready to depart her world forever?
The truth was, she had done it. She had saved the world. She had done what she was meant to do. She was home.
She hugged him tightly. She could feel his spirit doing the same to hers. And slowly, their souls drifted up to join the stars in the galaxy.