43. Goodbye For Now

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Right after I punch Mrs. Clark in the face to Becky's, Max's, and even my father's satisfaction, there is a ground shaking roar that made trees sway and birds fly up into the sky.

I sigh, turning away from the still dazed Mrs. Clark who was now on the ground clutching her bleeding nose and already bruising jaw .  

"Three." I count.

"Two."

"One."

There's silence, and I begin to curse Zero in my head. Why couldn't he have made his dramatic appearance on One? What the heck is the Countdown even for if it's never on time?

A male figure suddenly bursts through a cluster of jungle trees, chest heaving and grey eyes nearly glowing.

And there he is........

Zero.

I close my eyes, waiting for the bone-crushing hug that should happen any minute now, but it doesn't happen. 

Confused, I open my eyes to see him standing in the same place, breathing heavy and shaking as he tries to keep himself in the same place. I also notice how he inches away from the border of Core's domain, seeming almost afraid of it. Hmm, interesting.

"Zero-." I finally say softly, only to be cut off by a snarl.

"You-you Lyncher! How dare you show your face again!" Becky growls, eyes focused narrowly on Zero.

"Ashley." Zero says desperately, ignoring Becky as his eyes lock with mine.

This only makes Becky let out a shriek of anger as a huge sphere or light starts to grow in her hands, getting larger until it's the size of a basketball.

"Wait, Becky-" I try to stop her, but she doesn't listen, hefting it up and throwing it with all her might at Zero.

It slams into his chest, sending him sprawling backwards and flying out of view into the jungle.

My mouth drops open, and I take a step in his direction, feeling a tug on our bond that urges me to go to him and make sure he's alright.

I pause, frowning. Do I want to go to Zero, or is the bond making me want to go to him? I've never been more confused about what I want. 

I don't receive much time though to sort out my wants from the bonds wants, because just then Darkness seems to explode outward from the cave, the curling mist of black wafting outwards as a figure materializes in the darkness.

Lager.

Great, just what I needed. I was sort of hoping One would arrive before the other and I could shoo them away before the other arrived, but looks like that's impossible now.

"Ashley!" Lager yells, stepping out of the darkness as the mist dispenses. 

Unlike Zero, Lager has no hesitation as he storms forward and roughly grabs me, looking me up and down for any injuries.

"Thank The Core!" He exclaims, a smile lighting up his eyes. "You're not dead."

I don't tell him how correct he was about thanking the Core, instead focusing on the important matters at hand.

"Yes, I'm alive, yay. Now you need to leave."

"Why would I do that?" He asks, raising an eyebrow.

A growl rips through the air.

"Because of that." I mutter, shoulders slumping in defeat. Welp, I guess it's too late now.

I turn away from Lager, who is now tense and looking over my shoulder to see Zero standing in the same spot he was before Becky blasted him, grey eyes locked on Lager and I.

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