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32 Part III

 "You bastard! Artemis charged towards Orion, eyes flaring with outrage, and hands stretched out to grab the foxman's neck. Before she could get to him like she wanted to, the chain tugged at her neck, and she fell back.

Orion was at a dark corner of the single torched dungeon canvassed in cobwebs, dead insects and dead vermin. The dank smell of rot invaded Artemis's and Orion's nostrils, but they both had other things to worry about.

"How could you?!" The scream that forced its way out of her mouth pounded at Orion's eardrums, and his jaw clenched. She wanted to get her hands on him, but the chain was hindering her movements. Just two more steps, and she'd be close enough to throw a punch (which wouldn't hurt him that much)

"Can you be quiet? I'm trying to compose a letter!"

Artemis's nostrils flared. Tears were forming, but she was wary to not let them escape. Her breathing was noisy, her eyes were fixed at the foxman who was busy writing on the parchment she wished she could tear apart.

"Why are you relaxed? We are going to die!"

His expressionless brown eyes darted to her face briefly "You're not going to die Artemis. Calm down."

Now he was lying. She wanted to scratch those unbothered eyes, and leave his sockets empty.

"After everything you said back there. Even about the lady you claim to love!"

A long-drawn sigh was let out from his parted lips "Everything I said about her wasn't true. I did it to diver their attention away from her. It was just to settle Vikckson's allegations, and it worked. As for you, I admit most of it was true. I did doubt everything from the start, even now, I can't be too sure you're the one who's going to save humanity. Especially with the demigod title."

He continued to write on his parchment "I've been thinking Artemis. I've been doing something you don't know how to do. Think. What can ten years of having a demigod's title do? You risk assassination, exposure, torment, specially because you are a human. . I don't perceive any outcome of this except war."

"So what are you trying to say? This all is a waste? I've wasted my time and your time right?" Her quavering voice came out hushed. She was sinking into an endless depth of despair. A feeling of paralyzing terror crashed over her like waves of a turbulent ocean in a sweeping tempest. She was going to die.

"It all depends on you child." He finally placed the quill down then rolled the parchment.

"I'll advice you to find another way and don't dwell only on the title. The path you walk on is burdened with lots and lots of problems. I'm sorry, I should've trained you better."

A sudden lift of Artemis's lids raised her brows, and she pulled her head back. Orion apologized to her? The subtle change of his attitude was surprising.

"This parchment contains routines and instructions you can use to improve your strength and endurance. It also contains a letter I want you to pass to my sunshine, Anna." He tossed the parchment at Artemis and her reflexes made her catch it.

Her brows were narrowed to the extent they were close to touching and her facial muscles tightened "What's the point? We're going to die!"

A small smile appeared on his face before the bars of the cell was banged with a rod and the two prisoners turned to the direction of the sound.

Two reptiles stared down at them, and it didn't take long before Orion stood, stretching his arms apart "Looks like my time has come child" He threw a glance at her one more time "I hate to admit but I'll actually miss you."

Artemis's mind was caught in a fog. She couldn't understand what was going on and why Orion was leaving.

"I wrote down the name of the place you should find in the parchment. I don't know how you're going to do it, but I pray in the name of your God that you find luck on the way. Right now, I'm believing in you. Grow stronger. Protect Anna. Save humanity and yourself."

"Times up!" One of the reptiles pushed Orion forward and the other bolted the cell.

"Hey!!!" Deep emotions were swirling inside her as she tried to comprehend what was beyond comprehension. Her mind was tangled with thoughts. What now? What's the next thing to do? Could she handle it alone?

Hopelessness converted itself into tears that welled from deep inside and the pairs waited for it's time to course down her ashen cheeks.

"Orion!!! Don't leave me!!!" She could feel the tightening of her throat from the screams that bounced off the walls. Unable to take it all, she fell to the floor in a disheveled heap as her grief punctured the dam of her heart and flooded out in uncontrollable tears.

"Please don't" her chin trembled as she chewed on her lower lip, "I'm all alone here."

***

"Anna" Orion whispered as he was led to join a queue with humans in a profound state of shock. Their skin is ashen, eyes both beseeching and hopeless as they awaited death.

Orion's success in convincing the Demigod to let him do the life exchange for Artemis was what brought him to the phase of depature.

His statement caused a stir back at the council, but it was part of the rules of equivalent exchange and nothing could be done to change that.

If someone wanted to do such for a person who was sentenced to death, as long as he/she was certain of doing so, it was allowed. The council didn't have the authority to decline such, it wasn't lives, so they didn't have charge over critical decisions like that.

Orion spotted Vikckson from the blood thirsty crowd that were cheering for the execution to commence.

He waved and Orion smiled at him. The foxman wasn't regretting his decision. He was actually happy to do something he could be proud of.

He didn't choose safety even when he had the chance. He was no coward, and he never feared death in the first place.

He saved people, brought peace, and he did so with good intentions. No one would bother Anna for the mean time, Sirsis wouldn't be raided, and Artemis would be released. Total liberty wasn't certain because the council might keep a close watch on her activities from time to time. That's why Orion instruction in the parchment was for her to fake her death. However she'd do it was left for her to plot, and letting the plan fail wasn't an option.

The foxman ascended the wooden planks of the stairway with a free mind. Once in the guillotine, his nostrils detected the strong smell of the blood of those who were executed before him. He was secured with stocks at the bottom of the frame, and his neck was properly put in place.

The blade was raised, and it that moment he chose to close his eyes and see Anna through the lens of his heart for the last time. With the sound of the blade in motion, there came a sudden pain. His veins and arteries spouted up a prodigious quantity of blood while his head fell into a basket.

"Orion...you're a hero" Melissa clasped her hands together and appealed for the acceptance of his soul before she pushed her way through the crowd that was going to watch the remaining executions.