A couple of weeks had passed since the events of Eventide, and I was busy with the charity and organizing the fundraiser. Orion came back a week ago; he wanted to stay and help with the SBF fundraiser. I couldn’t be happier at his decision to join me on the mortal plane. Things were finally falling into place. 

Despite everything going in my favor, there was something that kept playing at the back of my mind. It was a cryptic message I received from Aunt Demeter a few days prior. She asked for a meeting at her office to discuss something important about women who may need refuge at the shelter. Typically, for something like this, she’d simply send over a file with her assistant. Yet, this time, she wanted to meet in person. I needed to know why it was so important, so I decided to go meet her. As I was getting ready to teleport to her office for the meeting, Orion walked into my room.

“Going somewhere?” he asked, looking at me skeptically.

“Yes, I have a meeting with Aunt Dem,” I answered, then sighed, “What’s with that look?”

“Arty, I know you well, much better than anyone from Olympus. I can see what’s going through you now, even if you won’t talk about it.”

“Orion, you know I don’t like it when you speak to me in riddles. Out with it already: what do you mean you can see through me?” I wondered how he knew about the message from Aunt Dem.

“Okay, you want me to give it to you straight?”

“Yes!” I had no clue what he was hinting at, but hoped it was not the message from Aunt Dem. I was not ready to discuss that with anyone. I braced myself for what was coming.

“You have been restless ever since you met Dinlas after your Halloween escapades.”

“Restless?” I asked with a raised brow.

He held his hands up in frustration and walked over to me. “You know what I am talking about – your last conversation with Dinlas. You were upset that day when you returned, and you seem to be upset today as well.” Ah! The Dinlas episode. It was but a loose end that I wished to tie up and move on. I opened my mouth to refute his claim, but he motioned for me to stop and continued, “Tell me, Arty. Do you have feelings for him?”

“Oh, by Zeus, NO! Come on, Orion, I have only truly loved one so far in my immortal life, and it is not Dinlas. You of all immortals must know that.” I sighed deeply and sat down on the sofa opposite to my desk, “Anyway, that’s beside the point.”

“Then what is it that bothers you about this situation?”

“I was upset at how things turned out with Dinlas. I visited him when he woke up from his injuries, hoping to explain myself and restore our friendship, but during that conversation, Dinlas accused me of giving up on him due to familial pressure. He did apologize for his previous behavior with Iain at the Eventide events. I will give him that, but that doesn’t recuse his accusation of me.” 

“What was that about?”

“Apparently, I did not give him a chance because I listened to the family’s talks about him being the God of Hate and Jealousy. It saddens me to know that he thinks so poorly of me, enough to believe that I used Erato’s effect as an excuse to take advantage of him, or that I didn’t give him a chance because of his past. He was distraught with me for giving Iain the opportunity that I denied him. He was so adamant about what he believed were my reasons for ending our relationship, that he did not even allow me to explain that Iain was just a friend.”

“Can you blame him for thinking you were with Iain; I thought the same when I arrived.”

“Well, he is an attractive satyr!” I said, watching Orion’s expression change.

“Jokes apart, tell me, did the family’s opinion of his dark side have an impact on your decision?”

“Are you talking about the same family that criticized me for breaking his heart? Of course not! I never thought poorly of him then, nor do I now, Orion. It was all in his head. My reasons for not giving this a chance was simply because I realized that it was impossible to love another when someone else occupied the depths of my heart.”

I looked away from Orion before he could say something and walked towards the window. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to love him as he deserved, so I decided it was in his best interest, to be honest, and let him go so he could find the kind of love he deserved. Tell me, was I wrong in doing what I did?”

“No, Arty, you did right by him!” Orion said, getting up to give me a hug. “I am sorry, I had no idea there was so much on your mind.”

I pulled out of his embrace before speaking again, “I only wish he had the patience to let me speak that day. He thanked me for everything, but also lashed out at me, and I did not stop him ‘coz I could see he was trying to put the past behind him. I thought it best to leave it at that, so he could get better. If it was not for me, he might never have had to experience the pain he felt when Estrella tortured him. Knowing that was a burden on my heart. One that I would like to consider repaid now that he has found love and happiness.”

“It seems Erato’s misadventure may have ruined a friendship?” Orion asked, concerned by the finality in my tone.

“I don’t know, but I am hoping it’ll work itself out, in time perhaps,” I shrugged. “And speaking of time, I am getting late for my meeting with Aunt Dem,” I said, taking a few steps away from Orion to teleport to her office.

He rolled his eyes at me, “Can’t you just take the elevator?” he asked. Orion hated teleporting; I had no idea why.

“Hey, thanks for the talk. It helped!” I said. He stood there looking at me and smiling, a hand on his chin and other on his hip. I waved him goodbye and teleported to Aunt Dem’s office.

I found her pacing the length of the room when her assistant showed me into her office. She asked him to close the door behind him.

“Arty, I am glad you are here. I have received some disturbing information about a human trafficking ring that operates in the area. Their main targets are young mortals, especially young women.”

“Are they trafficking them for the sex trade? I thought Dinlas and his team took them down?” I asked.

“No, it’s not the same ring, this is different. I don’t have all the details now, but I am working on it. What I do know is that they capture mortals for a hunting game that the rich mortals bet on.”

“So, the mortals have moved on from hunting animals to hunting people?” I asked, surprised by what I just heard.

Aunt Dem looked into my eyes and said, “I want us to take them down. Are you ready?” 

“Aunt, have you ever known me to say no to a good hunting game?”

Artemis (Rashmi Menon)
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