Monday, May 20, 2019
The Return: Midnight Chapter 35
Elena felt as if she had been doing nothing in al her life to a greater extentover walk infra a shady canopy of high branches. It wasnt refrigerant here, merely it was cool. It wasnt dark, however it was dim. preferably of the constant crimson sunlight from the bloated red sun in the first loathsomeness Dimension, they were walking in a constant dusk. It was unnerving, always looking up for the sky and neer slanging the moon or moons or the planet that might well(p) be up in that location. Rather than sky, there was nothing al unrivaled tangled tree branches, clearly heavy and so intricately entwined as to take up every(prenominal) secondment of space above.Was she crazy, thinking that maybe they were on that moon, the diamond b pay off tiny moon that you could see from the forthside of the Nether World Gatehouse? Was it too tiny to make up an automated teller? Too smal for proper graveness? She had noticed that she felt lighter here and that eventide bonnys ste ps seemed quite farsighted. Could she? She tensed her legs, permit go of Stefans hand, and jumped.It was a long jump, but it hadnt taken her everywhere near the canopy of woven branches above. And she didnt land neatly on her toes, either. Her feet flew out from under her on mil ennia of leaf mold and she skidded on her rear shut bulge out for maybe three feet, before she could dig her fingers and feet in and stop.Elena Are you All right?She could hear Stefan and middling cal ing from behind her, and a quick, impatient Are you crazy? from Damon.I was trying to figure out where we were by testing the gravity,she verbalise, standing up on her throw and brushing pull outs pip the seat of her jeans, mortified. Damn Those leaves had byg adept up the natural covering of her T-shirt, had even gotten inside her camisole. The group had left most of their furs behind at the Gatehouse, where perspicacious could guard them, and Elena didnt even have sp atomic number 18 clothes. That had been stupid, she told herself angrily instanter. Embarrassed, she tried to walk and shimmy at the aforementioned(prenominal) time, to draw the crumbled leaves out of her top. utmost y she had to say, dear a second, everybody.Guys, could you turn around? Bonnie, could you come back here and help me?Bonnie was glad to help and Elena was astonished at how long it took to pick ooze away from her own flinching back.Next time you want a scientific opinion, try asking, Damons scornful archetype transference commented. Aloud, he added, Id say its close to eighty percent Earths gravity here and we could well be on a moon. Doesnt signify. If Sage hadnt helped us with this compass, wed never be able to view the trees trunk at to the lowest degree not in time.And remember,Elena tell, that the idea that the star bal is near the trunk is meet a guess. We have to constrain our eyes open alone(predicate) what should we look for?Once, Bonnie would have wailed this. Now she simply asked quietly.WellElena false to Stefan. It wil look happy, wont it?Against this horrible half-light?This horrible camouflage-green half-light,Stefan agreed. It should look like a slightly shifting slick light. barely put it like this,Damon said, walking backward graceful y and flashing his old 250-kilowatt smile for a second at them.If we dont fol ow Sages suggestion, wel never find the trunk. If we try to wander randomly around this world, we wil never find anything including our way back. And therefore not only Fel s Church, but we wil al die, in this order. First, we cardinal vampires wil sort with al civilized behavior, as starvation Stefan wont,cried Elena, and Bonnie said, Youre average as bad as Shinichi, with his revelationsabout usDamon smiled subtly. If I were as bad as Shinichi, pocket-sized redbird, you would already be punctured like an drop off juice box or I would be sitting back with Sage, enjoying Black Magic Look, this is pointless,Stefan said.Damon feign sympathy. Maybe you haveproblemsin the canine area, but I do not, little br opposite.He by choice held the smile this time so everyone could see his pointed teeth.Stefan wouldnt be baited. And its holding us up Wrong, little brother. around of us have mastered the art of speaking and walking at the same time.Damon stop it Just stopElena said, rubbing her hot fore soul with cold fingers.Damon shrugged, Stillmoving backward. You only had to ask,he said, with honourable the slightest emphasis on the first word.Elena said nothing in return. She felt feverish.It wasnt al just straight walking. Frequently there were huge mounds of knotted roots in their way that had to be climbed.Sometimes Stefan had to use the axe from his mob to make tushholds.Elena had come to hate the deep green demi-light more than anything. It played tricks on her eyes, just as the muffled sound of their feet on the leaf-strewn ground played tricks on her ears. Several times she stopped and one time S tefan did to say, Theres someone else here Fol owing usEach time they had al stopped and listened intently. Stefan and Damon sent extrasensory probes of big businessman as far as they could reach, seeking another mind. however either it was so well disguised as to be invisible or it didnt exist at all.And then, after Elena felt as if she had been walking her whole life, and would grasp walking until eternity ended, Damon stopped abruptly. Bonnie, just behind him, sucked in her breath. Elena and Stefan go forward to see what it was.What Elena saw made her say, unsteadily, I think maybe we missed the trunk and piecethe edgeOn the ground in front of her and as far as she could see, was the star-studded darkness of space. But washing out the light of the stars was a huge planet and two huge moons, one swirled blueweed and white and one silver.Stefan was holding her hand, sharing the wonder with her, and tingles ran up her arm and into her suddenly weak knees, just from his feathe r-light touch on her fingers.Then Damon said caustical y, Look up.Elena did and gasped. For just an instant her body was write outly unmoored. She and Stefan automatical y wound their arms around each other. And then Elena realized what they were seeing, twain above and below.Its water,she said, staring at the pool spread out before them. One of those freshwater seas Sage told us about.And not a ripple on it. Not a breath of wind.But it does look as if were on that smal est moon,Stefan said mildly, his eyes deceptively innocent as he looked at Damon.Yes, Well, then theres something exceedingly heavy at the core of this moonlet, to al ow for eight-tenths the gravity we normal y experience, and to hang on to so much atmosphere but who cares about logic? This is a world we reached through the Nether World. Why should logic declare?He looked at Elena with slightly narrowed, hooded eyes.Where is the third one? The grave one?The voice came from behind them Elena ideal. She was they a l were turning from looking at bril iant light into half-darkness. Everything shimmered and danced before her eyes.Grave Meredith laughing BonnieAnd Elena with golden hair.They speak and then are silentThey plot and I no longer careBut I must have Elena,Elena with the Golden HairWell, youre not going to have mecried Elena. And that poem is a complete misquote, anyway. I remember it from freshman English class. And youre crazy Even through her anger and fear she wondered about Fel s Church. If Shinichi was here, could he bring about the Last Midnight there? Or could Misao simply set it off with a languid wave?But I will have you, golden Elena,the kitsune said.Both Stefan and Damon had knives out. Thats just where youre wrong, Shinichi,Stefan said. You wil never, ever touch Elena again.I have to try. Youve taken everything else.Elenas heart was pounding straightaway. If hel talk sense to any of us, hel talk to me, she thought. Shouldnt you be getting ready for the Last Midnight, Sh inichi?she asked in a friendly tone, inwardly awe in case he should say, Its already over.She doesnt need me. She wouldnt comfort Misao. Why should I help Her?For a moment Elena couldnt speak. She? She? Other than Misao, what other She was involved in this?Damon had a crossbow out now, with a quarrel blotto in it.But Shinichi just went rambling on.Misao couldnt move anymore. She had put al her Power into her star bal , you see. She never laughed or sang any longer never made up any plots with me. She justsat.Final y she asked me to put her into myself. She thought wed become one that way. So she dissolved and merged right into me. But it didnt help. NowI can barely hear her.Ive come to get my star bal . Ive been using its vigour to travel through the dimensions. If I put Misao into my star bal , shel recover. Then Il hide it again but not where I left it last. Il put it farther up where no one else wil ever find it.He seemed to focus on his listeners. So I guess its Misao and I who are talking to you right now. demur that Im so lonely I cant retrieve her at all.You wil not touch Elena,Stefan said quietly.Damon was looking grimly at the rest of the group at Shinichis words, Il put it farther upGo on, Bonnie, keep moving,Stefan added. You too, Elena. Wel fol ow.Elena let Bonnie go some feet ahead before saying telepathical y, We cant break up, Stefan theres only one compass. sojourn out, Elena He might hear you came Stefans voice, and Damon added flatly, Shut upDont bother tel ing her to shut up,Shinichi said. Youre mad if you think that I cant just pick your thoughts right out of your minds. I didnt think you were that stupid.Were not stupid,Bonnie said hotly.No? Then did you figure out my riddles for you?This is hardly the time for that,Elena snapped. It was a mistake, for it caused Shinichi to focus on her again.Did you tel them what you think about the tragedy of Camelot, Elena? No, I didnt think youd have the courage. Il tel them, then, shal I? Il read it as you put it in your diary.No You cant have read my diary Anyway its no longer applicable Elena flared.Let me seethese are your own words now.He assumed a reading voice. Dear Diary, one of Shinichis riddles was what I thought of Camelot. You know, the legend of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and the knight she belovedd, Lancelot.And heres what I thought. A lot of innocent people died and were miserable because three selfish people a king, a queen, and a knight couldnt behave in a civilized way.They couldnt understand that the more you love, the more you find to love. But those three couldnt give away in to love and just share al three of themShut upscreamed Elena. Shut up My God, Damon said, my life just lapped itself.So did mine. Stefan sounded dizzy.Just forget about all of it, Elena told them. Its not true anymore. Stefan, Im yours forever, and I always was. And right now w eve got to get rid of this bastard, and run for the trunk.Misao and I used to do that,Shinic hi said. Talk alone together on a special frequency. Youre certainly a faithful manipulator, Elena, to keep them from kil ing each other over you.Yes, its a special frequency I cal the truth,Elena said. But Im not half as good a manipulator as Damon is. Now attack us or let us go away. Were in a hurryAttack you?Shinichi seemed to be thinking over the idea.And then, faster than Elena could track it, he went for Bonnie.The vampires, who had been expecting him to try to get to Elena, were caught off guard, but Elena, who had seen the flicker of his eyes toward the weaker girl, was already diving for him. He locomote back so quickly that she found herself heading for his legs, but then she realized she had a incident to throw him off balance. She deliberately went for a headbutt with his kneecap, at the same time stabbing deep into his foot with her knife.Forgive me, Bonnie, she thought, knowing what he would do. It was the same as what hed had his puppet, Damon, do when hed held Ele na and Matt hostage before pretermit that he didnt need a pine branch to direct the inconvenience. Black energy erupted directly from his detainment into Bonnies smal body.But there was another factor he hadnt taken into account.When hed had Damon attack Matt and Elena hed had the sense to keep away from them while directing agony into their bodies. This time, hed seized Bonnie and wrapped his arms around her. And Bonnie was a most excel ent telepath herself, especial y at projecting. When the first wave of agony hit her, she screamed and redirected the pain toward Shinichi.It was like completing a circuit. It didnt hurt Bonnie any less, but it meant that anything Shinichi did to her he felt in his own body, amplified by Bonnies terror. That was the system that Elena slammed into as hard as she could. When her head impacted with his knee, his kneebone was the more fallible of the two, and something inside it crackled. Dazed, she concentrated on twisting the knife shed stabbed through his foot and into the soil below.It wouldnt have worked if she hadnt had two extremely agile vampires right behind her. Since Shinichi didnt fal over, she would just have been putting her neck at the improve level for him to snap cleanly.But Stefan was only a split second behind her. He seized her and was out of Shinichis reach before the kitsune could even assess the situation properly.Let me go,Elena gasped at Stefan. She was determined to get Bonnie. I left my knife,she added craftily, finding a more concrete reason for forcing Stefan to let her back into the fray.Where?In his foot, of course.She could feel Stefan trying not to laugh out loud. I think thats a good place to leave it. Take one of mine,he added.If youve quite finished your little chat, you might get rid of his tails, came Damons cold telepathy.At that moment Bonnie passed out, but with her own telepathic circuits Stillwide open and directed back toward Shinichi. And now Damon had gone into offensive mode, a s if he cared nothing about Bonnies well-being, as long as he could get through her to Shinichi.Stefan, quick as a striking snake, went for one of the many tails that now waved behind Shinichi, advertising his tremendous Power. Most of them were translucent, and they surrounded his real tail the flesh-and-blood tail that every shed had.Stefans knife went snick and one of the phantom tails fel to the ground and then disappeared. There was no blood, but Shinichi keened in fury and pain.Damon, meanwhile, was ruthlessly attacking from the front.As soon as Stefan had distracted the kitsune from the back, Damon slashed both Shinichis wrists one quickly on the upstroke, the other just as fast on the down-stroke. Then he went for a body blow just at the moment that Stefan, with Elena held like a baby on his hip, snicked away another phantom tail.Elena was struggling. She was seriously worried that Damon would kill Bonnie to get to Shinichi. And besides, she herself would not be toted aro und like a piece of luggageCivilization had tumbled down al around her and she was reacting from her deepest instincts protect Stefan, protect Bonnie, protect Fel s Church. Put the enemy down. She hardly realized that in her heightened state she had drop down her unfortunately Still-human teeth into Stefans shoulder.He winced slightly, but he listened to her. All right Try to get Bonnie, then see if you can ease her.He let go of her just as Shinichi whirled to deal with him, channeling the discolor pain that, back on Earth, had flung Matt and Elena off their feet in seizures, directly toward Stefan.Elena, just released, found that everyone was make a half turn, as if to oblige her, and suddenly she saw a chance. She snatched at the limp diversity of Bonnie, and Shinichi dropped the smal er girl into her arms.Words were echoing in Elenas brain. Get Bonnie. See if you can ease her.Well, she had Bonnie now. Her own sense split Stefans two orders with another get her away from Sh inichi. Shes the priceless hostage.Elena found that she could more or less scream with fury even now. She had to keep Bonnie safe but that meant leaving Stefan, gentle Stefan, at the mercy of Shinichi. She scrambled away with Bonnie so smal and light and at the same time threw a backward glance at Stefan. He was wearing a slight frown of concentration now, but he was not only not overwhelmed with pain, he was pressing forward the attack.Even though Shinichis head was on fire. The bril iant crimson tips of his black hair had burst into flames, as if nothing else would express his enmity and his induction of winning. He was crowning himself with a flaming garland, a hel ish halo.Elenas anger at that turned into chil s down her spine as she watched something most people never lived to analyze two vampires attacking together, perfectly in sync. There was the elemental savagery in it of a pair of raptors or wolves, but there was to a fault the awesome beauty of two creatures working as a single, unified body. The distance in Stefans and Damons expressions said that this was a fight to the death. The occasional frown from Stefan or vicious smile from Damon meant that Shinichi was sending his searing dark Power through one or the other of them. But these werent weak humans Shinichi was playing with now. They were both vampires with bodies that cured almost instantly and vampires who had both fed recently from her Elena. Her extraordinary blood was feuling them now.So Im already a part of this, Elena thought. Im helping them right now. That would have to satisfy the savagery this no-holds-barred fight elicited in her. To split the perfect synchronicity with which the two vampires were handling Shinichi would be a crime, especial y when Bonnie was Stilllimp in her arms.As humans, were both liabilities, she thought. And Damon wouldnt hesitate to tel me so, even if al I wanted was to get in one single stroke.Bonnie, come on, Bonnie, she thought. Hold on to me.We re getting farther away. She picked up the smal er girl under the armpits and dragged her. She backed up into the olive dimness that stretched in al directions. When she tripped over a root and accidental y sat down, she decided that shed gone far enough, and maneuvered Bonnie into her lap.Then she cupped her hands around Bonnies little heart-shaped face and she thought of the most soothing things she could imagine. A cool plunge at warm up Springs back home.A hot bath at Lady Ulmas and then a four-handed massage, lying comfortably on a drying couch with the scent of floral incense rising around her. A approach with Saber in Mrs.Flowerss informal den. The decadence of sleeping late and waking up in her own bed with her own mother and father and baby in the house.As Elena thought of this last, she couldnt help bighearted a tiny gasp, and a teardrop fel onto Bonnies forehead. Bonnies eyelashes fluttered.Now, dont you be sad,she whispered. Elena?Ive got you, and nobodys going to h urt you again. Do you Stillfeel bad?A little. But I could hear you, in my mind, and it made me feel better. I want a long bath and a pizza. And to hold baby Adara. She can almost talk, you know. Elena youre not listening to meElena wasnt. She was watching the mishap of the fight between Stefan and Damon and Shinichi. The vampires had the kitsune down now and were squabbling over him like a couple of fledglings over a particularly tasty worm. Or maybe like a pair of baby dragons Elena wasnt sure if birds hissed at each other.Oh, no yuckBonnie saw what Elena was watching and col apsed, hiding her head against Elenas shoulder. Okay, Elena thought. I get it. Theres no savagery at allin you, is there, Bonnie? Mischief, but nothing like bloodlust. And thats good.Even as she thought this, Bonnie abruptly sat up straight, bumping Elenas chin, and pointing into the distance.Waitshe cried. Do you see that?That was a very bright light, which flared brighter as each vampire found a place to his liking on Shinichis body and bit simultaneously.Stay here,Elena said, a little thickly, because when Bonnie had bumped her chin shed accidental y bitten her tongue.She ran back to the two vampires and knocked them as hard as she could over the heads. She had to get their attention before they got completely locked into feeding mode.Not surprisingly, Stefan obscure first, and then helped her to pul Damon off his defeated enemy.Damon snarled and paced, never taking his eyes off Shinichi as the trounce kitsune slowly sat up. Elena noticed drops of blood scattered around. Then she saw it, tucked into Damons belt, black and crimson-tipped and smooth Shinichis real tail.Savagery fledfast. Elena wanted to hide her head against Stefans shoulder but instead turned up her face for a kiss.Stefan obliged.Then Elena stepped back so that they formed a triangle around Shinichi.Dont even think of attacking,Damon said pleasantly.Shinichi gave a weak shrug. Attack you? Why bother? Youl have n othing to go back to, even if I die. The children are pre-programmed to kil . But with sudden vehemence I wish wed never come to your damned little town at all and I wish wed never fol owed Her orders. I wish Id never let Misao near Her I wish we hadnt He stopped speaking suddenly.No, it was more than that, Elena thought. He froze, eyes wide open and staring. Oh, no,he whispered. Oh, no, I didnt mean that I didnt mean it I have no regrets Elena had the feeling of something coming at them at tremendous speed, so fast, in fact, that she just had time to open her mouth before it hit Shinichi. Whatever it was, it kil ed him cleanly and passed by without touching anyone else.Shinichi fel facedown onto the dirt.Dont bother,Elena said softly, as Stefan reflexively moved toward the corpse. Hes inanimate. He did it to himself.But how?Stefan and Damon demanded in chorus.Im not the expert,Elena said. Meredith is the expert on this. But she told me that kitsune could only be kil ed by des troying their star bal s, shooting them with a blessed bul etor by the Sin of Regret.Meredith and I didnt know what that meant back then it was before we had even gone into the Dark Dimension. But I think we just now saw it in action.So you cant be a kitsune and regret anything youve done?Thats harsh,Stefan said.Not at all,Damon said crisply. Although, if it had operated for vampires, no doubt you would have been permanently groundless when you woke up in the family vault.Earlier,Stefan said expressionlessly. I regreted striking you a mortal blow, even as I was dying. Youve always said I feel too guilty, but that is one thing I would give my life to take back.There was a silence that stretched and stretched. Damon was at the front of the group now, and no one but Bonnie could see his face.Suddenly Elena grabbed Stefans hand. We Stillhave a chanceshe told him. Bonnie and I saw something bright that way Lets runHe and Elena passed Damon running and he grabbed Bonnies hand too. Like the wind, BonnieBut with Shinichi dead Well, do we real y have to find his star bal or the biggest star bal or some(prenominal) is hidden in this awful place?Bonnie asked. Once, she would have whined, Elena thought. Now, despite whatever pain she felt, she was running.We do have to find it, Im afraid,Stefan said. Because from what he said, Shinichi wasnt at the top of the ladder after al .He and his sister were working for someone, someone female. And whoever She is, She may be attacking Fel s Church right now.The odds have just shifted,Elena said. We have an unknown enemy.But Still Al bets,Elena said, are off.