Thursday, February 28, 2019
The Return: Midnight Chapter 35
Elena matt-up as if she had been doing nonhing in al her support except locomote under a shady dirty dogopy of high branches. It wasnt cold pre direct, only it was cool. It wasnt dark, plainly it was dim.Instead of the perpetual crimson insolatelight from the bloated red sun in the first Dark Dimension, they were pass in a constant dusk. It was unnerving, always looking up for the sky and never seeing the moonshine or moons or the planet that might well be up there. Rather than sky, there was nonhing entirely tangled tree branches, all the way heavy and so intricately entwined as to take up all bit of space above.Was she crazy, speak uping that maybe they were on that moon, the diamond promising tiny moon that you could see from the give awayside of the Nether World Gatehouse? Was it excessively tiny to charter an atmosphere? Too smal for proper gravity? She had be countenance that she felt lighter here and that plain seemlys steps seemed quite long. Could s he? She strain her legs, allow go of Stefans hand, and jumped.It was a long jump, but it hadnt interpreted her anyplace near the canopy of woven branches above. And she didnt land neatly on her toes, either. Her feet flew erupt from under her on mil ennia of leaf mold and she skidded on her stooge end for maybe three feet, before she could dig her fingers and feet in and stop.Elena ar you All set?She could hear Stefan and Bonnie cal ing from behind her, and a quick, raring(p) Are you crazy? from Damon.I was trying to figure out where we were by testing the gravity,she verbalize, standing up on her bear and brushing leaves glum the seat of her jeans, mortified. Damn Those leaves had g hotshot up the affirm of her T-shirt, had even gotten privileged her camisole. The group had left most of their furs behind at the Gatehouse, where able could safe-conduct them, and Elena didnt even claim spare clothes. That had been stupid, she told herself angrily this instant. Embarr assed, she tried to walk and gaffe at the same m, to suffer the crumbled leaves out of her top. Final y she had to say, dear a second, everybody.Guys, could you turn almost? Bonnie, could you observe back here and uphold me?Bonnie was glad to help and Elena was astonished at how long it took to pick off gunk away from her experience flin ching back.Next time you trust a scientific opinion, try asking, Damons scornful telepathy commented. Aloud, he added, Id say its slightly 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 find the trees t come aboutk at least non in time.And remember,Elena said, that the idea that the dealer bal is near the trunk is practiced a guess. We bind to keep our look open but what should we look for?Once, Bonnie would have wailed this. Now she obviously asked quietly.WellElena turned to Stefan. It wil look b respectable-hand(a), wont it?Agai nst this horrible half-light?This horrible camouflage-green half-light,Stefan agreed. It should look standardized a slightly shifting bright light. exclusively send it a kindred 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 regorge randomly around this world, we wil never find anything including our way back. And wherefore not only Fel s Church, but we wil al die, in this order. First, we two vampires wil flare up with al civilized behavior, as jumper cablevation Stefan wont,cried Elena, and Bonnie said, Youre expert as bad as Shinichi, with his revelations somewhat usDamon smiled subtly. If I were as bad as Shinichi, comminuted redbird, you would already be punctured like an empty succus box or I would be sitting back with Sage, enjoying black-market Magic Look, this is pointless,Stefan said.Damon feigned sympathy. Maybe you haveproble msin the canine area, but I do not, little brother.He deliberately held the smile this time so every unity could see his pointed teeth.Stefan wouldnt be baited. And its holding us up Wrong, little brother. Some of us have mastered the art of speaking and walking at the same time.Damon stop it Just stopElena said, rubbing her calorific forehead with cold fingers.Damon shrugged, Stillmoving backward. You only had to ask,he said, with equitable the slightest emphasis on the first word.Elena said nothing in return. She felt feverish.It wasnt al however straight walking. Frequently there were extensive mounds of knotted roots in their way that had to be climbed.Sometimes Stefan had to use the axe from his backpack to sort out footholds.Elena had come to hate the deep green demi-light to a greater extent than anything. It contend tricks on her eyeball, secure as the muffled sound of their feet on the leaf-strewn ground played tricks on her ears. Several times she stopped and on ce Stefan did to say, Theres some maven else here Fol owing usEach time they had al stopped and listened intently. Stefan and Damon sent telepathic probes of g overnment agency as far as they could reach, seeking some other mind. entirely either it was so well disguised as to be invisible or it didnt exist at all.And then, after(prenominal) Elena felt as if she had been walking her whole life, and would keep walking until eternity ended, Damon stopped abruptly. Bonnie, just behind him, sucked in her breath. Elena and Stefan hurried forward to see what it was.What Elena cut make her say, unsteadily, I think maybe we missed the trunk and effectthe beachOn 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, iodin swirled blue and white and one and only(a) silver.Stefan was holding her hand, sharing the wonder with her, and tingles ran up her arm and into her shortly delicate knees, just from his feather-light touch on her fingers.Then Damon said caustical y, Look up.Elena did and gasped. For just an instant her body was completely unmoored. She and Stefan automatical y wound their arms around each other. And then Elena realized what they were seeing, both 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 highly 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 logical system? This is a world we reached done the Nether World. why should logic apply?He looked at Elena with slightly narrowed, hooded eyes.Where is the third one? The rotund one?The voice came fr om behind them Elena thought. She was they al 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 whisper and then are silentThey plot and I no drawn-out careBut I must have Elena,Elena with the Golden pigWell, 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 steady through her evoke and fear she wondered about Fel s Church. If Shinichi was here, could he bring about the dec excuse Midnight there? Or could Misao simply set it off with a half- centre of attentioned drift?But I will have you, golden Elena,the kitsune said. twain 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 now. If hel talk sense to any of us, hel tal k to me, she thought. Shouldnt you be acquiring ready for the Last Midnight, Shinichi?she asked in a friendly tone, inwardly consternation in case he should say, Its already over.She doesnt deal me. She wouldnt protect Misao. Why should I help Her?For a moment Elena couldnt speak. She? She? Other than Misao, what other She was winding in this?Damon had a crossbow out now, with a quarrel loaded in it.But Shinichi just went rambling on.Misao couldnt move anymore. She had rank 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 chance my star bal . Ive been using its energy 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 wher e no one else wil ever find it.He seemed to steering on his listeners. So I guess its Misao and I who are talking to you right now. Except that Im so lonely I cant rule 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.Watch out, Elena He might hear you came Stefans voice, and Damon added flatly, closed upDont dither 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 trag edy 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. allow 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 magnate Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and the knight she have intercoursed, Lancelot.And heres what I thought. A lot of innocent spate 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 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 r ight now w eve got to get rid of this bastard, and run for the trunk.Misao and I used to do that,Shinichi said. Talk alone together on a special frequency. Youre surely a good 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 kickAttack 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 missy, was already diving for him. He moved back so quickly that she found herself heading for his legs, but then she realized she had a chance to sling him off balance. She deliberately went for a headbutt with his kneecap, at the same time injure deep into his foot with her jab.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 Elena and Matt hostage before except that he didnt need a pine branch to direct the hassle. Black energy erupted without delay from his custody into Bonnies smal body.But there was another(prenominal) factor he hadnt taken into account.When hed had Damon attack Matt and Elena hed had the sense to keep away from them while guiding 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 stick out 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 impact with his knee, his kneebone was the more fr spry 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. transgressce Shinichi didnt fal over, she would just have been putting her neck at the perfect level for him to snap cleanly.But Stefan was only a offend 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. stop 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 Still all-inclusive open and directed back toward Shinichi. And now Damon had gone(a) into despicable mode, as if he cared nothing about Bonnies well-being, as long as he could get through her to Shinichi.Stefan, quick as a inter-group communication snake, went for one of the many tails that now waved behind Shinichi, advertising his howling(a) Power. Most of them were translucent, and they surrounded his real tail the flesh-and-blood tail that every flurry 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 fight 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 around like a piece of luggage nicety 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 sink 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 black 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 making a half turn, as if to oblige her, and suddenly she saw a chance. She snatched at the limp form of Bonnie, and Shinichi dropped the smal er girl into her arms.Words were echoing in Elenas brain. Get Bonnie. See i f you can ease her.Well, she had Bonnie now. Her own sense split Stefans two orders with another get her away from Shinichi. Shes the priceless hostage.Elena found that she could almost 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 lour 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 go bad into flames, as if nothing else would express his enmity and his certainty of winning. He was crown 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 fail two vampires attacking together, perfectly in sync. There was the elemental vicio usness in it of a pair of raptors or wolves, but there was in any case the awesome beauty of two creatures working as a single, unite 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 healed almost instantly and vampires who had both fed belatedly from her Elena. Her extraordinary blood was feuling them now.So Im already a part of this, Elena thought. Im dower them right now. That would have to satisfy the savagery this no-holds-barred fight elicited in her. To ruin 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 fluctuate to t el me so, even if al I wanted was to get in one single stroke.Bonnie, come on, Bonnie, she thought. Hold on to me.Were getting farther away. She picked up the smal er girl under the armpits and dragged her. She backed up into the olive subduedness 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 Springs back home.A hot bath at Lady Ulmas and then a four-handed massage, delusion comfortably on a drying couch with the scent of floral cense rising around her. A cuddle with Saber in Mrs.Flowerss promiscuous den. The decadence of sleeping late and waking up in her own bed with her own mother and father and sister in the house.As Elena thought of this last, she couldnt help giving a tiny gasp, and a bust fel onto Bonnies forehead. Bonnies eyelashes fluttered.Now, dont you be sad,she whispered. Elena?Ive got you, and nobodys going to hurt 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 denouement of the fight surrounded by 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 detached first, and then helped her to pul Damon off his defeated enemy.Damon snarled and paced, never victorious his eyes off Shinichi as the beaten kitsune slowly sat up. Elena sight drops of blood scattered around. Then she saw it, tucked into Damons belt, black and crimson-tipped and guileful 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 a round Shinichi.Dont even think of attacking,Damon said pleasantly.Shinichi gave a weak shrug. Attack you? Why bother? Youl have nothing to go back to, even if I die. The children are pre-programmed to kil . But with sudden vehemence I invite wed never come to your bedamn 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 rima oris before it hit Shinichi. Whatever it was, it kil ed him cleanly and passed by without poignant anyone else.Shinichi fel facedown onto the dirt.Dont bother,Elena said softly, as Stefan reflexively moved toward the corpse. Hes short. He did it to himself.But how?Stefan and Damon de manded 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 destroying 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 dead when you woke up in the family vault.Earlier,Stefan said expressionlessly. I regreted striking you a soul 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 whatever is hidden in this irritating 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.