Disclaimer: Don't own and never will.
Alchemy frowned as she continued to read. There were a lot more entries now, details about 'the Heir' that were coming out, mixed in with the more mundane, everyday details. Details about her parents, hobbies, friends and school. Details that were kind of creepy, stalker-ish even. She gave a shudder.
She had thought that Cedric at the bookstore was cute, but this was kind of creepy. Like, who did this? This Heir was clearly very important, but Heir to what exactly? Some kind of fortune perhaps? It seemed kind of complicated for that. Surely it wouldn't be that hard to deal with an inheritance? And then there were all kinds of legal hurdles.
She groaned and rubbed her nose. This was interesting, but not really going anywhere. Or at least , nothing about Cornelia's murder. Still...she had a feeling that she was on the right track.
One thing she was sure of was that the Heir mentioned in the book was Elyon. Or at least she was ninety percent sure that it was Elyon. Admittedly Corelia had known Elyon better, but Alchemy knew her friend well enough to recognise her in Cedric's at least she thought she did. Could there be any other girls who Cedric knew who matched her friend? Alchemy didn't think so, but that could be a possibility as well.
Then she reached the last entry in the book.
It's happening tonight.
The date was exactly the same as the night Elyon had disappeared. Parents night, when some kind of event happened. Something that had damaged cars and water pipes and even buildings. Nobody knew what exactly, but Heatherfield was no stranger to weird and unexplained events. They were just swept under the carpet and ignored.
The rest of the pages were blank. Not so much as a single word.
She flipped frantically through the pages, desperate for more information. Surely there was something? Anything? It couldn't just end there, it just couldn't!
But the pages just remained frustratingly blank.
She let out a sigh. It was at this time that the bookstore had closed and Cedric had vanished. Of course there was nothing else. But still…
She flipped through the blank pages one more time. Nothing. Nothing at all. She frowned. This is what she had gone to so much trouble for? It seemed such a paltry reward for such a risk.
Alchemy let out a long yawn and suddenly jumped back in shock.
The first rays of sunrise were peeking over the horizon and birds were beginning to sing. Somehow she had managed to be here all night. Grabbing the book, she slipped out of the building. What she expected to find, she had no idea, but she was desperate and this was her best lead yet.
What she really needed (and this hurt to admit) was a guide to what she was looking at. Cedric's notes were hardly comprehensive and there was a lot missing. Details that were missing or simply obvious to someone in the know. But who? Cornelia's friends (or former friends? She wasn't entirely sure at this point.) knew more than they were telling, she was sure of it. But getting it out of them was a task bordering on impossible. Especially as they now knew that she suspected something.
With a sigh, she set off for home with sleep tugging at her eyes. If she was lucky, she would be home before her parents woke up and discovered her little escapade. (Being grounded for an eternity would certainly put a pinch on her investigation.)
WIll let out a groan as her alarm rang.
"Go away!" she practically shouted at the device as she sat up.
"Come on now Miss Will. You have school to be getting ready for!" her alarm clock told her and she groaned again. School was literally the last place she wanted to be right now.
"And you're needed at the Silver Dragon by Yan Lin!" The alarm clock added cheerfully and Will made a silent vow that one of these days, she would just toss her alarm clock out of the window. It was far too early for this.
She began to get ready.
Truthfully it had been an unusually long night. Aside from arriving home at a late hour (Thank Candracar Yan Lin had the sense to call her mum and make her excuses), she had hardly slept at all. Tossing and turning as her questions chased themselves around and around her head. Could she trust ANY of her friends? Had they planned this from the start? Had she done something so bad that she deserved this? What did they hope to gain? What was going to happen next?
The questions kept coming, their answers sitting just out of reach. Every solution she could think of was unworkable or would lead to more problems or simply wasn't going to work.
Then there were the detectives. Agent Medina and Agent McTiennan had a lot more resources to bring to the table. Hiding their activities and powers was going to be harder than ever.
Finally, there was Alchemy and her investigations, but Will wasn't that worried about her. She was confident that they had covered their tracks thoroughly. Or at least thoroughly enough for Alchemy to find nothing. Caleb had a fake, hard to track history from Yan Lin. (Who knew some disturbingly dubious contacts) But there was still the possibility that the others might let her know more.
She shook her head. Irma and Taranee might have turned against her, but Will doubted that they were any more inclined to reveal themselves any more than Will was.
"Miss Will, are you going to take out the milk or not?" the fridge asked in annoyance and Will suddenly jumped up.
"Sorry James," she said, grabbing the milk and closing the fridge door. "I was distracted."
"Anything I can help you with?" he asked and Will shook her head.
"Only if you know how to rewind time, or develop superpowers and fight," she said and her phone spoke up.
"Don't worry James," it said from her pocket. "She's been out of sorts all morning. She's got a lot going on at the moment."
"Guys, would you mind not talking about me when I'm right here?" she asked with a hint of annoyance. She let out a yawn. If she didn't have to deal with Yan Lin and the Silver Dragon, she was tempted to just pretend that she was sick.
Grumbling to herself, she sat down to eat.
Taranee rolled swiftly out of her crude temporary bed and grabbed her glasses. As the world slowly came back into sharp focus, she sighed.
She was indeed in Meridian and not her comfortable bed back home. She was indeed still in the hidden headquarters of The Midnight Book Club. Which meant that yesterday had indeed not been a bad dream. They were indeed on the run from Will and Caleb. And...maybe Hay Lin? She still had to figure that one out.
"So, what's the plan?" Irma asked as she sat up. Taranee shrugged.
"I'm not sure...I need time to think…" She closed her eyes and frowned. "We can't take down Will and Caleb on our own. And Hay Lin…"
"Hay Lin isn't a bad person!" Irma hissed and Taranee put up her hands in mock surrender.
"I'm not saying that she's in on this. But I don't think that she's going to help us. At least, not without proof."
Irma frowned. She knew full well that Taranee was right.
"Elyon cared a lot about Cornelia. I think that she'd probably help us take down Will if it came down to it," Irma said and Taranee shook her head.
"She's still under Phobos's spell. Even if she did side with us, Phobos would almost certainly get involved and that would almost certainly make the situation worse," she said sadly. "Talking of Phobos, the Rebellion needs us. But at the same time, we can't fight like we normally do. Not without our powers boosted by the Heart of Candracar."
"Actually, where is Candracar in all this?" Irma asked with a frown. "They were happy enough to get involved when...you know."
Taranee groaned and leaned back, rubbing the bridge of her nose and knocking her glasses from her face. Cursing, she picked them up.
"I have no idea what the hell Candracar is up to," she said, closing her eyes. "I would have thought that they would have stepped in by now…" here eyes widened. "Unless they can't…"
"Will holds the Heart of Candracar. Could it be protecting her from them somehow? Or maybe…" Taranee let out another groan. "We really need to talk to Yan Lin about this. Or someone who knows more about Candracar and the Guardians than we do."
"So what's the problem?" Irma asked and Taranee gave Irma a flat look.
"Caleb," she said and Irma sighed.
"Caleb. Of course," Irma said with a sigh. "He's still at the Silver Dragon."
"And we don't know how Yan Lin will react to us either," Taranee added with a sigh. "All she's going to have heard is Will and Caleb's side of the story. And if she killed Cornelia or both of them did, then we have no idea what lies they've told Yan."
"You think Caleb was involved with killing Cornelia?" Irma asked with a slight frown and Taranee shrugged.
"Maybe," she said, before shaking her head. "I honestly don't know." She paused, a thoughtful expression on her face. "He DID benefit from Cornelia's expulsion. And he likes Will. A lot. He wouldn't be the first person to be persuaded to do something unethical by someone he loves." She sighed again. "I don't even know if Will DID kill Cornelia or if she's just being paranoid after the fake Cornelia tried to kill her. God knows, I would be after something like that."
"Yeah, but the fact that she doesn't want an investigation, doesn't even listen to us, makes me suspicious," Irma said and Taranee nodded.
"Agreed," Taranee said, before frowning once more. "Can you get Hay Lin to meet you? Alone?"
"Sure," Irma said with a shrug. "She's my best friend and I trust her with my life."
"You might well be doing that," Taranee said darkly. "If Will and Caleb come along…"
"She won't let us down," Irma said with a look of determination. Taranee smiled.
"Good. Because I think I know how we can get through to Yan Lin without Caleb getting in the way."
Elyon opened her eyes to see Miranda looking at her with concern. She sat up.
"What happened?" she asked and Miranda let out a sigh of relief.
"Magical overexertion dear sister," Phobos said as he walked over to her. He pulled her into a hug, a hug she happily returned.
"Magical overexertion?" she asked in a curious voice as they separated. Phobos
"Magical overexertion," he replied. "You're not used to using so much magic all at once. Not in a controlled manner. What were you thinking?"
"There was a little girl down there," she said, before looking right at her brother. "Nobody was doing anything!"
He smiled gently and for the first time, Elyon noticed that the smile didn't quite reach his eyes.
"That was a noble gesture," he said after a few moments of silence. He shook his head. "But you're not used to using that much magic in one go. It's a strain that you will struggle to handle until you become more experienced with your powers.. Next time, send for help."
"My Lord..." Cedric said and Phobos nodded.
"Forgive me sister. I must take my leave of you," he said and he left the room. Elyon looked at Miranda, who had a curious expression on her face.
"Why did nobody want to help her?" she asked and Miranda shrugged.
"Your majesty…"Miranda paused, a frown crossing her face. "Your majesty, shape shifters are not trusted on Meridian. There is a lot of...bad blood between them and the...Fixed as they call none shapeshifters." She paused and frowned. "The appearance of shapeshifters and their ability to change their appearance means that many don't trust them."
"That's...a disgusting reason for not helping someone!" Elyon protested and Miranda gave her another curious look.
"Many shapeshifters stay hidden amongst the general population," Miranda continued, looking away now and Elyon frowned. "Your brother...he's the first monarch in a long time to even treat shapeshifters as anything other than a potential threat."
"Are you a shapeshifter?" Elyon asked, giving Miranda a firm look and Miranda turned away.
"I'm...I'm sorry your majesty. If...if you want me to lea-"
Elyon pulled Miranda into a hug.
"You shouldn't be ashamed of what you are," she said gently and for the first time in what felt like forever, Miranda felt something other than contempt for a Fixed.
"Now tell me. Why were you so ashamed of telling me?" Elyon asked and Miranda shrugged.
"We…" She paused and Elyon frowned. "The shapeshifter community has been afraid of the Fixed for as long as I can remember. We're taught to retain our human form even when we're physically hurt or unconscious. It keeps us alive."
Elyon hugged Miranda again and looked her in the eye.
"Miranda…" She paused and frowned. "You shouldn't be ashamed of what you are born as. No-one should." She paused again. "When I take the throne, I want ALL my subjects to be accepted...not just the ones who happen to fit."
"Are you sure, your majesty? We...it's not easy. Your brother does what he can, but...there will be a lot of backlash," she said and Elyon nodded.
"Of course...I'm supposed to be the queen of all the people of Meridian, not just the ones who look right." She paused and looked curiously at Miranda. ""You said your other form. May I see it?"
"Please?" Elyon asked, her eyes pleading. Miranda sighed.
"Your Majesty...please don't be afraid…" Miranda closed her eyes and changed into her spiderlike second form. She heard Elyon sharply draw breath, but before she could do anything, she felt Elyon's hand on her.
"Well that's...different," She heard Elyon finally say after what felt like an eternity. "Are...are there others like you?"
Miranda opened her eyes and looked Elyon in the eye.
"Yes," she whispered and she changed back.
"Do you really think that this is going to work?" Will asked as she looked at Taranee and Irma walking ahead of them.
Or rather, their astral drops.
"Of course it is. They look just like them!" Hay Lin said cheerfully. "And we've given them notes and when the real Taranee and Irma return, they can catch up!"
Will and Caleb exchanged looks behind Hay Lin's back and said nothing.
"Yeah, but...they're really stupid! And Taranee especially is really smart! Surely someone will notice when they start failing classes, or do something stupid, or-"
Will was abruptly silenced with a kiss.
"Hey, we'll deal with it. Between the three of us, we can keep them under control and out of trouble," Caleb said as he looked her in the eye. Will blushed and Hay Lin smiled.
"Aww, you two are so cute together," she squealed and Taranee and Irma turned.
"Oh is this something normal people do?" Astral Taranee asked curiously, her head tilted slightly.
"Do we kiss people to shut them up?" Astral Irma asked and Will, Caleb and Hay Lin all shook their heads.
"No, no, nononononono," Will said quickly. "You don't kiss people on the lips like that. Ever!"
"But, he kissed you on the lips," Astral Taranee pointed out.
"Is this one of those leader things?" Astral Irma asked and Will shook her head.
"You only kiss your boyfriend or girlfriend on the lips like that. Or your husband or wife," Hay Lin said with a smile. "That special someone who's special like that."
"See, this is what I mean!" Will said, her eyes wide as she waved her hands at the astral drops. "They don't know anything!"
"They'll have to do," Caleb replied, looking into her eyes. "We can't perform our Guardian duties if we're too busy fending off questions we can't answer." He paused and sighed. "Well, more questions than we're already dealing with."
"Besides, you heard Grandma," Hay Lin said. "This is what the astr-"
She was suddenly cut off by Caleb putting his hand over her mouth with a frown. Suddenly her eyes widened in surprise.
"Oh! Sorry!" she said cheerfully. "That was an accident."
"We can't afford accidents like that," Caleb pointed out. Our identities are on the line." He waved his hands at the Astral Drops. "We're out in the open. What if someone had seen your mistake? What if it had been recorded!?"
"I'm sorry," Hay said as tears began to roll down her cheeks. "I'm sorry!"
"Caleb!" Will said sharply and Caleb pulled himself up sharply. He ran his hands through his hair.
"I'm sorry too," Caleb said after a moment. "I'm just...worried. And stressed."
"Don't worry," Hay Lin said as she wiped tears from her eyes. "We'll all be friends again and this'll just be a bad memory. Pinky swear!"
She held up her hand, little finger extended.
"I promise," Will said, linking her little finger with Hay Lin's and after a moment, Hay Lin skipped ahead to the Astral Drops.
"You don't seriously think that?" Caleb asked with a frown and Will sighed.
"No. But...I don't want to have to deal with a depressed Hay Lin on top of everything else," she said, shaking her head. "She's holding it together, for now. But... Yan Lin's worried about her. Thinks that she's putting on a front. And we can't afford to lose another Guardian. Not yet."
Caleb shrugged and the two of them continued walking in companionable silence.
Alchemy blearily rubbed her eyes and tried to concentrate on the lesson in front of her. She really needed to concentrate on her class and not the stolen ledger hidden in her bag. (Stolen! Stolen! She still couldn't believe that she had actually STOLEN that ledger. It was crazy, it was insane, it was...unbelieveable.)
She rubbed her eyes once more. All she really wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sleep.
"In 1788, John Adams returned to America and-"
What was she missing exactly? What was Cedric talking about?
"Taking up the role of-"
The disappearance of Cedric and Elyon might not have had a role in the death of Cornelia. It could be that she was just chasing a dead end, a distraction from her goal. But then again, Elyon was Cornelia's best friend. The two of them had shared everything.
"He was then elected President-"
Elyon had disappeared at the same time as Cornelia had fallen out with Will and her friends though. And they knew something. Something important that they were keeping secret. Something that was almost certainly relevant to Cornelia's death. She glanced over at Taranee, who was busy taking notes. Notes that Alchemy should have been taking really, but her hands felt too heavy and her mind distracted.
The bell rang and Alchemy pulled herself to her feet. Her legs were beginning to feel like lead weights and her eyes were threatening to close.
She DEFINITELY needed to remember that sleep was important. Very important. So important in fact that she really should REMEMBER to do so in future. It was a miracle that Mr Collins hadn't noticed her slowly dozing off to sleep.
In a bleary daze, she navigated her way through the corridors of the Sheffield Institute. Somehow (much to her great surprise) she managed to avoid crashing into anyone on her way to her next class.
Well, everyone except Will Vandom. The redhead was distracted, talking to her boyfriend Caleb when Alchemy collided with her.
With an enormous crash, the two girls fell to the ground, the contents of their bags spilling onto the floor.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Alchemy said as they gathered their belongings. "I didn't mean to-I'm sorry!"
Will just glared and said nothing, gathering her belongings
"Hey, that's an interesting necklace," Alchemy said and Will jumped back slightly, before putting the necklace back under her clothes.
"Y-yeah. It's an old family heirloom," she said after a moment's silence. "I mean a gift. Yeah, a gift from an old friend."
"It's nice," Alchemy said in a slightly dazed voice. There was something else, something tugging at the back of her mind. Something Will had said, but what it was, Alchemy could not say.
With some difficulty, Alchemy stood up and walked into her next down, she rested her head on the desk and closed her eyes. Perhaps if she just rested her eyes for a moment….