Was this chapter late because I was too busy watching It’s Okay to Not Be Okay and gushing over an antisocial female lead who gets to stab dudes in the chest? I mean, maybe. All I can say is once you fall down the K-drama rabbit hole, you’ll never come back out.
Also, shout out to Dolly Llama for marking one of today’s reveals as suspect wayyyyyyy back in like chapter three.
Ancient Ruins, Formerly Straud Castle
The weight of Rory’s hold threatened to crush her. Here was the guardian who taught her time-weaving, raised her, took the form of a lion to scare off her nightmares. But this knowledge, this deep abiding love, did not stop Miko from struggling. For here too was a creature who would pluck out your eyes and stop your heart and not think twice about it.
“P-Please,” she finally gasped, “I can do it this time!”
Rory waved his hand, and she dropped to the ground. With great heaving breaths, she struggled to her feet. Her family had always laughed at her antics, but maybe a thousand times was a bridge too far.
“I know this is a lot, but I’m gonna tell you right now, I have excellent reasons for looping this timeline,” she argued. It seemed better to take a preemptive stand and project confidence.
“Not timeline,” Rory said, his silver suit gleaming in the darkness, “Timelines.”
Miko felt a chill climb up her spine.
Windenburg Island, Bjersten Residence
“I’d explain it to him if I didn’t think he’d stab me again,” Vlad called out over his shoulder as they approached the house.
Alice shook her head, “Don’t be so dramatic, you’re not worried about getting stabbed.”
She stopped, self-consciously tucking back a stray piece of hair, “For what it’s worth, I think you did the right thing. Caleb needs to figure out who and what he is without you.”
“Like you’ve done with Ben?” he replied, turning to face her with a knowing smile.
Alice sprinted up the steps and grabbed his wrist, pressing him back against the window. “I…I didn’t think you were paying attention. You were being weird as fuck during the contest.”
She started to step back, but Vlad stopped her. “I quite enjoy being caged in by you. And technically, it was the golem that was being weird,” he made a funny face as his mouth formed around that word. “I was in my right mind and watching you from the window. You were glorious.”
“You watched me?” Alice gasped, her hold on him tightening.
She was just raising up on her tippy-toes for a kiss when the first part of his sentence finally sunk in. “Wait. Golem? What do you mean by golem?”
“You needn’t worry,” he retorted, waving a dismissive hand, “It was an amateur effort, so it’s quite dissolved now. Gwendolyn and I had a long discussion about hiring other baby witches to do dark workings.”
“Dark workings? Oh, so she hired a kid to make a clay copy of you, and you had a talk about it, so it’s fine? That’s like level ten grounding! You can’t keep shit like that a secret! You and I are on a team…together…” she trailed off as something in the window caught her attention.
Later, Alice would be hard-pressed to explain exactly how she knew.
Or exactly what she saw.
Death called to her. Stretching out her arm, she let the whispers of it curl around her fingers, trying to determine its point of origin.
“Stay there,” Vlad called out, “There’s a dead body in the back bedroom; I can smell it.”
Alice didn’t answer. Everything in her body felt wrong. Her plasma was too slow, her heartbeat too fast, her skin felt stretched out and inflated, like she had suddenly become a balloon.
“But I’m not a balloon,” she muttered absently, walking further into the house.
Vlad growled, misting into her path, “Aren’t you listening? Stay here! I won’t lose both of you to the—”
He broke off abruptly. “Alice…can you…hear me?”
Her skin didn’t just feel inflated; it was on fire.
“Nod if you can hear me,” Vlad repeated, his voice a command.
Alice bristled, clenching her fists. She was the god here! He didn’t rule her. She would tell him to…
All she could think about was Gwendolyn and how she felt too full of power. She couldn’t keep it all in her body; she had to find a way to get it out!
“No,” Vlad said firmly, “We need you to stay inside this body. Gwendolyn and I require it, so you have to try.”
“Help me,” Alice cried, but it came out as incoherent shrieking. She didn’t even know she was falling forward until he caught her.
“It’s alright,” he murmured, “I’ve got you. Take a deep breath. Just breathe.”