Inbetween: Chapter Ninety Two


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Getting out of this room seemed like a good idea, but Willow did not trust Ciel or Nyura enough to believe they were entirely undeserving of imprisonment. Ciel, of course, was a dangerous rogue and simply could not be trusted not to be a threat. In a general sense, Nyura was less of a threat, but she actually made Willow more uneasy than her deadly companion. If Ciel bore her ill will, it would just be business. Nyura’s anger was personal. Willow was almost certain the anger was not justified, but Nyura’s unpredictable nature made her a lot harder to feel safe around.

Breaking them out meant she would be responsible for them in some way, but staying here with them meant that she would be even more stuck with them. As disagreeable as it might be, she knew what she must do. Now it just became a matter of figuring out how she could go about doing it.

She tried to block out distractions so she could concentrate on the power that was trying to suppress magic in this place. Nyura continued to glare at her, although she had retreated back some distance to a chair. Willow almost managed to block out her looks of loathing, but she could not so easily disregard Barkly. After taking a moment to adjust to his new surroundings, he returned to his old ways and slipped several small baubles into his pockets while Willow observed him. At this point, Willow was beyond caring about his thieving. The items in this room were not her responsibility, after all.

Staying here was out of the question. Leaving meant stretching muscles that she had purposely not stretched in quite some time. The entirety of the last time she stayed in this world she did her very best to keep her abilities in check.

Letting loose now did not guarantee her desirable results. Even when she was using her abilities on a somewhat regular basis in the past, she had no real understanding of the underlying mechanics. She followed specific rituals laid out by her family and generally had the desired outcome. As far as she knew, there was no ritual in her repertoire that would help them escape from a locked and guarded room.

Nyura looked about ready to call the guards herself to order them to remove Willow from the room. Ciel looked impatient, and if she did not know it to be impossible she might think there was also a hint of concern in her slight frown.

Willow needed to act and soon. Otherwise, she was sure there would be some sort of unpleasant consequence or another, depending on which woman managed to act first. She closed her eyes and tried to summon up some sort of magic to disable the guards on the other side of the door. She opened her eyes again in a moment, certain that nothing had changed.

She ventured to glance at Ciel again. She was still staring. She smiled hesitantly.

Ciel sighed and moved closer.

“I’m not sure what I can do to break the spell you’re worried about,” she admitted.

“You can feel it, can you not?”

She nodded. “I can feel it, but I don’t know what to do about it.”

“Reject it. Push it away.”

The advice was delivered sharply, but the message was actually surprisingly helpful. It had never been a conscious decision, but Willow had pushed away other’s magic before. In fact, she had reacted in such a way to Ciel’s magic months ago.

That had been a reaction during a moment of stress, though. She acted reflexively. She tried to recreate that reflex now. Something built up inside of her, making her feel uneasy. Instead of letting the feeling recede like her every instinct told her to do, she pushed it out.

The sensation of her magic leaving her body and diffusing through the entire room made her feel queasy and a little weak in the knees. She did not remember feeling like this any other time her magic kicked in, but she was not sure she had ever encountered something like this particular sort of magic before. She knew her magic was effective against Ciel’s type of magic, but in many ways, this magic was the opposite of her kind of magic.

Her magic pushed further out and bumped into something. She felt a brief instance of resistance but then her power broke through. Her eyes were still closed, but in her mind’s eye, she saw the spell falling and scattering at her feet like pieces of confetti. Whatever it might have been, it seemed to be rendered useless now.

She opened her eyes again and turned to Ciel for confirmation. There was a fire in the pale woman’s gaze and the way her lips were curling into a small, satisfied smile told her all she needed to know.

“You have your magic back,” she announced with absolute certainty which she did not yet truly feel.

The pronouncement hung in the air. She realized with this odd assembly, her unspoken question would need to be put into words if there was any hope of making progress.

“What do we do next?”

Ciel released an exasperated sigh and crossed the room to the door. She leaned in and pressed her ear against the solid wood door. Willow doubted she could hear much of anything, but she cautiously stepped closer to the door and waited to hear Ciel’s verdict.

She stepped back from the door, a serious, determined expression on her face. Willow took a step or two back herself. She still did not trust Ciel, even if they were most likely working toward the same goal at the moment.

“I’ll unlock the door,” Ciel said in a conspiratorial whisper. “I should be able to disable the guards at the door as well, but I’ll need your help once we’re on the move since I doubt we’ll be able to rely on the element of surprise while traveling as a group.”

Willow nodded although she felt an uneasy knot forming in the bottom of her stomach. She did not expect her return to this world to be easy, but these complications were beyond anything she had braced herself for. Her eyes flitted from one member of their little escape party to the next. Ciel was motivated, prepared and deadly. As long as they were working toward the same goal, Willow doubted she would need to worry about her. Barkly Jokin did not concern her much either. His shady business practices made her more confident that he would be capable of using his self-preservation instincts to keep himself out of even more trouble. The only person in their little party that seemed likely to ruin it all was Nyura.

From what she knew of Nyura, she thought she was capable of understanding the gravity of the situation, but she often chose not to. It was hard to tell just how aware she was from moment to moment. Her delusions or imagination seemed to be in control the majority of the time Willow had known her. That was not the primary reason Willow was worried. No matter what she was thinking at the time, Nyura seemed to hate her.

No matter what she thought about the abilities of her companions, she already agreed with the evaluation that they could not stay here and be found. They needed to act decisively.

“Should we go now?” she asked, keeping her voice low.

Ciel gave her an irritated look, but nodded and waved everyone over to the door. She muttered some words at the lock. There was a click as the mechanisms within the lock shifted although there was no key. She slowly turned the doorknob and looked back at the others briefly before opening the door.

She stepped forward, words in a tongue Willow did not comprehend forming a storm cloud around her. Almost immediately there were two thuds. When Willow followed Ciel into the hall she spotted the two guards stationed at the door slumped on the floor.

Seeing them there made her uneasy, but she stepped past them and hurried down the hall with the others. Her heart was pounding violently in her chest before they even turned the first corner.

They were all following Ciel. She seemed to know where she was going, and for her part, Willow was grateful to follow instead of wander aimlessly. Their progress went unimpeded for longer than she thought could be possible during what was essentially a jailbreak. Of course, their good luck did not last.

Ciel led them through the hallways used by servants. Obviously, the people who decided to lock away Ciel and Nyura were too important to use this passageway.

That was not enough to give Willow any peace of mind. She was not supposed to be here at all and while she might not be sure what would happen if she was found, she was certain it would not be pleasant.

They appeared to be moving unnoticed by anyone at all. Willow credited that to Ciel’s sustained chanting. It seemed to keep them all from being noticed, even if they did not appear to be invisible. Unfortunately, the lack of cohesion within their little group pushed her skills to the limit. It was hard to tell who broke the spell. Was it Barkly straying from the group to see if there were any loose items he could easily slip into his pocket? Was it Nyura who seemed unwilling to walk too close to Willow? Perhaps it was just a matter of there being too many people for Ciel to be able to maintain her illusion.

As the illusion fell away, Willow and Ciel exchanged a look of concern. With just that brief glance, she knew they were all in trouble. She picked up her pace without any regard for the others.

At the moment she could not worry about whether or not anyone else was able to get away. She just needed to make sure she was not caught herself. After appearing so far away from where she meant to be, she could not afford to have anything or anyone slow her down.

She felt unfamiliar magic behind her and her own magic rose up unbidden to repel it. Before she could feel the result of her magic interacting with the magic further back the hall, someone grabbed her arm and yanked her into a room.

Ciel chanted a few words and the door disappeared into the wall. With a moment to breathe, Willow realized her heart was racing and panic had her seeing stars.

“Are we safe?” she asked in a hushed whisper as she looked around the room.

Nearly everything in the room was a dingy gray color. They were still crowded near the now hidden door as the rest of the room’s floor space was occupied by furniture covered in ancient dust covers. The only light in the room came from small windows up near the ceiling. As she surveyed the room, Willow realized a member of their group was missing.

“They’re not trying to break through my magic so we should have a bit of time before they figure out where we are,” Ciel explained.

Willow exhaled a breath she did not realize she was holding. Then her heart stopped. Nyura and Ciel were hidden way in this room with her, but Barkly was missing. She shocked herself by realizing he probably preferred to be on his own rather than trapped here with them and she was fine with him trying to find his own way out. He was an expert at getting in and out of places he did not belong, after all.

That still left the three of them trapped in this dusty storage room. For the moment they were safe, but once they were found, there was nowhere for them to run. She surveyed the room again, desperate to find a way out of this situation.

“Do you think we could climb out of one of those windows?” she whispered.

Ciel sighed and glanced back at the door. “I don’t think we have a choice. Help me push some furniture over so we can climb up.”

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