This is the final chapter of my story. It has been a wild ride, but it has to end.
Although, I have to apologize for what you might read here... but try to enjoy.
Leave a review after reading, please. Feedback is always appreciated. (Be sure to read the bottom of the chapter. I have some questions for all of you, if you'd be kind enough to answer them, that is.)
I'd like to thank the following users for reviewing the previous chapter: DragonEmperor999, davengirl67, rose1041, xez2003, Guest, Guest52, Quartz Rider, TheGreatGodzilla
To xez2003: I really liked how you defined Mal.
To Guest: I'm still planning on "when" to explore the mystery on Carlos.
To Guest52: Second chances and all that. At least they're not gonna be spending the summer in Auradon.
To Just Chill: Don't do that. Don't you dare review my other stories if you're not gonna talk about the story itself. I'm sorry, but my "Infinity" series is over.
The following day after Mal reclaimed her position as ruler of the Isle of the Lost, Auradon was in turmoil. Reporters ambush Ben outside his own castle to ask him questions about Mal, the state of his kingdom, and how he intends to reassure his people's safety. Ben was overwhelmed by all the questions and the camera flashes. He couldn't answer or see.
"Is Mal going to stand trial?"
"Where is Ursula's daughter?"
"Do you still plan to make Mal your future queen?"
"What can you say to the people of Neverland?"
"Who rescued Tinker Bell from the pirate crew?"
"Is the death penalty a considerable punishment?"
Thanks to his parents, Ben managed to escape the crowd, but he couldn't stop thinking about all the questions asked to him. The war is over and he has to make a decision soon. He decided to go to the one place where he can relax. The Enchanted Lake. Since the pavilion flooring was still damaged, he just sat top on a boulder and stared at the sparkling waters he loved to swim in. It made him wish he and Mal were on a date right now so he can teach her how to swim.
Ben had talked to his parents, Fairy God Mother, and his friends about what he should do about his current situation with Mal. Belle told him to follow his heart. Beast told him to do what he believes is right. His friends, especially Evie, Jay, and Carlos, told him that they can't make the decision for him.
Out of options, he calls the one person he hasn't talked to.
"Hey, Eleanor," Ben greeted.
"I heard about what happened at the Sea of Storms. Are you okay?" asked Eleanor.
"I'm fine," said Ben. "I called you to ask you for some advice."
"About?" asked Eleanor.
"Mal," Ben answered. "My people want her punished. I don't. I just can't decide what to do. I've talked to everyone, and I still can't make a decision."
"Well, there's this one saying my mom used to tell me all the time," said Eleanor. "Teaching someone an important lesson requires doing something inconceivable."
"So, you think I should punish Mal?" asked Ben.
"It's up to you," said Eleanor.
Eleanor ends the call so Ben can continue to think.
Mal has been spending the entire day avoiding everyone. Her "friends" still harbor antagonistic feelings towards her, and Ben is, no doubt, busy planning on whether or not she should be punished for her crimes against Auradon.
She spent the whole morning and afternoon in Auradon Cathedral, staring at the many glass portraits of Auradon's heroes. If they were all present in the cathedral, they would be most likely throwing shade at her considering her recent misdeeds. She was aware that her hand in the rescue of King Ben from a watery doom would not grant her absolution for her sins, yet she is in the very place where the guilty seek absolution.
Mal was about to drink the last of her strawberry cider when she heard footsteps. Turning around, she sees the person she's been waiting for. A priestess.
She sits down next to her as they begin their session.
"Before we start, I must advice you to put that away," said the priestess, referring to the flask that Mal was holding. "You're not supposed to drink in here."
Responding to those words, Mal throws the flask away nonchalantly, spilling the remains on the floor. The priestess decided not to speak of this as the look on the sorceress' face tells that she was not in the mood for side comments.
"So, you may confess your sins," said the priestess.
"Where to begin?" Mal started, hanging her head in shame. "I took the lives of over a hundred innocent people. I betrayed the people I love. I lied to everyone, friend and enemy. I've caused pain to every soul in my circle, both the physical and emotional kind. Basically, I have committed basically the most despicable sins in the book. Ha!"
Mal then started giggling, as if she finds her wrongdoings hilarious.
"Well, do you feel any remorse?" asked the priestess, trying to look past the teenager's tipsy behavior.
"For the lives I've taken, no. For my actions against my loved ones, yeah," Mal replied honestly.
"Are you seeking forgiveness?" asked the priestess.
"Not exactly," said Mal. "I don't deserve forgiveness. What I came here to ask is if I deserve a second chance."
"Well, isn't that up to the people who are supposed to give you that chance?" asked the priestess.
"I just feel so stupid," Mal admitted. "Death has been... complicated. I woke up a new person and everyone's been begging for me to go back to who I used to be. Now, I know you're probably just gonna say something cliche like pray for forgiveness. But I'm expecting something deeper than that. Something that can truly help me."
"So, you seek a different kind of absolution for your sins," the priestess guessed.
"Duh," said Mal.
"Well, this is, um, unusual," said the priestess, unsure of how to help Mal.
"This was pointless," said Mal.
Mal was about to stand up and leave, until the priestess grabbed her arm and asked her to sit back down.
"Let me ask you something. Do you loathe yourself for your sins?" asked the priestess.
"You can't even imagine," Mal replied.
"Then the first step is to forgive yourself," said the priestess. "Now, I understand you do not seek forgiveness from others, but you do seek forgiveness from yourself. You wish you could take back your evil actions and feel better about yourself. I'm not saying the process is simple, but allowing yourself to live with your sins will help you forgive yourself and move forward."
"And my penance?" Mal asked.
"Well, pray for a second chance," said the priestess, unsure of what to say.
"Is this your first time on the job or something?" Mal asked with slight ire. "I asked you for help because the owner of Auradon City's orphange spoke highly of you. She said the kids love you."
"To be fair, I usually help 10-year-old children with sugar addiction or mischievous tendencies, not angsty teenagers," the priestess said in her defense.
Mal leans back on the seat with her head staring at the ceiling, feeling as if she came to the cathedral for nothing. She now wishes she didn't throw away her flask.
"Well, I, uh... I'll leave you alone then," said the priestess.
The priestess pats Mal on the back before leaving the cathedral. As soon as she was out, she sits down on a wheelchair that was hidden from plain sight. Using her magic, she changes her face back to its real appearance.
She then transfers the magic within her into her necklace in order to remove the feeling of her legs. This way, she can sell the paraplegic act.
"Well, that went well," she said, mentally slapping herself for a poor job with Mal.
Later that evening, Mal returns to Auradon Prep, feeling both tired and depressed. Her prayer turned into a soliloquy, which turned into a bedtime story that put her to sleep for about an hour. She woke up with a grueling headache. Just as she was about to enter the school, her phone buzzed. Evie sent her a message, containing a link to an online video that she needed her to watch.
It was a video of Ben doing an interview with Snow White. Mal plays it.
"I love Mal. If I could make her my queen, I would," said Ben.
"That's sweet, your majesty," said Snow White. "But on to more serious matters, the people want Mal to pay for her heinous crimes. The fires in Neverland. The fires in Auroria. Aiding the decimation of a large part of the Enchanted Wood..."
"That is why I called for this interview," said Ben. "As King of Auradon, I hereby declare the lifetime banishment of Mal from Auradon. She is to be sent back to the Isle of the Lost... and never re..."
Mal accidentally burns the phone in her hand to ashes due to her current emotional state, which was a combination of anger, sorrow, and despondency. She was surprised that she was feeling this way. She shouldn't be surprised since she deserves this. However, the reason she is surprised is because it was Ben who made the decision. Knowing him, he was forgiving. Even if her crimes were horrendous, he would still try to keep her close so he can save her.
"Ben, you smart idiot," she said with a melancholic smile.
In Lonnie's dorm, the daughter of Mulan was beginning to wake up from her coma. A needle was plugged into her arm, injecting fluid into her system. A heart rate monitor was on her bedside table, measuring her heart beat. Sitting next to her bed is none other than the son of Jafar himself, Jay. He was smiling, obviously because she was awake.
"Hey," Lonnie greeted.
"Hey yourself," Jay greeted, still smiling at her.
"How long was I out?" asked Lonnie.
"One year," Jay answered.
Lonnie's eyes widened, shocked. Jay, however, started laughing. Lonnie realizes that he was joking about the "one year."
"Oh, you're such a jerk," said Lonnie, smiling despite being a bit peeved.
"Yeah, well, I grew up from the Isle," said Jay. "Oh, and in case you're gonna ask again, it's only been one day."
"Oh, thank goodness," said Lonnie, relieved.
Jay held her hand tightly, if not too tightly. He was afraid to let go, she could tell. She just smiled, telling him that she's happy to have him by her side.
"Will I be okay?" Lonnie asked.
"According to Fairy God Mother, three more days of bed rest should do the trick," Jay answered. "Afterwards, what do you say we go on another carpet ride?"
"I would like that," said Lonnie. "Maybe we can go to my home and I can introduce you to my parents."
"We're not even officially dating yet. Are you sure you want to go there already?" asked Jay.
"I almost died, Jay," said Lonnie, still sounding weak. "I think we're done taking this slow."
Jay smiled and kissed her knuckle. Their moment was interrupted by a knock on the door. The knocker realized the door was unlocked and twisted the knob, opening it. Jay's smile dropped at the sight of the visitor. It was Mal.
"Can we talk?" She asked.
~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~ ROTTEN TO THE CORE ~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~
After telling Lonnie to rest, Jay walks out the door with Mal, who requested to speak with him, just the two of them. Jay didn't know whether to scowl at her or smile at her. He was happy that she saved them from CJ, but he had some anger in him that was directed towards her.
"I'm going away," said Mal.
"I saw it on TV," said Jay.
"I just came here to say goodbye," said Mal. "Unless, of course, you don't want me to."
"Y-You're my friend. H-How can you say that?" Jay asked, sounding as if he was offended.
Mal can sense that he was lying about how he feels. She tilts her head and raises an eyebrow to tell him that she suspects something.
"If you're mad at me for something, just let it out," said Mal. "I'm already deep in the muck, literally. You can go ahead and bury me further."
Jay decided to let out the anger he was holding in.
"Lonnie almost died, Mal," he said.
"And you blame me?" Mal questioned him. "Ginny is the one who went all Mother Gothel on her, not me."
"We had one job to do, Mal. Stop CJ," said Jay, raising his voice. "You turned on us and made us... made Lonnie suffer. If you'd just stayed on the good guys' side, we could've beaten CJ and never have gone through that whole Sea of Storms disaster."
"Uh, I'm not the one who locked their friend in a library, reminding her of the feeling of imprisonment on the Isle of the Lost," Mal pointed out.
"Goodbye, Mal," said Jay, turning his back on her.
Jay goes back inside Lonnie's dorm, refusing to speak to her any further. Mal can only stand outside the door thinking about how angry Jay is at her. This was the first time he's been legitimately mad at her since they were kids. It was a strange feeling, indeed. Mal couldn't blame him, though. Lonnie meant so much to Jay, so it's understandable if he'd be angry at the person responsible for her being hurt, even at someone indirectly responsible for it.
Meanwhile, at the Tourney Field, Carlos was sitting alone at the bleachers, trying to block the nightmares, to no avail. Whether his eyes are open or not, he can see the same things that haunt him every minute. Darkness. Green eyes. Fire. The letter M. All these images flash in his head 24/7 and he can't shake them off. It was driving him to the point of insanity. He refused to leave his room. He refused to sleep. He refused to speak with anyone.
Carlos jumped and screamed when he heard someone. The voice that called him belonged to his girlfriend, Jane. She was startled when he screamed.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you," Jane apologized.
"Next time, don't sneak up on me," said Carlos, sounding irritable.
"I'm really sorry about that," Jane apologized again as she sat next to him. "I'd ask if you're okay, but obviously you're not."
Carlos just sat there, silent. Jane puts one arm around him and rests her head on his shoulder, hoping a hug would calm him down. Carlos, while feeling appreciative, couldn't stop thinking about what Mal said to him a few days ago about his feelings for Jane. It was another thought that haunted him every second. His first kiss with Jane only helped make the thought more painful.
"Uh, Jane, there's something I need to tell you," said Carlos.
"What is it?" asked Jane, lifting her head off of Carlos' shoulder so she can look at him in the eyes.
"I... I... I can't do this anymore," said Carlos.
"What are you talking about?" asked Jane.
Carlos holds both of Jane's hands and looks at her with as much love as he can show her in spite of the clearly traumatized look.
"You know you're very special to me," said Carlos.
"I know," said Jane with a smile.
"But... recently, I've come to realize that... I can't... I can't continue this. I can't continue... us," said Carlos, trying to sound as gentle as he can.
"What are you saying?" asked Jane.
Carlos knew he had to tell her the truth, but he couldn't.
"Carlos, what is going on? What is really going on?" asked Jane, if not too demanding.
Carlos decides to throw the truth bomb. "Mal told me that my feelings for you isn't real. That it was just to unknowingly make myself ignorant of my true feelings."
"And you believe her?" asked Jane.
"I know I shouldn't, but..." Carlos paused. "The reason I kissed you that night was to know if it was true."
"And...?" Jane asked.
"I barely felt anything," Carlos answered truthfully. "Jane, I love you, I really do, but... my love for your isn't true love. I've been using you, and I never even knew it. I can't be with you knowing that our love is only one-sided."
Jane lets go of Carlos' hands as the sadness on her face showed. Carlos didn't want to tell her, but he had to be honest with her. As much as he didn't want to believe Mal, he knew he had to embrace the truth before it hurt him too much.
"Jane, I will always care about you," said Carlos, holding her hand. "Just because I'm... breaking up with you... it doesn't mean you still don't mean anything to me. You do."
"I understand," said Jane. "You're in a troubled state and you probably think a relationship will just distract you from recovering."
"I just hope you don't hate me," said Carlos.
"I could never," said Jane. "I mean, the past 94 days have been the best of my life, well, apart from the you getting kidnapped and tortured thing, not to mention almost dying at the Seas of Storms..."
Carlos started giggling, because Jane's rambling was amusing him. She looks so cute when she rambles. Jane laughs along, amused that she amused him.
"So, you keep track of the number of days we've dated?" asked Carlos.
"Too much?" Jane replied, afraid if her habit was creepy.
"No," said Carlos with a small smile.
"I will miss texting with you, though," said Jane, recalling their hilarious past phone conversations.
"Me, too," said Carlos. "So, uh... can we still be friends?"
"Friends," Jane replied, kissing her not-anymore boyfriend on the cheek.
Jane decides to leave Carlos alone so he can relax on his own. Carlos was glad that the break-up went smoothly and without any arguing. The last thing he wanted was an angry Jane hating him for the rest of her life. The fact that she understands his reasons made him feel a little better. However, the cause of his nightmares decided to make an appearance, worsening his mood.
"That went better than I thought," she said.
"What do you want, Mal?" Carlos asked, refusing to look at her. "Are you here to gloat?"
"Maybe, but I also came to say goodbye," said Mal.
"I prefer if you didn't," said Carlos.
"Too late," Mal said with the same the tone she used to say those words before.
Mal was about to sit next to Carlos, only for him to stand up and step away from her, still afraid.
"I'm not here to hurt you," said Mal. "I just want one more moment with my friend before I go."
"Friend? Is that what you think of me? Your friend?" Carlos questioned her. "I spent months trying to change myself for the better, and I did. But you... you took everything away from me. My confidence. My sanity. My relationship."
"I'm sorry," said Mal.
"No, you don't get to say that to me," said Carlos, refusing to believe she is being honest about her apology.
Carlos turns around and walks away, only for a hand to grab his and stop him. He turns around to see Mal slowly moving closer towards him. She puts her other hand on the hand she was already holding. She then places both their hands on his chest as she leans closer. Her eyes sparkled, signalling incoming build-up of tears. Her pout was genuine, not faked, he could tell.
She leans closer, expecting Carlos to see the shame in her eyes. Carlos, however, frees his hand from her grip and walks away, refusing to let her come closer or prove herself.
"If you want the item, you'll find it in the empty vase in your room at the castle," Carlos said, just in case Mal came to him about her request.
Carlos walks down the bleachers and heads back to the school, ignoring Mal. Mal sniffs suddenly, meaning she was on the verge of crying. She wipes her eyes dry and tries to keep a straight face, refusing to show any weakness. It was hard, because Carlos was afraid of her. She knows she is responsible for his fear, and she couldn't ignore her guilt over it.
One tear escaped her eye, and she didn't bother to wipe it.
Mal was on her way to her dorm to talk to Evie when she ran into another familiar face. Freddie Facilier. She was waiting for her, again. She didn't look happy. She was feeling down and shuffling her cards slowly. Mal can guess that she's bothered by the fact that she is leaving.
"You gonna miss me?" Mal asked.
"Kinda," said Freddie. "I know this sounds sappy of me, but you've been a real friend to me, no matter what you did."
"I'm surprised you don't hate me," said Mal.
"Oh, I do hate you, especially for the whole kidnapping-and-trapping-us-underground thing," said Freddie. "But you treated me like an equal and..." She trailed off all of a sudden.
"It's not just me leaving that's bothering you, is it?" Mal guessed, reading Freddie's face.
"Is it wrong that I miss CJ?" Freddie asked. "Don't get me wrong. She was terrible. Treating me like a sidekick instead of a partner. But..."
"She was the closest you had to a friend growing up," said Mal. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," said Freddie. "Auradon's saved and that's all that matters, right? That what an Auradonian say, after all."
Mal smiled a bit. She then reaches into her jacket and pulls out the tiki necklace that was given to her by the voodoo artist.
"Keep it," said Freddie. "You never know when you need it."
"Take care, Freddie," said Mal.
Mal and Freddie shake hands before the purple-haired sorceress proceeded to her dorm, or rather, Evie's dorm. After all, she is leaving Auradon.
"Oh, you won't find Evie in your room," Freddie said. "She's at the castle."
~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~ ROTTEN TO THE CORE ~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~
Mal arrives at her room at Beast Castle. She finds Evie packing up her stuff. The look on the blue-haired narcissist's face tells Mal that she was mad at her. Mal was really surprised by how hostile Evie has been with her as of late. Sure, her actions would make even her closest friends despise her in a way, but she expected Evie to still be hoping that she's still the same Mal she's always been. Why would she lose faith in her?
"You going somewhere?" Mal joked.
"No, you are," Evie replied seriously, putting the last of Mal's clothes in her suitcase.
"Evie, I know you're still livid at me," said Mal. "But how about you let it out on me before I go? I'm sure it'll make you feel better. It certainly made the boys feel better to berate me."
Evie refused to speak to her. She just adjusts the sorceress' stuff in the suitcase before shutting it.
"Evie, I'm sorry," Mal said as loud as she can without shouting. "I know it's too late, but I am."
"I know," said Evie.
"Then why are you being uncharacteristically unforgiving? That's my thing," Mal asked, confused.
"Because you pushed me," Evie said, turning around to face her ex-friend. "The lies and secrets, that's why I had to lock you up, even if it was the wrong move. Then you betrayed us... hurt us... you tortured Carlos. I don't think he's ever gonna sleep well again for the rest of his life no matter how comfortable his pillow is."
"So, that is what this is all about, isn't it?" Mal asked. "It's about Carlos."
"It's about you breaking the trust between us," said Evie, walking towards her friend so she can see and hear her clearly. "We're best friends, Mal. I'd lay down my life for you any time, any day. Well, those days are over. I'm grateful for you rescuing us from CJ, but I'm not grateful enough to forget about everything you did. I want to forgive you, Mal, but I can't. If I do, it just means I don't care whatever you do. You could curse this land and I would still be your best friend. I don't want to be like that no matter how much I care about you."
"Aww, nice to know you still care," Mal commented.
"Is everything a joke to you? How could death turn you into an unsympathetic monster?" Evie asked.
Mal was further surprised by Evie's hostility. Even Evie was surprised. She covers her mouth, shocked that she would call Mal such a thing. Did she really despise her that much?
"Is that all?" Mal asked, trying to appear unaffected by the insult.
Evie removes her hand from her mouth and says, "Yes, that's all."
"No, it's not," said Mal, knowing that Evie is lying. "E, I'm going away, probably forever. I think it's best if we put all cards on the table before we say goodbye."
"Why?" Evie asked. "Why did you do what you did in the tunnels? You tricked me into picking Carlos and sacrificing the others. I thought that I've damned my boyfriend and my friends to hell. Yet, they were rescued by Ben at just the right time."
"It was me," Mal confessed.
"What was the point of that sick game if no one was gonna die?" Evie asked.
"That sick game had three purposes," said Mal. "To save all of you. To show you that I'm dead serious about my decision. And to teach you a lesson."
"What lesson?" Evie asked, confused.
"Never mind. You haven't learned it," said Mal.
"Well, all your stuff is ready," said Evie, gesturing to the suitcase. "Anything else you'd like to say?"
Mal didn't say anything and just hugged Evie, much to the surprise of the latter. Evie didn't want to hug her back, but she was tempted to. To make sure she didn't look like she was succumbing to this kind act, she just pats Mal in the back.
"Take care of Carlos," said Mal.
Evie was about to say something, but Mal was already walking out of the room with her suitcase.
Ben goes to his office to sign the last paper of the day. When he opened the door, he found Mal sitting on his chair behind his desk. On the desk was the engagement ring. Ben wasn't too surprised since he had just announced that he was banishing Mal to the Isle of the Lost for life, meaning they won't be getting married anymore. It saddened him, though. To think, they were both excited, yet their love fell apart fast.
"I'm proud of you," said Mal.
"For what?" asked Ben.
"For choosing your people over me," Mal answered. "I may be furious with you, but I'm impressed you had the guts to do what you needed to do."
"I didn't want it to end this way, Mal," said Ben. "But..."
"I know. You're the king. He must always put his people's needs ahead of his own," Mal interrupted. "I think it just sucks when you have to be selfless all the time."
"I wish things could be different, but the people have spoken and they would be disappointed in me if I just pardon you for mass murder and kidnapping," said Ben.
"Yeah, well, I'm disappointed in you," said Mal honestly. "Just because I prefer to be on my own, it doesn't mean I prefer to be locked up on my own in that miserable hellhole."
"I am truly sorry, Mal," said Ben regrettably.
"Too late for that," Mal said despite his honesty. "Like it's too late for me."
"I still believe there's good in you," said Ben honestly. "You came to rescue us because you care about us. You could've just ignored us or end Carlos out of necessity, yet you stood up to CJ and fought to save us. All of us. If that doesn't make you a hero, I don't know what will."
Mal slams her hand on the desk, triggered by the word hero.
"I crushed on Zevon under my boot because I wanted to. I left that insane pirate to drown because I hate her. I'm far from a hero, Ben," she said, doubting herself.
"Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, I'll always believe in you, Mal," said Ben. "If I didn't, then I'd lying if I say, I love you."
Mal smiled a little, knowing that those words remain the truth. It made Ben feel a little better that Mal still knows his love for her has never died. Mal then looks at the gold signet ring on her finger. She twirls it as she smile on her face dropped. Ben knew he had to ask for the engagement ring back, but he hasn't thought about what to do with the family ring. Now, he has a thought.
"You can keep that if you want," he said to her with a smile. "That way, I know there's no hard feelings between us."
"Actually, I was gonna give it back to you," said Mal. "I just wanted to tell you face-to-face."
"Why?" Ben asked. "I mean, I know what I did infuriates you, but why?"
Mal stands up and walks up to Ben for an up-close confession. She puts both her hands on his face and affectionately rubs his cheeks with her thumbs.
"Ben, I love you and nothing in this world can ever change that," Mal started. "You changed my life for the better. You showed me a new path. You convinced me that there's more to life than being evil. You taught me to follow my heart. I can never repay you for that."
"But?" Ben asked, expecting more.
"If I keep this ring during my lifetime imprisonment, I'm forever anchored to you and I can't live like that," said Mal. "If I'm gonna go through this, I want to go through it on my own. I will always remember and love you, Ben, but I don't need a ring to remind me of you."
Ben's face drops upon hearing these words. He really wished she would keep his ring as a reminder, because he wanted to know every day that she will always love him. Mal didn't want to see him frown before she leaves, so she did the only thing she could do.
She kissed him.
As always, Ben would never hesitate to return the favor. He needed this, as she does as well. It hurts to say goodbye, but this moment would made it hurt less.
After the kiss, Mal leaves the room. As she walked away, Ben can feel something put in his hand. He opens his hand and sees his signet ring. Mal did want to return it, after all. Still, to see it in his hand and not on Mal's finger, it made his heart ache.
"Mal," he called her.
Mal stopped before he could close the door.
"I love you," said Ben.
"I love you, too," Mal said with a small smile.
A limo arrives at Beast Castle to take Mal back to the Isle of the Lost. After putting her suitcase in the trunk, she boards the vehicle, but not before looking back at Ben and his parents, who came to see her off. Evie was watching from inside through a window. She looked away when Mal saw her. Without further ado, Mal enters the limo.
Ben hanged his head as he watched the limo drive away.
"We'll miss her too, Ben," said Belle, trying to comfort her son.
"We owe her so much. That hasn't changed," said Beast.
"Thanks, both of you," said Ben, feeling grateful as he tries to smile.
"If we're lucky, maybe the universe will reunite you two one day," said Belle. "Nothing lasts forever except love."
"I agree," said Beast, kissing wife's hand.
Ben can only hope that, one day, he would see the woman he loves again. He may have made the choice to banish her, but it was not enough to dampen his spirit.
~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~ ROTTEN TO THE CORE ~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~
In the limo, Mal was looking into her spell book, which she retrieved from The Lost Pearl before it sank into the maelstrom, for a certain spell she needed. She flips the pages until she found what she was looking for. She closes the book as she takes a deep breath, waiting for the right time. Looking out the window, she can see trees, meaning they with no sign of human life nearby, meaning the vehicle was nearing Auradon Bay. Mal closes her eyes and chants an incantation.
"With these words, I put you to sleep, forget everything in a beep."
Magically, the limo driver falls asleep and his face falls on wheel, sounding the horn. Mal opens the driver's window with her magic and moves the driver's head off the wheel, silencing the limo's horn.
"Sleep tight," Mal joked.
Mal leaves the limo and heads deep into the woods. She stops walking when she finally found an open space. Just as she was about to do what she was about to do, she could hear birds chirping nearby. Unwilling to risk having witnesses, she scares them away by igniting her hand. As soon as there were no more birds or any kind of animal in the vicinity, Mal focused on what she needed to do.
Mal reaches into her jacket and pulls out what appears to be a hand-sized coffin. Inside the coffin was CJ, shrunken to a size small enough to fit in the coffin.
~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~ ROTTEN TO THE CORE ~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~
One day ago...
Mal had just crushed a shrunken Zevon under her shoe, reducing him to nothingness. She felt nothing. No remorse or disgust for what she did. Remembering that The Lost Pear was only seconds away from sinking into the maelstrom completely, she returns her attention to the unconscious CJ, who was still glued to the mast via magic.
"I wish I could kill you, but I think you're more useful to me alive," said Mal.
She waves her finger as she cites an incantation.
"What you see and can't see with your eyes, shrink my enemy down to size."
Mal casts her spell and shrinks CJ into the same size Zevon was recently. Mal catches the shrunken pirate before she fell to the floor. She quickly poofs up a hand-sized coffin and places CJ in it. She stores the coffin in her jacket and then vanishes, teleporting herself off The Lost Pearl as it sank deeper into the maelstrom.
~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~ ROTTEN TO THE CORE ~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~
Mal uses her sword to cut a square on the grass. Using her magic, the square piece of grass and dirt levitated and left a hole in the ground. Mal gently places the coffin in the hole. She then casts three more spells. The first spell was sleeping spell, to ensure CJ remains asleep for a very long time. The second spell was a protection spell, to make sure CJ's body doesn't decay from lack of food, water, and oxygen. The third spell created a magical barrier to protect the coffin should anyone happen to stumble upon it. Before she buried the coffin, she spoke to the blonde pirate.
"Thank you," she said with pure honesty. "In your own twisted way, you did help me find an answer to who I am. It is only because of that I am sparing your life. 'Til next time, old friend."
Mal buries the coffin and then leaves the forest.
Mal returns to the limo and wakes up the driver, who had no memory of falling asleep. She simply told him that he dozed off. The driver continues his way to the Isle of the Lost. He deactivates the barrier with the remote, which Mal also recovered from The Lost Pearl prior to its destruction, and drives the daughter of Maleficent to Bargain Castle.
All eyes were on the black luxurious vehicle as Mal exited it. She can see Uma, Harry, Gil, and Ginny in the crowd. All of them, except for Gil, were not at all happy to see, for obvious reasons. Gil was just surprised she was back.
"Welcome back, my dear," Yen Sid greeted as he approached the young sorceress. "I am so sorry to hear about your banishment."
"It doesn't matter," said Mal. "I'm home."
"And in charge," Yen Sid added. "I guess this is the part where someone says, All Hail Queen Mal of the Isle."
The crowd around the limo bowed before their new queen. Uma, however, refused to do so, still angry at her purple-haired nemesis for taking away her position as ruler of the Isle. Mal ignored the sea witch's glare and turns to the elderly apprentice of Merlin.
"That's not necessary, Yen Sid," she said. "You may rise."
Yen Sid ceases his bowing.
"There's going to be some changes around here," said Mal. "I may be banished from Auradon for life, but King Ben himself has agreed to meet my demands should I have any."
"Well, should you need any assistance, I would be more than happy to lend my services," said Yen Sid.
Mal smirked, happy to know she has some support during her lifetime imprisonment.
"You may all return to your homes," Mal said to everyone. "Get some rest, as I must myself."
Mal arrives at her bedroom in the castle. Had it not been three months since she last saw it, she would feel like it's been a lifetime since she's been here. Opening her suitcase, she takes out a pen and her diary. She had so many thoughts that she needed to release and she could only do that in the form of written words. Sitting down on her bed, she opens her diary (which no longer had a magical lock since she will be once again living inside the barrier surrounding the Isle) and starts writing her latest entry.
It has been a terrible day, to say the least. I spent most of my day in the cathedral, doing nothing but wallowing in self-pity and drowning my sorrow in strawberry cider. I really love that stuff. The confession went off horribly. I guess I shouldn't have hired a priestess who only helps snotty little children for guidance. As if falling asleep because of my long, boring prayers wasn't bad enough, the man I love banished me to the Isle of the Lost for all eternity. The nerve of him.
Maybe I deserved this, but I still can't believe this is what my life has come to. Then again, I've hurt my best friends and almost got them killed. There is no forgiveness for that, not that I deserve any. Evie has been unusually rancorous against me. Jay blames me for his sort-of girlfriend almost dying. Carlos... I've traumatized him, turned him back to that cowardly momma's boy he was before he came to Auradon. As for Ben, he and I ended things on a bittersweet note. That note, however, leans more towards the bitter side because of one thing. I lied to him about the real reason I wanted to return the ring.
Believe it or not, Ben isn't the only man I love. Even if I were to be trapped here on the Isle forever, if I wore his ring and become tied to him for all time, my heart won't be able to take it. I love Ben, but I have yet to resolve my feelings for this other special someone, nor would I ever will.
On the plus side, I am now the queen of my prison. Why is that a plus, you may ask? Well, there is a reason I chose to battle Uma for the crown. It wasn't just to humiliate her, which was so much fun. I did it because I found an answer of some sort of to the question, 'Who do I want to be?' CJ sort of helped with that, believe it or not. She brought my wicked roots to the light and it helped me find some clarity, well, a twisted kind of clarity, but it's clarity nonetheless. The Isle of the Lost is the place I grew up in. I spent my entire life watching those around me suffer, partly because of me, of course. In my prayers, I mentioned about my home and how horrible it is. It made me realize that I do have a purpose to serve. Uma may want the same thing for the Isle, but I prefer to use my direction to help the poor unfortunate souls who live in his wasteland. And yes, I did mean to quote Uma's mother.
I won't be trapped here forever, though. I just know that, one of these days, I will be back in Auradon. If they think all the chaos is over now, they thought wrong. They will need me, and I'll make them see that.
Until then, I'm gonna be looking out for myself. Sure, I have people to serve and the Anti-Heroes Club to help me, but no matter what, it will always be the same as it is before. Just me. Alone.
Mal closes her diary and puts it down. She turns to her suitcase and picks up a little device with colorful buttons on it. It was the item that she asked Carlos to make for her. Secretly, of course. Carlos' anti-magic device proved that he cracked the code on how to manipulate magic using technology, so she asked him to create a device that can collect invisible magical particles out of thin air. When she he went to see Evie, she found the item in the vase and then used it at the Museum of Cultural History. The magical particles she collected belonged to the destroyed Dragon's Egg, her mother's talisman. She then transferred those particles to her dragon-shaped necklace, the one her mother gave to her as a gift.
The magic of the infamous Dragon's Eye Scepter, stored within her necklace, in the palm of her hand. Now that she's back on the Isle of the Lost, the magic trapped within was dormant but still present. As long as she has the jewel with her, she knows that her mother's power was in her possession.
"You're a good boy, Carlos," she said with a smirk.
Thinking about Carlos made her pick up a certain picture from her suitcase. It was a picture of her with Evie, Jay, Carlos, and Ben during the Cotillion. Oh, how wet they were that night from all the splashing and partying. The memory brought a smile to her face. However, that smile died when she remembered where she is. She is hundreds of miles away from them. She will probably never see them again, and she can only blame herself and her wicked ways for landing herself back "home."
"So many ways to be wicked," she whispered to herself.
Mal could no longer remain emotionally subtle and surrendered to her sadness. She starts to cry, letting the tears rain down her cheeks. She didn't care if anyone saw her or not. She could no longer hold back her emotions even if she wanted to. Locked up far away from her loved ones, all she can do is cry.
I know this is a very sad ending, but a happy ending was never an option for a story titled "Long Live Evil." I still hoped that this was, in a way, a fitting ending.
I have to apologize to fans of Bal and Janlos. I know it's heartbreaking to see their romances end, but I knew that when I was writing it. I still hope that I did a good job at making their romances convincing (especially Carlos and Jane). It is your choice whether or not you still want to follow the rest of my series in spite of this.
Oh, and if you're gonna leave a review, would you mind answering the questions below? I would really appreciate it. (You don't have to answer all if it's too much)
1. What did you think of CJ in this story? Was she an okay villain? Was she a well-developed character?
2. What did you think about Mal's journey from start to finish?
3. How did the flashbacks (Chapters 21-30) affect your perspective on the present day events?
4. What did you think about the revelation of CJ's fate in this chapter?
Oh, and one more thing. There's gonna be a sequel. Part 3 of my "Forever Wicked" series. It'll come some time on January 2018. I hope you can wait until then. It's an episodic story and I have a lot of planning to do.