Another huge shoutout to NaDiaGa for reading and re-reading and re-reading this chapter. I have never been more appreciative of someone!
Now, on with the story!
"You remember the rules, yes?"
"No magic," she growled.
"That must be how you were able to best our sister so easily."
"She was cocky. Must run on your side of the family."
"It's your family as well."
"They are not my family!" Bella shouted, the wind picking up around her.
She took a deep breath and calmed her spirit. He was trying to get her to break the rules. Bella felt the shift in the air before she opened her eyes and bent backward, narrowly avoiding being decapitated. Then, the fight began. It started exactly how Bella imagined it would. Azrael swung his swords toward her. She met his swings with her own. For nearly ten minutes, it was an even fight. No sibling had the upper hand, but Bella's lack of recent practice began to show. Azrael feigned a move that exposed her right side, allowing him to slice her arm. She was distracted long enough for another one of his katanas to slice her thigh. She dropped down to one leg and grit her teeth. Azrael circled her, twirling his blades above her head. Honor prohibited him from killing her until she was fully unable to defend herself. Bella grunted and got to her feet once she regained feeling in her limbs.
"You have lost your touch," he boasted.
"Not all of us practice on humans," she shot back.
Bella forced the pain to the back of her mind. Azrael was the type to go after her wounds. It was his sadism that was both his strength and weakness. Bella took a big risk and caught one katana with her sword, the other with her bare hand. She clenched her jaw as the blade dug into her palm but had a good enough angle to rip the sword from his hand. She tossed it behind her, into the chasm, and let her blood drop to the soil from her fingertips. But before she could rejoice about the even possession of weapons, Bella remembered the one rule about swords crafted by angels.
Angel crafted swords always returned to the one magically bound to it.
Bella turned at the last second. Preparing herself for the hit, Bella twisted her body to the side and caught the sword in her shoulder. She bit through her lip to keep from crying out. Charlie was in Marcus's embrace as well. It was taking three vampires keeping him down. Emmett and Alice had their attention solely on Rosalie. Jane was being held by Angela, Alec by Seth, while Leah was watching the fight with an unreadable expression.
Then it hit her.
No matter the rules or laws stated, Leah needed Bella to prove she was capable of protecting them, protecting her family.
Bella removed the katana from her body. She felt the magic of the blade react violently toward her, but Bella was stronger magically than she was physically. Especially against her brute of a brother. Bella ground her teeth and forced her brother's magic to retreat, leaving the blade in her full control. Even Laya Moul had its loopholes.
"You were always too smart for your own good," Azrael hissed, angry at the loss of his weapon.
"And yet here you are," Bella sighed. "Why are we doing this?"
"Because with you out of the picture, I can finally-
A bolt of lightning struck the ground beside Azrael, and he violently flinched away from it. Bella recognized the size and shape of the bolt like the back of her hand.
She lifted her head and glared at the sky. Unfortunately, her brother took advantage of her distraction.
"NO!" Charlie screamed.
Bella gasped, dropping both her sword and the katana to the ground. Protruding from her stomach, almost hilt deep, was Azrael's katana. Azrael removed it and kicked her down onto her back. Bella gasped for air as she pressed her hands against her wound. Azrael lifted the sword over his head, taunting, and Bella forced herself to crawl backward. The closer she got to the edge, the clearer her decision became.
"Bella, no!" Alice shouted.
Bella ignored her and kept crawling. When she got to the edge, she gave in to her pain and stopped, lying flat on the ground. Azrael followed her step for step, smiling the entire time, and when she stopped, he laughed.
"You cannot escape this," he said.
With one last laugh, Azrael lifted the katana into the air and jammed into the center of Bella's chest. It went straight through her body into the Earth. To add further insult to injury, Azrael grabbed hold of her body. Bella screamed as he literally tugged her off the ground, leaving the katana that was in her body, still blade deep in the dirt. There were two gaping holes in the center of her torso of her body as he held her upright. Azrael chuckled and kissed her temple.
"I win, little sister," he whispered.
Bella, with blood staining her teeth, choked out, "I am still part angel. R-remember?"
She threw out her hand. Azrael's eyes widened. As soon as she felt the hilt of her sword connect with her palm, she swung it with the last of her strength. Two things then happened, both in slow motion. Azrael roared and threw them both over the edge of the chasm the same time Bella's sword severed his head from his neck.
The last thing Bella saw was her entire family leaning over the edge, watching as she fell into the depths of the Earth.
"Let me go!" Charlie shouted, fighting Esme, Alice, and Marcus. "Please! Let me go!"
"I can't," Esme cried. "Please don't make me. Please."
Charlie surrendered, and Alice released her grip. She ran to Emmett and fell into his arms while Charlie dropped to his knees and looked over the edge, willing Bella to appear. Suddenly, Marcus and Esme yanked him back as the chasm began to seal itself up. It was almost…poetic. The Earth put itself together again. Once it was complete, the only sign that Bella had ever been there was the bloodied katana in the center of the clearing.
"Bella," he whispered brokenly.
Emmett refused to leave Rosalie's side. Alice understood. Hell, all of them understood. It'd only been eight hours since Bella's…disappearance. Alice, with the help of Esme, stole blood bags and delivered them to everyone who'd settled into the clearing. The sun was coming up, but no vampire cared about being seen. Alice had searched long and hard, knowing that they would be alone for most of the day. Jane and Alec, after taking Angela home, had run off to Seattle to personally feed and take out their anger. Leah and Seth, still confused about everything, spent most of their time with Marcus, Esme, and Charlie, who was all too willing to throw himself into helping the younger wolves understand what was going on. If only to distract him from what happened.
Still in the ground, untouched, was the blade.
Twelve hours later, Emmett went flying through the trees for nearly a mile. He took down every tree he crashed into until he hit the base of the mountain.
"Ow, fuck," he groaned, getting to his feet.
Alice appeared next to him. "Oh my God. I'm so sorry. Are you okay?" she exclaimed.
"I anticipated the hit, just not the landing," he sighed.
"She's making spur of the moment decisions and I can't-
Alice and Emmett froze as the sound of fast-approaching footsteps reached their ears. They turned in unison as a blonde, black-eyed terror exited the trees.
"Where. Is. She!" Rosalie roared.
Alice winced and stepped close to Rosalie. She cleared her throat and said, "There was nothing we could-
That time, it was Alice who was thrown clear across the woods.
Jane and Alec were the only ones Rosalie would let get close. The twins sat beside Rosalie in front of the katana. Jane and Alec took turns bringing junkies, potential rapists and even a few dirty cops to keep Rosalie fed.
Eventually, Charlie stepped out onto the clearing.
"We need to go," he announced flatly. "People are starting to ask questions, and I'm running out of answers."
"Why does it matter?" Jane huffed.
"Because you've been sitting in that same spot for three weeks. It's getting harder to keep people from hunting out here."
Jane and Alec got to their feet. Jane gestured at the katana.
"What about that?"
"We can hang it in the house," Alice said, her voice unusually dull.
Jane clenched her fists, a pained grimace crossing her face, and bent down. She grabbed the hilt but couldn't remove it from the ground.
"What the hell?"
Jane tried again. Alec pushed her out of the way and gave it a try. He failed as well. All eyes turned to Emmett. He sighed.
"I'll give it a try," he said.
He gave his all, but the blade still remained buried in the Earth. Alice tried, then Marcus. Even Rosalie moved from her position and made an attempt. Eventually, Charlie was the last one. He hesitated before he grabbed the hilt, and with little effort, he picked it up from the ground. He waved it in the air, a bit confused, and the family stood in silence.
"How?" Marcus asked.
"Blood," Alice whispered.
"His blood matches hers," she muttered.
Charlie closed his eyes. He shook his head and said, "Come on. Let's go home."
Six Months Later
Rosalie checked her nails as she waited with Emmett and Alice. Her siblings were quiet, unsurprisingly, and it only served to remind her of what they'd lost. Emmett destroyed his game systems in a fit of rage and escaped into the woods for a few days. Alice let him go and spent her time locked away in their room, just sitting by the window. Jane, Alec, and Marcus went back to Volterra for an official resignation… five months ago. Aro had demanded enough time to find replacements.
Which meant he was dragging his feet and had honor bound the trio to the castle in hopes they would change their mind.
Without the twins, Seth and Angela became close as they bonded over their missing mates. Leah and Seth moved into the house with little argument from Rosalie. Even if she hated the way they smelled, they were a part of the misfit family. Leah and Angela re-kindled their friendship with a little hiccup now and then, but Leah was making great strides to becoming a normal, emotionally healthy teenager. Esme and Charlie worked with the shifters on different ways to control their temper.
As for Esme and Charlie, well, Charlie had gone back to work, acting like the strong Chief of Police that Forks knew him to be while in private, he and Esme focused on their relationship. It was tough as neither knew what they were doing, but they were getting better at their communication.
Esme's reason for Alice, Emmett, and Rosalie missing school was the fact her precious Carlisle, Jasper, and Edward were hit by a drunk driver on their way home from Port Angeles. The bodies were too mangled to have a normal funeral, so Esme put together a small gathering where they buried boxes of dirt for show. Esme was the only one who bothered to fake sob while Charlie gave a riveting tribute about the amazing and incredible Dr. Cullen and his sons.
No one else gave a speech under the excuse of emotional distress.
Rosalie knew Edward wouldn't show up so soon after what happened, but she knew he would return at some point. And once that day arrived, she would be the first to set his body on fire one limb at a time. Bella, on the other hand, was supposedly back in her hometown. Charlie was tight-lipped about anything else, and eventually people stopped asking. He simply said she went home for a personal, family matter.
In the end, Rosalie, Alice, and Emmett faked some records that showed they got counseling. Some Social Service transcripts just in case someone questioned Esme's ability to raise three children on her own after such a traumatic event. During winter break, Esme told them that the school was willing to work with them to make sure they were caught up for the new year. By the first day of new school year, they were all on the same page as their classmates.
Everything was stuttering along like before Bella arrived. Sort of. Rosalie lifted her head as she heard a familiar engine pull into the spot beside Emmett's new jeep. Angela, Leah, and Seth exited Angela's car.
Oh, she knew she'd forgotten something.
Since Leah and Seth couldn't go back to the reservation, a pair of documents were mailed to Charlie at the station from an unknown source. And by unknown, Rosalie was pretty sure he meant Sue Clearwater. After a long two months of legal bullshit, Leah and Seth Clearwater had officially become Leah and Seth Swan. They were enrolled as a freshman and junior at Forks High, respectively.
Sue also included a warning in the paperwork, telling them that Jacob, the new Alpha, was planning something big. When Esme asked how a woman could give up on her children, Charlie simply said that Sue was the only line of communication coming from La Push. Sue chose to protect her children from a distance, ensuring that they would be safer off the reservation than on it. The woman was playing a dangerous game, toeing the line between tribe loyalty and motherhood, and Rosalie hoped for Leah and Seth's sake she knew what she was doing.
Rosalie sighed and pushed off the car with Emmett and Alice. No one said anything as the six walked up the pathway. At least not to their face.
"Whoa, who are the new kids?"
"I wonder if those are the replacements."
"Rumor is those are Bella's new siblings."
"My Dad thinks Mrs. Cullen snapped and murdered the others."
"That doesn't make any sense. If anything, I'd say monkey man over there fiddled with Daddy's car."
"God, you guys are fucking stupid."
"The gossip mill is working overtime today," Alice whispered.
"Wait until they find out Seth is gay," Rosalie said.
"Hey!" Seth hissed.
A ghost of a smirk crossed Rosalie's face before it was gone.
"Angela!" Jessica shouted.
Angela didn't answer, kept her head down. Seth draped his arm over her and whispered some encouraging words in her ear. Rosalie forced herself not to listen. She knew all too well what was going on with Angela. Except Angela's mate was simply across seas.
Rosalie's mate was…gone.
"What the fuck?" Jessica said.
"Of course. She gets caught up with the Cullens just like Bella and forgets the rest of us exist," Lauren huffed.
"Angela isn't like that," Eric defended.
"Then why is she ignoring us?" Lauren asked.
"Speaking of Bella, I wonder if she's coming back," Mike whispered.
Rosalie twitched. She hadn't said much to anyone over the last few months. She knew Bella wasn't dead, as she didn't have that overwhelming desire to find a fire pit to throw herself on, but there was something off. Bella was still alive, but their connection was muted.
It was frustrating as much as it was comforting.
"Enough about Bella, dude," Eric said.
"But I was supposed to ask her to the dance," Mike whined.
"If she wasn't interested in you before the new year, why would that change now?" Eric grumbled.
Suddenly, Alice froze as a vision overtook her. Out of habit, Emmett stood protectively while Rosalie glared at anyone who stared a little too long. When Alice blinked and came out of the vision, she had a wide smile on her face.
"Uh oh. That look always means trouble," Leah muttered.
"Not this time pup," Alice teased. "Well, not for us anyway."
"What does that even mean?" Seth asked.
"You'll see," Alice and Rosalie said at the same time. All though Rosalie's was a bit mocking.
"Call me something I don't hear every day," Rosalie snorted.
"Whore monster?" Emmett said.
"Santa Fe 1987 by Jason Ritner after I turned him down during prom," she sighed.
"Dick muncher?" Angela guessed.
"Miami 1998 by Tiana Palmer in the girls' bathroom."
"Marilyn Mon-hoe," Seth said.
Everyone stared at Seth.
Rosalie ruffled his hair. "You are now my favorite doggie," she said.
"Yes!" Seth cheered, doing a fist bump.
Leah rolled her eyes and dragged her brother away. Angela chuckled and stuffed her hands in her pockets.
"I'm going to make sure they don't get lost on their way to the main office," Angela muttered, walking off.
"I'll go with you," Alice said quickly.
Emmett stepped up beside Rosalie and clicked his tongue against her teeth. "You know she only did that to get out of talking about the vision, right?" he asked.
Rosalie and Emmett started toward their building, each one lost in their own thoughts.
Across town, while Esme got started on dinner, the katana that'd been hanging in the living room disintegrated into dust.
The cafeteria was as noisy as normal. Leah and Seth dug into the lunch Esme made them while Angela munched on a bag of carrots. Emmett made the horrible decision of asking if Angela had two stomachs. Rosalie wasn't the only one shocked to discover she did, in fact, have one stomach with two different linings. It turned into a long, weird discussion of human anatomy versus hybrid anatomy versus wolf anatomy. Alice thankfully cut it short.
"Seth, some girl is about to ask you out on a date," Alice said dryly.
"Oh. Do I tell her I'm gay now or wait?"
"Whatever you want."
Seth nodded and wiped his mouth. Seconds later, a timid freshman came over and tapped him on the shoulder. Rosalie gave the girl credit. No one ever made it to the table without passing out.
"Oh! Hey, Waverly. What's up?" he asked.
"Uh- I was- well, I was h-hoping we c-could go to the movies this we-weekend? Like a d-date?"
Yikes, that was a train wreck.
"I'm sorry. I actually have a boyfriend," Seth said carefully. "But if you still want to go to the movies we can. As friends?"
The girl hesitated, then smiled. "Sure, I'd like that. Thanks for not…being a jerk about it," she said.
"Couldn't be one even if I tried," Seth joked.
The girl laughed and went back to her table. Emmett clapped Seth on the shoulder.
"Good job, kid."
"Thanks monkey man."
The table went silent once more as the humans and human adjacent continued their lunch. Alice froze. Then she grabbed Rosalie by the arm and squeezed.
"I was told not to tell you," she whispered.
"What are you talking about?" Rosalie asked.
Alice jerked her head toward the doors as they opened. Rosalie gasped. Standing at the threshold, in a pair of sinfully tight blue jeans, a hoodie and combat boots was-
"Bella," Rosalie exhaled.
Jesus. Was it always this loud?
Bella ignored Mike's puppy dog smile as she walked. She didn't have the energy to turn him down on her first day back on Earth. Then again, it would be a great distraction so she can figure out how to explain her absence. How do you tell your mate and family that you died and lost what little humanity you had left in exchange for returning to Earth?
Bella scratched at her stomach as she got close to the table, well aware the entire school was watching. She cleared her throat and gave a short wave.
"Hi. Long time no see," she said lamely.
Then she mentally facepalmed at her sheer stupidity.
"Long... time… no see?" Rosalie repeated, her tone borderline seething.
"We should go for a walk," Alice said.
"I'd rather stay here," Leah said. "I'm not interested in being collateral damage."
"Same," Seth murmured.
"Guess us humans are finishing lunch," Angela half-joked.
"Well, I mean, collateral damage is a stretch," Bella said, trying to ask for help without asking for help.
Angela's lips thinned and she said, "As happy as I am to see you, I'd rather not. I'll hear the story from Alice later."
Bella pouted. But before she could respond, ice crept up her arm under her hoodie. She glanced to the side, seeing Rosalie standing right beside her. Her mate's smile said warm, but her eyes were almost pitch black.
Bella swallowed and said, "I know a place we can talk."
"Good," Rosalie purred. "Because we have so much to discuss."
As Bella was dragged out of the cafeteria, she had an awful thought that maybe she should've stayed in Hell.