Schuyler leaned her face against the stone pillar and bit her tongue, both to hold back the pain from the cut on her cheek and to keep from shuddering as Kennedy finished her story. Dead silence reigned as Kennedy stopped speaking and stood next to the basin. Schuyler couldn't see Jack, but Mimi was staring straight ahead, expression cold and unreadable.
Schuyler shuddered and turned away from her sister—her mind still refused to accept that fact—to look to the center of the room. Kingsley was holding out the Rose of Lucifer, and it gleamed in the dim light of the cavern. "Master, accept what rightfully belongs to you," Kingsley said. "We return this jewel to you in hopes that you will once again rise and lead us to victory over Heaven."
Kingsley and Kennedy exchanged glances, then Kingsley dropped the jewel in the basin before going and standing against the pillar to Mimi's right. Kennedy moved out of Schuyler's line of sight, presumably to Jack's right. Schuyler exchanged glances with Bliss, who was moving her lips in silent prayer. If they were wrong, if this didn't work…
For several seconds everyone, from Schuyler to Jack to Kennedy to the Silver Bloods, stood tense and waiting, until…nothing happened. After a full minute had gone by, Schuyler allowed herself to relax, and a little color came back into Bliss's cheeks.
"What's going on?" Kennedy demanded, breaking the silence, and Schuyler breathed a sigh of relief at the confirmation that things were not proceeding as they should be.
"Bliss must be the wrong daughter," Kingsley said, although Schuyler thought he looked pale under the blood on his face. That had been one of the most disgusting experiences of Schuyler's life, watching Kingsley cut Bliss and Oliver and then smear their blood on Mimi's face. Schuyler didn't know if she'd ever wanted to harm someone as much as she did Kingsley Martin.
"Here," Kingsley said, carrying the jewel over and roughly yanking Schuyler free of her bonds. She bit her lip to keep from crying out as the ropes tore her skin, and glared up at Kingsley as he thrust the jewel into her hands. "Give it to me."
"You could say please," Oliver said, and Schuyler smiled grimly, pleased that he could still joke under the circumstances.
"Give it to me," Kingsley ordered, ignoring Oliver, eyes focused on Schuyler. She took a deep breath and tried to catch Mimi's eyes, looking for a last confirmation that this would work, but the other girl didn't acknowledge her at all.
Schuyler gave a tiny frown. She wondered what Kingsley had been whispering to Mimi the whole time he'd been painting her face. He'd whispered to her for several seconds, and when he'd walked away Mimi's expression had been unreadable. When Kingsley spoke to Bliss he'd merely taunted her, and she'd rejected him straight away. So far Schuyler had seen Mimi act with nothing but contempt towards Kingsley—what could he have possibly said that made her look thoughtful instead of angry?
"Give it to me, or I'll kill the Red Blood now," Kingsley said, hand reaching towards Oliver's throat, and Schuyler made a snap decision. She had to trust that their plan would work—she didn't have another choice at this point.
"Here," she said, thrusting the jewel back into Kingsley's hand. He grabbed it and pocketed it before retying her. "Leave Oliver alone."
"Sure…for now," Kingsley said, regaining a little of his swagger as he walked back over to the basin and Kennedy. He took a deep breath before raising the jewel again, which told Schuyler that he wasn't as confident as he was pretending to be. "Master, accept what rightfully belongs to you. We return this jewel to you in hopes that you will once again rise and lead us to victory over Heaven."
Kingsley dropped the Rose of Lucifer into the basin, and he and Kennedy moved to stand by the pillars. Schuyler felt her stomach sink as the basin began to emit a deep green light, which brightened and grew with every passing second. They'd been wrong. They'd been wrong, and now they really were doomed—
Suddenly, the light went out, and for several seconds nothing happened—no lights, no noise, no movement from anyone in the room. "Impossible," Kennedy breathed, and now Schuyler could hear a real undercurrent of panic in her voice.
"Bring me that book," Kingsley snapped, and Schuyler bit her lip as one of the Silver Bloods passed forward the book her mother had designed to help protect the jewel. She'd wondered what had happened to it.
"My name is Mephistopheles, the Angel of War. I spread chaos and ruin wherever I go. Tell me your secrets," Kingsley rattled off, and Schuyler realized he must have had time to figure out how the book worked. There was a pause, and then Kingsley said, "I wish to know who Gabrielle bequeathed the Rose of Lucifer to."
"It says her daughter," Kingsley muttered.
"It must be wrong," Kennedy said, twisting her hair around her fingers. She realized a second later what she was doing and stopped.
"Why would they have it otherwise?" Kingsley said. He scowled at the book. "Under what conditions did Gabrielle give the Rose to her daughter?" he asked, then frowned as he read. "Wisdom and discernment, of course. But…ah." He glanced up, eyes locked on Schuyler, and Schuyler knew what it had told him.
"You haven't been presented at the 400 Ball, have you?" Kingsley asked, stalking back over to her.
"No," Schuyler said, since there was no point in lying at this point.
"So, answer me this," Kingsley said softly. "Who is your sister? Where is she?"
"I…I don't know," Schuyler said. She gulped and tried to speak clearer. "I don't know the answer to either question. I thought Bliss was my sister."
"But Bliss hasn't been presented either!" Kingsley growled. "If neither of you are old enough to inherit it, then Gabrielle must still be the owner, but she's no longer in any state to possess anything, so I should be able to just take it! Who's your sister?" he asked again, pressing his finger into the cut on Schuyler's cheek. She bit her tongue to keep herself from screaming.
"I told you, I don't know!" Schuyler said, fighting with everything in her to keep from looking at Mimi. Mimi was supposed to speak up, to distract Kingsley—that had been their plan. But Mimi stayed silent.
"You must know something," Kingsley said, glaring down at her. There was a deranged look in his eyes that frightened Schuyler. They'd wanted him confused and desperate, but if he completely lost it…she could still feel the blood running hot and thick down her cheek, pooling on her shoulder and staining her shirt. "You lived with Cordelia for years, and Lawrence just after that. One of them must have told you something."
"They didn't, I swear," Schuyler said, trying to sound convincing. She didn't know why Mimi was hesitating, but unless she spoke up now, Schuyler was going to have to think of something else, and fast.
"Tell me, or I'll break your fingers," Kingsley said, face eerily calm as he reached out and grabbed her bound hand, bending her fingers back so far that Schuyler felt tears gathering in her eyes.
"Stop it!" Oliver yelled, starling them all. Kingsley let go of Schuyler and turned to look at him. "Stop," Oliver said. "Don't hurt her. Schuyler doesn't know, but I do. Just leave her alone and I'll tell you."
Schuyler's heart thudded in her chest. There was no way Oliver knew, was there? Could he have found out during his work as a Conduit?
"Tell me. Now. One chance, or I'll break her fingers, and yours too," Kingsley said, expression dangerous as he turned to Oliver.
"It's Piper Crandall," Oliver said, speaking with absolute confidence. There was a pause, and then Kingsley reached out and slapped Oliver so hard that his face smacked into the pillar.
"Fool!" Kingsley yelled, and now he was definitely mad. "Fool! You dare to try and trick me? You, an insignificant little human? I was there when your ancestors first came crawling out of their caves, you insolent child! How dare you defy me! Piper Crandall is Shamshiel, an insignificant lackey of Michael's. Gabrielle wouldn't demean herself by carrying such an unimportant spirit."
Kingsley stepped back and shook his head, almost giggling to himself. "That was ballsey of you, Oliver. I didn't think you had it in you. I gave you a shot and you mock me." He stepped forward so his face was inches from Oliver's, a little smirk playing around his lips. "And now you die."
Kingsley bared his fangs and moved to sink his teeth into Oliver's throat, and Schuyler began tugging desperately at her bonds, opening her mouth to scream in fear and rage, but at that moment something stopped both her and Kingsley cold.
"It's me, Kingsley," Mimi said casually, as if she was announcing her turn in a game. "I'm Allegra's daughter."
There was a pause, as everyone turned to gape a Mimi, expressions ranging from incredulous to angry to fearful.
"No," Kingsley said, staring at her. "No. You're not."
"I am," Mimi said calmly. "Come over here and unchain me and I'll show you."
Kingsley snorted. "I'd have to be a fool to unchain you, Azrael."
"Sorry I held out on you for so long," Mimi said, ignoring his words. "I wanted to think about what you said. And I decided you're right."
"Right about what?" Kennedy demanded, voicing the question they were all thinking. Schuyler saw that Kingsley's expression was a mixture of apprehension and hope.
"Right about the fact that I'm fighting for the wrong side," Mimi said, and Schuyler felt like someone had punched her in the gut. She should have known, should have anticipated this. Less than two weeks ago, she'd had no reason to trust Mimi—in fact, quite the opposite. Why had she thought that Mimi had changed?
Schuyler bent her head, biting her lip to stop the tears of frustration that threatened to pour down her face. She knew why. Mimi had spent all that time and energy training her, teaching her, and Schuyler had dared to think that if they weren't quite friends, they were no longer enemies, either. She'd thought that Mimi had stopped seeing her as the Half Blood, the annoying blip in the radar, and had begun to see her as a person. She'd thought that Mimi respected her.
I saved your life, Schuyler wanted to say. I risked everything and saved your life. You thanked me for saving Jack—did none of that mean anything? And as for Jack…Schuyler shook her head. It was clear now that Mimi had never cared for him—she just wanted Jack because he was supposed to be hers. Schuyler knew that whatever she was feeling now, it must be ten times worse for Jack.
"Mimi, what the hell are you talking about?" Jack said, shock and horror in his voice, and Schuyler winced.
"I'm sick of it, Jack," Mimi said, eyes locked on Jack as she spoke. "I'm sick of the lying, of the sneaking around, of the unfaithfulness. I was a fool to ever let you seduce me—I was just the first in a string of girls, wasn't I?" She turned to look at Kingsley. "I should have stayed with the only person who's ever truly loved me."
"You bitch—" Kennedy started, but Kingsley turned to glare at her and she shut up, expression mutinous.
"Why should I trust you?" Kingsley asked, walked cautiously towards Mimi.
Mimi gave a tiny shrug, inhibited by the chains. "Let me hand you the Rose of Lucifer, and you'll have your proof. I wouldn't tell you I was Allegra's daughter unless I was on your side. That would be foolish. Just let me hand you the jewel and you'll see."
"Mimi—" Jack started.
"Shut up," she said. "Kingsley?"
"What the hell is she doing?" Oliver hissed, and Schuyler shook her head.
"It's what she said," Schuyler said bitterly. "She's changing sides."
"Kingsley—" Kennedy said, tugging on his arm as he approached Mimi.
"Not now," Kingsley said, shaking her off. He stopped in front of Mimi, the Rose of Lucifer clenched in his fist. Shoulders tense, he nodded curtly to the Silver Blood closest to Mimi, who pulled out a key and began unlocking her wrists, staying as far back from her as possible.
Mimi stretched her arms over her head, cracking her joints before shaking herself and smiling at Kingsley. "That feels great," she said. "What about my feet?"
"The jewel," Kingsley said, voice tight.
"Oh, fine, the jewel," Mimi said, holding out her hand impatiently.
"Mimi, don't do this!" Bliss begged, and Schuyler could hear that she was fighting tears. Bliss was facing away from her friend, but she could hear everything that was happening.
"Sorry, Bliss," Mimi said, not sounding sorry at all as she turned the jewel over casually in her hand. "But don't blame me because you didn't get your fairytale ending. Here," she added, thrusting the jewel back into Kingsley's hand.
Instantly, the jewel glowed bright green, reflecting light off of every surface in the room. If Schuyler'd had any doubts about who Mimi was, they ended in a second. Of course Mimi was the daughter of Gabrielle—she'd taken everything else from Schuyler, so why not her identity as well?
"It's true," Kingsley said, sounding at least as shocked as Schuyler felt. "Everyone thought…but then Allegra and Charles must have actually mated before she left him. Is it possible that the Pure Hearted chose to raise the Apocalyptic Angels? Amazing. Too bad your plan failed, Gabrielle," he said to the air, and Schuyler knew he'd truly lost it.
"But…I don't…how is this…" Jack said, and Schuyler felt bad for him. He had to be more confused and hurt than the rest of them put together.
"Don't bother trying to understand," Mimi told him dismissively. "My feet?" she said, turning back to Kingsley.
"Don't—" Kennedy said, but Kingsley nodded to the Silver Blood, who unbolted the chains around Mimi's feet.
Any residual hope that Schuyler held about Mimi's intentions came to a screeching halt when Mimi stepped free of her chains and smirked at Kingsley, taking his arm as she led him towards the basin. "Let's get this over with," she said. Schuyler couldn't believe it. She was going to do it. Mimi was going to help Kingsley bring back Lucifer. They'd been wrong—all of them. Mimi wasn't innocent—she'd never been innocent.
Schuyler watched them numbly as next to her, Oliver shook his head in disbelief or denial. "She knows what will happen," he muttered. "She knows the consequences. How can she just—"
"She's Azrael," Bliss said, voice flat. "She's always been a Dark Angel."
Kingsley jerked his head impatiently at Kennedy, who moved back to her pillar, murder written all over her skeletal face. Kingsley smiled at Mimi and took her hands across the basin, and Schuyler fought the tears that threatened to pour down her cheeks. Mimi had lied to her. She'd lied, and betrayed them, and now they were all going to die. Schuyler was a fool for thinking that Mimi had changed.
"I'm so sorry, Ollie," she whispered.
"It's not your fault," he said, trying to smile at her. His eyes were glazed from blood loss, and Schuyler knew he wouldn't last much longer without help. "Love you, Sky."
"Love you too, Ollie," she said, keeping her voice from shaking with effort. Next to her, Bliss had her face pressed against the pillar, tears pouring down her cheeks. Schuyler leaned over with effort and rested her head against Bliss's shoulder.
"I wish you really were my sister," she said, and Bliss gave a watery giggle.
"Me too," Bliss said.
"Ready?" Kingsley asked Mimi, drawing their attention back to the center. Mimi nodded and smiled.
"Let's do this," Mimi said. She leaned forward and, as Schuyler watched, disgusted, kissed Kingsley briefly on the lips. "Let's get this over with. We have a lot of catching up to do."
Kingsley looked stunned but pleased as he held the jewel aloft so it glittered in the air. "Master, accept what rightfully belongs to you. We return this jewel to you in hopes that you will once again rise and lead—"
Mimi grabbed Kingsley's wrist and twisted hard, causing his to drop the jewel into her waiting hand. He opened his mouth, startled, and Mimi drew back her free hand and punched him full in the face.
For one second, no one moved, stunned, as Kingsley raised his hand to his mouth. It came away dripping with blood. For one second he looked shocked and lost, but then he snarled and lunged forward, grabbing Mimi's arm and attempting to reach the jewel. Mimi leaned into him and head-butted him in the face, making him break his hold, but he locked his arms around her waist and tackled her to the ground. Mimi fought to wriggle free as Kingsley reached for the jewel, and the Silver Bloods prepared to surge forward.
"NO!" Kennedy ordered them. "If you come up here you'll contaminate the area. This is sacred ground. We'll deal with this."
Schuyler began tugging frantically at her bonds, desperate to get free and help Mimi. Mimi had managed to twist free of Kingsley's hold, but Kennedy had hurried over to help Kingsley, and Mimi now faced both dark angels, who looked ready to kill her. Schuyler knew Mimi couldn't fight both of them alone, and so she fought to get free, yanking at her bonds. If she didn't hurry, then her failure to trust Mimi could get them all killed.
"Just listen to me," Mimi hissed in Schuyler's ear, leaning hard on her shoulder. Around them the Silver Bloods were snickering at the sight of the Angel of Death breaking down in tears, and Mimi used the cover to share her plan with Schuyler.
"The only way we can get out of here is if we can break free and fight. Once the ritual starts the Silver Bloods can't come near—it's sacred ground, and they're tainted. Kingsley will chain Jack and I, but hopefully he won't use sacred bonds on you. You have to break free and get to Jack. It's our only hope. Understand?"
"Guys, help me!" Schuyler muttered urgently to Bliss and Oliver, who were watching Mimi, Kingsley, and Kennedy circle each other. They glanced back at her and saw what she was trying to do, and Oliver leaned back as far as he could, making the ropes taunt, while Bliss helped Schuyler yank at the ropes, both girls putting their full strength into it.
"You bitch," Kingsley was saying to Mimi, anger masking real hurt. "You really are heartless, aren't you?"
Mimi said nothing, just kept her feet planted as she shifted to look between Kingsley and Kennedy, the jewel clenched tight in her fist. Schuyler swallowed a cry of triumph as her one wrist broke free, and Bliss quickly moved to block Schuyler from the Silver Bloods' line of sight.
"Give it back," Kennedy ordered, voice even more grating than before. "Give it back right now."
"Say 'please,'" Mimi said, and Kennedy's eyes widened in rage before she lunged at Mimi, almost knocking the other girl over as she crashed into her. Kingsley used Kennedy's distraction to lock an arm around Mimi's neck, squeezing her throat.
Mimi stomped on his instep and twisted out of his grip, but Kennedy threw herself on Mimi, scratching her face with her claw-like fingernails. Mimi yelped in pain as Kennedy drew blood, and then Kingsley tackled her to the ground, using his superior weight to hold her down.
Schuyler watched in horror as Kingsley locked his hands around Mimi's neck as Kennedy bent her arms back, twisting her wrists to make Mimi let go of Lucifer's Bane. Schuyler growled in frustration and yanked, pulling free of her bonds with a snap.
She started to head towards Jack as the Silver Bloods began yelling, alerting Kingsley and Kennedy to what she'd done, but then Schuyler froze and turned back. Kingsley had pulled Mimi's head back, exposing her throat, and he held her by her hair as he bared his fangs, eyes glittering with hate.
Schuyler hesitated for less than a second before making her decision. She sprinted across the altar and threw her arms around Kennedy, tackling the girl the ground and pulling her off Mimi. Kennedy writhed like a snake, twisting underneath Schuyler and jabbing her nails into Schuyler's arm, making her flinch and let go.
Kennedy smacked Schuyler hard across the face and used the moment to lunge to her feet, but it was too late. Mimi had twisted free of Kingsley and the two of them were circling, all but growling at each other as they faced off. Schuyler quickly stood and moved to face Kennedy, and a second later Mimi was standing against her back.
"I told you to get Jack," Mimi hissed.
"You looked like you needed help," Schuyler countered, inwardly rolling her eyes as she moved her feet to match Kennedy's movements. Some things never changed.
"I had it covered," Mimi said.
"Sure," Schuyler said, feinting back as Kennedy darted forward. "So, what's the plan?"
"Protect the jewel, beat these jerks, escape the Silver Bloods, save the world, and then…maybe the mall?" Mimi suggested.
"Perfect," Schuyler said, grinning as she watched Kennedy, waiting for a twitch or a step that would give her away. "You ready for this?" she asked, voice turning more serious.
"Yes…and so are you," Mimi said. "Remember what I taught you?"
"Of course," Schuyler said. "Use all your senses, be quick and tricky, stay on your feet, keep back to back with your partner…"
"And never make the first move," Mimi finished, and though they couldn't see it, both girls wore identical grins as they watched their opponents, waiting for them to make the first move, the first mistake.