The air was crisp, and Valentine counted the puffs of white vapor that floated into the air as he breathed in and out. Even though the end of spring was coming, the nights were still tinged with cold winds. His shadow stretched out before him as he walked down the zigzagging maze of concrete walls. The sky was hardly visible above him, and it was devoid of stars. Valentine sighed quietly as he looked up at the dismal sight. This world wasn't nearly as colorful or interesting as the Land of Light and Dark, it was no wonder Helena had started drawing it.
A sharp breeze picked up, and scattered some newspapers down towards the end of the alley, and it gave him goose bumps on the back of his neck. Without warning, the scuffling of footsteps echoed off the barren walls. In a terrified moment, he had clumsily sprung behind a small trashcan. Panting hard, he peeked around the side. All he saw was the menacing black shadows that awaited him at the end of the path. Relieved, he let out an intense lungful of air and laid his head back against the hard stone. Valentines were not known for their bravery.
The sound of footsteps faintly reverberated around the alley again, and this time he slid out of his hiding place, and strode nervously to the end of the alleyway. The hum of cars along became louder, and he saw that it led out to a somewhat busy street, flanked with narrow sidewalks. Feeling more at ease, he stepped out into the open, watching as yellow taxis and shiny cars zoomed past him in the dim lights of the city.
"Scuse' me." A gruff voice grumbled as a heavy-set man walked around him.
Valentine turned his head as he suspiciously gazed after him. Looking around, he saw two shorter figures leisurely strolling in his direction. He twisted around, his back to the strangers as they got nearer.
"Yeah, I'm going with Ashley, who are you going with?" One of the figures asked in a mellow tone.
"Umm…ahh…this girl…you may know her, Helena? Her family runs the circus by the beach."
Valentines' head snapped towards the two, his ears recognizing the unsure boy's response. His eyes narrowed, and he slowly began to follow them.
"Helena Campbell? Sure. Yeah she's…interesting. She's in one of my classes. But Helena's been acting kind of strange lately."
"…. Really? Well…. she is sort of strange." Torrey gave a smug chuckle.
"If she's so strange, why are you taking her to the dance then?"
"Haven't you noticed, Adrien? She's totally hot! Of course I'm taking her."
Now Valentine clenched his fists with a frightening ferocity, and moved behind them, being careful to keep a long enough distance between him and the two boys. He was relieved to have finally found him, but that feeling was soon overwhelmed by his intense anger. How dare Torrey talk about Helena like that!
"Whatever man…" The other boy muttered. He didn't say it like he was disagreeing, but he sounded uninterested.
There was a short silence as the boys neared an Italian restaurant.
"Well, I'll probably be back late. Don't wait up." The boy named Adrien said.
"See you," Torrey replied in a semi-disappointed tone.
Torrey continued walking down the sidewalk, towards some residential neighborhoods. Valentine saw his chance to spring into action quickly getting away. As his brother continued towards some tall hedges, he ran and grabbed his shoulders, jerking him around to a shaded spot on the other side of the bushes.
"Waahhhh! Ahh! Please! Please don't hurt me!" Torrey wailed pathetically as Valentine held him face to face with him. His brother's face was twisted, waiting for some inevitable punch in the face, while squeezing his eyes shut.
"Oh hush, you ninny. It's me. Open your eyes."
Slowly, Torrey peeked open one eye, then the other. Than he bent over, gasping in relief.
"Valentine! Fancy meeting you here! What are you tryin' to do, kill me?" His voice became louder as he said the words " kill me".
"You! You got some nerve, y'know that? I've been lookin' everywhere for you, and you're not even supposed to be here!" Valentine vented in anger. He pointed a lone, accusing finger at him.
" What the hell are you doing here?" He asked, in such a fierce tone that his brother sported a slightly scared expression on his face.
"…. What, you thought I was going to waste my talents in that city for the rest of my life?"
" You could'a gone anywhere, anywhere!" Valentine moaned. " Why did you have to come here!" He paused for a minute. " Maybe a better question is how…did you get here." Then he crossed his arms across his chest.
A familiar smugness came over Torrey's face.
" Well how did YOU get here?"
The two brothers stood in the moonlight, staring each other down.
" Fine." Valentine gave in. Reaching into his robe pocket, he took out the silver Mirrormask. It glittered in the pale light.
"Oh, that's a pretty one." Torrey said with mostly genuine fascination.
He pulled out a smaller indigo colored one that gleamed with a liquid-type quality.
" I've heard of the Mirrormasks. Way back. Mum used to tell me stories about them."
" Okaaaaay. Well how did you get that one?" Valentine asked.
Torrey folded his arms, his expression an impatient one.
"Oh alright! When the Dark Princess went missing, this was what all the trouble was about. It was a…gift they gave me." He then waved his hand towards Torrey to give him his Mirrormask story.
" I was near the borderlands on a walk, and this bizarre little man, er..maybe he was a bird…he was all shiny, with black feathers. He said he was selling some things, watches, scraps of metal…and then he pulled this out. He didn't seem to know what it was, or was for, so he just gave it to me, for free. I knew it was a Mirrormask, so I used it to escape that dreary town and it brought me here."
" You took something from a complete stranger? How stupid can you be?" Valentine stopped and shook his head in annoyance. " Torrey…ya can't stay here…"
"Why not? I've got a lot of good things going for me here. Why should I leave? And how do you know Helena?" He replied defiantly.
" Because—…" The last question caught Valentine off guard.
" I…. well she kind of made the City, she traveled to it to save the White Queen. I met her in the City," he said in a hurried tone. "You stay away from her," he threatened. " Look, you can't be here. You're putting me, you, and Helena in danger."
"What danger? I don't see any danger," Torrey scoffed. He slowly began placing himself between the street and Valentine.
" You have to believe me, it doesn't seem like it now but sooner or later something bad is going to happen," Valentine pleaded with him.
There was a long pause, and Torrey scrunched his face up like he was thinking hard.
Suddenly, he stepped backwards. " Ahh, y'know what? I rather stay here," he concluded. He then raised one arm, and without warning, he was gone, as a rumbling monstrous machine roared past. Racing out to the street, Valentine saw Torrey waving and smiling, as he gripped an outer railing of a city transit bus, than climbed onto its roof as it rounded a bend in the road.
"No! Torrey! Get back here!" Valentine shouted, to no avail. His brother vanished into the shadow of the night.
He groaned in frustration in the middle of the empty road, hands holding his head.
" That little…" he started to say through clenched teeth. Valentine just shook his head, and looked down the road towards the dim lights of the city.