A/N So, so sorry for how late this is! I've been quite busy this week. Anyway, thank you guys so much for the awesome feedback! *happy dance* I have to say this is kind of a bad chapter, but I had a mild case of writer's block. But now is not the time for excuses, now is the time for Gregor to save the Underland! *swirly fancy sword motions*
I thought the next day would never end.
School was boring as usual. At least for me it was, since I hadn't exactly made any friends. Hey! It's not my fault most of them didn't want to hang out with the new, pale kid with strange scars. But I admit I didn't try very hard to make friends. My confidence was at a low level since I came back from the Underland. I wouldn't admit it, but I was pretty self- conscious about how I looked nowadays. I was really pale after sun deprivation for a few months while I was underground, and it was really hard to try and tan without getting sunburnt. Cuts littered my arms and neck, but they were almost healed. The worst was where the Bane had clawed me during our final dual. The five-pronged scar on my chest was impossible to ignore, so I never changed into my gym clothes around the other guys. I managed to hide the other cuts on my body by wearing long-sleeved shirts and jeans. I hated wearing that stuff in the early school months while it was still warm, but after three years, the minor cuts were nearly gone, and I didn't have to do that anymore. I was mostly a loner at school, but in my defense I did had a couple acquaintances. They were never really my friends, though.
When I got home with my sister I was surprised by complete silence, and a note from Aunt Madeline. She had gone to the city to do some shopping, and had taken my parents and her family with her. At the end of the note there was a list of chores she had 'asked' me to do.
I sighed and got to work. When Lizzie and I got to the task of cleaning the barn, I finally decided to tell her.
"Hey, Liz? You know that letter I got yesterday?" I asked her while sweeping up a billow of dust and dirt.
In return Lizzie added to my pile of grime with her broom. "Yeah. Don't tell me, Mrs. Cormaci sent you a letter she found at the grate behind the washer from the Underlanders!" She babbled in an excited rush.
Yep, nothing got past my sister.
Then she added, "What was it about?"
While I explained the whole deal, her expressions changed from happy at the good health of our old friends, to worry about the Buzzers.
"It sounds like they're really desperate. If these are giant bees, they're in big trouble. I've never read that much about bees, but I know enough that they are a lot faster than Fliers. So, are you going back to New York?"
I was always surprised by how Lizzie was able to do everything so simply. I mean, she never did beat around the bush. She could have a long conversation about one thing, and then totally change the subject in the same breath. I guess she was born to do business, with how efficient she was.
"Well…Yeah, I'm going back."
There it was. I had confirmed it. There was no going back now that I'd said I was going to help them.
"Good, because I'm going with you."
"No way, Liz. I can't have you getting hurt. And this time they don't need your help with a code."
"Gregor, I'm coming with you, and you can't do anything to stop me."
"This is my job, Liz. You need to stay here with Boots."
"Don't act like you're the only one with people you care about in danger, Gregor! Even though I've only been to Regalia once, I still have friends down there!"
She had a point. She had been pretty close to Ripred when we were in Regalia together, and I had been barely around. She might've met the whole army, so far as I knew. But still, she was my little sister, and if Lizzie got into any danger, I'd never forgive myself.
"Besides, Gregor, you need my help to get there." Liz said more calmly.
"And how can you help me do that?'' How could a ten-year-old help me get to another state?
"First, you know when I told Mom that I was going to start to stay after school to help the teachers for extra credit?"
I nodded. She had always been a teacher's pet, though not on purpose, and I wasn't surprised when she asked to help out for a couple hours.
"Well, that wasn't exactly true," Lizzie said sheepishly, "There's an old lady who lives close to school who has been looking for someone to help out around her house. Like moving stuff, or helping out in her garden. You know, Mrs. Cormaci always said I was a perfect little helper. So I went and asked her for the job, and she said yes. I didn't think Mom would have approved of me having a job, so I said I was helping out at school."
Wow. Innocent little Lizzie lied to Mom for two years? Maybe she wasn't as sweet as I thought. And she still hadn't proved to me why I should take her on my escapade.
"What does this have to do with the Underland?"
"The old lady paid me to do her housework. After two years, I have quite a sum saved up. Perfect for a…..taxi ride?"
Okay, I gave in. She had, like, three hundred bucks saved up, and I was desperate.
We decided to leave the next night. I had wanted to sneak out tonight, but Lizzie said we needed time to get our stuff ready. Little sisters.
But the next day came quickly. I was really nervous about what we were doing, but I knew what was at stake if I didn't leave.
It was Friday, and Mom was at work when Lizzie and I got home. Dad was trying to fix an old car Uncle Rick has in their garage. I had to smile when I saw him working on the engine. I had never thought I would see my dad do stuff like that again after I rescued him from the rats. When my dad was captured the only way to persuade the rats to keep him alive was by telling them he could make weapons unlike their enemies'. But his façade was getting old by the time Luxa, the bats, Ripred and I had made it to the rats' camp. We had managed to rescue him, but my dad wasn't the same by the time we got home.
I tried to be as cheerful as possible at dinner. If I didn't come back, I didn't want my relatives to remember me as a sulky jerk. I answered cheerfully at all Mom's questions for once. I regretted acting so rude to her all this time; she was just trying to give all of us a good life in her own way.
I was going to miss Boots. She was six now. She was so big on nature, not like Lizzie was, Liz liked reading about the plants and animals, but Boots just took it all in with her dark brown eyes. A couple times I've seen her drawing pictures of flowers. Maybe she'll be an artist when she grows up.
When we were sure everybody was asleep, Liz and I snuck downstairs. After we double checked our bags, we started the walk to town. I have to say, the walk was beautiful. The sky was deep blue and complimented the white stars, which were spread carefully around a half moon.
About an hour and a half later we reached the taxi station. I was surprised at how many people went around this time of night. I chose a cab with a middle-aged woman driver, and told her where we wanted to go. At first she was reluctant to drive all the way to New York, but after Liz told how much we were willing to tip, all three of us were on our way.
I slept most of the time. It was a long drive to downtown New York City, and I hadn't brought anything to do.
Really late at night we arrived outside our destination. Liz thanked the driver for taking us all the way here, and gave her the money. When I stepped out of the cab, I was hit with memories. Thousands of lights lit up the whole street, and tons of cars whizzed past us. I could hear people from a mile away, and neon signs stood out from a mile away. It was good to be back.
I grabbed Lizzie while she protested something about not being a baby, and we entered the old apartment building. After taking the familiar climb up the stairs, I knocked sharply on our old friend's door.