Chapter 25.

A/N: I'm so sorry about the hiatus. Between now and the last update, my grandmother died. We were very close, so it's been really difficult for me to write lately. Hopefully you all like this update though.


"How much farther?"

"Not much farther," Edward responds. His hands are on my shoulders, propelling me in the right direction. He moves me slightly to the left and finally releases. We've been walking for what feels like fifteen minutes after leaving the main entrance of the school building, and the walk is slow because my eyes have been covered the entire time.

"Okay," He says. "We're here." My senses are tingling, and I smell something sweet- floral.

I remove the blindfold to find a sea of flowers, mostly colors of blue and white with other hues of petals sprinkled in. The Southern Courtyard has been completely transformed into a beautiful, breath-taking garden. The sweet fragrance enfolds me as I step forward to observe what he had done. A large cherry blossom tree is rooted in the middle of the garden, and underneath it a baby blue blanket is sprawled along with a picnic basket. The surrounding assorted bushes and flowers bend in the wind below the tree, like subjects to its regal queen.

Grinning widely, I return to Edward.

"I hope you like it," He says, rubbing the back of his neck anxiously. "I know you're more of a fall and winter person, so I hope it's not too much. I enlisted Gianna's help, of course, and-"

I silence him with my lips, my fingertips resting against his strong jawline until his lips meld with mine. Slowly, I pull away. "It's perfect," I assure him. "I love it."

One hand teases the small of my back, and the other comes to rest along my cheek. His eyes meet mine, irises of intoxicating green. I can't form a coherent thought; my mind struggles. Then, his lips are on mine this time, ravenous and desirous. I move my lips against his, working in tandem almost instinctively. His tongue slides over my lower lip and searches mine eagerly.

Parting, I whisper, "So you planned for a picnic?"

He laughs, "That was the plan. Are you hungry?"

"For food?" I look at him knowingly. "Okay. A little, I guess." Taking my hand, he begins to lead me to the blanket. By now, several of the pink petals of the cherry blossom tree scatter the ground including the blue blanket. "So, what's for lunch?"

"Sandwiches," He responds, releasing my hand only to open the basket. And just as soon, he recaptures my hand.

"Fancy," I comment, grinning.

"I know. I made them myself."

Edward offers me the sandwich, and I'm delighted to find that it's rich with flavor. "Delicious," I approve.

I munch on my sandwich in silence, but now that I'm no longer less than an inch away from Edward, my brain is working in overtime. "I'm glad that that was our last mission," I voice. "I don't think I would've been able to handle another Diego-like situation."

"Yeah." He nods, and regards me carefully. "Are you okay?"

"Are you?" I counter.

He shrugs, and I do the same. "Sometimes," I begin, searching for the words. "Sometimes, I'm almost happy that Vera intervened so we wouldn't have to actually do it. Am I terrible?"

His response is to pull me closer, tucked now into his side. My head leans against his shoulder, taking in a deep breath and inhaling his scent. The action comforts me. "You're not terrible; you're human," Edward assures me softly. "What Vera did- that makes me question what kind of person she is. What she did was cold-blooded. And, I don't know. It seemed kind of suspicious with the timing and whatnot."

"Maybe," I allow. Then, I change the subject. "Well, the flowers are beautiful. They're my favorite colors."

"Blue and white, right? See, I remember that sort of thing. I was hoping that we would've had more time in North Carolina; I wanted to show you the lake on campus. It was beautiful at night."

I smile at his sentiments and how sweet he is. Meanwhile the area around us has been growing darker, and I'm not sure that it's just the shadow of the cherry tree. I glance up to find dark clouds rolling in. So much for a lovely picnic. I start to pull away.

"Wait," He says, catching my hand. "Do you have any plans for this Sunday?"

"Not that I know of."

"Come with me to Chicago. My- uh- parents have been on me about going back home to visit; things have just been so hectic that I haven't gotten a chance."

My mind can only focus on one thing. "You want me to meet your parents?"

"I'm going to be honest with you." His green gaze bores into mine. "You already know this, but I plan on reassuring you. I really like you, Bella. So, yes. I want you to meet them. If you think it's too soon, we don't have to label our relationship to them. Or, if you want, we can wait. You can call the shots."

"Okay," I say, tucking my hair behind my ear. "It's not that I don't want to meet them. I'm just nervous. That's not exactly something I've done before. Plus, what if they don't like me?" My own insecurities flood my mind, thoughts turning to my own father.

"I know they'll love you." He grins. "You know why? Because I do. Like you, I mean."

"Alright," I reply, his words assuring me a little.

"Hey, don't worry." His thumb hooks behind my ear, and his fingers rest along my jawline. His mouth meets mine, lips kissing softly, and that's when the rain begins to fall.

We stand, and he begins to pack the items into the basket. Once he finishes, he hands the blanket to me. "I want you to keep this actually. Something to remember this."

"Thank you." I lift the expansive material over my head, pleased to find how soft it is. I gather Edward under the blue blanket while the rain pours down around us. "You don't know how much I needed and appreciate this afternoon," I tell him. And I kiss him once more, fervently to voice through my actions more than my words.

When we return to the main building, Jasper is right there, leaning against the wall to kill the mood.

I place the blanket around my shoulders. "Edward, you go on to elemental class. I'll be right behind you in a moment."

He glances from me to my cousin and seems to sense that this is urgent. "Okay. See you in class."

Jasper doesn't waste time with pleasantries. Jumping right into his reason for coming, he divulges, "The book is gone. The book in the Headmasters' library."

"What do you mean it's gone?" I counter in a hushed tone so that we aren't overheard, but no one should be walking in this corridor at this time. Not when they should be heading to their field classes. "A book can't just get up and walk."

"Well, someone saw fit to remove it. I think after what happened with Vera, we need to intensify our efforts of figuring out how those four students fit into this."

Nodding solemnly, I agree. "Vee is obviously very powerful now, and if she's being used as the headmaster's puppet..."

He ponders over that, rubbing his chin. "So you think that Aro is the only headmaster with these ulterior motives."

"Well, of course." My response is immediate, but then I remember who I'm dealing with here. Jasper is as observant and analytic as they come. I amend my statement. "I don't have anything concrete that I can say. But I have noticed that Aro has been at odds with the other two here lately."

"I agree, but we can't rule anyone out."

It just doesn't make sense for all of them to be in on this plan. "At least one of the headmasters has to be against this, right? I mean, how else have you been finding these cryptic messages?"

"True." He finalizes the plan. "First, we'll focus on Bree, Vera, James, and David. Then, we'll see who we can trust or not."

"Speaking of people we know we can trust, when are we going to tell our friends?" I know Jazz said that we would tell them after the mission. Well, the mission is over, and I feel terrible about not having told Edward. He's been nothing but honest with me, yet I've been keeping this from him and the rest of my friends.

"Within the next few days," Jasper promises. "I'd just rather have more information and a plan before I bring Alice into this. I want to keep her safe, so we need to know what we're up against."

"Well, that's your and Alice's business, but I want to tell Edward. This doesn't just affect the two of us. Everyone here is in danger. More than just Volterra Academy is in danger. We can't do this alone."

"You're right." He admits, hanging his head. He's so consumed with this situation, but we really can't do this on our own.

I've made up my mind. "I'm telling Edward tomorrow."

"Okay."

Edward is waiting for me when I approach the field room. He's leaning against the wall beside the door. "We're meeting in the Eastern Courtyard." He gestures to the informative note left on the door in Dr. Carlisle's perfect script. "Are you alright?"

I nod, my eyes shifting downward.

Once everyone gathers in the courtyard, Carlisle announces that we'll be working on a new ability today. However, he doesn't tell us what it will be. Beginning the afternoon warm-up, we practice elemental blasts. Several for each side. It's quite exhausting-both mentally and physically. Afterward is our box construction. Forming this cube made of ice comes second-nature to me now; construction has always been one of my favorite aspects of cryokinesis.

Next, our blond mentor gives instructions to spread out and work on a bigger more intricate construction, that of a dragon.

"Once you see what we're doing, you'll understand that it doesn't have to be limited to this mythological creature. You can do this with mostly any construction. You will just see how effective this particular one can be. Now, Edward and Kate, since your powers are energy and not a solid substance, come with me. I'll work personally with you. For the rest of you, try this on your own, but do not hesitate to come to me if you need help."

I've always been a bit of a perfectionist. I begin with a rectangular prism of ice and shave it until the long form of a dragon begins to take place. I enjoy the creativity that he's allowing us for this assignment; if we were constricted to an animal that we've seen before, we would only be reproducing something. I'm sure that each of us will have various results once this is over.

Focusing my time on the scales, I design them to be teardrop-shaped, and I painstakingly overlap them. I think I'm an artist in my own way- a sculptor. My drawing as well as my painting are shit, but my ice sculptures have always been impressive, I think. Its scales now shine brilliantly, reflecting like a sea of diamonds when the sun's rays reach it.

Its face and wings are the final things I give to my attention.

When I finish and glance around, I notice that the others are still working. Carlisle did promise us that we'd have the whole afternoon to work on this.

He notices my work and walks over, leaving Edward for a moment. "Nice job, Bella. You finished sooner than I expected."

"Thanks," I say.

"Now, there's one last thing. Take what you learned from last month about the healing powers, and infuse that with your new creation."

I step closer to the large sculpture of ice and press my palm to its cold, slippery muzzle, feeling the ridges of its nose and jawline. I imagine the healing to take place, and to my surprise, its eyes begin to glow, a tangible effect.

"And this," Dr. Carlisle says, a smile growing on his face, "is elemental entity creation, which all of you be be accomplishing. Have fun."

After an afternoon of practicing this new ability, I find great success. Using my ice manipulation, I can cause it to not only move its wings but to also release ice blasts similar to my own. I can see how useful this would be in battle. Virtually double the ice users if I can master this. If I focus enough when I infuse the creature with my ice restoration or healing powers, it can act out whatever I was thinking at the time; this will become one of my favorite aspects of my abilities.

This evening is slated for surveillance. Jasper received information from Bree- more than likely through means of charm; that girl is like putty in his hands. Though she didn't specify what she would be doing, she did admit that she would be busy doing extracurricular things. Last we checked, Bree wasn't involved in any such activities.

So, Jasper suggests that we follow David, Vera and James. It would be difficult to follow Bree if she were invisible; then again, she can barely hold her form, so I doubt that would be an issue. Our curious party has grown to include Eleazar; both he and Jasper have been working together for some time because of their similar abilities.

My task is to follow Vera. She leaves the dorm building at exactly 7:27, heading through the night to one of the smaller buildings used to accommodate one of the fields. Thick bushes surround the entrance, and that's where I find both Jasper and Eleazar. If the two people they were following led them here, then we have everything we need to know.

I kneel, joining them. Whispering, I inquire, "So they're all here."

Jasper nods.

"So, there's our connection."

"Not so fast. We should find out what they're discussing in there if we can. They didn't turn the lights on when they went inside; I'm sure that they're not trying to draw attention to themselves. I'll disintegrate myself, and Eleazar, guide me into the building. There, I'll reintegrate and see what's going on."

My cousin vanishes into the darkness, and then just Eleazar and I remain, leaning against the exterior brick wall. "How much did he tell you?" I ask curiously.

"Everything."

I'm surprised. He can tell Eleazar, but he can't divulge this to anyone else? I know that Eleazar is useful, but other other friends can be as well. I stare blankly at the prickly bushes inches away. We're really squished in this space. "James is in there. What if he senses you using your powers?"

Eleazar turns to me. "James can only track when he is trying to. So long as he doesn't see a reason to, he won't be able to sense our presence."

"You're banking on a lot," I tell him. "I've never known James to not be on alert."

He draws his hands closer to himself repeatedly, moving the mass of small particles until Jasper finally reintegrates beside us. "I couldn't hear nor see anything."

"Could they have exited the back door? Was it just too dark for you to see anything?"

"I think they were still there. It doesn't make sense for them to just gather and leave." Jasper muses.

Eleazar covers the sidewalk with a layer of sand- thin enough to not draw attention, but thick enough to help us.

"We have a meeting with the headmasters at eight. There are only ten more minutes until that begins. How long will it be before they leave?" I inquire.

Jasper is confident in his response. "Vera is a level five now. Something tells me that there is no way she would just miss a meeting for the fours and fives. It shouldn't be much longer now."

Like most often, he is right. A minute later, the front door opens; however, I don't see anyone exit. Instead, the sand is disturbed. I count the amount of times that the little, grainy particles shift under the weight of a person. One. Two. Three. Four times. Four people just exited the building. This proves the connection between those four names, and apparently, Bree has been pretending this entire time. The level one girl who has been the laughing stock of every assembly she's been in actually has a great mastery over her powers to be able to maintain her invisibility on not only herself but others for well over fifteen minutes. But why lie about it?

The three of us make our way to the main school building, consumed in our thoughts and speculations. At least we know that they're all in this together. It's safe to now make the connection between them, the headmasters, and the creature. Unfortunately, we weren't able to gain much else from tonight since they blocked us visually and audibly.

When we enter the ground floor conference room, mostly everyone, including Vera, has already gathered here. Headmaster Caius is standing at the forefront; Aro and Marcus are stationed on either side of him.

Headmaster Caius promises to make this a quick discussion. Though we're still not allowed to share with the general populace the details of our missions, we're told that if there are any lingering concerns or anything of that nature, that we may speak with the headmasters about it later.

"Please bear in mind the sole purpose of those field missions. There will come a time when you'll have to rise and apply all of the skills you've learned in the classroom. There will also be difficult decisions that you will have to make in life. This was merely practice for something greater."

With those resonating words, he leaves us, his green eyes lingering on mine momentarily. We, students, follow the headmasters out of the building until we go our separate ways.

Edward, Emmett, and Jasper walk with Alice, Rose, and I to our dorm. Edward brushes my hair back and kisses my forehead, promising that we'll talk soon.

As we travel up the stairs, Rosalie informs us, "I spoke to the headmasters about performing at the next showcase. I think I'm going to ace that. I'll be a level five in no time."

Alice shrugs, opening the door to our suite. "At this point, the only difference between a level four and a five is the title. We're in the same combat class; we even went on the same missions. I'm just not in a rush to be advancing in levels."

"I guess," Rose responds.

"I'm exhausted," I announce. "See you in the morning."

When I open the door to my room, I'm greeted by a surprise on the floor. An envelope with my name in elegant script on the front rests just on the other side of the door. I bend down to open it. Inside, there are only simple instructions.

'I'll see you at the lake beyond the Southern Courtyard at nine o'clock.'

I suppose Edward's words of meeting soon were carefully crafted. I scoop Snow into my arms since I haven't had the chance to spend time with her in a while, and I make my way outside.

When I reach the forest, I pause, hearing the snap of a twig not too far away. Immediately on alert, I shift Snow's position in my arms, her soft head nestled against my chest though she meows in protest. My free hand is on stand-by.

My nerves relax just a little when Edward comes into view ahead of me. "Hey," I say as he leans forward to pet Snow. "I hope you don't mind my bringing her along."

"No, it's fine." He assures me. "So, what do you have planned for tonight?"

"What?"

"I'm sorry. Is it a surprise?"

I shake my head, trying to figure out what's really going on here. "I didn't plan anything. I thought the letter that I received was from you."

"I thought mine was from you," He responds, an equal expression of confusion on his face. "If neither of us sent each other the message to meet, then who did?"

We contemplate our options, whether to turn around and return to our dorms or to solve this mystery. Our ultimate decision is to press forward on high alert. I keep Snowball in my grasp so that I can easily protect her. My other hand lightly grazes Edward's palm as we walk. He remains in front of me the entire time.

I'm not sure what to expect when we reach the clearing where the lake is settled.

First, I see a figure against the moonlight. Edward and I halt our steps. The silhouette gives away his gender. I take in the nearly shoulder-length blond hair tied at the nape of his neck. Finally, I observe the black cloak he's wearing. Headmaster Caius.

I'm still not certain whether this will be a friendly meeting; for all I know, he could still be an accomplice or one of the brains behind this sinister operation.

"Isabella, Edward," He greets. "I see that you've both received my letters."

My eyes narrow. "What's this about, Caius?"

"I have an assignment for the two of you. You'll leave immediately for Quebec."

Edward too is dubious. "You said that the missions were over. If that's the case, then why are we meeting out here in the middle of the night for yet another?"

The impatient headmaster replies, "Obviously, this is of a secretive nature." He meets us where we stand and hands us a slip of paper with an address written on it. His eyes pass over my kitten as he does so, but he says nothing about our secret companion. We aren't supposed to house pets on campus. Apparently, he now knows my secret, and I'll be in on his. "I'll provide you with more information on our way to the next location. From there, you will be on your own. Drive to this address, and there you will find a girl. Retrieve her. Bring her here. Oh, and you will not speak a word of this with anyone. Am I understood?"

We nod, albeit hesitantly. This is a lot to take in, and I don't know what to make of this sudden behavior. If Headmaster Caius really is a part of this plan, then he may be trying to use us to help him. That's the furthest thing from what I want. I will soon have to make my allegiances very clear.


A/N: Thanks for reading.