Juno, Charlie and Milo regrouped on the platform, turning as Daiyu and the lion pulled themselves free of the train car. Everyone on the platform screamed at the sight of her and made a mad dash for the turnstiles leading out of the subway.
“What do we do?” asked Charlie.
“We have to stop her,” said Juno. “Otherwise she’ll just keep coming.”
“We have to avenge Bear!” yelled Milo. “He was the only dog I almost kind of liked!”
The train began to pull away from the station as Milo lunged at her, faster than he ever moved before, swinging his umbrella like a sword and parrying each of her attacks. For a brief moment it looked almost like the two of them were dancing across the platform. The lion’s head reared up and shot down a fireball from its mouth, forcing Milo to flip backwards to avoid it.
Charlie knew he only had so much wood and stone, but this was a life or death situation. Besides, if he lived he could always collect more materials later. He leapt forwards and, using his aimed creation ability, started shooting swords at Daiyu. The first one caught her across the shoulder, slicing into her skin. She rounded on him as the lion started launching fireballs in his direction. She lunged at him, grabbing him with a clawed hand around the middle and then spun and threw him out over the now vacant train tracks. He slammed into the wall across from the platform and fell down near the tracks, barely avoiding the lethal third line.
“Charlie!” screamed Juno, as she ran over to the tracks to try and help him up. Daiyu had the upper hand now. She grabbed Juno and threw her, slamming her into Milo so that the two of them went rolling backwards across the platform. As Charlie sat up, Daiyu came down from above, pinning him in place. She growled in his face as the lion over her head opened its mouth, green fire roiling in its throat.
“You should have just sold the building, Charlie Cole,” she said.
“Th-that’s what this is about?” he asked, trying to catch his breath. “You’re gonna kill us over a library.”
“Please,” she said in a hiss. “There’s no library. We both know just how valuable that building is. We both know what it’s hiding. Did you really think Mr. Kemp just wanted it for a stupid library?”
“Actually, yes,” said Charlie. “I mean, libraries are awesome. They allow for the free consumption of news and literature. Not to mention the social programs that they—”
“SHUT! UP!” she growled. From down the tracks, there came a new sound. A terrible sound. The sound of an oncoming train. And if Charlie were to peer down past his feet while still laying in the gravel between tracks, he would see the blazing lights of the next train which was barreling straight for them.
“You and your friends are going to die here, and then I will personally evict everyone who lives in that building. Mr. Kemp will get what he wants, and I will finally be free.”
“Free?” asked Charlie, trying to focus on what she was saying despite the oncoming train. “Let us help you. We can help get you free. If that’s the only reason you’re doing all of this for him, just let us help.”
“No one can help me,” she snarled. “Only he has the ability to break my curse. And he’ll only do it once you’re all dead and Darkmoon Drive, the catacombs, and their prize is his!”
The train began to honk, getting closer and closer by the second. Daiyu grabbed Charlie’s neck, creating claw marks as she slowly tightened her grasp, cutting off his air.
“Please!” he gasped with his final breath.
“No,” she said.
A deafening sound like jet engines washed over them as something crashed into Daiyu, ripping her off of Charlie and taking her and the lion into the wall, through it, and into an adjacent tunnel.
With the train almost upon him, Charlie rolled over, placing the backpack underneath him and imagined the ladder. It shot out of the backpack into the gravel, shoving the backpack and Charlie with it up towards the ceiling. Charlie was launched clear of the train car just as it careened under him, shattering the wooden ladder into a million tiny splinters. Charlie slammed into the top of the train car, rolling across it until he fell from the roof and dropped in a heap to the platform below.
“Charlie!” screamed Juno as she and Milo ran to him to make sure that he was okay.
As they stood over him, he pushed himself up on his elbows. “How…” he started, hoping to understand what had just saved his life. They all looked up as the train pulled out of the station, revealing the hole in the wall. It was filled with dust, and difficult to see through. They saw movement. A shadowy mass emerged and headed straight towards them. It flung itself on top of Charlie, attacking him. No, not attacking him. It was licking him!
“Bear?” Charlie suddenly realized that Bear wasn’t actually dead in the Hudson River, but safe here in his arms. He hugged him tightly and allowed the face licks.
“You…are all…dead,” rasped Daiyu as she crawled out of the hole in the tunnel wall. She limped over to the ledge and pulled herself up onto it, glaring at them. Blood trickled down her face from her forehead, and her whole body was covered in dust.
Charlie noticed that her thick jade bracelet now had a large crack in it, and though it flickered with shadowy energy, it didn’t seem to be able to conjure the lion any more. For all intents and purposes, Daiyu was powerless.
“You…are all…” she paused, taking in a deep breath as she tried to steady herself. But they could all tell that she didn’t look steady on her feet. “Dead…” she whispered, and then toppled to the ground, unconscious.
“And stay down!” yelled Milo triumphantly.
“We should go,” said Juno, noting the sound of sirens in the distance.
“And just leave her?” asked Charlie.
“She tried to kill us,” said Milo.
Charlie approached her and leaned down to take a better look at her bracelet which was crackling with black electricity as if it were desperately trying to start working again to no avail. “Is this…a relic?” he asked.
“Of course not,” said Milo, leaning down next to him to get a better look. “Arthur only ever made relics for the people who live in the apartment. And I’ve never seen her before in my life.
“Me neither,” said Juno. “But…”
They both turned to look at her. “But?” asked Milo.
“Well, I mean, who knows, right? Arthur was a person and people have secrets. Maybe it is a relic. It would make sense given what it could do.”
“Okay but she’s also crazy evil,” said Milo. “Arthur wouldn’t make a relic for someone who was evil.”
“He always said that the relics were incredibly powerful. What made them dangerous or not were the people who used them.”
“So it could be a relic,” said Charlie. It was meant it to be a question but it came out more like an answer.
Outside the subway station, they could hear the sound of sirens growing much closer now.
“We need to go,” said Milo.
“She’ll be fine, Charlie,” said Juno shakily. “If we try to get her out of here, we’re going to get caught.”
“We have to try,” said Charlie. “She’s all beat up. We can’t just leave her here.”
“Really?” asked Milo incredulously. “You’re going to choose this moment to be a superhero?”
“Help me get her up,” said Charlie, going to put an arm around her. Milo rolled his eyes and came over to help lift her from the other side.
“If we can get her out of here, I can heal her wounds,” said Juno. “But we’re going to have to get by the police.”
“Could you maybe…” started Charlie, who felt he was starting to understand how Juno’s power worked, “make it seem to the police that we are something…else?”
Milo stared at him and then turned to Juno. “Could you do that?”
Juno thought for a long moment. “Technically yes, but … they’re the police.” She paused.
“This is not the time to be saintly, Juno,” snapped Milo.
“Please Juno. It’s the only way we’ll get out of here,” pleaded Charlie.
“Ugh, fine!” she snapped, pulling her ukeytar into her hands. “But only because I really don’t want to go back to jail.”
* * *
Outside the subway station, police cars pulled up to the station, responding to an urgent call, to find a most curious sight. Two cats, one speckled gray and black, another a golden tabby, were carrying a third all black cat on their backs up the steps of the subway. Behind them was a fourth long haired cat who was meowing a lovely tune which seemed, impossibly, to be a song off the newest Taylor Swift album. Behind all of these cats was a Corgi that was rolling along with the help of a doggie wheelchair.
As soon as they were up the steps, they continued along the sidewalk in a line like their very own small animal parade. At the corner, it seemed that the cats meant to cross the street, but the Corgi suddenly started throwing quite the fit, barking and carrying on at a green garbage can on the corner of the street. The cats looked at the Corgi and meowed at it. And this proceeded to sound very much like a heated debate of meows and barks. The only exception was the long haired cat who continued to sing through even more of the Taylor Swift Album.
After this discussion finally came to a close, the corgi went to the trash can, climbed up, which looked incredibly funny to the police since the dog was so small and had small legs not made for climbing and jumped headfirst into the garbage can.
He was followed, hesitantly, by the cats, who did the same. When they were all in the trash, one of the officers approached and looked into the garbage can, only to find that there was nothing there at all. They all agreed it was the strangest thing they’d ever seen, but decided to investigate later as they still had not gone to check out the commotion below ground in the subway station. It should be noted that one of the officers filmed the entire animal parade and later that night posted it on Tiktok. The video went viral and the man was later asked to recount the story on Good Morning America.
I feel like we get a little bit of everything in this chapter. Some mysteries. Some funny character moments. Action. And a couple quick “Wait, what?” moments which I’m always a fan. Hopefully our team won’t regret bringing Daiyu home with them…