"Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go."
- Hermann Hesse -
Like her father's?
Her eyes slid over to the corpse and his blank white stare, remembering how the light had faded from his eyes, remembering how they had dulled into an oblivion, and she felt nothing. She expected pain, denial or something, but all she felt was this emptiness – this hollowness, as if someone had scooped out her heart and replaced it with air; cold, cold air.
And air wasn't enough. She felt like she had to replace the void with something of her own, something with a purpose… something like… vengeance. A sweet, bitter, delicious vengeance. A justice of sorts for her father.
So the Elders had to die.
It was their fault.
Everything was their fault.
She had to kill all the Elders.
With an inhale, she let the cold seep into her bloodstream and clear her head, a smooth burning sensation that purged her of negative energy. And then with an exhale, she let her chi and chakra spill recklessly onto the floor; the others stepping back, their feet soaked in her aura. She let it wash into the hallway and leak into every crack and crevice of the Yin Palace, and bleed into every corpse her aura could find.
She raised her left hand and cut her thumb on an ice shard her leviathan had created. She did not flinch when a trial of her red blood snaked down the side of the shard and felt a quiet zeal of anticipation when it hit the ground.
With a commanding pull, her army rose, corpses that staggered upwards, struggling with their dead limbs. Groaning and moaning with slow, bone-cracking movements, they rose from the ground, heads lolling back and forth, tongues lying limp in their mouths.
With a roar from the leviathan, the undead army straightened, weapons drawn and brimming with the lust for death. Nocte, pulsing with heady magic, called for the dead, pulling and pushing them to do her biding, ordering for a vast search for any and all the Yin Elders taking refuge in the Yin Palace.
"Go," she commanded. "Go and make a red sea for me."
Taking deep breathes, Nocte let it go, let it all go, spilling her magic all over the Yin Palace in great waves that sent many tottering at her sheer power. She let everyone know how angry she was, how bad she was, how Yin she was.
Her rapier flashed wickedly in her hand, her knuckles turning white. With a merciless spark in her eyes she strolled for the door, ignoring Aman's plea to stop while others scrambled from her path. The leviathan swooped forward, bursting the door open for her before zipping out into the hallway, his snake-like tongue tasting the air for old Yin blood.
No one seemed capable (or was capable) in stopping her as her feet touched into the hallway and continued along the corridor, gathering a following of the undead. Soon, through the knowledge of her corpses, she knew that her Great-Uncle Channing and Granduncle Ignatius were no longer on her list. And others would follow. Soon.
She would see to it.
For her father.
"Daddy," she mumbled, pushing aside a door to see her Grand-Aunt Cassandra looking back at her with barely restrained fear.
"You," Grandaunt Cassandra hissed venomously, shaking a bony finger at her. She had a silk cowl on, red to match her slimy blood. "I knew this day would come, but they wouldn't act fast enough – always believing you'd kill yourself. But they wouldn't listen – they never listen! They didn't take you seriously, and now we are all doomed. The fools! They're all fool! FOOLS!"
Nocte cut her aunt short by running the blade through her heart, bringing the elderly down to her knees and gasping for her last breaths. Her mind flashed back to the summer before, remembering her Grandaunt Cassandra prophesising an undead army that would bring about the fall of the Yin.
She had been right.
Nocte would bring it all down. She would bring the very institution that had brought about her father's death down. She would bring the palace, the very foundations of her clan, down in one fowl sweep.
She churned her powers round and round the core of her body, calling for more and more undead, and then staggered back, feeling the hundreds pulling at her chi and chakra to gain mobility in their dead limbs. Gasping, she almost keeled over when she felt tiny hands clawing at her magic. Shutting her eyes, she could picture her army killing the remaining Yin guards and adding to her forces. Minute by minute, the number of her undead was increasing at an alarming speed, tearing her inside out, greedy for more power, grabbing at her every which way. She knew she would soon reach her limit. She was going to run out of magic and faint.
Swallowing hard, Nocte steadied herself and continued her trek through the palace. She could only hope her magic would hold out long enough to flush out the rest of the Elders. A fresh corpse sprang up to her side when her legs wobbled precariously from the lack of strength. She leaned against the corpse, no longer caring about the blood mingling with her father's, and forced her feet to move forward.
Disoriented, she paused when she spotted a hunchback on the balcony.
Soft dark eyes stared at her in pity and a gentle frown scalded her like a hot pan under cold water.
Heaving in an uncomfortable breath, Nocte almost lost her nerve when the old woman sighed regrettably.
"Nocte," the elder whispered, the corner of her eyes wrinkling further. "I did not think Cassandra's visions would come true. I did not think you would fall so far."
Nocte sucked in air when she felt several more corpses pulling at her magic, eating her up.
"Great-Grandmother Lian," she wheezed, feeling drops of sweat at the back of her neck. She felt like a water balloon, threatening to burst at any moment from giving too much to her army, from trying to hold back – from stopping her army from hurting her great-grandmother. Of all the Elders, there was one – and only one – she did not plan in killing, and that was her Great-Grandmother Lian. "I don't want-"
"To kill me?" the old woman asked, sighing in disappointment. "You must stop this madness, Nocte, or you will turn into one of us."
A hot, bright rage flashed before her eyelids and Nocte pulled herself together at once. "From turning into one of you? That is not my plan at all, great-grandmother. My plan is to kill all of you! And you can't stop me!"
How could she imply that she was falling? That she was turning? That her vengeance was not justified?
That she did not deserve to wipe out all that contaminated the Yin?
She jolted in surprise, a deep ominous wisp swirling in her stomach and pushing at her heart.
Was she… Was she falling? Turning? Becoming what she most disagreed with?
Great-grandmother Lian did not give Nocte time to contemplate her thoughts when her old, but fluid, body suddenly shot forward and sent numbing hits up Nocte's left arm and shoulder. Crying out, Nocte quickly jumped back, but it was too late. Her great-grandmother had successfully closed off several of her chi and chakra points, sending her undead army moaning from the lack of energy.
Nocte had reached her limit.
Her army could no longer increase.
She was left with only half of the dead Yin guards at her service.
Feeling deceived and betrayed, Nocte snarled at her great-grandmother, who shook her head sadly at her in reply. Knowing that her great-grandmother had plans on disengaging the rest of her magic, Nocte did not think twice in throwing herself over the balcony and away from the old woman.
On cue, her leviathan plunged from the sky to catch her in mid-air, jostling her in the process. Jumping off the back of the sea snake, Nocte tumbled in the wet snow – wet with blood.
Gasping for breath, Nocte concentrated on her remaining chi and chakra for a smooth operation. With only half of her intended army, Nocte could still eradicate the Elders.
"After the Elders, it will be my cousins," she thought vengefully. "They will all regret the day they moved against the First Family."
Yes, it all made sense.
It was the only solution to all the chaos.
The last sleep.
It would solve all of Nocte's problems.
She spun around, having trouble breathing and maintaining her army at the same time. Squinting against her glasses, she soon made out faint figures coming up to her. Soon, she realized it was Měi Fèng and a small army.
"Hah!" Nocte laughed deliciously.
Everything was turning out better than she had planned.
"Nocte!" the princess cried out, wrapping Nocte in a tight grip. "You're okay."
"Yes," Nocte rasped, her right arm twitching with excitement. "Quick, we must find the Elders."
Měi Fèng nodded, not noticing the crazy in Nocte's eyes, and called out orders.
Nocte suddenly lurched forward and onto her knees, her left arm numb and beginning to hurt. With her pressure points closed off to the rest of her body, her chi and chakra were churning erratically, turning against her.
"What's wrong?" Měi Fèng questioned, losing grip with reality when she saw Nocte fall. "What's wrong?"
"My magic." Nocte flinched when she felt a hard backlash of her energies. "It's sealed in my left arm. I'm having trouble maintaining my undead army." She dry heaved – the world swerved upside down. Under normal circumstances, she could bypass her energies over her left arm and leave that pathway out completely, but with such a large army and with erratic nerves, Nocte couldn't concentrate. Her chi and chakra were overriding her – she was going to faint.
At once, upon seeing Nocte's face turn a sickening pale white, Měi Fèng ripped off her jade bangle and held Nocte's hand in a tight grip. Breath sticking in her throat, Nocte stood immediately, feeling thick, pure, natural chi and chakra rushing from the princess and into her body, a rush so fast, so powerful, that it opened up all the pressure points in her left arm and caused many of the sprawling corpses to rise from Nocte's call.
"Wh-what?" Nocte gasped, feeling like a new woman. Bells were ringing in her ears, blood was surging up her body and everything became brighter, clearer. She was high on an indescribable power.
Měi Fèng smiled when she saw colour return to Nocte's cheeks. "I was born with extraneous amounts of magic, but I can't control it. That's why it's flowing into you like this. The jade bangle is to seal me off, in case others may want to take advantage of me."
Nocte laughed and laughed and laughed, feeling that, for once in her life, the deities were on her side.
"Yes, yes, yes," she chanted with relish, her eyes bright and wild. "Together, Měi Fèng, we'll win!"
Happy beyond all her expectations, Nocte matched Měi Fèng's tight grip and let the princess' energies flow freely into her, with each pulse Nocte felt that much more powerful. Soon, the Yin Palace was full of her army, and soon Nocte began to feed more and more off of Měi Fèng.
"Nocte." Měi Fèng bit her lower lip apprehensively. "That hurts."
Nocte couldn't hear, Měi Fèng's chi and chakra crashing against her ears like large waves against a cliff. With more and more undead, many more followed such rapidly that Nocte found herself began to pull on Měi Fèng, leeching and draining at the princess' pressure points.
"Nocte, please slow down. You're hurting me." The princess winced at her sudden harsh pull. She wiggled her fingers, hoping to pull out of Nocte's tight, desperate grip. "My hand hurts. Can you let me go?"
"No," Nocte said, becoming heavy-lidded, drunk with power. "I can't let go. You don't understand, Měi Fèng. They killed my dad… Daddy… Daddy… Daddy."
Měi Fèng's eyes went wide and then softened in compassion before crinkling in realization. "Nocte. You have to stop this."
"I won't. I can't," Nocte breathed heavily as explosions sounded in the distance, destroying the palace walls. "They have to die. They have to pay for their sins. Don't you understand, Měi Fèng? Didn't your dad die, Měi Fèng? Wouldn't you want revenge if he was murdered, Měi Fèng?"
Měi Fèng gaped, frightened and hopeless all at once. "Nocte… you have to stop this madness. You're losing yourself. You're falling."
Nocte's grip over Měi Fèng's hand tensed. "Why do people keep saying that? I'm not losing anything. As a matter of fact, I'm winning. Can't you see, Měi Fèng? Life would be better without everyone else."
With those words, Nocte opened up all her pressure points to Měi Fèng's chi and chakra. The magic crashed into her, filling up her stomach, her lungs, her veins, her pores, her eye sockets, her brain, her everything. It was such a heady, pure magic that Nocte fell to her knees. It was too much for her body. She was much too small for the magic.
She would burst, but she did not let up.
She didn't care if the magic destroyed her. She didn't care if she could never use magic again. She would kill everyone and everything so that there would never be any pain or hurt or chaos anymore.
She would cleanse.
Her father would rest in peace.
And so would she.
She wanted peace.
Was that so hard?
"STOP IT, NOCTE!"
Aman's fist sent Nocte flying in the air, breaking hand contact with Měi Fèng in the process, and land on the hard, wet ground. Heaving in a breath of cold, cold air, Nocte woke as if from a dream, as if she had been lying on the sand and was suddenly sprayed by the cold, wet ocean.
Then, all at once, everything crashed down around her and she shook and let out a sob that broke her lungs apart. Tears spilled from her eyes and she hugged herself, shaking on the ground. She didn't want to think again.
She did not want to admit that she had chosen water over blood.
"Nocte," Aman hushed, holding onto her. "It's going to be okay."
Nocte blinked, sobbing uncontrollably, and saw, through a blur, Corliss looking at her in fear and Pyralis in disappointment. Měi Fèng walked up behind the others, worried and understanding.
But it was Aman.
Sweet, selfless Aman, who pulled her through.
Although Nocte could only see darkness – she fisted her hands on Aman's shirt – she knew Aman would always be there to hold her hand.
Even if her father could no longer do so.
She looked at herself in the mirror. At her small hands. At her large waist. At her fat breasts. At her broad shoulders. At her short neck. At her stout chin. At her full lips. At her plump cheeks. At her large nose. At her dark eyes. At her black hair.
And then she really looked at herself in the mirror. At her pale complexion. At the chapped skin on her lips. At the dark circles around her eyes. At the oil in her hair.
And that didn't matter.
It was funny how all her life, she had always agonized over her looks. At how fat she was. At how all her sisters had perfect model figures. How all the boys ignored her. How she was a failure because of her less-than-perfect body.
But now her oldest sister had to postpone her wedding.
But now her youngest sister had no man to please.
And they were all left fatherless.
They were equals, more or less.
Some more than less.
Nocte lifted her right arm and traced her eyes in the mirror. She took her glasses off and the background blurred a bit, but her eyes were still as clear and as dark as with them on. A slight spike in her chi and chakra, and her dark brown eyes started to cloud over in white until her whole iris was a pure, frightening white, her pupils small holes into a black abyss. The whole process reminded Nocte of pouring milk into water.
Of pouring something that polluted the clean.
The Death Glare.
The White Death.
It reminded her of her father.
Her hand flattened against the cool surface of the mirror, her body heat fogging the edges of her fingers. She wondered how potent her Death Glare was. She wondered if she could reflect her chi and chakra onto the mirror and have it reflect back at her – with her white eyes looking into her white eyes, with her Death Glare glaring back at herself.
She could not see him in the mirror, but she knew he was behind her with his black robes, his striking scythe, his blond hair – his one blue eye and one green eye.
She was sick of him.
Sick of what he reminded her of.
"Go away," she said, hollow.
"Please, Nocte, don't do this," he begged. "I never had a friend before – a real friend. I don't want this to end."
"Then you shouldn't have taken my father," she bit out harshly, refusing to face him. She put her glasses on instead, to stop herself from turning.
"Leave," she commanded with a hard, definite tone. "I don't want to see you ever again."
"Please be reasonable-"
"If you believe you are my friend," she said, "then leave me be."
He struggled for words, almost choking. For some odd reason, he felt tears – tears! As if grim reapers were capable of crying – as if reapers were capable of feelings.
"Goodbye, Nocte," he breathed.
A rustle of thick cloth and then nothing.
She stood very still until she was sure he had left.
Swallowing a hard lump in her throat, she took her glasses off once again and made for the washroom. Turning on the shower, she washed her hair and pretended that she wasn't crying, that it was the water instead.
Pulling on a pair of black slacks, she let a servant dry and comb her hair. Standing, she slid on a black turtleneck and then a black blazer. She sat down to put on her black, mid-heeled shoes, allowing the servant to pull her hair back into a simple bun. On her feet, she looked into the mirror and swallowed again.
She closed her eyes, squeezing back tears, and then adjusted her glasses. Straightening the jacket, she left her room and made for the front door. She paused at the stairs when she saw her siblings lined up in the foyer.
Dire, the youngest, with his perfect black suit and polished black shoes. Occult, the second youngest, with her black veil, black dress and black, glossy shoes. Ebony, the second eldest, with her conservative black long-sleeved dress down to her knees and high-heeled shoes. Gash, the eldest, with his black unbuttoned suit and scuffed black leather shoes.
The only one left was their mother.
They exchanged quiet, sombre nods in greeting as Hecate and the Domino Guards stood off to the side, in mutual, silent respect.
Nocte refused to believe it, but she had trouble meeting her family in the eyes. They did not blame her for killing the Elders or destroying the Yin Palace – but they did not know the whole truth.
They did not know about what she had done to their father.
"Well, here we are!" Their mother burst into the foyer in a flurry of black silk. She hopped down the stairs cheerfully, her high-heeled shoes clacking about. Her slimming dress had a trail that swept behind her in sweet whispers as she strolled towards them. Her hair was done up in an elaborate bun with black roses had a veil of black falling down her back and against her black furred shawl. She had her lips painted red, her eyelids glowing in eye shadow and mascara. In her hands was a bouquet of black roses with wicked thorns.
She looked like a bride dressed in black.
They were speechless; Nocte's heart breaking all over again at the sight.
"Come!" their mother ushered. "Let's go see your father! You know how he hates to wait."
Ebony looked to Gash for help, distraught over their father's death, the cancellation of her wedding and now their mother becoming delusional.
For once in his life, Gash stepped up and filled in the shoes of being the Yin Heir. Taking their mother by her elbow, he led her out the door. "You're right, mother. Let's get going."
Malise paused at the threshold, a little confused. "You never call me 'mother.' It has always been 'mom.'"
Gash's eyes dulled and they grew silent. Nocte knew, as well as her siblings, that starting that moment, Gash had to forget the past and look to the future – that he was now the future of the clan. Gash was the Yin Clan now, and he had to leave behind impropriety – he had to grow up.
"Let's go, mom," Nocte spoke, forcing her heart to calm. "We don't want to be… l-late."
Dire took her hand and that comforted the both of them. Together they entered the carriages. Gash with their mother in one, and the other the rest of them. Ebony was shaking, dabbing her eyes with her cashmere dress. Occult was silent, much too quiet even for her. Dire was putting up a brave front, but they all knew he was broken. And Nocte…
She looked out the window, past the white winter landscape and into the space of her thoughts.
She had lost herself that night, fallen from grace. She had succumbed to her Yin instincts and the guilt was wrenching into her gut. She did not want to think about it – she did not want to acknowledge it. She pretended that she hadn't sunk, hadn't grown weak.
Even disowned, even thrown out, even discarded – she was still a Yin.
And she was disgusted with herself.
She should be dead.
Dire squeezed her hand when the Yin Graveyard came up into view. Nocte stiffened when the many tombstones loomed up in front of her. She didn't want to see. She didn't want to be there at that moment.
Gathering her remaining courage, she descended from the carriage. Her feet hit the snow in a crunch followed by others from her siblings. Leading their group up to her mother and older brother, Nocte felt her limbs freeze up at the sight of the tombstone from afar.
The family of six walked past the black iron gates and up the small hill. There were no other Yins. The others were not welcomed. In fact, they had displeased the First Family so much that they had not held a wake for any to attend.
There was only the lowering of the casket.
Nocte watched her mother's confident bridal stroll up to the casket slowly wane and finally, her mother broke down on top of the black box in tears. Ebony followed soon after and then Occult even had a few tears to spare.
Gash did not hesitate to be at their mother's side as Dire went to comfort the other girls, eyes getting red himself.
It was Nocte who stood back, long ago out of tears to shed. She felt displaced, like she didn't belong.
Because she didn't.
Because she was a traitor.
She fisted her hands together and looked to the ground. She was at least six paces from the others. There seemed to a very distinct line between her and the family, and she felt her guilt and shame tear at her.
Enough was enough.
She did not belong with them.
She never belonged with them.
She was no Yin.
She was an outcast.
The stain on the name.
"It was my fault dad died," she said.
Malise sniffed delicately and gave her a wobbly smile. "Oh, Nocte. Don't say that. It w-wasn't your f-fault."
"Yeah!" Ebony cried out, mascara running down her face. "I-it was the El-Elders! It's all their f-fault!"
"Nocte," Gash sighed. He was tired. For the last few days, their mother had been a mess and he was the one who had to take care of everything. Soon, he'd be the Head of the Yin Clan, and he did not expect to land the position this soon, nor under such circumstances. They had all assumed their father would retire and pass along the title. No one expected him to die. "Even if we were all there, I doubt we could have done anything. Just stop blaming yourself."
"It… It is ridiculous," Dire agreed.
"Do not be an idiot," Occult scolded, brushing aside stray tears. "The world does not revolve around you."
"It is my fault," Nocte cut in, not wanting to hear such kind words, because it hurt to hear them. She did not deserve them. "Corliss had died before. My magic was sealed, so I couldn't do anything, but Farhat… he resurrected her…" Suddenly, it was silent – an eerie silent. "Thus… I became indebted to him…"
"What are you saying?" Ebony asked, fearing the worst.
"When dad died… I couldn't resurrect him because…" She looked away, her heart drowning out all outside noise. She felt dizzy and she wanted more than ever to take the coward's way out by running away, but she knew she'd never be able to live with herself if she kept the truth from her family. "Because I owed Farhat…"
"What?" Occult said, eyes widening in realization.
Dire stiffened, not wanting to believe.
"It was a choice between Corliss or father," she confessed, and then suddenly everything was in pieces and a sob broke through her throat.
"WHAT?" Gash shouted, furious.
"You chose a girl over our father?!" Occult accused, eyes flashing purple, the Domino Guards at the gate suddenly going rigid.
Nocte stepped back.
She was losing.
She was losing everything.
By condemning herself, she was to lose everything. She was going to lose everything that was Yin to her. She had always thought it would be a nice thing. She had always known that by separating herself she'd lose her family, but she had always thought she'd be able to visit. But this… this meant no visits – no nothing.
It hurt so much more than she thought it would.
"No…" Malise whispered, choking. "No… Lies. Lies. Nocte, tell us you are lying. You are lying, yes? You are lying? YOU ARE LYING! LYING! LYING!"
They looked to Nocte, hoping that she would take it all back. They did not want to believe. They did not want it to be true.
But Nocte never lied.
Tears ran down her cheeks as she shook her head. "That's… the truth."
They had thought she had done the right thing. They had thought she had every right to rip the Yin Palace apart. They had thought she had justified all of them by killing all the Elders. What they didn't know was that…
She had killed their father.
She had had a choice.
Corliss or their father.
And she had, unconsciously, chosen Corliss.
She had chosen a friend over family.
Water over blood.
"I can't even look at you," Occult spat, storming past her and to the carriages.
Gash frowned, eyes glaring like daggers, before leading their frail mother away.
Ebony looked at her one last time with hope, wanting it to be lies, but when she saw that Nocte was not pretending, she placed her hands over her face. Crying into her hands, she ran after Gash, telling herself over and over again, "This is a dream. This is a dream, thisisadream."
Dire was the last to leave. He felt, out of all of them, the most betrayed. Nocte, his most favoured, had not lived up to his expectation. He had built her up to be something he could only dream of. The sister who loved him first – who had shown him what it was like to love… had destroyed their family.
"Why?" he croaked.
He needed to know.
He needed to know.
"I-I don't know," she said.
He was disappointed, betrayed.
"Stay away from me," he said, walking away.
She was left with her father now.
The father she had betrayed.
The father she loved, still now, so very much that it hurt.
She turned away from him.
She couldn't meet him yet.
She was not brave enough.
"How are you?" Měi Fèng asked carefully.
"Good," Nocte lied, her tone sounding empty even to her own ears.
Her family hated her. The whole clan hated her. Even the servants were disgusted by her. Her mother had not spoken to her since her confession, bedridden with grief and betrayal. Occult, the only one in the mansion, would not allow Nocte anywhere near their mother. With Gash's support, Occult had Nocte under surveillance. For a whole month, Nocte had been watched, carefully tucked away in her room for safety purposes.
No one trusted her anymore.
No one loved her anymore.
"I don't know all the details," Měi Fèng said. "But it wasn't your fault."
Nocte did not glance up.
They were in the princess' personal office, a good-sized room with nice windows. The door was behind Nocte, locked and guarded. The room was also attached to the princess' private quarters by way of a hidden door behind the bookshelves. There was no upraised floor to intimidate. No grand red columns. No golden throne. Only a space with cherry oak furniture and a nice china tea set.
"All right, I lied," Měi Fèng confessed, shamed. She rubbed her temples to avoid looking Nocte in the eyes. "I know enough to understand why your family is…"
"Pushing me away," Nocte said.
"Displeased with you," Měi Fèng corrected. For once, she felt like she was the one in control in their friendship. "I want to postpone our sisterhood ceremony until you're up for it."
Nocte did not stop her.
She didn't deserve Měi Fèng.
She didn't deserve anyone.
"Here," the princess said, sliding a velvet red scroll towards her.
Nocte looked at her questionably, but Měi Fèng only motioned for her to open it. Unfurling the scroll, Nocte's eyes slowly widened with each passing word she read.
"Hah," she laughed humourlessly when she was done. "Did my brother set this up?"
Měi Fèng frowned. "No. I did. I felt like you needed some time away. You haven't been going back to school, have you?"
Nocte didn't even want to think about Evil Academy.
"Take this chance to have some time for yourself," the princess explained. "This will be good for you."
"You're giving me a back up, aren't you?" Nocte asked hollowly.
"What?" Měi Fèng inquired, unable to look at her.
"My brother hates me," Nocte said, heart constricting with such a confession. "When he becomes Head, he will never take me back. I'm disowned, remember? That means I'm penniless. By granting me a title and a piece of land, you hope to support me, don't you? Well, that's bullshit. I'll get money on my own-"
"Nocte, stop it," Měi Fèng said with a hard tone. "You think I would give this land to just anybody? Our empire is in dire need of food. This land is perfect for rice. You must provide the empire with food. I can trust no other with this land. I fear…"
Nocte suddenly felt like shit for tossing Měi Fèng's good judgement back at her.
"I fear that," Měi Fèng continued, "the other provinces are not to be trusted. I cannot give anyone this prime land unless I can trust them. This rice you will be planting, it is for my army. I need my army, Nocte. My position isn't as secure as we want it to be."
Nocte felt a hot bolt of dread hit her dead centre. Her father was the one supposed to be supporting Měi Fèng at a time like this, but he was now dead. It was Nocte's fault. And as the one Měi Fèng trusted the most, Měi Fèng was now depending on her. Nocte would be replacing her father.
It was a role Nocte would never back down from.
She would do all she could to live up to her father's name.
She knew that was what her father would want.
That was what he wanted.
"You have to be strong for the others now. They are not as strong as they appear to be. Take care of your mother for me and do not blame yourself for this.
"This is my choice."
"How could it be your choice, dad?" she asked herself. "When I let you down?"
She squeezed the scroll to her chest and accepted the mission Měi Fèng gave her.
The princess reached forward and took her hand. Looking into Nocte's eyes, she inquired with great hope, "You will be at my coronation, won't you?"
Nocte forced a smile. "Of course."
Měi Fèng saw through the smile, but the promise was real.
Nocte pushed open the black iron gate and closed it behind her, leaning on it for a good second before continuing her path up the snowy hill. It was starting to warm up, seeing how winter would be ending soon, and the snow squelched underneath her footfalls. For the first time in her life, Nocte had not held back in purchasing her clothes. Her boots were the best and she was grateful that the melted snow did not soak her socks.
She also splurged on a nice shoulder bag, swinging heavily on her shoulder, the strap digging into her skin.
She opened the last gate for the hill and stopped in front of a black granite tombstone. It was shaped like a sharp pillar that sprang up from the ground to the sky, piercing the Heavens and bringing it down to Hell.
"Hey, dad," she strained to say. "It's going to be March soon. A month – well, almost a month – since… you've been gone…"
She took a deep breath to suck in her tears before she could go on.
"Things are… different without you here. I confessed – you were there, remember? You probably heard it all so I won't bother with the details. Basically, everyone hates me now – even mom. I don't care what you say. I know I deserve this."
She unbuckled her bag and dug through the contents.
"I'm going away for a while, dad. No, I didn't go back to school. I don't even want to think about it. I don't know when I'll have time to visit, but I'll try as much as possible. Teleportation Gates are convenient for that."
She took out a bunch of brown incense and started to sort through them.
"I don't know if the others have visited or not so I'll have to clue you in. Gash will be sworn in later this week as the new Head of our clan. I won't be there; I'll be at Southern Xon with my rice farm. Yup, rice farm. Měi Fèng needs food. Apparently she thinks I'll be good at it. And I will be. I'll watch over her. I promise, okay, dad? I'll take your place so you don't have to worry."
Lighting the tips of the incense, Nocte brushed aside some of the snow and dug the sticks into the ground, in front of the stone. Once the incense was secure, she went back to her bag.
"Ebony cancelled her wedding, which I'm sure you know. So far there hasn't been any word on when the next date will be, but don't worry. Theron is taking care of her. Theron is a nice guy."
She pulled out some paper money with Xonese characters on them. She piled the paper in a small hill and lit them afire. The smoke carried up to the sky. The ashes to the ground.
"Occult hates me, but that's nothing new, eh? She always had a thing against me, but she'll be fine. She's doing a good job taking care of mom. As for Dire… He isn't speaking to me. I think I hurt him the most with my decision."
She withdrew three small cups from her bag and filled them up with rice wine.
She faltered, a burning sensation crawling up her nose and eyes. She quickly screwed the wine bottle shut to distract herself.
"Mom… is unwell… She… misses you a lot. I know you told me to take care of her, but I'm one of the reasons why she's… unwell. I can't do it, dad. I can't stay. Maybe I am a coward for taking on Měi Fèng's mission, but I have to run, dad. You have to understand. If I continue to stay in the mansion – it's just too awkward…
"We need time, dad. We need a lot of time…"
She leaned her forehead against the cold stone, a stray tear falling from the corner of her eye. Sniffing loudly, she poured the wine from the cups over her father's grave. She wiped her tears and stowed the cups away.
"Mistress," Melissa Witley called tentatively.
Nocte swallowed a small sob and turned to the spy, who stood outside of the second gate at a respectful distance.
"I apologize, my lady," the auburn said with a regrettable frown. "But we must get going soon."
Nocte nodded. "One more moment, please."
Melissa bowed at the waist and returned to the first gate where Nocte's entourage stood waiting quietly and with reverence.
"That's Melissa, dad," Nocte said to the stone. "She's coming to my farm with me, along with the other Winds. Měi Fèng gave me soldiers and supplies and villagers… I'll be a Lady, dad. I'm under the empire's payroll now. Impressive, isn't it?"
There was silence then, one that almost made Nocte give up everything that was good.
She took out a single white lily and placed it on the tombstone, using a small rock to keep it in place.
"It hasn't been a year since I ran down Fog Mountain, but it sure feels like it, eh, dad?" She gave a small chuckle to fill in more silence. "Want to know what I've learnt this year, dad? What am I saying? Of course you do…
"There are no such things as happy endings."
With that, she traced his name on the gravestone before hitching up her bag and leaving the Yin Graveyard behind.
Lord Umbra Yin
One Hundredth Head of the Yin Clan
Creator of the Eternal Youth Elixir
Death Bringer of Oran Yang
Leader of the Xonese Army
Then, etched in the bottom right corner by a small knife:
Beloved Husband of Malise Hēi, One Hundredth Lady of the Yin Clan
Gash Yin, Evil Warlord and One Hundred and First Head of the Yin Clan
Ebony Yin, Wicked Witch of the Southeast
Occult Yin, Great Psychic
Dire Yin, Emperor of Lamise
Nocte Yin, the Lady Necromancer
She looked back one last time before entering the carriage and driving off.
Here we are, the end of the fourth book. Holy cow, that took forever, didn't it? Like I had promised, I finished it by the end of this summer, which I am immensely proud of. I also thought this ending was nice. I tried not to rush it, and I think I did pretty good… I hope.
As with all the endings of the books, I have a Thank You list!
Thank you to all those who had reviewed:
:D : I'm glad you liked the subtle change in Nocte. I try really hard to not rush the whole process.
a big fan (15): Honestly, I thought I was losing some of the magic too because of all the fillers. I was going over the whole story a few days ago and realized that Aman doesn't come in until Chapter Fourteen. That's a lot of no-magic going on, but thank you for taking the time to keep reading!
A Gypsy's Charm: Your reviews are always to fun to read because they're so erratic! Thank you for supporting me throughout all these years. Happy readings!
Amethyst Asheryn: Have I mentioned how much I LOVE your name? It's so nice and pretty and it reminds me of purple glitter… I know, I'm crazy. I love how you tell me what makes you laugh cause that makes me laugh too. Thanks for all your support. I hope you liked the chappy!
Arianna: I cannot begin to say how grateful I am for you reminding me about AHWB?'s first year anniversary. It totally flew over my head. Thank you for your support even after so long. I hope you enjoyed the chappy!
Aserie: I try to make Nocte emotional as much as possible. Sometimes the humour comes out on its own when I feel especially giddy or cheerful. I'm glad you enjoy the series, I can only hope this chapter is just as good. Thanks for the review and happy readings!
Bek: When you reviewed to ask me if I was okay, I smiled a lot. Thank you for being concerned. I hope I didn't scare you. Lol! I'm sorry for all the wait, and I hope it was worth it. Thank you.
Blazequeen: The flare, I have to admit, was pure genius on my part. LOL! I'm glad you enjoyed it and the rest of Nocte. Thank you for reading and especially for reviewing. Reviews make me smile!
Boke: I love it when readers zip through the whole series in a few days. That shows that my series has something driving readers forward. I'm glad you like Farhat. When I first introduced him, I was worried he would be boring, but then I made him quirky and then everything just fell into place. Thank you and happy reading! (I also hope you enjoyed the Olympics!)
Carrie: Thank you for reading and reviewing. I'm sorry for updating so slow (I'm actually very ashamed), and I can only hope the wait wasn't too long. Thank you so much!
C. Liu: Be rest assured, you are not the only one who thinks Noir may have a little something-something for Nocte. Lol! I don't mean to write him like that, but he's just so fun. I don't know if he does or does not. I think it's really up to you! Thank you for the review; it made me laugh hysterically!
Cold Starfire: I'm happy that you like my series. I worked really hard on it and I always love it when people appreciate all the hard work I put into Nocte. Thank you for reading and, most of all, for reviewing!
Cylara: I'm sorry for the cliff-hangers! (Sweatdrop) I'm so bad sometimes, but I think I actually like ending each chapter with cliffys. I can only hope that you don't hate me too much for them. I want to thank you for reading and reviewing! Thx!
doc-pepper: I'm extremely happy that you like my use of words and my way of writing. I like your reviews and your feedback… and your name. I think it's cute! Hee, hee! Thanks for reviewing! Happy readings! P.S. I am still in love with your Vanessa Blackthorn fan art. You are such an awesome artist!
dreams and rain: I love your name! I think it's so pretty. Thank you for reading and I hope this chapter did not disappoint.
Exquisite Enigma: I'm glad you got to review on the first chapter. I can only hope the next first chapter will be just as good… or rather, I hope it is better than all the first chapters combined!
Fiorenza: I loved the quotes you supplied. I actually chose one of yours for Chapter Thirteen. "The surest path to happiness is in losing yourself in a cause greater than yourself." Thank you for all your support and being with me for so long!
Freedom Star: I love all your reviews. I'm really sorry for making you wait so long for each update. I keep telling myself that I'd improve… but that just ain't so! Lol! I'm just glad I didn't lose anyone from the long updates. Thank you for staying with me. Love ya!
fusionbeam: After many long stretches in between updates, I'm glad that you are still on board. Thank you (a lot) for all these years of support. I hope you liked this chappy, and this whole book as a matter of fact!
Harmonic Discord: Thank you for reviewing Nocte in the Review Marathon. I think you exposed Nocte to a lot more people, and I am so thankful for that. You are awesome!
I.F.: Your rant for Chapter Twenty was hilarious! I love it! It always makes me happy to know how I have affected my readers, and your angry rant showed me that I have properly projected my thoughts and ideas through my words. Thank you!
Jade H.: I'm happy to know that you think Nocte is as good as the books in the bookstores. Thank you for reading and reviewing. I hope you'll continue to read!
Kagetori: Thank you so much for all your support. Your reviews always make me feel happy. I hope you will continue to read.
kivvy: I've always liked your name because it's in lower case and I always think lower case makes everything cuter, hence my own name… Yeah, I'm a freak. Your support is awesome. I can only hope you'll continue to be with me.
Kyllorac: I love it that you mentioned your bishonen senses tingling in your review for Chapter Nineteen. It made me laugh! I love how you analyzed Sterling's character. I spent a lot of time on her. (Wince.) Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this book!
Lady Knight of Sherwood Castle: I love your long reviews! I love long reviews period! I appreciate your long list of quotes. Some of them are really funny! I hope you liked the book, and thank you so much for reading.
Layre Kaec: When I wrote about the leviathan, I was having second thoughts about keeping him. But everyone, including you, were so happy that I felt happy enough to keep him. I hope you liked this book, and thank you for reviewing!
LisetteF: Your fan art makes writing Nocte worth it on so many levels. I'm not joking. Thank you for all your artwork you've based on my series. I can still remember seeing the first artwork you've done for Nocte and I still can feel that thrill of how I've affected readers. Thank you so much for reading and for drawing. You rock hardcore!
Michelle Habibi: It's always great to hear from you! I like how you always express your feelings and questions in your reviews. I remember when you first reviewed; I was so thrilled to have a new reader! I am even more thrilled that you've stayed with me! Thank you for all your reviews!
Mik Sunrider: Your review made me laugh and dance and jump around the room! I'm glad you think Nocte is as good as the pro stuff. I'm working very hard to make it even better. Thank you for reading!
Mistress DragonFlame: You have taught me so much on rapiers! I loved the thought that you've handled one before. I like knowing about my readers, and you are so interesting! Thank you so much for your help!
moon eclipse shadows: Even after all this time, you are still with me. Even after that long, long, long update wait. Thank you for everything. For reading. For reviewing. For everything! I hope you will continue to read! P.S. Still think your Bob the Dust Bunny is the cutest thing ev-ah!
Morgan Davis:Your last review, you remembered about the vision of Nocte's undead army. It made me smile a lot. It always surprises me when readers are able to predict or remember things like that, and you are no exception. I love all your reviews, and I hope you will continue to read.
Nara Merald: Your forum post made me laugh! I loved how everyone hated Delano after his betrayal and I think you expressed it quite well. Thank you for all these years' worth of support. Love ya!
oartnage: This is your first time reviewing and I really appreciate it. I especially like it when reviewers dance!
pfeiffer: Did you get to have popcorn this time? Your popcorn review made me laugh cause it made me want to eat popcorn too. Thanks for your support! Love ya!
Phantos: I always appreciate your long reviews and helping me fix corrections. It's always nice to know that I'm not writing Nocte alone and that there are people willing to help me make the series better. I hope this book was to your satisfaction. Thank you!
Photobooth: Your name is clever. That's what I think anyway. I'm glad that you think Nocte is quirky and humorous and not at all boring. The weird thing is that the quirkiness and the humour comes out of nowhere, I swear. Most of the time I don't even plan for them and they just pop up! Thank you for reading and reviewing!
Rayfield Noland: I do remember you from my first Nocte! It always strikes me to see reviewers from way back when. Remember how it was Nocte Yang instead of Yin? Man, I was so embarrassed. I'm glad that my writing is getting better and that we get to grow together along with the series. Thanks for all these years of support. I hope you'll continue to read.
RayYoshi86: I think out all my readers, you were the only one hoping for Delano and Nocte's relationship to flourish and end up in marriage with babies and the whole nine yards. I was especially happy to read that review for Chapter Twenty because I made Delano be, in every possible way, the perfect guy. Thank you so much for reading and for, of course, reviewing!
Reduvis Ekkilo: Every time I get a review from you, I am always struck by your name. Does it spell something? Maybe if I move the letters around it will mean something in English? Just a few minutes ago I typed out your name backwards and got this: Olikke Sivuder. Darn. I hoped typing it backwards will make it mean something. Anywho, your name rocks! Thanks for all your reviews!
samantha: Thank you for reading, and I especially like that you've reviewed. I hope you enjoyed the book!
Satha: I'm incredibly glad that I had helped you out of your Writer's Block. I hate Writer's Block – a lot. But together, I am most sure, we WILL prevail! Ha, ha, ha! (Evil laughter!) Thank you for reading and reviewing. It always does my heart good to have a new reviewer tell me that they had just spent the last few days reading my series. That only means that there's something in Nocte that drives readers along, and that makes me incredibly happy!
Selena Lyle: You are such a great reviewer! I'm always excited to read your reviews because you are so hyper and cheerful! Keep up the smiles! Love ya!
Seraphic Deviltry (14): When Noir died, I expected a lot of flamers, but instead not a lot of people seem to agonize over the fact. I'm glad you were one of the readers who mentioned him because I hoped he would be missed. I love Noir myself, that's why I couldn't keep him dead. Lol!
Shrian: Thank you so much for reading and for, especially, reviewing. I love getting feedback and your reviews are reassuring for me. I like knowing that I'm getting somewhere with Nocte. Happy readings!
Skyward Ending: I love how you were so cheerful after reading about how Nocte had that closure conversation with Delano. I was very emotional during that point, and I love it when readers are just as emotional. Thanks for reading and reviewing. I really appreciate it!
Sorelliena: After all these years I can still bounce ideas off of you. You are a great cousin and extremely supportive. I hope that you'll visit soon! Love ya!
The Red Mouse:I am so sorry I made you cry! Although you weren't the only one. I totally cried when I killed off Umbra. The moment was so much that I had to stop writing and take a short walk around the room several times! Thank you for reading and reviewing!
twilight-eclipse: You're review for Chapter Twenty Three was very uplifting. I have to admit, I had trouble with this Nocte (hence all the fillers), but when I read your review, I felt like all that was worth it. Yes, I have also been waiting for the old, powerful and inspiring Nocte to come back and kick butt. Thank you so much for your support. I hope you'll continue to read.
. .Confused. ( .Mind): I look forward to your reviews because you are a regular. After so many years, you are still here. You have no idea how thankful I am for that. Thank you so much, and I hope you liked the book.
V. Bao: I liked how you thought of Farhat as becoming Nocte's familiar. I hadn't even thought about it actually. I think it's an awesome idea, but I'm not sure if I can work that in, but thank you for the review and for giving me new ideas. You're made of awesomesauce!
Vexivicious/Aneedegorarose: Every time I get a review from you, I smile because you're a regular reviewer. It's because of you that my review count skyrockets like crazy! Thank you for all these years of support! Love ya!
WindWarrior: I love how I had blew you mind so much that you couldn't review properly! It makes me so happy that I have struck readers. Thank you so much for all your numerous and LONG reviews! They are all very heart-lifting!
yeye: Thank you for reading each update. I'm sorry for the long waits. (Sweatdrop) I hope you enjoyed this book!
I hope I didn't miss anyone. If I did, please tell me!
Now, before you all freak out-
THIS IS NOT THE LAST NOCTE!
There is, of course, a sequel in the works. I'm going to take some time to blueprint it first. But be rest assured-
THERE WILL BE A FIFTH BOOK!
It's gonna be totally exciting!
I still don't have a title for the fifth book, but I do have the summary. Wow, summary? Yup, I have the summary right here:
All graduating students at Evil Academy haveto complete a Final Project: to take over another planet. Nocte, however, is more worried over her family matters than anything else. That is until, of course, she is assigned her planet: Earth.
Woooo… Exciting, isn't it?
Be warned, however, I don't know when the next book will come out. I'm still a bit iffy over the plot so don't expect it to be soon. If it is soon, then yay!
: / / .
t - h - e - p - o - i - n - t .
"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia."
- Charles M. Schulz -