A Shade of Vampire 83 A Bender of Spirit - Bella Forrest Page 0,1

rights to doubt this. As am I,” Valaine said. “Are we sure? Beyond the shadow of a doubt?”

Amal and Amane exchanged glances. “From a biological point of view, and without having had Reapers to… study, Valaine presents as a healthy Aeternae,” Amal replied, while Amane nodded her agreement. “Those death magic traces are literally the only thing that sets her apart.”

“That being said,” Amane continued, “if Valaine is some kind of vessel for the Unending, an Aeternae body for her to dwell in, then that would certainly explain the death magic trace elements.”

Night moved closer to Valaine and placed a hand on her knee. His touch made her quiver. She gave him a wary look, but Night didn’t let that deter him. He persisted, showing nothing but patience and kindness. “This is merely a version of you, Unending. A physical shell that you’re trapped in. It feels what you feel. It wants what you want, so don’t think for a second that there’s anything about you that isn’t real.”

“How… how do I get to the truth, then?” Valaine asked, her voice shaky.

“You’re stuck in some kind of cycle, matching the Black Fever,” Night said. “It proves the Darklings right, unfortunately, but it also gives us something to work with. They’ve been killing you every ten thousand years just to stop the curse from wiping out their entire species. My guess is that you went down swinging when Spirit got you.”

“I know you can reach into your past lives,” Morning added. “At the very bottom of this body and this version of yourself, you have access to the memories of all your previous experiences. We just need to help you dig deep, peeling away at the layers until we find the real you… because you’re in there. I can feel you.”

“We can all feel you,” Phantom said, smiling.

Valaine groaned softly. “I wish I could remember you. All of you. I wish I had answers, but… all I’ve got is sadness and despair and grief. My own father wants me dead!”

Soul scoffed. “Corbin Crimson is not your father. He might’ve helped make this version of you, but he is not your father. The sooner you distance yourself from him, the better you’ll feel about everything.”

Thayen raised a hand, politely demanding our attention. “I don’t mean to sound cruel, but with the Black Fever emerging so soon and violently now, wouldn’t it be better if we let the Darklings kill Valaine so the cycle can be reset? From what I understand, the Unending will still be here, right? I just… I’m not comfortable with the idea of so many of my people dying.”

“While your intentions are good, your approach is ill informed,” Phantom replied bluntly. “Killing Valaine will hold the Black Fever back, but then we’ll have to find Unending again. She’ll be a newborn, and we’ll have no way of identifying her. Whatever this cycle does to her, it also makes it difficult to pinpoint her as the source of the Black Fever. It takes your people thousands of years to identify her every time.”

“On top of that, the Darklings don’t want her released,” Widow said. “Spirit founded their faction to keep her down. So we’ll still be fighting the bastards. And last, but certainly not least, every minute that Unending spends in misery is a failure for us as her partners and her siblings. Death needs her, as well, in order to regain her own freedom. Spirit messed with all of us, one way or another, and we have to make it all stop. We have to fix this.”

Thayen nodded slowly. “I’m sorry. I was just trying to find a way for everybody to win.”

“That’s kind of you,” Sofia replied, giving him a soft smile. “But I don’t think there’s a way for everyone involved to come out of this unscathed. Your mother, the Darklings… they’ve done too much harm over the years. They won’t let their privileges and power be taken away from them easily. Not when they’ve spent their whole lives profiting from death magic.”

Valaine cursed under her breath. “I’m not ready to die. If I have a shot at stopping this madness once and for all, I’ll take it.” She got up, fists tight at her sides as she looked around. “And you’ve all been through so much to protect me until now. It would be cowardly on my part to just… give up and let them kill me. No, if there’s freedom ahead, I want to find