Kitty's Big Trouble Page 50

The creature had paused a moment, seeming to look at each of us in turn, noting us, marking us. Then he almost nodded, a single tip of his head, which he swung around to focus on Sun Wukong as if identifying him as the most dangerous among us.

With what seemed to be a sense of a joy, Sun took a running start and leapt forward, meeting the blinded monster head-on. Holding his staff with both hands, he jabbed upward, aiming for the creature’s chin—but the thing, this strange god of chaos, sidestepped and whirled to slam his fists into Sun’s back. The creature’s speed belied his size and apparent lack of senses. Maybe the thing really could see, somehow, and all the stitches were there for horrifying effect.

My common sense was failing me.

Struck hard, Sun stumbled forward, but was able to quickly spin to once again face his opponent, and in the same movement he struck again, cracking his staff against the monster’s head. The being shook off the blow and swung a punch at Sun, who dodged it by jumping over it. It all happened in a blur.

“Sun, you must break him!” Anastasia called. “Break through, remember the story.”

“I can handle it!” he called, and she hissed as if she didn’t believe him.

“Cormac, the crossbow, you must aim for his eyes, open his eyes!” Anastasia yelled.

The creature lunged again, punching with both fists.

“I’m feeling so useless,” Ben said. We were still on the sidelines, watching a fight that would have been amazing if it had been in a kung fu epic. Being able to smell the sweat in the room made it too real.

Cormac hadn’t heard the vampire. He—Amelia—was still rummaging for whatever protective or defensive spells they had. I was furious that Ben and I had been sidelined by toy-size hardware.

Then I saw him, in the shadows of the same doorway Henry had come through, aiming a crossbow of his own at Anastasia.

I didn’t think. I took a running leap and sprang over the stretch of spilled caltrops, hoping, reaching, praying I’d make it.

“Kitty!” Ben snarled after me. Then he called, “Cormac!”

I crashed onto clear floor and kept going, straight into Roman, tackling him. We both slammed into the wall. He growled and shoved me aside.

Wolf kicked and I let her come to the surface, allowed her instincts to fill me. Curling my fingers, I dug them into the vampire’s arm, raking, kneading, gouging. I might not be able to kill him, but I could keep him from using his weapon.

He swung me against the wall, cracking my head against brick. I saw stars, and Wolf bared her teeth at him.

“Kitty, the bag!” Anastasia called to me. “The bag!”

The words sunk in through the fighting haze. Roman was wearing Sun’s cloth bag over his shoulder, the strap repaired with a simple knot.

He wouldn’t drop the crossbow, which meant he couldn’t effectively get rid of me. I was hanging on him, tearing at him. The stitches in his silk shirt tore. I put my hand on the strap of the bag. I could rip it, take it away from him—

Air whistled past my ear. A crossbow bolt.

Roman made a noise, like the air going out of him. But he was still here—the bolt had landed in his left shoulder, inches from his heart. Inches from my face. But hey, I’d heal, Cormac had probably been thinking. In the center of the room, he was loading a bolt for another shot.

I’d found a tear in the strap and was breaking through the cloth.

Roman had had enough of all of it, because he spun into the room and swung me down to the floor, toward the pool of silver caltrops. It happened too fast. I would hit them, they would bite into me in a dozen places, and the poison would burn through my blood to my heart.

Then came wind. A fierce, fast wind, like the kind that blasted the plains in Colorado, scoured the room and swept the caltrops away, into the opposite wall.

Sun Wukong stood in a fighting pose, sweeping his staff along the floor, bringing the wind with it, until the silver was all gone. Hundun batted him in the head and he went flying.

I landed on the floor, Roman landed on me, and I rested, unhurt but for bruises.

Roman scrambled to his feet and fled back to the hallway because Cormac was pointing his crossbow at him. He fired; I didn’t see if he hit or not.

I was holding the bag, weighed down with what I hoped was the Dragon’s Pearl.

“I’ve got it,” I breathed around panting breaths. Wolf was clawing at my gut. Can we run now? Yes. Yes we could. “I’ve got it!”

“Then go!” Sun said, picking himself up, readying his staff. “I’ll take care of this one!” He went back to fighting Hundun, blocking the creature with his staff while he dodged blows.

I’d have been worried about Sun and his ability to keep fighting, except he was wearing this big silly grin like he’d never had so much fun in his life. In fact, his blows seemed particularly nonfatal. He’d knock the monster on the side of the head to rattle him, trip up his feet with the staff, make him hop and dance as he avoided the hits, and Sun jumped out of the way in time to avoid the monster’s blows. The creature didn’t look any more frustrated or angry than he had when he entered the room. He simply kept going, his head low, jaw set, determined. They were two actors playing their roles.

Then the room blew up.

It began with a few pops and white sparks, then turned into an explosion that raced around the edges of the room—fire traveling along the strings of firecrackers, igniting them all within seconds. Grace must have set hundreds of them. They cracked, banged, bounced, flew, threw multicolored sparks, and trailed clouds of acrid gray smoke behind them, until the room filled with the stench of the stuff, stinging my eyes and burning my nose. Not to mention the noise, which turned my head to cotton.

The eyeless, earless creature moaned in agony, the sound muffled by his sealed mouth. How could he even tell what was going on?

Someone grabbed my arm. I almost whirled and took a swipe at the person, my fingers bent like claws. Then Ben came close, bringing himself nose to nose with me. Even that close I couldn’t smell him for all the smoke and burning. My lack of senses put me on the edge of panic. The firecrackers were still going off, like sporadic pops of popcorn. Still loud, still producing smoke and fire. Something pounded against the walls hard enough to shake them and make the floor tremble. Mortar and dust shook from the ceiling.

I grabbed Ben’s hand; he’d be my anchor.

“Where’s Roman?” I hollered.

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