Home > The Lost Book of the White (The Eldest Curses #2)(11)

The Lost Book of the White (The Eldest Curses #2)(11)
Author: Cassandra Clare, Wesley Chu

“That’s a very inspiring speech, Magnus,” said Jace.

“What the hell,” said Isabelle.

They gathered together and walked through the Portal. The cool breeze became a soft enveloping cloud of humidity. The low rumble from outside the Sanctuary windows was replaced by a cacophonous, honking orchestra of cars and the steady clamor of a crowded city street at evening. Bright colored lights flickered, animated and swirling in the night sky.

And Alec’s world tilted; that sky was in the wrong place. And he was falling. They were all falling. They were falling quite awhile.

PART II Shanghai

CHAPTER FOUR Heavenly Places

IT WAS A WONDER THEY didn’t hurt anyone. The Shadowhunters emerged through the pearlescent frame of the Portal into thin air, twelve feet off the ground, and fell to the pavement amid an enormous bustling crowd of people.

They all landed safely, or at least cushioned themselves well enough to suffer only a few bruises. Alec carefully got to his feet, glad to be glamoured into invisibility. Wherever in the city they were, it was crowded.

It was full evening in Shanghai, a pleasantly warm one, and as he straightened up, Alec realized they stood on a massive pedestrian thoroughfare that extended in both directions beyond the distance he could see. The crowds were thick—Manhattan thick—and both sides of the street were lined with buildings shining with huge, brightly lit signs. Every wall was flooded with neon color and vivid advertisements. Large vertical signs in Chinese characters hung from each building into the streets, painting the walls in an electric rainbow of blue, red, and green. In the distance, a needle-shaped structure shot up into the night sky, glowing in waves of dazzling purple. Around it was the rest of the Shanghai skyline, some of it half-finished and surrounded by cranes, other parts lit up to stand as totems above the teeming city below.

There were English signs among the Chinese. “It looks like Times Square!” Isabelle said brightly. “Shanghai Times Square.”

“It’s much cooler than Times Square,” Simon said, gazing around at the spectacle before him. “More neon and lasers and banks of colored lights, fewer giant video screens.”

“There are plenty of giant video screens,” said Clary. “And it’s not Times Square. Well, I guess it kind of is, but it’s more like Fifth Avenue. We’re on East Nanjing Road—it’s a big shopping area with no cars.”

“So,” said Simon, “you thought, better hit up the sales before we find the evil warlocks?”

“They’re not necessarily evil,” Alec said. “The, uh, misguided warlocks.”

“The misguided warlocks who make terrible decisions,” amended Isabelle.

“No,” said Clary. “I mean—I was reading about this place on my phone this morning. I was just looking up the famous places to go in Shanghai. I wasn’t trying to end up here. I was trying to go to the Institute, and this is nowhere near it.”

“Also,” said Alec with a jolt, “where is Magnus?”

They looked around. Alec was keeping a clamp on his feelings, the way you might put pressure on a bleeding wound. He couldn’t panic now. That wouldn’t be helpful to Magnus.

“Clary, can you see through the Portal?” he demanded. “Is Magnus still back on the other side?” He squinted at the small glowing square floating well above their heads.

Clary backed up and shook her head. “No, nothing.”

Alec took out his phone and called Magnus. He did not pick up. Alec continued not to panic. Instead, he sent a text: WE ARE IN NANJING RD SHOPPING AREA, WHERE YOU?

They stood there, waiting, with the unseeing crowd streaming around them, hidden within their glamours. Alec wasn’t sure what they would do if they couldn’t find Magnus. Would they just have to keep going through with the mission? How would that even work? Magnus was the only one of them who spoke Mandarin. Magnus had the scrap of Ragnor’s cloak that was necessary to Track him. They could go to the Institute—itself a project involving getting cash, finding a taxi, and so on—but even there, Magnus had spoken of his long relationship with the Ke family, who ran the place. Alec had expected to have Magnus’s help when they arrived.

The others were all looking at Alec worriedly. Jace had come a little closer, not quite putting his hand on Alec’s shoulder, but as if he were about to. And indeed, Alec knew, if Magnus didn’t appear, and soon, there would be no more mission, no matter how many intellectual exercises he ran about it in his head. Even if the danger of a Prince of Hell loomed in the future, Alec would abandon everything else and go after Magnus first, wherever he might be.

Alec’s phone beeped.

He grabbed at it, flipping it over. It was a message from Magnus. They all crowded around to read it: TOOK AN UNEXPECTED SWIM. MEET ME IN FRONT OF THE MCDONALD’S NEAR GUIZHOU ROAD.

Alec felt Jace’s hand graze his back lightly, a silent reassurance: See, brother, everything is fine.

“Of course there’s a McDonald’s,” said Isabelle, and they headed off, using the GPS on Simon’s phone to guide them.

Sometimes Alec thought that eventually the modern world would overtake the Shadowhunters, despite their best attempts to stay out of it. It was inevitable, if you lived in a big city; just navigating your way around took a certain understanding of the mundane world and how it worked. Here Alec had been dropped into one of the most crowded spots in one of the biggest cities in the world, about as far from his home as he could get while remaining on the planet. And yet he felt a certain familiarity: big city shopping streets were big city shopping streets. The signs were in Chinese, and the aesthetic wasn’t the same, but the feel was the same: the night and the lights and the people, families, strange pairings, solo workers just trying to get through the crowd to get home. It should have been totally alien to Alec, but it wasn’t. It was new. But there was something there he already understood. He was surprised to find how many things in his life worked that way, when he gave them a try.

They met Magnus at the point where the pedestrian part of the road ended and car traffic began. The warlock’s hair was, strangely, soaking wet, and spiked angrily up above his head. His clothes were dry, but they were not the same clothes he had been wearing when they went through the Portal. Alec was a little disappointed—he loved Magnus in a suit—but Magnus had perhaps wisely chosen to blend in, in black jeans, a sleek black button-down shirt, and a black leather motorcycle jacket. He looked like a sexy urban race-car driver. Alec was in favor of it.

He swept up to Alec, put his arms around his neck, and kissed him. Alec kissed him back, passionately, relief coursing through his veins. He would have liked to grab handfuls of Magnus’s shirt and drag him closer, kiss him until they were both staggering, but. He was standing in front of his sister and his parabatai and his parabatai’s girlfriend and her parabatai. He had to draw a line somewhere. He did kiss Magnus back as strongly as he was able; Magnus was here, he was fine, and Alec could feel his body relax.

“I guess you didn’t get to the Institute either,” said Clary, when a significant amount of time had passed.

Magnus broke the kiss.

“Is it all right? For two men to kiss in a crowded street in Shanghai? I don’t know if I’d kiss you that way in Times Square,” said Alec.

“Darling,” Magnus said quietly, “we’re invisible.”

“Oh,” said Alec. “Right.”

“I did not go to the Institute, no,” said Magnus to Clary. “I went to thirty or so feet above the Huangpu River.” He saw Alec’s look of alarm. “Then a few seconds passed, and I was in the Huangpu River.”

“What did you do?” said Jace.

“I tumbled through the air gracefully and landed on my feet on the back of a friendly porpoise,” said Magnus.

“That is very believable,” said Simon, encouraging as always.

Magnus waved his hand. “That is how I wish you to think of me. Riding a porpoise to shore, and straight to join you. I don’t understand it. That’s two Portals in a row that have gone wrong, in ways Portals should not go wrong. How did we get split up?”

“I think,” said Jace, “we were all hoping you would know.”

“I just draw ’em,” said Clary. “That doesn’t mean I understand the magic behind them.”

“No more Portals for a while, anyway,” said Magnus. He pulled the scrap of Ragnor’s cloak from his pocket with a flourish and handed it over to Alec. Jace took out his stele and gestured to Alec, who dutifully held out his hand for Jace to refresh the Tracking rune.

“The rune is still just going to pull us in a direction, and Shanghai is huge,” said Alec. “How are we going to handle this?”

“We’re going to take a taxi,” said Magnus, holding his arm out to the street. “So un-glamour yourselves.” The taxis in Shanghai appeared to be an assortment of colors, but they were all silver on their bottom half and the same model of car, so it was pretty easy to spot them in traffic. One, a vivid shade of violet, quickly pulled over for them.

Magnus eyed the size of their group. “Two taxis.”

Alec waved down a second taxi, and Magnus quickly spoke to the driver of the new taxi, then went to get into the first one.

“Wait, what did you tell him?” Alec said.

“I told him to follow the first cab. And that the dark-haired man with the bright blue eyes would be handling the fare.” He hesitated. “Alec—if Ragnor doesn’t know we’re Tracking him, and he’s in Shanghai, he’ll still be here tomorrow morning. If you don’t want to go racing off without anything to go on but this Tracking rune, I totally get that. We can take a couple of hotel rooms—I know some great places—and tomorrow morning we can go to the Institute and do this through the proper channels.”

Alec tried not to be thrown by this total about-face. “Magnus, I’m touched, but I have to wonder—are you avoiding catching up to Ragnor because you don’t know what to do when you find him? Is that what this is about?”

   
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