Chapter no 10

Red Queen (Red Queen, 1)

ELARA LEFT ME STANDING IN THE hallway, contemplating her words.

In the past, I thought there was only a line dividing Silver and Red, rich and poor, king and slave. But there was so much more to it, things I didn’t understand, and I was right in the middle of it. I grew up wondering if I would have food for the evening; now I stand in the palace ready to be devoured alive.

Red in the head, Silver in the heart, stuck in my mind, guiding my movements. My eyes were still wide, drinking in the magnificent palace that neither Mare nor Mareena had ever imagined, but my mouth was closed into a firm line. Mareena was impressed, but she was able to control her emotions. He is cold and emotionless.

The doors at the end of the hall opened, revealing the largest room I had ever seen, even bigger than the throne room. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the sheer size of this palace. I stepped through the doors onto a landing. Steps led to the lower floor, where every clansman sat in cold expectation, their eyes fixed forward. Again, they group according to their color of origin. Part

people were muttering among themselves, probably talking about me and my little show. The King of Tiberias and Elara stood on a podium several meters higher than the floor, facing the crowd of their subjects. They never miss a single opportunity to appear to dominate others. Either they are very arrogant or very wary. Maintaining the impression of authority is important for rulers.

The two princes suited up with their parents in different red and black uniforms, both decorated with military medals. Cal stood to his father’s right, his face calm and even. If he already knew who he was going to marry, he didn’t seem happy about it. Maven was also there, on her mother’s left side, her face full of emotion. The younger brother is not as good as Cal at hiding his feelings.

At least I don’t have to deal with an imposter.

“The Right to Elect Queen has always been a festive occasion, representing the future of our great kingdom and the bonds that have always united us strong in the face of our enemies,” said the king, announcing to the crowd. They haven’t seen me, standing at the end of the room, looking down at them all. “But as you have seen today, the Queen’s Election has brought about more than just a future queen.”

He turned to Elara, who held the king’s hand with a devoted smile. Her transition from cunning villain to coy queen is incredible. “We all remember hope

“We grew up amidst the darkness of war, our captain, our friend , General Ethan Titanos,” said Elara.

People were buzzing all over the room, either amazed or sad. Even the head of the Samos family, Evangeline’s vile father, bowed his head. “He led the Iron Legion to glory, pushing back the war lines that had stood for nearly a century. The Lakelanders feared him; our soldiers love him.” I highly doubt there is a single Red soldier who loves their Silver general. “Lakelanders spies killed our beloved friend Ethan, sneaking across the border to destroy our only hope for peace. His wife, Lady Nora, a generous and just woman, died with him. On that historic day sixteen years ago, the Titanos Clan disappeared. Friends are taken from us. Our blood is shed.”

Silence swept across the room as the queen paused to wipe her eyes, wiping away what I knew were only fake, forced tears. Several girls, contestants for the Queen’s Selection, shifted restlessly in their chairs. They didn’t care about the general dying, and neither did the queen. This is about me, about infiltrating a Red girl into power without everyone knowing. This was a magical ruse, and the queen was a talented magician.

The queen’s eyes stared at me, burning all the way to my position at the top of the steps, and everyone else followed her gaze. Some looked confused, while others recognized me from this morning. And some were glaring at my dress. They recognize colors

The Titanos Clan is better than me and understands who I am. Or at least the figure I pretended to be.

“This morning we witnessed a miracle. We have witnessed a Red girl falling into the arena like a flash of lightning, possessing undue strength.” The whispers grew louder, and some Silvers even stood up. The Samos girl looked angry, her black eyes fixed on me.

“The King and I ourselves have interviewed the girl extensively, trying to find out her origins.” Interview is a strange term to describe messing with my brain. “He’s not a Red, but he’s still a miracle. Dear friends, let’s welcome back Lady Mareena Titanos, daughter of Ethan Titanos. What was once lost has now returned.”

With a flick of her hand, the queen beckoned me over. I obey.

I went down the stairs with a stifled clap of my hands, focusing more on not slipping. However, my footsteps were confident, my face was flat, as I threw myself into hundreds of questioning, glaring, suspicious faces. Lucas and my guards didn’t follow, remaining on the platform. Again I was alone in front of this crowd, and I had never felt so naked, even with layers of silk and powder. Once again, I feel grateful for the makeup. That is my shield, between themselves and the truth of who I am. A truth that I don’t even understand.

The queen pointed to an empty seat in the front row, and I walked over to her. The girls from the Queen’s Election

observing me, wondering why I was here and why I was suddenly so important. However, they were just curious, not angry. They looked at me with pity, empathizing to the best of their ability with my story of misfortune. Except for Evangeline Samos. When I finally arrived at my seat, he sat right next to it, his eyes boring into mine. Gone were his leather clothes and iron accessories; now she was wearing a dress with interlocking metal rings. From the tightening of his fingers, I knew he just wanted to strangle me with both hands.

“Saved from the fate of her parents, Lady Mareena was taken from the battlefield and brought to the village of the Reds not more than ten miles away from here.” The king continued, taking over so he could convey the surprising twist in my story. “Raised by Red parents, he worked as a Red servant. And until this morning, he believed himself to be one of them.” The gasp that followed made my teeth chatter. “Mareena is an uncut gem, working in my own palace, the daughter of my late friend right under my nose. But that won’t happen again. In order to atone for my ignorance, and to repay his father and his clan for their great contribution to the kingdom, I would like to take this moment to announce the unification of the Calore Clan with the reborn Titanos Clan.”

Once again there was a gasp, this time from the Queen’s Selection girls. They thought I had taken Cal from them. They thought I was their rival. I raised my gaze to the king, silently begging him to continue before one of these girls killed me.

I could almost feel Evangeline’s cold metal cutting into me. His fingers were tightly intertwined, his knuckles white as he resisted the urge to skin me in front of everyone. Beside him, the father frowned and put a hand on Evangeline’s arm to calm her down.

When Maven stepped forward, the tension in the room deflated. He stuttered briefly, slipping out the words he had been taught, but Maven then found his voice. “Lady Mareena.”

Trying my best not to tremble, I stood up and faced him.

“In front of my father who is the king and all members of the kingdom, I ask for your willingness to marry. I promise you, Mareena Titanos. Are you ready?”

My heart skipped a beat as he spoke. Even though his words sounded like a question, I knew I had no choice in answering him. No matter how much I wanted to look away, my eyes remained on Maven. He gave me a small smile of encouragement. In my heart I wondered which girl he would previously choose for himself.

Who will I choose for myself? If none of this had happened, if Kilorn’s boss hadn’t died, if Gisa’s hand hadn’t been broken, if nothing had changed. If . That is the worst word ever.

War networking. Survive for life. My green-eyed kids with nimble legs and the last name Kilorn . That future was almost impossible before; now that will literally never happen.

“I promise you, Maven Calore,” I said, driving the final nail into my coffin. My voice shook, but I didn’t stop. “I accept.”

Those words held final certainty, slamming the door shut on the rest of my life. I felt like I was going to faint, but somehow managed to sit back up slowly.

Maven leaned back in his chair, looking relieved to be away from the limelight. His mother patted his arm to reassure him. He smiled softly, only for Maven’s sake. Even the Peraks loved their children. However, his expression turned cold again when Cal stood up, his smile disappeared in an instant.

The air seemed to be sucked out of the room as each girl took a breath, waiting for his decision. I doubt Cal had a say in choosing his queen, but he played his role well. Just like Maven, just like I was trying to do. Cal smiled brightly, showing off a row of even white teeth that made a number of girls sigh. However, his warm eyes were too serious.

“I am my father’s successor, born with privilege, power and strength. You owe me loyalty, just as I owe you my life. It is my duty to serve you and my kingdom to the best of my ability—and even more.” He had rehearsed his speech, but the passion on display was impossible to fake. He believed in himself, that he would be a good king—or die trying to be. “I need a queen who is willing to make the same sacrifices as I do, to maintain order, justice, and balance.”

The Queen Selection contestant girls leaned forward, excited at his next words. However, Evangeline didn’t move, an evil grin sweeping across her face. The Samos clan looked equally calm. His older brother, Ptolemus, even stifled a yawn. They already know who was chosen.

“Lady Evangeline.”

There was no gasp of surprise, no surprise or arousal from him. Even the other girls, heartbroken, sat back with sad shrugs. Everyone had predicted this. I remember the fat family at Spiral Gardens, complaining that Evangeline Samos had won. They are right.

With cool, graceful movements, Evangeline rose to her feet. He didn’t even look at Cal, instead turning around to grin mockingly at heartbroken girls. He enjoyed his moment of victory. The smile faded from his face when his eyes fell on me. My gaze didn’t miss its ferocious teeth.

As he turned around, Cal echoed the same proposal his sister had read. “In front of my father, the king and members of the kingdom, I want to ask for your willingness to marry me. I promise you, Evangeline Samos. Would you be willing to accept?”

“I promise you, Prince of Tiberias,” he said in a voice that, strangely, sounded high and low, contrasting with his stern appearance. “I accept.”

With a triumphant grin, Evangeline sat back down, while Cal returned to his own seat. Cal kept his smile plastered on his face like a statue, but Evangeline didn’t seem to notice.

Then I felt a hand find my arm, its nails scratching my skin. I fought the urge to jump out of my chair. Evangeline didn’t react at all, still staring straight ahead at the throne that would one day be hers. If this had been in Jangkungan Village, I would have knocked out a number of his teeth. His fingers pressed into my skin, deep into the flesh. If my arm was bleeding, red blood, our little game would be over before it even started. But he stopped barely before tearing my skin, leaving a bruise that the maids would have to disguise later.

“Dare get in my way and I will kill you slowly, Lightning Girl.” He muttered through his smile. Lightning girl . That nickname is really starting to annoy me.

To emphasize his point, the sleek metal bracelet on his wrist moved, turning into a circle of sharp spikes. Each thorn glistened, begging to drip blood. I swallowed nervously, trying not to move. However, he released his grip quickly, returning her hands to her lap. Once again, she became the image of a quiet Silver girl. If there’s anyone who really deserves to be banged, it’s Evangeline Samos.

A quick glance around the room told me that the palace audience had turned gloomy. Several girls shed tears and cast gazes as sharp as predatory wolves at Evangeline, even me. They had probably been waiting for this day all their lives, only to be met with failure. I longed to hand over my betrothal bond, to give them what they so dearly

wish, but don’t. I have to look happy. I must


“As festive and joyful as today’s events are,” said the King of Tiberias, ignoring the sentiment created in the room, “I must remind you of the reasons for this decision. The might of the Clan of Samos united by my son, and all of his successors, will help guide our country. You all know the precarious state our kingdom is in, with war in the north and ignorant extremists, enemies of our way of life, seeking to destroy us from within. The Red Front may seem small and trivial to us, but they represent a dangerous turn for the Red brothers.” Many people in the crowd jeered at the word brother , including me.

Small and trivial . Then why do they need me?

Why use me, if the Red Front means nothing to them? The king is a liar. However, what he was trying to hide, I was still not sure. It could be because of the strength of the Red Front. It could be because of me.

Maybe both.

“If the rebellion continues,” he continued, “it will end in bloodshed and the division of the country, something I cannot allow. We must maintain balance. Evangeline and Mareena will assist in that effort, for the benefit of us all.”

Whispers spread through the crowd as they listened to the king’s words. Some nodded, others looked annoyed at the Queen’s Electoral verdict, but no one voiced disapproval

they. Nobody spoke. No one will hear them even if they talk.

Smiling, King Tiberias nodded his head. He had won, he realized that. “Strength and power,” he repeated. The slogan echoed from him, as everyone uttered those words.

The words slipped on my tongue, tasting foreign in my mouth. Cal looked down at me, watching me sing with the others. At that moment, I hated myself.

“Strength and power.”

I suffered throughout the celebration, watching but not seeing, hearing but not listening. Even the dishes, which were so much more than I’d ever seen in my life, tasted bland in my mouth. I should have devoured it greedily, enjoying what was probably the best meal of my life, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even respond when Maven spoke to me, his voice was calm and quite confident.

“You’re fine,” he said, but I tried to ignore him. Just like her brother, she wore the same metal bracelet, the creator of flames. It’s a stark reminder of exactly who and what Maven is—powerful, dangerous, an arsonist, a Silver.

Sitting at a table made of crystal, sipping frothy golden liquid until my head was spinning, I felt like a traitor. What are my parents eating tonight? Do they even know where I am? Or is Mother sitting on the veranda, waiting for my return?

Instead, I was trapped in a room full of people who would kill me if they knew the truth. And royalty of course, who would kill me if they could, who might indeed kill me someday. They have turned me upside down, exchanged Mare for Mareena, exchanged a thief for a crown, rags for silk, Red for Silver . This morning I’m a servant, tonight I’m a princess. How much more will change? What else would I lose?

“That’s enough,” Maven said, his voice floating through the noise of the party. He pushed away my fancy goblet, exchanging it for a glass of water.

“I like that drink.” But I drank the water greedily, feeling my head clear.

Maven just shrugged. “You’ll thank me later.”

“Thank you,” I said as curtly as possible. I still haven’t forgotten the way he looked at me this morning, as if I were dirt stuck under his shoe. But now his gaze was softer, calmer, more like Cal.

“I’m sorry about the events earlier today, Mareena.”

My name is Mare . “I’m sure so,” slipped out of my mouth instead.

“Really,” he said, leaning towards me. We sat side by side, with the other royal members, at the head table. “It’s just—usually the younger prince gets to choose. One of the perks of not being an heir

straight to the kingdom.” He added with a too forced smile.

Oh . “I don’t know that,” I replied, not knowing what to say. I should have felt sorry for him, but I couldn’t bring myself to feel a shred of pity for a prince.

“Well, you never know. It’s not your fault.”

He looked back at the banquet hall, casting his gaze like a fishing pole. I wondered which face he was looking for. “Is he here?” I muttered, trying to sound apologetic. “The girl you want to choose?”

He hesitated, then shook his head. “No, there’s no one in particular in mind. But, it’s nice to have a choice, right?”

No, I don’t know. I don’t have the luxury to choose.

Not now, not ever .

“Not like my brother. He grew up knowing he would never have a say in his future. I think now I can feel what he feels like.”

“You and your brother have everything, Prince Maven.” I whispered in a voice so sharp it probably sounded like a prayer. “You live in the palace, you have power, you have power . You wouldn’t know the meaning of the harshness of life if it appeared in front of your face and knocked your teeth out, and believe me, life often does that. So I’m sorry if I can’t feel sorry for you.”

That’s it, I let my mouth run away with the contents of my brain. When he regained consciousness, after drinking down the remaining water in an effort to cool down

my emotions, Maven just looked at me, his eyes cold. But the ice wall receded, melting as his vision softened.

“You’re right, Mare. No one should feel sorry for me.” I could hear the bitterness in his voice. With a shudder, I saw him cast his gaze at Cal. His brother seemed to shine like the sun, laughing with their father. When Maven returned his gaze, he forced a smile, but there was a surprising sadness in his eyes.

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t ignore the sudden jolt of pity I felt for the forgotten prince. However, that feeling quickly passed when I remembered who he was and who I was.

I am a Red maiden in a sea of ​​Silvers, and I must not feel sorry for anyone, least of all the son of a snake.[]

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