Chapter no 13

Red Queen (Red Queen, 1)

MY NEXT TEACHER WAS waiting for me in a room filled from floor to ceiling with far more books than I had ever seen, more than I thought existed. The books looked ancient and priceless. Despite my aversion to school and books of any kind, I felt an attraction to them. However, the titles and pages were written in a language I didn’t understand, a random series of symbols that I couldn’t possibly decipher.

Just as interesting as the books were a series of maps displayed along the walls, maps of other kingdoms and lands, old and new. Framed on the opposite wall, behind a pane of glass, is a vast, colorful map put together from separate sheets of paper. The map sheet was at least twice my height and dominated the room. Faded and torn, the map was a tangled knot of red lines and blue coasts, green forests and yellow towns. This is an ancient world, a world of an earlier time, with old names and old borders that no longer serve us.

“It’s strange to look at the world in the past,” said the teacher, appearing from behind a pile of books. His yellow robes, stained and faded with age, made him look like a human

made from a piece of paper. “Can you show me where we are?”

The sheer size of the map made me gulp nervously. However, like the others, I’m sure this was a test. “I can try.”

Norta is in the northeast region. Jangkungan Village is on the Capital River, and the river flows into the ocean . After a minute of searching half-dead, I finally found a river and a small bay near my village. “Here,” I said, pointing just north of where I thought Summerton might be.

He nodded, glad to know I wasn’t completely stupid. “Do you recognize anything else?”

But just like the books, the map was written in an unknown language. “I can’t read it.”

“I didn’t ask if you could read it.” He responded, still friendly. “After all, words can lie. See what’s hidden behind it.”

Shrugging my shoulders, I forced myself to look again. I was never a good student in school, and this guy was going to find out soon enough. However, beyond my expectations, I liked this game. Scouring the map, looking for features I recognized. “It’s probably Harbor Bay.” I finally muttered, circling the area around the hook-shaped promontory.

“That’s right,” he said, his face breaking into a smile. The wrinkles around his eyes thickened with the action, showing his age. “This is Delphie right now.” He added, pointing to a town further south. “And Archeon is here.”

He placed his finger above the Capital River, a few miles north of the city that looked the largest on the map in the entire land of the previous world. Wreckage. I’d heard the name before, in whispers among the older kids, and from my older brother Shade. The City of Ashes, Ruins , he called it. A shiver runs down my spine at the thought of such a place, still shrouded in the smoke and shadows of war more than a thousand years ago. Will this world one day be like that, if our wars don’t end?

The teacher moved back to let me think. He has a strange concept of teaching; the lesson would probably end with a four hour game of me glaring at the wall.

But suddenly, I became very aware of the buzzing in the room. Or the lack of that hum. All day I felt the electric weight of the camera, so strong that I stopped paying attention. Until now, when I don’t feel it at all. The buzzing was gone . I could feel the lights pulsing with electricity, but there were no cameras. No eyes. Elara can’t see me here.

“Why isn’t anyone watching us?”

He just blinked at me. “So there really is a difference.” He muttered. I didn’t understand what he meant, and it annoyed me.


“Mare, I’m here to teach you about your history, to teach you how to be a Silver and how to be, uh, useful ,” he said, his expression turning sour.

I looked at him, confused. A feeling of horror ran through me. “My name is Mareena.”

But he just waved his hand, dismissing my weak statement. “I will also try to understand the exact origins of your powers and how your abilities work.”

“My abilities came about because—because I am a Silver. My parents’ abilities were mixed—my father was a destroyer and my mother was a storm creator.” I stuttered with the explanation that Elara fed me, trying to make her understand. “I’m a Silver, sir.”

How surprised I was when I found him shaking his head. “No, you are not a Silver, Mare Barrow, and you should never forget that.”

He knows. I’m done. Everything has ended . I had to pity him, beg him to keep my secret, but the words got stuck in my throat. The end is coming soon, and I can’t even open my mouth to stop it.

“That’s not necessary.” He continued, reading my fear. “I have no plans to tell anyone about your origins.”

The relief I felt was short-lived, giving way to another kind of fear. “Why? What do you want from me?”

“I am, above all, a curious man. And when you entered the Queen’s Selection as a servant of Red, then became the figure of a Silver girl who was said to have been lost for a long time, I have to admit I was quite curious.”

“Is that why there are no cameras here?” The hairs on the back of my neck bristled, moving back from him. My hands clenched into fists, and I hoped that lightning would come to protect me from this man. “So there won’t be any footage of you checking me out ?”

“There are no cameras here because I have the power to turn them off.”

Hope ignited within me, like light amidst absolute darkness. “What is your strength?” I asked shakily. Maybe he’s just like me.

“Mare, when a Silver says ‘strength,’ they mean power, might. ‘Abilities,’ on the other hand, refers to all the little, silly things we can do.” Small, silly things . Like breaking people in half or drowning them in the town square. “What I mean is that my sister was once queen here, and that still means something here.”

“Lady Blonos didn’t teach me that.”

He chuckled to himself. “That’s because Lady Blonos taught you nonsense. I would never do that.”

“So, if the queen was your sister, then you are—” “Julian Jacos, at your service.” He bowed

by exaggerating. “Chief of the Jacos Clan, heir to nothing more than a few ancient books. My sister is the late Queen Coriane, and the Seventh Prince of Tiberias, Cal as we all call him, is my nephew.”

Now that he said it, I could see the similarities. Cal’s skin tone and hair took after his father but the lightness of his expression, the warmth behind his eyes—those things definitely came from his mother.

“So you’re not going to turn me into some kind of science experiment for the queen?” I asked, still alert.

Instead of looking offended, Julian laughed loudly. “Honey, the Queen just wants to make you disappear. Finding out who you are, helping you understand it, is the last thing he wants.”

“But you’re still going to do it?”

Something flashed in his eyes, something like anger. “The queen’s arm’s reach is not as long as she would like you to think. I want to know who you are, and I’m sure you do too.”

No matter how scared I was a moment ago, I’m very interested now. “Correct.”

“That’s what I thought,” he said, smiling at me behind a stack of books. “But I’m sorry, I also have to do what was asked, to prepare you for the day when you appear in public.”

My face fell, remembering what Cal explained in the throne room. You are the figure they look up to. A Silver who was raised like a Red . “They want to use me to stop the rebellion. I don’t know how.”

“That’s right, my dear brother-in-law and his empress believe you can do that, if used properly.” Bitterness dripped from every word he spoke.

“It’s a stupid and impossible idea. I won’t be able to do anything, then…” My voice trailed off. Then they will kill me.

Julian followed my train of thought. “You’re wrong, Mare. You don’t understand the power you have now, how much you can control.” He clasped his hands behind him

his back, too tight. “The Red Guards for the most part acted too drastically, too much and too quickly. But you are a controlled change, who can win people’s trust. You are the slow flame that will extinguish a revolution with a few speeches and a smile. You can talk to the Reds, tell them how noble, how kind, how righteous the king and the Silvers are. You can talk to your people until they are willing to return to the cage of their own accord. Even the Silvers who doubted the king, who had doubts, can be convinced by you . And the world will go on the same as before.”

To my surprise, Julian seemed disappointed by this. Without the buzzing cameras, I forget myself and my face turns into a grin. “And you don’t want that? You’re a Silver, you should hate the Red Guards—and me.”

“To think all Silvers are evil is like thinking all Reds are inferior,” he said, his voice somber. “What my people did to you and your people was wrong to the deepest level of humanity. Oppressing you, trapping you in an endless cycle of poverty and death, just because we think you are different from us? That cannot be justified. And as any student of history can tell you, that will end badly.”

“But we are different.” Just one day on this earth has taught me that. “We are not equal.”

Julian leaned over, his eyes piercing me. “I see proof that you are wrong.”

You’re looking at a strange person, Julian.

“Will you let me prove you wrong, Mare?”

“What’s the use of that? Nothing will change.”

Julian let out a long, exasperated breath. His hand brushed his thinning brown hair. “For hundreds of years the Silvers have walked the earth as incarnations of the gods, while the Reds have been slaves under their feet, until you came . If that can’t be called change, I don’t know what else it can be called.”

He can help me survive. In fact, he might be able to help me get through life.

“So what should we do?”

My days run with a rhythm, always on the same schedule. Protocol in the morning, lesson in the afternoon. Meanwhile Elara took me on parade at lunch and dinner events in between. The Panther and Sonya still seemed wary of me, but hadn’t said a word since lunch. Maven’s help looks useful, as much as I hate to admit it.

At the next big event, this time in the queen’s private dining hall, the Iral clan ignored me completely. Despite the Protocol lessons, lunch was still difficult as I tried to remember what I had learned. Osanos, nymph, blue and green. Welle, greenwarden, green and gold. Lerolan, destroyer, orange and red. Rhambos and Tyros and Nornus and Iral and many more . I’ll never know how anyone can remember all that.

As usual, I was seated right next to Evangeline. I was fully aware of the large amount of metal cutlery on the table, all of which could become deadly weapons in Evangeline’s vile hands. Every time he raised the knife to slice his food, my body tensed, waiting for his attack. Elara knew what I was thinking, as usual, but enjoyed her food with a smile. It was probably worse than Evangeline’s torment, finding herself having fun watching our silent war.

“Do you like the Hall of Suns, Lady Titanos?” A girl across the table from me asked— Atara, Viper Clan, green and black. Animos who killed a flock of pigeons. “I don’t think it can compare to the—hamlet you lived in before.” He said the word hillbilly like a curse, and I didn’t miss his grin.

The other girls laughed along with him, some others whispered openly.

It took me a minute to respond as I tried to keep my blood from boiling. “The Hall and Summerton are very different from what I’m used to,” I forced myself to say.

“That’s clear.” Another woman said, leaning in to join the conversation. One of the Welle clan, judging by his green-and-gold tunic. “I once took a tour of the Capital Valley, and I have to admit, the Red villages are truly depressing. They don’t even have proper roads.”

We barely had food, let alone paved roads . My jaw tightened until I thought my teeth might shatter. I tried to smile, but ended up cringing as the other women voiced their agreement.

“And the Reds, well, I guess that’s the best they can do with what they’ve got.” The Welle continued, imagining it while wrinkling his nose. “They deserve that kind of life.”

“It’s not our fault they were born to serve.” A brown-robed Rhambos spoke lightly, as if he were talking about weather conditions or food. “That’s the nature of things.”

Anger welled up inside me, but one glance from the queen told me to keep quiet. Instead, I have to do my job. I have to lie. “Of course.” I heard myself say. Under the table, my hands clenched into fists, and I thought my heart would break.

Across the table, the women listened attentively. Most smiled, the rest nodded as I reiterated their bad beliefs about my people. Their faces made me want to scream.

“Of course.” I continued, unable to stop myself. “To be forced to live such a life, without rest, without leniency, and without freedom, would make anyone a servant.”

Some smiles faded, replaced by confusion.

“Lady Titanos will have the best teachers and the best help to ensure she is able to adapt

appropriate.” Elara said quickly, cutting me off. “He’s already started with Lady Blonos.”

The women mumbled in understanding, while the girls rolled their eyes at each other. It was enough time to recover, to reclaim the self-control I needed to survive the meal.

“What plans does His Majesty the King have for the rebellion that is taking place?” A woman asked, her hoarse voice sending a shock of silence through the banquet guests, pulling the focus away from me.

Every eye at the table turned to the speaker, a woman in military uniform. A number of other women also wore uniforms but this woman’s uniform was the most striking with the most medals and ribbons. The ugly streak across his freckled face revealed that he probably deserved the award. In this palace, it would be easy to forget that there was a war going on, but the horror in the woman’s eyes revealed that she would never, and could never , forget it.

Queen Elara set down her spoon with practiced grace and an equally practiced smile. “Colonel Macanthos, I wouldn’t call them rebels at all—”

“And those are just the attacks they acknowledged.” The Colonel shot back, cutting off the queen’s words. “What about the explosion at Harbor Bay, or at the airfield at Delphie? Three jetliners were destroyed, and two others were stolen from one of our own bases!”

My eyes widened, and I couldn’t help but gasp along with several of the other girls. Any more attacks? But while the others looked horrified, with their hands covering their mouths, I had to resist the urge to smile. Farley is really busy.

“Are you an engineer, Colonel?” Elara’s voice was sharp, cold, and final. He didn’t give Macanthos a chance to shake his head. “Because of that, you would never know that a gas leak in the Gulf was the cause of the explosion that occurred. And please remind me, are you in command of the air force? Oh no, I’m sorry, your expertise is with the army. The airfield incident was a training exercise supervised by General Laris himself. He has personally confirmed to His Majesty the King’s assurance of the safety of the Delphie base.”

In a fair fight, Macanthos could completely defeat Elara with his bare hands. However, instead, Elara completely conquered the Colonel with just her words. And he wasn’t even done yet. Julian’s words echoed in my head— words can lie .

“Their goal is to harm innocent civilians, both Silvers and Reds, to create fear and hysteria. They are small in number, easily tamed, and cowardly, hiding from my husband’s administration of justice. By calling every accident and misunderstanding that occurs in this kingdom as the handiwork of such devils will only prove their efforts to terrorize us all. Don’t give those monsters that satisfaction.”

A number of women at the table clapped and nodded, agreeing with the queen’s sweeping lie. Evangeline joined in

joined in, and the action quickly spread, until only the colonel and I remained silent. I could tell she didn’t believe a word of what the queen was saying, but there was no way to call the queen a liar. Not here, not in the arena.

No matter how much I wanted to stay silent, I knew I couldn’t. I am Mareena, not Mare, and I must support my queen and her words of woe. My hands joined together, clapping for Elara’s lies, while the reprimanded colonel lowered his head.

Even though I was always surrounded by servants and Perak people, a feeling of loneliness began to creep in. I rarely see Cal, because his agenda is busy with practice, practice, and more practice. He could even leave the Hall, going to brief troops at nearby bases or accompanying his father on affairs of state. I guess I can talk to Maven, with his blue eyes and mischievous grin, but I’m still wary of him. Luckily we were never left alone. It was a ridiculous court tradition, to prevent noble young men and women from being seduced , as Lady Blonos said, but I doubted it would apply to me.

Honestly, half the time I forget that I’m supposed to

marry her someday. The image of Maven as my husband feels truly unreal. We weren’t even friends, let alone a couple. No matter how good he is, instinct tells me not to easily believe Elara’s son, that he must be hiding something. What he might be hiding, I don’t know.

Julian’s lessons kept me going; The education that I initially regretted has now become a bright spot in my sea of ​​darkness. Without the cameras and Elara’s gaze, we can spend time finding out what I really am. However, the process was slow, leaving us both frustrated.

“I think I know what your problem is,” Julian said at the end of my first week. I stood a few feet away, arms outstretched, looking like a fool as usual. There was a strange electrical device at my feet, occasionally spewing sparks. Julian wanted me to control it, use it, but then again, I failed to produce the lightning that got me into this mess in the first place.

“Perhaps I should be in danger first,” I snorted. “Should we just ask Lucas for a gun?”

Usually Julian would laugh at my jokes, but right now he was too busy thinking.

“You’re like a child.” He finally said. I wrinkled my nose at the insult, but he continued anyway. “That’s what children are like at first, when they can’t control themselves. Their abilities emerge when stressed or frightened, until they learn to control those emotions and use them to their advantage. There are always triggers, and you need to know what triggers you.”

I remember how I felt in Spiral Gardens, falling to what I thought was my death. However, it wasn’t fear that coursed through my veins as my body slammed into the lightning shield—it was a sense of peace. Realizing that the end of my life has come

and accepting there was nothing I could do to stop it

—it was a sense of letting go.

“It’s worth a try, at least,” Julian insisted.

With a groan, I faced the wall again. Julian lined up stone bookcases, all empty of course, so I would have something to aim at. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him moving backwards, watching me the whole time.

Let go. Let yourself go, a voice in the back of my mind whispered. My eyes slid closed as I focused my thoughts, letting them collapse so my mind could reach out, feel the electricity it wanted to touch. Ripples of energy, alive beneath my skin, sweep me back until the energy sings in every muscle and nerve. Usually the sensation stopped at that moment, right at the end of the sensation, but not this time. Instead of trying to hold it in, to push myself to the source of this power, I let go. And I was plunged into something I couldn’t explain, into a sensation that was both everything and nothing, light and dark, hot and cold, life and death. Soon, that power was the only thing that filled my mind, covering up all my worries and memories. Even Julian and the books disappeared. My mind was clear, an empty space buzzing with powerful energy. Now, when I push, the sensation doesn’t go away and moves inside me, from my eyes to the tips of my fingers. To my left, Julian let out a loud gasp.

When my eyes opened, I saw white and purple sparks jump from the device toward my fingers, like electricity between wires.

For once, Julian was speechless. So do I.

I didn’t want to move, afraid that the slightest change would make the lightning disappear. However, the lightning did not disappear. Lightning lingered, jumped, and twirled in my hands like a kitten with its knitted ball. It seemed just as harmless, but I remembered what I almost did to Evangeline. This power can destroy if I let it.

“Try moving it.” Julian finally spoke, studying me with wide, eager eyes.

My gut feeling tells me that this lightning will obey my wishes. Lightning is a part of me, a piece of my soul that lives in this world.

My hands clenched into tight fists, and the sparks reacted to my tensed muscles, becoming bigger, brighter, and faster. They devoured my sleeves, burning the fabric in seconds. Like a child throwing a ball, I jerked my arm toward the rock shelves, releasing my fist at the last moment. The lightning flashed through the air in a circle of bright sparks, striking the bookshelves.

The booming sound made me scream and fall crashing into a pile of books. As I fell to the floor, with my heart pounding in my chest, the sturdy stone bookshelf collapsed instantly in a thick cloud of dust. Sparks swept through the rubble for a moment before disappearing, leaving nothing but remnants of debris.

“Sorry about that shelf,” I said from under a pile of fallen books. My sleeves were still smoking with threads

it was charred, but that was nothing compared to the buzzing in my hand. My nerves sing, tingling with power—which feels good.

Julian’s shadow moved through the dust-filled air, the sound of laughter echoing from deep within his chest, as he inspected my handiwork. His wide smile showing off a row of white teeth shines through the dust.

“We are going to need bigger classrooms.”

He wasn’t wrong. We were forced to look for new and bigger rooms to practice in every day, until we finally found a location in the basement a week later. Here the walls are made of metal and concrete, stronger than the wood and decorative stones on the upper floors. My aim was terrible, and Julian was careful to keep my distance while I practiced, but it was getting easier and easier for me to deliver the lightning.

Julian took notes all the time, writing down everything from my heart rate to the heat produced by a cup that had just been electrocuted. Each new note brought a confused and pleased smile to his face, even though he wouldn’t tell me why. I doubt I would understand even if he told me.

“Amazing,” he muttered, reading something from another metal device I didn’t recognize. He said it measures electrical energy, but I don’t know how.

I rubbed my hands together, watching them “lower their power,” as Julian put it. My sleeves remained intact this time, thanks to my new clothes. The material is fireproof,

just like the ones Cal and Maven wore, although I guess my clothes should be called electrocution-proof. “What’s so amazing?”

He hesitated, as if he didn’t want to tell me, as if he should n’t tell me, but finally he shrugged. “Before you turned up the power and roasted the poor statue”—he pointed at the pile of smoking rubble that had once been the head of a king—“I measured the amount of electrical power in this room. From the lights, the wiring, and things like that. And now I’m just measuring you.”


“You put out twice as much power as I recorded earlier,” he said proudly, but I didn’t understand why that mattered. With a quick dive, he turned off what I would now call a glow box. I could feel the electricity inside it disappearing. “Try again.”

While exhaling, I refocused myself. After a moment of concentration, my spark returned, just as strong as before. However, this time they came from within me.

Julian’s smile spread across his face so wide. “So …?”

“So this confirms my suspicions.” Sometimes I forget that Julian is a scientist and researcher. But he was always quick to remind me. “You generate electrical energy.”

Now I’m really confused. “Correct. That’s my ability , Julian.” “No, before I thought your ability was strength

manipulate, not create,” he said, his voice suddenly serious. “No one can create , Mare.”

“But, that doesn’t make sense. The nymphs—”

“Manipulating existing water. They can’t use what doesn’t exist.”

“Then what about Cal? Maven? I don’t see that there are many flames around for them to play with.”

Julian smiled, shaking his head. “You’ve seen their bracelets, right?”

“They always wear them.”

“The bracelets produce sparks, small flames for them to control. Without something to fuel the fire, they had no power at all. All elemental controllers are the same, manipulating metal or water or existing plant life. They are only as strong as the environment they find themselves in. Not like you, Mare.”

Not like me. I’m not like anyone . “So what does this mean?”

“I’m not so sure myself. You’re a whole new thing. Not Red, not Silver. Something else. Something more. 

“Something different.” I was hoping that Julian’s series of tests would bring me closer to some kind of answer, but instead it just raised more questions. “What am I really, Julian? What is wrong with me?”

Suddenly it was very difficult for me to breathe, and my eyes started to water. I had to blink to wipe away the hot tears, trying to hide them from Julian. I think all of this is starting to make me feel so overwhelmed. Lessons, Protocols, this place with people I can’t trust anyone,

a place where I can’t even be myself. It feels really suffocating. I want to scream, but I know I can’t.

“There’s nothing wrong with being different.” I heard Julian say, but the words were just an echo. My own thoughts, memories of home, of Gisa and Kilorn, drowned out his voice.

“Mare?” He took a step closer to me, his face a picture of kindness—but he kept his distance at arm’s length. Not for my sake—but for his own. To protect herself from me. With a gasp, I realized the sparks were back, running up my forearms now, threatening to engulf me in a swirling storm of light. “Mare, focus yourself on me. Mare, control it.”

He spoke slowly, calmly, but with steady strength. He even seemed afraid of me.

“ Take control , Mare.”

But I couldn’t control anything. Not with my future, not with my thoughts, not even with this ability which is the root of all my problems.

However, there is still one thing I can control, at least, for now. My feet.

Like a wretched coward, I ran.

The halls were empty as I ran through them, but the invisible weight of thousands of cameras crushed me. I didn’t have much time until Lucas or, worse, the Sentinels, found me. I just need to breathe. I just need to look at the sky above me, not the glass.

I stood on a balcony for a full ten seconds before I realized the rain was falling, washing my boiling anger clean. The sparks had disappeared, replaced by tears streaming down my face. Thunder rumbled in the distance, and the air was warm. However, the humid temperature had disappeared. The heat has broken, and summer is coming to an end. Time elapsed. My life moves forward, no matter how much I wish that time stayed exactly the same.

When a strong hand gripped my arm, I nearly screamed. Two Sentinel figures stood in front of me, their eyes dark behind their masks. Both of them were twice my size and heartless, trying to drag me back into my prison.

“Ladies.” One of them growled, but it didn’t sound respectful at all.

“Let me go.” The order was weak, almost a whisper. I swallowed air as if I was drowning. “Please, just give me a few minutes—”

However, I am not their employer. They didn’t obey my orders. Nobody.

“You heard my bride.” Another voice sounded. His words were firm and loud, the voice of royalty. Maven . “Let her go.”

When the prince stepped onto the balcony, I couldn’t help but feel a burst of relief. The Sentinels straightened at his presence, both bowing their heads towards him. The person holding me spoke. “We have to make sure Lady Titanos keeps to her schedule,” he said but he loosened his grip. “That’s the order, sir.”

“Then you have new orders.” Maven responded, his voice cold as ice. “I will accompany Mareena back to her lessons.”

“Okay sir.” The two Sentinels said in unison, unable to refuse the prince’s order.

As they stomped away, their flaming robes dripping with rain, I sighed loudly. Without realizing it beforehand, my hands were shaking, and I had to clench my fists to cover the tremors. However, Maven was polite and pretended not to notice.

“We have a working shower inside , just so you know.”

My hands wiped my eyes, even though my tears had long been washed away by the rain, leaving only a runny nose and smeared makeup on my face. Luckily, my silver powder held up. The powder was made from a material stronger than mine.

“First rain of the season.” I managed to say, forcing myself to sound normal. “Gotta see it for yourself.”

“Right,” he said, shifting to stand next to me. I turned my head, hoping to hide my face a little longer. “I understand, just so you know.”

Is that true, O Prince? Do you understand what it feels like to be ripped away from everything you love, forced to become someone else? To lie every minute of every day for the rest of your life? Realized that there was something wrong with you?

I didn’t have the strength to face his knowing smile. “You can stop pretending to know everything

about myself or my feelings.”

His face turned sour at the tone of my voice, his mouth grimaced. “Do you think I don’t know how difficult it is to be here? With these people ?” He glanced over his shoulder as if he was worried someone might be eavesdropping. However, no one heard except the patter of rain and the sound of thunder. “I couldn’t say what I wanted, do what I wanted—with my mother near me, I couldn’t even think about what I wanted. And my brother—!”

“What’s wrong with your sister?”

The words got stuck in his mouth. He didn’t want to say it, but he felt it anyway. “He was strong, he was talented, he was powerful—and I was his shadow. A shadow for the flame.”

Slowly, he exhaled, and I realized the air around us was strangely hot. “Excuse me.” He added, taking a step back, letting the air cool. Before my eyes, Maven melted back into a Silver prince figure more suited to banquets and formal uniforms. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I muttered. “It’s good to hear that I’m not completely alone in feeling isolated.”

“That’s one thing you should know about us Silvers. We are always alone. Here, and here,” he said, pointing between his head and his heart. “It makes you strong.”

Lightning flashed in the sky, illuminating his pair of blue eyes until they seemed to shine. “That’s ridiculous,” I told him, and he chuckled bitterly.

“You’d better hide that heart of yours, Lady Titanos.

Your heart will not lead you wherever you want to go.”

His words made me shudder. Finally I remembered the rain and my appearance which must have been messy. “I should get back to my studies,” I muttered, fully intending to leave him on the balcony. Instead, he caught my arm.

“I think I can help you with your problem.” I raised an eyebrow at him. “What is the problem?”

“You don’t seem like the type of girl who would cry so easily. You miss home.” He raised his hand before I could protest. “I can fix that.”[]

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