Chapter no 14

Red Queen (Red Queen, 1)

o restrain myself.

“I think it’s a miracle.” Mom muttered, forcing a smile to cheer me up. “We always wanted better for you, and now, we got it. Bree and Tramy are safe, Gisa doesn’t need to worry, we can live happily, and you”—her teary eyes met mine—”you, darling, will be someone special. What more could a mother ask for?”

If only his words were true, but I still nodded, smiling for the sake of my mother and family. I was getting better at lying, and they seemed to believe me. But not Kilorn. He was still harboring anger, trying to hold back another outburst.

“What is he like, the prince?” Mother asked curiously. “Maven?”

Dangerous topic . I could feel Cal listening, waiting to hear what I thought about his little brother. What can I say? That he is good? That I’m starting to like him? That I still don’t know if I can trust him? Or worse, that I can’t trust anyone anymore? “He’s not what I thought he was.”

Gisa noticed my unease and turned to Cal. “So who is he, your personal bodyguard?” he said, changing the topic with just a wink.

“I’m his personal bodyguard,” said Cal, representing me to answer. He knew I didn’t want to lie to my family, no more than I was forced to do. “And I’m sorry, but we have to go.”

His words were like a stab of a dagger, but I had to obey him. “Good.”

My mother stood by my side, holding my hand so tightly that I was afraid it might break. “We won’t say anything, of course.”

“Not a word.” Dad agreed. My brothers also nodded, swearing to keep their mouths shut.

But Kilorn’s face was frowning so darkly. For some reason, he got so angry and I couldn’t bring myself to ask him why. But I’m also angry . Shade’s death still weighs on me like a heavy rock. “Kilorn?”

“Yeah, I’ll keep my mouth shut too,” he spat. Before I could stop him, he rose from the chair and shot out in a whirlwind that stirred the air. The door slammed shut behind him, rattling the walls. I was used to Kilorn’s temper, his rare moments of desperation, but this anger was something new from him. I don’t know how to handle it.

My sister’s touch brought me out of my reverie, reminding me that this was goodbye. “It’s a blessing.” He whispered into my ear. “Do not waste.”

“You’re coming back, right?” Bree asked, while Gisa pulled away. For the first time since he had gone to war, I saw fear in his eyes. “You’re a princess now, you can of course make the rules.”

If only that were the case.

Cal and I exchanged glances. I could tell by the tense twist of his mouth and by the darkness in his eyes what he was about

should be my answer.

“I’ll try,” I whispered, my voice breaking. One more lie wouldn’t hurt.

When we arrived at the end of Jangkungan Village, Gisa’s farewell words still haunted me. There was no blame in his eyes, even though I had taken everything from him. His final words echoed in the gust of wind, drowning out everything else. Do not waste.

“I’m sorry about your brother.” Cal said. “I didn’t know he—”

“-is dead?” Executed for desertion. Again a lie. The anger rose again, and I didn’t even want to rein it in. However, what can I do about it? What could I do to get revenge against my brother, or even to try to save the others?

Do not waste.

“I have to stop at one more place.” Before Cal could protest, I put on my best smile. “It won’t take long, I promise.”

To my surprise, he nodded slowly in the darkness.

“A job at the Hall, it’s very prominent.” Will chuckled as I sat in his carriage. The old blue candles were still burning, casting light that swayed around us. As I expected, Farley had been missing for a long time.

When I was sure the doors and windows were closed, I lowered my voice. “I don’t work there, Will. They-“

To my surprise, Will dismissed my words with a wave of his hand. “Oh, I already know all that. Want some tea?”

“Uh, no.” My words shook with shock. “How could you—?”

“The court clowns just elected a queen last week, of course they have to broadcast it in the cities of Perak.” A voice said from behind the curtain. The figure stepped out, revealing not Farley, but what appeared to be a pole in human form. His head brushed the ceiling, making his body crouched awkwardly. Her fiery red hair was long, matching the red sash draped across her body from her shoulders to her hips. The sash is joined by the same sun badge that Farley wears in his broadcasts. And my eyes couldn’t fail to see the gun belt around his waist, full of shiny bullets and a pair of pistols. He was also a member of the Red Front.

“You’ve been all over the silver screen, Lady Titanos .” He said my title was like a curse. “You and that Samos girl. Tell me, is his attitude as bad as his appearance?”

“This is Tristan, one of Farley’s lieutenants,” Will chimed in. She shot him a reprimanding look. “Tristan, be nice.”

“Why?” I snorted. “Evangeline Samos is a bloodthirsty bastard.”

Smiling, Tristan shot Will a satisfied look.

“Not all of them are clowns.” I added quietly, remembering Maven’s generous words earlier today.

“Are you talking about the prince you are betrothed to or the other one who is waiting in the forest?” Will asked calmly, as if he was asking about the price of flour.

At the stark difference, Tristan was immediately alert, shooting up from his chair. I led him to the door, arms outstretched. Luckily, I managed to control myself. The last thing I needed was to electrocute a member of the Red Front.

“You brought a Silver here?” He hissed at me. ” Prince ? Do you know what we can do if we take him hostage? What offer can we make?”

Even though his body was looming in front of me, I didn’t back away. “Don’t bother him.”

“Just a few weeks in the lap of luxury and your blood will be as silver as theirs.” He spat, looking as if he wanted to kill me. “You’re going to electrocute me too?”

His words were hurtful, and he knew it. I dropped my hands, afraid my hands would betray me. “I’m not protecting him, I’m protecting you , you idiot. Cal is a real warrior, and if he wanted to, he could burn this whole village to the ground.” Not that he would. I hope.

Tristan’s hand moved to his rifle. “I want to see him try.”

But Will placed a gnarled hand on his friend’s arm. That touch was enough to make the rebel surrender. “It’s enough.” He whispered. “What did you come here for, Mare? Kilorn is safe, and so are your brothers.”

I took a deep breath, with my gaze still fixed on Tristan. He just threatened to kidnap Cal and hold him for ransom. And for some reason, thinking about that makes me anxious to the bottom of my heart.

“My brother—” Just one word came out and I was already exhausted. “Shade is part of the Line.” It was no longer a question, but the truth. Will lowered his gaze, apologizing, and Tristan’s head even drooped. “They killed him because of that. They killed my brother, and I have to act like it doesn’t bother me at all.”

“You’ll die if you don’t pretend.”

“I know it. I will say whatever they want when the time comes. But—” My voice caught a little, at the end of this new road. “I was in the palace, the center of their world. I’m fast, I’m quiet, and I can help this fight.”

Tristan took a deep breath, straightening himself up to his full height. Despite his previous anger, there was now a glimmer of pride in his eyes. “You want to join.”

“I want to join.”

Will clenched his jaw, his gaze boring into my eyes. “I hope you realize what you are committing to. This isn’t just my war or Farley’s war or the Red Guard’s war—this is your war. Until the last drop of blood. And not just to get revenge for your brother, but to get revenge for all of us. To fight for those who have gone, and to save those who will follow.”

His knobby hand reached for mine and for the first time, I noticed the tattoo around his wrist: a red bracelet. Just like they forced us to wear. It’s just that now he’s wearing his bracelet forever. It was a part of him, like the blood that coursed through our veins.

“Are you with us, Mare Barrow?” he asked, his hand covering mine. There will be more wars, more deaths, Cal said. But there is a possibility that he is wrong. There’s a chance we can change that.

My fingers tightened, holding on to Will. I could feel the weight of my actions, the importance behind them.

“I’m with you.”

“We will rise,” he whispered, at the same time as Tristan. I remembered those words and said them along with them. “Red as the dawn.”

In the candlelight, our shadows looked like monsters on the walls.

When I rejoined Cal at the city limits, I felt somehow lighter, strengthened by my resolve and hopeful for the future. Cal walked alongside me, occasionally glancing at me, but not saying a word. While I would pry, elbow, and coerce answers out of someone, Cal was the complete opposite. Perhaps it was a military tactic he took from one of his book collections: let the enemy come to you.

Because that’s who I am now. His enemy.

He confused me, just like his little brother. They were both kind, even though they knew I was a Red, even though they shouldn’t have looked at me at all. But Cal drove me home, and Maven was nice to me, wanting to help. They are strange men.

As we entered the woods again, Cal’s demeanor changed, hardening to a serious look. “I have to talk to the queen about changing your schedule.”


“You almost exploded there,” he said quietly. “You have to go through Training with us, to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.”

Julian is training me . However, even a small voice in the back of my mind knew Julian was no replacement for what Cal, Maven, and Evangeline went through. If I learned even half of what they know, who knows what help I could be to the Red Front. Share Shade’s memories.

“Well, if it gets me out of Protocol lessons, I won’t say no.”

Suddenly, Cal jumped off his bicycle. Both of his hands were burning and the same burning light could be seen in his eyes.

“Someone is watching us.”

I didn’t bother asking him. Cal’s soldier senses are sharp, but what could threaten him here? What could he possibly fear in the forest of a desolate, impoverished village? A village filled with rebels, I reminded myself.

However, instead of Farley or an armed revolutionary army, Kilorn stepped out from behind the foliage. I forgot how clever he was, how easily he moved in the dark.

Cal’s two fiery hands instantly extinguished in a puff of smoke. “Oh, you.”

Kilorn took his eyes off me, now glaring at Cal. He lowered his head in a scornful bow. “I’m sorry, Your Majesty.”

Instead of trying to deny it, Cal stood a little straighter, looking like someone born to be a king. He did not respond and returned to freeing his bicycle from the bushes. However, I felt his gaze on me, observing every moment that passed between Kilorn and me.

“You’re really going to do this?” Kilorn asked, looking like a wounded animal. “Are you really going to go? To become one of them?”

Those words hurt more than a slap. This wasn’t an option, I wanted to tell him.

“You saw for yourself what just happened there, what I could do. They can help me .” Even I was surprised to realize how easily the lie came about. Someday I might even be able to lie to myself, to trick my mind into thinking I’m happy. “I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

Kilorn shook his head, one hand tugging at my arm as if to pull me back to the past, when our worries were so simple. “You should be here.”

“Mare.” Cal waited patiently, leaning back against the seat of his bike, but his voice was firm, warning.

“I have to go.” I tried to push past Kilorn, to leave him, but he wouldn’t let me. He was always stronger than me. And no matter how much I wanted to let him hold me, it was impossible.

“Mare, please—”

Pulsating heat waves hit us, like beams of scorching sunlight.

“Let him go,” Cal growled, standing in front of me. Heat rose from his body, almost tearing the air apart. The calm he had fought for was wearing thin, threatening to explode.

Kilorn snorted into his face, itching for a fight. But he was just like me; we are thieves, we are rats. We know when to fight and when to run. Half-heartedly, he moved back, letting his fingers leave trails along my arm. This might be the last time we see each other.

The air cooled, but Cal didn’t back down. I was his sister’s fiancé—he had to be protective of me.

“You did me a favor too, to save me from the trap of war.” Kilorn spoke slowly, finally understanding the price I had to pay. “You have a bad habit of trying to save me.”

I could barely nod, and I had to put my helmet over my head to hide the tears that were filling my eyes. Wearily, I followed Cal to the bike and slid into the seat behind him.

Kilorn moved back, blinking as the bike’s engine started. Then he grinned at me, his expression contorting into an expression that used to make me want to punch him.

“I’ll tell Farley you said hello.” The bike roared like a wild beast, separating me from Kilorn,

Jangkungan Village, and my old life. Horror coursed through me like poison, until I was seized with fear from head to toe. However, not for myself. No longer. I’m scared for Kilorn, for the stupid thing he’s going to do.

He’s going to look for Farley. And he will join him .[]

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