Chapter no 28

Red Queen (Red Queen, 1)

THE SHIELD MOVED TO LIFE above us, a giant purple dome of interwoven glass veins like the ones in Spiral Gardens. Not to protect us—but to protect the crowd. Sparks of lightning pulsed across the giant ceiling, taunting me. Without Arven, the lightning would be mine and I could fight. I can show the world who I really am. But that won’t happen.

Cal shifted, holding out his arm. The air rippled around him, distorted by the heat waves rolling out of his body. He positioned himself facing the others, protecting me.

“Keep standing behind me as long as possible,” he said, letting his heat push me back. The fire starter started, and the fire crackled between his fingers, rising up his arm. Something inside his shirt kept it from burning, and the fabric didn’t smoke. “When they break through the walls, you have to run. Evangeline is the weakest but the mighty arm is slow. You can run ahead of him. They will drag it out, make it a spectacle.” Then quietly, “They won’t let us die quickly.”

“How about you? Osanos will—”

“Leave me alone to worry about Osanos.”

The executioners moved calmly like a pack of wolves stalking their prey. They spread out to the center of the arena, each ready to attack. Somewhere, an iron plate and a piece of the arena floor shifted, revealing a pool of water lapping at Lord Osanos’ feet. He smiled, summoning the water to rise around him like a menacing shield. I remember his daughter Tirana who dueled with Maven in the Training session. Tirana destroyed it.

All around, the crowd cheered. Ptolemus roared with them, letting his famous temper take over. He beat his armor, making it ring like a bell. Beside him, Evangeline twirled her daggers, slipping them between her knuckles with a grin.

“It won’t be like before, Red,” he exclaimed haughtily. “No tricks can save you now.”

Trick. Evangeline knows my abilities better than most people; he knew it wasn’t a trick. But he was consumed. He ignores the truth for something easier to understand .

Haven’s son, Stralian, smiled to himself. Like his sister Elane, he is a shadow. As he blinked out of view, disappearing into the bright sunlight, Cal moved faster than I thought possible, swinging his arms in wide arcs as if he were about to throw a wild fist.

The flames followed his arms, burning through the sand, separating us from them. But the fire turned out to be weak. The sand cannot burn for long.

I couldn’t stop myself from turning back towards Maven, wanting to scream at him, only to find him still looking at me with a cruel grin. Not only had he taken away my abilities, he had also limited Cal’s abilities as much as possible.

“Bastard.” I cursed under my breath. “The sand—”

“I know,” Cal snarled, igniting more of the sand with a wave of his hand.

Directly across from us, a line of fire split for a moment, immediately followed by a heartbreaking scream of pain. On the other side of the dying fire, Stralian faded into view again, trying to shake off the flames from his arms. Osanos doused it with a lazy movement, extinguishing the fire with a splash of water. Then he turned his piercing blue eyes to us, at Cal’s walls, and in one motion, poured water along the weak flames like small waves. The water hissed and spat, instantly boiling into a thick cloud of steam. Trapped in a glass dome, the steam wafted through the arena, enveloping us in a thin white mist. The steam swirled and swirled, enveloping us in a white world where every shadow could spell our doom.

“Get ready!” Cal shouted, his hand reaching out for me but Ptolemus lunged out of the steam in a roar of flesh and steel.

He struck Cal in the stomach, knocking him to the ground but Cal didn’t fall long enough for Ptolemus to stab him with his dagger. The blades of his daggers dug into the sand a few seconds after Cal jumped, both hands on Ptolemus’ armor. The iron plate melted under his touch, giving birth

the scream of the berserker. I could only run, while Cal tried to roast a guy in his armor.

“I don’t want to kill you, Ptolemus,” said Cal amidst screams of pain. Every blade of the dagger, every piece of iron that Ptolemus lifted to stab Cal melted from the heat. “I don’t want to do this.”

Three gleaming daggers cut through the steam, just a flash. Too fast to melt in the air. The knives hit Cal’s back, cutting through his clothes before melting. Cal cried out in pain, losing focus for a moment as three streaks of silver blood stained his shirt. The daggers were too small to penetrate deeply, but they still weakened him. Ptolemus seized his chance and in the blink of an eye, his daggers merged into a giant sword. Ptolemus slashed, looking like he wanted to cut Cal in half, but he dodged in time, despite getting a scratch on the side of his stomach.

Still alive. But not for long.

Evangeline emerged from the steam, her blades twirling in a flashing display. Cal ducked and dodged the knives, throwing jets of fire to throw him off balance. He duels against both of them, achieving a crazy rhythm that allows him to fight the two magnetrons, despite their great strength and power. But blood stained his clothes and new wounds appeared with every second that passed. Ptolemus’ weapons changed, from a sword to an axe, then to a razor-thin, razor-sharp iron whip, while Evangeline’s jagged stars continued to bite. They wear him down. Slowly but surely.

My lightning, I thought darkly, turning to Arven at our gate. He was still there, a dark presence to haunt me. A gun hung from his waist. I couldn’t even try to fight it. I can’t do anything.

When a huge chunk of concrete floated out of the steam, heading straight for me, I barely had time to dodge. The chunk shattered into pieces in the sand where I had been standing seconds ago, but before I could think, another chunk came, howling through the air. The sky dumped concrete rain on me. Just like Cal, I found my rhythm, running back and forth across the sand like a mouse, until something stopped me dead in my tracks.

A hand. Invisible hands.

Stralian’s grip closed around my throat, choking me. I could hear his breathing in my ear, even though I couldn’t see him. “Die, Red,” he growled, tightening his grip.

My arms flailed, my elbows punching what I assumed were his ribs, but he held firm. I couldn’t breathe and black dots covered my vision, threatening to spread further, but I kept fighting. Through the mist, I could see the mighty arms of Rhambos prowling for prey, his eyes locked on me. He’s going to finish me off.

Cal was still fighting against the Samos brothers, trying his best not to get stabbed. I couldn’t scream for him even if I wanted to, but somehow he managed to throw a fireball at me. Rhambos was forced to jump

dodged, staggered by its huge feet, buying me a few seconds. Gasping, choking, I thrust my nails back, trying to reach the head I couldn’t see. It was a miracle when I felt his face, then his eyes. With a gasping scream, I dug my nails deep, my thumb into his eye socket, blinding him. Stralian roared, releasing my body. He fell to his knees, blinking until his form came back into view. Silver blood splattered from his eyes like glass tears.

“You were supposed to be mine!” a voice shouted. Turning, I found Evangeline standing in front of Cal, her knife raised. Ptolemus had wrestled Cal to the ground, the two of them rolled around in the sand while Evangeline hunted them, her knives raining down on the ground around Cal. “Mine!”

It didn’t occur to me that charging headfirst into a magnetron might not be a good idea until I collided with him. We fell together, his armor scraping my face. The impact was hard, painful, and bloody , spilling red droplets for all eyes to see. Even though I couldn’t look at the screen, I knew that every screen was broadcasting images of my blood across the land.

Evangeline screeched, attacking with her dancing blades. Behind us, Cal struggled to his feet, brushing Ptolemus away with flames. The magnetron collided with her sister, pushing Evangeline’s body away only seconds before the blades sliced ​​through me.

“Duck!” Cal shouted, throwing me into the sand as another slab of concrete flew at us, shattering into pieces.

the puck when it hits the opposite wall.

We can’t go on like this . “I have an idea.”

Cal spat out sand, and I thought I saw some teeth mixed with his blood. “Good, because I ran out of ideas five minutes ago.”

Another chunk rolled down, forcing us to jump apart, and just in time. Evangeline and Ptolemus return with a vengeance, locking Cal in a wild dance of knives and shrapnel. Their power shook the arena around us, gathering more metal from the depths, forcing Cal to pay attention to his footing in addition to everything else. Bits of pipe and wire stick out of the sand, creating a series of deadly obstacles composed of iron.

One of the splinters stabbed Stralian where he knelt, still screaming from his eyes. The pipe was stuck in his body, sticking out through his mouth to silence his screams once and for all. Through the rubble, I heard the crowd in the arena screaming and gasping at the spectacle. Despite their violent ways, and all the power they possess, they are still cowards.

My feet hit the sand as I walked around Rhambos, daring him to attack me. Cal was right, I was more agile , and even though Rhambos was a muscle monster, he tripped over his own feet trying to catch up to me. He tore the jagged pipes from beneath him, throwing them at me like spears, but they were easy to dodge and he roared in frustration. I’m a Red, I’m nothing but, I can still take you down.

The sound of crashing water brought me back to my senses, making me think of the fifth executioner. The nymph .

I turned just in time to see Lord Osanos part the steam like a curtain, clearing the arena floor. And ten meters away, still dueling fiercely, was Cal. Smoke and fire exploded from him, countering the attacks of the two magnetrons. But Osanos charged, the water following him in a cloak of swirling waves, Cal’s flames receded. This is the real executioner. This is the end of the show.

“Cal!” I screamed, but there was nothing I could do for him.


Another pipe shot past my cheek, so close that I felt the cold sting, so close that it made me stagger and fall. The gate was only a few meters away, with Arven still standing at its mouth, half shrouded in darkness.

Cal sends a blast of fire at Osanos, but he extinguishes it quickly. Steam screamed from the clash between water and fire, but water had the upper hand.

Rhambos lunged, pushing me backwards towards the gate. Cornered. I let him corner me. Rocks and metal crumbled as they hit the wall behind me, enough to shatter my bones. Lightning, my mind screamed. LIGHTNING .

But there was nothing. Just a dark veil of dead senses, suffocating me.

All around us, the crowd jumped to its feet, sensing the end. I could hear Maven above me, cheering along with the others.

“Finish them off!” he shouted. It still shocks me to hear such hatred in his voice. But when I looked up, Maven’s eyes met mine through the shield and steam, there was nothing there but anger, fury, and cruelty.

Rhambos prepared to take aim, with a long serrated spear in his hand. Death has come.

Amid the commotion, I heard a triumphant roar: Ptolemus. He and Evangeline stepped back from the vortex of the water ball, and the misty figure that was immersed in it. Cal. The water boiled, and his body tensed, trying to break free, but in vain. He will drown.

Behind me, almost in my ear, Arven laughed to himself. “Who is superior?” He grinned to himself, repeating his words from the Training session.

My muscles ached and twitched, begging for this to end. I just wanted to lay down, to surrender, to die. They called me a fraud, a deceitful person, and they were right.

I still have one more trick left.

Rhambos took aim, took a stance in the sand, and I knew what I had to do. He threw his spear with all his strength until it seemed to burn the air. I fell, throwing myself into the sand.

The sickening smacking sound told me my plan had worked and the electric scream that came back told me that I could win.

Behind me, Arven collapsed, a spear through his stomach. “I am superior,” I said to his body.

When I got back to my feet, thunder, lightning, sparks, stun, and everything I could control splashed from my body. The crowd screamed loudly, Maven heard above the others.

“Kill him! KILL HIM!” he roared, pointing at me through the dome. “SHOOT HIM!”

The bullets pierced the dome, sparking fire and breaking into fragments as they hit the electrical shield. But the shield remained strong. The shield was supposed to protect them, but it contained electricity. It was lightning, it was mine , and the shield protected me now.

The crowd gasped, not believing their eyes. Red blood dripped from my wounds, and lightning vibrated across my skin, announcing who I really was to everyone. Overhead, the video screens went black. But I’ve been seen. They couldn’t stop what had happened.

Rhambos took a shaky step back, his breath caught in his throat. I didn’t give him a chance to take another breath.

Both Silver and Red, and the stronger of the two.

My lightning struck him, boiling his blood, roasting his nerves, until he fell with his body convulsing.

Osanos fell next as my sparks ran over him. The ball of water crashed onto the ground, and Cal’s body fell to the sand, spitting out the water in a loud cough.

Even though the jagged iron spikes burst through the sand, trying to crush me, I started running, dodging and jumping over every obstacle. They have trained me for this. This is their fault

Alone. They have helped create their own catastrophe.

Evangeline waved her hand, sending a steel beam flying towards my head. I slid under him, knees brushing along the ground, before stopping at his side, lightning flashes in both hands.

He gathered a sword from the metal vortex, forging a blade. My lightning broke it, electrocuted the iron but still he dueled. The metal shifted and split around us, trying to fight me. Even the spiders came back to finish me off, but they weren’t enough. His strength was not enough.

Another bolt of lightning sent his knives flying and he fell backwards, trying to escape my wrath. He won’t be able to.

“It’s not a trick,” said Evangeline quietly, surprised. His eyes darted to my hands as he retreated, bits of metal flying between us forming a hasty shield. “Not a lie.”

I could taste red blood in my mouth, sharp, metallic, and, strangely, pleasant. I spit it out for all eyes to see. Overhead, the blue sky darkens through the shielded dome. Black clouds gathered, heavy and full of rain. The storm is coming.

“You said you would kill me if I got in your way.” It felt so good to throw his words back in his face. “This is your chance.”

His chest rose and fell, panting. He’s tired. He’s hurt. And the steel behind his eyes had almost disappeared, giving way to fear.

He lunged and I moved to block his attack, but it didn’t come. Instead, he ran. He ran away from me , speeding towards the nearest gate he could find. I ran after him, running to hunt him down, but Cal’s frustrated roar stopped me in my tracks.

Osanos had risen again, dueling with renewed vigor, while Ptolemus danced around them, looking for an opening for him to enter. Cal can’t fight the nymph, not with the fire. I remember how easily Maven was defeated in his own training a long time ago.

My hands gripped the nymph’s wrists, electrifying through her skin, forcing her to direct her anger at me. The water felt like a hammer, hitting me until I fell onto the sand. The water came crashing down, making it impossible to breathe. For the first time since I entered the arena, the cold hand of fear gripped my heart. Now that we have a chance to win, to live, I’m so afraid of losing. My lungs screamed for air and I was forced to open my mouth, letting the water choke me. It felt as piercing as fire, like death.

The tiniest spark ran through me, and it was enough to send an electric shock through the water and up towards Osanos. He yelped, jumping back just long enough to let me scramble to escape, slipping along the wet sand. Air

burned my lungs as I gasped for breath, but there was no time to enjoy it. Osanos has returned to hunt me. This time both hands were around my neck, holding me beneath the ankle-deep whirlpool.

But I’m ready for it. He was stupid enough to touch me, to put his skin on me. When I released the bolt, electrifying flesh and water, he screamed like a boiling kettle and fell backwards. As the water receded, seeping into the sand, I knew he was truly dead.

As I rise, soaking wet, vibrating with adrenaline, fear, power, my eyes drift to Cal. He was cut and injured, covered in blood. But his hands blazed with fiery red fire, and Ptolemus stood trembling. He raised both hands in surrender, begging for forgiveness.

“Kill him, Cal,” I snapped, wanting to see him bleed. Above us, the lightning shield flashed again, rumbling with fury. If only it were Evangeline. If only I could do it myself. “He tried to kill us . Kill him.”

Cal didn’t move, exhaling heavily through his teeth. He looked so wounded, thirsting for vengeance, consumed by the passion of war, but also slowly returning to his usual calm and wise man. A man he can no longer embody.

But a person’s character will not change easily. He stepped back, the flames subsiding.

“I won’t do it.”

The silence was oppressive, a welcome change from the screams and shrieks of the crowd that had wanted us dead ever since

long. But when I looked up, I realized they weren’t watching. They didn’t see Cal’s compassion or my abilities. They weren’t even there. The vast arena had been emptied, leaving no one to witness our victory. The king has sent them away, to hide the truth of what we have done so that he can replace it with lies of his own.

From his box, Maven started clapping.

“Great,” he shouted, moving to the edge of the arena. He glanced at us through the shield, his mother right by his side.

The sound hurt more than any knife, making me wince. It echoed throughout the empty building, until the march of feet, boots on stone and sand, drowned it out.

Security guards, Sentinels, soldiers, they all poured out onto the sandpit from every gate. There were hundreds, thousands, too many to fight. Too much to escape by running. We won the battle, but we lost the battle.

Ptolemus hurried away, disappearing into the crowd of soldiers. Now we were alone in the middle of a circle that was slowly closing in on us, with nothing and no one left.

This is not fair. We have won. We have shown them all. This is really unfair . I wanted to scream, shock, rage, and fight. But the bullets will hit me first. Hot tears of anger welled up in my eyes, but I wouldn’t cry. Not at this last moment.

“I’m sorry I’ve caused all this to happen to you.” I whispered to Cal. No matter how I feel about his beliefs, he’s the real loser here. I knew the risks but he was just a pawn, caught between so many parties playing an invisible game.

He clenched his jaw, spinning around frantically as he searched for a way out of here. But that path doesn’t exist. I don’t expect him to forgive me, and I don’t deserve it either. But his hand was holding mine, holding on to the last person by his side.

Slowly, Cal began to hum. I recognized the tune as the sad song we listened to while we kissed in the room flooded with moonlight.

Lightning rumbled within the clouds, threatening to explode. Raindrops hit the dome above us. The shield shocked and hissed the rainwater, but it continued to come in a steady stream. Even the sky was crying over our defeat.

At the end of his crib, Maven looked down at us. The glowing shield distorted his face, making him look like the monster he truly was. Water trickled down his nose, but he didn’t notice. His mother whispered something in his ear and he gasped, snapping back to reality.

“Goodbye, Lightning Girl.”

When he raised his hand, I thought he might be shaking. Like a little girl, I closed my eyes tightly,

expecting to receive blinding pain from hundreds of bullets ripping through my body. My thoughts turned inward, to

days long gone. To Kilorn, my parents, my brothers, my sister. Will I see them soon? My heart accepts it. They were waiting for me, somehow, somewhere. And just as I did that day in Spiral Gardens, when I thought I was falling to my death, I felt bittersweet acceptance. I will die . I felt life slowly leaving me, and I let it go.

The storm overhead exploded with deafening bolts of thunder, so powerful they shook the air. The ground rumbled beneath my feet and, even behind closed eyelids, I saw a blinding flash of light. Purple and white and strong, the strongest thing I’ve ever felt. Vaguely, I wondered what would happen if it hit me. Will I die or survive? Would it strike me like a sword, into something so terrible and sharp and new?

I’ll never know.

Cal grabbed my shoulder, throwing us both out of the way as a giant ball of lightning shot down from the sky. The ball hit the shield, sending purple flakes towards us like a snowfall. The balls sizzled as they hit my skin in a pleasurable sensation, an exciting pulse of power to bring me back to life.

All around us, the gun-bearers trembled in fear, ducking or fleeing, trying to escape the storm of sparks. Cal tried to drag me along, but I barely noticed him. Instead, all my senses buzzed with a storm

that, feeling his presence swirling above me. The storm is mine.

Another ball of lightning fell, hitting the sand, and the Security officers scattered, running towards the gate. But the Sentinels and soldiers were not that easily frightened, and their consciousness recovered quickly. Even though Cal pulled me back, trying to save us both, they gave chase—and there was no way out.

As pleasant as the storm felt, it drained me, sucking the energy out of me. Controlling a lightning storm was too much. My knees buckled, and my heart beat like a drum, so fast I thought it would explode. One more thunder, one more. We might still have a chance.

When my foot staggered back, heel slipping against the empty hole that previously housed Osanos’ water gun, I knew the moment was over. There is no longer any place to escape.

Cal held me tight, pulling me back from the edge of the hole in case I fell. There was nothing but darkness down there, and the echo of the whirlpool far below. There was nothing but pipes, drains, and empty darkness. And before us, a line of brutal, well-trained soldiers. They aimed mechanically, raising their rifles in unison.

The shields had broken, the storm had subsided, and we had lost. Maven could smell my defeat and grinned from his crib, his lips pulled into a hideous smile. Even from a distance, I could see the shiny edges of her crown. Raindrops entered his eyes, but he didn’t blink. He didn’t want to miss my death.

The guns rose, and this time they would not wait for Maven’s orders.

The gunfire thundered like a hurricane, reverberating throughout the empty arena. But I didn’t feel anything. When the first line of shooters fell, their chests riddled with bullet holes, I didn’t understand.

I blinked at my feet, only to find a row of strange rifles sticking out from the edge of the hole. Each barrel smoked and jumped, still spitting out shots, taking out all the soldiers in front of us.

Before I could comprehend it, someone grabbed the back of my shirt and pulled me down to fall into the void. We landed in the water far below, but those hands never let go of me.

The water took me, drowning in darkness.[]

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