Chapter no 4

Red Queen (Red Queen, 1)

I’VE DONE THIS BEFORE THOUSANDS OF TIMES, Watching the crowd like a wolf stalking a flock of sheep. Looking for weak, slow, stupid victims. It’s just that right now, you could say I’m the prey. I could have chosen a fast human who would catch me in the blink of an eye, or worse, a whisperer who could probably sense my presence from a mile away. Even that telky little girl can beat me if things don’t go my way. So I was forced to move faster, think smarter, and worst of all, have luck that was far luckier than ever. This really drives me crazy. Luckily, no one paid any attention to any of the other Red servants, only other insects milling past the demigods’ legs.

I returned to the square, arms drooping but alert at my sides

my body. Usually this is my dance, weaving through the thickest parts of the crowd, letting my hands pick through wallets and pockets like a spider’s web catching flies. I’m not stupid enough to try that here. Instead, I followed the crowd around the square. Now I’m no longer mesmerized by my fantastic surroundings. I looked past

all of it, in the cracks in the rocks and the black-uniformed Security officers in every shadow. The focus on the world of the Silvers beyond reason is now starting to sharpen. The Silvers barely looked at each other and they never smiled. The telky girl seemed bored of feeding her strange creature, and the merchants didn’t even haggle over the price. Only the Reds were seen alive, rushing among the slow-moving men and women of a more sophisticated world. Despite the hot weather, the hot sun, and the bright flags, I have never seen a place so cold.

I was worried about the hidden black video cameras

in canopies or alleys. There were only a few such cameras where I came from, at Security outposts or in arenas, but here they were all over the market area. I could hear it buzzing as a stark reminder: someone was watching here.

The flow of the crowd took me down the main street, past rows of shops and cafes. The Silvers sat at the open bar, watching the crowds pass by as they enjoyed their morning drinks. Some watched video screens mounted on walls or hanging from archways. Each screen showed a different program, from delayed broadcasts of matches in the arena, news programs, to programs with bright colors that I couldn’t understand, all blending in my mind. The shrill screech of the screens, the distant hum of static, rang in my ears. I don’t know how they can survive it. However, the Silvers weren’t even that

blinking at the videos, almost ignoring them completely.

The hall cast shimmering shadows over me, and I found myself staring back in wonder. However, then a loud buzz interrupted my reverie. At first the sound sounded like a buzzing sound in the arena, which is usually used to start a battle, but this time it was different. Somehow it sounds lower and heavier. Without thinking, I turned towards the source of the noise.

In the bar next to me, all the video screens blinked and showed the same broadcast. Not a royal announcement, but a news report. In fact, the Silver humans stopped to listen in eerie silence. When the buzzing ends, the report begins. A woman with fluffy blonde hair, clearly a Silver, appeared on the screen. He was reading from a piece of paper and looked frightened.

“Perak viewers in Norta, we apologize for this disruption. Thirteen minutes ago there was a terrorist attack in the capital.”

The surrounding Silvers gasped, immediately screaming in fear.

I could only blink in disbelief. Terrorist attack?

Against the Silvers?

Is it possible?

“This action was an organized bombing attempt targeting government buildings in the West Archeon region. According to reports received, the Royal Court, Treasury Hall, and White Flame Palace were in ruins, but the palace council

and finance is off duty this morning.” The image changes from the woman to footage of a burning building. Security officers evacuated people inside while nymphs sprayed water on the flames. Healers, marked by black-and-red crosses on their arms, ran to and fro among the victims. “The royal family is not residing in the White Flame Palace, and there are no reports of casualties at this time. The King of Tiberias is expected to make an official announcement within an hour from now.”

A Silver beside me tightened his fist and pounded the bar counter, creating spider web-like cracks on the solid stone table surface. A mighty arm . “That must be the work of the Lakelanders! They started losing ground in the north so they went down to scare us!” Several jeers followed, cursing the residents of the Lakelands.

“We should exterminate them, push them deep into the Grasslands!” another Silver chimed in. Many cheered in agreement. It took everything in me not to yell at the cowards who would never see the front or send their sons and daughters into this war. Their Silver Wars were paid for with the blood of the Reds.

As more footage played, showing the palace’s marble facade exploding into splinters or diamond walls holding firm against the onslaught of fireballs, part of me felt happy. The Silvers are not invincible. They had enemies, enemies who could hurt them, and the first time, they weren’t hiding behind the shield of the Red Man.

The newsreader returned, looking paler than before. Someone whispered to him behind the screen and he flipped through his reading sheet, his hands shaking. “It seems an organization has claimed responsibility for the Archeon bombing,” he said, stuttering slightly. The man who shouted earlier immediately shut up, impatient to hear those words on the screen. “A terrorist group calling themselves the Red Front released the following video a few moments ago.”

“Red Line?” “Who’s that-?” “Some kind of trick—?” and other confused questions erupted throughout the bar. No one had ever heard of the Red Front before.

However, I have.

That’s what Farley calls himself. Himself and Will. However, they were smugglers , the two of them, not terrorists or bombers or any other name the newscaster might throw around them. It’s a coincidence, it can’t be them.

On the screen, I was greeted by a terrifying sight. A woman stood in front of a shaking camera, a tied red bandana covering her face until only her golden hair and piercing blue eyes were visible. He held a rifle in one hand, a torn red flag in the other. And on his chest, there was a sun-shaped bronze badge that had been torn apart.

“We are the Red Front and we fight for freedom and equality for all humans,” said the woman. I recognized his voice.


“—starting with the Reds.”

I didn’t need to be a genius to realize a bar filled with angry, violent Silvers was the last place a Red girl wanted to be. However, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t take my eyes off Farley’s face.

“You believe that you are the rulers of the world, but your reign as kings and gods is coming to an end. Until you recognize us as humans , as equal beings , the fight will be at your doorstep. Not on the battlefield, but in your cities. On your walks. In your homes. Because you don’t look at us, we are everywhere.” His voice reverberated with power and calm. “And we will rise, red as the dawn.”

As red as dawn.

The broadcast footage ends, returning to the blonde woman with her jaw agape. The roar drowned out the rest of the broadcast as the Silvers in the bar found their voices again. They screamed about Farley, calling him a terrorist, a murderer, a Red Devil. Before their eyes could fall on me, I stepped back onto the street.

But along the main street, from the square to the Hall, Silvers emerged from every bar and cafe. I tried to rip off the red rubber bracelet around my wrist, but the stupid thing had a firm grip. The other Red Men hid themselves behind the alley and…

doorstep, trying to escape, and I was smart enough to follow their footsteps. As soon as I found an alley, screams were heard.

Against all instinct, I looked back and saw a Red man being lifted by his neck. He pitied his Silver attacker, begging. “Please, I don’t know, I have absolutely no idea who those people are!”

“What is the Red Line?” the Silverman shouted into his face. I recognized her as the nymph who had been playing with the children less than half an hour ago. “Who are they?”

Before the Red Man could answer, a torrent of water hit his body, stronger than the impact of a rain of hammers. The nymph raised one hand and the water rose, slapping her again. The Silver Humans surrounded the scene, cheering happily, encouraging the action. The Red Man spat out water and gasped, trying to gather his breath. He proclaims his innocence with every passing second, but the water keeps coming. The nymph, with her eyes glaring with hatred, showed no signs of stopping. He drew water from the fountain, from each glass, showering it again and again.

The nymph drowns the man.

The blue tent became my beacon, guiding me through the panic-filled streets as I avoided both Silver and Red humans. Clutter is usually my best friend, making my job as a pickpocket much easier. No one noticed the lost change wallets as people ran away from the chasing mob. However, Kilorn

and two thousand crowns is no longer at the top of my priority list. I can only think of a way to reach Gisa and get out of this city that will clearly become a prison. If they close the gates … I don’t want to think about being trapped here, locked behind glass with freedom just an arm’s reach away.

Officers ran up and down the streets—they didn’t know what to do or who to protect. Several officers seized the Reds, forcing them to kneel. They trembled and lamented, saying over and over again that they knew nothing at all. I’ll bet I’m the only one in this entire city who’s ever heard of the Red Front before today.

That fact sent a new stab of horror through my body. If I get caught, if I tell them what little I know—what will they do to my family? To Kilorn? To Jangkungan Village?

They won’t be able to catch me.

Using the stalls to hide myself, I ran as fast as I could. The main street was a war zone, but I kept my eyes fixed on the blue tent across the square. When passing a jewelry shop, my steps slowed. Just one piece of jewelry can save Kilorn. However, in an instant my body froze, the rain of glass scratched my face. On the street, a telky focused his gaze on me and took aim again. I didn’t give him a chance and just ran, slipping behind curtains and stalls and outstretched arms until I was back in the square. Before I could realize it, water was splashing around my feet as I ran past the fountain.

The foamy blue waves hit my side, throwing me into the whirlpool. The water wasn’t deep, no more than half a meter to the bottom, but it felt like liquid lead. I can’t move, I can’t swim, I can’t breathe . I couldn’t think at all. My mind could only scream nymph, and I thought of the poor Red man on the main street, drowning on his own two feet. My head hit the rock bottom and I saw stars, glowing , before my vision cleared. Every inch of my skin felt like it was being electrocuted. The water moves back around me, returning to normal, and I break the surface of the fountain. Air rushed into my lungs again, burning my throat and nose, but I didn’t care. I’m still alive.

Tiny but strong hands grabbed my collar, trying

pulled me from the fountain. Gisa . My feet pushed against the base of the fountain and together we tumbled to the floor.

“We have to leave immediately,” I shouted, rushing to my feet.

Gisa was already running in front of me, towards the Garden Door. “You’re really clever!” He shouted over his shoulder.

I couldn’t help but look at the square behind me as I followed him. The Silver Crowds spilled out, searching behind the stalls with the ferocity of wolves. The few remaining Red humans curled up on the ground, begging for forgiveness. And in the fountain where I had just freed myself, an orange-haired man was floating with his face face down.

My body trembled, every nerve on fire as we ran towards the gate. Gisa grabbed my hand, pulling us both through the crowd.

“Ten miles to home,” muttered Gisa. “Did you get what you needed?”

The weight of my shame came crashing down on me as I shook my head. No time. I hadn’t even had time to leave the main road before the news report arrived. There’s nothing I can do.

Gisa’s face collapsed, folded into a frown. “We’ll find a way,” he said, his voice as desperate as I felt.

But the gate loomed ahead, seeming to grow closer with each passing second. The gate filled me with fear. As soon as I pass it, as soon as I leave it, Kilorn will completely disappear.

And I think that’s why he did it.

Before I could stop her, restrain her, or pull her body away, Gisa’s skilled little hands slipped into someone’s bag. However, it was not someone ordinary, but a Silver figure who was running away. A Silver with dark black eyes, a firm nose, and broad shoulders that screamed, “Don’t mess with me.” Gisa may be skilled with a needle and thread, but she’s no pickpocket. It took him a second to realize what was happening. Then someone pulled and lifted Gisa’s body from the ground.

It’s the same Silver man. There are two of them . Twin?

“Not a good time to start pickpocketing Silver’s wallet.” The twins spoke at the same time. Then three, four, five, six of them surrounded us in a crowd. Double. He is a cloned human.

They make my head spin. “He doesn’t mean any harm, he’s just a stupid kid—”

“I’m just a stupid kid!” Gisa shouted, trying to kick the person holding her.

They chuckled together with a terrible sound.

I lunged at Gisa, trying to get rid of him, but one of them threw me back to the ground. The pounding of the hard rocky road made me breathless, and I took a sharp breath, watching helplessly as the other twin put his feet on my stomach, holding me down.

“Please—” I managed to spit out the words, but no one else heard me. The whining in my head sharpened as all the cameras swiveled to watch us. I felt electrified again, this time by fear for my sister.

A Security officer, the guy who let us in this morning, approached, his rifle in hand. “What is this?” he growled, looking around at the identical Silver humans.

One by one, they merged again, until there were only two left: one holding Gisa and another holding my body on the floor.

“He’s a thief.” One of them said, shaking my sister’s body. Amazingly, my sister didn’t scream at all.

The officer recognized him, his stern face twitching into a frown in a split second. “You know the rules, kid.”

Gisa lowered her head. “I know the rules.”

I struggled as hard as I could, trying to stop what would happen next. Glass shattered as a nearby screen shattered and glowed, vandalized by the mob. The incident had no effect whatsoever on stopping the officer as he grabbed my brother, pushing him to the floor.

My own voice screamed, joining the din of the action. “I’m the culprit! That was my idea! Punish me!” However, they didn’t hear. They don’t care.

I could only watch as the officers laid my sister next to me. Gisa’s eyes looked up at me as the officer slammed the butt of his rifle down, breaking the bones in his sewing hand. []

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