Chapter no 9

Red Queen (Red Queen, 1)

LADY MAREENA TITANOS, BORN to Lady Nora Nolle Titanos and Lord Ethan Titanos, General of the Iron Legion. Heir to the Titanos Clan. Mareena Titanos. Titanos.

My new name echoed in my head as the Red servants prepared me for the next attack. The three girls worked quickly and efficiently, never speaking to each other. They didn’t ask me any questions either, even though they certainly wanted to. Don’t say a word, I remember. They weren’t allowed to talk to me, and they were definitely not allowed to talk about me to anyone. In fact, strange things, red things, I’m sure they can see.

Throughout the torturous minutes, they tried to make me presentable , bathing me, dressing me, painting me into the ridiculousness that was expected of me. The makeup was the worst, especially the thick white paint smeared on my skin. They finished three jugs of paint, covering my face, neck, collarbones, and arms in glittering liquid powder. In the mirror, warmth seemed to seep out of me, as if the powder was covering the heat of my skin. With a gasp, I realized this make-up was supposed to hide my natural color, hue

red on the skin, my red blood . I pretended to be a Silver, and when they finished painting my face, I really looked the part. With new pale skin and darkened eyes and lips, I looked cold, cruel, a living razor. I looked like a complete Silverman. I look beautiful. And I hate it.

How long will this last? Betrothed to someone

lord. Even in my head, it sounded crazy. Because that’s the reality. No Silver in his right mind would want to marry you, let alone a prince from Norta. Not to quell the rebellion, not to hide your identity, not for anything else.

So, why do I do this?

As the maids pinched and pulled my body into a gown, I felt like a corpse dressed for a funeral. I know that’s not far from the truth. Red maidens do not marry Silver princes. I will never wear a crown or sit on a throne. Something will happen, an accident perhaps. A lie will raise me up, and one day another lie will bring me down.

Her dress was dark purple with silver trimmings here and there, made of silk and lace. All clans have their own colors, as I remember, it reminds me of families with rainbow colors. The colors of Titanos, my name, must be purple and silver.

As one of the maids grabbed my earring, trying to remove the last piece of my old life, a push

fear coursed through me. “Don’t touch that!”

The girl jumped back, blinking, and the others froze in the face of my outburst.

“I’m sorry, I—” A Silver wouldn’t apologize . I cleared my throat, calmed myself. “Just leave the earrings.” My voice sounded firm, strong— like a nobleman . “You can change the others, but leave these earrings.”

These three cheap pieces of metal, each representing my brother, aren’t going anywhere.

“The color suits you.”

I turned my body and found the maids bowing in unison. And someone appeared to be standing in front of them: Cal. Suddenly, I was glad the makeup covered the blush that was creeping up on me.

He gestured quickly, his hand moving in a sweeping motion, and the servants scurried from the room like mice fleeing a cat.

“I’m still unfamiliar with all the affairs of this kingdom, but I’m not sure you should be here. In my room,” I said, forcing as much mockery into my voice as possible. After all, it was because of him that I got involved in this mess.

He took a few steps toward me, and instinctively, I stepped back. My feet stepped on the folds of the dress, forcing me to choose between not moving or falling. I don’t know which I don’t want more.

“I came to apologize, something I couldn’t do if someone else was around.” He immediately stopped what he was saying, realizing my anxiety. Muscles tensed in her cheeks as he

looked at me, probably remembering the poor girl who tried to pickpocket him last night. My appearance now is much different from that girl. “I’m sorry I got you into this, Mare.”

“Mareena.” The name even felt wrong. “That’s my name, do you remember?”

“Then Mare is an appropriate nickname.” “I don’t think any of me fits .”

Cal’s gaze swept over me, and my skin burned under his gaze. “Do you like Lucas?” He finally said, taking a forced step back.

The bodyguard from the Samos clan, the first good Silver I met here. “He’s not bad, I think.” Maybe the queen would take him away if I told him how kindly the officer was treating me.

“Lucas is a good person. His family considered him weak because of his kindness.” Cal added, his eyes darkening slightly. It was as if he could feel it. “However, he will serve you well and fairly. I’ll make sure of that.”

How considerate. He gave me a kind warden. But I bit my tongue. There was no point in nagging his generosity. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”

The glint returned to his eyes, and a grin to his lips. “You know my name is Cal.”

“And you know my name too, right?” I replied curtly. “You know where I’m coming from.”

He just nodded weakly, as if embarrassed.

“You have to look after them.” My family . Their faces loomed in my mind, so far away. “All of them,

as long as you can.”

“Of course I will.” He took a step closer to me, closing the gap between us. “I’m sorry,” he said again. The words came back to me, echoing from the depths of my memory.

Fire wall. Choking smoke. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

It was Cal who caught me before, who kept me from escaping this terrible place.

“Are you apologizing for cutting off my only chance to break free?”

“You mean if you get past the Sentinels, the Security guards, the walls, the jungle, back to your village to wait until the queen herself hunts you down?” he replied, taking my accusation calmly. “Stopping you is the best thing for you and your family.”

“I could have gotten away with it. You don’t know me.”

“I know the queen will turn the world upside down in search of the lightning maiden.”

“Don’t call me that.” That nickname hurt me more than the fake name that still sounded foreign to my ears. The lightning girl . “That’s the name your mother gave me.”

He laughed bitterly. “She is not my mother. She is Maven’s mother, not my mother.” Just by looking at his clenched jaw, I realized not to press the topic.

“Oh.” That’s all I could say, my voice sounded very weak. The sound faded quickly, a faint echo against the vaulted ceiling. I craned my neck, looking around

my new room for the first time since my arrival. The room was better than anything I had ever seen—marble and glass, silk and feathers. The light had changed, shifting to an evening orange. Night approaches. And with him, my whole life.

“I woke up this morning as one person,” I muttered, more to myself than to him, “and now I’m expected to be a completely different person.”

“You can do it.” I felt him take a step closer to me, his heat filling the room in a way that made the fine hairs on my skin bristle. But I didn’t look up. I do not want.

“How did you know?”

“Because you have to.” He bit his lip, his eyes sweeping over me. “As beautiful as it is, this world is also dangerous. Useless people, people who make mistakes, they can be replaced. You can be replaced.”

And I will indeed be replaced. At some stage . However,

that’s not the only threat I face. “So, once I make a mistake, it could be my last moment?”

He didn’t speak, but I could see the answer in his eyes. Yes.

My fingers played with the silver belt around my waist, pulling it tight. If this was a dream, I would wake up, but in reality I didn’t wake up. This really happened . “What about me? About,” I held out my hands, glaring at the hands that could ignite sparks, “this?”

In response, Cal smiled. “I think you’ll get used to it.”

Then, he raised his own bare hand. A strange device on her wrist, something that resembled a bracelet

with two metal ends, clicking, creating sparks. Instead of disappearing in an instant, the spark glowed brightly and flared into a red flame, leaving behind a burst of heat. He was an arsonist, he controlled heat and fire, as I recall. He was a prince, and a dangerous prince at that . But the glow disappeared as quickly as it appeared, leaving only Cal’s encouraging smile and the hum of cameras hidden somewhere, watching everything.

The masked Sentinels in the corner of my vision were a constant reminder of my new position. I would be a princess, engaged to the second most sought after bachelor in the entire country. And I’m a lie. Cal was long gone, leaving me with my guards. Lucas wasn’t so bad, but the others were so stern and silent, never looking me in the eye. The guards and even Lucas were wardens to keep me locked up in my own skin, red behind a silver curtain that could never be lifted. If I fall, even slip, I will die. And others will also die because of my failure.

As they led me to the venue, I repeated the story the queen had made up in my mind. A beautiful fairy tale that he would tell to the palace audience. The story is simple, easy to remember, but still made me wince.

I was born on the battlefield. My parents were killed in an attack on the camp. A Red soldier rescued me from the rubble and brought me home to a wife who had always wanted a daughter. They raised me in

a village called Jangkungan, and I didn’t know my origins or my abilities until this morning. And now, I have returned to my rightful place.

The thought made me sick. My proper place is at home, with my parents, Gisa, and Kilorn. Not here.

The Sentinels led me out through the labyrinth of passages on the upper floors of the palace. Just like the Spiral Garden, the architecture is an arch of stone, glass and metal, which slowly curves downward. Glass diamonds are at all angles, offering stunning views of the market, valley, river and forest beyond. From this height, I could see hills I had never known in the distance, shadowed behind the setting sun.

“The last two floors are the royal chambers,” Lucas said, pointing up the sloping and twisting hallways. The sunlight shimmered like a firestorm, throwing streaks of light towards us. “The elevator will take us down to the hall. Right here.” Lucas reached out, stopping right next to a metal wall. The wall reflected our shadows faintly, then slid open when he waved his hand.

The Sentinels guided us into a box with no windows and blinding light. I forced myself to breathe, even though I would have preferred to push myself out of what felt like a giant iron coffin.

I jumped high when the elevator suddenly moved , making my heart pound. My breath hitched as I looked around with wide eyes in horror, hoping to see the others react the same way.

However, no one seemed to mind when the box holding us fell over . Only Lucas noticed my anxiety, and he slowed our descent a bit.

“This elevator moves up and down, so we don’t have to walk. “This place is huge, Lady Titanos,” he said with a small smile.

My feelings were divided between amazement and horror as we fell, and I breathed a sigh of relief when Lucas opened the elevator doors. We stepped out into the hall of mirrors that I had entered this morning. The broken mirrors have been repaired

—it seemed as if nothing had ever happened.

When Queen Elara appeared from around the corner, accompanied by her Sentinels, Lucas immediately bowed. Now the queen wears a black, red and silver dress, the colors of her husband. With his blonde hair and pale skin, he looked absolutely terrifying.

He grabbed my arm, pulling me to his side as we walked. His lips didn’t move, but I still heard his voice, echoing in my head. This time the sound didn’t make me sick or nauseous, but the sensation still felt sickening and wrong. I wanted to scream, to get it out of my head. However, I can’t do anything but hate it.

The Titanos are destroyers, he said, his voice surrounding me. They can explode objects with touch, like the girl Lerolan did in Queen’s Selection . When I tried to remember the girl’s figure, Elara projected an image of herself directly into my brain. The image was shimmering, almost imperceptible, but I could still see the figure of a young girl in an orange dress exploding rocks and sand.

like military bombs. Your mother, Nora Nolle, was a storm maker like the rest of the Nolle Clan. Storm creators are able to control the weather, up to a point. Although not commonplace, their union has created your unique ability to control electricity. Don’t say anything else, if anyone asks.

What do you really want from me? Even in my head, my voice was shaking.

His laugh bounced inside my skull, the only response I got.

Remember to be the person you are supposed to be, and remember well, he continued, ignoring my question. You pretend to be someone who was raised as a Red, but you are a Silver by blood. You are now Red in the head, Silver in the heart.

A wave of fear crept over me.

From now until the end of your days, you must lie. Your life depends on it, Lightning Girl.[]

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