A slow grin crossed my face before I laughed out loud. “Oh, that’s funny. You think I’d fall for that?”
Zach didn’t reply. He sat there looking livid.
“He’s not lying,” August spoke up, looking resigned. “It makes sense. Affairs are as good as treason and we have ways of figuring stuff like that out. After the white family went missing, we thought that was the end of them, but maybe it’s not.”
I glanced over her, calculating. “What’s the use of all these kingdoms anyway?” I said, standing. I tucked my knife back in my pocket and took a step back from Cole and the others. I felt my heart rise in my throat as an odd feeling crossed over me. It felt like weakness and I hated it.
“The white kingdom was supposed to keep the peace between all of the kingdoms,” Cole called to me as I moved towards the steps.
I stopped and slowly turned back. I gave him a look that said I didn’t believe him. “Why are you telling me all of this? I’m a keeper of secrets. I steal your secrets and sell them to the highest bidder. You can’t get my silence; you can just give me the wrong information. Why would you give me all the information I could ever want?” I wasn’t brought up to think that kindness came with anything else than ulterior motives. Heck, I wasn’t really ‘brought up’ period. I lived and I ended up here, end of the story.
“She’s right,” Zach looked at Cole. “Why are you telling her this? I was doing just fine keeping it all to myself, thanks.”
Cole turned to Zach with a dark look. “Are you saying you’d rather keep the conflict like it is, Zach? Would you like to keep seeing people sick and malnourished on the streets and have to pass them by because if you stopped, your parents would strip you of your title and they’d be even worse off?”
Zach took a step back. “N-no. Of course not.” He seemed thrown by Cole’s sudden mood change. I, on the other hand, had been waiting for it.
“I thought so,” Cole left it at that. He looked back at me. “I’m telling you because I want it to be true as much as you do. I’m not saying that I think you’d be the best person for the job...” A look crossed his face.
I scowled. “Go ahead and say it. I’ve been called all of it before. Which one are you thinking? Shadow Demon? Feral girl? Oh, I know. How about ‘traitor?’”
His eyes widened, then relaxed. He studied me contemplatively. “Well, I suppose all of them are true in context, but I was going more for... coarse.”
We both stared at each other, unblinking for a moment, before I finally cracked a smile and chuckled a bit. “That one’s pretty spot-on, too,” I admitted.
He took a step closer. “So, you think I can convince you to help us?”
I looked at him, then glanced at the others. All of their eyes were narrowed at me. “Depends. If I have to trust you, you all have to trust me. That means no secrets, no withholding information, and no softening your words. I’d much prefer bluntness to lies.” I paused. “Oh, and I can’t exactly change myself, so snappy remarks and teeth-baring smiles are going to be regular.”
Cole smiled back. “I think we can handle that.”
I glanced around him at the four faces that looked like they didn’t want to handle it.
Cole turned around and immediately their faces changed.
“Sure,” Justice chirped, a grimace just barely getting covered.
“Fine,” Zach grunted, not taking his eyes off me.
“Okay,” August said softly, looking at the ground.
The last boy was quiet, his eyes closed as he waited for something.
“Mitch,” Cole growled.
“It’s not like I’ll get a say in it anyway,” The boy said.
Cole turned back, looking satisfied. Apparently, that was as good as a ‘yes’ from him. “Okay then. What should we call you?”
I looked at him, a slow smile spreading across my face. In lieu of the moment, I couldn’t resist letting a bit of my wild nature through. My lip curled up as I bared my teeth. It was a smile by my standards only.
“My name is Calypso.”
Cole stilled. “That’s your name?”
I looked at him curiously. “It’s the only name I’ve ever had. Why?”
His face cleared. “No reason.” He obviously didn’t know that I could tell when he was lying. He was only slightly better than his mother.
“No reason doesn’t explain the slight panic that made your pupils dilate, your breath quicken, and your face lose a shade of color. Unfortunately, pasting a couldn’t-care-less smile on your face doesn’t cover that stuff.” I gave him a look, a growl threatening to come up. Honestly, I hadn’t done so much growling since before my family had found me. “Have you already forgotten the ‘no secrets’ part of our agreement?”
Cole hesitated, “No... I-”
“You’ve got to prove yourself first,” Zach cut in, looking directly at me even though he looked on the verge of being sick. ”Then we’ll think about telling you about what we know of you.”
Excitement built in my chest and I struggled to tamp it down. “You know something about me?” It was a bit embarrassing how little I knew about myself.
“Yes,” Cole said, taking back control. I didn’t miss the grateful look he sent to Zach. “We know something about you.”
I looked around the room. “You still haven’t told me who August and Mitch are.”
Mitch seemed surprised I was already addressing him by name. He glanced at Cole, who shot him a commanding look and nodded. “I’m Mitch,” He sighed. “I’m the prince of the yellow kingdom.”
I fought a disgusted look. Yellow was not my favorite color. I’ll take the darkest colors one can give me, but yellow is something that makes me feel too bright. I hate being seen.
The way Mitch looked at me made me think that he knew what I was thinking and half-agreed with it himself.
“I’m the princess of the red kingdom,” August said softly, looking at me warily.
I couldn’t stop my face from softening when I looked at her. Something made me feel protective of her. She made me wonder who I could’ve been if I’d had a normal childhood.
I took in a breath, gathering myself as I thought about what that meant. “So, all the crown royals are conspiring against their parents to help the people of their kingdoms.” I looked at each of them from a different viewpoint. “Good for you.” I wish someone could’ve done that for me back home. I guess that wasn’t home anymore anyway, though.
“So... you’re in?” Cole looked hesitant.
I looked back at him, my face falling back into its serious mask. “Only if you stick to the agreement and don’t try to fit me in a box that obviously won’t fit me,” I glanced him over. “You said I had to prove myself. What do you want me to do?”
"You said you could get information,” Mitch said from across the room. A slow grin spread across my face. “How about you find out how much trouble we’re all in if we get caught.” He raised an eyebrow at me, silently daring me. “After all, you’re one of us now. Aren’t you?”
I didn’t even blink at his scare tactics. I smiled at him, not even bothering to make it look human. “Of course, I am, but don’t expect me to be normal.” I unbuttoned my cape to flow around me and looked at Cole. “Do I have to ask for permission to leave?”
Cole frowned at me, looking confused before an odd expression crossed his face, “No.”
I smiled brightly, actually pulling off a normal expression. “Well, then. See you all later,” I tilted my head mockingly at Mitch. “Hopefully.”
As I disappeared up the steps, I heard his growl, but I didn’t care.
I was already out the door.