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Chapter 18

I liked watching (cough) Lucy (cough). No one really paid attention to me, and very few in the light domain registered as threats to my “client,” so I was free to observe her as I wished. That wasn’t a pleasure I received very often when she was the one following me around, so I reveled in it. I figured now that she knew my feelings towards her and her father was allowing me near her, I was allowed some freedom, within the bounds of Christian chivalry, of course. I was still learning what those were, but I knew to curb in any lust, manipulative thoughts, and controlling aggression.

Since I had such leisure time to myself, I worked on my relationship with Jesus Christ. I prayed under my breath and used my free time when she was showering or sleeping to read my Bible or sleep myself. The first Sunday after my job change, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting behind sweet little Lucy at church.

King Amora made sure to tell me that I didn’t have to work on the Sabbath and she was perfectly safe with him, but I equally insisted that this wasn’t really work or hard, so I had no problem doing it, and he said it was disrespectful, so I asked Queen Pat if I might make her family lunch after service, and she found the idea delightful. King Amora called me sneaky, so I grinned at him in feigned innocence.

Lucy stood stock still during the singing. She didn’t sway, she didn’t sing, she didn’t move. I frowned in confusion at that. Every time I hummed or sang anything, there was a spark in her eyes and a swing to her steps, and I was a much worse singer than the worship leaders here. She enjoyed music, but she wasn’t moving at all to the praise of Jesus. Memories of the dance off tried to take over my attention, but I quoted scripture and shook them off. Maybe she didn’t want to dance like that around her family. It was either that or she was so set on not giving into Jesus that she didn’t want any part in it. I contemplated this for the entire first song and then forced myself to worship my God with eyes closed, ignoring the distracting female I used to call mine.

Then there was the usual call to give, and I paid attention, but I had yet to be convinced of the necessity behind giving the church ten percent of my income. It made sense in a logical sort of way, as in this is how you pay for your entrance, but the claim that God mandated it gave me pause. I wasn’t sure if it was a ruse, or a manipulative twisting of the Bible to make people feel guilty for not doing it. I would either have to decide to believe them or look into it myself sometime. I was never a very good studier, except when it came to Sunshine.

I listened to the teaching and watched her fidget. The sermon was over Hell, and the human preacher was pulling it all from the Bible, not experience. I still shivered thinking about it, but I knew I was never going there again. By the way she fidgeted and flinched at certain points, I knew she was actually listening.

This had been one of the ideals of following Jesus that I did not understand, the fact that a loving God would send people to Hell. It didn’t make sense until put under the darkness of what Christ did on the cross and then the light of his resurrection. After a while, the teacher made sure to include that in his speech.

“We don’t have to go to Hell. Jesus Christ gave us another option.”

At that, Lucy stopped fidgeting. She turned around and looked at me, but I made sure to look at the teacher before she saw my eyes. Then I realized that was basically lying to her, so I looked down to meet her gaze. There was a question there, pretty much an asking for permission.

I leaned down onto my legs so I could whisper in her ear. “Your decisions are your own, Lucille.”

She grimaced and turned back around. What? Did she not believe that? I sat back up and watched her trace up and down her scars as he presented the case for following Jesus. I prayed silently that she would see the truth as I had. My hopes soared as she watched intently during the alter call and bowed her head when he asked us all to do so. I kept my eyes open, though. I wanted to see her raise her hand. Apparently, the call to stand was rare, but I was glad that happened for me. If it had only been a raise of the hand, the lack of commitment would have soured me against it. All my actions were public, so publicly walking forward to receive Christ only made sense.

My heart lowered notch by notch as he called for the willing to raise their hands and hers remained in her lap. I sighed mentally to myself when we repeated the sinner’s prayer after the teacher and I didn’t hear her melodious voice. It was okay, though. It took me a long while to think it over, maybe it would take her a longer while. Soon afterwards we were dismissed and I hung around the royal family, swapping jokes with the twins and their friends. Lucy stayed by her Dad’s side, small and silent. I was listening for her voice, yet I never heard it. I figured she was thinking, but if the past was any indication, Sunshine stuck in her thoughts was not a good thing.

We stood in the church lobby for half an hour, talking and laughing, until King Amora called his family together, and they took off to their suit. They didn’t fly because Lucy couldn’t and adamantly refused to summon her wings. I had an idea for how to fix that, but I had to run it by her father first.

I managed to slip away for a few minutes, fly to my room and grab my ingredients before they arrived at the royal suit. No one seemed to notice, though Lucy stole a look into the grocery bag. I winked at her and went straight to the kitchen. Queen Pat came and watched me set up for a minute.

“I was going to make spaghetti,” she stated.

I turned to face her. “Mind if I make something a little American Southern?”

She raised her eyebrows. “With what?”

“Potatoes, yams, onions, apples, and sausage.”

She narrowed her eyes in disbelief. “If it is good, why would I complain? What’s it called?”

“Southern skillet. Go be with your family, your highness. I’ve got this.”

She nodded and left. I found their skillet and set to work, whistling happily. I was the most at ease in a kitchen. I could feel my muscles relax and my mind swirl in contentment. Even if I didn’t necessarily like the people I was cooking for, knowing that someone would enjoy my food made it that much better. I was chopping the onions when I felt another presence in the kitchen. I looked over my shoulder and beheld Lucy watching me.

I had learned my lesson not to keep my back to her, so I smiled and turned to face her, making sure to keep my wings out of the food.

“You okay, Lucille?” I asked.

She looked down and shrugged. “I didn’t mean to stop your cooking.”

“Then would you please either move to where I can see you as I’m cooking or join your family in the other room? I don’t want to keep my back to you again.”

She obliged and moved to a spot next to the stove, leaning on the counter. I continued chopping my onions, keeping an eye on her. Finally, she broke the silence.

“My decisions have never been my own. I didn’t choose to grow up in an orphanage. I didn’t choose to be your pet. I chose not to come here, yet here I am, and I chose to die, yet I breathe. I did not wish to fly, and almost fell to my death because you made me.”

I sighed. I didn’t make her fly. She could have said no, but I remembered she thought that wasn’t an option.

I looked her in the eye and put the onions in with the sausage. “The decision to follow Christ or not is not one anyone else can make for you.”

“I just want to know whether you want me to or not.”

“What I want shouldn’t matter, Lucille.”

Her voice was pleading. “But it does. I want what you want.”

“Well, I want you to have your own free will,” I retorted. “But either I take it from you or you give it to me.”

“When did I give it to you?” she accused in quiet anger.

I shook my head and stirred the skillet. “I asked you to get on my back. I asked you to fly with me. I didn’t order you to do it.”

“But you had been ordering me up to that point. I didn’t notice the difference.”

I looked at her with an eyebrow raised. “You do now?”

She blinked. “Uh, yes?”

I shrugged and retrieved the potatoes and yams from the oven. She watched me for a bit before she spoke again.

“So, should I accept Jesus or not?”

I slammed the hot pan down on the granite countertop in frustration. She flinched, and the talking in the next room hushed.

I had to fight hard not to growl. “You say you have no choice? Fine. I give you no choice but to choose. No matter what I say, you will do as I say, so I’m not going to talk. You were silent for two months, so I shall be silent for two months.”

Her eyes widened in shock. “You don’t mean that?”

I nodded to say that I did, in fact, mean every word. I continued cooking, watching her.

“Is that just to me or to everyone?”

I shook my head, and her eyes flashed in annoyance. “Is this silent treatment just to me?”

I shook my head with a smirk. She glared at me. Her glares used to be so venomous, but nowadays I had to try not to burst out laughing at how adorable she looked. I finished the skillet, but I had a dilemma. How do I announce this without speaking?

I took the almost overflowing skillet and a trivet and set it in the middle of the dining room table. Apparently, that worked, for the twins started setting the table. King Amora took a whiff of the appetizing aroma and grinned. He liked to grin. He seemed to ignore Lucy glaring at me, and Queen Pat gave her a sympathetic glance. I snorted quietly to myself at that. It was Lucy’s fault. She wasn’t the victim.

They sat around the table, and Lilly mentioned going swimming after lunch. I took an empty seat and began serving the food on their plates, starting with King Amora.
The twins looked at each other and then at me.

“Did you poison it?” They asked in unison.

I rolled my eyes and took a dramatic bite from King Amora’s plate. I shook my head and continued serving the rest, now chewing my delicious food.

“Why do you accuse him of that?” Tthe king asked, eying me, not his boys.

The right one hesitated. “He carries a vial on him.”

“We thought it was poison.”

The king’s stare turned to a glare. “Is it poison, Dirg?”

I nodded and settled into my seat. Lucy smiled to herself, knowing what was coming next.

“Are you immune to it?”

I shook my head. I had never tasted this poison.

“Is it a normal thing for darks to carry poison they are not immune to?”

I shook my head and lifted my hand to show him my ring.

“It has to do with being royalty?”

I nodded.

“Is it suicide poison?”

I nodded, and the whole family fell silent, staring at me in disbelief. I shrugged. I had been carrying the vial as long as I could remember, and Mother had taught me about it right before she taught me to fly. It was a quick acting drug that shut down the victim’s brain functions. It was a precaution if I was caught and tortured, I could choose when to die.

Lucy looked to the twins. “How did you two learn about that?”

The right scratched the back of his head. “Uh...”

“He- I mean- we uh...”

The answer came like an epiphany. “Inspected his person last time he was knocked out on the border!”

I shook my head. One of them was a mind reader, and the other was a lightheart. The only reason I knew that was because I had caught them practicing pretending that they were both lighthearts on a day off when I worked in the kitchen.

Queen Pat huffed out a sigh. “Well, I’m hungry! This conversation can wait! Am, would you please bless the food?”

He shot one last glare at me before he obediently bowed his head and prayed for the food. Everyone but Lucy was at first hesitant to try my cooking, but they were soon smiling and groaning in food pleasure. They complimented my cooking and I smiled in happiness. I liked watching people enjoy my food. I savored my portion and kept an eye on how Lucy was eating. She wasn’t shoveling in rapid fire as she did when I first got her, but she wasn’t picking at in despair either. It seemed like a healthy medium. Maybe that was because she saw me take a bite first. Not that I could ask her.

Lilly broke the silence. “So you never answered if we could go swimming...”

The King rolled his eyes. “One would think you were an oceanwalker not a healer, what with how much you love to be in the water.”

She smiled. “Is that a yes?”

He looked at his wife, who shrugged.

“That’s a maybe. Lucille, I don’t remember if you’ve yet been taught how to swim.”

She sighed. “No, I haven’t, and I don’t want to.”

He nodded and looked at me. I rolled my eyes and deliberately shook my head. He wanted me to teach her. She didn’t want to, so the answer was no. He was trying to use me to control her. That may not have been his intentions, but it was his actions. Lucy would make her own decisions.

“Very well,” he acknowledged. “Ed, Theo? You two want to come swimming?”

They both grinned and spoke in unison, “Yes.”

He then looked to me. “Do you want to come with us?”

I politely shook my head.

Queen Pat declared, “Well, I am going. What are you going to do, Lucille?”

Sunshine looked to me. I shrugged and ate my last bite. She looked to her father. “May I stay with Dirg?”

The King snarled ever so slightly. “If he is okay with it.”

I looked at Lucille. She wanted to come with me. I shrugged to say I did not care either way. Queen Pat smiled at me. “Thank you for cooking lunch, Prince Dirg.”

I bowed my head in deference and to acknowledge her thanks. She called me Prince. No one ever really called me Prince, and it made me oddly happy.

Lilly smiled. “It was delicious!”

I grinned and stood to take the plates. One of the twins stood and took them from me, saying it was his day to do the dishes. I bowed to the king to bid my farewell, and Sunshine hurried to follow me.

“So you really aren’t talking?” she asked.

I slowed to get her to walk next to me, but she persisted on being behind and to my right as she had when she was my pet. I nodded to answer her question but bit my tongue to keep from asking her to walk next to me. Two months. Ouch.

I was going to go flying, but since she was with me and didn’t want to do that, I went to the library. She remained quiet for quite some time, absorbed in her book. I read the Bible. Finally, she looked up at me from her seat next to mine.

“Dirg?”

I looked at her expectantly.

“Why are you here?”

I narrowed my eyes and held up the book.

“No, not in the library. In the land of eternal light. You’re thinner than you used to be. I don’t think the light is good for you.”

I nodded to agree that it wasn’t.

“So why are you here?”

I looked at her. I didn’t glare or smirk. I just dared her to come up with her own answer.

She sighed in annoyance. “Are you here to figure out lights?”

I shook my head. That was a bonus, not the reason.

“Are you here because you feel guilty for this?” She held up her arms.

I shook my head. That was why I was here before I confessed to her.

“Then why are you here!?”

I raised my eyebrows and zipped my lips. I’m not talking, Sunshine. I was there to help her see Jesus. I was there because I loved her. It was just an unpleasant side effect that I barely got any sleep, vomited occasionally, and had to ignore random rashes and itchy eyes. I had been in the light much too long, but I would stay for ten years if it meant I would help her.

She groaned in annoyed anger and slammed the book on her face. I frowned. She shouldn’t hurt that beautiful face.

“Was I this annoying when I wouldn’t talk?”

I shrugged because I wasn’t around when she didn’t talk. Besides, the question was rhetorical. She wasn’t asking me and couldn’t see my answer anyway. She put the book down and glared at me. I grinned back and held up an “I love you” in sign language. Her glare softened to confusion.

“You’re being silent for me?”

Didn’t I already say that? I nodded.

“So your words don’t influence me?”

I beamed and nodded. She was getting it! She huffed and relaxed back into the seat. “So, you’re not going to make me do anything?”

I nodded.

“Is that yes you will?”

I shook my head.

“Okay. So I have to get your will out of you in yes or no questions?”

I scowled. I wanted her to have her own opinion, not mine. She actually read that properly.

“Oh. You said you want me to choose.”

I dropped the scowl and nodded. This whole talking with my face was intriguing.

“Just the following Christ thing?”

I shook my head. Have your will back for everything. This time I would succeed, I was sure of it. If I couldn’t tell her my opinion, she couldn’t follow it.

Suddenly, the library doors slammed open and a distraught lightsy rushed to me. “Dark Prince, another dark has crossed the border and is currently unconscious near the edge. The king told me to get you.”

I stood quickly and put the precious word of God away before I rushed to the edge, keeping on the ground so Lucy could keep up. Though, if I flew maybe she would get annoyed at the ground. Oh well.

I found the king and his boys talking over Fon, who lay on the ground as if sleeping. I ran to her side and checked her pulse, just in case. It was normal, so she was just knocked out from the barrier. Fon wasn’t just my sister. She was King Zinx’s personal messenger and had been for years. I could see her skin blistering from the light, since she could not unconsciously control her darkness.

I looked up at Lucy, pleading her with my eyes. She nodded and exploded a large dark bomb on my sister.

King Amora glared at me. “Do you know her?”

I nodded and took her hand.

Lucy was smart. “She is Fon, his sister.”

King Amora’s eyes lightened as he inspected her. “Oh. That makes sense. The Dark King usually calls me when he needs something, so I have not yet met her.”

So he knew of her occupation. Smart king. Lucy exploded another on my sister, making her family back up quickly. I thanked her silently with my eyes. Fon and I may not get along most (all) of the time, but she was my sister. I trusted her more than anyone other than Sunshine and now Jesus, which was why I resorted to a pet to help me keep an eye on those I instinctively trusted. If the king told her to kill me, she would, and I would let her. I couldn’t classify her as a friend, but she was the person I loved most before Lucille became my Sunshine.

I sat by her side as the king and twins discussed what message she might have and whether it was for them or me. Lucy chipped in a bit and exploded near Fon infrequently to keep her healthy. I listened and figured we should just wait, not speculate.

Fon started to stir, so I gently touched her forehead. Her eyes opened and locked on mine as darkness immediately covered her body. She shivered.

“Stupid light.”

Without further warning she tackled me to the ground, one of her feet digging into my wing arm. I smiled at her, and she cursed at me.

“Mira was right! I thought she was lying, but here you are, with freaking white wings.”

She squeezed my throat tightly. I continued smiling at her.

“Say something, Dirg.”

I shook my head.

“Why do you have white wings!?” she yelled in my face.

I wasn’t going to talk. Today might not have been the best day to start that, but I did, so I remained silent.

Lucy sighed. “Dirg, you can talk.”

I looked at her and shook my head. Fon’s head snapped up to look at her.

Her voice was laced with venom. “What did you do to him?”

King Amora stepped in protectively. “Excuse me, Princess Fon. He is silent by his own decision. His wings are white also by his own accord. Why are you here?”

She glared at him, so I decided to use that moment to push her up. I pushed so hard she flew into the air, so I stood quickly and caught her.

“Dirg!” She cussed at me and demanded I put her down this instant.

I smirked at her and let her most of the way down, as I had done to Sunshine after we fell. She really didn’t like that.

“Put me down, you little twit!”

I chuckled at being called a twit. That was her favorite insult for me. King Amora looked at me with annoyance.

“Dirg, you’re distracting her from my question.”

I smirked and actually put her down. She growled and pushed me, so I acted like she put me off balance. She turned to the king.

“To whom am I speaking?”

He bowed politely. “King Amora of Iraq, my heir apparent Lucille Diana Amora, and my boys Edward and Theodore of Brazil. I assume you know Dirg, Lucille’s bodyguard.”

She turned on me, rage in her eyes. “What!? Not only are you shirking your duties, you’re guarding your toy?”

I bristled and Sunshine flinched. Oh, if I could have talked! Luckily, the Lightsy King caught the insult to his daughter, and his amiable expression turned dark.

“Excuse me, I do believe you just called my daughter and heir a whore.”

She ignored him and pushed me, but this time I didn’t pretend for her, I just matched her glare. Her glare broke into a sickeningly sweet grin right before she spun to face the king.

“Excuse my lack of manners, your majesty,” she said with a low curtsy. “My father, King Zinx sent me to accept your invitation to the coronation ball for your heir and requests the date be set back to a date more convenient for our household.”

I tensed, and the sudden intake of air alerted me to the fact that no one else was expecting that news either. The King knew to paste an obviously insincere smile on his face. The war for keeping the “peace” between our kinds was about to escalate.

“Wonderful, but we shall have to discuss the preferred dates thoroughly. Can we move this conversation to my office?”

Fon smiled her “I’ve got you now” smile and nodded respectfully. “Of course. Father gave me full authority for this negotiation.”

She held up her hand, revealing the ambassador’s ring. It was similar to mine, but where mine was our silver crest inlaid in dark steel, hers was black in silver. King Zinx’s was gold in dark steel. Mine outranked hers, but only superficially.

Then, I noticed a slight bulge in her midriff as she started to follow the king. I hurried to her side and put my hand on her stomach in a question. She swatted it away.

“Dirg! Don’t be indecent!”

The twins shot looks at me. I sighed and looked at her quizzically. She glared and nodded subtly. Involuntarily, my face broke out into a grin. I grabbed her hands and forced her into a little twirl. She looked annoyed but let me.

“It’s not that big of a deal, bro.”

I nodded that it was, and Lucy looked really confused. “What’s not a big deal?”

Fon glared at me. “Don’t say a word.”

I snickered and zipped my mouth. Why it had taken so long for her first pregnancy, I didn’t know, but it made me oddly happy. I decided then that at the babe’s birth I would declare him or her my heir if I never married. That possibility was looking more and more ominous the more I fell in love with the crown princess of the lightsies.

I let my sister go, and was about to depart when she said in a sing-song voice, “The crown princesses should probably come with us to see how real diplomacy is undergone.”

I rolled my eyes as the king agreed in amusement. The twins slipped away, and Lucy stayed behind me. I tried not to show my annoyance at her insistence in following me like a pet. If that’s what she wanted...

There was one very good thing about not talking, and that was simply that I could listen. All through the negotiations on the exact date of the ball, I had something to add, but I couldn’t. Instead, I decided to learn from my sister and King Amora. Politics and pretending to get along while planning to stab each other in the back, this was my element. This was how I was raised, but I could tell Lucy was bored. She sat, also silent, and I assume she was learning as well by the way her eyes followed whomever was talking.

After about half an hour of finagling, they decided on a date a month and a half out and shook on it. Then, without preamble, Fon jumped at Lucy and grabbed one of her arms, running her palms on her scars in a way that seemed almost intimate. I jumped from my seat, and Kindness all but flew to my hand, but I was too slow.

One moment Fon and Lucille were there, and the next it was Hinak, Fon’s teleporting husband, and King Zinx. Amora was almost as fast as me but much more surprised, so I beat him to the attack, straight at my father, who had his sword ready. He met my blows and Hinak stepped to the side, keeping his hands up in a gesture of innocence.

King Zinx smiled at me as he parried a thrust. “Well, looks like I found my son’s button, eh?”

I growled and stepped back when King Amora yelled my name.

“Where is my daughter?” he exclaimed, his own sword drawn and the one thing I had not expected, a gun.

King Zinx smirked. I nearly gagged when I recognized my own face in his. “Near the gates of Hell with Mira and her toy, who, just so you know, is a vortex.”

I felt my blood freeze. A vortex. Fan was a vortex, which meant he could suck powers out of people and use them for a short period of time. King Amora looked dangerously pissed.

“This is an act of war.” he seethed, as if the crazed Darky King didn’t already know.

“Of course I know this. And I really don’t want to go to war, but I also don’t want to leave my throne to a lightsy.”

I stiffened and growled. I was not a lightsy! I was a lightheart. I could have sworn I heard the Lightsy King’s grip tighten on both the sword and the gun.

“What does that have to do with anything!?”

King Zinx gestured to me with his sword, face going red with rage. “Look at what you have done to my son! I may not have especially liked his heart, but those wings!? You started this war, Amora!” His glare turned to me. “Boy, come with me or face a traitor’s death.”

I looked at King Amora. I backed away from both.

“She’s not here. You can talk.”

I shook my head.

King Zinx snapped at me. “Come with me or hand me that ring!”

Then, I understood. This wasn’t an act of war on King Zinx’s part. He was making me choose. If I went with him, I would keep the throne. If I didn’t, I would align myself with the lightsies. I had to speak. I had to know what would happen to Sunshine.

“What will you do with Lucille?” I asked.

His grin broadened. “She started this whole thing, did she not? If you’re a darky, you’ll obey your king and leave her alone. If you’ve gone soft, you will hand. Over. That. Ring!”

King Amora was breathing heavily, but he seemed to understand that this was between my father and I. I had dragged Sunshine and her family into my backstabbing, political, family issues.

I was about to decide when the twins burst in.

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