Sabir listens to me rehash small, insignificant parts of my memory as if it is fragmented. I tell him I think I remember being in a school, being transferred to the Golden Palace and being assigned into a role as a princess. That is all I mentioned of my memories. I did not dare mention the sex. Or the desire, or the way he lured me into giving up my virginity with not just him present, but Celeste and Traegr along side.
It was one of my most erotic memories.
Now after rehashing my memories I glance up to see Sabir leaning forward, his hands clasped as his elbows rest on his knees as he reclines on his stool.
Slowly, his eyes search mine for any authenticity to what I’ve said.
Frustration is mixed in with his suspicion, it shines through those narrowed eyes of his. With my full memories back, I understood what he was thinking.
He was desperate for me to admit I was lying about being reborn.
He wanted and desired, more than anything, for me to be the same Sapphire.
“Interesting,” he mutters, his eyes continue to search mine as he processes what I decided to tell him. I just hoped it was believable that my memories would be scattered, from another being. It would be an easy lie to fall for, and hard to prove me wrong. He eventually looks up at the ceiling and lets out a frustrated sigh, closing his eyes, “Sapphire... why would being a Star Cursed human not only give you memories but the ability to speak our language? To use your magic?... but also intent to fight?” he growls out the last question as he catches my gaze, “Only someone with a need for vengeance, would do what you girls did. Escaping and coming back with weapons. Why would you be so ready to rebel against a force that will only crush any of your resistance? Unless you were just lying, which I still believe you are,” he leans forward and runs a hand along the leather strap against my throat, making me flinch away from his touch.
Now that my magic was fully back, alive and well, he would be able to feel it, drain it and consequentially weaken me. I needed to distract him from doing that, if I could.
“On Earth,” I snap, glaring at him, ”Freedom and rights are passionately fought for. I was born and raised to fight for freedom on that planet,” A white lie but still mostly truth. I may not have been born there, but I had been adopted into a family. When I had no memory of Kiyr, it wasn’t until Celeste admitted to erasing memories and until I read the linage, that I realised my full belief that I had been human all along was the real lie.
“You are either telling me the truth about the values on Earth shaping your new Star Cursed body, or you’ve become a very good fibber. The real question is how do I get the answer?” Sabir shrugs, like the outcome suddenly doesn’t matter and he stands up to stretch. He moves his shoulders back, cracking his neck to the side and looking to the door.
He was going to leave me like this.
“What are you doing?” I ask in a panic.
“I’m not just interrogating you, princess,” Sabir chuckles to himself at the title he gives me before smirking arrogantly. I glare after him as he turns and walks towards the door.
Just before he is about to exit the dungeon, he decides to look back and adds, “I’m going to see what Traegr has found out from your friend.”
I watch helplessly as he leaves, irritated at his amusement. Did our escape not grate on his nerves? Perhaps he just didn’t care now because we were back. I just expected more anger and emotion.
Instead, he was just curious to find out basic answers to questions half the girls already knew the answers too.
We still had the advantage on that front, at least.
Now, all too suddenly I’m left alone in the darkness, still strapped down, completely immobile.
His footsteps fade out and I struggle against my bonds, finding one of the straps around one wrist is slightly loose. I pull and try to force my hand through, tears coming to my eyes from the pressure I exert around my hand.
“Damn it,” I hiss, giving up with a long exhale.
I close my eyes. I just needed to think.
How else could I escape? How could I loosen the strap?
I needed liquid.
My eyes snap open as I remember he hasn’t drained me yet. It was odd, his decision to let me keep my magic confuses me. But for now it was going to help immensely and that is all I needed.
I purse my lips and roll my tongue, gathering saliva from my cheeks. It would be enough, hopefully!
I spit into the air and use my simple magic to help guide my saliva through the air, onto my wrist, and under the leather strap.
I wriggle my hand and then pull as hard as I can.
Finally, I can pull my hand through, still gritting my teeth because it didn’t come free without consequence. I raise my hand before my eyes to see how red it is, grimacing.
I’d deal with the pain later. I knew I didn’t have much time left before Sabir returned. I quickly undo my other wrist’s leather restraint. Two free hands make it a lot easier to free my neck and then my ankles with all the speed I can muster.
I jump off the chair and quickly do a full visual sweep of the room. Vivid memories come to me, they felt like they happened yesterday, flowing through as crystal clear images in my mind.
I look down to my hand and see a slight tremble as confusion also fills me.
I wanted to get caught, didn’t I?
I remember initially thinking it would be a good way to show him in a fight of wills, wits or magic, that I could win! I just didn’t expect to end up back in the dungeon so quickly.
This place was hard to win games in.
No. No time to think about useless memories where I had been defeated time and time again.
My thoughts turn to Celeste and all the other girls that had been caught. We had been too reckless for coming back too quickly. Now we were paying the price. Before it all went further downhill, before someone blurted that we said a spell that flooded us with the real truth, we needed to get some distance. If no girls could escape, we had to at least distract the Dark Gems from investigating into a territory of revelation that might just get us internal punishing with no redemption. Or worse, we’d also have our rights even further diminished for future generations of female Gems, in retribution for our escape to another planet.
I lunge for the door, deciding I’ve wasted enough time debating all the possible consequences of this messed up, complicated situation.
I step out into an empty dimly lit corridor, a rush of dejavu reminding me how I use to sneak around the palace. Now I didn’t have time to slowly sneak.
I run and my lungs burn, even after the antidote Sabir had given me to heal symptoms of the poisonous fog.
By the time I rush out into the hall way, I haven’t made it fast enough.
I nearly barrel straight into Traegr as he is about to turn the corner, except I spring back in time before I make contact. At least I still had my fast reflexes.
I try to use his initial shock at encountering me, to dodge around him. However his hand literally grabs my throat. I freeze as he cocks an eyebrow at me, waiting for an explanation.
When I don’t answer, he moves me directly in front of him and I catch sight of Celeste, who I almost didn’t notice, trailing behind him timidly.
“Just the little princess I was searching for,” Traegr lets go of my throat and grabs my wrist instead, before I run, “Where were you sprinting off too?”
“Somewhere,” I answer without hesitation and I see a twitch in his cheek, he hated when I used my smart mouth. That’s why he loved Celeste over me, she was docile. At least at first glance.
“Clearly you’d enjoy my hand coming into contact with your ass, you’re a naughty little slave, even now, aren’t you, Sapphire?” Traegr smiles intimidatingly while I just yank my wrist from his hold. He lets me go, only because he looks past me and smirks as he catches the eye of someone else approaching. Without having to look over my shoulder, I know it is Sabir.
“I caught your little pet running away from you,” Traegr mocks my attempt at escape.
“I was looking for you. And isn’t that cute, you didn’t get very far,” Sabir teases and I slowly turn to glare up at him, beyond irritated as all sorts of emotions fill me.
I wanted to prove him wrong now that I had a chance, while I was still in the lead. Although... I was starting to doubt whether lying to them was giving us any advantage at all!
Even now he managed to mock me.
“I was going somewhere important,” I lie, shrugging nonchalantly, “Do you have a problem with that?”
“Listen to her. You’ve delayed in punishing her, haven’t you?” Traegr snaps at Sabir with disapproval, “I don’t want her delving into all the mischievous crap she use to pull around here. Put her on a leash if you have to, crawling beside you might teach her a lesson once her knees are sore enough.”
I glance at Sabir to assess his reaction. He simply cocks a pleased eyebrow at Traegr.
“Celeste,” Sabir suddenly blurts, surprising me as he looks past Traegr to his slave. I watch her still hiding behind Traegr, her nervous silver eyes darting to the ground, “Come forward,” Sabir puts out his hand and curls a finger, beckoning her to come around her master stop hiding.
She glances up apprehensively but eventually and slowly comes to my side.
Traegr crosses his bluging arms over his chest, quiet for once as he is curious about Sabir’s plan.
“You two,” Sabir chooses to stand with Traegr, giving us a small amount of space that I’m grateful for, “Considering it is still morning, let’s give you both a choice,” Sabir slowly smirks and glances up at Traegr, who smiles slowly, catching on to some sort of evil plan they had concocted.
“A choice? For us?” I mutter, on edge, worried about this sudden change.
“Little one,” Sabir finally meets my eyes, dropping his tone an octave, “This choice is your downfall, because I know what you will choose,” I stay silent, but I lift my chin to bluff my confidence levels.
“Tell us what we can choose,” Celeste speaks up, her eyes glittering with curiosity.
“Punishment now, or punishment later?” Sabir asks.
“What’s the difference?” I snap, losing my patience.
“I don’t appreciate that tone, Sapphire. Drop it,” Sabir snarls back, “Or you won’t get very far.”
"Choose,” Traegr adds in, “Now, little cheeky whores, it is a choice and you should be grateful.”
“I don’t understand the difference –” I start off but Celeste cuts me off and answers for me.
“There is no choice, they are teasing us because the outcome will be the same,” Celeste answers quietly.
“Smart girl,” Sabir winks at Celeste, “Do you understand now, Sapphire?” he glances at me, his tone condescending.
“You’re a smart ass, that’s all I understand,” I say.
“It’s a lesson,” Traegr growls, glaring at me, “You’ll understand after you’ve been thoroughly dealt with.”
“We already know they’ll choose punishment for later. Let’s leave them to idly dwell on simple thoughts,” Sabir mocks.
“Not just yet. Listen up, sweethearts. Restricted food for lunch, for you both. Don’t leave the palace grounds - you’ll see guards everywhere. Once you are famished, come to us when you’re both ready for your punishments,” Traegr drawls the order with satisfaction.
Sabir watches us with hooded eyes filled with calculation as Celeste and I slowly walk backwards.
Celeste grabs my arm, urging me to hurry. We turn and speed walk away.
Except my conscious pesters me to not give in so easy.
I break away from her and face Sabir and Traegr one last time at the end of the hall before we use the opportunity to disappear.
“Thank you for the choice!” I curtsy, bowing my head, before looking up and smiling while adding, “We will be coming to you... for your punishments, we do look forward to it,” when Traegr’s eyes narrow in disbelief and Sabir stares in what I can only call, quietly irritated humour... I swiftly turn, and I run.
Celeste actually has to put a hand to her lips to stop a burst of laughter, while she runs beside me.
We can’t quite believe our freedom. For the moment.
We glance at each other and slowly smile.
The choice was real. I liked to think of the choice as distance from them, or no distance. Not punishment now, or punishment later. That was a stupid way to put it.
It was a choice of space, which was more important.
But the cruel truth was, they didn’t have to chase us, or hurry us.
Because once again, we weren’t free.
As Celeste and I instinctually head towards the courtyard garden, we pass a screen hologram in one of the main hallways, broadcasting news about Kiyr.
“That’s odd,” Celeste notes.
We come to a halt to watch the hologram with suspicion.
“Hmm...” I think back to all the times they use to show us news.
They never gave us the luxury of technology in this palace, it was always hidden for the ‘privileged’ Dark Gems to use.
They only showed us the hologrammed news if they were trying to make a point of some kind.
“Oh, shit,” I blurt out as I read the two headlines and witness the footage along with it.
Scouting Stadium for Test Trials being reconstructed immediately.
“Since when were Scouting stadium days last heard of, even with us around?” I whisper to Celeste.
“No one talked about it since Seraphine destroyed the last Stadium and escaped,” her answer is correct.
“Who is it for?” I wonder aloud, “They have us back, who do they want to test in battle...?”
“Obviously any female Gems that need a good beating,” Celeste mumbles, glancing at her fragile hands, “I’m not built for fighting Dark Gems in hand to hand combat. Magic, on the other hand...”
“You won’t have to, someone like Kaelyn is more likely to end up there,” I whisper, confused about this new addition to our ever growing list of problems, “Let’s go, I don’t want to worry about that. We have to worry about tonight and the questions they’ll force us to answer.”
“If you fall into the cup of defeat, drown in pleasure...?” Celeste reminds me of the phrase, not sounding so passionate about it anymore. Neither am I.
Pleasure right now, only meant one thing. Giving in and letting them win.
“Tonight we’re turning the tables,” I say aloud as we pass the hologram and reach for the doors to the courtyard.
“How?” Celeste grabs my hand once we step outside onto the sandstone tiles and we spot a Dark Gem patrolling the area. She quickly pulls me towards the fountain, away from the guard who casually assesses the area with suspicious eyes as he passes by towards the pool.
He doesn’t see us, as Celeste uses her magic to grow the bountiful plants in the multiple gardens, to cover his line of sight. She does it so slightly, he would mistake the movement in the plants as wind.
“We’re going to interrogate them,” I state, making sure I’m quiet so my voice doesn’t travel. I reach my hand into the water of the fountain and Celeste parts from me to sit on a stone bench nearby, looking exasperated.
“I don’t know how you think we’ll manage that,” she doesn’t fail to sound defeated already and it irks me.
She straightens her midriff top, complaining how dirty it is.
It makes me glance down at my own slave clothes and a sudden fury fills me.
I glare up at her.
“We’re going to finish what Seraphine started,” I snap, “We’re going to find out what she was searching for when they caught her and killed her.”
“You’ll get yourself killed,” Celeste hisses, standing up abruptly I see her fists clench and her eyes tear up, “You’ve changed, Sapphire,” the way she says it makes me pause. I look at her offended but she doesn’t take it back.
“How have I changed?” I ask, confused by her hostility.
“You’re speaking out too much, sooner or later you’re going to make a mistake if you keep challenging them directly. We need to be more careful. We’re back here again. You’re going to get hurt if you don’t take precautions,” Celeste looks down at the ground and can’t hold back her tears, “You want to hold them back... you know you can’t. You’re not Seraphine.”
She quickly spins on her heel and stalks off, wiping her eyes as she leaves me by the fountain.
I watch her departure, hurt by her words and the fact she couldn’t look me in the eye while being so harsh.
My heart skips a beat and I realise I’m scared too.
I trusted her judgement but I also knew I had no choice but to remain on the path I had chosen.
I remember how everyday the reason why I had become a princess here, use to haunt me. It now haunted me again.
Traegr chose me to be his betrothed because I was not a Royal female Gem.
I was just a regular Gem. Celeste was the only girl I told here after Sabir warned me of the consequences if I dared tell anyone.
That I was weak.
That I was not a real representative of the Royal breed of Gems.
It was true, I could never be like Seraphine.
In Traeger’s eyes, my position as princess was meant to weaken all influence of Royal female Gems because I had no power equal to that of a real Royal.
Even against all odds...
...it was the very reason I had to succeed.
In the past I tried to hide from the responsibility of being a princess.
Now I was going to fully take ownership of it.
I could thank my experiences on Earth for teaching me a whole new kind of passion for pursuing what was right.
I decide if Celeste wants to leave me alone, I may as well go ‘accidentally’ exploring into the rooms Seraphine had been so desperate to access. I knew exactly which rooms they were.
Starting on this new mission, I feel content with my decisions.
I just wouldn’t realise how much trouble my new passion would get me in, until it was too late.