The Winner's Crown

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Chapter 16

We escape the glass prison just in time, but all around us I can see the terrifying results of the others. Louisa and Clara are frantic, pounding against the glass that separates them from the men that must have loved them in some sort of way. The men, Thomas and Lucas stand in their prison's as the competition delivers the results that were promised. The space inside Thomas's bubble erupts in flame and his body disappears inside. Lucas is even less fortunate, or at least in my opinion. His death is longer as the bubble fills with water, and Louisa turn's away, not wanting to see him die.

As I turn around though, I realize there is one more pair, Vivian and Ethan. Looking at the bubble at the opposite side of ours, my face falls as I realize what must have happened. They didn't make it out in time. Either of them. And they lay inside of the bubble, dead. The gunshots must have been covered up by the sounds of cheering coming from the audience above, and all around us.

Kenneth won the competition.
The words don't stop repeating, even as we are taken back to the palace. I refuse to let go of Kenneth, not ever leaving his side. I can't be alone, I can't be without him. Not ever again. Kenneth's hand's are rough to the touch which isn't unusual. But the thing unusual about them is that there is skin hanging off of them in a way that makes you gag with disgust.
But he will be alright. We won the competition. He won the competition. So he will be healed, and then everything will go back to the way it was before. Except for one thing, I will surely need to return back home to the yellow village, but Kenneth won't. He will be transferred to a pink village where he can actually live his life, luxurious as it comes.
I know Kenneth. He won't abandon his family. But do I want him not to? This is the chance of a lifetime, to live eternally in a place that has everything you need. And I don't want him to miss out on that opportunity. Even if it means losing him. And this time, truly forever.
"Lydia? Are you alright? You haven't spoken a word since we got here." Kenneth puts a hand on my cheek reassuringly and I savor the touch, knowing I won't have it much longer.
"Yes, I'm alright." I smile back at him as the doors open to the holding chambers we sit inside. Desmond appears alone as he pushes through to our side of the room. I look at him, disgusted at his whole act. So charming and yet so evil at the exact same time. Desmond glances at Kenneth.
"My father needs to speak to you within the throne room." Desmond explains, gesturing for Kenneth to leave right now. Kenneth looks at me quickly, nodding, and I nod back.
"I will return Lydia. I promise." Kenneth places a kiss on my cheek and I watch him as he leaves. Desmond stays put however, and I find myself not uneasy, but wondering on what it is that I shall say to him now that we are alone.
I can't believe he didn't help me. And I know that is a foolish thing to think about. But I thought for sure, in the deepest parts of my heart, that he would at least try to save me. Or in the slightest, be repulsed at the actions of his father, the king.
"Leontios. I'm...ashamed." My eyes perk up at the word. I was expecting to say that he is sorry. Not ashamed.
"Go on." I encourage him, straightening my back to level myself with him in a way I have learned over my time spent as a "guest" in the palace.
"I know you cannot forgive me so easily. But I could not do anything to stop it..." I interrupt him before he tries to make me sympathize for him.
"Wait, you knew this entire time what was to become of me?" I ask incredulously. His face shocken's and falls as he finds the right words to speak back.
"There is a reason! Just let me explain..." I cross my arms over my chest, but I let him continue.
"The stage, the temptation, it was all Richards idea. He presented it to my father and my father agreed." Desmond finishes, and my mind starts spinning. He could feed me one thousand lies and I might even believe them. I know the dangerous game we are playing, but I just go on.
"Then why did your father tell me just the opposite? He said it was your idea." I point out, loosening my arms still positioned across my chest, and this doesn't go unnoticed by Desmond as I see his lips twitch into a small smile. Does he really think this is funny? How could he be so insensitive at a time like this? At a time when four lives had been lost in such horrific ways, just this afternoon.
"He'd say anything to make people tick. He knows exactly what is needed to be said in order to make the most stable person go into insanity. It is gift, but it is the rest of our nightmares." He explains, and I let my arms fall down to my sides.
"But then...Richard." My eyes fall as I realize.
"My father loves Richard. It was the son that he raised. But that is also why he despises him just as much. If not, more. Richard is too much alike him. And besides, he will always be only a prince. I am to become King. He knew saying that the temptation was my would cause more damage than to tell the truth. Also..." Desmond trails off quickly.
"What? What were you about to mention?" My curiosity rolls out immensely as I need to know the answer now.
"He uses people's fears, the things closest to them in his advantage." Desmond does not meet my eyes and I understand what he is saying. He is saying that in order for the king to make me tick, he used Desmond to his advantage. He is saying that he knows I love him.
"I do not have any interest in a man like you." I turn away from him, but his hand catches my waist turning me back around to face him. His hand reaches for my chin, making me look up at him.
"Are you sure about that?" His lips speak slowly, softly, and my stomach goes weak. It feels as though I am running quickly, my blood seems to pound against my body and I would be surprised if he didn't hear my heartbeat sounding in my chest. But he gives no sign of it and I am forced to keep staring up into his big blue eyes.
"Y...yes." I stammer and he smiles. "How could I? We have nothing, no interests in common."

"And how would you know such a thing?" The prince asks me.
"Because, you are a blue. And I am a yellow." I tell him, and I see his eyes on me weaken and his gaze falls from mine, his hand going back to his side.
"Lydia..." He starts but I hold a hand up to silence him, surprised that he really does just that.
"You are getting married soon Desmond. And I...we both live completely lives. It is time to return to them." I walk past him, out the door's to the holding chambers and I leave him behind, standing blankly and staring at nothing.
I do not know where I am going. All I know is that I cannot stay with Desmond. Too much is wrong with how we met, with how things have been between the two of us. One second I think we are getting close, and the next he is almost killing my brother and I. Or rather his father is. But he did nothing to stop it. He could have stopped it. Right?
There must be a way in which a royal family member may stop the competition. But I have never seen such a rule. And if anything, if that really is a real rule, couldn't Sara or Venus have stopped the competition as well? Couldn't the queen? So I guess now it makes sense why no one was there to save us in the arena. We were on our own whether we liked it or not. But we still survived. So I guess I shouldn't make such a fuss over whether Desmond could have saved us.
He couldn't have. We both know that. I was just selfish enough to make it about me. I know I need to apologize, but I also need some time to myself. Some time alone. So I sit out in the garden. No one disturbs me. Probably because no one is around me. And I just sit on a wooden bench surrounded by roses. The scent of their beauty making me savor every moment in the gardens. It truly is beautiful here, and it makes me wonder if Kenneth will have a garden like this at his new home in the village of the pinks.
I hope he does. It will then bring him something to do, to cut the roses and put them in vases. To fill his house with the things that might remind him of me, of our family. My mother and father always loved roses. Whenever they saw one growing anywhere in the village, they would take it home and present it to the other. You see, that is the kind of romance, the kind of relationship, I want. If I ever have a romantic relationship of course. I don't know if I ever will. because I don't know if I could ever be the one to love someone else with all my heart and being.
That just might not be possible for me. And besides, how could anyone love me? I am not the best at anything, certainly someone loving me, it would get hard. Maybe too hard for me, for us to handle.
Roses were a luxury in our village. The village of the yellows. They only grew at a certain point in the year and didn't come back until a year later. The cold temperature usually kept them away, but they would return every year. Sometimes just for a little while. But every year my parents take as many as they can home to each other. I think some other's do the same after seeing my parents relationship grow stronger and stronger throughout the years. Throughout just that small, and simple gesture.
I get up off the bench, making my way back inside the palace. I can't avoid this forever. I need to apologize for my outburst to Desmond. He will forgive me, I know he will. And I will forgive him one day for the disarray his family caused in my life. But it will take time, and he needs to understand that just as well.
I round the corner to the holding chambers I left Desmond in, but instead of seeing him sitting or standing alone inside, I am greeted by two people talking seriously to each other. They are standing right by the entrance of the door, and I am lucky they didn't see me before I hid myself as quick as I could.
Sneaking another peak around the side of the door, I can just make out Carolyn's petite and delicate figure, standing right next to Desmond's tall and strong form. They seem to be talking in whispers, but I can make out some parts of what they are saying.
"...She's not safe." Desmond says, and I can make out a little bit of his sentence towards Carolyn.
"Of course she's not safe. What did you expect? But neither is the brother. He will find out soon enough. They both will." Carolyn hisses back and Desmond puts a hand on her shoulder, calming her.
"Carolyn, I sent him there. He must know already." Desmond speaks softly, his words confusing me deeply.
"But...what? This is too soon. They...he wasn't supposed to know until after..." Carolyn keeps trailing off, not wanting to finish her thought.
"The wedding." Desmond finishes for her.
"Yes. We were supposed to have more time, just like it has always been. But he knows now that the elixir is not real! It's too late, don't you see? We can't save him." Carolyn finishes.
The elixir is not real.
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