The Selection

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Chapter 30 – Princess Irene –Façade

“It sounded like it came from one of the upper floors,” Leila informs.

“It must be Jack!” We reach the entrance we entered earlier today. I pull the double doors open, not stopping to think why they’re unlocked. With the three paths in front of me, I declare, “I’ll take the left staircase!”

“And I’ll go right!”

I sprint up the stairs, skipping several steps with every lunge. The sound of the metal doors closing echoes behind me. The stairs curve toward the right. It splits into two more paths. The stairs continue on the left and the right leads into a hallway. While holding my breath, I listen to my surroundings. A tiny sound comes from the hallway. I sprint toward it.

Thoughts of someone hurting Irene or worse play in my head. I shake my head and grit my teeth. Please be safe!

Using the occasional screams that resound, I navigate through the various hallways.

“Help!” Irene screams. Her voice is close. Light from a room with an open door ahead illuminates the dark hallway. My heart beats faster with every step I take.

I finally make it to the door and look inside. I widen my eyes. Nauseating memories appear in my head. I squeeze my eyes shut as I put a hand over the scar tingling across my chest. This time’s different…

I open my eyes, walk forward, and then yell, “Irene!”

“Who is there?!” The man on top of Irene yells. He turns half his body around. I raise my eyebrows as I continue to walk forward.

“You… You’re Reid,” I say while frowning and narrowing my eyebrows. Irene makes muffled noises behind his left hand covering her mouth. She lies on the floor, wearing nothing except her underwear with her hands wrapped around his left arm. With only his shorts on, Reid widens his eyes and drops his jaws. Irene’s judgment was wrong after all?

“Wait! There is an explanation for this!” he says as he turns around completely and stands up. He puts his hands in front of him. “It—”

I grab his neck, digging my fingers into his skin and thrust on against a nearby wall. He makes choking noises and grabs my arm with both of his. I move my head inches away from his face and say, “I had a feeling you were full of shit. By the time I’m done with you, you’re gonna beg me to kill you…”

I grab the sword on the left side of my hip with my left hand. I start to unsheathe it, but someone grabs my left arm. I turn to see who it was. It’s Irene. She frowns with quivering lips. What’s she doing? Why’s she stopping me? Reid just…

Her eyes tell me everything without her saying a word. I remember the promise I made with Irene. I hold back my demons for now and sigh. I let go of my sword and Reid. He coughs and gasps for air.

“Start talking,” I demand. “If you lie…something bad will happen.”

“I-I got that already…but…” Reid responds while darting his eyes around.

“But what?”

“Can you let me put on my clothes first? They are right over there.” He points to a shirt and pants lying on the ground across the room next to the bed.

“Fine,” I say and turn back to Irene. I take one of my swords and cut the ropes binding Irene’s hands.

“I’m glad you came back, but what’re you doing here?” Irene asks.

“There was something we needed to check again at the library.”

She smiles and says, “Oh! Leila’s here too then, right?”

I can’t help but stare at her chest. I gulp and force my eyes to look somewhere else, but my focus is still there. “Yeah…”

I look around the room for her dress. It is on the floor across the room. I notice Reid still hasn’t gotten dressed. He has his pants in his hands, but he’s not putting it on. He grins widely. A second later, something rumbles in the distance. The floor occasionally vibrates beneath my feet. I raise my eyebrows and run toward Reid. He has one of his hands inside the pocket of his pants. I grab his arm and remove it from the pocket. He holds onto a Slave Remote.

I narrow my eyebrows and say, “You bastard…”

He laughs. “You will regret raising your hand against me!”

These vibrations… It can’t be an Elf, so it must be one of the larger variants of the Xog… Is it an Ogre, Minotaur…or something else?

“Did you shit your pants? You will have to thank my benefactor for that one.”

A benefactor…? Reid is still grinning in front of me. Damn he’s so annoying…

I click my tongue and punch him in the face with a right hook. He lets out a cry of pain. I grab Irene’s dress and run for the exit. I hold out her dress in front of her and say, “Irene, take this and let’s go. We need to leave.”

She takes it and follows me into the hallway.

“Kai!” Leila yells. She’s running toward us from the opposite end of the hallway I came from. The rumbling grows louder. A large silhouette emerges behind her. It’s at least 15 feet tall. “It’s an Ogre! We need to take this outside!”

An Ogre? 15 feet’s unheard of…

I run with Irene in the direction I came. “We can’t fight outside!”

“Why not? You know my magic’s not as effective otherwise.”

I think about Marin and Ruby. “It’ll be bad if we draw unwanted attention. Just fight him here.”

I start to slow my pace.

“No, keep running. He’s fast and we can’t avoid that troublesome weapon in this narrow hallway. If we can’t go outside…then the only other open area I know of is the library. Lead me back to the entrance, and I’ll lead the rest of the way,” Leila says, eventually catching up to us in pace. “By the way, what happened?”

She looks at Irene. I answer, “It was Reid. He tried to—”

A roar resounds behind us, and the rumbling intensifies. I glance behind me. At this rate, he’s gonna catch up!

“Irene, I’m gonna carry you so bear with me!” I declare then sweep her off the ground while she’s still running. She lets out a small shriek. ”Haste!”

I retrace my own steps, eventually finding the same stairs and go down. Leila takes the lead, and we go up the stairs Leila took earlier. I look behind me. The Ogre scales down the stairs on the other side like it’s a ramp. At the bottom of the stairs, he leaps at us. He raises his giant gray bat overhead and swings it down. Stone scatters around the impact point a few feet behind me. I feel a few bumps on my back. So that’s the troublesome weapon she meant… A cave-in situation would be bad.

I gulp at the top of the stairs then ask, “How much farther?!”

“It’s not that far now.”

“Kai, run faster!” Irene exclaims. “He’s going to hit us!”

I don’t change my speed when Leila puts a hand in one of her back pouches. One of her seeds flies past me. ”Sprout!”

The Ogre lets out a loud grunting noise, and the vibrations halt. Glancing over my shoulder, I find a rough wall made out of vines extended from the width of the hallway to each wall. I sigh before asking, “Did you really have to wait that long?”

“I was contemplating whether I wanted to waste one of my precious seeds to save you, but Irene is with you.”

I curl one side of my lips upward. We finally arrive at the library. I put Irene down. “Find a hiding spot away from the battle.”

“Okay, be careful!”

Irene scurries away. Leila points her hand toward the ceiling before shouting, ”Flare!”

A ball of fire appears from her palm that shoots upward. It stops just before it hits the ceiling, illuminating the room. The rumbling and vibrations continue in slower intervals compared to before. A loud banging noise resounds in the distance paired with more shaking. This sounds like…

I look over on the opposite side of the wall. The loud sound stops for a few seconds, but the ground still vibrates a little. Subsequently, cracks appear on the wall paired with another bang. The wall bursts open, knocking down a bookcase in the process. The Ogre emerges and runs toward us. He wears a Slave Collar and has armor all over his body that matches the color of his bat. Reid is behind him, now fully clothed and dons a sword on his hip.

With that power, he’ll probably break my swords if I take them head-on…

I point my left palm at the charging Ogre. ”Fireball!”

A small ball of fire appears from my palm and flies toward the Ogre. It bursts into flames in front of his breastplate. He continues charging at me as if nothing has happened.

“His armor’s fire-resistant, and his skin is too thick for my seeds to go through by themselves. I’ll make an opening for you to make an opening,” Leila informs.

“Got it,” I reply, charging in. I take both of my swords and ready them in front of me. The ogre raises his club over his head again with one arm. Several seeds zoom past me toward the Ogre.

"Sprout!” The seeds burst into a mist in front of his face and around his upper body. He drops his arms, looks behind him, and then lets out a confused noise. Reid runs into the library.

“What are you doing looking at me, you stupid Ogre?! I have not changed my command! Kill them!” Reid exclaims.

I run up to the Ogre’s legs and cut him on both legs with a slash through the gaps of his arm and jump backward. I prepare my Mana. He lets out another confused noise and looks at his legs. Two more seeds fly past me. One of them enters the wound on his right leg and the other in his left. ”Sprout!”

Vines appear from his wounds, spiraling around his limbs in both directions. He tries to grab it with his free hand, but he’s unable to get a grip. I release my Mana and wait for the moment they reach their destinations. ”Open!”

A vertical purple portal appears in front of me and a horizontal one above the Ogre’s head. I reverse my grip on the swords and leap in the portal in front of me while the Ogre struggles with the vines. I appear on the bottom side of the other portal above the Ogre. My body falls on the top of his head.

“He is above you! Do something!” Reid exclaims. “Do you not understand?!”

The Ogre hasn’t seemed to notice me. I take this chance to stab both of his eyes with my weapons. I pull them out and kick my legs off the back of his head. He lets out a loud growl and flails his metal club in front of him. His other hand covers his eyes. The force of some of the empty strikes blows against my body. I land on my feet behind him. ”Close!”

The two purple portals I created scatter. He attempts to move his legs, but he staggers. He loses his balance and falls backward. I sheathe my left sword and point my right blade upward. ”Strengthen!”

I put force into my right arm as the Ogre’s head comes into range above me. My weapon completely pierces him, stopping only at the guard. Some blood splatters on the floor around me. My right arm is pushed back a little, but I stabilize it. Warm blood oozes out from the back of his head, bathing my hand in blood. Some of it slides down my arm and the side of my body. The rest of his body wiggles, gradually getting weaker.

“Shit!” Reid exclaims. I turn my head around and then he runs where he came. Leila chases after him.

"Sprout!" Vines appear around the opening the Ogre created in the wall. It stretches across from each end. Reid takes out his sword and tries to cut them. He’s unsuccessful. The shaking I feel in my right arm stops. I turn back around. The Ogre has stopped moving entirely. I augment my left arm with a burst of my Mana for a moment to lift his head as I pull out my sword. I cancel the enhancements in both of my arms and jump backward. The Ogre’s limp head makes a loud thud against the floor.

I slash my sword against the air to get rid of excess blood and then sheathe my sword. I make my way to Leila and Reid at the other end of the room. Reid has his back against the vines with his sword in front of him. His legs are shaking, and he darts his eyes between Leila and me. I stand by Leila’s side and say, ”Now, you’re gonna give me that explanation of yours…”

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