The Selection

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Chapter 35 - Princess Irene - Trap

“Wh-what are you doing here…?” I mutter, still unable to grasp the situation.

“I could ask you the same question. What are you doing here?” Marin asks.

“I… I was…” I mutter, but unable to finish my thought. Marin looks at the two dead behind me. She closes her eyes. “It-it’s a misunder—”

“The information broker told us about this hideout,” Marin answers and opens her eyes. I knit my eyebrows.

“What?”

“He told us you admitted to being a part of Cascabel. He followed you to this hideout yesterday. He showed us where today.”

What?! Impossible… We covered our tracks. Did they read us…? I grit my teeth, take a few steps to the left, and ask, “What else did he tell you?”

“That you’re the one who has been backing Osmir. That you’ve been holding Velyn and Seirus hostage…but we’re too late.”

“An-and you believe him?” “Over me?”

“Are you saying he’s lying?”

“Yeah. None of it is true. Whatever he’s been telling you, it’s all lies.”

Marin sighs and then says, “I want to believe you… I really do.”

I smile and then exclaim, “You can! Just trust me.”

“I can’t…when you’ve constantly been lying to me… When will the lies stop?” I frown. “I didn’t need the information broker to tell me that you were a part of Cascabel. Ialready knew. I’ve known for a while now. Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”

I bite my lower lip and don’t say anything for several seconds. There’s an opening behind Marin and the others. “Maybe that part isn’t a lie…but everything else! That old guy can’t have possibly made any of those conclusions. The most he could’ve known was the location of this hideout.”

Marin cocks an eyebrow and then asks, “What’re you talking about? He wasn’t that old.”

I knit my eyebrows. She continues, “Hmm… Perhaps late 30′s or early 40′s?”

I raise my eyebrows. I gulp and then ask, “Did he have short brown hair…? And a hooded white uniform?

“Oh, so you did meet him.” My eyes widen. My mind is finally grasping around everything. “Why’d you say he was old?”

I sigh and then furrow my eyebrows. I look straight into Marin’s eyes. “Marin, listenverycarefully. The only reason I joined Cascabel was to kill the man responsible for that incident. The man that led you here is Xedeus. He’s the leader of Cascabel, and he’s behind everything. We were here to set up an ambush, but he set us up with this trap instead.”

Silence follows my confession. Marin, Jetia, and the guards burst into laughter. I relax my facial expressions and then quirk an eyebrow. Jetia says, “Oh how thegreat Kai has fallen.”

“Kai…do you think we’ll really believe that?” I frown. “Why would your leader purposely set you up and weaken his organization? It doesn’t make sense.”

“I…I don’t know the answer to that either, but it’s true! Bring me to that man right now. He’s here, isn’t he? You can’t let your guard down around him! Where’s Ruby?”

“You’re not going to see that man again. You’re coming with us, and he already went back to Byzia,” Marin informs. I raise my eyebrows. “We only needed to wait for you to show up to catch you in the act.”

Wait… If Xedeus knew that we pulled that stunt at the information broker… I grit my teeth.

“Ruby is…” Footsteps resound in the hallway behind Marin.

“Marin~! They’re ready ta talk!” Ruby enters the room while smiling and then licks her lips. Two guards enter behind her holding onto the two men we passed by earlier. Their faces are wrapped in ecstasy.

“I wanna fuck ya from behind next time.”

“I’m fine with those lips again.”

“Sure,” Ruby answers with a smile. I avert my eyes, frown, and grit my teeth. “After you’ve done yer part.”

The men turn toward us. One of them says, “Those two are really cruel.”

I cock an eyebrow. “We could hear the screams… I don’t know what they were doing with Seirus or Velyn, but it probably wasn’t pretty.”

“They ordered us never to disturb them or ask questions. He communicated with Osmir with one of those Klams over there,” the other one says and points to us.

“You wanna listen to this? It has nothing to do with me. Take it,” I say and then toss Marin my Klam. Leila tosses hers too. Ruby catches it. Marin presses the button.

“We failed to deliver the girl. The man and woman guarding her took her back. No hard feelings, but we’re keeping the 100 gold coins you already gave us.”

“Yo-you don’t know this, but we were escorting one of the successors to the throne. Her name’s Irene. Back in Neso, they tried to take her from us. We took her back. I’m the man they’re talking about, and Leila’s the woman. The other one proves our innocence.”

“Hmm…” Marin interjects. Ruby presses the button on the other Klam.

“Hey, Kai!” My heart skips a beat. “Did you kill those two yet? I can be the king now, right?”

“What the fuck?! That’s wrong!” I exclaim. My eyes widen.Shit! Irene!

“We knew Osmir has been working with Cascabel for years. You can’t deny these allegations now, Kai,” Marin explains. I grit my teeth as I look toward Leila. I give her a nod as I prepare my Mana.

“Hey, we told ya what ya wanted to know,” one of the men says. “Where’s my reward?”

“Oh, that’s right… Let ’em go,” Ruby says. The guards shove them on the ground.

“Hey, what gi—” A stream of flames bursts out Ruby’s palms. ”Ahhh!”

I take a step back as they scream and squirm as hot flames scorch their faces off. They stop screaming and go limp after five seconds. Ruby’s flames halt, revealing blackened faces. The smell of burnt hair and skin lingers in the air.

“Marin, can I kill him now?” Jetia asks as he draws his weapon.

“No, don’t kill him. We’re taking him in alive. You can kill the Elf, though.”

“That is rude,” Leila says. I release Raw Mana without moving. My heart beats rapidly as I focus on the opening in the hallway. Suddenly, a wall of Scrap Mana appears, covering the length of the entire doorway. My Mana can’t go through. I knit and raise my eyebrows.

“Were you thinking of leaving by using yourmagic, Kai?” Marin asks. “I already know what you’re thinking.”

I click my tongue. Leila asks, “She knows about your magic?”

“Yeah… I told her.”

“Kai…are ya gonna leave me again? Ruby asks with a pout. “It’s ’cause of that Elf, ain’t it? She brainwashed ya… I won’t let ya go this time!”

She grins as she raises her arms. She points a palm toward Leila. ”Fireball!”

A large ball of fire flies toward Leila. Leila points her palm toward it and shouts, ”Water ball!”

A sphere of water shoots out of Leila. It’s slightly larger than the ball of fire. They collide with each other. Steam rises in the center. After several seconds, the flames fade away. A small part of Leila’s magic remains and flies toward Ruby. It wets her face. She frowns and mutters, “That’s no good… Can’t ya let me kill ya peacefully?”

“Of course not,” Leila answers. Ruby’s silent for several seconds as she frowns. She grins and then bursts into laughter. I gulp as my heart beats progressively faster. I prepare instructions for my magic. Marin and the others are gone. She stops laughing, but she’s still smiling. She raises her arms. I glance at the corner behind Leila.

“I won’t give ya a choice then…Minefield! Blaze! Inferno! Spiraling flames!”

Flames appear around the entire room. I exclaim, “Get into that corner, now!”

I run toward the corner as Leila does the same and then release Raw Mana. I activate it immediately. Two purple portals appear, covering the ground all the way to the ceiling. They box us in the corner. “Who the hell’s that crazy bitch?!”

The room rumbles. Ruby’s laugh mixed with rocks crumbling and explosions resound. The ground vibrates. I look down. “She’s…Ruby. Just someone I’ve known for a few years.”

“She’s insane. Is she trying to kill us all?”

“She gets outta control sometimes… Anyway, we need to save Irene!”

“I’m already on it.” Her hand is on the wall next to us.

Did Reid betray us…? No… It was him. A part of the wall cracks and moves away from us. The opening it creates is about the size of a door. It’s pushed all the way outside where it crashes into the ground. As I sprint into the hallway, I exclaim, “We can still catch up to Xedeus if we leave now!Haste!”

Swiftness!” The distance to the outside is only about 30 feet. Suddenly, a dirt cloud blasts into us as we nearly make it out of the opening. Some of it gets into my eyes. I close them and cough while continuing to run forward. Something pierces my right arm between my arm guards.

“Argh!” A draft of air blows around me. The feeling of dirt hitting my face stops.

“Kai, watch out!” Footsteps resound progressively louder. I force my eyes open despite dirt still lingering in my eyes. Jetia’s charging at me with his sword and shield in hand. I draw my sword with my right hand and then block his attack. He presses his sword against mine.

“I’ve always wanted to fight you,” Jetia says and then smiles. “But I never thought you would jointheir ranks.”

“I told you already. It’s all to kill Xedeus.”

Excuses. You were just a coward. Just like how you are now.”

I frown and grit my teeth. “Shut up; you don’t understand anything.”

I yank out the arrow with my free hand and then swing it toward the hand holding his sword. He blocks it with his shield. “Still in denial, are we?”

I draw my sword and then prepare to swing it at him. An arrow flies toward me from above. I jump back, rejoining Leila. There are five bodyguards surrounding Marin. Ruby walks out of a different opening in the mountain. She turns toward us, smiles, and then exclaims, “Oh, there ya are!”

As she walks toward us, Leila says, “Hey, Kai… This girl…is she—”

Several balls of fire appear in the air and fly toward us. We jump backward. The magic hits and ignites the plants on the grounds. Leila clicks her tongue and then says, “I’ll take care of this lunatic. You probably can’t fight her regardless.”

“Yeah… I’ll leave her to you. Don’t hurt her too much if you can.”

“While she tries to kill me? No problem. I’ll teach her a lesson onmy territory,” Leila says. ”Wave!”

A wave of water appears in front of us that rushes forward. It extinguishes the flames on the ground. Marin, Jetia, and the guards form a line with Jetia in front. He puts his shield in front of him on the ground and then envelopes an area around the shield with Unrefined Mana. Ruby stands still and creates a wall of water in front of her. The wave of water moves around it and the shield.

Sprout!” The ground shakes and the ground in front of me cracks. A stem emerges from the crack, eventually growing into a giant flower.

I don’t wanna be caught up in this… I run toward the forest and shout, “Hey, Jetia! Come over here where we won’t be disturbed!”

“Fine!” Jetia exclaims and then follows me.

Pollinate!” Leila shouts.

“Jetia, wait! Don’t follow him!” Marin exclaims. Jetia continues to follow me.

Hmm… I can’t use my partial coating with these swords, and he’s already seen my sword’s length. I’ll give him the phantom blades special. I stop running and then turn around. I hold my swords in front of me at an angle. “You want a fight? I’ll give you one…Phantom blades!”

I cock an eyebrow as he covers his eyes with Scrap Mana. His eyes widen as the entirety of my swords turn invisible. “Is this themagic Marin was talking about just now?”

He doesn’t know…? I smile gradually and then say, “Oh, so you guys aren’t that close after all… This won’t even take two minutes.”

He narrows his eyebrows and yells, “So what! Do you think I won’t be able to tell where yer swords are?”

“We’ll see,” I say with a smile. I charge at him and then attack with my left sword. He parries my blows. I swipe my right blade at him toward the right. He raises his shield.

Shock!”Lightning envelops his shield and then impacts with my sword. Only a few fingers tingle. ”Discharge!”

I widen my eyes as the lightning bursts out toward me. I jump back, but the lightning hits my right arm. I tighten my grip as a shock runs through my arm. I gather Rich Mana around my left elbow as he runs at me. I point my elbow at him and then release my magic as I shout, ”Fireball!”

A ball of fire comes out that flies toward him. He moves to the side and continues to run toward me.

“What’s wrong, Kai?!” I click my tongue.

I need to wait for this to wear off to finish him. I point my left elbow at him while continuing to jump backward. ”Fireball! Fireball! Fireball!”

More balls of fire fly toward him. I break down Raw Mana into Rich Mana while they’re in the air. He dodges all of my Fire magic. I point my left elbow toward the ground. ”Fireball! Fireball! Fireball!”

The balls of fire ignite the plants on fire. I create a wall of fire in the process. He jumps over it. As he’s in the air, I point my left elbow toward him and shout, ”Fireball!”

A flaming ball flies toward him. He puts his shield in front of him and envelops it in Rich Mana. My magic collides with his shield, bursting into flames. The fire clears up, and he takes no damage. He continues to charge at me. “I knew it! Running’s all yer good at!”

The tingling in my right arm has reduced to levels I can handle. I furrow my eyebrows and focus on him. I charge at him as I prepare instructions for Raw Mana. I slash with my left sword the same way I did previously. I reverse my grip on my right blade as he parries it the same way. He smiles and says, “And we’re back to this.”

I attack him a few more times with my left sword as I release my Raw Mana. Afterward, I swing my right arm the same way as I did previously. He raises his shield in the same place as he exclaims, ”Shock!”

Lightning envelops his shield, but he doesn’t impact my blade. His arm is now out of position. I flip my right hand around, take a step forward, and then stab my weapon toward his arm. It pierces it completely. He grimaces. As I’m pulling my sword out, he exclaims, ”Discharge!”

I jump backward and shout, ”Open!”

A purple portal appears between us while the other one is directly behind him. I immediately turn around and then jump backward. He lets out a scream of pain. I reverse the grip on my right sword back to normal. I hold my breath as I wait for my portals to dissolve in a moment. They disperse into nothing, and I’m behind Jetia. He turns his head a little to the left and then right. I lunge forward and thrust with both of my weapons. “Where—”

I impale both of his legs in the center of his thigh. ”Ahh!”

I let go of my weapons and shout, ”Strength!”

Power surges through both of my arms. I tighten my grip on his forearm and bicep. I pull them apart, dislocating his arm from the elbow. He lets out another scream of pain as he falls onto his knees. He lets go of his shield. I cancel my enhancements and then pull out both of my swords. His body twitches as I do. I sigh and then say, “Not even two minutes.”

I sheathe my swords and then run back where we came from. Suddenly, Jetia chuckles and then breaks into a laugh. I cock an eyebrow as I turn my head around. There’s a small pool of blood forming around his thighs. He turns his body around while still laughing. I ignore him and continue forward, until he stops laughing and says, “You may have beaten me…but yer still a coward. We both know the reason you leftwasn’tto join Cascabel.”

One of my eyes twitches. His laugh resounds until I run so far I can’t hear him anymore. It continues in my head. I shake my head.Where’d Marin go? I was certain she’d back up Jetia…

I hurry back to Leila and the others.

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