My nerves are on fire… yet my body is numb. It’s indescribable being in complete and utter agony. Remus moved on from the whip a long time ago, further proving his earlier theory. Physical torture is much worse than mental.
I can’t move. My eyes slowly drift across the floor that is now covered with my blood. Remus decided that the whip was too easy once he realized the pain was slowly numbing. He decided it was time to break more bones.
My breathing is heavy as well as my eyes that are slowly beginning to weigh down, but I can’t seem to lose consciousness. I know it must have something to do with Remus’s bracelet. Something finally fills the air other than silence, and I begin to vibrate in fear as the sound of Remus’s footsteps permeates the air. The Leviathan society watches in awe as their ruler once again proves his superiority over another race.
I feel his presence above me, and he slowly kneels so that he is in my line of vision, angling his head as he speaks to me.
“Do you think that her life was worth all of this?”
I try my hardest to keep my eyes open, but I can’t even form a coherent sentence. As I take in the intensity of his gaze, it dawns on me the reasoning behind this excessive display. He wants me to regret my decision to uselessly attempt to save another human. He’s hellbent on proving to himself that I am like the rest of my race he so loathes.
Selfish. Especially in the face of a threat. But I’m not. And even though I know it will breed more consequences for me, I attempt to nod my head giving him my answer.
Remus doesn’t respond how I expect him to. He only studies me harder, taking in every inch of my broken body. It’s as if he’s genuinely trying to figure me out.
The numbness in my body begins to wear off and the throbbing pain slowly takes hold of me causing me to tremble.
“P...pl....p....” I sound pathetic. I’m too weak to even beg properly.
Remus’s gaze narrows at the sound of my pleas but he stands nevertheless, announcing something to his people as he gestures to me. A light laugh trickles over the room followed by applause. He nods his head in acknowledgment, motioning to someone that I can’t see.
The crowd of Leviathan parts as Remus walks through them with his back to me. More tears flow out of my eyes, the thought of him leaving me to bleed out in the middle of the floor more than I can bear. I take note that some Leviathan are looking at me in awe, their eyes drifting to the wounds on my body while others snicker at my demise. I can only assume they are gossiping about how foolish I was to attempt something so bold.
Finally, I see Leviathan dressed in uniform coming towards me, and as if Remus senses my relief, darkness envelops me.
Water assaults my senses. Pleasantly warm. The water molds itself to my wounds, finding its way into each crevice to give it a comforting massage.
I slowly open my eyes immediately taking in the clear cover that separates my body from my neck. I’m in a tub, completely submerged with only my head above the water. I look around the room taking in the warm purple glow that emanates from the baseboards, illuminating the room ever so slightly. When I look back down at the clear cover I can see more clearly that it’s foggy, blocking my view from my body. But the water is warm, and my limbs feel refreshed.
The door to the room opens and in walks a Leviathan. She’s as stunning as the rest of her race. Her hair is dark brown and cut into an edgy bob cut that has braids on one side. Instead of wearing heels and skin-tight clothing, she’s wearing soft green clothes that loosely drape on her lean form. I also take note that she’s barefoot. She looks up from the illuminated tablet in her hands, her eyes meeting mine and she offers me a smile.
She makes her way to a chair that seemingly floats on its own, plopping down in it. She then pushes her legs as if the chair has wheels, and sure enough, it floats in my direction with her atop it. She’s next to my tub, her eyes roaming over me in fascination.
“Well, our leader really did a number on your body.” She lightly taps the tub I’m in her smile widening. “But thanks to our rapid healing tech, we’ve managed to fix you up good as new.”
I stare at her in shock, my body trembling out of response. Her smile drops and she places her hand against my cheek, rubbing her thumb over it in a soothing gesture.
“Calm yourself… don’t get worked up.” Her smile is strangely comforting and I find myself following her command.
“You’ve been in a rapid healing tank for a couple of hours now. The liquid in it is combined with Nanotechnology and minerals from your planet. You should be back to normal in a couple of hours.” She looks back to the tablet using her finger to scroll as she reads something. I take note that her nails aren’t painted, and I find myself wondering more and more about the Leviathan society and its norms.
“It’s a good thing Remus brought you in when he did. If he had waited any longer you may have gained some irreversible scarring…,” she frowns.
She looks back up at me, taking in my horror-filled features.
“Oh! Where are my manners? My name is Petra. I am the equivalent of what your planet refers to as a doctor. Or specialist to be more specific,” she says with a little too much pep.
“I have been trained in all things human. I know everything there is to know about your people and your planet’s resourcefulness to you. That’s how I was able to come up with such advanced and compatible treatments for you and any others there may be,” she adds.
Irritation boils up within me as images of the woman that was beaten only hours earlier flash into my mind. The Leviathan have specialists for us, yet they willingly put us in a state for doctors. It makes no sense.
My tongue is moving before my brain.
“Why would you need medical advances for us, when all you want to do is wipe us out and enslave us?” I hiss.
My voice cracks at the sudden use after hours of screaming, and I begin coughing. She quirks a brow at me, laughing to herself as she reaches towards the nearest counter, grabbing a glass cup with a glass straw. She brings it to my lips and against my better judgment, I gulp it down. I hadn’t realized how parched I was.
She angles her head, taking in my face before speaking.
“He was right, you are a resentful one,” she says in amusement.
She places the glass back on the counter before turning to face me, her mood shifting to a serious one.
“But to answer your question, you cannot rule, or enslave a species if you don’t know how to preserve it. Our goal here isn’t to wipe you out, your planet is too valuable and your species is too intelligent to waste. If Remus has shown us one thing as our leader, it’s that he will give a purpose to even the lowest of species. That species, however, must first learn its place in our society.”
I slowly shake my head in disbelief, but she doesn’t seem too inclined to argue with me about it or even punish me for being so disrespectful towards her.
“Your treatment will be complete in about a day. He will be by to pick you up then,” she says softly as she rises from her seat. I expect her to leave but she doesn’t. She slowly turns to face me with a troubled expression on her face.
“Why did you do it?”
I look at her in confusion but she’s more than happy to elaborate.
“Why did you challenge him? You must have known he would kill you. He must have warned you and yet you defied him in front of such a large crowd, almost getting yourself killed in the process.”
I glare at her in mirrored confusion. She seems genuine in her questioning. It shows how structured the Leviathan society is. No one defies Remus sheerly for his power. Of course, it’s strange if someone that they see as weak does so.
“Your leader seems to think that just because we are faced with fear that we won’t do what is right to protect our own. He encountered the corrupt men in power when he conquered this world, not the weak that would die for their own. He has a horrible misconception that we are selfish and he takes that misconception, trying his best to make it a reality against me. But that is not who I am. I will never stand by idly as another human being is begging for mercy. I will never let my fear control me.”
Her eyes grow wide with each passing word that I say, and she looks at me as if I’m the crazy one. Then, she smiles.
“You know, Remus has never taken a personal servant of any kind from any of the worlds he’s conquered. At least, he’s never left them their free will. Our society has been buzzing about what you have shown him, to let you keep your free will. But I can see it now. The rebellion. The spark of life… the challenge.” She stands up and breaks out into a fit of giggles.
“He’s going to break your spirit. And you’re going to wish that you had let fear control you.” She then walks out, leaving me to soak in the magic healing waters.
Hours later, the sound of the door opening pulls me out of my healing slumber. It takes a moment for my vision to clear up, and when it does my heart automatically speeds into overdrive. Remus is standing over me, watching me with his intense gaze, the purple of his eyes burning bright as he takes me in. I feel chills breaking out across my skin from the pressure of his gaze. And I’m pretty sure he can hear the thundering of my heart because he smiles.
The ride back is silent, and Remus still has an amused glint in his eyes. I’ve been too afraid to say anything to him, but I know that he is going to break the silence sooner or later.
“How does your body feel?” he asks. I slowly maneuver my gaze toward him, and then look straight ahead refusing to answer. He laughs.
“There should be no more pain right about now. Petra is the top specialist when it comes to healing the human body.” He reaches for my arm, tracing his fingers over the smooth flesh. “She healed your body quite nicely.”
I pull away from his touch looking out the window.
“After you destroyed it,” I growl.
Remus must be in light spirits because instead of pain of any kind, he only laughs.
“Do you still think that it was worth it?” I turn my gaze to look at him, mustering all the hate I can.
“I will always think it is worth it. I will never turn my back on my people,” I growl. His smile drops, and he raises a brow at me, but I don’t miss the excitement pulsating in his gaze. I don’t know why I provoke him. Sometimes, it’s without meaning to.
He loves the challenge.
“Each day, I like you more and more, Iris,” he laughs to himself.
“You know, I could have stopped you. You almost killed one of my guards and sent the other to the infirmary. I haven’t seen that kind of fight in you since you first arrived… Since our first encounter. I guess I placed too much trust in you to believe that you would remain docile in the face of adversity… even though you knew there were consequences.”
Realization dawns on me as I realize what he’s telling me. That bracelet was on my arm, meaning he could have stopped me at any moment. He could have prevented me from even leaving the podium. But he didn’t. He waited until I was in the middle of the room and had already caused a scene in front of the people of his society to unleash his wrath on me.
“You catch on quick,” he laughs taking my silence as understanding.
“What you fail to understand is that I love a good challenge. And you give it to me each time you see one of your own suffering, without fail. I wanted to test you, just to see how much damage you would do for a woman you had no chance of saving. I knew you would rebel. I knew you would give me the perfect opportunity to display to the humans in attendance what would happen if they disobey, and how easily outmatched they are.”
“And you did not disappoint. I truly believed that you wouldn’t react for a second. I thought I had given you a deep enough warning. You knew what would happen if you interfered, you felt what would happen. Yet, you did it anyway.”
I feel rage and disbelief bubbling up inside of me. How fucking sadistic can one person be?
Remus finally looks at me, his face filled with excitement.
“Tell me, are you aware of the difference in power between you and I? Are you truly aware?” he asks.
I blink in confusion, opening my mouth to respond and deciding to close it. I’ve seen Remus do strange things sure. I’ve even experienced him taking my essence first hand. But the way he cryptically speaks about our differences in strength causes me to be wary.
“Don’t worry, Iris. You will see soon enough.”
Remus is preparing for something. For what, I have no idea. Whatever it is, it’s important enough for him to leave me alone in his dwelling, with only Margot to keep me company. I don’t know if he keeps her near me to torture me, or to remind me to behave, or else he’ll focus his wrath on her. Either way, it makes me uncomfortable.
My eyes drift over the room taking in the abundant space. It’s large for a temporary home, but I guess the Leviathan society believes in only the best for its leader. My eyes fall on the bookshelf that lies in the far corner of the room and I find myself drawn to it.
My gaze drifts across the room to Margot who is watching me silently, but she doesn’t object to my direction of movement. Once I reach the bookcase, I begin running my fingers over the spines of the books. They aren’t books like ours. The spines are glass, and upon my touch, the spine lights up showing me the Leviathan language.
It stays like that for a moment and when I don’t grab the book, the words darken, leaving a blank spine. I grab the book out of the bookshelf and upon my touch, it once again lights up to reveal a title I can’t read. It’s interesting to know that books are something all society’s share.
I look back to Margot who is silently standing in her same place, her eyes dull but focused on me. I’ve decided that each time I’m with her, I will do what I can to strengthen her brain. Remus said that the brain is like a muscle. If I can somehow reach her consciousness, I can allow her a chance to break free.
“Remember in the Blight, when we would find all kinds of burned and destroyed books? We would spend hours trying to make sure our literacy didn’t wane even though the books were charred ash at that point,” I chuckle bitterly.
Margot doesn’t respond. She doesn’t even shuffle.
I let out a deep breath looking at the book in front of me. Even though we tried, we didn’t have time to scavenge for books to preserve our ability to read and write. It was about survival. Not intelligence.
Even now, I can barely remember the basics. I haven’t picked up a pencil since my last day of school. I had no idea that the following summer would change my life forever.
I open the book, looking at its contents. The language moves across the page, building until it stops. I couldn’t even begin to understand the Leviathan language. They don’t look like any words I’ve ever seen. I close the book in irritation moving to put it away.
“You don’t like Ifasy?” I jump, whipping around to see Remus standing behind me, his eyes focused on the book in my hands. My gaze immediately drifts to where Margot once stood but she’s no longer there.
“She’s off doing her duties,” Remus says as he steps around me. He gently pulls the book out of my hand placing it in its rightful place on the shelf. I take in his stature as his back is to me. He’s wearing a plain gray shirt and jeans. It’s the strangest thing seeing him in human attire. Even though he wears it, however, everything about him screams the lack of human DNA.
“How are you feeling?” he asks facing me. I narrow my gaze, wanting nothing more than to lash out at him, but then I recall the pain of the whip… the pain of my bones breaking… and the pain he caused just by looking into my eyes. Remus is a puzzle to figure out, and I don’t think provoking him will help me or Margot in this situation.
“…Fine,” I say softly. He raises a brow at my response before a small smile appears on his lips.
“Fine,” he repeats before stepping away from me and into the kitchen. I slowly follow, my eyes lingering on the bookshelf. He still has his back to me so I reach for a book, pulling out of the shelf as I make my way to where Remus is now pulling out ingredients in the kitchen.
My gaze narrows as I watch him act so… human.
His purple gaze meets mine before drifting back to the book on the counter.
“Why do you have that?” he asks as he turns away from me to grab a knife. I watch him closely, his movements are so inhuman even as he cuts through the vegetables sitting on the counter.
“I… want to learn your language,” I say softly. Remus stops what he’s doing, his eyes drifting up to meet mine.
“Why would I teach you that? You have been disobedient, rebellious, and you are a slave to the empire. You have no right or reason for learning,” he says matter of factly. I have to swallow the retort threatening to leave my lips.
“So I’m only here for you to fuck whenever you feel like it?” I ask. Remus thinks for a second before answering with a smirk.
“Reading is a privilege, Iris. Something that comes with earning my trust. And you have done nothing to earn any privileges from me,” he says.
Silence comes over us as he focuses on what he’s doing. He’s making food. I assume it’s for me since he admitted to me himself that he doesn’t eat. In all the time I’ve been here, I’ve never seen Remus make my food. Usually, it’s already prepared and brought to me. But now, he’s the one preparing it with ease.
“We still have yet to discuss your act of rebellion at the event.”
I narrow my eyes at him. “I figured the beating you gave me was discussion enough,” I say.
Remus laughs. He actually laughs, shaking his head.
“The ‘beating’ was retaliation. You still haven’t been properly punished for openly disobeying me,” he says. My heart drops at the sight of his eyes. The black is slowly dilating. He’s serious.
As if a switch has been flipped, he stands tall, placing the finished plate in front of me.
It’s a sandwich.
A delectable looking sandwich with sauce spilling over the sides of it. Remus watches me expectantly.
“I know you’re hungry, Iris. Eat.”
I slowly pull the plate towards me, my stomach growling in response to the sight and smell of food. He’s right. I am hungry. Tears burn my eyes as I take in the sandwich. Not because I’m hungry, but because Remus knows and controls everything about me. All the way down to my ability to eat or even learn. He is superior, his words from earlier blaring in my brain.
“Are you aware of the difference in power between you and I? Are you truly aware?”
At this moment, I feel a small piece of me breaking.
Remus lets out an irritated sigh before leaning over the counter. He grabs the book from me, walking past me to the shelf to replace it. He doesn’t say another word as he leaves the room, leaving me to cry in my own pit of despair.