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The silence suffocated the two of them, Everest eagerly watching Evelyn think. Just like Evelyn, he was in pain too. He lost a child, but he won his freedom and it seemed Evelyn was lost too. The look of utter hatred and disgust on her face was enough to shatter his hopes and destroy his heart.

“You said Phoenix sent River and Clover, yet my father invited them. Care to explain?” Her voice was cold and harsh. The love she felt for him dissipated.

Everest is a magnet and he successfully managed to magnetise Evelyn, but just like iron, she demagnetised herself with ease.

Everest blinked, licked his lips and answered, “Your father was manipulated into inviting them.”

At his words, Evelyn turned to the side as she laughed in disbelief. “Oh my God.” She chuckled nonchalantly, “How much of this is planned and manipulated and orchestrated?”

Everest took her question as a rhetorical one. “There is a mole, in the council, who is loyal to Phoenix. He convinced your father to throw the ball and invite Clover and River.”

“Who is it?” Evelyn licked her lips, “Who is the dim-witted asshole who brought those murderers into my kingdom?”

Everest shrugged, unable to hold her heavy gaze, “I don’t know,”

Evelyn giggled, “Did you come here half-knowing everything?” Everest didn’t take the bait and remained quiet. “Fine,” Evelyn spoke, “Three more questions. Why did you come to my room?”

“I wanted to see you,” Everest answered, “I love you, okay?” Evelyn sighed in vexation at his proposal, “I never intended for it to go this far.”

Evelyn stared at his broken face, the events that lead to this moment replaying. “You could’ve told me, you know. Told me about the baby, about the plan, about your intention of dethroning your father. Perhaps I could’ve helped.”

Everest ran his hand repeatedly through his hair, agitated, “I did not want you to carry any more burdens,”

Evelyn chuckled, “That’s your argument? Really Everest? I appreciate the gesture, but even carrying the burden is much better than going into it all blind. Did it ever cross your mind that ignorance is not always bliss?”

Everest kept his mouth shut, refraining to stare at his manacled hands.

“If Phoenix knew what the plan was, why did he send River and Clover to murder me before the right time?” Evelyn continued.

“He probably thought it was easier that way, he wouldn’t have to depend on my skills at seducing women.”

“Well,” Evelyn started, sniffing in anger, “I’ll make sure to tell him your skills work.”

At her comment, Everest held his head in his hands, “Evelyn, I’m sor-”

“The last question,” She interrupted, “Why did Phoenix disown you?”

Everest sighed and lifted his head. “The mole probably informed him I was caught on the way to plot against him. Phoenix values loyalty.”

Evelyn nodded, before whispering, “Ivory was right...” She glanced up at him, glaring deep into the eyes that once made her crazy, now made her sick. “You are your father’s son.”

Her comment hurt him, but his pain did not compare to hers.

Everest nodded subtly, on the verge of breaking down from her coldness, “Maybe I am, but I am not my father. I protect who I love from getting hurt,”

Evelyn’s answer came instantaneously, “No,” She shook her head, “You don’t know the difference between hurting and protecting. You protect your loved ones from getting hurt, but you do not hurt them in order to protect them.”

Her reasoning sent Everest into silence, not knowing what to say. It is a catastrophe, Evelyn thought. We created a catastrophe. Everest and I created a catastrophe. We created a person, only to wreck it and wreck the world. I am a criminal, just like Everest is. We both started the journey but only he will end it. Despite all that he cost me, he doesn’t deserve defeat. He still deserves happiness, even if only a tiny bit of it, so he will get his solace.

Evelyn took in a breath, soothing her nerves as she spoke, “I’ll convince them to let you go.”

At her words, Everest met her eyes in shock. “What?”

“You have nowhere to go, so we’ll renovate the cabin and you will live there, under close supervision, until you die.”

“A prisoner?” The word tasted sour.

Evelyn nodded, “After all, you did poison the Princess.”

Everest jumped, dragging his hand across the table towards her, only to be stopped by the manacles’ chain. Evelyn didn’t jump or flinch, she merely watched him tumble over his words. “Evelyn, please! I did not mean to hurt you, I just wanted to protect you. You know what I did was for y-”

“Do not finish that sentence,” Evelyn interrupted, crossing her arms, “Despite what you say, you still used me. You used me, you lied to me, you betrayed me, you made a fool out of me and you put me and my baby in harm’s way.” Evelyn counted it all on her fingers, mocking Everest, “You did it all for you, so congratulations Everest, you freed yourself of Phoenix, only to become my prisoner.”

Each word was a whip, crashing hard on Everest, forcing him to his knees as he watched the woman he loved kill him on the inside, “You might not have given me the cup of poison, but you certainly poured it.”

Everest’s breath hitched, heart skipping multiple beats as he forced out, “Where will you be?”

“Here,” Evelyn simply replied, voice remaining strong and nonchalant, “I am a queen, with or without you and queens always turn pain into power. You will watch me rule, watch me conquer over the glowing hill.” She repeated the words Everest told her in the closet, after her argument with Ivory. Everest shuddered at the phrase. “I will make good my promise. I will please my people, and I will forget about you, but I won’t let the rivalry end. Instead, I will get my vengeance by killing your brother and your abuser.”

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