1 | King of Kings
“This is bullshit,” King mouthed.
“Mouth please,” Pandora retorted, face indifferent as she steered the wheel, used to his cousin who had learned many words after they moved to New York.
“I mean, look at this!” the furious boy showed his phone, a selfie of a girl and a blonde boy his age sitting side by side on the screen. “She’s with that dickhead Spencer already.”
The other girl only glanced at it for a second before she shook her head in response, her brown eyes tracing the road in front of them. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you. This is why I told you to stay away from Olivia. Looks can be everything for her.”
The latter faked a sob on his seat, feeling a strange mixture of sadness, anger, and relief. Olivia was his recent not-a-girlfriend. They met at school, yanked in the boundaries between a friend and a romantic relationship, and he thought it was going too well, enough to get Olivia out of that phase, when Spencer suddenly came into the scene. Spencer, the other douchebag who always got his way down on the panties with his playboy charm. And suddenly, the bone was snatched out of King’s mouth.
“Stop whining about them, and just go get yourself another once we get back. Maybe you can even find one in here.”
“Wow. I really felt that genuine advice right there, thank you very much.”
“Hey, I was trying to cheer you up.”
King knitted his brows as he went deeper into Olivia’s profile, not until his phone’s screen turned black, and he was staring back at his reflection.
“And my phone is dead. Great. Are we near?” He turned to look at his cousin.
“Just a couple more miles,” she replied.
King sighed. He turned his head to the side, rested his knuckles underneath his chin, and watched as the tall rows of trees rolled by like an old film. His bum ached.
“It’s so green,” he whispered. He opened the window and let the rush of fresh breeze whisper across his face and his short tamed curls. He got used to the city, where towers rocketed towards the sky, the honks of cars and wails of occasional sirens that rolled by on his school, to the coffee shop he worked part-time, down to the cheap apartment that they lived in. He thought this was refreshing.
Then he sighed and placed his head back against the headrest, watching from the corners of his eyes as the girl on the driver’s seat picked up her thermos bottle of espresso.
“You should cut some slack on the caffeine,” King pointed out, looking neutral.
“I feel sleepy when I drive,” Pandora replied, flinging a strand of her copper-colored braids out of her face.
He scrunched his nose. “That’s your third one.”
“Uh-huh,” Pandora responded, not even taking what he said into account.
King’s eyes slightly stretched up when an abrupt loud snore rumbled from the back seat. He turned his head over the shoulder of his chair and stared at Bryce — also a cousin — who was snoring audibly in the back of the car. Bryce’s massive frame almost took the entire backseat, his rust-colored hair flying in a messy whirl, spreading out just like a bird’s nest.
Pandora knitted her brows when King started singing loud. Bryce groaned, more like a whine, while he sleepily shifted on his position. That didn’t stop King. He was getting his revenge from when the latter jolted him awake by screaming yesterday. His lips curled up as his tone heightened.
Bryce’s head perked up, staring at them confusedly before his face creased into a scowl. “King! Shut up!” he snapped, kicking the back of King’s seat before he whined back to sleep.
King sang some more, pitch so out of range and annoying that the latter had bolted up for real. Bryce coiled his arm around his neck from behind, slightly knocking the air inside his chest.
“Ack— hey!” King flailed on his seat.
“That’s how you wanna play, huh?” Bryce held him in place and started knuckling his mousy curls.
“What the— don’t mess with the hair, you dork!”
Bryce proceeded, evilly snickering as the latter struggled against his grip. Pandora’s knuckles went white against the steering wheel when they tussled inside the car, shouting, grappling at each other, and bumping against her in the process. It was one of their endless nonsense again.
“Quit it, you two—” Pandora was about to tell them, when her voice was thrown back in her throat.
A huge silhouette suddenly crossed on the road, barely a few yards in front of their car. And suddenly, there was a white flash that swept along the jaw-rattling boom and the earsplitting noise of shattering glass. King clenched his teeth as pain started to bite his body like a mad dog. The world spun so many times that he had semi-drifted out of unconsciousness, tasting blood on his mouth as he felt like a weightless rag doll.
Then for a moment, everything stopped, the world gone into a blur. King felt numb. At times, his eyelids fluttered, and he thought he must dreaming. Or more like a nightmare. He recollected the events. Romania, he thought. Yes, they were heading back to their pride to stay for two weeks before Axel’s ascension.
Then the familiar pain crashed in on his inside, twisting his guts and bringing him back to reality. He panted and started heaving for air, scenting the small trail of blood that dripped down his nose. He was still belted in the seat of the tipped-off rented Toyota; his body curled to an uncomfortable position.
King dazedly turned his neck to his side, hoping his cousins would get less than his nose job. He watched Pandora, who unbuckled her belt, and fell with a grunt, rattling the squeaking car.
“Bryce?” King forced out of his burning throat, barely reduced to a whisper.
Bryce patted his forehead, grimacing as he did and soaking the tips of his fingers with a print of fresh blood. “I-I’m... okay?” he answered, sort of like a question rather than an answer. King and Pandora were relieved even so.
King then began to fumble with his belt. He pressed the clutch, and his lower body slid down, losing their support. He grunted at the burning sensation on his left pelvis. Better, he thought. At least, he wasn’t dead.
“G-get out,” Pandora hissed. “We have to get—”
Her voice faltered.
There was a low, raspy growl that blended under her voice, and they all froze, straining their ears at the sound that neared in. Then Bryce and Pandora’s eyes widened as they stared at King. . . no, behind him.
King slowly turned his neck, mentally uttering charms and nonsense, as he frightenedly yet curiously sought what was behind him that got his two cousins into their wordless disposition. And when he did learn what it was, a massive wave of chill carved its way into his body.
Through the narrow gap on the dirt-splattered side, a bent-over creature of leathery grey skin was staring at him, lips curled into a smile as it flashed its rows of shark-like teeth. King couldn’t even swallow.