Home > The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(10)

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(10)
Author: Marie Lu

Right away, Magiano’s head appears over the roof of the carriage. I have no idea where he came from, but I realize he was what had landed on top. He casts me a quick look before turning his attention to the crowd. Then he hefts a knife in one hand and leaps down from the carriage directly in front of the first protester, putting himself between me and the mob.

“I think you’re heading in the wrong direction,” Magiano says to him, giving him a dangerous smile.

The protester wavers briefly at the sight of Magiano’s dagger. Then he narrows his eyes and points a finger at me. “She’s starving us to death!” he shouts. “This demon, malfetto, false queen—!”

I shift focus to the protester and his words falter at the sight of my face. Then I smile at him, reach for his threads of energy, and weave.

A burning sensation along your arms and legs, a feeling that turns into fire. You look down, and what do you see? Spiders, scorpions, spiny-legged monsters, seething and crawling all over your body. There are so many that you cannot see your skin anymore.

The man looks down at himself. He opens his mouth in a silent scream and staggers back.

They are pouring into your mouth, out through your eyes. They will eat you alive, from the outside in.

“Now, tell me again,” I say as he finally finds his voice and shrieks. “What were you saying?”

The man collapses to the ground. His cries fill the air. Other protesters behind him pause at the sight of his writhing figure. I continue to weave, strengthening the illusion again and again until the man faints from the agony. Then my Inquisitors—white cloaks flying, blades drawn—descend on the rest of them, shoving those they catch to the ground. Ahead of us, I glimpse Sergio’s heavy cloak and grim face, angrily shouting orders at his patrol.

You can finish him now, the whispers roar, urging me to stare at the man I’d attacked. Come now, do it, you want to so badly. They’re dancing with glee in the air around me, their voices mixing together into one maelstrom. I close my eye, suddenly dizzy from their noise, and my sudden weakness only strengthens their shouts. You want to, you know you want to. A cold sweat breaks out on my arms. No, it’s too soon since I killed in Dumor. Ever since I took Dante’s life in that narrow alley not far from here, I’ve learned that the more I kill, the more my illusions grow, and the more they spiral out of my control as they feed on the strength of a dying man’s terror. If I take another life now, I know I will spend tonight drowning in my nightmares, clawing helplessly at a wall of my own illusions.

I should have heeded Sergio’s warning.

“Adelina.” Magiano is calling my name. He’s standing over the unconscious man, dagger still drawn, giving me a questioning look.

“Get him out of the street,” I command. My voice comes out weak and hoarse. “And have him sent to the Inquisition Tower.”

Magiano doesn’t hesitate. He drags the protestor to the side of the street, out of the way of the carriage, and then waves a hand at the two nearest Inquisitors. “You heard the queen,” he calls out. As he passes my window, I overhear him mutter something to one of the Inquisition soldiers behind my carriage. “Keep a better eye on our path,” he says, “or I’ll make sure you are all tried for treason.”

What if some of my own men are starting to slack on their responsibilities too? What if they want me dead? I turn back to the scene outside, refusing to show even a hint of insecurity, daring them to challenge me.

“That’s better.” Magiano’s voice drifts over again from outside, and an instant later he’s hopped through the window and seated himself right beside me in the carriage, bringing with him the scent of the wind. “I don’t remember protests happening quite this often,” he adds. His tone is lighthearted, but I recognize it as the one he takes on when he’s concerned.

My side is pressed against his, and I find myself hoping that he stays in here with me for the rest of the ride. “When we reach the palace,” I say softly, “have the Inquisitors brought to the tower for questioning. I don’t want a rat in my midst, plotting behind my back.”

Magiano watches me carefully. “It will be impossible to catch all the rats, my love,” he says. His hand brushes against mine. “Sooner or later, one will squeeze through the cracks. You need to be more careful.”

What a funny thing to say. Perhaps he is the rat. The whispers dissolve into laughter.

“In good time,” I reply, “we won’t have to use violence to get our way. The people will eventually realize that the marked are here now, that we will remain in power. Then we can live in peace.”

“Peace,” Magiano replies, still lighthearted. He hops back up and crouches on the seat. “Of course.”

I raise an eyebrow at him. “No one is forcing you to stay here, of course, in service to me. You are free to come and go as you wish. You’re an Elite, after all. The greatest of mankind.”

Magiano frowns. “No,” he agrees. “No one is forcing me to stay.”

There’s another emotion buried in his words. I blush. I’m about to add something, but then he nods politely and hops through the window again. “Happy ride, Your Majesty,” he calls. “I’ll be in the baths, soaking off the dirt of this journey.”

I’m tempted to get out of the carriage with him, and let him take us both away to the baths—but instead I slump back in my seat. There is a tightness in my chest now that I work to unknot. I’ll find Magiano later, apologize to him for dismissing his companionship so carelessly, thank him for always watching me from a distance.

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