Two Kingdoms (Page 30)
The second we’re all tucked in my room, Lamar takes a seat beside me on the floor as I stare at one of the purple walls.
“I’m incapable of experiencing guilt,” I tell him numbly as I swallow the lump in my throat. “I’m a being without a conscience,” I go on, feeling a phantom weight pressing into my chest. “So what is this sickening knot that is twisting inside me and making me hate myself so much right now?” I ask as a hot tear rolls down my cheek.
“It’s pure, unpersuaded, gut-wrenching regret,” he says quietly.
Still dazed and sick, I just slowly nod.
“I regret hurting the Devil’s feelings,” I say aloud, hearing just how ludicrous it truly sounds. “He just tortured my mind. I should have no capacity of compassion for him,” I add on a groan, pushing my palms into my eye sockets.
“Everything you’ve done had to be done. I believe that,” he says, kissing my a*s in that way that usually annoys me, but I appreciate right at this moment.
“And,” he adds, patting my leg that I tug away from his touch, “Lucifer is really good at playing the victim role. He’s been doing it since he was kicked out of heaven. Add that in with his ability to manipulate anything to his benefit, toss in a few masculine tears, and he’s reeling you in. So don’t feel too bad. Even when getting a nosebleed, there’s a fifty-fifty chance it’s all bullshit mixed with just enough truth.”
I blow out a breath, groaning as I scrub a hand over my face.
“I was thinking the same thing,” Kai says as he takes a seat across from me.
The other three take seats on the floor as well, all of us staggered.
Lamar hands me a jar of liquor that reminds me I need to visit a pawn shop…when I’m not so emotionally vulnerable. I take a long sip, tasting popcorn flavor hit my mouth.
I wish I had just known how to do that the first time I had this liquor. Or the second.
“Harold-slash-Heratio pretended not to know who I was,” I say to the guys.
“You’ve been in contact with Heratio since your return?” Lamar asks in surprise.
I decide I really don’t need to tell him what the Devil said. I’m not sure if it’s the truth he was telling me to let me in on a secret, or if it’s a lie he was spewing to appeal to my vengeful nature and manipulate me back into his fold.
I take a longer drink of the popcorn liquor, not enjoying any of the answers before me.
“He took us in and guided us, even though he’s considered neutral. But I know he’s really a balance Elder—at least now. No one has ever said otherwise. And he’s only been around since a century before E,” Jude adds as I take on the impossible task of mentally sorting facts.
Given what Jude is saying, he clearly thinks everything Lucifer says is utter bullshit, not looking for the hints of truth.
“I certainly had no idea he was Harold the Balance Elder I was wrongly accused of attempting to kill. Though now I can see how I looked so guilty, since I really want to kill him at present,” Lamar confesses.
I look back at the guys, seeing them all about as exhausted and overwhelmed as I feel.
“Not now,” I say as I stand. “I’m still healing from my test, and I feel regret over hurting Lucifer’s feelings and making him crazy while I fixed the five of us.”
I pause, glancing at all of them.
“I suppose I wronged you worse than—”
When my nose drips black blood, Kai rolls his eyes, and I swallow the words as the next pulse of pain in my head starts up.
“At this point, it’s safe to assume there’s no way in f*****g hell you’d have done any of this if there was any other option,” Kai tells me pointedly.
“Unbelievable,” I mutter. “Saving your lives didn’t earn me trust, but finding out I’m the catalyst to your demise makes things just peachy. You really are psychos.”
They don’t bat an eye.
“Either way, you were going to die, and us along with you,” Gage says with a shrug. “Only makes sense you’d choose the most balanced option.”
Before I can ask what that means, Ezekiel chimes in. “If you’d died facing Jahl, everyone would have died eventually.”
“Dying an unbalanced death gave you the loophole you needed to come back and bring us all with you,” Jude says quietly, eyes fixed to mine. “Stronger and better.”
“Those nightmares used to be memories,” Gage says with a shudder.
“They are certainly stronger,” Lamar affirms with a nod. “We witnessed that much just in the trials. Even without hell’s power bleeding through their veins…it shouldn’t have been so easy for them.”
“Imagine the power boost we’ll get from visiting Hell’s Black Heart,” Kai says over to Gage. “Could be enough to help her end Jahl.”
Lamar looks confused, but I grin over at Kai.
“You’ll wear your skirts, right? It’ll help keep things from getting so serious,” I add with a grin, my eyes dipping to said skirts that they’re still wearing.
“It’s growing on me,” Gage says as Jude stands and goes digging through my drawers.
They can’t materialize clothing the way I can…
“Could they materialize clothing one time?” I ask Lamar.
“They could do a lot of frivolous things they can’t seem to do anymore,” he states like he’s already observed as much.
Jude curses as he closes the drawer.
“Unless you want to wear something purple, you’re not going to find anything in there. All of Paca’s purple wardrobe has been moved here,” Lamar tells them.
Gage curses the very purple closet across from me. “If we keep walking around in these…whatever we’re wearing—”
“Skirts,” I supply. “Fringed skirts is what I’m actually calling them.”
He gives me a look that borders on hostile exasperation, and I grin. They’re now cute when they’re mad. I’m sure that’s exactly the look they’re going for too, being the Four Horsemen and all; cute is a given.
“I don’t even know what you’re thinking, but I can tell by your smile that it’s ridiculous,” Ezekiel says pointedly at me.
I grin bigger. “Yeah, but now I have an excuse.”
His brow furrows as my eye twitches, the subtle hints of the lingering pain still there in my mind as I try to piece together everything from the overwhelming day, week, month…however long it’s been.
“How long have we been down here?” I ask Lamar.
Ezekiel comes to turn my head to face him, crouching in front of me as he inspects my eyes and wipes away some of the evil blood.
It fortunately doesn’t burn him. I don’t think any part of me is capable of harming them.
Well, unless they wake me from one of those terrible nightmares.
“Fifty-two hours is how long you’ve been down here,” Lamar tells me, causing my attention to quickly shift back to him.
“F*****g purple. Just purple. I’m not wearing purple,” I hear Jude griping as another drawer slams shut.
Rolling my eyes, I stand, even as Ezekiel’s lips tighten in silent protest. I’m not sure why he looks worried about me right now. This is the least I’ve hurt in hours.
“How did we even end up in this s**t?” Kai asks as he starts trying to figure out how to take his level-up skirt off.
“You’re the Four Horsemen. You were defending the castle. There’s a dress code. Paca’s rules,” Lamar says with a shrug. “I guess you found a missing piece of yourselves during the battle.”
I grin, simply because now I’m utterly fascinated.
Everyone else in the room, sans Lamar, is glaring at me right now.
“So the Spartans?” I ask, feeling a little unexplainably giddy at the fact people are still doing something I put into effect.
“That dress code was certainly implemented by you,” Lamar confirms. “If your siblings had something pretty to look at, it drew them out to watch you fight as you led your armies to face off with whatever new, naïve group of rebels thought they could overthrow the castle. Sometimes you even gave people power boosts just so they’d get greedy and attempt such a thing. You do love your destruction.”
He releases a wistful sigh, as though he’s taking a moment to be nostalgic right now.
I go phantom, fashion some baggy dude clothes on me, and turn whole. I’ve had so many level-ups, but making clothes I can shed without them disintegrating is a cool tool to have in my arsenal.
The sweatpants drop to my ankles, and I kick out of them. Ezekiel swipes them before anyone else can, and I start pulling off my new shirt as he quickly undresses.
“You’re gay, right? Not into girls too?” Gage asks as Lamar glances over my bare body.
Ezekiel snatches me at my waist and drags me against his bare body when Lamar takes too long to answer.
I grin, because they’re totally jealous…of a guy in love with my brother.
Doesn’t get much better than this. I will so give them hell. Later. After I finish making new clothes and dealing with the current crisis of a hugely consequential decision.
My nose drips another drop of blood as I go phantom again, fashioning more clothes.