Like those who made bargains with the devil, Soleil thought sadly, and believed they could get away with it.

Stepping forward, she told the traitor gently, “We know your name is Wilbur and that you worked as a runner for the Enforcers. We know that you haven’t shown up for work since your attempt to have us killed. If you tell us the truth about what made you do this and who’s ordered you—-”

“Shut up,” the man snarled. “You talk too much.” He gestured to the imps, growling, “Kill them!”

No second order was needed, the imps charging towards Soleil and her sisters, mindless in their need to wreak havoc.

Letting her blade fly, Aurora smiled humorlessly as it found its target. But her smile faded when she saw the traitor getting away. “Go after him, Soleil—-”

“We can handle this.” As if to prove her point, Fleur slashed the throat of an imp that had been able to avoid her arrows and come near her.

Despite her insides clenching because it didn’t feel right to separate – she and her sisters had always fought together – Soleil spun around and tore after Wilbur.

Creeping vines began to slither in the ground, forcing her to jump and dance around them, knowing that if she allowed herself to be caught, it would never let her go. It hampered her progress, but not as much as it was slowing Wilbur down, because he was clearly unused to any physical test.

Even so, he clearly wasn’t in the mood to quit, forcing himself to get back up even as he cursed every time a vine managed to slash the cloth and skin on the back of his legs.

When he looked at her over his shoulder, Soleil saw his face whiten just before he turned and made an unexpected twist, straight into the mist shrouding the deeper region of the woods.

Her heart lurched.

Soleil hadn’t survived this long by living fearlessly. No, what enabled her to win every battle was to treat each fight as the last, and to never ever think her enemy was weaker.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

And right now, the worst wasn’t Wilbur getting away.

The worst was to piss off the wraiths that lived in this forest and make them think she was their enemy.

“Don’t be a fool,” Soleil cried out when she saw Wilbur move closer and closer towards the eerie-looking mist. “You know there’s a possibility you won’t be able to come back—-”

Wilbur faced her, demanding bitterly, “And what do you propose otherwise? That I go back and await justice?” He shook his head wildly. “You don’t know what it means to be like me! Living in the fringes, always having to kiss people’s arses! Everyone thinks you’re all bloody heroes, the great defenders of the city, when you’re just like everyone else,” he spat. “You’re no different from the monsters beyond these woods. You’re worse, the way you treat those you think are too weak, too cowardly—-” He reached out for something behind him.

Soleil stiffened. Whatever he was about to pull out, she had a feeling it wasn’t good.

And when she saw what it was in Wilbur’s hand, she stiffened even more.

Unfortunately, her guess had been spot on.

This wasn’t good…at all.

He carried a gun, a modern contraption that was forbidden in Asphodel and the entire kingdom for that matter.

And the wraiths of the woods knew this, too.

She shook her head slowly. “Don’t do that.”

“Afraid?” Wilbur’s eyes had a crazed look to them. “Good.” He licked his lips, as if savoring the fear they both knew she was feeling. “I like seeing people like you sweat.”

When he raised the gun and pointed it at her, Soleil did start to sweat, not because she was afraid of him, but of the ghosts that were starting to stir around them. She could feel it in the cold bite of the wind that began to whip their skins, the way the leaves practically danced on the ground, and oh, when the mist behind Wilbur started to creep closer to him—-

Was he so lost in his anger that he couldn’t feel they were being haunted this very second?

She said between tightly clenched teeth, “Don’t. Do. It.”

He cocked the gun.

Soleil paled. “You’re going to kill both of us if you do that.”

Wilbur’s maniacal laughter made Soleil back away.

“How much of a bloody idiot do you think I am? Is this gun pointed at me?”

Hopeless, she thought, and backed up another step.

“You’re the one who’s going to die. Bitch.” He started to pull the trigger.

She spun around and ran.

Behind her, a terrifying sound pierced the night, but it wasn’t the sound of the gun going off. It was Wilbur, screaming for his life, but she didn’t look back, didn’t even think of saving him.

There was no point.

Once the wraiths wanted you dead, you were.


Tags: Marian Tee Fantasy
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