The blue lips pursed.

“But you threw it back at my face by falling in love with the demon you were supposed to kill. You fell in love with my son’s killer—-”

She said shakily, “But Ilie wasn’t the one who—-”

“They’re all the same,” Crystal said calmly. “That’s what you’ve never understood. Demons are all the same. They lie. They kill. They thrive on pain, and soon you’ll see this for yourself.” Crystal drew back.

“But for now, we shall continue with our tale.”

She snapped her fingers, and once more the Woods of the Wraiths reappeared.

“I went back, and this time I asked them if they wanted another trade. I vowed eternal servitude to their cause…in exchange of revenge.”

In the scene playing out, Soleil saw the wraith-like trees start to bow.

“They said yes, of course. But first, they told me I must die.”

The trees reached out to Crystal with their claws and started shoving her back, further and further from the woods until she fell into the ocean.

Soleil screamed as she saw Crystal’s head hit the jagged rocks at the bottom of the cliff.

Next to this scene, another scene started to materialize. It was her bedroom again, and she saw her double – or whatever it should be called – arching off the bed, her mouth parting in a soundless scream.

The marquis began shaking her. “Listen to my voice, ma lisse, and snap out of it.”

“Foolish demon. Did he really think it would be that easy?” Crystal was suddenly standing behind Soleil’s chair. “Ignore him for now, my dear.” She pointed to the other scene. “And so I died by drowning. When I woke up, I was here in their world, and I knew what I could do.” Crystal started stroking Soleil’s hair, murmuring, “The tea I made you drink allowed me to play with your mind. I know your household is warded with spells, and so I used an illusion to lure your soul out of the house. I was terribly impressed you saw through my illusion, but by then it was too late for you. You already had placed one step out of the house, and it was all I needed. I just need to cut the thread afterwards—-”

Crystal’s fingers moved like scissors snapping a thread.

“Just like that, and…” She gripped Soleil’s hair and used it to yank Soleil’s head back.

In Soleil’s bedroom, her body experienced the same thing, and her sisters cried out.

“And now, it’s time for my revenge,” Crystal whispered. “The wraiths told me a secret, and it’s made me realize that death is too good for you.”

A knife appeared in front of Soleil, hanging in the air.

Crystal sang out, “Can you hear me, milord?”

Ilie stiffened at the sound of the disembodied voice that came out of nowhere. He didn’t hesitate, snarling in a low voice, “Tell me what you fucking want, and I’ll do it.” His heartkeeper’s soulless scent had told him what he needed to know, and that was that he was at this person’s mercy, whoever she was.

“Do you see, Soleil?” Crystal’s tone was admiring. “That is how you do it. You go straight to the point and don’t bother about the whys or hows. As expected, from a selfish demon.”

Soleil started to shake her head but stopped when the knife pressed closer to her throat.

“You’re crazy,” she gritted out.

“No.” Crystal’s tone turned kind. “I am not. I simply do not feel, but I have never been more sane.”

The knife began to slit Soleil’s throat.

The marquis’ face whitened when he saw a line of blood appear on Soleil’s neck.

“If you speak,” Crystal cautioned, “you will only quicken your death. You may be his heartkeeper, but the process hasn’t been completed yet. You can still die. It will only take longer than usual.”

Tears ran down on both faces of Soleil.

Crystal called out to the marquis, “Now, milord, I actually do not have to do this if I trusted you to tell the truth. But I don’t. And so it has to be this way.”

Ilie had his hand pressed against Soleil’s throat in a futile attempt to keep it from bleeding. “What do you want?” he asked savagely. “Whatever it is, it’s yours.”

“Just answers,” Crystal answered sweetly. “And you must tell the truth. I shall know if you do not speak of the truth, and when that happens—-”

The knife moved another inch, and the line of blood grew longer.

Ilie’s fist clenched. “Yes,” he bit out. “I will speak nothing but the truth.”

“Then…have you ever lied to Soleil?”

What the hell? Ilie knew it was a trap, but he also knew he had no other recourse except to play along. He snapped, “Yes.”

“Was it about heartkeeping?”

His face hardened. “Yes.”

What could Ilie have lied to her about? Soleil tried to make sense of Ilie’s answers even as her vision started to waver. She did her best to keep still, to not breathe too much or do anything that would cause the knife to cut deeper.

Tags: Marian Tee Fantasy
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