Home > Champion (Legend #3)(5)

Champion (Legend #3)(5)
Marie Lu

“And what does this have to do with me?”

Another long, ominous pause. It fills me with dread so icy cold that I feel like my fingers are turning numb. The plague. It’s happening. It’s all come full circle.

“I’ll tell you when you get here,” June finally says. “Best not to talk about it over earpieces.”

I DESPISE MY FIRST CONVERSATION WITH DAY AFTER eight months of no communication. I hate it. When did I become so manipulative? Why must I always use his weaknesses against him?

Last night at 2306 hours, Anden came to my apartment complex and knocked on my door. Alone. I don’t even think guards were stationed in the hallway for his protection. It was my first warning that whatever he needed to tell me had to be important—and secret.

“I have to ask a favor of you,” he said as I let him in. Anden has almost perfected the art of being a young Elector (calm, cool, collected, a proud chin under stress, an even voice when angered), but this time I could see the deep worry in his eyes. Even my dog, Ollie, could tell that Anden was troubled, and tried reassuring him by pushing his wet nose against Anden’s hand.

I nudged Ollie away before turning back to Anden. “What is it?” I asked.

Anden ran a hand through his dark curls. “I don’t mean to disturb you so late at night,” he said, leaning his head down toward mine in quiet concern. “But I’m afraid this is not a conversation that can wait.” He stood close enough so that if I wanted to, I could tilt my face up and accidentally brush my lips against his. My heartbeat quickened at the thought.

Anden seemed to sense the tension in my pose, because he took an apologetic step away and gave me more room to breathe. I felt a strange mixture of relief and disappointment. “The peace treaty is over,” he whispered. “The Colonies are preparing to declare war against us once again.”

“What?” I whispered back. “Why? What’s happened?”

“Word from my generals is that a couple of weeks ago, a deadly virus started sweeping through the Colonies’ warfront like wildfire.” When he saw my eyes widen in understanding, he nodded. He looked so weary, burdened with the weight of an entire nation’s safety. “Apparently I was too late in withdrawing our biological weapons from the warfront.”

Eden. The experimental viruses that Anden’s father had used in attempts to cause a plague in the Colonies. For months, I’d tried to push that to the back of my mind—after all, Eden was safe now, under the care of Day and, last I heard, slowly adjusting to semblances of a normal life. For the last few months, the warfront had stood silent while Anden attempted to hash out a peace treaty with the Colonies. I’d thought that we would be lucky, that nothing would come out of that biological warfare. Wishful thinking.

“Do the Senators know?” I asked after a while. “Or the other Princeps-Elects? Why are you telling me this? I’m hardly your closest advisor.”

Anden sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Forgive me. I wish I didn’t have to involve you in this. The Colonies believe that we have the cure to this virus in our laboratories and are simply withholding it. They demand we share it, or else they put all of their strength behind a full-scale invasion of the Republic. And this time, it won’t be a return to our old war. The Colonies have secured an ally. They struck a trade deal with Africa—the Colonies get military help, and in return, Africa gets half our land.”

A feeling of foreboding crept over me. Even without him saying it, I could tell where this was going. “We don’t have a cure, do we?”

“No. But we do know which former patients have the potential to help us find that cure.”

I started shaking my head. When Anden reached out to touch my elbow, I jerked away. “Absolutely not,” I said. “You can’t ask this of me. I won’t do it.”

Anden looked pained. “I have called for a private banquet tomorrow night to gather all of our Senators. We have no choice if we want to put a stop to this and find a way to secure peace with the Colonies.” His tone grew firmer. “You know this as well as I do. I want him to attend this banquet and hear us out. We need his permission if we’re going to get to Eden.”

He’s serious, I realized in shock. “You’ll never get him to do it. You realize that, don’t you? The country’s support for you is still soft, and Day’s alliance with you is hesitant at best. What do you think he’ll say to this? What if you anger him enough for him to call the people to action, to tell them to rebel against you? Or worse—what if he asks them to support the Colonies?”

“I know. I’ve thought through all of this.” Anden rubbed his temples in exhaustion. “If there was a better option, I’d take it.”

“So you want me to make him agree to this,” I added. My irritation was too strong to bother hiding. “I won’t do it. Get the other Senators to convince Day, or try convincing him yourself. Or find a way to apologize to the Colonies’ Chancellor—ask him to negotiate new terms.”

“You are Day’s weakness, June. He’ll listen to you.” Anden winced even as he said this, as if he didn’t want to admit it. “I know how this makes me sound. I don’t want to be cruel—I don’t want Day to see us as the enemy. But I will do what it takes to protect the Republic’s people. Otherwise, the Colonies will attack, and if that happens, you know it’s likely the virus will spread here as well.”

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