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Champion (Legend #3)(6)
Marie Lu

It was worse than that, even though Anden didn’t say it aloud. If the Colonies attack us with Africa at their side, then our military might not be strong enough to hold them back. This time, they might win. He’ll listen to you. I closed my eyes and bowed my head. I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew that Anden was right.

So I did as he requested. I called Day and asked him to return to the capital. Just the thought of seeing him again leaves my heart pounding, aching from his absence in my life over these past months. I haven’t seen or spoken to him for so long . . . and this is going to be how we reunite? What will he think of me now?

What will he think of the Republic when he finds out what they want with his little brother?

1201 HOURS.





Thomas and Commander Jameson are on trial today.

I’m so tired of trials. In the past four months, a dozen former Senators have been tried and convicted of participating in the plan to assassinate Anden, the plan that Day and I had barely managed to stop. Those Senators have all been executed. Razor has already been executed. Sometimes I feel like someone new is convicted each week.

But today’s trial is different. I know exactly who is being sentenced today, and why.

I sit in a balcony overlooking the courtroom’s round stage, my hands restless in their white silk gloves, my body constantly shifting in my vest and black ruffled coat, my boots quietly tapping against the balcony pillars. My chair is made out of synthetic oak and cushioned with soft, scarlet velvet, but somehow I just can’t make myself comfortable. To keep myself calm and occupied, I’m carefully entwining four straightened paper clips in my lap to form a small ring. Two guards stand behind me. Three circular rows of the country’s twenty-six Senators surround the stage, uniform in their matching scarlet-and-black suits, their silver epaulettes reflecting the chamber’s light, their voices echoing along the arched ceilings. They sound largely indifferent, as if they’re meeting about trade routes instead of people’s fates. Many are new faces that have replaced the traitor Senators, who Anden has already cleaned out. I’m the one who sticks out with my black-and-gold outfit (even the seventy-six soldiers standing guard here are clad in scarlet; two for each Senator, two for me, two for each of the other Princeps-Elects, four for Anden, and fourteen at the chamber’s front and back entrances, which means the defendants—Thomas and Commander Jameson—are considered fairly high risk and could possibly make a sudden move).

I’m no Senator, clearly. I am a Princeps-Elect and need to be distinguished as such.

Two others in the chamber wear the same black-and-gold uniform that I do. My eyes wander over to them now, where they sit on other balconies. After Anden tapped me to train for the Princeps position, Congress urged him to select several others. After all, you cannot have only one person preparing to become the leader of the Senate, especially when that person is a sixteen-year-old girl without a shred of political experience. So Anden agreed. He picked out two more Princeps-Elects, both of them already Senators. One is named Mariana Dupree. My gaze settles on her, her nose turned up and her eyes heavy with sternness. Thirty-seven years old, Senator for ten years. She hated me the instant she laid eyes on me. I look away from her and toward the balcony where the second Princeps-Elect sits. Serge Carmichael, a jumpy thirty-two-year-old Senator and great political mind, who wasted no time showing me that he doesn’t appreciate my youth and inexperience.

Serge and Mariana. My two rivals for the Princeps title. I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

On a balcony several dozen yards away, sitting flanked by his guards, Anden seems calm, reviewing something with one of the soldiers. He’s wearing a handsome gray military coat with bright silver buttons, silver epaulettes, and silver sleeve insignias. He occasionally glances down toward the prisoners standing in the chamber’s circle. I watch him for a moment, admiring his appearance of calm.

Thomas and Commander Jameson are going to receive their sentences for crimes against the nation.

Thomas looks tidier than usual—if that’s possible. His hair is slicked back, and I can tell that he must’ve emptied an entire can of shoe polish onto each of his boots. He stands at attention in the center of the chamber and stares straight ahead with an intensity that would make any Republic commander proud. I wonder what’s going through his mind. Is he picturing that night in the hospital alley, when he murdered my brother? Is he thinking of the many conversations he had with Metias, the moments when he had taken down his guard? Or the fateful night when he had chosen to betray Metias instead of help him?

Commander Jameson, on the other hand, looks slightly disheveled. Her cold, emotionless eyes are fixed on me. She has been watching me unflinchingly for the past twelve minutes. I stare back for a moment, trying to see some hint of a soul in her eyes, but nothing exists there except for an icy hatred, an absolute lack of conscience.

I look away, take deep, slow breaths, and try to focus on something else. My thoughts return to Day.

It’s been 241 days since he visited my apartment and bid me good-bye. Sometimes I wish Day could hold me in his arms again and kiss me the way he did on that last night, so close that we could barely breathe, his lips soft against mine. But then I take back that wish. The thought is useless. It reminds me of loss, just like how sitting here and looking down on the people who killed my family reminds me of all the things I used to have; it reminds me too of my guilt, of all the things Day used to have that I took from him.

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