Home > Champion (Legend #3)(9)

Champion (Legend #3)(9)
Marie Lu

I don’t know how Anden can show so little fear in front of Commander Jameson. I envy it. Because as I watch the soldiers lead her away, all I can feel is a deep, ice-cold pit of terror. Like she’s not done with us yet. Like she’s warning us to watch our backs.

WE TOUCH DOWN IN DENVER ON THE MORNING OF THE EMERGENCY banquet. Even the words themselves make me want to laugh: emergency banquet? To me, a banquet still means a feast, and I don’t see how any emergency should be cause for a goddy mountain of food, even if it is for Independence Day. Is that how these Senators deal with crises—by stuffing their fat faces?

After Eden and I settle into a temporary government apartment and Eden dozes off, exhausted from our early morning flight, I reluctantly leave him with Lucy in order to meet the assistant assigned to prep me for tonight’s event.

“If anyone tries to see him,” I whisper to Lucy as Eden sleeps, “for any reason, please call me. If anyone wants—”

Lucy, used to my paranoia, hushes me with a wave of her hand. “Let me put your mind at ease, Mr. Wing,” she replies. She pats my cheek. “No one will see Eden while you’re gone. I promise. I’ll call you in an instant if anything happens.”

I nod. My eyes linger on Eden as if he’ll disappear if I blink. “Thanks.”

To attend an event this fancy, I need to dress the part—and to dress the part, the Republic assigns a Senator’s daughter to take me through the downtown district, where the city’s main shopping areas are clustered. She meets me right where the train stops in the center of the district. There’s no mistaking who she is—she’s decked out in a stylish uniform from head to toe, her light brown eyes set against dark brown skin and thick black curls of hair tied up into a knotted braid. When she recognizes me, she flashes me a smile. I catch her looking me over, as if already critiquing my outfit. “You must be Day,” she says, taking my hand. “My name is Faline Fedelma, and the Elector has assigned me to be your guide.” She pauses to raise an eyebrow at my clothes. “We have some work to do.”

I look down at my outfit. Trousers tucked into scuffed-up boots, a rumpled collar shirt, and an old scarf. Would’ve been considered luxurious on the streets. “Glad you approve,” I reply. But Faline just laughs and loops an arm through mine.

As she leads me to a government clothing street that specializes in evening wear, I take in the crowds of people rushing around us. Well-dressed, upper-class folks. A trio of students pass, giggling about something or other, dressed in pristine military uniforms and polished boots. As we round a corner and step inside a shop, I realize that soldiers are standing guard up and down the street. A lot of soldiers.

“Are there usually this many guards downtown?” I ask Faline.

She just shrugs and holds up an outfit against me, but I can see the unease in her eyes. “No,” she replies, “not really. But I’m sure it’s nothing for you to worry about.”

I let it drop, but a pulse of anxiety rushes through my mind. Denver’s beefing up its defenses. June hasn’t explained why she needed me to attend this banquet so badly, badly enough to contact me herself after so many months of no word. What the hell would she need from me? What does the Republic want this time?

If the Republic really is going back to war, then maybe I should find a way to get Eden out of the country. We have the power to leave now, after all. Don’t know what’s keeping me here.

Hours later, after the sun has set and fireworks for the Elector’s birthday have already started going off in random parts of the city, a jeep takes me from our apartment toward Colburn Hall. I peer impatiently out the window. People travel up and down the sidewalks in dense clusters. Tonight each of them is dressed in very specific clothing—mostly red, with hints of gold makeup and Republic seals stamped prominently here and there, on the back of white gloves or on the sleeves of military coats. I wonder how many of these folks agree with the Anden is our savior graffiti and how many side with the Anden is a hoax message. Troops march up and down the streets. All the JumboTrons have images of enormous Republic seals on display, followed by live footage streaming from the festivities happening inside Colburn Hall. To Anden’s credit, there’s been a steady decline in Republic propaganda lately on the JumboTrons. Still no news about the outside world, though. Guess you can’t have everything.

By the time we reach the cobbled steps of Colburn Hall, the streets are a mess of celebrations, throngs of people, and unsmiling guards. The onlookers let out a huge cheer when they see me step out of the jeep, a roar that shakes my bones and sends a spasm of pain through the back of my head. I wave hesitantly back.

Faline’s waiting for me at the bottom of the steps that lead up to Colburn Hall. This time she’s clad in a gold dress, and gold dust shimmers on her eyelids. We exchange bows before I follow behind her, looking on as she motions for others to clear a path. “You clean up nicely,” she says. “Someone’s going to be very pleased to see you.”

“I don’t think the Elector will be as excited as you think.”

She smiles at me over her shoulder. “I wasn’t talking about the Elector.”

My heart jumps at that.

We make our way through the shouting mob. I crane my neck and stare at the elaborate beauty of Colburn Hall. Everything glitters. Tonight the pillars are each adorned with tall scarlet banners displaying the Republic seal, and hanging right in the middle of the pillars and above the hall’s entrance is the largest portrait I’ve ever seen. Anden’s giant face. Faline guides me down the corridor, where Senators are carrying on random conversations and other elite guests talk and laugh with one another like everything in the country is going great. But behind their cheerful masks are signs of nervousness, flickering eyes, and furrowed brows. They’ve gotta sense the unusual number of soldiers here too. I try to mimic the proper, precise way they have of walking and talking, but stop when Faline notices me doing it.

Hot Novels
  • Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Chris
  • Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)
  • Never Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #2)
  • Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)
  • Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculi
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)
  • Fallen Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #1)
  • Forever Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #3)
  • Ugly Love
  • Allegiant (Divergent #3)
  • Hold on Tight (Sea Breeze #8)
  • Bared to You (Crossfire #1)
  • The Destiny of Violet & Luke (The Coinc
  • Captivated by You (Crossfire #4)
  • Uprooted