Home > The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(4)

The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(4)
Marie Lu

“Going to hire a dottore to fix your markings?”

“Hiring a whore so you can find out what it’s like?”

I just watch. When I first joined the Daggers and witnessed malfettos being abused, I would go back to my chamber and cry. I’ve seen it enough times now to stay composed, to let the fear of such a scene feed me without feeling guilty about it. So as the attackers continue to torture the boy, I stand by and feel nothing but anticipation.

The malfetto boy scrambles to his feet before the others can strike him again—he dashes down the street. They pursue him.

“He’s not an Elite,” Violetta murmurs as they go. She shakes her head, her expression genuinely puzzled. “I’m sorry. I must have sensed someone else.”

I don’t know why I feel a desire to keep following the group. If he’s not Magiano, then I have no reason to help him. Perhaps it’s pent-up frustration or the allure of dark feelings. Or the memory of the Daggers’ refusal to ever risk saving malfettos unless they were Elites. Perhaps it’s the memory of myself pushed against an iron stake, pelted with stones, waiting to burn before an entire city.

For a fleeting moment, I imagine that if I were queen, I could make the act of hurting malfettos a crime. I could execute this boy’s pursuers with a single command.

I start hurrying after them. “Come on,” I urge Violetta.

“Don’t,” she starts to tell me, even though she knows it’s pointless.

“I’ll be nice.” I smile.

She raises an eyebrow at me. “Your idea of nice is different from others’.”

We hurry along in the darkness, invisible behind an illusion I’ve woven. Shouts come from up ahead as the boy turns a corner in an attempt to throw off his pursuers. No use. As we draw near, I hear the others catch up to him and his cry of pain ring out. When we turn the corner too, the attackers have completely surrounded him. One of them knocks the boy to the ground with a blow to the face.

I act before I can stop myself. In one move, I reach out and push aside the threads hiding us from view. Then I walk straight into their circle. Violetta stays where she is, looking on quietly.

It takes a moment for the attackers to notice me there—not until I walk right over to the quivering malfetto boy and stand in front of him do they finally see me. They hesitate.

“What’s this?” the ringleader mutters, confused for a moment. His eyes dart across the illusion still covering my scarred face. What he sees is a whole, beautiful girl. His grin returns. “Is this your whore, filthy malfetto?” he taunts the boy. “How did you get so lucky?”

A woman beside him gives me a suspicious look. “She was the other gambler in our circle,” she says to the others. “She probably helped the boy win.”

“Ah, you’re right,” the ringleader replies. He turns on me. “Do you have other winnings on you, then? Your share, perhaps?”

A couple of the other attackers don’t seem so sure. One of them notices the smile on my face and gives me a nervous stare, then looks back at where Violetta waits. “Let’s just finish this,” he protests, holding up a pouch. “We got the money back already.”

The ringleader clicks his tongue. “We are not making a habit of letting people go,” he replies. “Nobody likes a cheat.”

I shouldn’t be using my powers so carelessly. But this is a secluded alley, and I can’t resist the temptation anymore. Outside their ring, Violetta tugs faintly against my energy in protest, sensing my next move. I ignore her and stand my ground, slowly unraveling the illusion over my face. My features quiver, transforming gradually so that a long scar begins to emerge over my left eye, then the disfigured skin where my eye used to be, the rough, abused flesh from an old wound. My dark lashes turn pale silver. I’ve been working on the precision of my illusions, how fast and slow I can weave them. I can wield my threads of energy more accurately now. Bit by bit, I reveal my true self to the ring of people.

They stare, frozen in place, at the scarred side of my face. I’m surprised that I enjoy their reaction. They don’t even seem to notice the malfetto boy scrambling out of the circle to press himself against the closest wall.

The ringleader scowls at me before pulling out a knife. “A demon,” he says, with a subtle note of uncertainty.

“Perhaps,” I reply. My voice comes out cold. It’s a voice I am still getting used to.

The man is about to attack when something on the ground distracts him. He looks down at the cobblestones—and there, he sees a tiny ribbon of bright red snaking its way along the grooves. It looks like a little lost creature, wandering back and forth. The man’s brows furrow. He leans down toward the tiny illusion.

Then the red line bursts into a dozen more lines, all darting away in different directions, leaving trails of blood in their wake. Everyone jerks backward.

“What in the gods—?” he starts.

I weave the lines furiously across the ground and then up along the walls, dozens turning into hundreds into thousands, until the entire street is covered in a harsh field of them. I blot out the light filtering down from the lanterns and create an illusion of scarlet storm clouds overhead.

The man’s composure cracks, revealing alarm. His companions take hurried steps away from me as the bloody lines cover the street. Fear clouds their chests, and the feeling sends a surge of strength and hunger through me. My illusions make them afraid and, in turn, their fear makes me stronger.

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