Home > The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(5)

The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(5)
Marie Lu

Stop. I can feel Violetta pulling on my energy again. Maybe I should. These attackers have already lost their thirst for more money, after all. But instead, I shrug her off and keep going. This game is fun. I used to be more ashamed of such a feeling, but now I think—why shouldn’t I hate? Why shouldn’t it bring me joy?

The man suddenly lifts his knife again. I keep weaving. You can’t see the knife, the whispers in my head taunt him. Where is it? You just had it a moment ago, but you must have left it somewhere. Even though I can see the weapon, he looks down at his hand with rage and bewilderment. To him, the knife has vanished completely.

The attackers finally give in to their fear—several flee, while others huddle against the wall, frozen. The ringleader turns and tries to run away. I bare my teeth. Then I snap the thousands of bloody lines across him, pulling them as tight as I can, making him feel the slice and burn of razor-thin threads ripping across his flesh. The ringleader’s eyes bulge for a moment before he falls, shrieking, to the ground. I tighten the sharp threads around him like a spider trapping prey in her silken web. It feels like the strings are sawing through your skin, doesn’t it?

“Adelina,” my sister calls out urgently. “The others.”

I take in her warning just in time to see two others gather enough courage to rush toward me—the woman from earlier and another man. I lash out, washing the illusion over them too. They fall. They think their skin is being ripped from their flesh, and the agony bends them over double.

I am concentrating so hard that my hands are shaking. The man struggles toward the end of the street, and I let him crawl. What must it be like, seeing the world right now from his point of view? I continue pouring the illusion over him, imagining what he must be seeing and feeling. He begins to sob, using all of his strength for every movement.

It is nice, being powerful. Seeing others bend to your will. I imagine this must be how kings and queens feel—that with just a few words, they can ignite a war or enslave an entire population. This must be what I fantasized about as a little girl, crouching on the stairs of my old home, pretending to wear a heavy crown on my head and look out at a sea of kneeling figures.

“Adelina, no,” Violetta whispers. She’s standing beside me now, but I am so focused on what I’m doing that I hardly sense her there. “You’ve taught them enough of a lesson. Let them go.”

I tighten my fists and keep going. “You could stop me,” I reply with a tight smile, “if you really wanted to.”

Violetta doesn’t argue my point. Perhaps, deep down, she even wants me to do it. She wants to see me defend myself. So instead of forcing me to stop, she puts a hand on my arm, reminding me of our promise to each other.

“The malfetto boy escaped,” she says. Her voice is very soft. “Save your fury for something greater.”

Something in her voice cuts through my anger. Suddenly, I feel the exhaustion of using so much energy all at once. I release the man from my illusion’s hold. He collapses onto the cobblestones, clutching at his chest as if he could still feel the threads cutting through his flesh. His face is a mess of tears and spit. I take a step back, feeling weak.

“You’re right,” I mutter at Violetta.

She only sighs in relief and steadies me.

I lean down toward the trembling ringleader so that he can have a good look at my scarred face. He can’t even bring himself to look up at me. “I’ll be watching you,” I say. It doesn’t matter if my words are true or not. In his state, I know he won’t dare test it. Instead, he just nods in a rapid, jerky movement. Then he staggers to his feet and runs away.

The others do the same. Their footsteps echo down the street until they turn the corner, where the sound blends into the noise of the festivities. In their absence, I release my breath, my courage spent, and turn to Violetta. She looks deathly pale. Her hand has clasped mine so tightly that our fingers have turned white. We stand together on the nowsilent street. I shake my head.

The malfetto boy we saved couldn’t have been Magiano. He isn’t an Elite. And even if he were, he’s already run away. I sigh, then kneel down and steady myself against the ground. The entire incident has only left me bitter. Why didn’t you kill him? the whispers in the back of my head say to me, upset.

I don’t know how long we stay here before a faint, muffled voice overhead startles us.

“So much for being nice, eh?” it says.

The voice is oddly familiar. I glance around at the higher floors around us, but in the darkness, it’s hard to make out anything. I take a step back into the middle of the street. Off in the distance, the sounds of celebrations continue.

Violetta tugs my hand. Her eyes are fixed on a balcony across from us. “Him,” she whispers. When I look, I finally see a masked figure leaning against the balcony’s marble ledge, watching us in silence—it’s the operator who ran our gambling game.

My sister leans close to me. “He’s an Elite. He’s the one I sensed.”

The irony of life is that those who wear masks often tell us more truths than those with open faces.

—Masquerade, by Salvatore Laccona

Adelina Amouteru

He doesn’t react when he sees us looking back.

Instead, he stays slouched against the wall and unstraps a lute from his back. He plucks a few strings thoughtfully, as if tuning the instrument, and then flings off his dottore mask with a grunt of impatience. Dozens of long, dark braids tumble down around his shoulders. His robes are loose and unbuttoned halfway down his chest, and rows of thick gold bangles adorn both of his arms, bright against his bronze skin. I can’t make out his features well, but even from here, I can tell that his eyes are a bold honey color and they seem to glow in the night.

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