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Powerless (The Powerless Trilogy): Chapter 65

Paedyn

Sharp steel slices deep across my forearm. I had jumped out of the blade’s way, though I still earned a searing slash across my arm for my efforts. I bite back a cry of pain and crouch low, pulling my dagger from my boot and gripping it in my sweaty palm.

The king laughs, taking another swipe at me with his sword, forcing me to dance around and avoid being sliced into ribbons. It’s clear he has the advantage with his longer weapon to accompany his Brawny ability. But despite that, he’s unsteady on his feet thanks to the wound at his temple.

So I do exactly what he mockingly suggested: I read him.

He sways with each swing, having to steady himself slightly before trying to land another blow. His right foot steps with each swipe of the sword, followed by a small half step from his left. He’s holding the sword with his right hand, but he has two sheaths at his side, telling me he had another weapon at one point and can fight left-handed as well.

He swipes again, high this time, forcing me to duck and roll to the right. We circle each other, his twisted smile visible even through the steady stream of rain.

I need to get close to him. I need to distract him.

Because I am not leaving here until I murder this murderer.

Maybe that makes me no better than him.

“You killed him! You killed my father!” I shout over the thunder rolling above us.

I step closer, and his sword swings down in a wide arc that would have cleaved me in half if I hadn’t dodged in time. He sways like I knew he would after a strike like that, and I use the opportunity to send my dagger sweeping across his chest. It carves a line through his shirt, his skin, leaving blood blooming in its wake.

Something hard meets my temple and my vision bursts with spots. I stumble back, blinking. Through my blurry gaze, I see the king’s bloody chest and the sword he’s holding, the handle still outstretched after sending it slamming into my skull.

He laughs. But I hear the tremor in it. He’s worried. He hates that I—a Slummer, an Ordinary, a no one—just left my mark on him.

Oh, I’m going to do far more than leave a scar.

“Yes, well, a friend told me of his intentions and this Resistance he was a part of.” His voice is filled with laughter. “So, I did what I had to do.”

Another swipe of his sword catches me off guard and slices a shallow line across my abdomen before I dive away. “Don’t worry, Paedyn, I didn’t just kill your father simply due to some gossip, though I’ve killed men for less. I killed him to ensure my Elite society remained.”

I can’t seem to comprehend what he’s saying, but that may only be due to the rage clouding all reason. “Admit it,” I spit, “you lied to create your Elite society. There is no disease spread by Ordinaries. We don’t weaken the Elites or their powers.”

“I did what was necessary, and you have no proof.”

“You’re a monster,” I choke out.

The gesture he makes is something like a shrug. “A monster? Maybe. The most powerful king Ilya has ever had? Most definitely. No city is like Ilya, no people like my Elites. And I intend to keep it that way.”

I lunge at him, knife slashing. The steel of his sword meets the much shorter steel of my dagger, hard. Very hard. Even when weakened, he’s a Brawny with strength that is far greater than my own. My dagger flies out of my hand, knocked to the ground by the force of the blow.

I don’t even hesitate, don’t even give myself time to panic before grabbing hold of his outstretched wrist and driving my knee up to meet his elbow. The sickening crack of his bone breaking blends in with a clap of thunder rumbling above us.

His sword slips from his hand and hits the ground as he cries out.

And then the earth is racing up to meet me.

He’s thrown me to the ground using every bit of Brawny strength and raw rage he can muster. The back of my head smacks the packed earth and I’m suddenly seeing spots again.

I can’t see.

I’m blinking ferociously, desperately trying to clear my vision. My head is pounding, feeling as though it’s splitting into two, and maybe it is. Something hot and sticky is oozing from the back of my head, and even in my hazy state, I’m certain that isn’t a good sign.

My vision slowly begins to return, clearing enough for me to see what is looming over me.

The king, sword clutched with his unbroken arm, a smile curling his cracked lips.

No.

I struggle to sit up, but a heavy weight pushes me back to the ground. His booted foot is crushing my ribs, pinning me beneath him helplessly.

Not like this. I refuse to die like this.

“Is that all you care about?” My voice sounds foreign in my own ears, scratchy and scared. “Power? Ruling over an Elite kingdom? Does human life mean nothing to you?”

“Ordinaries are a weak excuse for life. An embarrassment,” he growls. “They should have died with the Plague but instead they plague us. I’ve planned for this day a long time, waiting until I could rid myself of this Resistance. And I suppose I have you to thank for their downfall.” His smile is twisted, and my head is pounding as I try to understand what he’s saying.

“Only the strongest, the most powerful, will prevail.” He leans down slightly, his cold gaze boring into mine as he says, “It’s survival of the fittest, and the fittest are the Elites.”

He straightens, his boot still crushing me beneath it. “So, where were we?” He laughs like he’s said something humorous. “Ah, yes. I was ridding my kingdom of one more worthless Ordinary.”

He points the tip of his sword down at me, and I squirm under his boot. He’s so strong and I’m so weak—

“Unfortunately, Kai has grown more skilled than I am when it comes to playing with his kills. He was quite the quick learner. I taught him everything he knows, did he tell you that? He has me to thank for his cruelty.” I shudder when the sharp tip of his sword meets the skin of my cheek, just above my jaw.

And then he drags it down.

I might have screamed—I’m not sure. All I know is the slow, slicing pain trailing from my jaw and down my neck. Hot blood is pouring from the cut and pooling on my skin as rain stings the open wound. I feel my mouth moving but I don’t hear anything coming out, only the ringing in my ears.

He’s smiling when he finally drags his sword to a stop at my collarbone. “This is very entertaining. But maybe I should have let Kai do the honors, hmm?”

I feel sick, and all I smell is the metallic scent of my own blood. Cold steel meets my skin again, stilling me and my churning stomach. He’s chosen the spot right beneath my other collarbone—right above my heart.

He clucks his tongue. “I’m almost impressed that this pathetic little heart of yours is still beating. What, with all the betrayal, heartbreak, and near-death experiences you’ve somehow endured as an Ordinary.”

“Everything I’ve endured was because of you,” I snarl, lifting my head off the ground despite how heavy it feels.

“Hmm.” He sounds almost thoughtful. “Very true.”

Blinding pain jolts through my body once more when his sword carves a line above my heart. A strangled scream escapes me, nearly drowning out his soft words. “Then I will leave my mark upon your heart, lest you forget who’s broken it.”

His slices are deep and disgustingly slow. He goes over each line he’s carved again and again as screams tear from my throat. I close my eyes against the grin twisting his face, unable to bear looking at this man any longer. No, not a man. A monster.

Tears slip down my cheeks against my will, mixing with the rain and blood splattered across my face. I know exactly what he is carving into my skin, can feel it with each swipe of his sword. He is branding me before death, and it’s almost more painful than the agony racking my body.

I don’t know how much time has passed when he finally lifts the sword to admire his handiwork. “There.” Casual. He sounds so casual, so cruel. “Something to remember me by in the afterlife.”

Then he lifts his sword, aiming the point down at my chest.

No. No, no, no—

He smiles. “Stabbed through the chest. Like father like daughter.”

I cannot die.

The king towers over me, gripping the hilt of the sword, raising it up, up—

I will not die.

I’m desperate, driven by madness. Even lifting my arms sends shooting pain through my body but I ignore it as my fingers claw at his boot atop my chest, one hand clamped around his ankle and the other around the leather toe of the shoe.

And with every bit of strength I have left, I twist.

He grunts in pain, swaying unsteadily.

Perfect.

I yank his foot forward, hard. The injury to his head combined with the injuries I’ve so graciously gifted him have made him weaker, made him wobbly.

And he lands with a hard thud on the wet ground.

I don’t hesitate before scrambling towards the sword that slipped from his hand. I crawl, pain and adrenaline mixing to create a dangerous concoction of recklessness. A rough hand closes around my ankle, dragging me backward through the mud.

I scream, frustrated and fearful, as my fingers brush the hilt of the sword before I’m pulled away. My head whips around to see the king’s face contorted with fury, equally bloody and muddy. I kick back as hard as my broken body will let me, and when I hear a crunch, I know my heel has found its mark.

The king cries out, the sound gurgling as the blood streaming from his crushed nose runs into his mouth. I wrench my ankle free from his grasp and dive towards the sword, finally folding my fingers around its hilt.

I drag myself to my feet, every movement painful. I’m soaked in blood, soaked to the bone by the pouring rain. I stagger towards the king, breathing raggedly as I drag the sword through the mud behind me.

Now I’m hovering over him. Funny how quickly our roles have reversed. Me, about to take a life. Him, about to be the life I take.

The teeth he bares at me are stained red with blood. “Don’t you want to know who it was that killed your father, Paedyn?”

That one sentence stalls the sword I’m about to shove through his chest. He rasps out a laugh before choking on his own blood.

“I already know who it was,” I bite out through clenched teeth. “I saw you drive the sword through his chest.” I turn my attention back to the weapon gripped in my hand, unable to bear this anymore and ready to—

“Wrong.”

I still before echoing, “Wrong?”

He lets out another wheezing laugh, and I don’t wait for him to stop coughing up blood before digging the point of my blade into his chest as I slowly say, “It was you.”

He coughs out his next words. “Funny how the mind can make us see what we wish to. You already hated me for what I did to your kind, so it must have been easy to convince yourself it was me who drove that blade through your father’s chest.” A bloody smile stretches across his lips. “But it wasn’t.”

“Liar,” I breathe, pressing the sword deeper into his chest.

His next words are little more than a hysterical whisper. “Let’s just say that your first encounter with a prince wasn’t when you saved Kai in the alley.”

No. No.

“It was when he killed your father.”

The world spins around me, threatening to throw me to the ground. This can’t be happening. He’s lying. He’s a liar. He’s—

“His first kill, too.” The king continues with a bloody, reminiscent smile. “It was the first mission I sent him on, and I think the boy may have even cried after. Look at how far he’s come. Look at how well I’ve trained him. Now he kills at my command and barely bats an eye at the dozens of deaths delivered by his hands.”

I can barely breathe. The boy who taught me how to dance, healed my wounds, asked me my favorite color under the stars—

“You’re lying,” I choke out.

He lets out a raspy laugh. “No, you’re lying to yourself, Paedyn.”

The memory of the night my father died suddenly seems so fuzzy, so unfocused. Where I once thought I saw the face of the king, I now see a blurry body. I can’t make out any of the details, can’t seem to recall anything about my father’s killer.

I shake my head. I can’t think about this now. I refuse to let my reeling thoughts of Kai distract me from the task at hand.

Because now I will kill his father.

Once again, I find symmetry to be a sickening thing.

I will not fail.

The king’s smile is bloody.

I will not falter.

Hysterical, mocking laughter follows.

I will not feel remorse.

“Weak. Just like your father—”

The sword I drive through his chest shuts him the hell up.

My next words are hollow, horribly calm. “This is for my father.”

He lets out a weak, wheezing gasp as he lifts his head off the ground to stare at the damage I’ve done. His eyes widen at the sight of his own sword buried deep in his chest. A gurgling noise follows his gasp, blood spilling over the corners of his mouth and gushing from his wound.

Nothing—I feel nothing for this man dying at my feet, dying by my hand.

“And this,” I twist the hilt of the sword, drawing a scream from the king as more of his flesh rips and shreds, “is for Adena.”

He lets out a strangled sob when I yank the sword out, throwing it to the ground. I spin around, finding my dagger lying several feet away. Each step towards it has me feeling stronger despite every wound weakening my body.

The silver swirled handle of my father’s dagger is slicked with rainwater, blood, and mud—matching me. Drops of water stream down my face, stinging my open wounds as I turn the dagger over in my hand. I flip it once, twice, feeling its familiar weight.

“And this is for me, you son of a bitch.”

I let the dagger fly.


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