Chapter 40

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VENIX'S eyes were wide, bloodshot, one of them heavily bruised. His hands were tied behind his back and he was kneeling on the ground, his feet tied as well. There was a cloth shoved in his mouth, but his eyes were staring straight into Lily's.

Lily couldn't breathe.

"Didn't you hear me?" Princess Gloria said, tilting her head to the side. "Kill him!"

Venix's eyes widened, and he shook his head frantically, dark strands whipping in the air.

"What?" Lily gasped. She glanced at Gloria pleadingly. "I—I can't, I—"

The Qarinian woman scoffed. "I told you she couldn't do it."

Princess Gloria held up a hand. "Patience, Invida." She turned to Lily. "Let me offer you some additional incentive. Kill him and we will take you to our camp. You will be fully a part of the Gongjensu—we will make you a commander soon."

Lily looked back at Venix, her eyes stinging. "No, please, don't make me—"

The Princess raised an eyebrow. "What's the matter, Lily?"

"He—He's my friend!" Lily cried, anguish pounding in her blood.

"There are no friends in this war, girl," the Qarinian said coldly.

"I can't kill him!" Lily cried.

"I suggest you do," Princess Gloria said, "If you want to get high up in the Gongjensu, to make plans and take down Tsuchengko. Is your friend worth more to you than that?"

Lily bit her lip. To join the Gongjensu properly meant she'd be able to save so many lives—but this was Venix. One of her closest friends.

Venix had stopped struggling. His eyes, teary yet determined, stared at her as he gave her a sharp nod.

Lily shook her head, stumbling back. "No! No, I won't kill you!"

"Then we're going to have a problem," Princess Gloria said, twisting her lips almost mockingly.

Lily took in a breath, trying to calm herself down. "If I kill him, word will spread. No one will trust me—"

"You won't need to worry about that," the Princess said, "If you do it, we'll take you to our camp. You won't go to the settlement again."

The camp. They'd take her to the camp—she could tell Arlo where it was. They could attack.

But Venix.

She shook her head. "Please, not him."

"Would you prefer we bring one of your other friends?" Princess Gloria said, her tone flat.

Lily shook her head. "Don't make me kill him, please. I'm begging you."

She felt tears run down her cheeks, blurring her vision. But she couldn't look away from Venix on the floor, shaking his head at her.

"Strange," the Qarinian, Invida, mused, looking down at Venix. "Even he wants you to kill him."

"I—I don't have a weapon with me," Lily tried, shaking her head.

"Take this," Princess Gloria said, holding out a dagger to her. Her eyes searched Lily's, unreadable. Regal.

Lily's eyes darted from the dagger to the Princess. She could—

"Any funny business and I cut his throat and yours," the Qarinian said, her eyes deadly.

Nothing. She could do nothing.

"Isn't there anything else I can do?" Lily pleaded, her lips trembling. "I'll do anything!"

The two women exchanged a look. Princess Gloria turned to her. "You are refusing an order from two Princesses. Think about it carefully."

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