Scarlet Dusk

Caso Fornax has been given the most important mission of her life. In a move to seize power from the oppressive Kaiser Draco Cetus and his daughter Princess Virgo, the rebel organization Scarlet Dusk sends her into the palace to pose as a maid. Caso's job is simple: find out how to get the organization around the security and into the palace to assassinate Kaiser Draco and his daughter on her wedding day. This is one of the easiest missions Caso has ever been given, but everything starts to go wrong when she starts to fall in love with someone destined to die. As the wedding day quickly approaches, Caso must choose whether she should stay loyal to Scarlet Dusk or follow her heart no matter where it takes her.

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8. Chapter Seven

 

CH. 7

 

    The first thing I felt when I woke up the next morning was pain. My head was pounding. I rubbed it while trying to remember just what had happened at the party. When I rolled over to bury my face in my pillows, I was shocked to bump into something. The bed shift and someone groaned. Right at that moment, all the events from the night before came rushing back.

    I sat bolt upright, clutching my unzipped dress to my chest. To my horror, Virgo was passed out cold on the bed next me. Had we really...no, it wasn’t possible. It just wasn’t possible. My heart started to ache. As much as I wanted her, I could never let it happen. Whether they realized it or not, the entire kingdom was depending on me to save them. I couldn’t save Virgo too, and it was tearing me apart.

    The bed shifted again and her eyes flew open. She had to blink a few times to clear the blurriness and fully take in her surroundings.

    “Virgo?” I said quietly.

    She stared up at the ceiling trying to process everything. Virgo looked at me holding my dress and I could tell she just remembered what happened.

    “Fuck!” she shouted, sitting up too quickly. “We didn’t…”

    “I don’t think so. I can’t remember,” I confessed.

    “Fan-fucking-tastic,” Virgo groaned.

    “This isn’t going to work,” I said.

    “No fucking shit, Caso.”
    “So…?”

    She closed her eyes, twisting the bed sheets in her fists. “Just don’t think about it. We were drunk and nothing actually happened. It never happened.”

    As much as it killed me inside, I knew it was for the best, so I nodded. Virgo stood up and let out a long breath.

    “I’m gonna go. I’ll call later. Maybe. I don’t know, I just need to think,” she said.

    “I understand,” I whispered.

    Just like that she was gone. I balled my fists up and punched my pillow a few times. At some point, I had started crying. Hot tears poured down my face, landing on the backs of my hands, and burning my skin. It would never work and it wasn’t fair. The situation went deeper than her being the princess and me being a rebel. I was supposed to enable her assassination. There was no choice; I had a responsibility to Scarlet Dusk, to my friends, to my family. I couldn’t walk away from that simply because my heart was tripping over a girl I could never have.

    Virgo was right about needing to think. I went into the bathroom and turned the shower on. Dropping my dress onto the floor, I stepped into a steamy paradise and tried to let the pressure of the water push everything away. I stayed in there until the water got icy cold. Even then, I didn’t want to leave. I may have been shivering violently, but leaving the shower meant returning to reality. The only thing that could console me was Virgo and that was the exact thing I could never have. I needed to stop getting distracted from my mission. Scarlet Dusk came first. That’s how it had to be. Pagonia was more important than my personal feelings.

    When I finally got out of the shower, I wrapped myself up in a towel and drifted over to the closet. If I was going to be in my room all day, I might as well wear something different for once. After a few minutes of looking, I found a dark red pantsuit I really liked with a pair of red pumps to match. I didn’t put a blouse on under the blazer, setting for a black, lace bralette I brought from home instead.

    My headache had mostly gone away, but I still felt gross. I did my hair and makeup before going back into my room and glancing up at the clock. It was already mid afternoon and I was hungry. Only then did I remember Aquila was usually in town around this time. That meant it was the perfect opportunity for a mission update. I was due for one anyway and it would help me refocus on the mission.

    I grabbed a black purse from my closet and went downstairs. Naturally, I managed to catch Pyxis as he was coming back upstairs.

    “Lady Cassiopeia, how wonderful it is to see you!” He greeted, keeping his voice low to try to be sexy. If I had learned anything from the night before, it was that there was reason for him to keep trying with me. I was gay. Very gay, and a girl I could never be with had already stolen my heart.

    “You never did dance with me,” Pyxis added with a pout.

    “Sorry, I got sick and had to leave. Probably from the sushi,” I lied.

    “Ah,” he said, not quite believing me.

    I kept walking before he could say anything else to distract me longer. When I got to the palace doors, the two guards standing by them stopped me.

    “State your business,” one of them said.

    I flash my ID. “Urgent business for the princess. I need to go into town quickly.”

    They opened the doors for me. A car was already waiting in front of the palace steps. The driver was leaning up against the side. When he saw me, he bowed and asked, “Where to, Lady?”

    “Just into town,” I said. “No need for security to go with us. Princess Virgo wants this trip to be as quick and subtle as possible.”

    The driver nodded in understanding before opening the back door for me. I slid inside and waited for him to get in. The engine roared to life and we drove down the long palace drive, stopping at the gates for the guards there to let us through. As soon as I was away from the palace, I started to relax.

It took roughly ten minutes to get to Primrose Square. The driver pulled over onto an empty side street to wait. I got out of the car and walked back into the main square. It was packed with people, craftsmen, and merchant trying to sell goods out of their carts. I navigated my way through the crowds, looking for a girl with aqua and black hair. Aquila would probably be at the jeweler's table. If you knew what to say, you could get some pretty nice weapons from him for a reasonable price. His table was at the edge of the square where he could complete illegal transactions without getting caught.

As I pushed my way over, I caught sight of a girl in a heated argument with the jeweler. She shook her head angrily and I caught sight of a blue stripe in her otherwise black hair. It was definitely Aquila, but I had never seen her get into a fight with anyone. She was too quiet and shy.

“Aquila!” I shouted.

She didn’t hear me over all the noise in the square. I pushed my way closer and yelled again. Aquila whirled around, scanning the waves of people for whoever called out her name. I waved and she saw me.  She met up with me and we went over to a side street to talk.

“Caso! You’re looking sharp,” Aquila noticed.

“Just one of the many perks of living in the palace,” I said. “I managed to sneak away for a mission update.”

“Thank God. Crux was starting to get worried something had gone wrong.”

Something sort of had, but I wasn’t about to confess to that. “Everything’s going fine,” I lied. “How’s Leo doing?”

“He’s fine, but he misses you terribly,” Aquila said, biting her lip. “Don’t worry about him. What’s been going on?”

I told her everything, leaving out the more personal bits about Virgo. I talked about my job as special assistant to the princess and how that gave me access to private events, parties, and hopefully meetings in the future. Aquila listened intently.

“So you’re getting all kinds of inside information? That’s amazing!” She exclaimed. “What’s Kaiser Draco like?”

“I don’t know,” I confessed, “I only saw him briefly at the party. He hides in room all day and doesn’t even come to meals. Princess Virgo even has to fill in for him at meetings.”

“He has to come out at some point. If you don’t start seeing more of him, you’ll just have to find a way into his room,” Aquila said. “Get some sleeping pills and slip them into his food so you can sneak in and go through his stuff if he really never leaves.”

I nodded, hoping it wouldn’t come to that.

“Oh, I also met this girl at orientation who knows exactly who I am. Apparently she’s from the Silver Glove,” I added.

Aquila made a face. “Those amateurs?”

“Yup. They have a base at Penbrook Estates.”

“Woah, how did they manage that?” She asked in surprise. “Crux will definitely be happy to have that bit of information. It’s not good that this girl knows, though. Can you trust that she won’t tell anyone?”

“I think so. She can’t expose me without exposing herself,” I said.

“That’s a start. Try to limit your contact with this girl if you can.”

“It shouldn’t be too hard. I spend most of my time with the princess.”

Aquila frowed. “I doubt that’s very pleasant.”

“You have no idea,” I said with a sigh.

We said our goodbyes and I went back through the square, stopping at the jeweler’s table to buy a pendant necklace. I dropped it into my purse so I’d have something to show for my trip in case anyone asked. Then I made my way out of the square back to the car with the palace driver waiting inside. As soon as I sat down and closed the door, the driver sped away back towards the palace. Ten minutes later, we were stopped in front of the palace steps. The driver got out and opened the car door for me. I thanked him and briefly talked to the guards at the doors to get back into the palace.

Soon I was back in my room splayed out on the couch and staring up at the ceiling. There was nothing for me to do except think about how badly I screwed up. The light on the phone wasn’t flashing to alert me to a missed call, meaning Virgo still wasn’t ready to talk to me. That hurt. I didn’t want her to be mad at me about what happened. Even if it was a horrible mistake, I wanted to find a way to work around the awkwardness.

I thought I was imagining the phone ringing at first. When I realized it was real, I flew off the couch to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Hey, it’s me. Obviously. Can you come upstairs?” Virgo asked.

“Sure,” I said.

I hung up the phone and tried not to get too excited. She probably wanted help with something legitimate and I need to be professional about it. I flew out of my room, immediately smacking into someone waiting right outside the door. He grabbed me roughly to keep both of us from falling to the floor.

“So sorry, Lady Cassiopeia. I had no idea you would be so eager to see me,” Pyxis said with a smirk.

“What the hell are you doing standing outside my room?” I asked, ignoring what he had said.

“Waiting for you, of course. You’re always in such a hurry. I wanted to tell you how good you look today,” he answered.

He was still holding me. I tired to take a step back into my room, but Pyxis followed me instead of letting go.

“Can you get off of me?” I snapped.

“You don’t need to run from me, Cassiopeia. I won’t tell,” Pyxis swore.

He pushed me back farther into my room, reaching around to close the door. As soon as he took one hand off of me, I threw him off and ran for the elevator. Collapsing inside, I frantically smashed the button to close the doors, letting out a sigh of relief when they finally slid shut. By the time I reached the fifth floor, I had finally caught my breath. I decided not to tell Virgo about Pyxis. I didn’t want her to take it the wrong way or think I was trying to make her jealous. When I got to her room, I knocked on her door, rocking back on my heels anxiously. Virgo answered right away, being careful to keep her distance. She stepped out of the doorway and said, “Come in and sit down.”

I stepped into the room and took a seat on the armchair closest to the door. Virgo sat down on the sofa and we launched into a long moment of awkward silence. She cleared her throat and shifted on the sofa.

“So…” Virgo started to say. She stopped for a moment as if she had to find the right words before continuing. “That was one hell of a party last night.”

“It sure was,” I agreed. “Lady Canes tried to set me up in a fight, but I figured it out in time.”

“I’m not surprised. I heard from Eridanus that she made a scene near the end of the party shrieking about how a palace staff member assaulted her.”

“Did anyone get fired?” I asked.

“No. Lady Canes tried, but someone bumping into you at a crowded party isn’t ground to fire a staff member. Plus, Eridanus saw her trip the girl, so he was able to vouch for her,” Virgo answered.

The silence returned for a moment before Virgo said, “I think we need to talk about what happened after the party.”

“You were really drunk,” I said quietly, looking at the floor instead of at her.

“I know. You had a few drinks too. We both couldn’t think clearly or make rational decisions. I just have one question for you.”

“Go ahead,” I almost whispered.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were gay?” Virgo asked, a slight whine in her voice.

I couldn’t tell if she was serious or not at first. She fake pouted and I realized it was a joke.

“I kinda just figured it out last night at the party,” I admitted.

Virgo beamed. “As a friend, I am honored to be your first lesbian experience. There’s no point in dwelling on some drunk making out. To be honest, I’ve done worse sober.”

“That’s not reassuring,” I laughed.

“It wasn’t supposed to be, I guess. I think this calls for an awkward hug.”

We both stood up and embraced each other quickly before pulling apart, taking a few more steps back than necessary.

“Well, time to get back to work,” Virgo said.

I was glad everything was resolved between us, but my heart still hurt for some reason. In the back of my mind, I knew this couldn’t possibly be where things would end between us. Only time could tell, but if I didn’t figure something out fast, Virgo would be dead and nothing could reverse that.

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