We awkwardly settled into the seats, my family looking a little less grim now that they knew I was alright. The elephant in the room was suffocating me, but thankfully it was Elijah who began the conversation.
"Cloud will be searching for her brother with support from the crown. Her circumstances have led her to sign a contract that binds her to the Queen, so please know that you are no longer guardians of your daughter. She is one of the elite," Elijah informed my parents, my brothers staring back at me in shock. I averted my eyes as he continued. "Your daughter has a very special blood condition and will become a highly educated and trained worker for the Queen, and will lead a good life. But there are extra details for when it comes to your son, Terrance--"
"Wait," my mother interrupted. "'Special blood condition?' What does that mean?"
Elijah grimaced, gritting his teeth as he straightened in his spot. "Cloud is a special Lightblood that is valueable, and therefore will be kept safe by the rulers of Mythira. All else is extra that you don't need to know."
Her eyes met mine, and it was like she'd gained Terrance's ability. For a split second, I swore she could read my mind, her own coming to the conclusion that she'd been right about me, her supposed Darkblood daughter. After all, she was right, in a way. I was halfblood.
"Anyway," Elijah hissed, breaking our stares as my mother and I had a silent war. "Back to the subject. Cloud is now an elite, so she will be able to visit you on her own time, most likely around once every two weeks if she wishes. But this all changes depending on Terrance."
"Have you found my twin?" Warren blurted, edging to the end of his seat. He and Charles had been staring at me in worry, but the mention of Warren brought their focus onto Elijah, their concentration level nearing lazer-focus.
Elijah shook his head. "We have leads though. Cloud will be going with the Queen's men to find him. This is where things get tricky."
The Prince exhaled, closing his eyes before opening them to reveal sympathetic ones. Shade rolled his eyes, though my family didn't notice. I frowned at him, and he smirked for a split second.
"If Terrance is found alive and returnes safely, the agreement stays intact. However, if he is found dead, Cloud will return to your home under your care."
My mother muttered something, causing my stomach to curl in fear. The Prince's eyes narrowed in on her, and I swore I could see the smoke coming from his ears. My father and Warren, who sat on either side of my mother, looked horrified as they swung their heads around to stare at her. Charles tensed from where he was on a single chair, looking angry at my mother. It made sense; he and I were like two peas in a pod.
"What was that, Mrs. Rose?" The Prince asked, voice cold as he stared at her as if he planned on throwing her in a cell.
My mother, on the other hand, was a proud woman of confidence. She met the Prince's gaze without fear. "You can keep her until you see her worthlessness and decide to throw her to the wolves, Your Royal Highness," she repeated, clearly emphasizing a few points in defiance. My heart hurt as the words struck home, causing shame to flood my cheeks.
"I'm going to excuse myself," I blurted, jumping to my feet and leaving the room as tears ran down my cheeks. I went to the one place I knew would be empty; my own room. Inside, the place had been ransacked as if someone had tried to take anything of value. I shook with bitterness and rage as I lowered myself onto the bed, sitting with my back against the thin wall. Even from here, I could hear the Prince yelling at my mother. She shouted back eventually before stomping out of the house, leaving Elijah fuming as Travis, Andrew and Shade explained the rest of the situation to the men in my family. Slowly, the tension in the house melted away, and I felt myself breathe normally as I forgot all about what my mother had said and dried my eyes.
My one question left was what had changed between us. It was sudden -- Terrance was taken, then my mother turned on me.
Did she suspect me all along?
Was it an act?
The thought hurt, but not as much as the words she hadn't hesitated to say. Gathering myself, I pushed off from the wall and got to my feet with surprising grace, heading for the door.
Except Shade was suddenly there, smiling at me. It wasn't a sympathetic smile. It was one that held secrets and probably mischief, and for some reason, it made my heart flutter.
"Cloud," Shade said gently, "you should come talk to your brothers. They're being crazy."
Frowning, I followed him back to the living room. Travis, Elijah and my father shared a couch while my two leftover brothers and Andrew stood chest to chest, my brothers red in the face. Shade and I walked in on them yelling before everyone turned to face me in sync.
Oddly creepy, I thought, lifting an eyebrow. "Are you guys alright?" I asked, voice still rough from crying. I found it funny how I was asking them despite what had just happened.
Charles ran to me, wrapping his arms around my waist and hugging me to him. "They won't let us join you! Even though we're going to be knights!" He shrieked, voice piercing my eardrums. It took me a second to understand his words before I pushed him to arms' length, using one hand to hit his cheek lightly.
"This isn't an adventure Charles! You and Warren don't belong in danger where Darkbloods lurk at every corner," I scolded, anticipating his response.
"But I can't let my closest sibling die," he whispered back, raising his voice so that the others could hear his next words. "And as someone who is going to be a soldier, I can't let my sister who doesn't belong near Darkbloods go either.
"Not alone," he finished, adding the last statement with the cross of his arms. I scowled, looking at my noble escort group. From the looks on their faces, I knew they were leaving it up to me.
"Dad?" I prodded, looking away from my brothers at the man with gray in his hairline.
My father shrugged. "My children have always been strongest together. If it wasn't for your mother, I'd go too."
I sighed, rubbing my hands over my face. Mom was a problem. If she knew that her sons left for me, she'd probably claim that we were all Darkbloods.
"I can't let that happen. There's too much you don't understand," I told them, fists clenched behind my back as I did my best to bite my lip and keep back what I wanted to tell them. Honesty was clawing at me, and the need to show them what I was dealing with nearly sent me over the edge.
But the Queen and Prince didn't want citizens to know. They didn't want their Lightblood worshippers to know that they could've all been tainted like I was.
Charles looked heartbroken as I stepped back, glassy eyes on the floor.
"One day, I'll make you understand. But let me bring back Terrance first."
Warren, from across the room, cleared his throat.
"If you get hurt Cloud... so help me gods I will tear the Darkbloods apart."
Meeting his eyes, I felt myself almost lose control then and there.
Instead, I smiled.