I’d followed Sloth into the hallway. Recently they’d been giving us more freedom. Before today I thought it was a good thing but now I wasn’t so sure. If they had more freedom, the people who were targeting me would have more opportunities to act. After turning on the group and taking Pride’s side in their attack, it was clear that everyone was after me.
And Sloth was ready to abandon ship.
“Don’t be sorry,” Sloth states, “Be better. Listen, I like you Ardor. I really do, but notice I called you Ardor. Because you are NOT Wrath. You will never be Wrath.”
“I’m not a killer. I couldn’t sit there and watch someone die.”
“Do you think that Pride is innocent?” Sloth asks me.
Sloth seems frustrated with me. I felt like I was so ignorant. I was ignorant about the fact that maybe I shouldn’t have interfered. Pride probably would have been able to beat all of them without my interference. Probably., Probably not. Who knew?
“You know something about him?” I ask.
Sloth gets quiet, “He has more bodies than all of us combined. His father was Victor Ward, some sort of mad scientist who lived in the woods and his mother Violet Ward…she was powerful. He has a pedigree.”
Here is that word again. Pedigree.
“Murder doesn’t run through your veins.”
“Yes, it does. When your mother is one of the most violent people in the world, murder runs through your veins. Violet Ward wasn’t any normal person.”
“Who is Pride’s mother?”
“You should talk to Tom about that…”
The day passes and the next day I am taken into training. I’m nervous. It’s not like there is something I could deny. The moderators didn’t care if I was scared. This wasn’t a prison, not in the normal sense. They wouldn’t put me in protective custody. I was surprised no one died the day before but I had a feeling that everyone would be a little concerned now.
“You got a death wish showing up here…” I hear Lust state.
I’m not surprised when I walk into the gym that all eyes are on me. Yesterday I had helped Pride. I literally helped him.
I swear I think they are going to take a step towards me when I feel a shadow cast over me. I don’t expect it but I look behind my shoulder and see Pride standing there. I look back and notice the increased presence of moderators. That was always a sign that Pride was close. Seeing him over my shoulder causes the others to stop staring my way.
“They let you out.”
Pride doesn’t respond to me. It’d been so long and I wondered if he could talk. He just turns to me and stares. The others are acting as though they aren’t paying attention but I wasn’t surprised by the random stares we get. They are on the other side of the gym, however. Hopefully, I’d see them coming if they did. Maybe they wanted a round 2 with Pride but wanted me out of the way this time.
I sit back, “They want to kill you. You know that?”
He nods. I can’t take my eyes off of him. He was handsome in the most terrifying way possible. Someone you know you shouldn’t like but you also realize it’d be hard not to get all tingly.
I pause and stare hard at him, “That one is the most dangerous one. Lust. He’s the leader I assume. He hates me. He’s a swordsman. From the sores on his hands, I can tell that he’s the type of swordsman who carries two swords, the longer katana, and the shorter wakizashi. These are normally wielded individually, though the use of both as a pair works too. He’s studied at some ancient schools but mostly Lust is a student of more modern techniques. But many of those schools focus almost exclusively on swordsmanship.”
He raises an eyebrow at me. He’s confused.
He’s wondering how I know this.
“You want to know how I know?” I ask and when he doesn’t answer I assume I’m correct, “I’ve always been good at knowing how other people are powerful. I can read them. Do you know? I don’t know. I guess it’s just instinct? Not like I should be telling you anything about instinct.”
He looks at me seriously. Damn, he’s so fucking handsome. He doesn’t smile. He probably has never smiled in his life. His sharp features were mesmerizing. He was young, maybe in his mid-20s but he had a heaviness to his eyes as he’d been through a lot.
That’s when he turns and he stares at the weapon rack.
“You want me to come with you to the weapon rack?” I ask.
He nods, slowly. He understood me! He fucking understood what I was saying. I look at the Creature. The handsome creature as he crosses to the weapon’s rack first. He does walk up straight now but even then there is a bit of a glide to him. A glide that seems inhuman. People didn’t lurk as he did. It was strange, sexy and unique. I watch his back muscles the entire time. His hands always seem to clench even when he’s just walking as though any moment he’d have to rip someone apart.
We get to the weapons rack and there were more stares at us now than ever. People are watching what we are doing. Everyone is. Moderators and the other 5 assassins.
And that’s when I see another pair of eyes. One that I didn’t see before.
Tom was here.
“They’re staring,” I state, “Why am I over here? Do you want a weapon? Here, take one.”
I try to hand him a sword but it clangs on the floor when he refuses to take it. He looks down at the sword and kicks it towards me. I’m staring at the sword even more confused now than I was before. What was he doing and why?”
“You want me to pick up the sword?” I ask.
I’m confused. I look back over at Tom. I look over at the moderators and that’s when I notice the moderators are still taking notes. This time it’s not on the others. This time they are taking notes on me.
“You want me to spar?” I ask, “You want me to impress the moderators.”
To answer my question Pride crotches over in a fighting stance. He is barefoot, shirtless and has no weapon. All he has on is some skinny shorts that cling to his muscular legs and his even more impressive crotch area. His muscles are intimidating and his veins are pulsating. I am the one with the sword but even with a million swords I felt outmatched by him.
“Maybe I should get a wooden sword,” I suggest.
I try to put the sword down but Pride stops me. He slams on his chest hard clearly wanting me to come at him as hard as I can.
Everyone was watching and maybe Pride was right. Maybe it was time for me to prove that I could do anything but whimper in a corner. I swing my sword at pride as fast as I can. He sidesteps. Barely. It’s embarrassing really. It’s embarrassing that he didn’t’ even have to try to avoid my attack.
I try again. This time swinging the sword over my shoulder. Even though it was a katana it is heavier than I thought. The weight of the sword causes me to go spinning a bit and landing on my ass.
Laughter breaks out from the others.
I’m on the ground feeling flushed when I hear Greed make a comment to Lust. I swear she says, “I don’t understand how he has survived this long.”
She’s right. She’s absolutely right. I sit there feeling the pain in my heart when for some reason I see a hand over the top of me. I look up and see him. The Pride Monster was trying to help me up. I look over at the hand. And for the first time, I see something human in his eyes. Something real.
And I turn back.
I didn’t get it. Why was he helping me?
We have to literally spar until nightfall. Tom wanted us prepared to fight Desire and I don’t think he planned on us losing. I thought this was overkill. Honestly, did it take him putting together a team of 7 of the deadliest killers to take out one man? Was all that necessary? I don’t think about it though. I try not to at least. It’s easy to do surprisingly because I’m thinking about Pride. He hadn’t spoken to me for the rest of the training day. Sooner or later he seemed to get less curious about me and returned to his cage like a bored dog who had become accustomed to his captivity. I felt sorry for him but most of all I was intrigued. I’d seen only a little bit of what he could do and I wanted to know more.
I wanted to know SO much more.
And I’m lost in my thoughts when I am approached in a hallway. I am carrying food from a small area where they told us to go for our food. Most of the others, except Sloth, eat outside in a courtyard. Even now I can see the courtyard where Gluttony is telling them a joke that they seem to like. I’m surprised Envy is getting as close to the others as I thought. These people were trying to kill Desire after all. I’m so focused on getting to my room that I don’t notice Greed isn’t among the group.
She’s next to me.
“Where you going?” she asks.
“I don’t want any trouble…”
I’m pleading at this point. I’m nervous. I’m beyond afraid. Greed was no walk in the park and she was pissed at me for interfering in her fight with Pride.
“Relax,” she assures me, “Tom doesn’t want us killing you. Besides—–I need your help.”
Greed has a way of looking at you like you mean something. She’s pretty. Maybe I would have dated her in another lifetime. She was my type when it came to girls. She was an exotic looking Latina with all this fire. Reminded you a lot of Sofia Vergara in a different light. Those kind of things were what made her dangerous. It was why she had earned the nickname of the man-eater no matter what codename she had gone by. Whether she was Avarice or Greed, she was dangerous.
“I need to make something. Something special. And the problem is that Gluttony has been eating everything up. So I need you to distract him from lunch together so I can get my ingredients.”
“Ingredients for what?”
“That’s none of your concern,” she states.
“What do I get in return?” I ask.
“Lust is going to try to kill you. In your sleep tonight, despite Tom’s instructions. I am going to stop him from doing that,” she states, “Or you can take your chances.”
My heart races.
Did I have a choice?
I don’t die that night but every single bump in the night makes me alert. Knowing that any single moment someone was lurking around to end you changes a lot. It wasn’t even about me. At times the anxiety makes me feel as though it would be easier to die. But it wouldn’t be. My family was depending on me. Tom knew exactly what to use against me. So I couldn’t die. I had to stay alive. And in order to do that, I would have to help Greed.
I find Gluttony outside. Today was a free day which meant our one day of the week where we didn’t have to go sparring. It made no difference to people like Gluttony. The guy was doing crunches and snacking like he normally did.
No wonder he kept that perfect body.
“Oh is it Belle?”
He laughs, “Beauty and the beast. What’s up with you and the Beast Belle? Your rose petals almost run out?”
I smile, “You think something is going on between me and the beast.”
“It’s clear. And honestly, if I didn’t find you so goddam cute I would have cut your throat for that shit you pulled the other day,” he reacts before sighing and shaking his head, “See…there you go making me hungry. I wonder if lunch is ready.”
“Actually I was hoping to spend some time with you.”
He’s not expecting it. Which is odd, because Gluttony is the kind of guy you would expect always assumes people are into him. However, he is really surprised by this.
“Like spend time with me?”
“Isn’t that what people do when they find each other attractive.”
He pauses and for a moment I’m surprised that he gets a bit uneasy. It’s even more interesting when I see a smile spread across Gluttony’s face as if I had just said something amazing to him. He’s so cool and to see him reacting like this is interesting, to say the least.
“Let’s do it.”
Before I know it we are taking a walk around the premises. And truthfully I’m surprised that I’m not disgusted by Gluttony. He was a bit blunt and rude but I don’t think he meant to be. It just seemed to have a sense of entitlement that I’m not even sure he knew he possessed.
He crosses his arms.
“This is my first date,” he states.
I look him up and down. This guy looked like he hopped up off the centerfold of Sports Illustrated. He was one of those guys that skinny guys hung up in hopes of becoming one day. He had #bodygoals but for some reason, he seems so unaware of it.
“No seriously,” he states, “I was fat as a kid. I had low self-esteem. Then I was taken—-by the Assembly. A lot of the other kids were so terrified when we started training but for some reason, it helped me become stronger. I was able to lose weight. And then dating became sort of…pointless. You like a girl or a guy one day and the next day they fail a test and are killed or disfigured to the point you don’t find them attractive any longer.”
“Somehow I survived failing,” I shrug.
“Tom favors you.”
I shrug, “I don’t know why.”
He shrugs back, “Maybe the same reason that I had my eye on you. I think there is something more in you than you let people know, Ardor. There is a flame in you. Ardor. That’s your real codename. Not Wrath. But I think it fits you. Ardor and Wrath are both overpowering passions. But Wrath is passion from anger. That’s not you. You have a different sort of passion. A passion for love. I can see it in your eyes.”
I wish I could see what he saw.
All I saw was the truth. I was weak.
“Is that why you forced yourself on me?” I ask.
I pause. He’s not expecting it. I shouldn’t fucking have said it but I can’t help myself. I’m upset and the reason I’m upset is because of him.
“Stop acting weak,’ he states, “You weren’t a victim.”
“You forced me.”
“You could have fought back,” he growls.
“I TRIED. YOU OVERPOWERED ME!”
“Fight back harder,” Gluttony states, “You’re not wallpaper. You are a killer”
“I haven’t killed anyone.”
“Oh, you haven’t?”
I pause. I look over at Gluttony.
“What are you saying?”
Gluttony smiles at me, “I remembered you the first time I met you. The first time I saw your face. I remembered I was a kid when I turned on the television and saw your face. I remembered back then being mesmerized. Who was this kid who did what he did?”
“You can’t know about that…”
Not that. Not that…
“it’s what turned me on. I had to have you. I knew I had to have you. The others don’t know what you are, but I know what you are. And it makes me want you even more.”
Gluttony is licking his lips, looking at me like a piece of meat. I see him reaching down and grabbing his dick between his pants. He’s not joking about me turning him on. I know exactly what he’s talking about too.
And it scares the fuck out of me.
It scares me so much that I leave. I get out of there.
I try to avoid Gluttony until the next day. The next day when we are gathered in a room. Sloth is still acting weird as though I have a target sign painted on my forehead and if she came too close she would be hit as well. She was probably right. Lust was still giving me these weird looks. Looks that tell me he wants to hurt me. Greed promised to protect me for one night but how much longer was the deal for. And what the hell did she need the ingredients for?
Then there was Envy.
His hatred for me was mind blowing. With so many people against me, I had to realize that maybe it would be better to have someone on my side. Someone who demanded respect.
And that’s when they push in Pride’s cage.
Pride’s doors aren’t open. It must be a bad day.
“How are you?” I ask him.
He doesn’t answer. He doesn’t even give me a nod this time. It’s OK though. It’s worth it just to look at his face. He looks so striking even when he’s just staring at my lips watching them move as though he doesn’t understand a word coming out of my mouth. I knew he understood though. He knew what I was saying.
“Sit Wrath…” Tom states.
I almost forget again that my codename is Wrath. I sigh a bit and take a seat as far away from Lust as possible. Unfortunately, that happens to be next to Envy who seems to be irritated that I’m so close to him.
As I sit I feel eyes staring at me and sure enough, when I turn around Pride is watching me.
“Today we’ll play a game,” Tom states, “We are going to read some accomplishments from all the assassins in the room. And we are going to guess who did it.”
“What’s the point of this?” Lust asks.
I wonder if Tom realizes Lust has been challenging him a lot more. If he does, he doesn’t think now is the best time to address it. He just turns to me strangely and then stares at Pride in the back of the room.
“I think it’s good that we get to know each other.”
Was he referring to Pride and me? I feel it in my stomach that Tom was up to something. He wanted me to control Pride and it almost seemed like he was forcing it a bit.
“This assassin speaks 14 languages and 4 additional local dialects,” he states.
“Sloth,” Sloth announces out loud.
“You’re not supposed to guess if you’re the answer,” Tom corrects her.
The look he gives Sloth makes her sink into the chair like a kid being chastised.
Tom ignores her and reads the next statement, “This next assassin has a net worth of 58.3 million dollars….”
“The man-killer,” Lust states, happy that he knows the answer to something.
We all look at Greed. Only one assassin got that nickname. She had to kill a lot of men to amass that sort of fortune.
Tom nods, “The next clue. This assassin has the most kills out of anyone in the Assembly—-from birth….”
“Lust,” Envy guesses.
That would have been my guess as well.
“No,” Tom states.
“I was in jail for mass murder. Of course, it’s me,” Lust states.
“It’s NOT you,” Tom states.
“Of course its’ the Pride Beast,” Gluttony suggests.
“Sloth?” Greed asks, almost giving up.
Everyone seems so confused. That’s when Tom says, “No…does everyone give up?”
No one answers.
And that’s when Tom looks over at me.
“The person with the most kills is over there. Wrath, who you all continue to call Ardor, has murdered the most people in his lifetime.”
They all turn to be surprised.
I wish Tom was lying. But he was telling the truth.
I’d massacred hundreds…