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Even though Aaron’s in pain, extreme pride fills my chest.

I didn’t leave a man behind.

I’m not the coward I always thought I was.

Chapter 22


Luckily Raze and Aldric carry Aaron to a bed while I pick up all the balls. I quickly shower, and when I walk into the dining hall, I see Kenzo sitting with Idris.

I wonder where he was this morning. He probably heard Idris shouting at Aaron and decided not to come.

I take enough bacon and toast to make a sandwich and walk to the table where Skater, Valen, and Jarek are sitting.

“I have dung duty today. Anybody wanna swap with me?” Eggs slush in Skater’s mouth as he asks the question.


“I did it yesterday.” Valen pulls a disgusted face.

Out of curiosity, I ask, “What is dung duty?”

“You have to clean up the animals' shit and take it up to the cornfields. We work it into the ground for fertilizer. You interested?”

I shake my head at Skater.

“You’ll have to do it at some point,” Valen says. “Check the schedule in the kitchen to see when your duties are.”

“Newbie alert!” Chance’s shout echoes down through the ward.

“Seriously?” Valen says as she gets up. “I’m surprised someone survived.”

I watch as she jogs out of the dining hall, then looks at Skater. “What’s going on?”

“Two of the crusaders survived the trackers. It’s Valen’s job to show them the ward.”

I take a bite of my sandwich, wondering who survived. My eyes keep darting to the archway, and minutes tick by before I hear Valen’s voice.

“The dining hall. You eat here.” Valen’s tone is dry. “The bathroom, self-explanatory.”

“How many people live here?” Jasper’s familiar voice ask.

Holy crap! He survived?

I dart up as Valen answers, “Eleven. Each ward can sustain up to thirty people at a time.”

“Do you know him?” Skater asks.

“Yes.” My eyes are locked on the archway.

“Can I have some water?” I hear Ruth’s voice.

A gasp escapes my lips, and I run out of the dining hall. “Ruth!” I cry, and when I see her, my throat closes.

“Jai.” Her face crumbles at the sight of me, then she runs, slamming into my body. Her grip is tight around my neck, and her tears soak my shirt.

“You made it.” I can’t believe she survived.

“It was… awful, Jai,” she sputters through her tears, and I bite mine back. “There were… these people… waiting on the other… s-s-side. They just s-s-shot at… us. We didn’t d-d-do anything wrong.”

I brush my hand up and down her back to comfort her. “Shhh, you’re going to be okay now.”

My words sound empty in my ears because I don’t know if she will be okay. I don’t know if she’s going to make it. I don’t even know if I’m going to make it.

After she manages to calm down, I pull her into the dining hall and give them both a glass of water. Jasper doesn’t look as emotional while he drinks every drop.

Knowing they must be hungry, I make them a bacon and egg sandwich.

It’s quiet while they eat, then Jasper says, “Mr. Demetrius and one of the others helped us get away, but they were gunned down two night ago.”

No. That’s so sad.

I watch Jasper take another piece of bread.

They must be starving. Wow, I can’t believe they’re actually here.

“Kid.” Kenzo is standing in the archway of the dining hall, his face set in a scowl. “Drill zone. Now.”

Oh, crap.

“I have to go. Do as you are told, and you’ll be fine.” I offer Ruth and Jasper a comforting smile and run after Kenzo.

When I jog into the arena, Kenzo’s standing in the middle of the dome with his back turned to me. I go cold.

He points at the scaffolds. “Up and at ‘em.”

I watch Kenzo out of the corner of my eye as I run up the path. I launch myself at the first scaffold, and my left side aches as I stretch. When I land on my feet, the scaffold starts to sway.

Just as I get ready to jump, there’s a loud bang, and something bounces off the scaffold. I stop, scrambling back, my eyes wide as I peek down at Kenzo. A shockwave hits me when I see the gun in his hand.

“Kenzo,” I breathe, shocked out of my mind. “You shot at me?”

Pain bleeds into my heart, unable to believe the man I thought was my friend fired a gun at me.

“You’ve been shot at before,” He says, sounding nonchalant. “Chance says you react well under pressure, so I thought I’d test it.”

“By shooting at me?” I cry as I get up.

Kenzo lifts his hand, pointing the gun at me, and I quickly drop back to the metal sheet of the scaffold.

“Should I throw chickens at you, kid? Will that make you run faster?”

My heart rockets to my throat, thumping hard.

Will Kenzo really shoot me?

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