Pay Your Prices
Episode Five, Season Four, of Beauty.
Pay Your Prices
They were down in the tunnels once more. Scarlet wasn’t sure how many days they would spend scouring the tunnels, but so far she hadn’t learned anything interesting about Koya’s mission. She didn’t quite know the details other than they were spying on Flareheart (although they hadn’t quite reached the princess yet).
Each day they would venture a little farther before having to turn back, as Koya was mapping more and more of the tunnels that he hadn’t explored in his head. The next day he would walk those tunnels as if he had walked them every day of his life.
His memory was certainly extraordinary, Scarlet had to admit that. He possessed a sort of calmness of a born leader. Scarlet had witnessed the way Fire had respected Koya and the way the rebellion leader had kept him around as an advisor.
“Thinking about something?” Koya asked, breaking the silence of the tunnel.
“What?” Scarlet blinked, shaken by the echoes his voice produced in the tight space.
“You’re thinking about something special,” Koya explained.
“How do you know?” Scarlet frowned. Is Koya really that special to me? I’ve barely known him! Though I suppose we’ve gotten to know each other better for the past three days…
“Your footsteps are lighter and there’s more bounce in your step when you’re thinking about happy thoughts. Are you thinking about Gingerpaw? That’s when your step is the lightest, as if you’re sneaking off with her to do something forbidden.”
“Like love,” Scarlet put in.
“Like love.” Koya agreed.
Scarlet pondered over that for a moment and Koya spoke up again. “So are you?”
“Am I what?” She asked absentmindedly.
In normal circumstances, this would have brought out a sigh of exasperation from Gingerpaw, who would then roll her eyes and laugh at Cherrypaw’s forgetfulness. I’m not Cherrypaw anymore. I’m Scarlet or Scarletflame.
But this was Koya. The amber tom tipped his head from where he was in front of Scarlet and he paused. He turned slowly to stare at Scarlet with those luminous green eyes. “Are you thinking of Gingerpaw?”
“No,” Scarlet admitted.
Koya blinked once, and then twice, before turning back around. Scarlet didn’t know what drove her to keep talking after that.
“I was thinking about you. How you and Flareheart might be connected. Did you know, Flareheart once told me that--?”
Scarlet cut herself off and slammed her mouth shut abruptly. But it was too late; observant Koya had already noticed. He turned around again, his green eyes wiped of emotion.
“You were close with Flareheart?”
“I was a spy,” Scarlet said stiffly.
Koya drew closer. “But with Flareheart? Why didn’t you tell me this beforehand? It would have been valuable information for my mission.”
Scarlet shrunk back. She knew she was supposed to be a spy, but Koya didn’t know about her betrayals, about how she had infiltrated the rebels, not the Beauty. Koya was scanning her eyes. His own darkened as he read exactly what Scarlet was thinking.
“We need to head back.” Koya said sharply, pushing past Scarlet and leading the way again. After a moment’s hesitation, she scampered after him.
“Why?” Scarlet panted as Koya walked briskly forward, “We haven’t finished investigating today--”
“I have learned enough.”
He stalked onwards in silence, refusing to answer to Scarlet’s pleas to explain what was going on. They emerged out in the open once more and Koya spun around and glared at Scarlet.
“Tell me it’s not true.”
“What’s not true?” She asked weakly, unsure what she could even say.
“You knew Flareheart personally. No rebel could be part of the Beauty so well that they would be at the top. You were even with Amberfrost and their squad without even having to ask. Was it because you knew Flareheart or did you have personal connections with Redstar?” When Scarlet didn’t reply, Koya pressed on. “All right, was it Whiteflicker?”
Scarlet flinched back. She hadn’t expected Koya to say Whiteflicker’s name. Koya took this moment to close the gap between him and her. He pushed her over and pinned her to the ground. “Scarlet,” there was sorrow in his gaze, the first emotion other than cold rage Scarlet had seen in his eyes. “What is going on?”
As she stared into his green eyes, a mixture of warm and cold, she knew she had no choice but to explain everything.
“What?” Snowflare grumbles, “You have to be kidding me.”
“I think I stopped kidding the moment we got involved in this mess,” I say sternly, “let’s skip all the bantering and get serious.”
“Redstar is going to parade us around main camp for a ‘final verdict’?” Lionclaw shakes his head, “That’s ridiculous. She already gave us our sentence. What’s the point of this final verdict?”
“To make an example out of us,” Brownhare says softly, “we are her enemies. We strike fear in her heart because we had the power to crush her if we were influential enough. She wants to ensure that we are humiliated and beaten down, so that she can oppress any rebellions that should rise.”
Hawkpelt doesn’t say anything. He just has his head flopped down, looking miserable. I assume he wishes Rainstorm was here (not the being executed with us part though).
Appleleaf and Finchwing are silent, though they are glancing at each other. They seem to be excellent silent communicators, and sometimes I wish Brownhare and I could do that.
As if the brown tom had heard my thoughts, Brownhare glances over at me. I blush at his sudden movement.
“This is going to be so embarrassing,” Snowflare groans, apparently not so concerned about what Redstar could achieve with this demonstration. “Isn’t announcing our deaths enough?”
“Nothing is enough with Redstar,” Finchwing snorts, “you have to remember that much.”
“Hard not to remember when she keeps shoving it in your face,” I mutter, flicking my tail.
There’s nothing more to say after that, as Redstar’s guards come to take us out. There’s no point in chatting at this time, as the roar of the crowd drowns out any other voice.
Again, the attendance of the cats astonishes and disgusts me. It seems as if everyone in the Beauty side of camp decided to attend. Snowflare mutters a few curses next to me, but I can barely make out the words with all the noise.
“Cats of FireClan!” Redstar yowls out, though her voice is too drowned out by the roar of the crowd. “CATS OF FIRECLAN!”
This time they quiet down, subjecting to Redstar’s will. “These prisoners are notorious and the verdict has finally been decided. We will execute them in a few days time!”
The guards nudge us forward and I can already see the route forming in my head. A long parade throughout the Beauty side of camp would be embarrassing but very profitable for Redstar.
Sure enough, as we walk through the streets of FireClan, everything is thrown at us. The guards mercifully accept the treatment, but Snowflare lashes her tail, obviously agitated and Lionclaw bares his teeth as he’s pulled along.
Brownhare meets my gaze and I hold my chin higher. He follows my example and so does Hawkpelt. Appleleaf and Finchwing are the next to do so, and finally Snowflare and Lionclaw do the same.
With our heads held high, we no longer look like prisoners. We represent the evils of what Redstar has done and we represent the hope for the better future.
I just hope the other cats can see it.
Koya’s eyes were unrelenting. Scarlet tried to find the right words. “Scarlet,” Koya’s words were soft but menacing, “if you don’t tell me what is going on, I’ll bring you to Fire. He is not pleased with your actions already, as he thinks you are Shadowfang’s spawn. I’ve pleaded for him to take you in, to trust you. Don’t make me wrong about your loyalties.”
“It’s not what you think,” Scarlet said weakly, “I promise.”
“What was Whiteflicker to you?” Koya demanded, “She couldn’t have been your mother, or else you would be Amberfrost’s sister. I would know about those sort of relationships.”
There was a bitterness in his tone that Scarlet didn’t understand. “Well?” Koya took a step forward and Scarlet shrunk back, “Is she your mentor? Your advisor? Who is she to you?”
“She is my tormentor,” Scarlet whispered.
Koya looked taken aback by Scarlet’s response. “Tormentor?” He repeated, “I don’t think I understand.”
“I’m not really working for them,” Scarlet trembled, “Do you remember when I told you about Gingerpaw’s death?” Koya nodded; it wasn’t so long ago after all. “That’s not the whole story. A day after the raid, everyone was interrogated. I couldn’t cover up well enough and so they arrested me. Whiteflicker used this chance to try to get information out of me, but I never really gave in. She then used my friends against me and forced my paw. I had to become a spy or else she would turn Amberfrost and the rest of them in. I couldn’t risk it, not after what they did to Gingerpaw.”
Koya was silent after that. He gazed at her, studying her with those luminous green eyes. His slightly deformed paw, the white one, trembled and Koya shifted his weight. “What happened to your paw--?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Koya snapped.
He turned and sharply walked away. “Where are you going?” Scarlet called following him.
“Stop following me,” he said harshly, “if you do, I’ll have to tell Fire that you’re working with the Beauty to stop us. Do you really want to save your friends? Or are you just trying to undermine our progress and let out most promising assets die in the prison you probably put them in?”
Scarlet flinched. “It wasn’t my fault!” She defended, “And you can’t just leave me here! I’m not working for the Beauty and I want to save my friends!”
Koya spun around. “If you leave now, I’ll let you go. I won’t turn you in but you have to promise to not interfere with our plans again, or else I will not be so lenient.”
“No,” Scarlet stood her ground, “I’m not working with them,” she said firmly, “I’m not going to run like a coward today.”
Koya just looked at her with those passive eyes and jerked his head forward. Scarlet didn’t hesitate to take the first step forward past him and towards the rebel underground entrance.