Chapter 27:


Midnight King

Honey, The Bishop of The Midnight Fights, is popular. She’s popular at Godforsaken High. She’s popular walking down Royale Street. She’s popular in the warehouse. She’s popular on Sinstagram. She’s popular, popular, popular.

Comments and likes and followers.

Enough to make her sick.

She doubles over on the side of the empty street, head between her knees. Taking shallow breaths.

Or maybe it was because her period came at a bad time and her cramps haven’t been this excruciating since Vainglory Academy. Since Charlotte and her stupid cigarette. Since everything that made her into whatever she is now.

Honey squeezes her eyes shut.

But Gray’s terrified face is burned on the inside of her eyelids and all she can see is the quiver of their lip and the tears in their eyes.

And Misha’s disappointment.

Nauseating pain spreads from her pelvis to the small of her back and she digs her nails into the skin on her thighs. Willing the ache to stop so she could get up again. The brainless leeches from Godforsaken High that called themselves her ‘friends’ would be looking for her, she slipped out of the karaoke room when no one was looking and ran.

She didn’t know where to, but she just didn’t want them to see her so humiliatingly pathetic. Or she didn’t trust them enough to stay. If they were anything like Charlotte, these idiotic good-for-nothings would take any advantage they could out of this one little weakness and exploit it.

It’s not her style to run instead of fight, but what choice did she have?

Honey pulls herself up.

Luckily there’s no one here to see her shakily get back onto her feet and take off again down the deserted road.

A convenience store appears around the corner. Her temporary refuge. Honey darts inside.

She takes and opens a bottle of painkillers, swallowing the red and blue pellets without water (and without paying) before making her way to the sanitary pads.

But she stops.

The second pill still halfway down her throat as her brown eyes stare at someone in the aisle.

That someone stares back.

Silence hangs taut in the air between them.


The current King of The Midnight Fights.

Charlotte’s boyfriend.

Honey’s nerves set aflame. Like her body instinctively knows the face of her final rival, telling her she could end this here and now. Become The King. Ruin Charlotte. Earn back her worth. Be the most popular girl in the surrounding school districts.

That’s what Honey wants.

That’s what she always wanted.

Gray’s face appears every time she blinks and her stomach lurches again.

Footsteps approach from the other end of the aisle and they snap out of this staring contest they’ve engaged.

Joshua moves first. He reaches for her and she’s ready to block, to counter whatever attack this so-called ruthless #1 of a street fight club had to throw at her, but he doesn’t go for her throat as she expects.

Instead, the wimpy looking teenager, who’s much shorter than her if she might add, gently shoves her behind a rack of toilet paper rolls and puts a finger over his lips. Even if he was King, Honey’s not just going to submit to whatever harassment this is, she’s also not one to submit in the first place.

She plans to attack, but then footsteps round the corner of the aisle and she’s glued to her hiding place. Her fingers curl into fists and the hairs on the back of her neck stand straight up.

It’s the police chief.

The one with the ungroomed eyebrows and the voice that makes Honey wish she clawed out her eardrums earlier that day.

He might be in civilian clothes, in fashion worse than her parents on disco night, but it didn’t humble his upturned nose and arrogant tilt of his stubbly chin. He rummages around in his grocery basket, his pace slowing until he’s standing in front of Joshua.

“Joyceline, sweetie, did you get everything you needed?” The police chief asks.


Honey looks back. There’s no one else in the aisle except Joshua.

Then her mouth turns sour and her throat burns with acid.

Joshua’s uniform.

She recognizes it with a bitter taste. Burgundy blazer. Little black bow tied around the collar. Knee high socks with ribbons. Plaid, pleated skirt. It all belongs to the biggest hellhole on earth, the one that follows Honey no matter where she goes or what she does, like an incurable curse that’s even branded on her forehead as a reminder.

Vainglory Girl’s Academy.

Just the sight of its repulsive school colors, the curly design of its golden emblem, turns her stomach inside out.

Joshua puts a pack of pads into his basket.

“Yeah dad, I got it.”

The resemblance is uncanny, sharing the same thick brows and twisted desire for power. The police chief and The Midnight King. What a lucky coincidence.

“You can head out before me, the friend I was going to meet wants to see me earlier.”

The police officer raises one of his caterpillar eyebrows.

“Who are you seeing?”

Joshua doesn’t miss a beat.


A sharp pain twists in her lower abdomen. It’s the same as being punched in the gut, followed by repeated stomps on her stomach with spiked shoes. Honey hisses.

That name. She hates that name. It mocks her every time it escapes someone’s lips and takes to the open air. Polluting her oxygen. Poisoning her slowly.

“Oh Charlotte? Alright, but be home before dark, you know how dangerous the streets are for girls late at night. Stay with her the whole time, okay?”

It might be Honey’s imagination, or the pain is making her hallucinate, but Joshua seems to stiffen at the warning. Shoulders becoming rigid as he wrings his hands so harshly behind his back they’re mottled and red.

The police chief kisses him on the top of his head and leaves.

Joshua speaks before Honey can ask any questions.

“Let’s sit somewhere. We have to talk.”


Joshua buys her a drink from the vending machine, a hot green tea. Something for her cramps. He’s a little more thoughtful than she expected.

And a little more humble.

Still a simple green tea won’t stop her from wanting his throne. His fame and popularity.

Joshua smooths out his skirt as he sits next to her. They’re at some unnamed park in a random neighborhood, sitting at one of the picnic tables overlooking a jungle gym with a couple of younger kids swinging from the metal bars. The sky is orange with the late afternoon.

“My dad started The Midnight Fights almost 30 years ago.”

Honey nearly spits out her first sip of tea. He couldn’t let her at least finish drinking before saying something like that? It’s ruining her lipstick.

“Why are you telling me this?” Honey dabs the corner of her mouth with her sleeve.

Joshua’s eyes are huge and he stares at the gravel beneath his feet, rolling rocks and pebbles along the soles of his Vainglory Academy issue loafers. Honey scoffs at their bright buckled leather toes.

“I assumed you had questions so I wanted to start at the beginning.”

“Just get to the point.”

Joshua rolls his eyes, almost too comfortably since they’re virtually strangers, and takes a deep breath, his shoulders heaving to accommodate.

“He believes in the hierarchy. In a system built solely on strength and power alone, of course back then it was a couple of teenagers with real chess pieces distributed amongst them, but he wanted to be the best, The King of all the high schools.”

A beat of silence passes before he continues. Honey’s not a listener, but she remains quiet, glaring at her hot tea to suffice.

“I know you visited the police station before....did you notice anything strange?”

Honey snorts, “You mean strange as in that they all knew I was a part of The Midnight Fights?”

“Yeah that,” Joshua kicks a stone far enough away that it skitters towards the playground, “they were all the previous Midnight Kings. Coaxed into another system. A more powerful hierarchy where once again my dad is in control. He likes control more than anything and now that he has the local law enforcement in his hands, he can make sure The Midnight Fights can continue without any interference.”

Honey laughs bitterly. 

All for a ridiculous game. All to be able to claim you’re the best out of a mediocre crowd of dumb, idiot high schoolers who will probably end up as failures in the future.

And who was Honey to judge? If it meant getting back the reputation that Vainglory stole from her then she’d do the same. Maybe not to that extent, but make her own hierarchy to sit atop of, a pyramid of followers and fans carrying her from beneath, sounds like a dream.

Again, her stomach flips and she drowns the feeling in more tea.

“Dad was so proud of what he made, more so than he was ever proud of me, but I guess that wasn’t always his fault. He just wanted this perfect little girl he could protect and cherish and I...I never wanted to be that. I was always…”

Joshua trails off. His voice shakes as he continues and Honey notices how uncomfortable he looks in a skirt. How much he seemed like he wanted to get out of the sanitary pads aisle in the store. How often he’d run a hand through his short hair to see if it was still the same.

It was so choppy and uneven, he probably cut it himself.

He clears his throat.

“I joined The Midnight Fights because I thought it would give me the courage to tell him. Prove that I’m not his Joyceline. That I am Joshua.”

Honey falls against the picnic table, arms pulled across her chest. She can feel her pulse beating in her arms, a steady rhythm she focuses all her attention on instead of Joshua’s troubled face.

Under that hard, authoritative stare, the one she’d seen at The Midnight Fights that first night, the one that quieted a whole warehouse with just one glance, was fear. Maybe like Honey, he only showed his good sides to a crowd that idolized him.

She almost wants to pity him. To sympathize.

But something else comes out of her mouth, “What’s this got to do with me?”

Joshua chuckles. Like he’s remembering something fondly, like Honey’s rudeness reminds him of someone, but he doesn’t say who.

“I was there when Misha and Elias tried to destroy The Midnight Fights. I met them in the elite Rankings, when I was still just the newbie Rook. I saw you with them last time, I’m sure they didn’t tell you everything that happened back then.”

He swallows, hard, “How could they, they lost everything two years ago, I can’t imagine that’s easy to talk about.”

Honey slams her tea bottle onto the bench seat.

“Don’t do that. If you’re gonna tell me, then tell me. I don’t like when people waste my time.”

Again Joshua smiles warmly, holding up his hands in defeat. 

“Alright, alright. I think they knew I hated The Midnight Fights just as much as they did and the two of them tried to recruit me onto their plan. They said if neither of them made it to be King, that I should at least take the chance and destroy it. I agreed. Then, it happened so fast and all of a sudden Elias challenged the King and won.”

Maybe it was the abrupt change in Joshua’s expression but a sudden chill passes through the park and Honey holds a little tighter onto her hot beverage.

“Elias won, but the previous King was…not a good person and he was an even worse loser. And someone, I don’t know who, gave him a weapon. A metal bat. So hell bent on stopping Misha and Elias’ schemes, it was like he wanted to make sure they would never try this again, that he’d break their spirit enough to make them quit.

First he hit Misha in the head.

Then he went for Elias.”

Honey’s intestines tie themselves into knots. Elias’ limp makes her feel sick. He walks like every step is painful, he stumbles like he forgets his lack of mobility, he smiles although he leans so heavily on his steel cane that it creaks under his weight.

The previous King had taken everything from them.

But what did he take from Misha?

Those airhead gossipers from the bathroom said that Misha’s dad was killed by a police officer. Misha’s dad killed the previous King.

It doesn’t add up. When did Misha’s dad come into the equation?

“Honey,” Joshua says carefully and the look in his eyes makes her want to run. She’s never wanted to run from something so much as she did from Charlotte. But this look doesn’t scare her, it’s what he will say next is what terrifies her.

“Misha killed the previous King in his bloodlust.”

She says nothing.

Honey doesn’t have any words. How could she?

All she can do is listen to her heart beating thunderous in her ears and watch Joshua run a hand over his face.


Her mind can’t even wrap that concept around an idiot that wore children’s hair clips and bakes desserts for a living. But then the way he looked at her after she won against both The Knight and The Bishop.

Slowly it dawns on her and then devours her alive.

It’s getting harder and harder to convince herself she doesn’t care. 

“After that, I don’t know what happened. The police came. Then I saw Misha running Elias to a hospital and when I saw my dad I ran too. The previous King had to have been influenced somehow, someone had to have told him to stop Misha and Elias at all costs because he’d never brought a weapon before. Ruthless, for sure, but never a weapon. I think my dad-”

“And why are you still King?”

Honey interrupts his rambling. And even in her slightly disabled state, still hunched over her own stomach to try and ignore the relentless ache, her voice comes out as deep as it’s ever been.

Joshua looks like Honey’s just wrapped her fingers around his throat and tried to suffocate him. Guilt. All she can read on his round wide-eyed face is guilt.

And regret.

His voice cracks and it comes out so shaky it looks like it hurts to speak.

“When I got the title, I was ready to end it all. I saw what The Midnight Fights brought out of people and to destroy the very thing my dad created would be the perfect opportunity to show him who I was. But…”

A drop of water hits the gravelly floor.

Honey looks at him.

Tears are falling from Joshua’s face so fast that he gives up trying to wipe them with the sleeve of his blazer and just lets them roll off his cheeks and drip from his chin. His expression never changes. It remains hardened, staring at the sunset that dips behind the neighborhood houses.

“But when I got the title, they started to call me Joshua. Do you know what it’s like to finally be called by the name you want? And even if it was fake, even if it was just because they were afraid of me, I couldn’t give up being King.”

“And you couldn’t tell that control freak either.” Honey finishes for him. 

She gets it now. She doesn’t need to wait for him to tell her a conclusion that’s already obvious.

Joshua nods. A single, short nod that puts an end to what she had been meaning to ask Misha and Elias weeks ago. Although he’s crying, he looks resolved, like he knew what decisions he had made and what consequence he accepted as sacrifice.

He has many regrets, but being Joshua was not one of them.

Elias had said at the very beginning of all this that Honey didn’t know how deep this ran, that she didn’t know what she was getting herself into and to be careful getting involved.

She didn’t know at the time.

She doesn’t feel any better knowing now.

Joshua’s phone rings and he swipes the heel of his hand across his eyes, clearing the tears so fast it’s almost like he’s done it before. Not a salt stained droplet remains on his cheeks as he checks the notification with a look that’s miles away from the one he had just seconds before.

The demeanor of a King.

He gets up to leave.

“I’ve got to meet someone. I’m sorry, Honey, I can’t give you the title just yet. Besides it might not even exist soon.”

That snaps Honey out of her daze and gets her to her feet, but Joshua’s already too far away to answer another of her questions, decidedly finished for the day. Almost waving her off like he’s dismissing Honey with a flourish of his hand. 

Except for one last phrase. One he looks her directly in the eyes for.

“Be careful of Charlotte.”