Chapter 30:


Midnight King

Misha decides that this might be a very bad idea. 

When Joshua said he wanted to destroy the warehouse, Misha stupidly thought that might have been more of a metaphorical statement. Maybe a legal contract to demolish the building, something that didn’t involve...this.

Elias’ chauffeur, one Misha didn’t even know he had, sets down two canisters on the concrete pavement just outside the warehouse.

Both full of gasoline.

“Thank you, Mr. Michaelis, we’ll take it from here.” Elias says, reaching for the two canisters, but Misha scoops them up first.

He’s not exactly sure what they’re doing, to be honest. Now is not a great time to question it, but suddenly it feels too real lurking in the dark streets at 2 AM holding what could be considered a lethal weapon even if it isn’t set ablaze.

“You’re not going to stop us?” Misha asks the middle-aged man who closes the trunk and looks ready to leave these two teenagers with suspicious amounts of gasoline. Mr. Michaelis turns back to them, dressed in very casual clothes for helping to commit a crime, and gives the two of them a melancholic smile.

“My son has come home with bruises, with scrapes and gashes, cut up, beaten up, looking like he’d run himself through a meat grinder almost every week, all for this.”

The man throws his hand, a bit angrily, at the warehouse and Misha can see the hurt welling up in his eyes. Misha can’t imagine being the parent of one of those teenagers.

He thinks of mom and dad and he holds the canisters a little tighter in his grip.

“I begged him to stop attending these fights, to find happiness in other things, but he always comes home with worse and worse injuries. I understand leaving you young ones to such a task is irresponsible for me as an adult, but...I don’t know what to do anymore.”

Elias had leans over to Misha to whisper, “His son was that number 15 kid.”

The vulture looking teen. If Misha had a son like that, he wouldn’t know what to do either.

“Mr. Michaelis has been with our family for a long time now,” Elias says a little louder, “and he promised to keep this a secret.”

The chauffeur gives Elias a stern look, a bit of fondness melting through the glare, but Misha can feel an oncoming lecture.

“Now Elias, I promised to keep it a secret if you promised to stay safe. If I hear you get so much as a single scratch, I’ll be turning us both in.”

“Yessir” Elias chuckles half-heartedly. And Misha wishes he could look just as calm, just as put together as Elias always did. The least he can do is give Mr. Michaelis a smile before the expensive car slowly drives back down the street and into the night.

It’s past midnight. Everyone in the warehouse should be gone by now and it was the perfect time to set the building on fire without getting anyone hurt.

And yes. It was a crazy plan.

When Joshua first told them, Misha strongly disagreed. It was arson. It was dangerous. It could get them all arrested, especially if the police were desperate to keep the system operational. If Misha went to jail, he wasn’t sure what his mother and Gray would do.

He’d already given them enough grief.

But this was their only chance. Sooner or later Honey would come after Joshua and although Misha knows Joshua is an excellent fighter, proven by how long he’s held the title King, Honey’s ruthless.

Then, once she gets the title she betrayed them for, Misha would have to watch it ruin her. Maybe it already has, but he doesn’t want to sit idly by while Honey makes Misha's mistakes. He can’t fight Honey again, but he could do this.

At least, he thinks he can. 

Joshua waits just where he said he would.

Behind the warehouse, standing amongst the old industrial equipment and a few rusted barrels. Surrounding the establishment is a large open concrete courtyard, acting as a perimeter, and the chain link fence keeping everything contained. As if everything here needed to be caged in.

Misha knows where there’s a break in the metal wires. A loose flap that you could slide underneath without having to climb over the top. When he runs his hand along it, the fence gives way and he stares at the open space.

Like a secret entrance. Or a secret exit.

The last time Misha had been at this exact spot, he was desperately trying to fit through it with Elias unconscious on his back.

Now he holds it open for the redhead.

“I don’t think two canisters of gasoline are going to burn this entire warehouse, Joshua.” Misha says as he sets them down.

Joshua wears what seems to be his fighting attire. A dark purple sweatshirt with a minimalistic design and a comfortable set of jogging pants. His whole demeanor changes when he’s out of his Vainglory uniform, eyes more assured and sharp as they stare at the red containers set at his feet.

Seemingly nonchalant although they were about to commit a felony. Misha seemed to be the only one concerned for their safety, checking over his shoulder as if there were officers lurking around to catch them red handed.

But it’s just empty concrete and the flicker lights from the alleyway.

“Don’t worry about gasoline,” Joshua kicks one of the three barrels, “I’ve been filling these up for a while. We probably have too much now that I think about it.”

Misha lets the air hang in silence for a moment.

“For how long?”

Joshua's teeth snap shut, his hands stop unscrewing the cap of one of the basins like he didn’t want Misha to ask that. But Joshua is brave and answers without a second beat. 

“Over a year.”

A year. A little after he became King.

How long had Joshua been planning to do this? The gasoline he’d collected was already old and less potent, but still enough to set the warehouse on fire. Did he take that long to accumulate enough fuel or was it hesitation that made him wait so long?

Misha wants to be mad. He wants to ask why Joshua hadn’t gone through with this plan earlier, effectively destroying The Midnight Fights before Honey even decided to join, but now is not the time.

All he knows is that he trusts Joshua right now. Tentatively, but enough to be holding gasoline with the intent to destroy. And to finally destroy the curse of The Midnight Fights was a good incentive to hear him out after all this.


Joshua left Elias and Misha in charge of the outside of the building.

Just enough gasoline to make the fire spread, not enough to cause a heinous explosion that would surely put them all out of their misery.

Joshua knew what he was doing.

He had been planning this for a long time, too long of a time. Enough to put it off until his third year, when he could leave for college without looking behind him. Runaway from his problems like he always had.

This was the selfish way out. He’d admit it. He chose to destroy the building rather than use his position as King to end the fights so that his reputation would still be somewhat intact. It’s terrible and greedy, but he can’t imagine going back to being Joyceline.

Not alone.

Tonight, The Midnight Fights would be over for good.

And he would probably lose the only true friend he had left. But it didn’t matter. This was for Elias and Misha, then after this, he could start somewhere new.

Somewhere without this hierarchy and somewhere without his dad. Somewhere different.

Joshua slips into the warehouse, the throne now unlit and cast in the dark. The graffiti crown tucked away in the shadows and looking more like a morbid stain on the wall than a royal headdress. Joshua had only sat on that plastic throne three times in his life.

Every second in that seat made him more and more disgusted with himself. Acceptance in exchange for his humanity. At the time it seemed like a good deal, but Joshua stupidly realizes it wasn’t a deal at all, it was more of a sacrifice.

He’s a coward. But he wants to be Joshua, he wants to stay Joshua, so this is how he’ll end things.

He trails the gasoline like a tail from outside through one of the rusted doors and begins to make his way around the interior. Dousing some of the flammable trash and debris before tracing the lines of the walls. All of it had to go.

There’s a shuffle from the darkness.

A cigarette falls to the ground.

Joshua freezes.

“Josh darling, what do you think you’re doing?”

A honey, sweet voice that leaves a bitter aftertaste. It sounds like bells and the trill of a violin. Each word said with a smile, and ending with a lipgloss kiss.

He turns to the throne, Joshua had missed it earlier. A figure sitting on the plastic folding chair, silhouetted by the faint moonlight seeping in through the small windows near the ceiling. From the shape of their baggy hoodie, from the sound of their sugary voice, from the arrogance in their posture, Joshua knows who it is.

The Midnight Queen.

The hooded mystery that had surprisingly stayed Queen as long as Joshua had been King. The most merciless elite Ranker to probably walk the warehouse, putting teenagers in hospitals more often than not and brutally beating any high schooler that looked their way.

Nameless. Terrifying. Undefeated.

And the one friend Joshua would have to leave behind for this plan.

“Charlotte.” Joshua sets down the canister carefully.

She’s dressed in her conspicuous disguise, though her hood is thrown back this time and her hair falls delicately around her shoulders. Her green eyes seem to glow in the oppressive dark. Smiling at Joshua atop her newfound seat.

Her smile was always full of sharpened teeth.

They never aimed at Joshua like this, always pointed in another direction where he didn’t face the full brunt of their snarl, but now he feels betrayed by just her direct gaze.

A lump forms in his throat.

“Aren’t we supposed to be lovers?” She says in a tone that wavers like she’s about to cry, but her eyes remain cold. Mouth still baring fangs. “What happened to trust?”

Trust. Joshua had always trusted Charlotte, from the very beginning back when they were in middle school and Charlotte was Joyceline’s first friend. Then she also became Joshua’s first friend.

She was twisted at times. Temperamental and passive aggressive at the littlest of things. Cruel when she needed to be. Merciless to her worst enemies and rivals. A demon.

But to Joshua she was different. She’d spend the whole afternoon with Joshua when he didn’t want to go home. He knew her to be reliable, straightforward, and adamant about staying loyal to Joshua and Joshua alone.

“I can’t be King anymore, Charlotte. We have to end this.”

Charlotte gets up from the throne, eyes still unflinching and piercing through Joshua. From her high angle, she looks larger than the painted crown behind her. Larger than the throne itself. A monument symbolizing its daunting power with an almost gravitational obsession.

You can’t be King? After all we’ve been through, after all the fame, all your fans, all the acceptance you’ve received, you don’t want to be King?”

Charlotte lists each one with a tap of her finger against her peach colored lips. The slow pace of her words, the sharpness of her sweet tone, the narcissism behind that pretty expression.

It is the definition of terrifying.

He’s seen it all before and once he admired it, but he can feel the dread weighing on his shoulders as she drops from the throne’s platform and draws closer. Her voice is so soft and so calm, it makes him uneasy.

“You want to give this all away for nothing? Everyone wants to be you, darling.”

Charlotte’s so close, Joshua can smell the citrus of her perfume and count the number of eyelashes that bat in his direction.

But Joshua doesn’t back away. He looks her in the eyes when he speaks and watched the green jewels of her irises crack upon his question.

“Even you?”

Charlotte goes eerily silent.

There is nothing on her face, not a single emotion that Joshua can read other than a small rip in her usually placid expression. It tears open the more she looks like she tries to stitch it back together.

Joshua had liked Charlotte.

As a couple, they were never romantic. Joshua liked it that way and Charlotte never overstepped his boundaries, yet still, they spent every hour together at Vainglory, they walked each other home, played video games, watched movies, went shopping, did everything as a pair.

Joshua had liked Charlotte like that. His best friend, his partner.

Now he doesn’t know what to feel.

“Why haven’t you taken my place?” Joshua asks again, but she turns away. They’re separated by the wall of her platinum blonde hair and Joshua doesn’t know what kind of face she makes.

“You’re right, Josh.” Her voice is still sickeningly sweet. She begins to walk away from him, towards the entrance with meticulous steps, but she stops right in the middle of the warehouse.

Joshua looks where her feet have landed.

Charlotte stands in the middle of a painted ring and when she turns on her heel, she reveals the worst smile he’d ever seen her wear. The corner of her lips almost sewn into the bulbs of her high cheekbones, pulling the skin of her face so tight that it looks excruciating.

“We do need to end this.”

And Joshua wonders when Charlotte had become like this. Or if, like with everything else, he’d just become blissfully oblivious to the fact she was dealing with her own pains. This was not the Charlotte Joshua knew.

Not the same Charlotte that would chortle when she won a board game (although she cheated), or the Charlotte that could eat a whole box of fried chicken as a snack, or the Charlotte that would go on and on about mundane things like how beetles always seemed to find their way into her backpack or the Charlotte that once let Joshua spend a week at her house after a fight with his dad, or the Charlotte that had gotten Joshua through Vainglory with more support than anyone else had ever given him.

He doesn’t know this Charlotte although this side had always been there. He just never looked it in the eyes and saw it for what it was.

“I don’t want to fight you. Please Charlotte, just let-”

“Oh also,” She interrupts. Acting like he hadn’t said anything, running her dainty fingers through her straight hair and admiring it in the dim ambient light. The moon itself seems to shine brighter just for Charlotte’s hair to glimmer arrogantly in her hands.

“Since you brought your friends here, I invited some of my own!”

As if on cue, a police siren wails from Royale Street, growing closer the longer the silence between them continues. It’s a single siren.

One police officer.

Joshua feels his stomach drop.


“Don’t worry darling, he’s only here for the nice young men outside. But there’s one more! An old friend of mine and she’d really appreciate that throne so much more than you.”

Charlotte and her syrupy laugh. Charlotte and her beautiful green eyes. Charlotte and her rosy features.

Charlotte and her vainglory.

All of it comes rushing at Joshua. And he doesn’t have it in him to fight back.