My Ranking Points
Chapter Twenty-Four: Stolen
“Ace, you have to tell her,” Cass whispered to him the next day. “I would, but I think it needs to be you.”
“I know, I know. And I will, just not yet,” Ace said. He watched as Alisha helped an Everboy named Oliver practice his aim. Ever since Alisha and Cass had started croquet at lunch a few days previously, it had become a school-wide activity.
“She deserves to know,” Cass said. “She still thinks you like her, and if you don’t tell her about us… it could end disastrously.”
Ace nodded. “I know. I’ll tell her soon, I promise. Just- let me wait for a better time. I don’t want to hurt her.”
“I understand, but the longer you wait the more painful it could get when you tell her,” Cass said. “Do it soon.”
“I will,” Ace promised.
Cass nodded gratefully. Then, before she could say anything else, her attention was caught on the croquet field. Alisha had moved away from helping Oliver and was now working with an irritated Nevergirl. Despite Alisha’s help, Oliver was still struggling. He swung the mallet and missed the ball.
“Want some help?” Cass asked, coming up behind him.
“No thanks,” Oliver said with a sigh. “Alisha already tried.”
“Here.” Cass took the mallet. “All you have to do is know your target and know your goal.” She paused. “It also helps if you know your flamingo.”
Oliver cast her a quizzical look. Cass winked, then took aim. She swung the mallet and shot the ball through multiple hoops at once.
“How do you make it look so easy?” Oliver said with a moan.
“Lots of practice,” Cass said. “And my mother is the Queen of Hearts.”
“Best croquet player in Wonderland,” Ace said, coming up behind them. “Though I hear she cheats.”
Cass scowled. Ace laughed.
Oliver picked up the mallet again and went back to the ball. Cass followed and helped him aim so that when he hit the ball, it rolled through three hoops.
“Good job!” Cass said, giving Oliver a high five.
Alisha was still struggling with the Nevergirl, who got fed up and snapped, “If you’re so good, why don’t you prove it!” She thrusted the mallet at Alisha.
“Yeah!” an Everboy crowded around them cheered. “Show us how you do it back in Wonderland!”
“Go on,” another boy said, shoving Cass forward.
Lips pressed in a frown, Alisha took the mallet from the Nevergirl. Cass picked two up off the ground and handed one to Ace.
“Why’re they all Evers?” a Nevergirl with pale skin and crimson eyes complained.
“Does that bother you?” Ace asked.
“Yes,” the girl replied sharply.
Cass sighed and searched the crowd for familiar violet eyes and magenta hair. She found him leaning against a tree, watching with amusement.
Holding out a mallet, Cass raised her eyebrows. “Wanna play?”
Ches just smiled and didn’t move.
“It’ll be like old times,” Cass prodded.
For a moment he just stood there, unmovable. Then the Nevers started cheering him on, and he sighed. Pushing himself off the tree, Ches strode over to Cass and took the mallet.
“There,” Cass said to the red-eyed Nevergirl. “Are you satisfied?”
The girl smirked. “Yeah.”
“Then let’s get started,” Cass said.
“Wait.” Ace’s voice stopped her. “Tia? Want to play?”
Cass turned to the last of the Wonderland students, who was standing alone across the clearing. Her skin seemed to glimmer in the sunlight, and her once gray eyes now flashed silver under her long lashes.
Tiana looked surprised to have attention called to her, and it took a minute for her to reply. She sneered and said, “Not with her, or any of the rest of you who treat her like a queen.”
“But she will be a queen,” Alisha pointed out.
“And anyone who follows her deserves to be destroyed,” Tiana said. “She’s a monster.”
“No, she’s not,” Ace said. “You’re just mad because I didn’t let you kill her.”
Tiana gnashed her teeth, but rather than reply, she just turned away.
Ace stood still for a moment, watching his sister turn her back on him.
Cass touched his wrist lightly. “Are you okay?” she whispered.
It almost seemed like he hadn’t heard her, but eventually he nodded.
“Let’s play,” he said, turning back to the game.
The other students were quick to place bets. Most were betting on Alisha to win, though a group of Evergirls insisted Ace would win. Oliver was the only one who betted on Cass, though Ches had twelve bets on him.
“You alright?” Ace taunted Cass. “Seems like people aren’t very confident in your skills.”
“They must have forgotten my mother’s reputation,” Cass replied.
The four teens were pretty evenly matched, having all been raised in Wonderland. Every time one got ahead, another quickly caught up. They barely missed any shots, and when Cass’s ball hit the end first the others all finished right after.
“Good game,” Alisha said.
Cass smiled. “Thanks.”
“Looks like you got lucky this time,” Ace said.
“I. Don’t. Lose,” Cass told him.
Ches grinned at her. “No, you don’t,” he said.
After lunch, Cass went to Good Deeds with Ace and Alisha. The class flew by fairly quickly, and Cass got fourth rank in the challenge. It was a great improvement from the beginning of the year. Back then, she’d barely managed not to fail, but now she rarely got ranked below a seven.
Alisha went off to Surviving Fairytales ahead of the others. She had wanted to get there early to talk to her Forest Group leader about fingerglow colors.
As they walked outside, Ace took Cass’s hand. She looked at him inquiringly, but he just smiled.
“What should we do now, since we’ve figured out why it’s here?” Ace asked after a moment.
“Make sure it can’t hurt anyone,” Cass said dryly. “We’ll go talk to Dovey after class.”
“But then we’ll have to tell her about how we snuck out!” Ace reminded. “That might not be such a smart move.”
“We don’t have a choice! We’re kids; we can’t take care of this monster on our own,” Cass said. “We have to tell Dovey.”
“Alright,” Ace agreed.
“Don’t worry. I’ll tell her that I discovered the Jabberwocky on my own. There’s no reason to get you in trouble too.”
“Cass, I can’t let you take all the blame-”
“Yes, you can,” she argued. “I’m not meant to be here. If I get expelled, it’s no big deal. But you, your future is here. Let me do this.”
Ace looked at her, shaking his head. Cass squeezed his hand and forced him to look at her. Finally, he nodded.
Cass smiled in relief. “Besides, I really do have to get back to Wonderland. I’m the Crown Princess, after all.”
As they walked into the clearing, Cass surveyed their peers as they gathered in separate groups. She saw Alisha confront Tiana. They seemed to be arguing, until Tia smiled and threw her arms around Alisha.
“Looks like someone fixed their problems,” a voice purred behind Ace and Cass. They spun and found Ches grinning at them.
“What are you doing?” Cass asked.
Ches’s grin widened. He grabbed her wrist and vanished, reappearing under the Group Nine flag. Cass turned and saw Ace back at the edge of the clearing, gaping at them.
“What was that for?” Cass asked, spinning to Ches.
“Don’t worry, he’ll catch up.” For once, Ches wasn’t smiling. “I only wanted a moment to speak with you alone.”
“About what?” Cass’s voice came out sharper than she intended, but she didn’t apologize.
“I just wanted to let you know… I won’t stop fighting for you. Even if you’re with him. I’m not giving you up that easily,” Ches said.
“W-what?” Cass stuttered.
“I’ve known you for a long time,” Ches said, “but I never realized the extent of my feelings until I saw you with him.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Cass rasped.
“I thought you should know,” Ches said, turning away as Ace reached them.
“What was that about?” Ace asked as he took her hand again.
“He had some things he wanted to tell me,” Cass said faintly without looking at Ace. Her eyes were on Ches as he started talking to some Nevers.
“Are you okay?” Ace’s voice snapped her attention back to him.
“Yeah, I- I’m fine.” Cass pulled her eyes away from Ches and smiled as lightly as she could at Ace.
After Surviving Fairytales, Cass was walking up to the castle between Ace and Ches when Alisha ran up to them, panting.
“It’s gone!” she cried. “I lost it!”
“Calm down,” Ace said, putting a hand on her arm. “What did you lose?”
“The scroll! I had it in my pocket so that no one could find it back in the dorm, but it’s gone now! Someone must have taken it and- Oh, Cass, I’m so, so sorry! You trusted me and I lost it!” Alisha bit her lip, looking extremely regretful and worried.
Cass’s brow creased, but she said, “It’s okay. We’ll find it.”
“The scroll you found last night?” Ches asked. “Who would have taken it?”
“I don’t- Tia!” Alisha gasped.
“What?” Ace and Ches said in unison.
But understanding dawned on Cass’s face. “She hugged you earlier- before class.”
Alisha nodded. “She said she was sorry about lunch and wanted to mend our friendship, but I bet she was really just trying to take the scroll!”
“What do we do?” Ace asked, worried. “Should we tell Dovey?”
Cass shook her head. “There’s no time. She could be halfway to the cave by now! That scroll had everything- the location, how to get there, everything!”
“Then let’s go,” Ches said.
Cass turned to him. “You’ll come?” she asked.
“Of course,” Ches replied.
“Then there’s no time to lose,” Cass declared. “Let’s go.”
oooh….that was good!!
Wonder if Tia plans to use the Jabberwocky to kill CASS