A week after Faakhir’s visit I headed to Pretoria, a city that for years had been practically abandoned, but that was, once again, full of life. After the deal with the Dominion, the people of Mzanis had started to live again. That city would mark the new era for Mzansi and its people, but especially for me. During that last week I had enjoyed my freedom and my family, because everything was going to change, and I tried again and again to convince myself that I was prepared for what was going to happen.
When I entered the government building I was surprised to find it practically empty, but it was even more surprising to find Zola seated at Kgosi’s desk. The plan was for me to challenge the King and take over his position, and then use Faakhir’s army to secure my place. Even if for some people I had become one of them by marrying Kimball, for most I was still a foreigner and because of that, not deserving of ruling them. Kgosi was one of the people that didn’t recognize me as one of them, but Zola had had always supported me, that was one of the reasons I wasn’t expecting her there. Did she think that I wouldn’t be able to defeat Kgosi by myself? What she there to help me? Or was she against me? I liked the idea of fighting Kgosi and was disappointed he wasn’t there. Fighting Zola wasn’t something I liked.
“What are you doing here?” Zola asked. She knew why I was there, but we needed to make an spectacle for the mzansiers, and especially for Faakhir.
“I decided that I was tired of being exiled. I decided that I no longer want to live in the shadows. I want to have control. I came here to challenge Kgosi for his position.”
“You are not a Mzansier, you have no right to rule over us, you can’t challenge the King for his position, only those from one of the Royal Families can do that.”
“I’ve never been good at following rules, I’m used to take what I want, and this is what I want. Where is Kgosi?”
“Kgosi is not the King at the moment. I used to be the Queen before him, and decided to resume my position and leave the Elders Council for the moment.”
“That doesn’t seem fair, where’s the honor in defeating an old lady?” I didn’t know Zola’s real power, but I knew that she was respected and feared by most people, she was considered one of the most powerful warriors in the country.
“If you are sure this is what you want, I will fight you, and I will teach you why my people still think of me as the most powerful warrior in the country. “ She got up with a grace and agility that didn’t seem possible for someone her age. She took her jacket off and walked to the center of the room. People around us moved to give us space, some of them, the ones involved with the government knew what was going to happen, but most people didn’t, they were there as witnesses for the fight that we were about to start.
“I think that today I will show who is better and I will change people’s mind about who the strongest warrior really is,” I was confident I could defeat her, but I had to recognize that I wouldn’t be as easy as with Kgosi. I didn’t know Zola that much, but I knew she wouldn’t make it easy for me.
Using my powers I pushed the furniture against the walls, the noise called more witnesses to the room, everyone wanted to know what was going on, but no one tried to interfere. Once Zola had accepted the challenge, it had become a matter of honor.
“I need to clarify that we do things differently from how you do it in your Clan, we don’t fight to the death, it’s not the way we act, we make challenges to show who is better, by testing our powers and abilities. I suggest, to make this easier, that the victor of this challenge to be the one who makes the other one bleed first.”
“Your country, your rules.” I had the feeling that something wasn’t right, but I wasn’t sure what. In the paths I had analyzed, I had Kgosi in mind, so I never took a look at the timelines where Zola was involved. I thought I was being clever, but I had made a mistake by not looking at all the alternatives.
“Let’s begin,” Zola said. Before I even registered her words, she was already attacking me. My psychic wall stopped her, but her punch was stronger than I expected and I was reminded of Kimball’s attacks. My wall wouldn’t survive many hits like that.
I needed to recognize that I had underestimated Zola’s strenght. My objective was to make her bleed, and I needed to act fast and do it before she had a chance to weaken my shield. I knew I needed to keep my distance from her, I couldn’t risk to let her hit me, just a single hit could be really bad. I concentrated my powers to gather the water in the air and then I froze that water to create little ice cristals that I combined with a whirlwind that I could use to attack Zola. I was thinking that an attack like that would leave her full of little cuts, but even if the strong wind was making her movements slow and clumsy, her skin remained unnafected.
Zola reached me and I was forced to let the whirlwind die, it was too close to me and it could affect me too. Zola’s attacks were stronger and faster than I expected and the blows were raining on my psychic wall. I felt the wall breaking and tried to dodge her attacks, but some blows connected with me and I was getting tired real fast. A hit connected with my face and I felt my lip breaking. It was a little, insignificant injury, but if it bleed, it could cost me the fight. I realized that I was at a disadvantage at that moment. Zola’s resistance was a great advantage, my attacks weren’t as effective on her, as hers were on me, and I couldn’t break her skin, even if I could, her fast regeneration could heal her before she had a chance to bleed. I was vulnerable, my skin was easy to break and making me bleed wasn’t that hard, comparatively.
Before the blood could ooze out of my lip, I used my powers to keep blood out of that part of my lip. I knew that I needed to be careful, I couldn’t let Zola defeat me. With my powers I connected to all the blood in my body and made sure to keep it inside. Zola had her resistance, I had my hemokinesis. With the help of my powers I was going to make sure not a single drop of blood could escape.
By using my powers to keep my blood in check, I needed a new strategy to attack. I moved my cape around to form a light armor around me, enough to keep me relatively safe while fighting Zola. She was clearly faster than me, and stronger and experienced, but I wasn’t going to lose that battle. Her fighting showed clearly her years of experience, I couldn’t think of her as an old lady, she was a great warrior, but so was I. I had spent years fighting and learning how to defeat all kinds of enemies, and soon enough I found her rythm and finally connected a few hits.
I started to get frustrated with the fight, no matter what I did I couldn’t make her bleed. I didn’t understand what was going on, wasn’t she supposed to be on my side? At first I thought she was there instead of Kgosi because she was going to help me, not that I ever thought she would let me win, but I didn’t expect her to make things so hard. She had agreed that it was in everyone’s best interest to let me be in charge of Mzansi, but her actions could jeopardize everything. Every minute the risk of being incapacitated by a psychic headache increased, I couldn’t keep exerting that kind of control over my own body for long.
“Maybe you think you have the advantage in this fight, but I can control my blood and I won’t let even a drop let my body. No matter what you do, you won’t make me bleed.” In response Zola smiled.
“And no matter what you do, you won’t break my skin, it’s too hard. So we are at a stalemate, and one of us have to lose. As we both know what the risks are, we know who has to win this.” I didn’t know what she was planning, her actions made no sense. Had she changed her mind? Was she trying to get rid of me?
By using my powers to control my blood, I couldn’t use them to fight, my options were limited and I realized that it was almost imposible to defeat Zola with just my physical strenght. In other circumstances I could risk letting my body vulnerable long enough to use both of my minds to use psychic powers, but with Zola a second of vulnerability was enough.
After a while I finally came up with a plan. I moved away far enough to allow me a moment of immovility while I used my mind to modify my armor and add spikes on some areas, and reinforce others. I was paralyzed for just a second, but that was enough to let Zola connect a few hits that in other circumstances would had had me coughing blood. When I was able to move again I started my attack on Zola. At first it seemed as if my attacks had no effect on her, she kept moving as if nothing was happening, but after a while I noticed she wasn’t as fast. Soon after that we were more evenly matched, it wasn’t as hard to hit her, and I was having an effect on her, and I focused my efforts on her face.
I had to recognize that nothing was going as I expected, but it would work in my favor. Some Mzansiers didn’t recognize or value my abilities, but by fighting Zola hand to hand I was proving to them just how strong I really was. Even if it didn’t seem like I was going to defeat her at first, eventually I was able to overcome the circumstances and move the fight in my favor, until I found the perfect window of opportunity and with a well placed hit, I won the fight.
I hit Zola on her face, and that made her lip split. She moved away from me and cleaned her lip, but the stain of blood clear on her shirt proved that I was the winner.
“It seems that I managed to make you bleed.” I told Zola, trying to appear strong, and not as if I was about to collapse because of the pain and exhaustation.
“I really thought you wouldn’t do it, no one has made me bleed in decades. I need to recognize, Kaiserin, that you won.”
A comotion erupted around us, most of her people was angry with the results, but I was the winner, and with that I had adquired the right to call myself Qeen of Mzansi. I felt the moment that the surprise changed to anger, and I modified my cape, once again, to cover my body, and then I released my hold on the blood running through my veins. I had won, and even if I started to bleed it wouldn’t change.
“I know that you don’t like what just happened, but by your rules, I am your Queen, and you need to accept that.”
“A foreigner can’t be our Queen,” one of them said.
“You have two options: You can recognize me as your Queen, or you cand recognize Emily. Soon the Dominion will attack and they will take over this country, and they won’t give you any options. With me as your Queen, you will at least have some freedom.”
“I lost,” Zola said, “and the rules say that Kaiserin won her right to be called Queen. As my last act as your Queen, I ask you to respect her claim and accept her as your new Queen.” While Zola was talking, a soldier entered the room.
“Your Majesty,” the soldier greeted her, “we have received some reports that Dominion forces are invading our country. Their forces are larger than any other we have fought before. A large part of the invading forces are coming our way.”
“Let them in,” I said. “It’s time we surrender to the Dominion.”
People started protesting all around us. The freedom they had fought so hard for was about to be lost because of me. Those who knew what was going on were not protesting as loud, but everyon was against my orders.
I knew that what I needed to do was going to make me the most hated person in the country, and eventually I would become the most hated person in the whole Dominion. But that didn’t matter. My loved ones would be safe, and that’s all that mattered to me.