13 years ago.
"Bartender two more drinks." Jacques Montreal said then he put down his empty glass for the seventh time.
"Two 100-year-old Kintos Scotch on the rocks coming up." The bartender said and then began pouring their drinks which he then gave to them.
"I can't believe it. We are finally putting our family's feud behind us." Grant Seemore said looking in Jacques Montreal's eyes as he swirled the ice in his drink.
Jacques Montreal's face was flushed with red from the liquor he had consumed. With his head hanging slightly, he lethargically lifted his glass in the air," I dare say. It should have happened much sooner."
"I'll drink to that."
"Those old timers always bickering. It's because of them the Lightening clan is in such a bad space. Just think what it could be like if our two companies united? We could bring the lightning clan to a new age." Grant Seemore said slurring his words.
"We no longer need to think about it. Now that we both are in power in our respective companies, we make the decisions. Our companies are now united because we want it to be so."
"Ha-ha, true, true. That is why we are here tonight celebrating. But do you think our people will fall in line? We have been at war with each other forever." He said shaking his head in disbelief.
"They will have to. Plus I'm sure once they see all the good that comes from it, they will understand."
"Truthfully, change will happen but only later. We can't wait that long, we need something to commemorate our merger immediately."
"Do you have anything in mind?"
"Well, your wife is pregnant with a daughter and mine with a son. Your wife and mine plus you and I come from a long line of pure lightning wielders. That's how we know for sure when our children awaken they will be lightning wielders too. If the two successors of our fortune get married our two houses will be united. And when they married they can run our companies together thus ensuring the longevity of our agreement."
All the blood rushed to Jacques Montreal's face and he sobered up as if he never had a sip of alcohol, "No! I can't do that to my daughter." He disagreed vehemently.
"This has been our custom for generations. Even your marriage was arranged." He argued while raising his voice.
"It's exactly these old customs that I am trying to abolish. I want my daughter to find love on her own."
"I too want the same for my son. What, you don't think I don't want my son to be able to choose his own wife? Do you think I want this? I don't but I don't see how we will be able to unite our companies, our houses if we don't do this. I understand you want to be the change and you can be. However, in order to make changes, this has to happen. I don't see our merger working without it and I will not take part in anything I know is doomed."
"Are you threatening me?" He said glaring at Grant Seemore.
Laughing awkwardly, "Not at all" "I'm just letting you know my terms and conditions. But before you make your decision, weren't you the one who told me, 'sometimes great change requires great sacrifice.'" He said furrowing his eyebrows.
Jacques Montreal sighed deeply then he began thinking while swirling his drink in his glass. After two minutes of silence, he reluctantly said, "Okay."
"Okay, what?" Grant Seemore enquired.
"Okay, I agree to our children's arranged marriage. However, I have some terms and conditions." He emphasised 'terms and conditions' more than he had to, "They will only get married at age 16. This way they will be old enough to know what love is. Now, I'm not saying they need to love each other. But if they hate each other and I mean detest each other or for another extreme reason then we are allowed to cancel the wedding."
"Ha-ha, I knew you would come around old friend. And I agree to your terms. But I doubt that would happen. Our meeting had been decided by fate. What are the odds that both our wives be pregnant at the same time and with a boy and girl no less? This is preordained."
Laughing awkwardly, "Ha-ha, I don't know about preordained but it's happening…" Then Jacques Montreal lifted his glass, "To a successful merger."
Grant Seemore raised his cup in return, "To a prosperous marriage."
"PUSH, harder!" The nurse said to Lara Montreal.
Responding to the nurse's words and gripping her husband's hands tightly she pushed as hard as she could.
"C'mon just a little more."
She pushed so much that the veins in her head looked like they were going to pop. As she pushed harder and harder the baby was revealing itself more and more. Then with her final push, she put more energy in than she had ever before. Sparks flew everywhere as she short-circuited the equipment. This caused the entire place to blackout. They were currently in a private hospital specifically designed for lightning wielders. In this place, the wires are insulated with all sorts of insulators to ensure the place doesn't blackout. Also so that the lightning wielder doesn't fry all the expensive equipment. Despite all the countermeasures placed there was still another blackout. The place was pitch-black, nobody could see a thing. But amidst the darkness, a miracle occurred. The sound of a baby crying echoed across the room.
In the darkness, Lara Montreal's voice sounded out, "Can I hold my child?"
"Just wait a few seconds for the backup generators to kick in. Then I will bring your child to you." The nurse said.
After a few seconds later, the generators kicked in and the place had light again.
Looking at the crying baby, the nurse said, "Aww, she is beautiful." Then she walked over to Lara Montreal and handed her, her baby. Then she asked, "Do you already have a name for her?"
Receiving her baby in a white cloth, Lara Montreal looked lovingly into her baby's eyes and said, "It's Lexi, Lexi Montreal." She smiled warmly after saying her daughter's name. Then she caressed her baby's face and asked her husband, "The Seemore's already had their baby. What did they call their son?"
"They called their son Alex, Alex Seemore. Our daughter's future husband."
"Lexi! Are you ready!? It's almost time for school." Lara Montreal shouted up the stairs.
"I'm coming, mom!" 'Just doing the finishing touch.'
Lara Montreal sighed, "Our daughter always takes forever to do her make-up."
"Like mother like daughter." Jacques Montreal mumbled under his breath.
"Did you say something?" She said in a stern voice.
Flustered that he almost got caught, "Nope, you must be imagining it."
Smiling again, "Oh, okay."
At this moment, Lexi Montreal walked down the stairs in her school clothes. She wore a maroon windbreaker that hung over her grey skirt. Black stockings covered her long legs. Her jet black hair was tied up in a bun and there was no hair in her face per school regulations. She was only wearing a bit of make-up because make-up wasn't allowed. She wore a bit of base to change the shade of her skin here and there. Lexi was a beautiful young girl and didn't need make-up but she wore it because she knew the other girls would too. She didn't want to be different from day one. Lexi had dark blue eyes. The contrast between her hair and eyes was site to behold. She had a perfectly symmetrical diamond face that made the world glitter when she smiled.
"Mom I'm ready. Let's go I want to be early for my first day of primary school." Lexi said hurryingly.
"Don't you want to eat first? You know it is the most important meal of the day." She said testing the waters.
"You know I don't eat breakfast." She said with a puzzled face.
She sighed, "I know I was just hoping since today is your first day at Strera Academy you might have changed your mind."
"No, mom, I haven't. Can we go now? If I don't get there early people will already be cliqued up."
"Cliqued up… Is that the slang the young ones use these days?"
"Don't look at me I have no idea." Jacques Montreal said with his hands in front of his chest.
"Okay, we can go now." Lara Montreal said. She took her expensive white bag from the counter. Then she reached in and grabbed her car keys. Together as a family they locked the house, climbed in the car and then drove to school.
Once they arrived at school Lexi said," Bye mom, bye dad. I'll see you after school." Then she opened the door of the car.
"And where do you think you are you going?" Her mother said.
She furrowed her eyebrows and looked at her mother who was in the driver seat. "I am going to school. That is why am here…"
"I know that it's just that the Seemores haven't arrived yet. We need to wait for them. They want you and young Alex to go to school together. Plus we want some pictures of you two together. You will thank us later when you are married."
"Ugh! Really mom. I have to wait for that guy. You know he still pees in his pants."
"Hey! Don't you dare raise your voice at me! Now I understand you might not like him yet but there is no need to belittle him. He had a hard life."
"Yeah, it must be tough to be the son of one of the wealthiest men in the country. Sounds excruciatingly painful." She mumbled under her breath.
"What did you say?"
"Nothing mom, absolutely nothing and that's the problem."
Blood rushed to Lara Montreal's face then she said, "Now look here young-"
Interrupting his wife's rant, "Hey look, there's the Seemores and there is young Alex. The wait is over."
Returning to her calm self, "Good eye sugar plum."
Jacques Montreal sighed in relief and thought, 'Crisis averted.'
As a family, they climbed out of the car and walked to the Seemores that were waiting at the school's gate.
That's when Lara Montreal looked at Lexi Montreal, "Lexi, you remember Alex don't you."
Lexi looked at Alex Seemore, "Hey."
That's when Alex's mom looked at him, "You remember Lexi right?"
Standing upright and tilting his head upwards he said, "Sup."
After introductions, they took a couple of awkward photos. It was at this point that Lexi was losing her patience. Her dad saw this and said, "I think we are done here. Let the kids go to school." He laughed casually afterwards
Grant Seemore agreed, "Yeah, let the kids be kids and go to school."
Lexi Montreal didn't need any more encouragement, "Bye mom, bye dad." Then she began walking.
"Hey, wait." Alex Seemore said running after Lexi.
She stopped and then he caught up but he was out of breath, "We should hold hands as we go into school. We are going to get married so let's let them know we are off the market."
Lexi didn't want to argue with him as that would waste more time. So she grabbed his hand and together they walked into school. Alex was blushing uncontrollably, he didn't expect her to be so forward about it. It caught him off guard. He thought she would be shyer about it. And then he would act experienced and teach her how to hold hands properly. He sighed in his head because the hours practising his lines with his mom were all up in smoke now.
As they walked towards school all the students saw the two holding hands. Lexi was her usual self whereas Alex was smiling from ear to ear. It made him feel powerful walking past the other boys holding the hand of a beautiful girl.
"Look at these two they are perfect for each other."
"They both come from powerful families. Apparently, they're going to get married."
"Well she is beautiful and he is handsome, I'm so jealous."
"They are both come from pure lightning families so they know what element they will awaken. So lucky."
"Isn't it so romantic? Husband and wife entering the King and Queen competition."
"I know she is sooo lucky. She has already met the one. She doesn't need to invest her time on lovers who turn out to be lessons."
"Omw, he is so strong, smart and handsome. He is number one in combat and number two in Academic work."
"She is number two in combat and number one in Academics. That's a power couple if there ever was one."
This was the general gossip in the school but the tune started changing after Lexi and her classmates experienced multiple talent growths where Alex did not. He only experienced an explosive growth. People started gossiping again. At first, it was subtle. Nobody cared that she was still number one and he had dropped to number thirty because they believed that Alex would make a comeback. But after years of no growth, people started talking. As the years went by they became more unreserved. Now it was so bad that even Alex's friends were gossiping behind his back. He would often catch them gossiping about him but when he came closer they would shamelessly play it off as if it never happened. When he walked around school he would often see people pointing at him and then they'd share something with their friends which would make the group laugh.
"That's Alex Seemore. Apparently, he isn't number one anymore. The other students are going through their talent growth where he has only had an explosive growth."
"I heard that too. But he was number one and he will be number one again."
"Yeah, he will return to his rightful place with his fiancée."
"Isn't it going to be beautiful when he gets back to number one. I can just imagine him telling Lexi, 'Sorry for making you wait' then he flips that perfect golden hair in the wind."
"You are daydreaming again."
"What can I say, I like to live vicariously"
"Look there is Alex, it's been four years and he is still rank 30. Do you think he will ever get back to rank one?"
"I think I have waited long enough. I don't think he has it in him."
"Yeah, I've been thinking the same thing. It seems to me, he has found his place in society."
"Look at him holding her hand with that stupid smile. It's been five years and he is still rank 30. He doesn't deserve her."
"He is handsome that is all he has to him now. If I were her I would divorce his ass."
"They aren't married yet how can she divorce him."
"That's good news for her. She shouldn't marry him. It's beneath her. "
"I wouldn't want a man that is so much weaker than me."
"She doesn't have a choice she has to marry him. It's an arranged marriage."
"Poor girl and to think I used to be jealous of her."
"You know you guys don't need to be dicks about it. I'm sure Alex knows better than anybody that he is still rank 30."
As time progressed the gossiping was getting worse and worse. Eventually, people stopped caring whether Alex heard them or not. When he came close by they would continue gossiping about him to his face. When it got this bad he knew he had to do something about it, his popularity was plummeting and fast. He began thinking and he realized in order for the gossiping to stop his rank had to change. But he was already drinking Superior supplements and doing extra training after school. His parents were also paying for a combat tutor for him. His tutor was Razak rank 3 so he was somewhat accomplished. Yet his rank remained the same. He wanted to stop trying so hard but he was afraid if he slacked one bit his rank would drop even further. He wasn't gaining ranks but at least he wasn't losing any. This was enough to console his pride.
Once he realized that his rank wasn't going to change he thought of Lexi. If his rank couldn't change then hers would have to. After thinking up his plan he waited for Lexi after school. They found a secret place to talk because Alex didn't want to be seen with Lexi in public anymore. It would do him more harm than good right now.
After checking if they were alone, Alex took hold of Lexi's hand then he looked her in her eyes, "Have you heard the rumours about me?"
She replied with a straight face, "I have."
Alex shook his head worryingly, "I was afraid you would have but I'm not surprised."
Lexi immediately replied, "If you are worried about what I think about the rumours. Don't be, I don't care what they say. I'm not going to dump you because people say I must."
Alex looked relieved when Lexi was finished speaking, "Thank you for not caring and you might not care about it but I do. It's dragging my name through the mud. Now I have thought long about this and I realised that the reason people are gossiping is that our ranks are too far apart. I'm already doing all I can to increase my rank and I don't see it happening anytime soon. So I thought maybe you could decrease your rank to 29 that way we are not too far away from each other. If this happens the rumours should disappear. Now I'm allowing you to take rank 29 and be ahead of me instead of 31 because I am a gentleman and believe in equal rights blah blah blah. So will you do this for me."
"Wait, let me get this straight… You want me to purposefully drop MY rank so YOU can be popular again?" Lexi said trying to calm herself down.
"Yes, but it won't be for long. I can feel my talent growth coming and when that happens you can return to being number two and me number one. We will be a power couple again… But you got to drop your rank first, these rumours are killing me. People can't see my light if you keep whitewashing it. So I need you to turn down yours so people can see my light again."
"Can I think about it?" She said gritting her teeth and clenching her fists tightly.
"What's there to think about, you are my girlfriend you shouldn't be outshining me. As the man, I should be on top always but because I'm a gentleman I'm letting you take 29th place. There's not that much to think about."
"Can I think about it?" She said with a tone that conveyed hurt.
"Sure but I expect to see you dropping your rank tomorrow."
Then he left and made sure that no one saw him leaving.
"What's wrong honey, you have been off ever since you came back from school today. You know you can talk to me about anything." Jacques Montreal said.
After some thought, Lexi Montreal caved, "Well you know about the gossiping I told you about."
"Oh, is about that? You shouldn't worry about that, kids talk, it will blow over."
"That's how I feel too but Alex doesn't feel the same way. It got to him and so he confronted me about it today. He wants me to drop my rank to 29 so that our ranks aren't so far apart. He said and I quote, 'You are my girlfriend, you shouldn't be outshining me. As the man, I should be on top always.' The thing is I don't want to decrease my rank. Why should I decrease my rank? Because I'm a girl…? Because I should be subservient to the man? I have already been enduring! He touches me in front of his friends because it makes him look good. Every time it happens his friends are always like, 'man you are so lucky that you get to do what you want with her.' I've heard him tell stories about things we haven't even done! And truthfully, it's things I don't ever want to do with him. But I understand the importance of our marriage so I suck it up every day and I endure. I haven't told you about this because you and mom are so excited about the marriage. I didn't know how to tell you, I hate the guy I am supposed to marry. How am I supposed to tell you that I hate the guy that is supposed to revive the lightning clan with me? I couldn't so I have been enduring. But I don't want to endure anymore; I want to be selfish, just for once. I have already been holding back so much. If I don't, they call me a monster. At least this way I have friends but I don't think I can hold back any more than this. It already kills me every day to hide my strength. To act like I can't do things I can to fit in societal norms. To be confined in the realm of the understandable. But the second I venture out again, I get called a monster again and I lose all my friends. Dad, I can't go through with his plan but I also don't want him to face ridicule. I'm so confused.
In a fury he started discharging low voltage electricity, "I am going to castrate that little-"
"Ah sorry… So you have been holding back and a lot."
"Yes, every day."
"Do you still want to be Queen one day?"
"Yes, dad more than anything!"
"Then you are going to have to make some sacrifices and changes. The first change, I don't want you to decrease your rank. Neither do I want you to hold back at all. Yes, people will call you a monster. So what if your friends leave you. If they leave you because of this they were never your friends, to begin with. It's better to know the truth than to live in a sugar-coated fairy tale. The only issue is that this will also piss off Alex. Because not only are you not decreasing your rank, you are pulling away even further but don't worry about it daddy will handle it. You guys will most likely end up splitting and when I say probably I mean 100% but that has been a long time coming. You shouldn't have to hold yourself back for no man and neither is it your obligation to do so. If you really want to be Queen you should stop holding back. When you hold back you are not growing. And if you do not grow to the potential you should have been at. When you meet a King that is worthy of you, he will have to hold back for you. Now I'm sure you don't want that, do you? So go out there and train your heart out. In school, after school, don't hold back. Somewhere out there is a King worthy of you."