THE DEATH TRIALS│7

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ZAINA WALKED AHEAD OF THE hasida, determined not to let him see her cry.

"Do not pay heed to Lilith."

"It is hard to do that when she is always shouting at me," Zaina replied, slowing down.

"I wish I could say that's just how she is," he replied, turning his blurry face towards her. "Unfortunately, it would be untrue to say such a thing."

"So I'm getting special treatment?" Zaina asked, laughing bitterly.

He didn't reply and they fell into a companionable silence.

"Your name is Mido, right?" Zaina asked, breaking the silence as they rounded the last corner.

"It was," he replied curtly. "In the afterlife, I have no identity."

"Oh," she whispered, feeling as though she had struck a nerve.

They had entered the hall when Zaina spoke up again, rather forlornly. "You know, I had a friend named Mido."

When she heard no reply, she turned only to see the spot beside her empty.

"As you know, we are gathered here to celebrate the winner of the first trial," Anubis said, drawing her attention as he paced the length of the elevated stage. "Help me welcome, Omar Almasi!"

The hall was silent as the winner stood up.

"Come on now, don't be bitter," Anubis said, clapping his hands.

Slowly, everyone started clapping their hands. The boy smirked, and that was when Zaina recognised him. He was the one who had stared at her during the breakfast. Omar was barely scarred, in fact, he was most likely the only competitor who had come out unscathed.

The loud clapping dwindled down as he mounted the stage. And as the gods congratulated him, shaking his hand, his smug smile grew. Anubis placed a golden chain with an ankh hanging from it around his neck. Omar looked through the crowd and grinned when his gaze landed on Zaina's own. He winked at her before descending the stage.

"Enjoy the banquet," Anubis shouted, lifting his hands upwards.

Zaina looked around for a seat, her lips slowly but steadily dropping into a frown as every table appeared occupied.

"Zaina!" a loud voice shouted.

She whipped around to see Aharon waving her over. Ignoring the questioning stares of the other competitors, she quickly made her way towards him. In her haste, she tripped on the hem of her dress and fell down. The raucous laughter of the other competitors filled her eyes and roused her tears. Too humiliated to move, Zaina remained in her position, not wanting to face them.

Footsteps echoed around her, becoming louder. Soon she was being lifted up and placed back on her feet.

"Must you always be falling when I see you?" Aharon asked, a grin on his face.

Zaina smiled slightly but stopped when she still heard their laughter.

"Ignore them," he said as he lifted her head. "Keep your head up high."

Zaina smiled at him. In return, he smiled and pulled her towards the table he was seated at. They quietly eased into their seats and joined the ongoing conversation. Zaina smiled when she was spoken to but focused on eating, running around in a pyramid was a lot of work.

By now, the laughter had diminished to whispers. Zaina examined the room, frowning slightly as she noticed that the number of competitors had fallen once more.

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