~ Chapter 102: The hidden tears ~

[Warning! This chapter might be a bit difficult to read for some.]

[Ildea's point of view]

My father, the King of the Ten Swords Kingdom, the Patriarch of the House of Kor, has started acting strangely ever since the ambassadors from the Majin Kingdom and the Akutan Empire arrived at the palace more than a year ago.

Father wasn't the perfect and respectable monarch he claimed to be. Like many other kings and emperors out there, he often partook in parties of opiates with his noble friends and more than once was accused of siring a child with a random noble woman or in some cases one of the prostitutes living in the slums. While all of these accusations could easily find someone of peasant rank without a neck above his or her shoulders, I personally discovered that most of them were, in fact, true.

The number of step-siblings I had far surpassed twenty, but I was the only one who was approved of as having true noble blood flowing through my veins. My mother was the esteemed Queen, and her family was second only to the Royal Family in terms of power. Her nobility and prestige were as solid as the steel of our soldiers swords. To declare any of those step-siblings of mine as a rightful heir to the throne, father would need to first adopt them and if he pleased take his mother as an official consort.

To mother, all of this meant an agonizing pain in her heart, a pain she skillfully hid from the hungry eyes of the high society world.

Unfortunately, it was true she had yet to bless father with a boy, an heir to the throne. This, however, was not my mother's fault but father's. He refused to take her to his bedroom for several years now, often enough taking a mere maid instead of her. The backlash of such unthinkable gestures led to a drop in mother's reputation, many even claiming that she was the one who was refusing his embrace, forcing his Majesty to seek pleasure in another woman's embrace.

While incest was often encountered among the nobles of high society, especially those who wished to keep their blood as pure as possible, both I and mother made sure that father would never think of touching me. If he desired to take me, however, unless I fled from the capital, there was no way for him to put his hand on me. According to the law, he could even take me as his bride if he wanted to, a most dreadful fate if I could say so myself.

Ever since I was twelve, I stopped wearing frilly dresses and corsets that slimmed down my waist and pushed up my chest like most other ladies of my age did, and instead, I wore plain dresses that hid as much as possible of my natural beauty. Mother also watched me like a hawk, to make sure she could interfere whenever it was necessary.

For a while now, I thought I avoided the worst, and only my faithful butler and hardworking maid knew the truth. They were there whenever I put on my makeup or chose the clothes I wished to wear.

Mildana often helped me with the band I used to restrain my breasts to make them look smaller. Once I put on the fake corset, it made it very difficult to breathe, to the point where running was a real nightmare for me. Thus, I took up the image of a modest young lady with no forms to please the eyes of men and little to no energy to spare for noble activities such as horseback riding, hunting, dances, or balls.

Rumors around high society often depicted me as a failed noble woman which no man desired as a bride.

While this indeed hurt my possibility of gaining a good husband for myself, if I dared to pretty myself, I would end up becoming either the bride of my father or that of a noble in his forties. No matter what, forcing a young girl like me to marry some as old as that was ridiculous, preposterous! It didn't matter how much fame and power he had, there was just something inside of me that turned my stomach upside down at the very thought of it.

Maybe it was thanks to my mother's upbringing that I became like this? A daughter who dreamed of love and saw a woman not bound by her man's words but by her own free will and that of the gods? In our high society, the idea of a woman in power was more or less... laughable.

Despite all of this, there still was one man who tried to court me. That man was Askarius Leden, a tall handsome man in his twenties, a Human Hero, and one of the proud ambassadors of the Akutan Empire.

This man's eyes did not feast on the beauty of a mature woman's body, who was single and eager to find a husband, but on the lines of married women, including my mother. Worst of all, he was not afraid to admit being attracted to them. More so, he claimed that since our society and laws were so loose around the restrictions of sexuality, putting his hand on one or more married women was nothing too unnatural. In his words 'beauty pulled in the eager who were willing to satisfy it'.

If his desires had stopped only at women like my mother, I would have just ignored this creep, but one day, Mildana came across the scene of this man embracing the daughter of the Prime Minister. She was only fourteen at that time, and through that disgraceful act, he robbed her of her future of finding a good husband and instead brought shame upon her family.

If through the mercy and will of the gods above I ever was to take my place as Queen of this Kingdom with a husband who loved me and listened to me, then one of the many laws I would promulgate would be that which banned marriages among relatives and made it illegal as a man to take advantage of a lady younger than nineteen years old.

But alas, even when I pleaded father to do something about this immoral man, he did nothing. Mother's words fell on deaf ears and the Prime Minister fell into a deep depression because of it. As for his daughter, she was then married off to her uncle to at least keep the bloodline pure.

I hate this and I despised those people who found pleasure in these acts just because they were nobles or foreign dignitaries.

It was wrong! It had to be!

If all the Human Heroes were like this Askarius Leden, then I wished to never meet one for the rest of my life! No, it would be better if they all just died on the side of the road and left there to rot.

Maybe my wrath was unjustified from some points of view, but as a lady of 17 years old, I feared for my own chastity despite the fact that I was a Princess. Within this castle, the walls were thick and nobody would take my side once the deed was done. It would end up as being my fault for ending up like that. The other part of my wrath, however, came from the fact that Madelline, the Prime Minister's daughter, was one of my few remaining friends within these walls.

Not even for a second did I think that she would end up like this. When I talked with her, she claimed that she loved this man, Askarius, that he was her sun and moons, but how could that be? The two have met once maybe twice? What sort of power could this man have to influence her in such a way? I was no fool to believe in love at first sight, so what did this man do to get her to risk her future for him like that?

I tried to find out what sort of weakness he held over her, but all paths led to a dead end. I tried to pay some men to spy on him, but he managed to turn them against me. I tried to find out the rumors that were whispered among the palace's corridors within the cover of the night, but nothing came up.

This man was like an impenetrable fortress. There was no way to scale his thick walls and no way to bribe the soldiers inside.

Speaking of Human Heroes, they appeared about three years ago all around the world. They didn't interest me at first, but my father saw them as a potential religious threat. They were sent here by someone they called God-like, yet they had no other name for this mysterious entity. Some of them held powers that if trained properly could pose a threat to an entire kingdom.

A normal human would need years to adapt to the conditions of his new country, but they did it in the first two months. This amazing power of adaptability of theirs coupled with their wisdom and innate ingenuity frightened countless nobles from all across the entire Human Continent, including my father.

His first act against them was to restrain their political freedom as well as freedom of movement. They weren't allowed to leave the country anymore. They became another class of citizens of the Ten Swords Kingdom who matched the peasants, but I often thought that the latter had more freedom than the first.

Although I hate to admit it, father's quick actions may have been what saved our kingdom from a fate similar to that of the Devaska Kingdom, Treigun Kingdom, Shiva Kingdom, Majin Kingdom, and the Nocturn Kingdom. Two years later, these names would come to represent only a memory of the past.

The names that echoed on the political map on the Human Continent were the Navimska Reich led by the fuhrer Zarbast Asher in the Devaska country; the Majin Socialist Republic led by the Supreme Commander Annatella Verma; the Democratic Union of Shiva led by Dormachiov Killiry; and the mysterious Fascist Kingdom of Nocturn led by Matriarchal Fascist Leader Missany Amitta. The Ten Swords Kingdom and the Akutan Empire being the only ones who kept their borders and identity, but with the constantly rising influence of the Human Heroes, the latter was slowly being eroded.

As for why both nobles and commoners alike joined their ranks, this was because of their radical and ideal politics they brought to the table. By themselves, they introduced four very different political systems through which a country could be ruled without the need of either nobles or royals. For thousands of years, such ideas were thought to be nothing more than a radical stupidity born of a mad mind, yet those four leaders managed to change this.

These political ideas were also being whispered into my father's ears, urging him to ally himself with the great Akutan Empire. The Prime Minister and many of the high noble families found themselves agreeing with Askarius more and more. Mother was the only one who opposed him, but her power was limited and none wished to take her side.

Then, one night, mother woke me up in the dead of night. My butler, Sergei Ruva, entered my room with two big chests and began to store my clothes inside. Mildana also helped him out, while mother tried to explain what was happening.

“My dear daughter, your father moves further and further from sanity with each passing day. I fear for your safety, my dear. That's why I wish for you to flee from the palace together with Sergei and Mildana. You will have to live in hiding from now on, but you will definitely survive, I know that.” she said and hugged me as if she was saying her final farewell.

Tears rolled down her cheeks and fell on my nightgown, and soon enough, I too shed tears because of this sudden departure.

“I don't want to send you away. I don't want to let you go, but if you'll stay here, who knows what that madman of a father of yours will do!” she said and then pulled back to look into my eyes “You have to live, Ildeanussi. You have to live and grow strong. You hold within your veins the blood of my family and that of your father's. You are royal and noble with an ancestry deeply rooted in this land. It will give you all the strength you will need to go on.”

Our words for departure were kept short because the window of opportunity was small. The guard who was helping us flee from the palace was one of the few who retained his loyalty to my mother.

That night, three months ago, I left the riches of my royal life behind and with it my name of Kor.

Sergei and Mildana taught me to survive from the beginning of day one, but as we continued to move farther and farther away from the capital, both of them often showed signs of restlessness. It was not because of the monsters that could be seen roaming out in the wilderness but the possibility of having hunters on our tracks.

With each passing day, I grew to learn the hardships the citizens of my kingdom had to go through in order to survive to see the light of tomorrow. I became aware of how big the difference between nobles and commoners was, and of how privileged the first were. Yet, despite their troubles, despite their hardships and pains, my people still lived on and even smiled.

Their strength, their courage was what inspired me to never give up from that moment on.

About two months after we left the palace, we were indistinguishable from a simple commoner family. Sergei and Mildana took up adventuring jobs in order to earn money for the much needed traveling supplies.

Wherever we stopped, I took up work as a waitress or as a request reader at the adventurer guild. We traveled like this throughout half the kingdom. I thought we were going to live like this for months to come, but one day, while we were heading to Leveder City, Sergei and Mildana told me to run towards the forest. I didn't hesitate to listen to them, and when I looked back, I saw them facing off against a pack of Dayuks.

The beasts attacked them with their sharp horns and let out fierce growls at them.

They were monsters that often needed full parties of skilled adventurers in order to stand a chance against them.

“NOOO!” Mildana's scream of pain stopped me in my tracks, and I turned around.

I saw one of the wolves dragging her by her foot away from Sergei, and in the next moment, the beast jumped on her, shredding her to pieces and eating her alive. Despite the horror that happened before my eyes, Sergei could not let Mildana's sacrifice go to waste and rushed over to me.

He snapped me out of my shock with a slap and then told me to run.

I cast one last look at Mildana. A tear was rolling down her cheek as the expression of pain was frozen by the shadow of death cast over her. A Dayuk then blocked my sight as he began eating her face.

My meal twisted and turned in my stomach, threatening to spill out any moment now. Despite the nausea and sickness that overcame me, the shivers in my limbs and the cold sweat on my back, I continued to run, following after Sergei.

I had no idea for how long I ran, but when we stopped, I was in the middle of meadow.

“Your Highness, I'm afraid the instigators of that attack have caught up to us.” he told me with a grave look on his face.

“What?” I asked confused and disheartened.

In front of us, six masked figures made their appearance and unsheathed their swords. They looked like assassins.

“Your Highness, it was an honor to serve by your side, but I'm afraid that now you must live on your own. Run away while I hold them off.” he told me as he unsheathed his sword and placed himself between me and them.

“You'll die here, old man.” one of the assassins said.

Sergei didn't reply, but I knew that I couldn't stay. I was weak. I couldn't defend myself, so I ran. I ran as fast as I could, ignoring the sounds of battle and screams of pain that echoed in the forest behind me.

Through some miracle, I found myself at the gates of Leveder City and paid my last coins to get inside. I didn't have any spare clothes, and I looked no different than a common beggar.

That night, I slept on the streets, crying and wondering where this terrible future was going to take me.

I spent my days afterwards begging for food and coins, trying to get petty jobs, and just struggling to survive. The people were harsh with me just because I looked like a beggar, like a worthless woman.

It was funny how once I was a lady of the highest rank in this country and now I had fallen to the point where a commoner who licks the shoes of a Baron was looking down at me. Then, when hunger was too much to bear, I did the unthinkable and stole a piece of bread.

I immediately regretted it because the baker was so furious he ran after me with his brothers in toe. They shouted after me, called me names, and threatened me with a fate worse than death.

I ran through the streets, holding that piece of bread to my chest as though it was made out of gold and encrusted with priceless gems, while in my mind, only one thought kept repeating itself:

Help me! Someone help me! Please, gods above, send someone to help me! I don't want to die! Help me!

When I felt as though my legs were going to give in and the baker was going to catch me, someone stepped in front of me. He had a carefree attitude, but his presence was strange, it was powerful and overwhelming but not frightening. With a smile on his lips, he was able to turn around the baker's attitude, and he forgave me for my deed.

I was allowed to keep my bread and after I ate it, I was taken to the inn where he was sleeping. There, I was given the opportunity to take a hot bath. With how much he helped me, I wouldn't have minded if he wanted to look at me as I changed or washed. I was so weak, that for a moment, I even considered of giving myself to him if he could protect me.

When I realized what sort of thoughts crossed my mind, I was reminded of my mother's last words as well as Mildana and Sergei's deaths. Tears rolled down my cheeks, and I cried.

How far I have fallen, yet instead of taking advantage of this weak me, this man showed me a true act of nobility by helping me.

He let me wash myself with warm water and then clothed me with clothes he made himself. As I got dressed, I felt as though I was about to cry again. Before I put on the strange item he called a 'bra', I turned around while naked to see if he was looking at me. This man had his back turned at me, keeping his word and allowing me to keep my dignity.

I got dressed and for the first time in my life, I felt as though I was given a gift so priceless not even the entire treasury of this Kingdom could pay for it.

This man's name was Alkelios Yatagai Draketerus. A man who held the same name as the dragon general Brekkar Draketerus of whom I heard spoken to only in legends and history books.

“You are a strange fellow, aren't you?” I asked with a giggle.

“Huh? Yes, I am, Princess!” he replied.

Surprise washed over me when he addressed me like that. I furrowed my brow, and I remembered the assassins who killed Sergei.

Is he one of them? I thought, as my heart started to beat fast.

“Huh? How did you...” I barely spoke, my lips were trembling.

I was afraid, but then his friends entered the room and that pressure of fear I held in my heart, that strange sensation that I was tricked and doomed once more vanished.

Rather than feeling afraid, I felt amused by their interactions, by their words, and the way the cute relliar child pushed herself into his palm to be petted.

“Yes, I am indeed the First Princess of the Ten Swords Kingdom. This might take a while, but will you listen to my story?” I asked him with a soft smile on my lips.

“Of course!” he replied with a gentle look in his eyes.

Hearing this, I felt a long-forgotten feeling in my heart, it was relief.

Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!

This is the first chapter after my break! 😀

Well, this is it! The new Volume of the 100 Luck series! This one will be entitled: Do Dragons go on Adventures?

I hope you will enjoy it and aren't too upset with the delay. This is a very troublesome volume, as I had stated before, and there's a chance I'll be posting slower because of this. I don't want to make a mess of the timeline and plotline. 🙂

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Pretty tame. I know you could make it more gut wrenching. It was kinda obvious for some of it. Looking forward to the interactions though.