10.1

“Your Highness, it has been three months since we have seen the Imperial Bride,” an aide had whispered into his ear as he watched the screen on his desk flicker through channels, looking for any news about them.

“They may actually be dead, Your Highness.”

Bullshit,” he murmured, the screen going black, his cool eyes looking up and staring at nothing.

The sun was setting to his right, the orange rays making him squint. The aide quickly closed the curtains.

“The Imperial Bride is too stubborn to die and too pigheaded to hid from me.”

He picked up his full scotch glass, swirling the melted ice into the room temperature liquid. The lack of clink made him toss the drink in his aide’s face.

“Another.”

The aide blinked alcohol out of their eyes as they nodded, hurrying out the room.

His Majesty sat in the dimly lit room, staring at her. Her purple eyes watched his before falling from her skull. He blinked and she was gone. He let out a sigh and stood up, undressing himself, staring at his bare body in the full length mirror by his desk. He looked at all the old scars, the fading bruises, the bits of new meat that had grown where chunks had been cut out. He stared at his left hand, looking at the scar where a railroad tie had been hammered into it. He smirked.

His Majesty was barely a man, still choosing to sneak out in the middle of the night to steal a kiss from his future queen. He wore black robes, covering his mouth and forehead in a scarf after coloring the skin around his eyes black. He snuck past his guards, who were waiting at all the entrances but one. From his princely manse, the larder had an escape route that led out into his mother’s rose garden. He went down, around and even swam, surfacing in the fountain that held his father’s likeness. The guards dared not enter the garden, not to sully his mother’s work with the soil with their blood stained feet. He picked several of different colors, each having a different meaning of love behind them. He moved through the trail, staying close to the shadows as he made his way to the entrance. He peeked around the corner, seeing no one before making his way down the walkway to the beach manse where his loved stayed.

It sat on a cliff, overlooking the beach and ocean. During the day it was a sight to behold, the sunlight blaring through the stained-glass, creating a colorful spectacle the small children loved. In the middle of the night, however, he was thankful the waves were loud enough to cover his footsteps. As he rounded the rear entrance, he saw her silhouette in the third story window. Her hair went down to her waist when it was wet, and she struggled to tame it as it dried. He smiled as he started to climb the wall, chuckling as he heard her frustrated screams.

“Every fucking WEEK with this!” she cried. “And stop laughing at me!”

She turned around, facing the window just as he popped his head up.

“How did you even–“

“Every time I wish to see you, you always show up. I’m magical.”

He stared at her in awe as she twirled, her hair flying out behind her, the smile on her face lighting up the night sky behind him, the joy her purple eyes held as she let out a laugh he wished he could keep playing in his head forever. She stopped twirling, her smile still large, her hair covering up her nudity.

“Are you going to come in or are you just going to hold on to the sill for dear life?”

He blushed with embarrassment, climbing onto the sill and sitting on it.

“Why are you wet?”

“Fountain.”

“To wash off that black stuff off your face? You think you’re some sort of nin–“

The silence was loud as they listened for footsteps outside the door. They weren’t supposed to see each other outside of classes. They were the only royal children that lived or visited His Majesty or Her Grace’s respective kingdoms, so they had grown to love each other’s company and had grown to love each other on a level that is only reserved for the common people and not royalty, as their teachers would say.

To love is a duty,” the ancient teacher would drone as he watched her stare off into the nothing from across the room. He memorized the way her eyebrows would move when she come back to reality, remembered how she bites her lip then licks her lips to ground her back into the lesson. How the pink of shyness would bloom from her cheeks when she caught him looking at her. “A duty that is out of necessities and theatrics. You two are never to be seen publicly as a happy couple, but rather the image of duty and longevity.”

He watched her now, studying her eyes as they widened to hear better. He watched how steady her hand was and how it was aimed skillfully at the nearest thing to grab as a distraction.

Nothing.

He watched as her chest sank, releasing the air she was holding. She walked over to him, kissing his cheek as he held her hand.

“Once we are married, we will be free, you know… Every day, my wish gets closer and closer.” She kissed his wet forehead, giggling to herself. “We will be free…”

“Free to what, child of mine?”

The future queen pushed His Majesty out the window as she turned around, her heart bursting from both her chest and mouth. She wasn’t fast enough as a guard pushed her out the way, grabbing His Majesty’s left hand before he fell to the ground.

“Arman, Arman, Arman. Every day, I tell your father to beat you, and yet he doesn’t beat you enough. Now, I must go have the nurses check Adira once more to see if you have soiled her. Now I must have the servant’s boil more water to scrub the sin off of my daughter. You mock this union with your common behavior. I would rather my daughter marry a whale so that I may kill it and use its body to food and money, but the gods have seen to laugh in my face and gave me an oaf in silks and jewels instead. Dangle him there. His family will retrieve him in the morning.”

The guard that held his hand pulled him up a bit, so that his hand lay flat on the sill.

“What are you doing?” Adira breathed, trying to break free from her captures. “ARMAN!?”

The guard pulled the railroad tie from his waist.

Time seemed to slow and sound didn’t exist. Adira struggled against the guards who had her restrained by the arms and legs, her caretaker walked from the room, the guards holding Adira following as Adira’s mouth kept opening and closing, her eyes letting tears of rage flow.

The tie slammed into his hand with ease, entering the stone under his hand just enough to lock him in from moving.

The pain surged through his hand again, the old scar now throbbing and red.

You should have just kept the love of that husk’s life alive if you wanted an Imperial Bride.”

He punched the mirror, shattering it.

Is that regret I feel?

“Fuck you.”

Oh, I see. Interesting. It’s been nearly 20 odd years since you… How do I put this nicely, volunteered the woman you claimed to love to die in your search for power. I arrive, I give you what you seek and now you are mad at the outcome you knew would happen? Curious.

His Majesty looked down, seeing her face in the many bits of shattered glass. He looked up and she was gone. He could smell the rose and cinnamon perfume she wore, he could feel her hands slink up and down his chest, her fingers playing with the scraggly beard he let go during these past three months, her mouth against his.

Tears ran down his cheeks as she pulled him along the room, the invisible entity of mercy or the desperate needs of a person deep in agony, helping him open the bedside dresser, a handgun ready and waiting, but for a different moment than this. He picked it up, pressed the barrel to his temple and pulled.

His aide was coming back with another tray of His Majesty’s drink before dropping it and running into the room as they heard the gunshot. They thrust open the door, staring as His Majesty, Arman Reiner, cackled into oblivion. He turned his head to the head, blood and bits of viscera ran down the sides of his head. The aide stood horrified as the bullet wound started to heal itself, the holes on the side of his head showing the brain bits he shot out would heal to.

Oh, you silly little thing. You can’t kill us so easily. I will heal you as many times as I see fit. You will not escape me nor can you escape the memories you doomed yourself to. You will survive forever and I will make sure your faults are never forgotten, Arman Reiner. You will NEVER forget.

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