I woke up in my bed. A bandage wrapped around my torso. A dull ache to my side where the sword was plunged into my body. Takashi was asleep on a couch in my bed. Groaning I rolled over and pushed myself up into a sitting position. My body shook and sweat beaded my body from straining my body.
“Takashi,” I weakly tried waking the man.
He didn’t answer.
I cleared my throat, “Takashi.”
It came out louder but the man still didn’t wake up.
“Takashi!” I shouted and my side throbbed in pain. I grimaced and let out a painful groan.
Immediately, he jerked awake. His eyes scanning for danger before it landed on me and his demeanor relaxed. He pushed himself off the bed and walked over.
“Am I glad you are awake,” Takashi announced sleepily standing at the end of my bed.
“How long?” It came out hoarse and strained.
He walked over to the dresser and picked a glass pitcher filled with water. He poured me a cup of water before walking over to me. I accepted it, drinking it down fast.
“Four days,” Takashi informed me.
I choked on the water and sputtered. My side throbbed with even more pain. I grimaced with each cough.
“Sorry,” Takashi chuckled.
“Four days...eight months.” My mind was still on Anna. It has been eight months where she was. All kinds of thoughts were flying through my mind.
My eyes flitted back to Takashi. I needed to know what happened after I passed out. Gripping his wrist in mine I used his weight to help me up.
“I don’t think you should be getting up yet,” Takashi grumbled.
“It’s fine,” I muttered. “Tell me what happened.”
“It was bad. Your beast went into a rage. Destroyed half the palace. Killed many of your father’s devoted palace guards. After you killed the King, Ronin and the Queen were seen fleeing the realm but were caught by the rebellion troops. They are now in Grenagon prison awaiting on your orders.” Takashi recounted what happened while I was out.
I walked to the bathroom and started unwrapping the bandage around my torso. He followed me and stood by the doorway.
Images of the fight I had with my father flickered in my mind. Although I hate him for his tyranny, he was still my father. Even when he wasn’t there for me, he provided for me. My father wasn’t bias in his affection. He treated Ronin the same way he treated me. My stepmother was right. He could have easily raised Ronin’s status to heir of the throne but he gave it to me.
I was conflicted. I can’t grieve him because I was the one that killed him with my own two hands. Maybe Ronin was right. Feeding stray dogs, one day will bite but that wasn’t my intention at all. I did what I needed to do. If that makes me ungrateful then I will answer to our Gods when the time comes.
“The Queen and Ronin want the throne,” I began.
“You don’t mean to give it to them?” Takashi demanded.
I tossed the used bandage into a waste bin before turning to face him. I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t want to be king of the kingdom. I want to live a free life and experience what a normal man will experience.
“Is there a reason why I shouldn’t?” I questioned.
Takashi’s jaw clenched in irritation, “We fought and bled to save you but you will hand us back to the very people we were fighting against. Snakes that will kill us without a blink.”
I smirked, “You’re saying I am ungrateful?”
It was a disrespect to speak and accuse a Royal. If it was anybody else, I would have ended his life for speaking so lowly of me. However, Takashi was my friend. He knelt on the ground with one knee. Both hands out and folded before him. His head lowered in an apology and submission.
“I wouldn’t dare to oppose you.” He replied but I can still hear the annoyance in his voice.
I sighed and walked past him to the bedroom again, “Rise, Takashi. We are friends. You saved my life more than once. I owe you more than anything. You can speak your mind.”
I heard him standing up before he moved to stand next to me. I glanced out the window and mulled over what I would be doing next. There is a duty here that I can’t ignore. A kingdom without a ruler will go into ruins. People will fight for power and chaos will ensue. Other dragon realms will hear of it and will attack. Although my father was a tyrant he kept order within the kingdom.
On the other hand, there a simpler me who wanted nothing more than to chase after the woman that I love. Fulfill my dreams in having children with her and living a happy worry-free marriage.
“You are our king. We will devote our lives to protect you and follow through with your orders. I understand that this is a difficult decision for you and that your chosen mate is up in the human realm but you have a duty to the kingdom. You can’t abandon us at a time like this.” Takashi reasoned.
I chuckled darkly, “I thought my worries will end after the death of my father but it looks like I got myself into another mess.”
“The ministers will fight. Words will spread. This world will not be livable if you are not here to maintain order.” Takashi demanded. “I beg you to consider your duty as our king and don’t abandon us.”
“What do you want me to do?” I glanced at Takashi.
“Remain here. Protect the kingdom.” He replied. “Bring back your chosen mate.”
“It’s not that simple.”
Takashi looked at me confused, “Why?”
“I don’t want to rule,” I answered him.
“You are born to rule. Your blood runs the line of your father’s and his father.”
I sighed and placed a hand on Takashi’s shoulder, “People might think I was born privileged. A consort’s son becoming heir to the throne. Living the life of luxury but I lived my life in confinement. All these years, I have been told what to do and I followed through with it like an obedient soldier.”
Takashi remained silent. I can see that he was starting to realize why I am fighting my destiny so much.
“I want to live a normal life, Takashi. I understand that it is my duty to protect my kingdom but not right now” I answered him.
A look of panic flashed across his face and I quickly waved my hand in assurance.
“I will appoint a trustworthy minister to stand in my spot.” I turned back to the window and looked out to the open blue sea. A smile appearing on my face as I thought about all the things I can do now.
“I want to be able to breathe without feeling the weight of the world sitting on my shoulders,” I admitted.
“What if we can’t trust him? What about Ronin and the Queen?” Takashi questioned.
“I am a realm away. I am not dead. I will return. I just ask for a chance to experience life as it is. As for Ronin and the Queen, they committed no crime against the kingdom. Killing them will make me a tyrant just like my father. They are to be confined on the second level of Grenagon prison.” I told him. It seemed to reassure him. He gave me a nod of approval.
“Then I will wait for your return and until then defend this kingdom with my life,” Takashi promised.
“Is it true? My mother’s dead?” I glanced at his reflection through the glass window.
Takashi shook his head, “Your father lied to you. She has been visiting you for the past few days. Barely slept a wink but she is in your father’s wing. She’s sleeping in his bedroom.”
I turned immediately to face him. The look on my father’s face, I was sure he had killed her. It didn’t make sense.
Without another word, I walked out of my bedroom and made my way to my father’s wing. His wing was in the middle of the palace, behind the great hall. It was the largest wing and room.
I knocked softly on my father’s door. It felt strange walking these halls after his death. My mother didn’t answer and so I slowly turned the knob. When I opened the door, I saw her sitting by the window.
When she saw me, her face lit up and she ran towards me, pulling me into a hug. After years of distance between us, I can still feel her love for me. We might not have spoken or shared any secrets. She might not know who I am completely but she still places her trust in me completely as I do with her.
“I am glad to see you are awake.” She said and pulled back to look at me carefully.
“Mom,” I whispered.
And tears welled up in her eyes. She sniffled before hugging me again. A mother’s embrace was warm and impartial. No matter how many wrongs you have done in your life, she will always forgive.
“Why are you in his room?” I asked her.
She pulled back and gave me a sad smile.
“He was your father but he was my mate. He might be unreasonable but he never treated me poorly.” My mother explained.
“He had Ronin beat you.” I retorted.
“To stop you from doing what he didn’t want.” My mother explained.
I frowned, “You are siding with him?”
She shook her head; a sad smile still marred her face.
“Let me explain.” She led us to go sit by the table near the window.
“Your father met me while visiting Huisong. He was immediately taken with me and requested my service that night. After that, he took me back to the palace and made me his consort. Although he rarely spoke his emotions and we don’t love each other. He treated me well. I had the finest clothes and jewelries. He fed me and took care of me whenever I am sick. He did many wrongs in his life. He took you away from me in hopes to teach you to become like him but little did he realize that you will grow up with a mind of your own. Your father is arrogant and prideful. He never goes back on his words. He did what he thought was good for you.” My mother explained.
“You are only saying that-”
“Your father and I never shared an emotional connection but I have no doubt he cared for you. He might not speak it but when he first held you in his arms, I saw it in his eyes. He adored you the second he laid eyes on you.”
“I find that hard to believe.” I said bitterly. “If he loved me he never expressed it. He was cold and did what he wanted.”
“Your father was never good at expressing feelings. I am asking you to not hold it against him.” My mother urged.
I reflected on my mother’s words. It was true. I argued with her but I agree with her. My father never treated me any less. He can be brutal and cruel but he raised me, taught me the ways of the world, and gave me food and clothes.
I decided to let the matter drop. There was no use getting upset over someone who was gone already. My mother moved to take hold of my hand between hers to get my attention.
“Now that everything is starting to settle down, what are your plans?” She gave me another smile.
I chuckled before explaining to her what my plan was. Four days to execute an interim ruler and announce the decree to the kingdom before leaving. Determination washed over me at the thought of returning to Anna May’s side.
I can already sense that some of you are disappointed that Raiden will not immediately take his position as king. Ronin and the Queen are still alive. Although they were despicable people, they didn’t commit a crime that deserves capital punishment. Raiden killing them will not make him any better than his father but they are still paying for their crimes in imprisonment.