Character in this chapter:
- Cohen Kheda: The main character.
- Fischer: Prince of the Swabia Empire, Cohen’s friend.
- Visual Kheda: Cohen’s father, Duke of the Swabia Empire.
- Nashor Summers: Queen of the Swabia Empire.
Several muscular royal guards pressed me on the ground, and a rather friendly guy placed a thick cushion on my butt and made a smile at me.
“Cooperate and scream harder.” He said.
“One!” Guard’s rod slammed in.
“Ahhhhh…” I yelled and didn’t feel pain at all thanks to the cushion.
“Two!” Here came one more.
“Ahh… ahh… ahh!” They beat for twenty-eight times, and I made twenty-eight different styles of screaming.
Two more left and I was tired of waiting and about to urge them. Then I turned my eyes and saw Fischer’s evil smile.
“NO!” I sensed danger from his eyes, and as expected, the cushion was promptly lifted, and I was beaten the crap out!
”PUFF PUFF!” With two stuffy sound, I got hit right in the middle. An unnamable sharp and sorrowful pain spread on my skin to my bone marrow. My mouth was widely open without a sound but “Ssssssi… ssssssi”.
“En, my father said, the last two rods is a must.” He ignored my sad eyes and turned around, “Stand up, my mom wants to see you.”
I hobbled on the Royal Garden Lane. Lovely streams and exotic flowers and plants didn’t offer help with the pain.
“My father said, if he doesn’t beat you at least twice for real then cat out of the bag, others will know.” Fischer led, “By the way, you got lucky, a bunch of rods for a mil-pos.”
“I don’t care! You remember that I’ll have my revenge!” I said with bare teeth.
“Whatever… you still have to call me Majesty.”
“Hey hey… that’s gonna wait, you are still at ‘Highness’.”
In a small pavilion surrounded by streams, we met Queen Nashor. She wore a white dress and sat on a white stool. She was doing ikebana with a pair of scissors and concentrating on plants that were strangers to us.
“There you are.” She said softly, “Have a seat, I’ll be right with you.”
“Please continue.” Fischer sat down, and I decided to keep standing considering the condition of my butt, “I’m better off keep straight.”
Queen Nashor looked at me, then greeted and continued her trimming. I froze the moment she smiled at me. Her expression was so real, natural and comfortable.
No birds were humming while I heard the lower roar of the streams. I watched the Queen gracefully put down scissors and cleaned her hands in a silver tray.
“I had a sense of everything you’ve done recently.” She stood up and put the finished bouquet on the fence, “However, I don’t understand why you have to do it in the rudest way.”
“I…” Out of nowhere, faced with a kind elder, I choked and had no idea why I was acting tense and unable to lie.
“Mother?” Fischer said, “Isn’t Cohen such a man? Do you mean he faked all these?”
“Silence!” Queen Nashor then asked, “Tell me, Cohen.”
“I… think, this way it would be more… straightforward.” I tried hard to remember my thought then, “Time-saving.”
“I see, then it was all part of your personality.” She paced and finally faced my eyes, pointed her right index finger and put it on my forehead. A feel of a drop of cold spread like a ripple…
“A boy of sixteen.” She gazed at my eyes, “Why a boy with so many hidden secrets.”
“Your Grace…” I tried to end this conversation as fast.
“Call me auntie.” She interrupted, “Isn’t it better for you like this?”
“Yes, auntie.” I surrendered.
“You two are in grave danger.” Slowly she sat down, “Do you know?”
I confusedly shook my head.
“The Minister, he was a man of great importance as the chief quartermaster during the Divine/Asmodian war several decades ago. He singlehandedly managed in perfect order the necessities of four hundred and sixty thousand soldiers. Do you still think you can defeat him easily?
“He’s been underestimating you like kids. During the days he assumed the position as the Prime Minister, he has not encountered any noticeable impediment, except for Viceroy Kheda, your father.” Auntie Nashor continued, “He has never imagined anything that could mean a threat to him in Swabia. As for you, Cohen, you are the very first variable in the Empire during near twenty years. For us as well as for the Minister. You are always an unpredictable deal breaker to him. Now he will add you to his threat list. He will get ready for you on whatever he’s planning to do. You should be worried.”
“Mother, are you saying that Cohen is in danger?”
“You think? Why do you say your father gave him a military position for thirty rods?”
“Hey hey, I have no idea.”
“You brat.” Auntie Nashor kept her smile, which has been changing lively as my emotions, “Let me tell you.”
“The Divine City looks at peace for the moment, which in fact is flown in turbulence. Within the entire empire, only the Kheda’s territories are comparably safe for you. Within which Cohen’s is the safest. This place is yet to develop without other forces’ intrusion.” She said, “Your father gave Cohen’s a mil-pos, now he will be able to build army in large scale.”
“Cohen’s army will be your knights, you stupid little.”
“I have discussed with your father. You have to go to the Dark City with Cohen together immediately. There you will have much opportunity to practice and the chance to avoid dispute in DC.”
“Are you sure you want me to leave?”
“Positive. We will worry about the Minister, and you are free to realize your dreams.” Auntie Nashor said to me, “Cohen, carry on. The more you thrive, the safer we will be.”
“I assure you. We will make it!”
“You need to take this really seriously. Cohen, have you remembered what I said?”
“Loud and clear, Auntie Nashor.”
“One more thing.” She said, “Since today, I want you to think before act. For us, this world is full of various temptation and danger. A single mistake, you could lose yourself.”
“So?” I asked, “What should I do?”
“Follow your heart.” She gazed at my face, “Your heart will not lie. It will lead you whenever you become lost.”
“We…” Fischer stuttered, “Don’t we have our Gods?”
“The Minister himself,” Auntie pulled Fischer’s ears, “is a spokesman of the Gods. Do you want him to lead your way?”
After our conversation, we all grew hunger. Thus the three of us, stood or sit, enjoyed fine desserts in the pavilion while chitchatting.
“By the way, Cohen.” The Queen asked, “You have two cute fiancees, don’t you?”
“Yeah.” I smiled, “They were accidentally earned at that moment.”
“I couldn’t care less. Bring those girls in tomorrow. I want to meet them.”
“Why on earth, Auntie?”
“You little bastard, it’s about the reputation of these two lovely girls!” Now it’s my turn to be pulled by the ears, “Or were you just saying that for fun? I’m preparing your wedding.”
“Auntie!” I said, completely acted silly, “No need to be in such a rush?”
“Why not?” She smiled, “I need someone to take care of you little bastard.”
“I’m only sixteen!” I protested loudly.
“You’ll be spending much time with Fischer, what if the girl he likes shed eyes on you?” Queen Nashor whispered in my ears, “I’ll be so relieved once you are married.”
Under the setting sun, I returned my residence in the Divine City on a stretcher while carrying the Queen’s flower for my mother and pretended a sore butt.