You know, now I realize why Saira is a certified midwife and mother.
Currently, I was leaning outside of Radha’s room, waiting for Saira to finish with her so that I could take her to a place—I place I didn’t allow her to visit at first.
Before Mukhauta became the slum that it had become now; when it was once a sprawling, glittering kingdom, Saira was the head midwife and nurse, along with being the head maid. I didn’t understand why my parents had put her in charge of so many humungous tasks—
Until Radha was kidnapped.
Fighting for her back wasn’t an issue; the man was terrible taking aim with a gun anyway. It was only when we returned home, when Saira saw her wound, when I understood why she was in charge.
She was quick to understand what had happened; a brawl resulting in a hit to the back of her head, and a mistaken slice to her skin. In the short amount of time it had taken me to figure out that Radha had fought back, Saira was already locking me out of her room, instructing me to keep watch while she fixed Radha’s bruises.
I grumpily conceded to her command, not wanting to upset Saira, and wanting to give Radha her privacy, despite still worrying about her. The fact that I had almost killed a man nearly slipped my mind, my thoughts chasing back to the place I wanted to take her, the place I made sure she was instructed never to go—
The South Tower.
I was surprised that she even carried out my command. I had expected her to cave into the curiosity, like Psyche, and check out the South Tower. I didn’t expect her to actually listen to my passed down order and stay away from the tower. Now that she did, though, my trust with her was building. I was starting to trust her, especially since she didn’t leave me on her own free will.
Thinking about her kidnapping brought me back to the fight I had with the man who had taken her; the man I nearly killed. My heart was still sinking in my chest, if I even had one.
I almost killed a human! I thought, guilt racking through me. In my blind rage, I was inches away from taking the life of a mere mortal, a person who could have been paid to do the job; an innocent person who probably had a family waiting for his pay at home.
Thinking about it more made me feel even more guilty, regret coiling in my stomach, squeezing at my heart. Yes, the man was wrong to take her, but Radha told me that she didn’t know him. If she didn’t know the man (which was already a red flag, considering how tightly Mukhauta was packed together), then he must’ve been sent by someone, which meant that someone knew that Radha was here.
Sure, Lucifer and Damien both had contacts in the human world, but I made it very clear the night Radha came that her appearance in the castle was to be known by nobody except the other inhabitants.
Could it have happened at the auction? Damien had most certainly put on a show when he appeared on the stage, taking Radha and freeing the other women. It was a possibility, but knowing the state that Mukhauta was in now, the locals believed anything they heard of, even if it was so far-fetched that a child could understand it was fiction.
I clenched my jaw, my fangs digging into my lip, just as daggers had once done during wars. It took effort to remember the battles I had fought in, but there were many close calls that I had with death in my youth. To think, I had survived all of those merciless, haughty soldiers, and now, my life was in the hands of a crumbling artifact, a possession that Mohini valued more than her life; maybe even more than our love.
Before I knew it, a growl was ripping from my throat, rippling on my tongue and out of my lips. There she was again. In every sentence, in every breath, would Mohini be all I thought about? Would she be the one continuously plaguing my mind? My heart?
No. I thought. Radha is here, now. I don’t want Mohini to reign over my heart, not anymore. She had her chance, and she fucked up. She’s not my problem, she’s not my lover.
A cry echoed from the doors in front of me, and I curled my hands into a fist to prevent my fingers from ripping the latch into shreds. All of my emotions seemed to be crashing into me, falling in my empty body all at once. Guilt for nearly murdering a man; worry for Radha’s wound, and anger at Mohini’s constant presence in my mind.
Radha’s slow gasping brought me away from my pit of insanity; from my dive into a whirlwind of turbulent emotions, and with a scowl, I stepped away from the door. Her panting breaths seemed to echo in my ear, drawing out a feeling, a sensation I hadn’t felt for years. Something pounded inside of me, thumping and sending courses of pleasurable sparks into my fingertips.
What was it?
As soon as I thought to delve into my mind to find the feeling, Radha stopped, her voice disappearing over Saira’s loud ripping, presumably at the packaging. I snarled, mostly to myself, at how hard it was to cope with my emotions. I was a prince! Not only that, but I wasn’t a child anymore. I should have control over how I felt, and for who I felt it for.
I decided to take it step by step, assessing the emotions sitting in a pit in my stomach. Guilt was the first to step up, a sentiment that was almost evaporated in my stomach.
You did the right thing; he kidnapped her, that’s a crime, I spoke to myself, tossing the thought away. Had Radha not said anything, though, would I have killed him? Would I have sunk my claws into his flesh; would I have showed her the power that I’m fighting to keep hidden?
I swallowed the bile that was drawing up my pipe. I’m not a murder; I’m not a killer, I growled. What happened with Mohini happened; I can’t change that. But, it was my fault for not heeding my parent’s warning; for acting impulsively, for acting in betrayal.
What that man did to Radha happened, and just as Mohini, if I had killed him, then it was something that I couldn’t change, and something that I woulnd’t change. My guilt over slaughtering Mohini was deeper that my guilt over closely murdering a possibly innocent man. It confused me, but now was not a time to dwell on the thought, on why I didn’t feel very guilty over an almost murder.
“I am a murderer,” I admitted, guilty of charge. “I killed Mohini, and I almost killed a human. How can anyone love a murderer? How can anyone love someone who has killed others? Who can’t control not only their own emotions, but their own powers? What does Radha see in me?”
I almost laughed at the irony of my statement, my tongue bitter, as if I had swallowed a vile of poison. Radha couldn’t even see me, yet she was still with me. She still trusted me, and she waited for me. How long would she wait? And if she did see me, how long would it take for her to run?
Would I even let her run?
If she did see my face one day, would I let her escape me? Would I give her the freedom that I took away from her life? if that man returned, would she willingly leave with him?
Somewhere, deep down in the back of my mind, I knew I wouldn’t. It was selfish, but if she wanted to run, I’d give a chase. After Mohini, I wasn’t letting myself make the same mistake again. Radha was a speciality, a girl that was near impossible to find anymore in Mukhauta, or even in India! She radiated a special, intriguing aura, one that drew me towards her, but burned me when I got too close. It reminded me of a hot flame of a warrior...of a warrior that I knew...
I bit my lip harshly, ripping the skin so that I drew blood. The sting spread through me quicker than hot oil did on a pan, burning me, drowning me. Mohini was no more, why couldn’t I get that in my head? How difficult was it really to move on from her? To finally be with another girl, for her to have all of me?
You’re a beast, I thought, leaning in defeat against the wall, my muffled claws tapping on the cobblestone. Radha is a beautiful human girl. Your paths don’t cross; you aren’t mean to be with someone like her; you don’t deserve her...
But you do deserve it, another voice answered, my mind having a two-way battle. Mohini is nearly faint in his mind, why do you keep bringing her back? She can’t interfere with any of your affairs now; your only problem is accepting your looks, yourself. Mohini isn’t your problem anymore, Rohan, you are your own problem.
Even though I was talking to myself, something in my inner battle made sense. Mohini was gone, and despite me continuously thinking about her, she wouldn’t be coming back. Incidents happened, I can’t change it. I just have to move on.
Where the self-confidence came from, I have no idea. Maybe I should talk to myself more often. I seemed to gain more assurance about my past and my new love-life because of it.
“Saira, can I ask you a question?” Radha’s soft, inquisitive voice carried to my ears, pulling me away from my train ride of self-flagellation. Curious, I pressed my ear against the door, narrowing my eyes. I knew it was evesdropping, but I couldn’t help it. Would she ask about me? Would she confide to Saira her fear of me, of my beast?
“Of course, darling. What is it?” I heard Saira reply warmly, her voice stifled by her slight lisp.
“It’s actually about...um...” Radha faltered, and it was then that I realized that there could only be one person that she was referring to.
“The Master, I presume? I know you have a different name for him,” Saira corrected cheekily, and I was sure that she was smirking. “What about him, dear? Did he do anything to you?”
“No! No, he’s been nothing but kind to me,” Radha quickly defended. “It’s just...before I was taken, when I went into the room close to the stairway, Raja said that it was for someone. Who was it for?”
My breath hitched, and I stepped away from the door. Radha sure did move fast. I guess I could understand why she didn’t ask me; she knew I wouldn’t tell her. I wasn’t angry at her, though. Although, it did kind of hurt me that she had to stoop so low to ask Mohini, when I could have told her many nights ago.
No. No self-deprecation, Rohan. Love goes slow, and happens in time. She will wait, my mind fought. Trust me.
I do trust myself, thank you very much, I laughed, realizing the stupidity of my situation, but loving it at the same time. Consoling myself brought me away from nasty thoughts, away from her.
“Well, that’s a difficult question, hun,” Saira hummed. Something dropped on the ground, rolling towards the door, and I stiffened, unaware how close in proximity I had been wih the door again.
“Why is it difficult? Did I misspeak?” Radha asked, and I was sure her lip was protruding slightly, an action that made her, to me, incredibly cute, something Mohini was never good at.
“No, of course, not,” Saira consoled, her footsteps a nuisance to my ears as she padded around the room. “It’s just...I’m sure the Master told you, he had a lover, back before...everything happened.”
I held my breath, waiting for Radha’s response. What would she say? I barely got time to evaluate her reaction last night before she’d been taken.
Radha was silent for a few moments. “Yes, I know. What about her? Why does her name cause him to flinch? Is it because he killed her?”
“Well, yes, it is,” Saira agreed, pulling at something that sounded like bandage wraps. “They were in love, but there was always something about her that rubbed me, and everyone else in the palace the wrong way. We just never told the Master because he looked so happy with her.”
Usually, at this point, there’d be an uncomfortable pang in my stomach. Nobody, not in a long time, had gotten a sentence in with Mohini’s name before I’d be on them. Somehow, though, I didn’t get upset, or even a bit remorseful, just as I had been minutes ago. It confused me, but then Saira continued, and I pressed my lips together to control the thoughtful hum breaching my mouth.
“Their relationship was, I suppose you could say, doomed from the beginning. His lover was already a mystery as it was; nobody trusted her. It’s why the Master has trust issues now,” Saira continued, and behind the door, I nodded with her. it was true. Ever since Mohini betrayed me, it was hard to look at someone in the eye and know if they were trustworthy or not.
“Damn...so, what happened?” Radha cursed.
“Well, he told you...he killed her, but it was an accident. I can’t really say more than that; it is not my place to say, but, he made a mistae, and he is paying the price. Hopefully, you can be the person we need.” Saira finished, the clinking of bottles ringing in my ear.
I stepped away just as Saira opened the door, helping Radha to walk. She walked with a slight limp, her leg wrapped and her stomach neatly bandaged. Impulsivley, I took her into my arms, collecting her close to me and ignorant to the smirk playing on Saira’s lips.
“Are you better now?” I asked as softly as I could, my mask rubbing against the bridge of my nose.
Radha nodded, looking up at me, as if she were trying to gauge my reaction. “Yeah. Saira’s a life saver. Thank you.”
Saira shook her head. “Anytime, darling,” she cooed, her reptilian eyes darting from me to Radha. I’m positive she knew I had heard everything, if her narrowed irises accounted for anything.
“Do you mind if I show you someplace? Someplace...private?“I asked, unintentionally sounding sexual.
Radha blushed, her dark pink hue matching the one splattered over my cheeks. “Um, sure. I’d love to,” she agreed. Saira had already left by then, and with Radha leaning against me, I helped her slowly up the South Tower’s staircase, the stones making small clicking sounds underneath our shoes.
“Y-You’re okay, right?”
I regarded her from the corner of my eye, my lips twisting into a frown. “What do you mean?” I asked, her skin warm on my large hands.
She looked away. “In the forest, when you almost...you’re okay, right?”
I smiled at her, proudly showing off the glint of my fangs from the shadows covering my face. “I promise you, Radha, I am fine. I’ve come to terms with it already, but I do thank you for bringing me out of my murderous insanity.”
Radha shrugged. “I know you aren’t a killer, Raja, despite what you think. Accidents happen, and we can’t change them. Besides...” she toyed with her button “it’s kind of hot to me that someone would kill for me.”
I grinned, raising my eyebrow. I felt cocky, my ego boosting higher than it had in years. “I’ll be sure to murder someone in front of you, then.”
“Oh God, please no!” Radha burst, giggling.
I smiled again, and found myself chuckling with her as I led her towards the thinner chambers of the tower, towards the highest room of the palace.
Radha grew silent, studying the bare walls and dusty window sills. While she studied the poor interior design, I studied her.
I know I noticed it before, but in the dark purple light of the dozing sun, Radha looked exceptionally beautiful. Everything about her was highlighted, her eyes sparkling, her lips pulled in a large smile. She was gorgeous, she was unique, and she was all mine.
“Is this the South Tower?” Radha asked finally, her dark orbs catching mine.
My breath caught in my throat for a quick second before I could find my voice, her eyes sending sparks through me just as her gasps had. “Um, yes. I know I told you that you weren’t allowed here, but I trust you enough to show you this.”
Her eyebrow rose. “You trust me? Already? Even after all the stories of trust issues I’ve heard about you?”
I smirked. “Well, I’m getting there. I—I’m not sure I trust you fully, but...”
Radha patted my arm, stopping me. “I understand. Everything new takes time to get used to. If it helps, though, I trust you.”
“Why not? You saved my life,” she rebutted.
I looked away from her capturing eyes, studying a dark wall that faced me, but I could feel my heart jump. “How can you trust someone you can’t see?”
“You saved my life, Raja. I don’t care if I can’t see you yet. It’ll happen soon, right? You saved me, therefor I trust you because I know I can count on you, pardon me for sounding too excited,” she replied.
My heart thrashed in my chest. “I promise you, I will save you if anything like that happens again, which I’ll make sure it won’t. I can’t say I trust myself enough to let you see me yet, and I’m still working on the full trust, but you can count one. You aren’t being forward at all.”
She beamed. “Good.”
Her smile was contagious, and the rest of the way to the highest room, I found myself grinning for no absolute reason other than the fact that she had been smiling.
The room where I kept Mohini’s parting gift was shrouded in darkness, no window available to let light seep onto the cracked cobblestone or the dusty red carpet. A small desk where my father once sat was pressed up against the back wall, a ripped portrait of what I once looked like above it.
Radha immediately drifted towards the portrait, hesitating slightly until I nodded to her. She tentatively reached for a piece of the shredded fabric, not knowing that I had slid behind her, intrigued to see her reaction.
As she fitted the pieces together, I heard her gasp, just as she had done earlier today. My eyes shot down to her, something once again stirring in me; something I hadn’t felt hit my sides, hit my mind, in centuries.
Before I could acknowledge the feeling, I felt her eyes on me, and as I looked up, I saw it.
A handsome, clean shaved boy who looked around twenty. He had curly, shoulder-length black hair and chocolate brown eyes. His skin was a light brown color, his muscles defined, and his jaw straight.
“I-Is that you?” Radha asked carefully.
I clenched my jaw, looking away. “It was me.”
“What do you—!”
“Come here,” I cut her off, beckoning her to the caged balcony of the tower.
She pressed her lips together, dropping the shredded pieces and following me, her eyes widening once again as she caught sight of the artifact that controlled my life; the last gift Mohini had given to me, apart from my curse.
“Why do you have a mask in a jar?” She asked, raising her eyebrow.
I chuckled, adjusting the odhani that was slipping from her clear, bare shoulders. “It’s cursed, Radha,” I explained. “Just as I was—!” I broke off, pauisng. “Um, well, it controls my life. I have a certain amount of time to do something, and if it doesn’t happen before the last piece of the mask falls, well,” I gulped, and that brought Radha’s attention towards me. I fixed my hood, and she frowned.
“What? What happens if the last piece of the make falls?” She demanded, observing the white and gold face-piece.
I sighed. “I die.”