The private banquet room was an exquisite room with a raised sphere ceiling and shimmering gold curtains hanging from the windows. In the middle of the room was a golden glass table that seated eight people. On the table, there were savory grilled chicken legs marinated in sweet and salty sauce, spicy seafood cold noodle salad topped with peanuts, shrimps, and squid, aromatic fried rice, and beef stir fry. In front of us was a rounded plate and on the side was some rice scooped into a smaller bowl.
The warm comfort of freshly cooked rice and the fragrant scent of sweet soy sauce and stir fry dishes. My stepmother had discreetly arranged the seating so that Song was sitting next to me. We ate in a comfortable air of light conversations. The only person who wasn’t really the talking type was me. I found no need to. As soon as I am done with this meal, I wanted to head back to my wing.
My father spoke to Song’s father about political matters as if our sparring from a few hours ago never happened. Ronin joined in with his own opinions. My father tolerates Ronin better than he tolerates me. The way the two interacted put a dull jealous ache in my chest. It was something I have never shared with my father. Distant table conversations were passed to slice the quiet environment.
After we finished eating our dinner. I made my move to leave. However, I was stopped when Song touched my arm lightly with her fingers to gain my attention. I turned to face her. Today, she was dressed in a light turquoise chest wrap along with a satin turquoise skirt with a shimmering gold overlay. Her hair was pinned up with cherry blossoms gold hairpins.
Memories of Anna flooded me upon sight of the cherry blossoms. I can still remember the sweet and flowery scent of cherry blossom on Anna’s skin from earlier.
“I was wondering if you and I can speak alone together.” She asked and with my father near, I couldn’t refuse her. I gave her a nod before her and I stepped away from the table conversations. I stood up from the table and offered my hand to Song. She accepted it immediately.
We excused ourselves from the table to a more private area that was still in sight of the people sitting there. She turned to face me, and I released her hand to place them behind my back. I looked out the window at the open sea.
Gazing out the window, I watched the sea creatures swam by. A deep melancholy sets fire in the pit of my stomach. I felt calm seeing how free the sea creatures room but another part of me felt like I was trapped. Bound into this Kingdom with no way of escaping. I shouldn’t feel this way yet I am.
These emotions are hard for me. It is a never-ending battle. It is like a ticking time bomb about to explode any second. For years, I carried this weight on me. A destructive turmoil that can release at any given moment. The urge to roar in rage and in pain. The need to destroy everything I have known all my life. The only person who seems to placate this overwhelming power inside of me was Anna May. When I gaze upon her, I feel nothing but serenity.
“You seem lost in your thoughts, Prince Raiden.” She looked up from underneath her long eyelashes at me.
I appreciate the fact that she is trying but it won’t do her any good. My heart has been stolen a long time ago and the keeper of it doesn’t even realize she has it. She brushed away my silence and continued to talk to me.
“Raiden, is it really that hard to speak to me? I know my father has spoken to yours. Our union is approved by our elders, please speak to me. Don’t turn me away.” She pleaded.
“I do not want to hurt you, Song,” I replied.
Her lips quivered and she looked about ready to cry. I exhaled inattentively before running a hand through my hair.
“You can’t even give me a small chance? There is no place in your heart for me?” She questioned, upset.
“It’s not you, Song. I-I just can’t—not with you.” I looked down at her.
She moved closer and placed a hand over my chest where my heart is. She was being bolder. Her fingers shrewdly caressing me.
“I have never wanted another man as much as I want you, Raiden. I feel like I am digging and clawing to get just a small piece of you. Just a glimpse of who you truly are.” She pressed further. “I shouldn’t do this. I should know my place—but I can’t. You are all that I think about. You are all that I want.”
I placed a hand over hers before removing them from me. She blinked and hurt reflected in her eyes. I took a needed step back to give us room. A loud gasp came from the dinner table. I turned to see that everyone’s attention was now focused at the door.
My gut convulsed, and my heart thudded against my ribcage. I knew it before I even turned.
Anna May stood in the doorway. Her eyes landed on me. Song stepped out from in front of me to look. The two women looked at each other curiously before Anna’s eyes found mind again.
“Who is that?” Ronin said with keen interest. His eyes raking over Anna May’s form. His eyes lingering on the mark on Anna’s stomach. A smirk appeared on his face before he turned to face me.
“Brother, is this a human mate you have been keeping in your wing?” He chuckled darkly. “And here I thought you were bound to never find a woman to mate.”
“What is the meaning of this?” My father stood up, his eyes staring at me with accusations.
I took protective steps towards Anna May, shielding her from my family. Song’s confused and pinched face looking back at me and then at Anna May.
"Sui’r pi’ Raisneua o’myen (She’s my chosen mate),” I replied. The last few steps I took I stood close in front of Anna May.
My father’s fury was thunderous. The sea blackened, and his eyes glowed red. Ronin’s eyes were still trying to catch a glimpse of Anna. Song took a few steps towards me.
“What do you mean?” She whispered.
I returned my eyes onto her, ”I vom’d podi vedu i’ay xivoyri I uozi oslioki′ vuarim (I can’t mate with you because I have already chosen).”
Tears welled up in her eyes. My father’s fist landed on the table shattering the glass into the ground. My stepmother let out a yelp before quickly standing up. She walked over to stand next to my father.
“What’s the meaning of this? When did you bring her down here? How can you do this to your father?” She demanded, her voice increasing with her very own disbelief.
"Yay vess rimk uil ovoi (You will send her away).” My father ordered. His voice growing lower.
Silently, I hoped that Anna does not speak up. That she remains in the shadows. If she makes one wrong move, I don’t know what will happen next.
"Id’r daa sodi. Sui xiolr pi’ polq am uil xaki′ (It’s too late. She bears my mark on her body).”
“Do you realize what you have done?” My stepmother demanded.
However, my eyes were on my father who was shaking. My eyes bored into his when the next thing I said, I meant every word of it.
“This is my choice. You will take it because I won’t change my mind. There is nothing you can do.”
My father disappeared and the next second appeared in front of me. He gripped my throat and threw me across the room. I slammed into the wall before falling to the ground. Anna May gasped and turned her eyes to my father.
“Who do you think you are?” She poked my father in the chest. The scene can be compared to a mouse provoking a lion.
My father slapped her across the face and in a flash, I was in front of him protecting Anna. My own rage and fury meeting my father’s. He moved to hit me, but I grabbed on his wrist with my hands. I took a step forward and met him head on. He was a few inches taller than me, but our power extruded in a strained and dangerous flow.
“What do you think you are doing?” He sneered in my face. “Are you thinking about challenging me? I will end your life, you insolent boy. I did not raise you to turn around and stab me in the back. If I have known you were going to do something like this I would have killed you when you were a baby.”
“You will not lay a finger on her again, father. I promise you that if you ever touch her again, I will end yours." I threatened. My voice hard and void of emotions. His words hit hard because even though he never showed any kind of love towards me, he was still my father.
My father roared before punching me in the stomach. Pain slammed into my midsection. He swung his fist quickly and hit me in the jaw. I fell to the floor. Anna crawled over to me. She protected me with her body. If we weren’t in the situation that we were in right now I would be laughing. She was a mortal. Put her against my father and she would definitely not stand a chance.
“Get out of my sight.” My father roared.
I grabbed Anna by the elbow and pulled her up. My priority was to take her away from here before something else happened.
As soon as we were out and walking back towards my wing, I spoke without looking at her.
“You were supposed to remain in your room.” I scolded. My fingers tightened around her elbow.
“I just wanted to see what was-”
“You shouldn’t have disobeyed me. Do you know what you have done?” I raised my voice.
She tugged on her arm. I finally released it when we were safe in the hall of my wing.
She glared up at me as she held onto her arm. It had my hand print on there and instantly I felt guilty. I was still too angry.
“I can’t live like this! You can’t keep me trapped here.” She lashed out, pushing hard against my chest. I stumbled back a few steps.
She stomped past me and walked into my bedroom. I followed quickly in pursuit. I was not done with her. She isn’t aware of the danger she put herself into. What could have happened? The thought of losing her drove my anger even more. I slammed the door shut behind me. She turned to face me with a glare on her face.
“What the hell is going on here, Raiden? Why am I here? Why are you confining me into your wing? Who were those people?” She demanded.
“You listen to me-”
I was interrupted when she picked up a pillow and threw it at my head. I growled and tore the pillow in half. She gasped as feather flew everywhere. She picked up another pillow and threw it at me. I caught it this time and it lit up in a fire before it hit me. The ashes fell to the ground.
“Now you want to talk?” She growled and picked up a vase to throw at me but hesitated when she saw how heavy it was. She set it back down and took the last few steps to push me again. I grabbed her wrist and pinned her onto the bed. My body pinned hers.
“Get off me!” She snapped.
“Listen to me, Anna.” I forced myself to calm down.
Her jaw clenched in anger, but she stopped struggling. The red handprint of my fathers was still there and something new--a blue bruise.
I released her. I didn’t want to hurt her. I turned to sit on the bed next to her. My fisted hands before me. I unfurled it and covered my face.
“Those people are my family,” I said roughly. I looked out the dark window and focused on my breathing. I can’t get angry. Anger equals destruction. Anger means ending lives.
“The woman you saw me with, that is my aunt’s daughter from my stepmother’s side. She is what my family wants me to choose as my chosen mate. My father lashed out when he realized I wouldn’t be choosing her.”
She didn’t reply. I risked a glance at her and her face was pinched with irritation. She threw me an angry glower.
“So why did you bring me here if you already have a chosen mate?” She demanded.
“Because I don’t want her. I want you.” I told her, plain and simple.
She didn’t say anything. My eyes dropped to the mark on her cheek. Raising my hand, I ran my thumb gently over it.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to find out this way. I have been trying to figure out what to do—I just didn’t know what to do.”
“So, I was kept hidden in your wing and if I didn’t step out, I wouldn’t have known about all of this.” She accused me, and she had every right to be angry at me.
“I told you, Anna. My world is different from yours-”
“I know!” She snapped. Her eyes narrowing on me. “I know about your world but what gives you the right to keep me trapped in this wing? All this time, you had the chance to tell me more about what was happening, but you hid it from me.”
I ran my fingers through my hair, feeling stressed with all that has happened. A sense of anxiety and disorder fell over me. I was never good with words. I’ve learned that the lesser I spoke, the more unnoticed I will go. However, with Anna, it’s the opposite. I’m fighting to find the right words but everything I want to say seems to fall short.
“I wish I can say that I didn’t mean to, but I can’t.” I grimaced in guilt.
“Are you going to let me go?” She half questioned, half demanded.
My eyes snapped to her and my reply came out a little harsher than I wanted, “No!”
It is the same question she has asked me before. I dropped my hand in defeat.
“I told you where I first met you, but I didn’t tell you when I met you,” I replied. It was time to come clean. If I was going to down for this, I needed her to know the truth as to why she is here.
“I met you when you were little. As a kid, you enjoyed swimming, but you have a tendency to drown too often. After a couple of times of rescuing you, your mother figured out who I was. She cursed me and forced me to stay away from you. I did as she asked but then you did it again. I waited for your mother to find you, but she couldn’t no matter how hard she looked. Finally, she called out to me. Begged me to save you and she will do everything I wanted. When I brought your body to shore, you had stopped breathing. I used my powers to revive you. You only opened your eyes briefly but the moment I made eye contact with you, I knew why I kept coming up to your world. It was because of you. I told your mother what I wanted. She agreed but made me promise that I allowed you to explore the world first before taking you.” I told her. She remained quiet, her eyes never leaving mine.
“Every day since then, you were at the edge of the water, waiting to see me again. You don’t remember our encounters because I wiped them from your mind every time I left you. You were just a kid, but you were very bright and adorable. It’s weird for me to feel this kind of affection for a child but it was there nonetheless. I stopped visiting you when you started turning into a woman. Only came back when you returned from studying abroad.”
She stood up and began pacing. I followed her and tried to take hold of her elbow. She sidestepped away from me and shook her head.
“I don’t believe this.”
I took another step and stopped her from pacing. I cupped her face in my hands.
“Then let me show you.”
I leaned down and captured her lips.