5. New Palace, New King
"She's the rumoured princess of the Choi Empire?" The man sitting on the throne said with gleaming grey eyes as he stared at me from his position, an air of complete control surrounding him.
Most of all, he looked bored.
"Yes, father Emperor" Lei Yen nodded "The two men beside her are the two princes of the Choi Empire"
"And the head is the head of the Choi King" The king added, a pleased smile appearing on his stern face. The calm nature in which he spoke about death is just...disgusting, really. It made my stomach twist with nausea.
"Shall we show them what's left of their dear father?" He laughed in his throne as bile rose up my throat.
No thank you, asshole.
"The princess is such a beauty, may I have her? My harem misses such elegance and grace-" The third prince suddenly disrupted the King as he eyed me with his scrutinising gaze and tried to approach me.
He was stopped by his older brother.
"No need, that will be troublesome for Fourth brother, he was the one who captured her after all" The second prince smiled generously at me "Let him have this beauty, it's his first time returning to the Yen palace after all"
That's right. The Ice Prince was sent away to live in a far tower in the outskirts of the Kingdom. The year he turned 16, he was sent away to war and was expected to die, despite the odds against him, at the age of 24, he came back a war champion.
In short, a monster.
This is where the story officially begins.
This is the day he's finally announced as the 'fourth' prince, in line for the throne. Finally accepted as an heir for accomplishing what nobody else could at such a young age, monstrously destroying neighbouring kingdoms and expanding the Yen Kingdom's power everywhere.
This is the year of the dragon.
The King's careful eyes landed on the forth prince "What do you say? You want to accept her as a concubine? She's quite adequate from my understanding"
The Ice Prince looked at me, his dark gaze searching for something in my eyes as I stared back at him just as curiously. That made him look away, pleased with himself "If you don't mind, father"
Today, I become his first 'concubine'. In other words, I'm his side thing while he's in the palace, and in the next two years, he'll end up falling for another and take her hand in marriage.
The protagonist of this story.
Tonight is the night all of the main characters in the novel will meet for the first time, united in one ballroom.
This is the beginning of everything.
Only, I didn't intend to let the story progress like it had in the novel.
"I'd rather die than be a concubine for this wretched kingdom!" I protested out loud.
"Now, now, don't say such vulgar things with that pretty face of yours, princess-you've honoured your kingdom enough" The first and eldest prince, heir to the throne spoke up, his voice as soothing as a butterfly "Your existence as a concubine in this kingdom will merit your brothers a long life"
Ha, I knew you'd say that!
The exact lines from the book.
I've managed to survive the life of an orphan, living within lies and hiding behind lies, what makes you think I'll believe your half-hearted words?
"I don't think that will be possible" I tried to rise from my position on the floor of the throne, but Lee stopped me by grabbing my hand.
"Don't do anything unnecessary, y-you've done enough, healing my wounds" He whispered and coughed as I softly nodded. I could feel his pain just by looking at his pale complexion, even Feng Chen looked less composed than usual, although he still wore his pride as royalty on his sleeve.
"I'd like to make a negotiation" I said after I met the King's gaze.
"What makes a prisoner brave enough to try to negotiate? You have nothing to negotiate with, foolish girl" He chuckled darkly and I smiled, straightening up even with my hands bound by tight ropes.
"That's where you're wrong, I possess knowledge that nobody else does, I could aid you with everything I know" His eyes finally looked interested enough to listen.
"You'd really aid a country that is not your own? You've lost all your loyalty to your empire that easily?" He laughs, doubting my words.
"I haven't lost loyalty to my country, but my citizens are now your own, and in aiding you, I'd be aiding them, that's why I'm making this humble request" Humble my ass "I'd like to trade myself for the lives of my brothers"
"Ai! Don't!" Feng Chen objected but I held his eyes, silencing him.
"No, I've already lost both my parents to this war, and I don't wish to lose any more family, so I'm begging you" I fell onto my knees and held my head low "Have mercy on us, sire"
"Ha! This girl has no pride, but that's ok. She's a fallen princess" The King smirked "It's good to see you know your place, but..what if I don't agree to this request of yours?"
Of course, a King is not easy to please. But I had the extended knowledge of the future, which he did not. I knew what tragedies will befall his empire, what troubles will be temporary and what troubles will be permanent.
I was an outsider who has been looking into this world for far too long. Before, this was none other than an exceptionally well-written novel with an incredible plot, but now it was my reality.
And I did not wish to die.
There was no reset button, there was no safety or anyone trustworthy I could rely on other than myself. This is a twisted story with twisted and deceiving characters.
I learnt from my previous life as an orphan what it felt like to be ignored, neglected and mistreated. I endured and endured, hoping that my 18th birthday would come a little faster, praying that I'll finally find freedom and independence without having to rely on others.
You're telling me I went through all of that shit to finally end up here?
Not in a million years! If becoming a main character guaranteed me a safe, comfortable life, then that's exactly what I'll become.
I raise my head and clearly look at the King "If you refuse to co-operate, you'll lose out on an opportunity to gain more power and supply your people with what they need" I smile when his eyes widen in shock "You see, I've been looking into and studying the bordering countries of Choi Empire for a while, and something about the Yen Kingdom caught my eyes...the poverty"
"How dare you degrade our kingdom!" The third prince spoke up, but the King held up his hand, silencing him.
"What do you suggest we do? I don't suppose you have a solution to poverty?" He asked in disdain which really pissed me off.
Why can't you simply say you need my help, asshole?
"Knowledge comes at a price, you Majesty. I'm sure you're familiar with that" I smiled "Spare our lives and I'll aid this country as something more than a simple concubine, I'll bring wealth into this Empire"
"More than a concubine? You're just a princess from a ruined country, what makes you be so confident?" The third prince spoke again with narrow and suspicious eyes.
"Princess or not, I wish to be of use to the people that have believed in us for so long, even if it means fraternising with a new King" I said "Whether or not you'd like to accept my request is solely up to you, just remember-- think carefully"
The King settled quietly on his throne, the silent watcher that was the Yen Empress did not say a word, and neither did the few servants and nobles that were standing by.
I was glad when he finally nodded for us to be taken back to our cellar.
"I can't believe you just did that!" Feng Chen said as the soldiers that were tasked with us walked us outside of the courtroom "It could have gone horribly wrong"
"But it did not" I smiled, holding my other brother's weak body up with my own, as my healing powers as a fox worked their magic on his wounds.
"T-thanks, Ai" He smiled gratefully, the liveliness in his eyes coming back like before "You saved our lives"
"And you saved mine too many times in the past, you must have thought I hadn't noticed" I assured him "But this time, I wanted to pay you back for all your love"
"Our sister really grew up to be an incredible lady, huh? It made me furious when they offered to take you as a concubine, how dare they!" Feng said furiously as the soldiers pushed us into our cell.
"It's all thanks to you two" I said as we returned to the darkness that awaited us "But don't worry, the Choi Empire will never fall"
"Not as long as we stay alive" Lee chuckled.
And then a tear spilt from his eyes as sleep overcame us.
They've become orphans of war.
My heart ached for them.
And for those who died.
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