18. The Uninvited Guest
My heart fluttered as we walked back, hand in hand. What I least expected was a confession tonight. I couldn’t believe Zion confessed to me, someone who was just a saint. But would everything be all right?
I know it might not be a good idea, but I want to hope that there’s a possibility that this can be real. That’s not just some dream where I will get hurt.
“Mila,” Zion called, making me smile. “Are you ready?”
“Yes,” I smiled nervously.
The double doors open with a nod towards the guards, and they welcome us with loud voices and music. I nervously grasp Zion’s arm.
Was I ready for all this?
“Calm down, Mila,” Zion whispered close to my ear. I gulped the nauseous feeling and forced a smile.
Stepping into the set of stairs, I look down and notice all the gazes. Everyone hushed down and looked at us, or better said, looked at Zion.
I glanced sideways, worried that maybe this might make him feel bad, but to my surprise, he was smiling and a gorgeous smile.
A smile played on my lips, feeling this proudness filling my chest. With a tug, Zion looks down at me. Smiling back, we descend the stairs.
Noah stood from his throne seat and smiled down at us as we made our way to the front. With a bow, we greet Noah.
The music ceased, and the only remaining sound was of our breaths.
“Welcome back,” Noah smiled. We both raised our heads and looked at him, who turned his attention back to the crowd, who looked at us with fear, hate, and worry.
Stepping to the side, we watch as Noah makes his way to the center of the floor.
“Now that our honored guest is here, let’s start the party,” Noah said, smiling. “My brother, the former king, is back, and he will stay.”
I glanced around and saw the faces of every person standing around us. Most of the faces threw us glares. I could say this where gazes of hate and anger, and it broke my heart to see this. I was still unaware of what Zion did in the past, but he didn’t deserve this.
“I know it’s surprising, but this time I had called him back personally,” Noah’s voice sounded stern and with a deep warning to it.
Was he telling everyone this was his decision and no one should defy him?
“Zion,” I called. Zion spared me a glance and shook his head.
It was making me uncomfortable.
Once Noah had given his speech. The party started, and everyone returned to their groups. With a sigh, I let go of Zion’s arm and walked to a nearby chair. But an arm around my waist stopped me. Surprised, I look over my shoulder just to find Zion hiding his face in my neck.
“Zion?” I muttered.
“Don’t go anywhere,” Zion mumbled against my skin. I shuddered when someone cleared his throat.
Embarrassed, I nudge Zion, who groans in annoyance.
“Am I interrupting?” Noah asked with a devilish smirk.
“No, it’s all right,” I said.
“You worried me earlier,” Noah said as he grasped my hand and kissed my knuckles. Zion’s hands tightened around my waist.
“Sorry about that,” I said, looking at Zion, who was frowning at Noah.
Noah hummed and smiled at his brother. I looked between both men, who didn’t utter a word. What was wrong?
“Enjoy the party, you also, my brother. This is for you,” Noah smiled and then looked at me. “Hope we can dance later.”
I smiled wryly. I don’t think Zion would let me.
Excusing himself, Noah heads towards a group of men. Zion and I stood there watching them interact.
“So, should we look for something to drink?” I asked, clearing my throat. Zion sighed and nodded.
Grasping my hand, we walked to the drinks table where a server was handing different drinks. Then, noticing us, he gives us some wine cups.
“We should leave this party,” Zion grumbled from the side. I sipped on my sweet wine.
“Zion, please,” I chuckled. “We haven’t even been here for an hour. So let’s try to enjoy.”
“I want to be just with you, alone,” Zion whispered near my ear. I felt my face blush hard as I cleared my throat.
Feeling embarrassed, I drink my wine and turn my attention to the guests. They were all clad from head to toe in their best dresses and suits. I could feel their gazes falling between Zion and me. They must wonder who I was.
“Zion?” Noah suddenly called. Zion worriedly looked my way.
“Go ahead, I will stay here,” I said with a smile. Zion looks hesitant as he finally nods and walks towards his brother.
I smiled his way but then turned my attention back to the delicacy before me. I started eating when some chuckles caught my attention.
I ignored them and continued eating. Then, suddenly, their voices got closer, making me move away from them.
“I can’t believe this,” the lady said. I spared her a glance but continued grabbing some snacks. “Why is the sinner here? Shouldn’t he be banished from this place?”
My eyebrows furrowed as I listened intently to her words.
“That man shouldn’t be here. How can King Noah let him come back?” another lady said.
“Bastard, if it weren’t for him, nothing would have happened. It’s his fault our people died; my family died!”
I tensed as I listened to her words. What did she mean by that?
Putting my plate down, I backed away and headed to a corner of the room where it was alone. Gripping my hands together, I try to calm down. My eyes darted to the floor. Why did I feel so sick?
I closed my eyes and tried to know about anything that didn’t make me feel nauseous anymore. As I take a deep breath, I feel a hand over my shoulder. With a yelp, I snap around and find Noah looking at me worriedly. A small crease on his forehead as he studies my face.
“Mila?” Noah calls, but I slap his hand away. Surprised by my sudden rude act. I look around me. A few of the guests noticed us, and I quickly apologized.
Dashing out of place, I head back to my bedroom. What was wrong with me?
“Mila!” I heard a familiar voice call as I stopped halfway through the stairs. “Mila, what’s wrong?”
I clenched and looked over my shoulder. Noah looked at me with worried.
“Talk to me, Mila. Did someone tell you something?” Noah asked.
I slowly turned and faced him. His white and blue royal suit made him look way older than he was.
“What did Zion do?” I question, making Noah’s eyes widen. “Why is everyone saying Zion shouldn’t be here? What did he do, Noah?”
Noah looked troubled. He lowered his head and massaged his forehead.
His feet started tapping on the floor.
“I shouldn’t be telling you this,” Noah whispered.
“Tell me,” I ordered as I slowly descended the stairs. “You know well that Zion won’t tell me.”
Noah sighed and met my gaze. His piercing gaze made me stop in my tracks.
“It’s not for me to answer your question, Mila,” Noah groaned. “Let Zion tell you.”
I scoffed and instead ran away. Noah cursed under his breathe as I fled the castle and headed straight to the woods behind the castle. My heavy dress was making me frustrated as I tried to run through the dense forest. Finally, feeling annoyed, I stop and rip the clothing into shreds. I need to stay away from all this.
I looked around and saw a path that led out of the castle grounds—deciding to head to the perfect secret place. So I make my way to the river.
All the way, my head couldn’t stop thinking, making ideas of what Zion did to his people. I was naïve, stupid. I felt so out of place as the only one who didn’t know. With heavy steps, I finally reach the river. Tired, I let my heavy body fall to the cold and dirty ground.
Tears sting my eyes as I rub them. I felt so sad and confused. I thought this would be a perfect night, but it wasn’t.
Hearing a rustling behind me, I wipe my face and look over my shoulder. There was only one person who knew of this place, and it was Zion.
“Why are you here?” I said aloud. “Leave me alone, Zion.”
The rustling stops, making me scoff.
“Just leave,” I mumbled dejectedly. “I’m sorry for ruining your night, but I want to be alone.”
“Well, I’m sure you’re not ruining my night.”
I snapped around on the dirty ground as the unfamiliar voice spooked me. I squint my eyes as I try to see the figure behind the shadows. Then, feeling scared, I stand up and take several steps away.
“Oh, apologies,” the man said as he stepped into the light. The moonlight shined down his tall, slender figure.
My eyes widened at his beauty.
“Nice to meet you, saintess,” the man said with a bow. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Do you need anything?” I asked as I eyed him from head to toes.
“I just saw you running away from King Noah. I’m a guest at the party,” the man smiled. “Sorry to surprise you like this. But I heard what you asked the king.”
“Excuse me?” I frowned.
“Yes, when you asked the king about King Zion’s sins,” the man sighed. “This might sound sudden, but if you wish, I can explain to you. Since you look so confused and troubled.”
“No,” I said in a clipped tone.
The man smiled dejectedly.
“Very well,” the men said as he played with some rocks. “But it would be best if you knew. So many people here don’t want him back. After all, what he did wasn’t something you would ever wish to see or hear about. He is a sinner.”
I remained silent, just staring at him. The man looked up. His gray eyes made me frown for a second.
Why did they look so similar to mine?
“Well, I should take my leave,” the man said as he turned and walked away.
“W-Wait!” I suddenly yell. The man stopped and glanced over his shoulder. “Tell me.”
Though he was a stranger, and it would have been best if Zion told me. I was too curious. I needed to know what he did.
“I will just tell you a small piece of it.”
I nodded and clasped my hands together.
“King Zion is a sinner because long ago he massacred a village of gypsies and not only any group but his best friends, people who were a prince back then. The greed for power. He wanted what his friend had. It drove King Zion crazy, and that made this kingdom into a bloodbath as well. That person whom he betrayed tried to take revenge, but he couldn’t because all King Zion wanted was what that prince had.”
“What was that?” I asked nervously.
“Power, magic. King Zion isn’t any simple murderer. He killed kids, animals, women, elderly just to use that power. He would peel their skin and tear them into pieces. The sight was so awful that his best friend had no choice but to use black magic to cage him and have him suffer for the rest of his life. Just like those people suffered.”
I stood there, staring at him. So it was a lie, right?
“I know it’s hard to believe, but you can ask him. I just know what I heard that time. But many people can tell you what the sight of the castle’s floor thanks to what he did was. He killed without mercy, without a heart. A man who deserves death a thousand times.”
“No!” I mumbled. “He couldn’t do that!”
The man stared at me and shook his head.
“It’s the truth, saintess. King Zion regretted nothing he did, and that’s why he left this place when it was in its ruins. Do you know how people suffered? There was no food, water; all this was bare land. Everyone, including the gypsies, suffered. So you think he wouldn’t do that? Why do you think people hate him? He took what those people cherished the most, their families.”
I shake my head in disbelief.
“I advise your to stay away. Before he turns you into his living test,” the man muttered as he turned back around. “You’re too precious to be with someone like that bastard.”
My head snapped up, but the man left. Feeling my legs give out, I fall to my knees. My hands dug into the dirt as tears slid down my face.
An aching pain spread on my chest as a sob escaped my mouth. Covering it, I try to calm down. I didn’t understand why the words that man said hurt so much. Finally, frustration took over, and I hit the dirty ground as blisters and cuts appeared on my hands.
This had to be lies.
I cringe away from the blinding lights of the morning sun. Then, adjusting my eyes to my surroundings, I notice I’ve must have fallen asleep. Reaching for the tree trunk behind me, I stand up. My body swayed to the side, but I stopped my fall from holding myself from the tree.
My face felt stuffy, and my eyes heavy. Then, with a sigh, I walk back to the castle to get a change of clothes and lock myself in my bedroom.
Making my way out of the woods, I hear voices around me. I groan as I cover my face from the sunrays.
Ignoring them, I walk back into the garden and straight to the castle. As I walked up the small stairs, I heard Noah’s familiar voice. As a few of the guards noticed me, I stopped.
“Saintess?” The guard close by calls.
Noticing me, Noah rushes to my side.
“Mila?” Noah calls as he grasps my arm, but I slap it away from him.
“Don’t fucking touch me,” I seethed angrily. Noah looked confused.
As I continue walking, I hear running footsteps.
“Mila!” Zion screams, making me tense. “Mila?”
I stopped with my back facing him.
“Mila, where have you been?” Zion asks, barely a whisper.
I turn and look at him. His eyes moved up and down my body.
I know I looked a mess—all full of dirt and half-dressed in what’s left of the green dress.
Without a word, I turned and walked straight up the grand stairs.
“Mila, talk to me. What happened?” Zion asked as he grasps my hand. “Please, tell me. Did someone do something to you?”
“Just leave me alone,” I groan. Then, yanking my arm away from his hold, I walk up the stairs.
Zion called my name, but I ignored him and walked down the hall, straight to my room. All I wanted was to be alone, so I could think straight and clear my mind.