4. A Curious Heart
I stood on the highest cliff of the Lumia Kingdom. The place that’s my home and the one I loath.
“It hasn’t changed that much, right, brother?” I heard my brother Noah say from behind.
I glanced over my shoulder, a crease on my forehead as I scowled his way. My brother, King Noah, was the new ruler of the Lumia Kingdom. A few years ago, he took my place as I could no longer rule this kingdom.
“Shall we head back now? I prepared your favorite food,” Noah said, squeezing my shoulder.
I nodded his way and pulled on the horse’s reins. The guards and my brother followed as we headed back to the castle.
It’s been a few years since I left this place. And if I had to be honest, I don’t miss it at all. I returned because my brother requested it, not because it was my decision.
As we rode back, I looked towards the bustling plaza. All the people who were there looked our way. Murmurs quickly started to spread as we passed by them. I kept a poker face, not feeling in the mood. I know everyone would soon realize I was back. The sinner that almost brought doom to the kingdom.
I pulled my hood and covered my face. My brother had a worried look as we headed to the castle. Noah knows it’s best if I quickly get in and keep myself hidden inside the castle.
A few minutes later, we reached the castle. My eyes darted to the towers that guarded the entrance. It seemed my brother changed the castle; after all, this place needed to be protected, especially since that incident happened.
Hearing my brother shout an order, we all stop. Several servants and guards welcomed us, but I felt uncomfortable. Without a word, I got down the horse and grabbed my bag. I heard Noah call for me, but I walked straight in. Every servant that saw me quickly bowed their heads. Though I was no longer the king, I still had the right to reign. After all, what my brother did was only take my place, not my crown.
“Hey Zion, wait!” Noah called as he caught up with me.
“What, brother?” I said, looking straight ahead.
“I know you’re not comfortable being here, but I hope you can stay this time,” Noah said. “It’s not easy, but Zion, this is your home.”
I stopped in my tracks and turned to look at him.
Noah looked surprised by my abrupt stop. I sighed and massaged my forehead.
“Noah, I came back because you requested it, not because I wanted. And I can’t assure you I will stay,” I explained and turned away. “Also, I don’t belong here anymore.”
“Zion!” Noah called, but I walked up the stairs, ignoring him completely. The least I wanted was to talk about my life. I came back because he’s my brother, not because I desired it.
I headed up the grand stairs towards the bedrooms hall. Noah explained that my bedroom was cleaned and ready for use. I still had the same room that belonged to the king. It seemed things hadn’t changed that much.
“Welcome back, King Zion,” A familiar voice said. I looked up and smiled at her.
Rosa, the head maid, and our nanny were the few left after the incident a few years ago. It still shocked me to see her here.
“Hi, Rosa, Have you been good?” I said as she opened the double doors.
“Yes, Zion. You’ve grown up,” Rosa said as I chuckled.
“I’m old already,” I answered.
“Old? Child, you’re still young. Now is your room to your liking, or do you need something else?” Rosa asked as I looked around the room.
The place was still the same. With a wooden poster bed, dark blue drapes, plain white walls, the furniture was still of Mahogany wood, and from afar, I saw the mountain view that came from the open doors to the balcony.
“Yes, it’s all right,” I whispered and walked up to the window. My eyes looked down at the town.
“You know, you should go and visit the old man. He knows you’re back, and I bet he wishes to see you,” Rosa said.
“He is?” I asked, looking over my shoulder.
“Indeed, so go and look around. I bet you miss hanging around the market. Also, today the new exotic fruits are arriving, so I know there will be something to your liking,” Rosa explained.
I liked the sound of it, but would someone recognize me?
“Zion,” Rosa called from behind. “I know it’s not easy, but I hope you can enjoy your time here, even if you decide to go back to that place.”
I lowered my head and gripped the window rail. I know what Rosa meant, but even though I wished to stay, my heart and mind were not in peace. All I could think of were the things I did.
“My child, don’t do that face. No one blames you, Zion,” Rosa said, patting my shoulder. “I forgave you, didn’t I?”
I gulped down and nodded back. Rosa just stared at me and gave me a warm smile.
“Well, I hope you enjoy your stay, all right?” Rosa said, clearing her throat. “Your food is ready, so take a bath and change. Eat something and then head to the market. But don’t forget to bring me something.”
I chuckled at her request and watched her leave. My eyes returned to the bustling town. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been gone, and still, it tormented me being back. Letting out a sigh, I turn away from the window and head for a shower.
“So you’re heading to the market?” Noah asked for the fifth time.
We’ve been having lunch for a while, and I was feeling annoyed by his questioning.
“Yes, is there a problem?” I asked. Noah stayed silent. “Look, I’m only going for a quick trip. I will be back. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable.”
Noah cleared his throat but nodded.
“Fine, just be careful,” Noah said. I gulped my wine and stood up. Then, excusing myself, I headed to the castle entrance where my horse was.
I got on and pulled the reins as I headed out. I made sure my hood covered my face, and my glove was on my hand. The guards that stood in their place just nodded my way. I could feel how uncomfortable they were with my presence.
I decided to ignore them and head to the market. My horse galloped with ease as I looked around the slopes. The castle was located on the highest hill of the kingdom. You could see the entire town from above and the rest of the lands from there.
I took a glance over my shoulder and saw the enormous castle standing in all its glory. Turning my head back to the front, I make a turn and head towards the plaza.
I arrived in a span of minutes. I looked around and found a place to leave my horse. No one had noticed me, so it was good. Patting my horse, I pulled my hood and walked towards the market. As expected, it was bustling with people and stalls. The smell of food reached my nostrils, making me smile. This place hasn’t changed.
There were several stalls with exotic fruits, just like Rosa mentioned before. I approached several of them and started buying some fruits to take back. No one looked at me, so I quickly did my errands and headed to the fisherman area.
I started walking towards the busiest area. The smell of fish made me cringe just like every other time I had come over. I looked around for Rosa’s husband. He was a fisherman and one of the best sellers here on the market. Noticing his stall, I made haste when I passed by someone who had me frowning. I felt something strange coming from a person with a cape, but I decided to ignore it and continued with my task.
“Well, now look who is here!” Rosa’s husband greeted me. I furrowed my eyebrows as I felt someone watching me. “How have you been, child?”
“I’ve been good. How about you?” I asked, turning my attention to him.
“Great, so happy to see you back,” Rosa’s husband smiled.
I forced a smile and explained to him why I had come over. Rosa’s husband prepared a bag with some exotic fish he got.
“Take this to your brother, and I hope you like these buns also,” Rosa’s husband said.
I thanked him and let him know I would come by another day. I was eager to leave, especially since I felt someone following me. Biding my goodbyes, I walked away, trying to lose the person, but as I tried to pass by a group of people, I heard someone curse.
I turned around and saw a girl on the ground. My body moved on its own for a reason, and that bothered me. I reached for her and helped her up; the moment I touched her, I felt my rigid hand relax. My eyes widened, but I shook the strange feeling away.
“Are you all right?” I asked while holding her.
“No,” the girl spat angrily. I furrowed my eyebrows; now that was unexpected. I was going to apologize when she suddenly stopped and looked between my arm and then my face.
I gulped as I looked at her. She had the most beautiful gray eyes and black hair I’ve ever seen. It was a rare sight in the kingdom but still quite attractive.
The girl mumbled something as her hold tightened on my arms. I tried letting go as I felt uncomfortable by her touch.
“Please don’t go,” I heard her beg.
“Let go!” I snapped, but I bit my tongue. The girl looked taken aback, but that didn’t stop her.
“No, listen to me,” the girl whispered as my stiff hand started to feel normal. I yanked my arms away and fled. There was something strange, and I was not too fond of it.
I felt terrible about how rude I was, but I hated people touching me, though surprisingly, she looked curious and not afraid. As I walked away from her, I heard her cursing. A smile played on my lips as I fled the market and decided to head back to the castle.
“Oh, you’re back?” Noah asked from his office. I quickly glance towards the open doors. “How was the market? Did you bring me anything?”
“Yes, Rosa’s husband sent you some fish and buns,” I said, trying to ignore him. I turned away, but Noah caught up. “Don’t you have work?” I questioned him.
Noah shrugged his shoulders.
“I can take care of that later. So how was it? Any problems?” Noah asked curiously.
“None,” I answered in a cold tone. Noah frowned and stood before me, stopping me.
“Did something happen?” Noah asked. I groaned and tried to move him from the way.
“Nothing,” I spat back.
Noah chuckled from behind.
“So something happened. What? A girl?” Noah asked.
I rolled my eyes and opened the doors to my room.
“Go back to work, Noah. You have a duty,” I ordered him.
“True, but I’m the one ruling, not you, brother,” Noah laughed.
I took off my hood and sighed. I could feel Noah’s eyes following my every movement.
My right hand reached for my black glove, and slowly, I removed it, revealing my stone hand—a small crease formed on Noah’s face.
“So,” Noah said as he looked up. “It’s a girl?”
“No,” I mumbled, annoyed. I expected Noah to continue with his persistence, but he just hummed.
I was grateful he didn’t ask more.
“Good, well, I shall head back. If you feel bored, feel free to help me with paperwork,” Noah said mischievously.
I raised my eyebrow but still nodded his way. Then, as I watch him close the doors, I let my body fall on the mattress. My eyes darted up to the crystal chandelier that hung from the ceiling.
“Oh, by the way,” Noah said, opening the doors abruptly. “Tomorrow, I’m heading to the plaza, and you’re coming with me.”
“What?” I said, sitting up.
“Yes,” Noah smiled and shut the door leaving me confused. What was Noah planning?
I groaned and laid back down. Then, raising my left hand, I stare at it and scowl. I hated to be back, but for now, I had no choice.
I sat back up and continued staring at my hand. My mind replayed the encounter with the girl. Why did she make me feel calm, and more did it make my hand feel human again?
With many questions, I start to undress and head towards the bath. I glanced at my reflection in the mirror and chuckled.
I still couldn’t believe someone had touched me, and for the first time after so many years, I didn’t feel that uncomfortable. I didn’t know if it was a good or bad thing.