After that night of horrible and annoying dream, my day in the Iris Palace were peaceful, I was nervous at first, but nothing happened, and I never heard from the Emperor after that day. However, the door that suddenly opened made me completely scared out of my wits, maybe because I just thought of the Emperor. But thankfully, it was just my maids.
The maids looked over at me like I was a complete nuisance.
“Sheesh, she’s still not sleeping.”
“Do we have to stay here? It’s not like she can move…”
“You know Estelle will make a big deal out of it. It’s so annoying.”
There they go again. They always bully me like this. It’s not like you’re much better than me anyways, since you’re stuck here too.
“We can just think of it as a break and leave later.”
“What if she starts crying again?”
“Rock her cradle so she starts sleeping.”
Wow, if someone heard them, they would think I cry all the time without any pause. If there’s a baby as nice and quite as me, I’d like to see if there’s one!
My good temperament even worries Estelle, because I’m not like any other babies in general out there since I ‘m always gurgling instead of crying, but these maids always say the opposite things whenever they come to see me. Obviously, they looked down on me because I was abandoned by the Emperor.
But am I sad? Of course not! My goal is to continue living like this.
“Even if the Emperor doesn’t care about her, she gets to live a good life…”
Well, the grumbling maids were right. I still get three square meals a day even if it’s only infant formula. My bed is warm and soft. If I continue living like this, it won’t be too bad either.
“Yeah, I can’t believe we were assigned here… Did you hear? That a ghost appears every night in the kitchen.”
Hearing that, I’m shivering down my spine.
“I just got goosebumps. We might end up like that too.”
The maids continued to whisper, glancing at me occasionally.
It’s not like I don’t understand them. Even I, myself don’t like living in this kind of place, where people were killed easily and mercilessly like a fly, let alone them.
Today, like any other days, I practiced talking and since all I did was eat and sleep, so I don’t even know how much time had passed. There’s time when I thought I was dreaming.
“Grow up nice and tall, my princess.”
I widely grinned at the woman who was rocking my crib, she looked like she was in her mid-20s. As an outcast, I only have maids and not a nanny, but to us—original Keisha and I—Estelle Edgar is our one and only nanny, no, maybe even more than that, even though she held no official title for it.
When I first saw her, she was so pretty that I actually about to drool.
“Our pretty little princess, Keisha. It’s time for you to sleep.”
I started to kick and whine.
The sun was still in the sky, but she wanted me to sleep? Not right now, play with me some more!
It’s so boring here.
“No, I can’t, and you need to sleep well in order to grow up nice and tall, my lovely princess.”
However, my little act of rebellion didn’t work.
Suddenly, a loud voice pierced into the room.
Gosh, that maid was so loud!
The maid who had just shouted at Estelle, was one of the two maids who appeared on the day Estelle came to greet me and insult her. From then on, they were always looking for trouble with Estelle, but Estelle was strangely too patient when dealing with them, and that frustrate me the most.
Estelle frowned at the foolish actions of the maid. She softly stroked me because she thought I might have been surprised and she wasn’t wrong, I did get a little surprised thanks to the loud noise the maid made.
“Princess, I’ll be right back.”
I stared blankly at the ceiling once I was alone. A fancy chandelier and a detailed design filled my view. When I turned my face a little, I could see the shiny furniture and others expensive looking decorations.
Sometimes it makes me wonder, she is always ridiculed for calling me ‘Princess’. However, the thing is: not only me, but she, herself was also aware of this fact, she could stop their ridicule by eliminating the root of the problem, which was to stop calling me ‘princess,’ but strangely she would rather accept the ridicule than to correct her own mistake.
As the days turned to a weeks, and weeks turned to months. Imperceptibly, the months has turned to a year, I’m quite sure he must have completely forgotten about me, even those who were always on their toes seems to be more at ease too. Although, the horror story about the ghost that always appeared in the kitchen continued to be told as I grew, I successfully turned into a year old without a hitch,
I ate my meals well, exercised regularly, getting enough sleep and growing day by day and as time passed, I was able to crawl around the room, and have been able to stand and walk using both my feet with my own efforts, even Estelle looked very excited about my first step.
It will be great when I can run though. I thought.
But I shouldn’t be greedy because at least now I’ve had enough…
What’s even more surprising is that I managed to get some maids to start liking me, with great difficulty and a very earnest efforts of course. I acted sweetly in front of them and practiced hard to be able to call out their names, but of course, the first person I got to name correctly on first try is definitely Estelle.
Thanks to this, everyone in the Iris Palace was surprised by my rapid development. Well, it’s a given since I fought hard for it in the first place and when I started crawling at the age of eight months, I roamed this entire spacious room and found some hidden holes, to be specific it’s like a dog holes and today, I am determined to try to escape by going through them.
To be honest, if possible I want to run from the palace right away, but it would be better if I wait until at least I’m old enough for that, I think it might be better to stay here like a living dead so nobody is aware of my presence, but on the other hand, my soul is too free to be locked up in a place like this.
Usually after taking a nap, I will be taken out of the crib and Estelle will placed me on the carpet so I could at least roll around, I was thinking about taking advantage of that moment.
When Latte, a grey-haired maid came out, and the door closed. I quickly crawled to the corner of the room and went under a sofa that Estelle moved to few weeks ago. The wall behind the sofa had the biggest hole of all the holes I could find, and it was actually hard to find a hole as big as that in this room.
I easily passed through the hole, and when I opened my eyes again, I was on the other side of the wall. As soon as I came out, a gentle breeze and direct sunlight greeted me, this hole immediately led me to a quiet hallway, and across the quite hallway is a grass land–a garden. I crawled towards there, and when I arrived there was a feeling of freedom and relief that I missed, if I had a more developed body, maybe I would run and jumping for joy.
I continued to crawl, until I forgot about the time.
I followed my instincts, and began to see the land full of flowers, I unconsciously laughed with joy, and I saw a little bush that was filled with charming, sweet small orange flowers, neatly arranged. I crawled along the bushes, curiously wondered around wandering where these little pretty flowers would lead me to.
These flower bushes led me to a garden that contained two assorted colors of flowers on either side, a dark red carnations in the right side, while on the left side was striped–variegated carnations.
I didn’t stop crawling until I arrived at a quiet and simple, but comfortable and clean place, a place that seems unused. An idea crossed my mind,
If no one uses this place, then I can come often, right? Is what I thought.
After making a thoughtful decision with full consideration according to the baby’s mind, I think it’s time for me to return because I believe in the Iris Palace, they were busy looking for me who was missing, even though I’m actually a little afraid to return and my little palms and knees also already went sore…
“Since when did a filthy bug could crawl into my palace like this?”
The flat tone of a heavy man voice caught me off guard.
When I turned around, I saw a pair of long legs right in front of me. I was so shocked that I automatically sat down on my little butt. When I looked up, I got goosebumps and could feel the hair on my back standing up.
He has short, messy, gorgeous black hair that resembles the night sky, as if he had stolen it for himself, it gets along very well with his bangs sweeping over his eyes –his bangs looked quite messy and tidy at the same time. He was wearing a simple white shirt and long black pants, with a patterned blue fabric designed to be tied around the waist as it only accessory.
My eyes met with a pair of crimson red eyes, glistering, and glaring coldly directly at me, he looked at me with his flat, stiff face–a face with delicate features.
However, he was not alone, behind him there was a man with ash grey hair, and a clear brown eyes.
“That familiar appearance, I think I’ve seen it before.”
The very same red eyes—that resembled pools of blood on the cold floor—and his furrowed brows that showed he was a little irritated, with the same cold tone of voice from long time ago. I feel my body shivering in fear as my sunken memories come back to the surface.
“Yes, it’s you…”
What’s this guy doing here?!
I’m not even eight yet!
“Then again, it doesn’t matter.” He said while squatted down and reaching out his hand towards me, the tip of his index finger stopped right below my chin.
Wha- what’s going on here?
“Your majesty…” The man standing behind him, called out to him worriedly.
“I think I remembered, what that wench named you.”
He said, examining me with his eagle-like gaze.
“It was definitely Keisha.”
In the Kryfi Empire, names associated with immortality were only permitted to be owned by the official heirs to the throne, by using that name they had things like ‘tickets’ to be able to fight or inherit the throne, and the name itself could only be given by the emperor himself.
So usually, emperors only gave that name to the children of the women they truly loved, whether it was the woman they legally married to or their concubine.
I couldn’t cry or react, only my heart that kept beating faster and faster.
His voice brought back the old memories that shouldn’t have appeared and should never cross to my mind again, had now returned.
[…I wonder how long this thing can live in accordance to its name.]
I could recall everything from the tone of his voice, the way he talked, the cold sharp eyes that looked at me at that time, the hatred and disgusted expression, until the scent of rusty blood, together with the bloody white fabric that covered his body.
“You’ve grown a lot, yet you are still small and weak, and…”
My neck felt heavy as if there was an invisible palm that was strangling me, like that time and I could hear screams of the people he killed on the day he spared my life.
“I didn’t know you couldn’t speak.” He continued in his typical flat yet arrogant tone.
Grown a lot? Haha sh*t, I ran into the tiger’s den…
What’s with this guy? He was supposed to ignore his daughter!
What’s with the attention?
I kept talking in my mind, it went like this: ‘Hng… I miss Estelle’, ‘I’m scared of him talking to me’, ‘Stop talking to me’, ‘I’m scared of him staring at me,’ in order to distract my attention from his bloody words.
Let me go already! I shout out frustratedly.
Unlike a year ago, this time I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want my bright future to be lost in vain. Furthermore, I had practiced a lot with this body to surprise Estelle!
Although his face was expressionless, but he seems like a merciless wolf ready to eat me anytime if I let my guard down, and I, who was like a scared little lamb, felt my body shrinking every time he opened his mouth.
“I remembered a year ago, there’s a wench that almost die after stepped in front of me, requesting to allow her to take care of you, giving up her luxurious life and become a mere maid. That lady must still be with you.”
Huh? Estelle? She did such a thing?
I could feel the corners of my eyes heat up; I was touched by all the things Estelle had done for me so far. It was… too much.
“How dare she…”
“The only two people who survived after getting in my way were your mother and that wench.” He mentioned it as if he was not interested, but his gaze said otherwise. It was as if he was threatening a one-year-old baby! His eyes looked damn straight at me, sharp!
Don’t… take your eyes off him, Keisha!
He was about to stand up, while one of his hand reaching out to me. I thought he would strangle me again, just like a year ago, but I didn’t close my eyes and just stared back at him with a stupid yet innocent-looking kind of face, just to find my body suddenly become light, I feel like I’m flying…
I looked into his eyes in confusion, with all this tiny body and soul I was completely confused and shocked.
He carried me?!
“You’re heavy.” He commented.
“You’ve got a really chubby cheek too… like a pig.”
P- pig??? Heavy?!
How, how dare you…!
I mean, after ignoring me all this time why are you talking to me?
You cold-hearted bastard!
I could feel my soul is in verge of exploding with anger and resentment.
“Now, what were you doing in my palace?” He asked.
Then in the next second, my soul seems to have evaporated into the thin air because of disbelief.
“My palace,” he says?
Then, then could that mean… this place that’s humbler than Iris palace… is the one the emperor uses? This close?
Are you going to kill me now? I asked him with my eyes, which I made it looked pitiful as much as possible.
Am I dead for trespassing? This fast?
No! My freedom!
“Do you know the meaning of that name? Or…”
“Do you recognize who I am?” He asked, the look in his eyes turned sharp.
Stop talking to a one-year-old baby, you moron!
My tongue is not that flexible to defend myself right now, at least wait until I’m more fluent!
This is bad.
My name, the name of the ‘Ruler,’ Keisha. But see, I’m harmless, I have zero interest in the throne. My ultimate goal is to live a peaceful life and die a quite death.
I thought it odd. Why would he have talked so much? It was probably on a whim, an opportunity given as a prize for drawing his attention, this is a test to decide whether to let me live longer… or to have me killed.
Maybe the eight-year-old Keisha was tested by Kieran as well.
What should I do? What can I do?
There was no other way!
Now I’ve gone and done it and of all the things I could have said… why that?
I felt like a thunderbolt had struck me, it was more like a direct request to cut my neck.
The sharp glare from his eyes disappeared. He looked… dumbfounded?
Wait, didn’t I just have an epic failure? Huh? Hold on… come to think of it, Kieran like that pretty white-haired concubine, right? If I correctly remember the white-haired concubine of his was a lovely and sweet person.
If I’m just drawing his attention…
I repeat the same words with a much cuter facial expression. I couldn’t read what kind of expression on his face right now, is it surprised? Or speechless?
But for sure my heart is beating way too fast, while on the other side, I’m giggling stupidly in front of him, and my mind screamed, ‘Why isn’t he responding?’
Now, I have no other choice…!
I held out my little hands to him, like I usually do when asking Estelle for a hug. I laughed at him and tried to give the prettiest and sweetest smile I could show him, although on the contrary I have an inner conflict.
He was silent, with a long pause and an unreadable look in his eyes.
“… Kei? Is that what they called you?”
He asked and looked at me like was analyzing me.
“What were they doing until you could wander off until here?” He asked again.
Do you know what? I’m just going to assume he is talking to himself because it would be weird if he asked me, who is only one year old. However, in the end, I still tilted my head slightly in response for his question while looking straight at him, pretending to be dumb, not understand what he was talking about. Even though, I understand–which I do understand–but I still can’t possibly change the fact that I don’t have the ability to answer him.
“Nouvel.” He called out to someone, while cast his eyes off of me and casually throwing me to the man standing behind him, in response the man caught me well and safely. He’s got some good reflex!
Our eyes met, he looked quite dumbfounded and awkward as well as me.
“Take care of her.” He said and left first.
At that very moment, I feel like I was struck by lightning.
Take care of me?
Take care of what?
Cutting my throat off?
Hey, you crazy madman!
Just wait and see! If I die, I’ll haunt you!
I will definitely haunt you!
The knight looked confuse with his master order, while I gave a death-glare at the man who Kieran called ‘Nouvel’, along with a deadly look, which could be translated as: ‘Don’t mess with my life.’
[A/N] In the end, Keisha was reunited with her father even though time had passed. Isn’t this the same as her returning to square one?