A gentle morning breeze blew as the birds sang in a joyful chorus along the soft rustling leaves creating a peaceful harmony. The butterflies danced to the tune encircling a woman, gently and playfully swaying her arms as she took each step bare-footed, humming and dancing in a simple yet charming black one-piece dress.
She gradually stopped, allowed the butterflies to take refuge in her outstretched hand, and gently brought it closer to admire its artistically stained wings as it rested.
“This one’s new,” She assessed the pattern on the butterfly’s wings with a light smile.
That very woman, “Amelia, here she goes,” was me.
I lightly flicked my hand before turning around to release the butterfly. What I saw was small child slowly treading towards my direction. I lowered my body, kneeled, and opened my arms wide enough to welcome the child.
“You can do it, Lara, just a little more.” I expressed with a warm and gentle atmosphere as I welcome Lara, my first-born child. “There we go.” I held her tiny arms as soon as she was within reach and brought her closer; I then placed my arms beneath her armpits and picked her up. “My cute little Lara could finally walk steadily,” I said as I nuzzled my nose against hers. “You like this don’t you?” I asked while she replied with a giggle.
“Both of you sure like each other too well.” A tall man with wrinkles sporting silver hair spoke.
“Isn’t that natural?” I replied as I placed my forehead against Lara’s. “And Grandfather, you dote on Lara too much.”
“Ahaha. Why it’s my great granddaughter!” He chuckled heartily. “And aren’t you the same Amelia?”
“Oh please, don’t compare me to either you or Father,” I replied facing his direction. “I spend proper time with Lara, mindful of not overdoing it.”
“Hmm…” He grunted in silence.
“Please forgive me, your Majesty.” A girl arrived with a child in tow and gave a proper curtsy.
“No, it’s fine, Erina. Let’s be casual like we used to.” I replied as I brought Lara down back to the ground. “Go on, Lara, you can play with Lily.” I urged my daughter to play with Erina’s. “Grandfather can yo-”
“Don’t worry, I’ll look after them.” He cut off with a grin.
I nodded in response and waved my hand in their direction as they left. “Take care.”
“Your Majesty, the tea is ready,” Ria, my maidservant called.
“Thank you, Ria, we will shortly follow,” I replied. “Erina, please join me.”
“It’ll be my pleasure, your Majesty.”
We walked down the pavement till we reached an open alcove. I took a seat from one of the available chairs and directed my hand towards the seat in front. “Please take a seat,” Then Erina sat down.
“So how is Lily nowadays?” I started asking as Mira placed teacups on the table and poured the tea.
“She’s currently taking lessons to become her Highness’s maidservant,” She replied. “Her progress has been well.”
“I see,” I spoke as I raised the cup of tea and took a sip. “Then I’ll be expecting their relationship to become similar to ours.”
“I wish not, your Majesty.” She replied troubled while wearing a light smile. “How about her Majesty? Have you any other concerns?”
“Hmm…” I thought for a bit. “I guess there is one recent concern of mine.”
“What could it be?”
“Haah…” I breathe out as I placed my fingers on my forehead. “I’m quite troubled with his Majesty lately,” I spoke with a hint of exhaustion. “Lately, he’s been trying to challenge me over and over again to one of his nonsense trials he imposed on himself.”
“Whatever do you mean your Majesty?” Erina asked in wonder.
“You know…” I spoke meekly. “Intercourse.”
“!” Erina, who was drinking tea, almost spat in response. “Cough! Cough! Cough!” She coughed loudly to the side.
“Y-your Majesty, is it fine to speak of such?” Confused, she asked after fixing herself. “Wouldn’t his Majesty be upset once he learns that you spoke of it in the presence of your servants?”
“No, it’s fine,” I waved my hand to dismiss the thought. “Even though he took it as a challenge, he never once achieved anything. Well, other than making me conceive for the second time, there is none,” I narrated. "Actually, it's kind of frustrating. He starts out energetic at first, but he immediately passes out after a few rounds. Really, it's a shame that the King loses out to his own Queen." I groaned slightly.
“T-then, your Majesty, how long has it been since your last?” She asked with her smile twitching slightly.
“It’s almost three months since the last,” I answered as I placed a hand over my stomach. “Soon, Lara would become an elder sister.” I gently smiled.
“Would you prefer it to be a male?”
I shook my head in denial. “No, it doesn’t matter to me at least. What matters is that the child is born safely. Besides, his Majesty still has a lot of life in him; it wouldn’t be long before I give birth to an heir to the throne.”
“But haven’t you and his Majesty started out a bit late?” She asked. “Isn’t he troubled?”
“Considering that I’m twenty and it took us two years before we were able to work it out after the arranged marriage, I guess it’s fine?” I said nonchalantly. “In particular, we have yet to encounter any problem lately, other than the problem with some of the aristocrats who have yet to accept the previous King’s abdication.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“In any case, how are you and Gust in Laurel?” I asked.
“There had been no problems,” She replied.
“Is that so?” I said while I took another sip of the tea.
[Isn’t this what you wished for?] Suddenly a voice echoed within my head.
“Your Majesty?” Erina asked surprised. “Is there a problem?” She asked lending me a handkerchief.
“Huh?” I was confused by Erina’s worried expression and sudden action, but I unconsciously reached for the handkerchief she lent me. As I reached for it, Erina continued. “Your Majesty, your tears.”
“Huh? Tears?” I felt my cheeks and realized that I was unconsciously tearing up.
[Are you fine with this Amelia?] The voice once again reverberated.
Yes, I’m fine with this. Yes, this is how it was meant to be, how I hoped it to be. There’s nothing that I’d hate, neither is there anything that I’d regret. But…
Increasingly worried, Ria and Mira who was nearby, approached.
But it feels wrong. It doesn’t feel right. What is it? What was it? What made it feel wrong?
Crack! A sound of something breaking entered my ears, apparently, I was the only one who heard it.
“Your Majesty…” Worried and hesitant they chose to keep quiet while they wait for me to speak. “It’s okay, I’m fine,” I answered waving my hand lightly to appease them.
No, it’s not fine. Is this how it is? Did I forget something?
“Amelia… Would you leave us?” Erina suddenly spoke differently. “Would you leave Lara alone?”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “I can never lea-” I stopped and wondered.
Wait, Lara? Who’s Lara? My… Daughter? When did I…
I faced Ria and Mira’s direction wide-eyed while tears streamed down my cheeks.
“Ria… and Mira…” I spoke with my quivering lips. “You were…”
Why are they here? Shouldn’t they be… dead?
Crack! Ria and Mira’s faces fractured as if they wore masks.
“…” They kept quiet as they waited.
And so is Grandfather… I thought. Queen? Huh? I’m a Queen? Weren’t I a princess? Wasn’t my engagement canceled after-
Pain ran through my head, forcing me clutch it with my hands, hoping that it’d stop. After the pain subsided slightly, my thoughts continued to run wild.
Yes, that day. When I came to the library after hiding, I found Erina lying on the floor drenched in blood, but her wounds were missing. I moved my sight towards Erina as I thought about it. Lily? Erina never had a child, no, she had it, but lost it. Gust? He died of poison after he miraculously fended off the assassins alone, that is, how I remembered it, but…
[You were there yourself, Amelia.] The voice added.
Yes, I was there. I… Saved myself? Wait, was that possible?
Before I realized, everything had stopped. The wind, the leaves, the butterflies, Erina, Ria, Mira, everything stopped. As time stood still, the number of cracks and fractures gradually increased, leaving fragments on the floor.
And after that, the town was quiet, dead silent, a ghost town. The citizens… were dead, massacred, left on the ground, rotting. I narrated as my memories flooded. The town that vanished, the unfortunate town ravaged by the demonic child. That, at least, is how the church portrayed it.
I raised my head; sitting on the chair, and observed, observed how every single object within my sight crack, fracture, and then shatter into countless fragments before they fell to the ground like gravel and dust.
While everything shattered into dust, a dark abyss dwelled beyond the cracks, an abyss that slowly crept from the cracks and slowly collected the fragments.
Then two days passed, while Erina scavenged the mansion for edible food, they arrived. I recounted. The royalty of Brent, they arrived, shocked, confused, bewildered, and frustrated of what’s left of the town. Nevertheless, they proceeded to take me in and asked for information. Then what was it? Ah, yes… I begged them. Begged them to help me recover Grandfather’s and everyone else’s remains.
Gradually, the creeping abyss produced black vine like objects and increased the pace of devouring the fragments.
Then they accepted my request without any qualms. They were originally neutral regarding the races and did not always have a friendly relationship with the church. In addition, they needed to keep face, to me, to Laurel, as an apology for allowing such a horrendous event to happen within their land.
I thought as I reminisce the past.
But, it was useless, when we arrived, the forest was gone. What was left was blackened trees, everything else, was burned down to ashes. ’Impossible’ I repeatedly denied and cried out as I took it in. I tried to grab every single ash remaining from the ground, whether it was ash from the plants or trees it didn’t matter. It was the last straw, I snapped, I went mad, scraped the dirt without care, my fingers bled, my pain, my emotions numbed, and my vision clouded. After that…
I stopped while I waited, stared into the abyss and let the dark objects devour me.
Slap! A loud and painful sound rang inside the chamber, and rather than be confused, I was thankful for it.
“You’re wasting the lives offered to save you, Amelia.” Slap! Another slap was delivered to my face.
It was Erina. She saved me. Rather than comfort me, sympathize with me, please me, or flatter me. She despised me. She even stopped calling me with respect.
Slap! “Does it hurt, Amelia?” She asked as she delivered another slap that threw me off. “Do you wish to die?” Slap! “Tell me, do you? This pain that you’re feeling, it does not amount to the pain that everyone suffered for you, it’s not even a fragment of it.” She declared looking at me with disgust.
“You were right, you’re not a princess, you’re even worse, an insect, no, a scum.” She kept talking as she mercilessly delivered slap after slap.
“I’ve hoped that you’d stand up and take responsibility on their behalf, or continue living like what they hoped to achieve by taking their lives to the grave,” She spoke looking down at me while my lips bled and my were cheeks swollen. “But you disappointed me. I will never serve under a royal who can’t keep her feet standing on her own.”
Then the sound of footsteps approached followed by a sound. Slap!
“You!” It was Mother who happened to arrive at my chamber and witness the last portion of the scene. “How dare you!” Enraged, Mother slapped Erina without any hint of caution. “I’ve entrusted my child to you and this is what I would witness?!” She shouted wearing an expression I had never seen even once in my life. “Guards! Take her away!” She hollered as the guards entered and took Erina forcefully by the hand. “You’d be privately executed tonight under the sentence of high treason.” She declared.
“…” Erina, who was taken away, was completely silent.
“Servants! Call for the doctors! Post haste!” She bellowed as she approached then brought me closer for an embrace. “Amelia, I’m sorry, I had let my guard down, but don’t worry, her actions would not be forgiven.”
“M-mo… ther…” I moved my lips and forced myself to speak.
“!” Surprised that I finally spoke after two days of silence since I entered this chamber, Mother teared up. “Amelia… your voice, at last, I could hear it again…” She expressed a warm and gentle smile. “Go on, you may ask me anything, everything, I’ll give it to you.”
“Mo… ther…” I repeated. “Eri… na… Please…. For… give…” I spoke in a slow and broken manner.
“What?” Mother returned a confused expression after hearing my wish. “Why?”
“Please… For… give… for…give… Erina…“ I repeated over and over, as tears built up, while a tiny shred of life returned to my deep and empty eyes.
That day I was able to convince Mother to let Erina continue living as my maidservant. It was also a day that I started thinking about the efforts that everyone offered to me. The day, I took responsibility, the day that I could proudly say that I started becoming a true royal.
Slowly I raised my heavy eyelids.