Zarin looked at Heaven with a disappointed and a disgusted look. It was like he couldn’t believe what he just saw.
“Zarin, I can explain.” Heaven began, but he raised his hand, telling her to stop.
“What explanation could make me understand the reason you are with the man who put you and your family in danger?”
Heaven knew this looked bad. She didn’t know how to explain herself. Even she didn’t know what was right or wrong in this situation.
“I am having a hard time Zarin. I don’t know what to do and I am just trying to figure out… the situation.”
“By being with the man who abducted you, held you against your will, hurt my sister and your friend and threatened your family? What… what does that mean?” He looked at her as if she had lost her mind.
“How long have you been meeting him?” He asked.
Heaven shook her head. “This is the first time. I know I shouldn’t but…”
But what? Why did she go meet him?
“I was worrying for you, looking out for you all these days in case something happened to you, knowing what you went through. I never thought you would purposely put yourself in danger.” He shook his head.
Heaven looked down at her hands, her eyes tearing up. She was already feeling guilty. Why was he adding salt to her wounds? Why didn’t he even try to understand her?
“You have changed. You are becoming…. I don’t know.” He shrugged.
Heaven looked up at him. This time more hurt by his words. “What am I becoming?”
He had already said it once before. That she was changing, and it was not in a good way.
Zarin just looked away, sighing as if her question was not what mattered.
“No, tell me! What am I becoming? Why is my change so bad? Tell me!” She urged.
“You are becoming selfish.” He blurted.
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Heaven couldn’t believe her ears. Had he called her careless, childish, stupid, then she wouldn’t mind. She would even agree with him. But calling her selfish made her heart ache.
“What have I done to be called selfish?” She asked, fighting her tears. She would not cry in front of him.
Zarin shut his eyes tightly and pressed his lips into a thin line as if regretting what he said. “Heaven, I am just looking out for you.” He said trying to sound calm.
“You are not my father. It is not your duty to look out for me. As a friend, you should support me and be there for me when I am having a hard time. You are not even willing to listen. You are the one who suddenly changed as soon as I told you I wanted to become a Queen.” Now she was furious. He had been ignoring her all these days and now suddenly he wanted to be her protector.
If her father didn’t have anything against her becoming a ruler then what was his problem?
“As I friend, I should be honest with you. You will go through a lot of hardship to become a ruler. I just don’t want you to go through that.” He explained.
“You don’t think I am going through hardship now? Right now I need my friend the most, but he is angry at me because of the hardsh.i.p.s I might go through in the future.”
Zarin dropped his shoulders as if defeated, but he didn’t look at her.
“I was always here, Heaven. You are the one that left. I don’t think you need me anymore.”
They looked at each other for a long moment. Heaven tried to figure out what that meant. It sounded like he was abandoning her, breaking their friendship.
A tear fell down her cheek when he just vanished.
The next morning Heaven woke up with a newfound energy. She had convinced herself to not let sadness defeat her. She was going to become a ruler so she wouldn’t let anything make her cry easily, but was easier said than done because only a few hours later she was in her room crying a river.
She had attended a meeting where her father let her be the one to lead. He went to sit among the generals and councils, letting her face all those scary, powerful men alone. She had watched him lead these meeting many times before and studied his tactics. It didn’t seem difficult while she watched, but now when all eyes were on her she began to sweat.
“Your Highness, as you know the Kingdom of Valish don’t want to trade with us anymore. So many of our food supplies have been suddenly cut off and winter is coming soon.” One council spoke.
“Your Highness, the cheating of tax payment have increased among sellers despite knowing its severe punishment. We have captured a few of them. I think we should set an example of what happens when you cheat the tax by punishing these criminals in public.” Another one presented another problem.
“Your Highness….” And a third problem.
“Your Highness…” And a fourth problem, and so it continued until all parts presented the issues within the department they were responsible for.
Heaven only understood the first two questions, and then she was confused. She was supposed to lead the discussion, but after they presented their problems, she just listened to their debate trying to follow and understand what they were saying. Then suddenly they turned to her to make the last decisions based on what they had discussed.
Heaven could see some of them were fighting hard to stay passive in front of her father and try not to insult her, but she could already feel that they thought she was unfit for the role.
Everyone stared at her as they waited. It felt like they could see through her, see her fears and insecurities. Her voice trembled slightly when she began to speak. “I think we can find another Kingdom to trade with.” She wasn’t even sure if her voice was heard before one of them replied.
“I am not sure if you are aware, Your Highness. But Valish was the last Kingdom who wanted to trade with us.
“Oh,” Heaven didn’t know. Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. “Why?”
The men looked at each other as if she was stupid and she could see her father shake his head.
“Your Highness, as the largest Kingdom we are a threat to many Kingdoms, especially our neighbor Kingdoms. No one would feed their enemy.”
Heaven nodded, feeling foolish. She knew these times were special. The Kingdoms in Europe wanted to build Empires like the Kingdoms in Asia. The whole of Asia was four Empires while Europe still had many small Kingdoms. Now the European Kingdoms also wanted to build Empires, and the first Kingdom to take a step toward becoming one was the Kingdom of Gatrish. King Rasmus, Zarin’s uncle, was known for his tactical ways to expand his Kingdom. Heaven didn’t want to use his method, but from the debate the council and the generals had, it seemed that they were suggesting war.
What Heaven learned from her father was that war should be avoided as much as possible and should be the last option when nothing else was left. Heaven agreed with him, but in this situation she didn’t know what other options she had. She looked at the men around the table, then her father, but she could see he was not going to help her.
“I need to think about this.” She said, not knowing if she did the right thing.
“As for those who didn’t pay tax, you can punish them the way you see it fit.” She added.
Heaven noticed slight changes in expressions that made her wonder if she did something wrong. Things got only worse after that. She realized that even if she had learned a lot; she was not even close to knowing enough.
And every time she made a decision, they seemed to oppose to it. They made her feel uneducated and small. She just wanted to shrink in her seat and hide.
“Your Highness, may I ask you why do you want to become ruler.” One of them lastly asked.
Heaven was surprised by the question and didn’t know how to reply.
“I want to ensure the wellbeing of the people in our kingdom.” She said, but saying what she said made her realize that she didn’t speak the truth and that wake her feel guilty. Maybe she was selfish, like Zarin said. She was becoming a ruler for selfish reasons.
“Your Highness, to ensure the wellbeing of the people in our Kingdom, you need to know the people first and understand what they want and what they need.”
Heaven’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment. It was true she knew nothing. She humiliated herself in front of everyone.
After what felt like forever, the meeting finally ended and they all left. Heaven listened to their conversation outside the hall. They muttered about how immature and spoiled she was.
Tears pricked her eyes, but she tried her best to not cry until she reached her room. Once she arrived she threw herself on her bed and cried.
Her dreams of becoming a ruler were crushed. She had no purpose anymore.
Heaven spent the whole day in her bed feeling bad for herself. If people saw her like this, they would never accept her as their ruler.. She was too weak for it.
Crying and feeling sad was not going to solve her problems, but she couldn’t help it. It made her realize she was not for the role. Maybe she should just give it up.
She had lost hope for her dreams; hope to find love and she lost her friend. Thinking about it made her cry again.
Suddenly she shivered when the room become cold. A familiar scent invaded her senses.
Before looking up, she already knew who had come to her room.
It was him.
He stood in the corner and looked worse than she remembered. His skin color turned ashy and his lips were purple. The whites of his eyes were red and his hair had lost its shine. Fighting the urge to bite her must have been so difficult for him, and he seemed to suffer. But Heaven didn’t feel like thinking about the bite or getting bitten today. She just wanted to be left alone.
“I can’t help you today.” She said.
In the blink of an eye, he stood right next to her, his tall figure towering over where she sat on her bed.
Her heart skipped a beat. Why was he frightening her so? He was not going to forcefully bite her again? Would he?
“Why are you crying?” He asked.
Heaven quickly wiped her tears away. “Why do you care?”
“I don’t know.”
His reply surprised her. He didn’t deny that he cared.
“You made me dream of something I can’t achieve.” Now she just wanted someone to blame.
“Of course you can’t. You are just a woman. A young, naive and a foolish woman. You know nothing but being emotional.”
Anger made her jump out of bed. “What is wrong with being a woman? Just because I am a woman doesn’t mean I know nothing, and being a woman doesn’t stop me from achieving my dreams.”
“No?” He raised a brow. “I thought you said you couldn’t achieve your dreams?”
“I can!” She said with finality.
The stranger crossed his arms behind his back. He was showing great self-restraint despite his already elongated fangs. “If you are being this emotional now, I doubt you will become a ruler in this lifetime.”
Why was he discouraging her when he was the first to encourage her? Walking closer to her, he reached his hand out and Heaven flinched back, unsure of what he was going to do.
His gaze hardened, and he grabbed her shoulder in a strong grip. “As a ruler, never show fear.” He said firmly. “Relax your shoulder.” He then ordered.
Heaven was confused at first, but she did as he said.
“Stand with a straight back and relax you arms.”
Again she listened to him. Then he grabbed her chin and made her look at him. His cold silver eyes stared back at her, demanding her attention. “And never bow your head in front of anyone.”
Heaven didn’t reply. She didn’t even nod. She just gazed into his eyes as her breath caught in her throat. He wasn’t compelling her, yet she was hypnotized.
Then his lips moved, and her focus went to his mouth. “Did you hear me?” He asked.
Heaven nodded as she stared at his fangs.
“Does it hurt?” She blurted.
He slowly let go of her chin. “I am used to it.” He said simply.
It pained her to hear him say that. “You shouldn’t be.” No one should be used to hurting.
He turned away from her, but she grabbed his sleeve. It was becoming a habit. “Didn’t you come here to bite me?” She asked.
He clenched his jaw.
“If you have to… I won’t resist.” She said.
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