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A Divine Conspiracy

Chapter Text

Inside the topmost room of the tallest tower of the royal castle of Pietro Minore, a woman, clad in a hooded cloak and face hidden from view, materialized from thin air. It was midnight, and the stars shone brightly across the darkness of the night sky. On any other night, the woman would have found this beautiful. Romantic, even. But no. There was certainly no romance in a war that was raging underneath the same beautiful night sky. 

The woman's eyes rested on the manly figure lying on top of a stone surface in the middle of the room; the figure she knew as well as the back of her hand. The man was sleeping peacefully. Too peacefully. If not for the redness of his cheeks due to the harsh coldness of the wind, one could presume that the man was dead, lying on his sepulchre.

The woman approached the sleeping man, her heart racing with each step. So many emotions ran through her: fear, anticipation, hurt, anger among others. But, the woman thought, her emotions and thoughts were of no consequence at the moment. Not when there were more pressing things that needed to be done.

She marveled at the face of the sleeping man, stroking his cheeks with her fingers. He changed a lot and yet not at all. The wrinkles certainly deepened since the last time she saw him, his hair grayer, and his body broader than before. But his soft lips, his nose that reddens at the slightest touch, his eyes that never judge - they were exactly the same as she remembered it. 

The hooded woman took a deep breath and slowly, she dipped her head to capture his lips in a long, languid kiss. She flinched at the coldness of his lips, the kiss different from every single one she gave him before. The man did not respond, but as time went on, she felt the warmth return to his lips, slowly bringing back the life into his body. In the middle of the kiss, the woman breathed in relief, realizing that her attempt to wake the man from his cursed sleep was successful.

The woman broke off when she felt the man stirring from his sleep. Her heartbeat quickened again, afraid that she might be found out. The woman quickly waved her hand in the midair, causing it to illuminate, and placed it on top of the man's face, her spell sending him back to a temporary sleep. 

Satisfied that the man was back in his slumber, she knelt down to his ear, carressed the man's chest and whispered, "All this time, my love?". Her voice was almost cracking.

She never thought that after all those years, after the that had come between them, the man's love never wavered. Not a single drop of tear was present in her eyes, but deep inside, her heart was weeping. All this time, his love for her was undiminished, and it made her heart clench at the knowledge.

The woman stepped away from the stone pedestal, knowing that her mission was done. However, there was one more thing she must do before she left the tower.

She closed her eyes and with all her strength, she forced her energy out of the body, a blinding ray of light forming into a small butterfly. She held the butterfly, its wings fluttering in midair, afloat her palm. She admired the pure, innocent little creature, her eyes wide with fascination.

The woman slowly leaned her head and kissed the butterfly, little creature fluttering happily in her hand. She smiled, elated at the reaction that she got.

"Oh pure little one", she whispered. The butterfly fluttered again, telling her that it was listening.

"Fly away, my sweet. Away, away from this troubled land. Keep hope alive, even when all is lost. And if the time comes, do what is asked of you. Protect this empire from evil. Take care of my beloved. And most of all...preserve my memories", she implored the butterfly.

The winged creature shone brighter, and without warning, it flew out of the window and away from the castle, the woman's sight never leaving the butterfly. The woman took a deep breath, hoping that the butterfly will be unharmed in its journey to the end of the universe. Silently, she closed her eyes and held her hand in her heart, praying for the butterfly's safety.

And with a gust of wind, the woman vanished from the tower, never to be seen again.

Chapter Text

CHARACTERS

Mystic Hillary Diane

Age 26. She was the Imperial Regent of Aquilon and the concurrent Queen of Nova Iorca. She was also the eldest child of King Hugo the Elder and Queen Dorothea of Nova Iorca, and the older sister of King Hugo the Younger of Nova Iorca. She challenged the the evil god Lord Vladimir into a battle in order to save Aquilon and was believed to be vanquished. 

William Jefferson of Pietro Minore

Age 27. William Jefferson was the disgraced former king of the kingdom of Pietro Minore. Six years ago, in a desperate attempt to gain political influence, William abducted Mystic Hillary. However, she was able to overpower him, but not before he was able to escape. He was on the run for a year. When he was finally captured, Mystic Hillary sentenced him to exile and removal of his crown. In addition to the corporal punishment, she also cursed him to look older (around age 45) and to never receive the romantic love of any woman since the casting of the curse. 

Five years after his exile, William Jefferson rushed to the aid of his kingdom when the evil god Lord Vladimir conquered Pietro Minore. He was easily vanquished and was put into a deep sleep by the evil god, only to be woken up by a kiss of true love (i.e. kiss from someone who loved him and who he loved). 

As reward for his courage in the face of insurmountable odds, William's exile was revoked. He was even offered to have his crown returned to him but he declined. Instead, he was secretly appointed as marshal of the Council of Elders.

The Imperial Regent

The Imperial Regent of Aquilon was the highest political figure in the Empire of Aquilon. The Regent oversaw all of the kingdoms and maintained the peace in the Empire. They are personally chosen by the goddess Zveda among monarchs or heirs to the throne. The next Regent was identified when a person received the burn mark on their shoulder. The mark may vary. 

They carry the title "Mystic" and their weapon is the Sword of Truth. The Regent is also the most powerful mortal in Aquilon. Their powers are only second to the gods Zveda and Lord Vladimir. 

The Regent is not allowed to marry nor bear a child. 

Chelsea Victoria

Chelsea Victoria was a little girl who was found by a Saleha, a servant on the castle of Nova Iorca, on her doorstep. Tucked inside the cloth which wrapped Chelsea was a letter saying "Her name is Chelsea Victoria". 

No one knew who her parents were. As she grew up, Mystic Hillary had taken a liking on her, even treating her like a real daughter. 

When the news of Mystic Hillary's death reached Chelsea, she was devastated beyond words. 

Hashanah 

Hashanah was a woman who vowed to love and protect Chelsea. No one knows where she came from. She wore a robe of pure white and she kept her face hidden behind a silk cloth, only revealing her bright blue eyes. 

Hadeshah

Hadeshah was the woman who tried to kill Chelsea. She wore a hooded robe and her face was hidden in darkness. The only part of her face than can be seen were her bright purple eyes. She had the ability to transform into a snake. 

Lord Vladimir

Lord Vladimir was the evil god who in envious of the goddess Zveda, whom the people of Aquilon worships. He was the second most powerful  being in the universe, just behind Zveda. He lived at a far-flung area in Aquilon named Lihvo.  

He is the in-universe equivalent of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Zveda

Zveda was the kind and omnipotent goddess who rules over all of Aquilon. She also chose the Regent. She resided at a heaven-like lair called Nievo.

Her name is derived from the Russian word which means "star"

Council of Elders

The Council of Elders is a high-level council which advised and assisted the Regent during their reign, and acts as Regent in the event that the latter had died or gone missing and the replacement was not yet chosen. 

King John of Arizoana

King John is the king of Arizoana. He was an active member of the Council of Elders. 

He is the in-universe equivalent of John McCain (R-AZ).

King Lincoln of Meridia Carolinnes

King Lincoln is the king of Meridia Carolinnes. He was an active member of the Council of Elders. 

He is the in-universe equivalent of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). 

King John Forbes of Magnacollis

King John Forbes is the king of Magnacollis. He was an active member of the Council of Elders. 

He is the in-universe equivalent of former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Dowager Queen Dorothea

She is the wife of the late King Hugo the Elder of Nova Iorca, and the mother of Mystic Hillary and King Hugo the Younger of Nova Iorca. 

She is the in-universe equivalent of Dorothy Rodham.

King Hugo the Younger of Nova Iorca 

He is the younger brother and successor of Mystic Hillary to the throne of Nova Iorca.  

He is the in-universe equivalent of Hugh Rodham, Hillary's brother. 

King Roger of Pietro Minore

He is the younger brother of William Jefferson and succeeded him to the throne when the latter was stripped of his crown.   

He is the in-universe equivalent of Bill Clinton's half-brother, Roger Clinton.  

Papilla

Papilla are the enchanted butterflies which guard Nievo, the land of the virtuous spirits. Once a virtuous person dies, the papilla carry the person's body to Nievo one day after death. This is the reason why funerals in Aquilon only last for one day. 


 PLACES

Aquilon

Aquilon is the in-universe equivalent of the United States. Aquilon comes from the word aquil or aquila in reference to the United States as the eagle nation of the Atlantic.  

Nova Iorca

Nova Iorca is the kingdom ruled by the House Rodham. Its monarchs include King Hugo the Elder, Mystic Hillary and King Hugo the Younger. It is the in-universe equivalent of New York. Its name was derived from "nova" means "new" and "iorca", a word play on "york". 

Pietro Minore

Pietro Minore is the kingdom ruled by the House Clinton. Its monarchs include King William Jefferson II, King William Jefferson (III) and King Roger.  It is the in-universe equivalent of Arknasas. Its name was derived from "pietro" meaning "rock" and "minore", little. (Little Rock, Arkansas)

Magnacollis

Magnacollis is the kingdom ruled by the House Kerry. Its monarchs include King John Forbes. It is the in-universe equivalent of Massachusetts. Its name was derived from the words "magna" meaning "great", and "collis" meaning "hills". The name of Massachusetts also have the same etymology. 

Arizoana

Arizoana is the kingdom ruled by the House McCain. Its monarchs include King John. It is the in-universe equivalent of Arizona. Its name is a word play on said state. 

Flavopietro

Flavopietro is one of the largest forests in Aquilon. It is the in-universe equivalent of the Yellowstone National Park. Its name comes from "flavo" meaning yellow and "pietro" meaning rock. 

Lihvo

Lihvo is found in the far-flung corners of Aquilon where Lord Vladimir and Hadeshah resides. Its name comes from the Ukrainian word for "lair"

Nievo 

Nievo is a heaven-like domain outside Aquilon where the goddess Zveda lives.  It is also the place where the spirits of virtuous people are carried after their deaths.  

Chapter Text

It was not every day that the kingdom of Nova Iorca(1) was descended upon by all the royalty and noblemen of the Empire of Aquilon(2). The last time this had happened was a thousand years ago, when the last Imperial Regent from Nova Iorca has died. The funeral of the Regent was always a sorrowful episode for Aquilon. Over the course of its history spanning hundreds of thousands of years, nothing, apart from wars, eclipses the grief and sorrow of the Empire of Aquilon than the death of its Regent.

The current Regent, Mystic Hillary Diane, was killed in a battle with the evil god Lord Vladimir. For centuries now, Lord Vladimir, envious of the adoration of the people of Aquilon to the goddess Zveda, has tried and failed to capture the Empire in his clutches. It was only recently that he had made considerable successes in his conquest. He was able to occupy the all of the Southern kingdoms of Aquilon. Now with the South fallen, he was ready to conquer the North. But Mystic Hillary did not allow the worst to happen. She flew to Lihvo, where it is said that Lord Vladimir was residing, and single-handedly fought the Dark Lord, using the powers granted to her by the goddess Zveda, the deity who protects all of Aquilon. The Empire knew that she was successful in sealing the evil god away, as his army occupying the invaded kingdoms was suddenly destroyed. But as to whether or not Mystic Hillary survived, nobody knew. Everyone was is in the dark regarding the fate of the brave Regent.

Aquilon had its answer when the kingdoms sent out men who would search for the missing Regent. It was not until the third day when one of the teams of men reached Lihvo and found the Sword of Peace, the weapon of the Regent, stained in mixture of red and purple blood, the former belonging to Mystic Hillary, and the latter to the evil god. No body was found by the men. They thought that they have arrived too late, as the body of a virtuous individual is carried off to Nievo one day after death by enchanted butterflies called papilla.

When the news of Mystic Hillary's death reached the mainlands of Aquilon, the entire empire was devastated. She paid the ultimate price in exchange for the peace. Mystic Hillary's reign was short, yet she had been one of the most consequential Regents in the history of Aquilon. She led the Empire against the tyranny of the evil god, and successfully vanquished him, a feat unparalleled by any Regent. She, without any hesitation, sacrificed her life for the future of the Empire, another distinction she had with her predecessors.

So it was no surprise that the people of Aquilon chose to honor the fallen Regent in the place where she was born and had ruled as Queen. When the kingdom of Nova Iorca announced that it will hold the last rites for Mystic Hillary, people all across the empire descended to the plaza of Nova Iorca to pay their respects for her. Young and old. Men and women. Royalty and commoner. They were in attendance in the rites to give their thanks and farewell to her. Nobody had seen anything quite like it. The wide streets of Nova Iorca became a sea of people, all clad in black garbs. Even the tall structures of Nova Iorca were packed with mourners, eager to catch a clear view of the rites from the plaza.

When the royal bugle was sounded, the people parted the High Street to make way for the procession. From the gates of Nova Iorca, Mystic Hillary’s brother, King Hugo the Younger, carrying the Sword of Peace, and her mother, Dowager Queen Dorothea, marched towards the plaza.  They were followed by the monarchs of each of the other forty-nine kingdoms of Aquilon. At the center of the plaza was an ornate stone sepulcher, meant not for the Regent's body, but for the Sword of Peace, which will remain in the protection of Nova Iorca until the next Regent is chosen. Around the sepulcher were members of the royal court of Nova Iorca, leading the vast number of mourners situated in the plaza.

As soon as the members of the royal procession arrived at the plaza, only Queen Dorothea and King Hugo moved toward the sepulcher, the eyes of every person in the congregation focused on them. King Hugo gave Queen Dorothea the Sword of Peace, and as soon as she she held the weapon, her restraint was dissolved and she broke into grieving sobs. She almost fainted in the middle of the ceremony, but her son held her up. The loss of a daughter was devastating enough for a mother, for nothing pains a parent more than the death of their child, but the absence of a body to mourn for multiplied the grief that took over Queen Dorothea's heart.

Queen Dorothea laid the Sword on the sepulchre, and knelt in front of it to weep. Despite going against proper royal decorum, nobody had the heart to tell Queen Dorothea off. Everybody felt that it was beyond cruel not to allow a mother to grieve in public, especially whose daughter's death was brutal beyond compare.

After the laying down of the Sword, the Regent's trusted right-hand man, Nicholas, stepped forward to address the people.

"We are gathered today to honor the valiant Mystic Hillary Diane of Royal House Rodham, Imperial Regent of Aquilon, Queen of Nova Iorca, the Pioneer, the Defiant and the Dragon of the East", Nicholas declared.

The people knelt down and bowed their heads to show their deference to the fallen Regent, their faces solemn.

"We are indebted to the great Mystic. She, like one else before her, gave up her life for peace and concord. Her heart was strong and pure. She believed so much in the promise of Aquilon that she thought that her life was of no consequence compared to the future of this Empire. She, without a doubt, will go down as one of the finest and most honorable Regents in history".

The crowd erupted in a thunderous but solemn applause. As the people clapped, each of the monarchs silently stepped forward to lay down flowers, symbolizing their respective kingdoms, in front of the sepulcher. The funeral ceremony was ended by a thousand flaming arrows shot towards the sky by each of the kingdom's archers, symbolizing their final military salute to Mystic Hillary.

Later that day, the monarchs and their families were invited to a banquet by the royal house Rodham as their appreciation for their condolences.

It was a surprise, however, the William Jefferson of Pietro Minore(2) was invited.

William Jefferson, the disgraced former king of Pietro Minore, was stripped of his throne and title when he kidnapped the now deceased Regent as a way to acquire political power six years ago. Mystic Hillary managed to escape, and he was captured. He was tried for this crimes, and Mystic Hillary sentenced him to exile and removal of his crown. In addition to his corporal punishment, she had cursed him to look beyond his age, and that no woman will ever fall in love with him. The curse had stripped him of the two things he was always exalted for: his youthful good looks and his ability to make women fawn over him.

For years, William wandered in the forest and in the outskirts, going from one house to another. From glorified king to a pariah, he was not welcome to the homes of most of the people in the Empire. Oftentimes, he had to pay for his stay, either in gold or in service. When he had to turn up on a public place, people would either jeer at him or throw rubbish at him.

Needless to say, his exile was the the most humbling part of his life.

When William heard that Vladimir invaded his beloved kingdom, he raced back and sought for the evil god himself. He was no match against Lord Vladimir's powers, but he foolishly fought him anyway. The Dark Lord overpowered William, and as punishment for his defiance, Lord Vladmir cursed him to a deep slumber, only to be woken up if he received a kiss of true love - that is, from someone whom he loves and loves him - within thirty days. Otherwise, he will die.

William's family scrambled to find a woman who would break the curse, but no one volunteered, thanks to Mystic Hillary's spell. It was why the kingdom was stunned when William woke up from his sleep on the dawn of the thirty-first day since the curse was cast upon him, as if nothing had happened. 

After the death of Mystic Hillary and the restoration of the peace, the monarchs of Aquilon decided to overturn Mystic Hillary's corporal punishment. He was offered his crown back but he declined, opting for a more peaceful life with his mother and brother, who succeeded him as King. However, no one in the Empire could overturn Mystic Hillary's curse, for her powers are second only to the immortal deities, Zveda and Vladimir. Only the gods could break such powerful curse without the fulfillment of its terms.

Despite the restoration of his honor, William was still not forgiven by the family of Mystic Hillary for his sin against their beloved daughter. William thought the time was past beyond due for his apology, but he could not pull up the courage to face any of them, especially now that Hillary had died.

William knew that fact very well, and that is why he was not in the feast and was alone inside the tapestry room of the castle, the tapestries of every monarch of Nova Iorca adorning its large walls.

He fancied himself with every tapestry, fascinated with the story of each monarch. Being one himself, he knew that the reign of a monarch was never without a peculiar tale to tell. He bit his lip when he realized that his tale will always be marred by his treacherous abduction of the Regent. 

Brushing his guilt aside, his eyes fell on the largest tapestry in the room, the one bearing the image of Mystic Hillary. Clad in a garb as dark as midnight, she held the Sword of Peace on her right hand, and a ball of fire on the left. The Sword symbolized her Regency, while the ball of fire was her favored attack during battles. It was also said that she can breathe fire, thus giving her the name "Dragon of the East".

Despite his fascination for tales, William did not pay much attention to the symbols around Mystic Hillary. Instead, he was drawn to her eyes. Her blue eyes that sparkle like stars in the night sky. He was a lost wanderer, and she was the North Star. During his abduction of the Regent, he could clearly remember those blue orbs staring at him, touching the deep core of his soul. No wonder she was so powerful. Looking back, he could not fathom why he did not surrender the Regent sooner.

Lost in his own thoughts, William did not notice the woman entering the tapestry room, observing him with great curiosity.

"It's strange to see you looking at the image of my daughter", said a soft voice, breaking William's reverie.

William nearly jumped to see Queen Dorothea standing behind him, her face gentle. He bowed his head and placed his closed first on the left side of his chest as a sign of respect to the Dowager Queen. She was soft spoken, meek and easy to underestimate. Despite her appearance, she had a will of steel and a heart of gold, traits uncommon even to ruling monarchs. Traits that were no doubt passed to her daughter.

"Oh come now, young man", Queen Dorothea waved him off as she walked towards William. "I am no more a royal than you do".

"But you are the mother of the great Regent", he said, his head still bowed. "You are worthy of higher respect".

"Respect is earned through one's acts, not through one's descendants or relatives", she quipped.

"And indeed, it is", William affirmed, lifting his head up to look at the Dowager Queen. "It is with your guidance and discipline that made Mystic Hillary a great leader that she was".

Queen Dorothea hid the smile that threatened to curve on her lips.

"This, I suppose, is the legendary charm of William Jefferson that I kept hearing".

He blushed at her compliment. She chuckled at his sensitivity.

"I can see why you are a draw to the women. Though I am sorry that no one would ever come to you. I admit that my daughter's punishment was cruel", she said, her voice laced with genuine sympathy.

William bit his lip as guilt and shame crept into his face. Knowing that there was no better time, William knelt before Queen Dorothea, held her ankle and pressed his forehead into her hand.

"Your Majesty, what I did was unforgivable, and your daughter's punishment was meager, for I deserve death. I endangered Aquilon because of my selfishness. And I inflicted pain upon you. I do not deserve forgiveness, but I want you to know that I am prepared to carry the burden of my sin for the rest of my days", William implored her.

Queen Dorothea pulled him up from the floor and kissed both of his hands.

"I kissed the hands of the man who abducted my daughter. You are not my enemy before, and not now. Even though you did not ask for it, I have already forgiven you, son. I do not bear any ill will towards you. And neither should you to your self", she said.

William was touched with her kindness, his palm on his heart. Without hesitation, he pulled her into a tight embrace, letting tears fall from his eyes.

"Thank you, Your Majesty", he said in between sobs. "I do not think I could forgive myself if not for you".

Queen Dorothea started crying too. "Shhhh, son. I am certain my daughter has forgiven you. She has an incredible capacity to love and to forgive. If she could give up her life for a noble cause, then I am sure forgiveness is as natural as breathing to her"

She was right, William thought. Mystic Hillary would have forgiven him a long time ago. And had she survived, she would have delivered her forgiveness personally too. She was good woman. A woman of unimpeachable character with an indomitable heart.

Since then, the mood between the two royals lightened, and Queen Dorothea invited William to the banquet for supper. He promised to follow, but he chose to linger inside the tapestry room a little longer.

But instead going to the banquet, he went straight to the gardens for more solitary time, sitting in the large fountain. He loved the quiet of solitude, giving him more time and space to think. His exile taught him to be more thoughtful and reflective. Having no companion for years, he relied on his thoughts to carry him through. Those habits didn't stop when he was introduced back to society. He did not mind it, though. He was happy just reading a book or thinking under a tree, a complete contrast to his days as king.

In the middle of his reflection, a dark shadow caught his eye. He instinctively grabbed the sword in his waist, his senses sharper. He turned around and looked for the shadow, his heart beating twice as fast, but there was none to be found. He crept around the fountain, but there was no sign of the intruder there either. Finally realizing that it must have been his imagination, he pushed the sword back into its sheath and decided to go to the banquet, his stomach probably telling his brain to feed it.

Unbeknownst to him, a pair of bright blue eyes was constantly watching his every move, hidden in the one of the castle's towers.

Chapter Text

Among the hundreds and thousands of mourners in Mystic Hillary's interment rites, the most devastated by her death, apart from Queen Dorothea, was a little girl called Chelsea.

Chelsea was the adopted daughter of Sayed and Saleha, who worked at the castle of Nova Iorca. Their daughter, Huma, was a page girl training to be Mystic Hillary's handmaiden. One stormy night, a knock was heard on their door. Huma opened it, but there was no one to be found at their doorstep, except for a bundle of cloth. Huma called her parents, and all three of them realized that inside the bundle was a baby. Saleha took the bundle and saw the serene, sleeping face of a baby girl. Also inside the bundle was a small letter, which read "Her name is Chelsea Victoria".

Whoever left the baby in their doorstep clearly wanted them to have Chelsea, the family thought, so they took her inside and decided that they would keep her and raise her as their own.

The news of Sayed and Saleha adopting a newborn reached the castle, all the way to the Regent herself. Hillary was quite interested about the abandoned baby.

"Where did you find her?", she asked Saleha one night, as the handmaiden was changing the sheets of her bed.

"She was left out in our doorstep, Your Benevolence", Saleha responded, shrugging her shoulders. "We do not know who left her there".

"Is there any clue as to who was her mother or father?", Hillary asked with great curiosity.

Saleha shook her head. "No, Your Benevolence. But we did find a letter enclosed with the child."

"Fascinating", Hillary tilted her head and rested her chin on her hand. "What does the letter say?"

"Well, Your Benevolence, it just said that her name is Chelsea Victoria”, Saleha recalled.

"Hmmm", Hillary bit her bottom lip, her eyes focused on the floor. "The child could be educated and trained to be my handmaiden".

Saleha was flustered by Hillary's proposition. "Your Benevolence! What if the parents of the child suddenly appear and take her away?"

Hillary shook her head. "I do not think so. I have a feeling that the parents of that child won't come forward… not in a long time".

Saleha felt that it was futile to argue with the Regent, especially when she follows her gut feelings, so she simply backed down and abided by Hillary's wish.

Chelsea remained in Sayed and Saleha's care. She grew up to be a healthy and happy little child. Everything seemed to be perfect until Sayed and Saleha's house was burned by bandits in the middle of the night when all of them were sleeping. It was Chelsea, a toddler then, who sensed the raging fire and cried until her adoptive parents were awake. If not for her quick senses, they would all have died in the blaze.

Like the news of her mysterious arrival, the news of Chelsea's heroic deed reached the castle, and Hillary was not an exception. When Hillary heard about it, she was convinced that there was something peculiar with the girl.

"No ordinary child could have that incredibly sharp sense", Hillary reasoned. "She must have some sort of powers. A daughter of a sorceress, perhaps?"

Saleha furrowed her brow. "I don't think so, Your Benevolence. I believe that it was just a coincidece that she woke up in the middle of the night and cried."

"Was she hungry or did she need to go relieve herself ?", asked Hillary.

Saleha shrugged her shoulders. "We never asked, Your Benevolence. We were all so preoccupied with the fire that we didn't really think of the small details. We were just thankful that were are all safe".

As her way of helping the family recover from the awful disaster, Hillary offered that they stay in the castle while they were still rebuilding their new house. Sayed and Saleha were grateful for Hillary's help. She even offered to let them off their duties once a week for the reconstruction. The couple initially refused, as no one would look after Huma and Chelsea, but the Regent herself took the liberty of watching over them while their parents worked on their house. Saleha was horrified about the offer, but the Regent took it as a command so she could not refuse. Almost in tears, Saleha kissed Hillary's hands in gratitude.

For several weeks, Chelsea was under Hillary's personal care. Though Chelsea was in overall a happy girl, she seemed much more so when she was with Hillary. And the effect was the same with Hillary; she was much more affectionate and light-hearted when she was with Chelsea. There were instances when Chelsea started crying whenever Huma would fetch her away from Hillary. The Regent herself wasn't so keen to let go of Chelsea either, so she volunteered to sing Chelsea to sleep.

Despite the duties that Hillary had to attend to as Regent, she never failed to be committed to Chelsea's needs. During times when she was present in the castle, Hillary would always seek Chelsea and they would play, sing and sometimes tell exciting stories to each other. If one was ignorant of the fact that the Regent should be unmarried and childless, one could mistake the two of them to be mother and child. One day, under the shade of a tree in the castle grounds, in a spot not known to most of the servants, Chelsea was almost asleep in Hillary's arms, and the sleepy little girl mumbled "Mama" as she hugged the doting Regent tighter. Hillary's heart burst with love for the perfect little girl sleeping in her arms.

When Sayed and Saleha finally finished rebuilding their new home, it was time for Chelsea to move back with her adoptive family. However, Chelsea did not want to. She wanted to stay at the castle, with the woman whom she now called Mother. Hillary was more than happy to let Chelsea stay, and so she was allowed to stay.

Ever since then, the two were inseparable. Chelsea was even allowed to sleep in Hillary's chambers, despite the protestations of the castle servants and the royal council. Hillary even thought of educating Chelsea herself. There was never a doubt that they loved each other very much. If she was not the Regent, Hillary thought, she could have spent the entirety of her life loving and caring for this girl who gave her so much happiness. And Chelsea, despite her young age, was so in awe and in love with Hillary.

And that is why it was no surprise that Chelsea took the news of Hillary's death terribly.

When her adoptive sister Huma delivered the terrible news, Chelsea could not stop herself from crying. She cried and cried and cried. Huma was only able to put her to sleep when she had exhausted all of her energy crying. There were growing concerns among castle servants about her well-being. Saleha tried to get her to stay with them to care for her after Hillary's passing, but Chelsea was unshakeable. In a desperate move, Saleha carried Chelsea off to their house when the latter was sleeping. But when the grieving child woke up, she was worse than ever before. She started having tantrums and became destructive since. Because of her deteriorating situation, Saleha decided to send Chelsea back to the castle and let her stay in there until she was better.

During the day of Hillary's interment, the servants decided not to let Chelsea attend, for they tought she might disrupt the entire ceremony. Instead, one of them watched over her inside Hillary's chambers. But Chelsea, a child intelligent beyond her years, managed to trick her governess and ran all the way to the tree that became the solace for her and the woman who was the recipient of her tears. When she was finally under its shade, she cried and cried until her eyes caught the sight of a large black snake slithering towards her, with eyes glowing in a bright shade of purple, hissing threateningly, with fangs ready to strike.

Chelsea made a small whimper in fear. She wanted to cry for help, but somehow, her voice was extinguished momentarily. She clambered away as fast as her arms and legs could carry her as the snake slithered towards her, determined to catch her prey. Chelsea started crying again, wishing that her Mama Hillary would come and rescue her.

"Mama, Mama, Mama!", she screamed in between sobs.

She suddenly hit a large rock as she tried to escape from her captor, hurting her knee. The snake hastened her movements, now inching much closer to her. Desperate for her life, Chelsea grappled to prop herself up and ran as fast as her injured limbs allowed her , her heart pounding. However, her knees and legs could only sustain her so far, and when her limbs could no longer carry her she finally fell on her chest, hitting her head on the ground so hard, she fell unconscious.

With Chelsea out cold, the snake was able to catch her small target. When she was about to strike her prey, a woman with bright blue eyes, clad in a cloak of pristine white color and her face covered in silk cloth of the same hue, raced to step in between the body of the unconscious girl and the wicked snake. The snake was furious at this unexpected intruder, flashing its fangs to show her wrath. The woman pulled a sword out of her cloak and brandished it in front of the snake, preparing herself to attack the creature. The snake circled around the woman and the unconscious child, the woman following the snake's every move. When the snake was getting tired and more furious of this game, she striked at the woman, but the latter was able to wave her sword at the former. The snake tried again, but she was not successful. The woman and the snaked went on to battle in front of Chelsea's body until the woman was able to tire the snake and slash the snake with her sword, leaving a gash on the snake's eye. The snake hissed in pain, thick purple blood gushing out of the wood. Clearly overpowered, the snake vanished from sight, but vowed to come back for the unconscious little girl.

The woman breathed in relief at the snake's retreat, and turned towards little Chelsea. She knelt beside her and examined her injuries: her knee broken and her forehead bruised. The woman placed her hand above Chelsea's unconscious form and slowly, her hand glowed in white, its light warm and gentle. She touched the child's forehead and knee, and instantly, the injuries vanished as if nothing had happened.

Chelsea stirred from her unconsciousness but she was too weak to open her eyes and get back to her feet. However, she felt the familiar touch of the woman, the touch that always made her feel loved. She took the woman's hand and tucked it in between her jaw and neck, craving for the warmth and affection it gave. She smiled at the contact, reminiscing the memories that she had with its touch.

Slowly, Chelsea began to fall asleep. The woman did not move, allowing the little girl to succumb to her exhaustion. In a matter of seconds, Chelsea was completely asleep. The woman gently removed her hand from Chelsea's grip and scooped the little child in her arms. Chelsea stirred a little, pressing herself more in the woman's chest. The woman, beneath the cloth that hid her face, beamed at the girl in her arms.

The woman, carrying the child, vanished in thin air and reappeared in the chamber that was the bedroom of the girl and the deceased Regent. She deposited the girl into the bed and laid the covers on her. She leaned her body next to the child and she gently stroked the sleeping girl's hair and face affectionately. Satisfied that the girl was completely safe from harm, the woman removed the cloth from her face, bent down and planted a loving kiss on the girl's forehead.

Chelsea's body glowed in a warm bathe of light as she rolled in the bed, reaching for a soft pillow for herself, as if it was the warm body that used to cuddle her at night.

When Chelsea woke up from her dreamless sleep, the woman was gone.

Chapter Text

The snake appeared in the dark, cold ruins of Lihvo, where she had taken refuge in. She was hissing and wincing at the gash in her eye, blood gushing from it and leaving large red drops in her tracks. The snake stopped into a halt and transformed herself into a woman, clad in black and purple robes, her face concealed in darkness and her eyes bright purple, one of which was bleeding profusely. She collapsed into the floor, her right hand gingerly pressing her bleeding eye. She crawled her way up to the a stone pedestal and sat there. Her right hand glowed in deep purple, and she felt the bleeding stop, the pain alleviated from her right eye and her vision fully restored.

The woman pressed her closed firsts on her knees, grunting in frustration. She was so close to killing the child. That petulant child.The child that would be the downfall of her plans. But she didn't expect that there would be an intruder. Another foil, she thought. Her opponent, the warrior in white, was not to be underestimated. The white warrior was very skilled, the woman admitted, and she must be taken care of before she attempted to kill the child again."

Were you successful, Hadeshah?" said a deep, booming voice in her head.

"No, my Lord", she replied in her thoughts.

"And why is that?", the voice rang painfully in her head, furious at her failure.

"There was an intruder, my Lord", Hadeshah explained calmly, trying to appease her invisible master. " A woman. In a white garb. I could not see her face, my Lord, as it was covered in silk. We were evenly matched in battle. She's a very skilled warrior, that I can attest, but I don´t know if she has powers of her own."

"I see", the voice seemed satisfied.

"We need to know the identity of the woman and what she can do. She could be greater threat to us if it turns out she indeed has powers. I can spy on her, my Lord", Hadeshah offered.

"No need for that, Hadeshah", the voice overruled her suggestion. "I need you to focus on controlling our potential powerful ally. Besides, we have a much simpler way of knowing".

"What is it, my Lord?",Hadeshah inquired.

"Varvara".


On the southwest side of Aquilon, the castle of the kingdom of Arizoana welcomed two other kings and a former monarch for a very important meeting of the Council of Elders. The Council, established at the same time as the Regency, was composed of three monarchs who serve as advisors to the Regent. The current composition of the Council is composed by King John of Arizoana(1), King Lincoln of Meridia Carollines(2) and King John Forbes of Magnacollis(3). The meetings of the Council were limited to its three members and the Regent herself. However, that particular meeting was breaking the previous precedents, for it included a person who had no business being in it: William Jefferson of Pietro Minore.

After William's battle and subsequent defeat against Lord Vladimir, the Empire of Aquilon deemed him to be worthy of praise. The unanimous decision of all monarchs to revoke his punishment and restore his crown was proof of that. However, not all were in favor of making him privy to the Empire's deepest-kept secrets. In particular ,King Johannes Forbes who was not impressed with of William's record to allow him to sit with the Council and be made aware of knowledge detrimental to the peace of Aquilon. In fact, King John Forbes was not impressed with William overall. ; He was the last king who voted for the revocation of William's punishment. It was no secret among Council members that the two men are not amicable with each other.

A few weeks ago, William received a message from King John inviting him to sit at the high-level meeting. At first, William was confused as to why he was asked to attend. But through other emissaries and advisors, William learned that Kings John and Lincoln were keen to hear what he has to say.

William arrived at the castle of Arizoana, unsure of what to expect in the Council meeting. He kept swallowing as he walked towards the King's royal chamber, his palms sweaty. The royal page boy that was accompanying him was narrating the history of the castle, but the words seem to pass on his head from ear to ear.

When the page boy left him in front of the royal chamber doors, William took a deep breath to calm his nerves. When the doors were opened for him by two Arizonoanan guards, William saw a large circular table in the middle of a majestic hall, walls decorated with magnificent paintings and tapestries. Sitting in the circular table were two elderly men very much occupied with their conversation. One was tall and lean while the other was short and with balding head. The taller man was King Lincoln of MeridiaCarolinnes and the other was King John of Arizoana.

When the two men noticed that another guest had arrived, both of them stood up to welcome the newcomer. The two men greeted him like an old friend, and William responded in kind. His anxiety started melting away at the warm welcome the two men were giving him.

"We're glad you could make it, William", King Lincoln greeted.

"Yes, yes", King John seconded, clapping his shoulder and shaking his hand. "It is a pleasure to have you with us today".

"I am happy to be here, Your Majesties", Bill replied, his head bowed and his hand on his heart.

King John waved off William's politeness. "Oh come now, William. You don't have to address us formally, as if we haven't been colleagues before".

King Lincoln chuckled. "Once a king, always a king".

"And besides", King John added, "You belong to us now. We do have the same color of hair. That counts for something, don't you think?".

William managed to laugh at King John's quip at his expense, albeit nervously. Due to the effects of the curse by Mystic Hillary, William, despite being only 27, looked like he was 45: gray hair, broader chest and more prominent wrinkles on his forehead. He was not particularly miffed for looking way beyond his age, but he was very resentful of the fact that no woman could fall in love with him, thanks to the other curse Mystic Hillary had cast on him.

Sensing William's slight discomfort at the reference to his curse, King Lincoln quipped, "He might look older, but he looks more handsome too".

William brushed off his ill feelings and followed the two men to the large round table. There were four seats in the table, equally spaced from each other as if forming a cross. King John, the ruler of the kingdom in which the meeting was being held , occupied the Northern seat, and King Lincoln occupied the Western seat. William sat opposite King Lincoln and took the Eastern seat. The last seat, the Southern one, was left unoccupied.

"We can get started now", suggested King Lincoln. "John Forbes can follow along if he arrives".

"Good sirs", King John began. "Today, we will discuss matters detrimental to the security of Aquilon. Since we do not have a Regent as of the moment, the Council will act as Regent on matters that need decision and strategy".

William nodded at King John, taking in his every word. King Lincoln was listening intently too.

"First on the agenda is the worrying disappearance of soldiers from different kingdoms. As to the culprit, no one could identify who was behind the disappearances. However, the kingdoms will inform us of any development, should there be one", King John narrated.

"Is it possible that the bandits were behind the disappearances?", King Lincoln suggested. "The soldiers were probably abducted and will be asked for ransom in exchange for their lives".

William fidgeted at the word abducted, reminding him of his terrible sin.

"William, what say you?", King John mistook William's nervousness as his eagerness to speak.

"Erm..." William stuttered, trying to come up with a coherent response. "I think that somehow Lord Vladimir has something to do with this".

The two kings were taken aback.

"Lord Vladimir?” said a surprised King John. "Is that your thought on the matter, William?"

William just fired the first thought that came up in his head, but the longer he thought about it, the more it made sense. "It is entirely possible that Lord Vladimir was not really sealed away or that it was the work of Aquilonian citizens who were sympathetic to him, avenging the Dark Lord's death".

"With all due respect, William" King Lincoln said, his voice laced with annoyance, "it is an insult to Mystic Hillary to suggest that she failed in her mission -"

"Mea culpa", William interrupted.

"- and it is quite absurd that sympathizers to the Dark Lord do not parade their work to the citizens." King Lincoln finished.

"Who do you think it is, then?" King John asked.

"We do not know, as of the moment", King Lincoln answered. "We need to get to the bottom of this first ourselves then take an immediate plan of action".

William grimaced at King Lincoln for shooting down his hypothesis when he did not have one to counter it with. But King Lincoln was a member of the Council and he wasn't. King Lincoln had every right to ignore his opinion and he did just that.

Choosing to take the higher ground, William offered, "If so, I fully support the opinion of the Council and I am offering to take the lead in the investigation of the disappearances, and spearhead the task force that will resolve the crisis".

The two other men agreed to William's proposal. Kings John and Lincoln also appointed him as the Council's own marshal, in-charge of investigations, and assembly of forces, if necessary, per approval of the Council. William gladly accepted the appointment.

They then moved on to the next item on their agenda: Mystic Hillary's successor.

"To be honest, I am quite concerned", confessed King Lincoln, "the Regent who Her Eminence Zveda chose to succeed Mystic Hillary should have been born by now. A month has passed since her death and the red moon should have appeared. And yet, we still haven't seen even a spot of redness on the moon".

King John leaned back on his seat, his fingers formed into a steeple and his lips pressing into his fingers. "Perhaps this is one of the peculiarities around Mystic Hillary. Her ascension to the Regency wasn't normal either. Remember that her mark of Regency, the Dragon, didn't become visible on her shoulder until she was 21, when it should have appeared when she was 16".

"Curious, indeed", King Lincoln remarked.

Upon hearing King John's concerns, William scrunched his face in total concentration. His wild idea of Lord Vladimir ordering the disappearances didn't sound as far-fetched as it used to. In fact, he would go as far as to say Mystic Hillary was alive, and Lord Vladimir was keeping her somewhere. He suddenly thought of his newly appointed position as a way to investigate whether his hunch was true. He prayed that it wasn't, as he was sure that Lord Vladimir is simply biding his time and waiting for the right time to strike.

"I suggest that we consult with The Eye to know the will of Her Eminence Zveda on this", William suggested nonchalantly.

"I second William's suggestion", said King Lincoln, "He could go to The Eye on behalf of the Council".

"Ah yes, that would be perfect", King John was pleased at the resolution.

The meeting went on smoothly after that. They have discussed a variety of wide-ranging issues, from peace and order of the Empire to trade embargoes among kingdoms to upcoming coronations of newly-installed monarchs. They had such a lively and productive meeting that they had forgotten that King Johannes Forbes had been absent during the entirety of the meeting.

"I wonder where he is", King Lincoln thought out loud as they were wrapping up the meeting. "He never misses a meeting unless there was an advanced notice".

King John shrugged it off. "I don't know. A king has to attend to his constituents first. I am sure that he will have a valid explanation as to why he is not with us today".

As they left the chamber, William thoughts shifted on the absent king. He was never really fond of the man, ever since their princely days. Both were tall, with sturdy builds and sharp minds. They were rivals in almost everything. Over the years, their rivalry had grown too far that their competition turned from pure sport to personal. They were outdoing each other just for spite. Up to that day, the two mean bore deep animosity toward one another.

The two men even had both of their eyes set on Mystic Hillary when she was still a princess, but declined to pursue her as it was forbidden for a crown prince to fall in love with a crown princess, unless one of them abdicates. However, abdication was not an option for either of them, as both wanted to ascend the throne and felt that it was not worth it to give up their crowns over a woman who was likely to wear one herself.

But even with the history of ill feelings towards the King, William prayed that King John was right, and King John Forbes had a valid reason not to attend the meeting, as it was of utmost importance that he be there, for the good of Aquilon, and William did not want to think that John Forbes skipped the meeting entirely just because he, a rival and a disgraced king, was supposed to appear.

Because if he did, then his rival was no better than him.

Chapter Text

William descended on the stairs as the attendees of the royal ball bowed in respect. He waved his hand in recognition and everybody stood back up, giving him a warm round of applause. He flashed his most charming smile as he greeted and shook hands with the nobles who were present at the ball. The ball, held in his honor, symbolized the complete reversal of fortune that he experienced five years ago, when he was dethroned, exiled, and made into a pariah. To add insult to injury, the Regent cursed him to look older than his real age and to never receive the love of any woman, the latter he deemed cruel beyond compare.

Despite the punishment that he suffered, he never bore any ill will, not to the Regent nor to anybody else. That was one of William’s more commendable characteristics. He was never the one to bear any hatred in his heart. It was no secret in Pietro Minore that his father was a cruel one, and he beat his mother frequently. Despite all the reasons William could have hated his father, he remained a loving and dutiful son. He even obeyed his every one of his father’s commands and fulfilled his wish of succeeding him to the throne.

It was because of this disposition that he chose to return to Pietro Minore to save it from the cruel hands of Lord Vladimir.

His mission to save Pietro Minore was daunting one. Nevertheless, he was not deterred from it. The moment he heard that his kingdom fell to the clutches of Lord Vladimir, he raced back and challenged the evil god to a duel. Lord Vladimir laughed at his foolishness, but he was determined to bring him down. Despite all fighting skills William had in his arsenal, a mere mortal was no match against a powerful god.  In the end, Lord Vladimir was able to vanquish him. And as punishment for his defiance, William was cursed into a deep sleep, only to be woken up by a true love’s kiss.

His awakening from the spell symbolized his awakening into his second life. The former King, once an ambitious statesman, chose to live a simpler life. He, when offered the crown of Pietro Minore, politely declined and chose to assist his brother in ruling the kingdom. While he had an active role in assisting the Council of Elders, he had cleansed his body of political ambition. It was not an easy process, but his years of isolation gave him more time to reflect on the things that were more important in life.

He realized that he wanted a family; a wife and children to care for and who would take care of him. And his realization came at the most unfortunate time when no woman could ever love him, all thanks to the curse by Mystic Hillary. It made William realize the basic human tendency to desire for something that was no longer within reach. He regretted not finding himself a wife – or a lover – while he still had the ability to do so. During his reign as king, he was focused on amassing political power and influence so that he could easily implement the change that he envisioned for Aquilon and not just in his kingdom. Yes, he did those things for a noble cause, but his ambitions consumed even his personal life that it sacrificed his overall well-being.

Despite his regrets, hope blossomed in his heart when he realized that he woke up from his deep sleep because someone had kissed him, thus fulfilling the terms of the spell. No one in the empire, not even someone as powerful as Mystic Hillary, could have broken a spell cast by a god. Only they could have broken such curse.

Somewhere out there, he thought, his true love was waiting for him, and he was determined to find out who it was. He would scourge the ends of the world if need be, just to meet this woman. She was his only chance of finding true love and he would not allow her to slip from his fingers again.

With that goal in mind, he decided to make use of the perfect opportunity laid upon him: the ball. He planned to talk to every eligible lady at the ball that night, determined to make a progress in his search for this elusive woman.

Being a royal and the honoree of the ball, it was not hard to start a conversation with any of the ladies. In fact, some of them were eager to catch his attention. Some were even openly expressing interest in him, albeit in subtle terms. While he welcomed the ladies' enthusiasm, he was fearful of the eventual disappointment and rejection. After all, he was searching for a needle in a mountain's worth of hay; he was bound to be disappointed. But he knew that the needle existed and was only waiting to be found. That sliver of hope kept him going in this mad pursuit for his mysterious lover.

William chatted, drank and trifled with the ladies in attendance. And in all honesty, he was having a very good time, the first in many years.

In the middle of his merriment, an idea flickered in his mind.

Like the prince in the stories told to children, William asked each lady he dallied with to dance with him. Of course, each of them were thrilled to share a dance with the exalted former king. One by one, William waltzed with the ladies, the eyes of the entire hall on them. Some were basking in the attention; others were too shy to look at him. But he knew they were not the ones he was looking for. William wanted someone to make time stand still. Someone to make him feel that there was no one in the universe but them. Someone that sent a jolt in his body at first touch. Among the ladies that he had danced with, nobody even came close.

Still, it was a very enjoyable night. He had drunk a lot, caught up with his old friends and made a lot more, mostly women. The ball did serve its purpose: to honor him. He felt very esteemed and welcomed by the people who were in attendance. He received commendations from nobles, knights and even from ambassadors from other kingdoms, speaking on behalf of their monarchs. There was no doubt that night that William was loved and appreciated by the attendees.

Unfortunately, it wasn't what William was looking for.

With exhaustion starting to creep into his body, William took a cup of wine and carried it with him to the gardens, where he craved for the freshness of the cool air. He looked up and adored the crescent moon adorning the starry sky. He basked in its soft glow, thinking that somewhere out there, the woman of his dreams was adoring the same silver moon.

As he finished his wine, he placed it in the nearest stone bench and walked across the spectacular gardens of the castle. Ever since his exile, he learned to enjoy the tranquility of nature: the tickling, cool breeze, the scent of foliage freshly showered with rain and the beauty of the lights that illuminated from the fireflies. While he enjoyed the liveliness of the ball, he found happiness in the silence of the scenery outside the stone walls.

William's feet carried him to the pond, the fireflies guiding his path. As he drew closer and closer to his destination, William noticed an outline of a woman sitting at the edge of the pond. She had silky, golden locks that were wrapped in a side braid. Her forehead, eyes and the bridge of her nose were covered by a silvery mask. Her long, flowing dress made of silk hugged her curves and had a collar that showed a small portion of her shapely bosom. The woman was playing with the fish that swam on the pond. She did not seem to notice William's presence as he slowly approached, the fireflies shepherding him to her.

William did not recall seeing anyone with a mask or a white silk dress at the ball. He was almost sure that she was not an invited guest, but he did not have the heart to send her away. In fact, he was intrigued. He was intrigued to find such beauty descending on his lowly habitat.

For several minutes, William simply stared at the woman as she played with the fish. The fireflies were dancing around them, as if they were jubilant at the encounter. The woman did not pay attention to the man that was gazing at her. She was absentmindedly dipping her hand in the water when William finally found his voice.

"I beg your pardon...", William apologized softly.

The woman turned her head to meet his, and for the first time, William noticed the overbite on the woman's jaw. It endeared her to him, making him realize that she was real and she too had an imperfection, and that imperfection made the woman perfect in his eyes.

The woman stood up and curtsied to William, just like what many other women did that night. To his surprise, William bowed back to the woman, as if they were going to dance. Whether out of impulse or out of shock, William did not know. Moving in a daze, he offered his hand to the woman and she, without hesitation, gently accepted. At the merest touch of her fingers, he felt a stirring jolt run through his body, sending chills down his spine. He licked his lips as he pulled the woman towards him, her hand resting on his shoulder and his hand touching her waist.

As soon as her hand touched his shoulder, a vision came rushing towards his brain.

A young William smiled as he took the hand of the masked girl in front of him and placed it on his shoulder, while his hand was gripping her waist. The girl jerked her hips at the tickling sensation from his fingers. Both of them giggled at her immediate reaction.

"I wasn't doing anything yet", William said in between chuckles. "I wasn't aware that you were so extremely sensitive and delicate".

The girl, who was wearing a white mask, scrunched her face in feigned annoyance. "No, Sir. I am anything but".

The two of them started twirling around, matching the rhythm of the waltz.

"I am intrigued. I would like to be acquainted to the girl I have the incredible honor of dancing with", said William.

The girl blushed at his compliment. "I believe that you made a promise of not knowing my name", she replied.

"Promises are made to be broken", William quipped.

"I pray that you hear yourself, for you are turning out to be a bad lover", she said.

"And you are a walking perfection". William spoke of the truth.

The girl's breath hitched, touched at his declaration. Her cheeks turned a deeper shade of red, her forehead inching closer and closer to his chin. He inhaled the scent of her hair as he pressed his lips into the top of her head, their dance becoming too slow for the music.

"Please be careful", the girl warned softly. "Somebody might see us"

"No, they won't", William assured. "The masks will hide our faces". 

As it became apparent that they preferred being alone and away from prying eyes, the young couple ran out of the hall and went straight to the garden, where they found a beautiful pond being surrounded by a swarm of dancing fireflies. The girl pulled William towards the pond. There, she placed his hand on her waist and she rested her palm on his shoulder. William took her free hand and kissed it before he extended it to their side, getting ready to dance.

Along the music of the crickets and raging waters, the two of them danced around the pond, their eyes, despite the masks, holding their gaze steadily. Neither of them blinked as they circled and twirled, free from care and worries. For what it seemed like hours, they danced and danced until their feet could no longer carry them. The two sat at the edge of the pond, laughing and gasping for air.

"I think I might have blisters on my feet", the girl remarked, a smile clearly plastered on her face.

"Mine as well", Bill followed. "I might not be able to do my training tomorrow"

The girl pressed a finger against his lips. "Shhhh. I believe you promised me that there will be no introductions".

"We did, and we have been faithful to our agreement, my lady", he said, pushing her finger away.

"Let's keep it that way, shall we?", the girl told him.

"Of course. But I have another way of introducing myself without telling you my name", William challenged her.

"I'd like to know", the girl said, deeply intrigued.

William looked up and prayed that his move would work. "Close your eyes".

The girl obliged. Slowly, William dipped his head to meet her lips in a slow, languid kiss. The girl removed hand from his grip and snaked her arms around his neck, pulling him closer. The masks were getting in their way, but the rules were rules: the masks had to stay. Instead of removing her mask, the girl angled her head so that their faces meld into each other until they were impossibly close. Suddenly, the girl slipped her tongue into his mouth, desperately eager to know the boy she dallied with. He, following her lead, pushed his tongue into hers, their mouths battling for dominance; an apt symbolism of their first meeting.

When their lungs burned for air, the mutually broke apart, gasping for a much needed breath.

"I think I know you now very well", said the girl, beaming.

"The feeling is mutual", he said.

"I know how much you wanted to know me", said the girl, "but I regret that I cannot give you my name. However, I can give you this".

The girl reached for her nape and unclasped the necklace that was hanging on her neck. At the bottom of the necklace was a crest in the shape of a dragon. The girl reached for his neck and placed the necklace on him, his eyes focused on the dragon crest.

"That way, you will always be reminded that what we had tonight was not just mere a vision or memory. It was real", the girl admired the necklace, fingering it in his neck.

William played the crest with his fingers and brought it to his lips, pressing a kiss on the cold metal, never taking his eyes away from her. The girl's heart almost beat out of her chest after seeing her lover hold her gift dearly.

William craved to know the girl, but he did not want to break his promise to her: to never know who she was. He was in the dark as to why the girl did not want them to introduce themselves. He tried drawing out an answer from her but her lips were sealed.

William kicked himself for making such a promise.

William woke up from his vision, his lips fused with the woman's. His head was spinning in every direction, both from the vision and from the addicting sweetness of the kiss. The woman deepened the kiss and pulled him closer to her body, his chest already touching the softness of her bosom. He looked at her eyes and saw them closed, lost in the moment. He did the same thing and let himself sink into the kiss, into the feeling of having her close to him and living in eternal happiness.

The two mutually parted from the kiss, ther faces flushed and gasping for air. As soon as blood stopped pounding in his head, William could not help but notice the striking similarity between the vision and reality. Whatever that vision meant, William didn't know. He wasn't even sure if the vision was even real. 

But the woman in front of him was. The beautiful, magnificent woman whose lips were swollen with love was real and existing. William brushed off the remnants of the vision from his mind and focused on his present: a woman, currently kissing his palm, who was deeply in love with him.

A woman deeply in love with him!

The realization hit him like a slap in the face, his eyes wide. He quickly withdrew his hand from her and cupped her face, unable to believe his incredible luck. All the thoughts running in his mind had left him speechless. There were so many questions he wanted to ask her but he did not know where to begin. 

The woman leaned her head sideways, as if asking him what was going on. 

"My lady", he hesitated, "may I have the honor of knowing your lovely name?" 

Instead of a name, the response William got was a blinding light that temporarily impeded his vision. He raised his hands to protect his eyes from the intense radiance. When the light was gone, all he saw was a butterfly fluttering around him. The woman had completely vanished. William realized that the woman must have transformed into a butterfly so he stood up and attempted to catch it, waving his arms and leaping.  Even with his towering height, William could not catch the butterfly as it was hovering way beyond his reach. The little creature then flew away from William, away from the lowly ground and up into the night sky. 

"Wait! Please come back!", he bellowed to the butterfly, but it did not heed his call. 

William dropped his hands to his sides, disappointment evident on his face. Crestfallen by the sudden disappearance of the woman, William sat on the edge of the pond and tried to compose his thoughts on his mysterious encounter. 

Who was that woman? That was the primary question that was lingering on his mind at the moment. Where did she come from? Why did she come to him? Her arrival in his life brought more questions than answers.

And that vision. What was that supposed to mean? Was it real? Who was the girl? And why did the girl insist that he refrain from finding out who she was? For all the questions that arose from it, the vision offered to clue to the unlocking of any of these new mysteries. 

Despite all the questions that plagued his mind at that time, William was certain of one thing.

The woman was the one he was looking for.  

Chapter Text

In the middle of the dark, cold night, an enchanted butterfly, emanating a soft glow, made its journey to the inside of the castle of Nova Iorca. Specifically, to the chamber of the deceased Regent, where little Chelsea was eagerly waiting for its arrival. The little girl's face suddenly brightened when she saw the butterfly approach the bed. Chelsea opened her palm to receive the little creature, and it happily landed on her small hands. The butterfly fluttered in place before it left Chelsea's palm and then it flew to the middle of the room, where it transformed into beautiful blonde woman, wearing an exquisite white dress and her face resembling Mystic Hillary's. 

"Mama!", Chelsea jumped from the bed and ran towards the woman, hugging her as tightly as she could. The woman lifted Chelsea in her arms and twirled her around, causing the little girl to giggle. The woman laughed too as she walked towards the bed to tuck Chelsea before going to sleep. 

As soon as she laid Chelsea down, the little girl asked to be read her favorite book. 

"Goodnight Moon, please, Mama?", Chelsea begged. 

"Of course, my little butterfly", the woman smiled. 

The woman conjured the book from thin air and read it to Chelsea. Slowly, the little girl's eyes began to droop in drowsiness. By the time the woman finished reading, Chelsea's eyes were closed, but she wasn't completely asleep yet. 

"Thank you, Mama", Chelsea whispered. 

"You're welcome, darling", the woman replied softly, leaning over to kiss Chelsea's forehead. 

As the woman gently stroked Chelsea's hair with her hand, she could not help but feel that it was time to tell Chelsea the truth. 

"What's bothers you, Mama?", Chelsea inquired, sensing the slight tension in the woman's hands. 

The woman wasn't surprised at the incredible sharpness of Chelsea’s senses. After all, Chelsea herself carried an incredible power she never thought she had, and the woman knew it was the reason why the snake attacked the little girl. 

Deciding that there was no better time to tell the truth, the woman lay before Chelsea and whispered in her ear, "I have something to confess to you". 

Chelsea opened her eyes and shifted lazily towards the woman. "What is it, Mama?"

The woman kept silent for a while before telling the truth. 

"I am not your real Mama, little Chelsea", the woman confessed.

The little girl suddenly shot up from bed, her eyes wide with shock. Chelsea pulled the blanket and wrapped it all over herself, suddenly fearful of the woman lying beside her. 

The woman sat up and gently waved her hand in the air so that an invisible shield enclosed the bed they were in, their secret safe within its perimeter. She then cupped Chelsea's cheek, hoping that the little girl would believe what she was about to say. 

"My darling", she said, her thumb rubbing Chelsea's cheek, "your Mama Hillary, the woman who raised you, sent me to protect you and care for you. When she faced the Dark Lord, she didn’t know if she could survive. But she loved you so much, and that she was so afraid that you would be all alone if she didn´t make it. So she sent me here. As long as I am here, I will protect you. As long as I am here, you will never be alone. I will never leave you, and I will always love you, little Chelsea”.

The woman’s eyes were glistening, her words conveying the absolute truth.

Chelsea did not respond, but her gaze was fixed on the woman's eyes. 

The woman continued, "But don't worry, my darling. Your Mama is out there somewhere. She's fighting for us all. One day, she'll come back for you. And no one will ever take her away from you again. You will be happy forever."

A single tear fell down Chelsea's cheeks, the little girl silent for quite some time. Soon after, another drop fell. And another. And another. The tears that pooled on Chelsea's eyes fell unchecked. The little girl was openly crying and had taken refuge in the woman's arms. 

"Mama! I thought so! She's still alive!", Chelsea cried in joy. 

"Shhhhh, I pray you hold your peace", the woman kissed Chelsea's hair as her arms were wrapped around the little girl. 

Chelsea looked up to the woman, her chin atop the latter’s bosom, "Thank you, Mama. I l love you very much". 

The woman rested her hand in her heart, incredibly touched by Chelsea's words. "I love you too, my little butterfly. But please do not call me Mama, as I am not deserving of such title". 

"What shall I call you, then?"

"Hashanah. My name is Hashanah".

"I love you, Hashanah" Chelsea whispered before closing her eyes to sleep.  


William travelled to the forest of Flavopietro to seek Varvara, the nymph who was known in Aquilon as The Eye. Varvara was the only person in Aquilon who could see the truth at will. She could answer any question asked to her and had the capability to see the future. This unique gift of hers made her a very influential and powerful figure in Aquilon. Even the Regents of the past sought counsel from the celebrated seer.  

The disappearances of the soldiers were not William's only motive for his visit to The Eye. He also wanted to ask Varvara about the enigmatic woman who appeared suddenly and vanished at the night of the ball, and about the vision that he saw when he touched said woman. The mystery of that fateful encounter kept William tossing and turning at night. It wasn't because he was terrified or worried. It was because he craved for answers right away, and the uncertainty felt like an itch that needed to be scratched right away. 

William made his journey to Flavopietro along with Douglas, a page boy who was training to be a knight. Douglas had always been trusted by William's family, having served in the castle of Pietro Minore since he was a child. He had proven himself to be very loyal and reliable, and that was why William handpicked him to be his companion for this mission. 

"I want you to know, my Lord, that I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the will of the Council", Douglas mentioned as they were hiking along the trail that would lead to Varvara's home, almost galloping with excitement.

"I could not think of a better man to assist me in this important mission", Bill confessed, "But I have to warn you, lad. This is a very important job ordered by the Council. We must deliver without fail". 

"Aye, my Lord. On my honor as a future knight of Pietro Minore", Douglas swore, his clenched fist in his heart, his body straight as a board. 

"There's a good lad", commended a satisfied Bill, patting the shoulder of the young man as he passed through him. 

The rest of the journey to Varvara's home was thankfully uneventful. The pair continued riding through the forest until they found themselves in an area that which seemed like it was recently burned. The area was very close to Varvara's home and William feared that she might have fallen victim to the fire. 

"Oh no", he gasped. 

William and Douglas rode as fast as they could until they reached the tree where Varvara lived, the tallest tree in the forest of Flavopietro. Their worst fears were confirmed: her home was damaged by the fire as well. 

"Let's split and search for The Eye", William commanded. "I shall look for her on the east side and you look at the west. Let's meet in here when the night falls. If you see anything, blow your bullhorn. I shall do the same with mine. Understood?"

"Yes, my Lord", Douglas affirmed. 

"Search for clues and other traces too", William added. "We need them to find out what happened and where she is right now". 

As agreed, the two parted ways to find the missing nymph. As William looked around, he realized that someone must have caused the fire, as the perimeter of the damage was too large for it to be caused by a drought. As for clues, it seemed that whatever trace Varvara left was devoured by the fire and turned into ashes. 

By the time the darkness had fallen, William came back to their starting point crestfallen and empty-handed. Douglas was still out when he returned. While waiting for his companion, he decided to descend from his horse to examine the tree that served as home to Varvara. 

Beneath the ashes and the dirt, William noticed a long object sticking out of the ground near Varvara's tree. Curious, he approached it and unearthed it with his hands. 

Lo and behold. It was Varvara's Staff of Truth. 

William picked up the soot-laden staff from the ground. He noticed that the staff was quite heavy. He wiped it clean with his cloak so the staff's magnificent appearance came into view. It had a golden shaft, with a red stone sitting atop of it. As he admired the beauty of Varvara's staff, William wondered if somehow, it bore any clue to Varvara's whereabouts. 

He decided to try using its powers, hoping that it would give him what he was looking for. He raised the staff and looked up into the skies and prayed. 

"Oh mighty and powerful Staff of Truth, please show your humble servant the whereabouts of our dear friend Varvara. Please show me who or what took her away from her home". 

The stone on top of the staff emitted a soft glow of red light as William felt the shaft vibrate a little. The light which came from the stone left its source and crept in front of him, forming a surface shaped like a rectangle. It then flashed images that William had never seen before. 

Varvara was fighting against a woman, whose face was hidden in darkness, with deep, purple eyes and black robes. The woman was clearly more powerful and skilled in fighting than Varvara. The seer struggled to hide from the purple-eyed woman as the latter blasted rays of energy that exploded upon contact. Varvara, running as fast she could away from the woman, finally found a tall tree with a branch high enough to keep her from the woman's sight so she flew towards the branch and hoped that she would not be found. 

"Come out now, Eye", the woman taunted Varvara as she turned around to look for the seer. "You know how I hate dealing with cowards". 

Impatient at this game of hide and seek, the woman closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes again, they were glowing in a brighter shade of purple. The woman then blew out large breaths of purple-colored fire, burning everything that was touched by the flames. Varvara watched the destruction of her home from the branch above as she held the tree tighter, her heart pounding. She silently prayed to Zveda that the mysterious woman would not find her.  

"I know you'll come to me now, Eye", the woman said in wicked satisfaction. 

Varvara was trapped in the sea of flames. She tried to escape from the tree that hid her. However, she had nowhere else to go, as there was nothing around her that wasn't burned by the fire. Air was slowly depleting as smoke filled the surroundings. She needed to get out right away. Varvara look around and realized there was only one way out of the forest: up.

Varvara kicked her feet and propelled herself until she was up in the sky, free from the burning flames beneath her. Unbeknownst to her, the skies were not safe either. As soon as Varvara was up in the air, the woman, who was flying also, trapped her in a purple bubble, instantly sending the seer to unconsciousness. 

William's heart was racing after he saw the abduction of Varvara as shown to him by the Staff of Truth. The woman in black was someone he had not seen before. She could be a follower of Lord Vladimir, William thought. She could also be behind the disappearances of the soldiers. Whoever she was, the Council ought to know of her existence and the potential threat she posed to Aquilon. He needed to go back right away to report this stunning development. 

But before he left for home, he needed to do one more thing. William looked around to make sure he was alone. Douglas still hadn't returned and there were no signs of life in his surroundings. The coast was clear. 

Like he did before, William lifted the Staff and prayed to it once more. 

"Oh Staff of Truth", he implored the powerful object, "I beseech you, reveal the woman who appeared to me on that fateful night in Pietro Minore, and the girl who I saw in the vision". 

Once more, the stone on the Staff illuminated, granting William's request. 

William admired the letter he held in his hand, the parchment neatly folded and bearing the faint scent of its sender. He stroked the letter, as if it was the soft hand that he missed the touch of. He flipped it and saw the image of a dragon engraved in the wax that sealed the letter. He gently broke the seal, careful not to tear the paper, and read the neat handwriting on the parchment: 

 

 

My dearest William,  

I hope this letter finds you well, for there is nothing I crave more than your well-being. I had to take extra precautions to make sure that this letter does not fall into the wrong hands.

I regret to say that I cannot return your feelings for me. I am incredibly flattered that you took pains to find out who I was after that magical evening. Please do not take offense if I did not tell you my real identity right away. I have to confess that I knew who you were the moment I laid my eyes on you. I tried to push my feelings away that night but I could not. My selfish behavior took over and I decided to come with you even if I knew that my actions would cause trouble. Now that you know who I really am, I hope that you will understand the reason why I was adamant not to reveal myself.  

That is not to say that I do not have strong feelings for you. In fact, I do. I would kill to have you in another lifetime. However, we, both heirs to our respective thrones, cannot have a relationship that goes beyond platonic. We both know how our fathers want us to succeed them when it is time to. However, I cannot fault them for it. It is detrimental that we ascend to our respective thrones or else the crowns might fall into the wrong hands. We must put the future of our kingdoms above ourselves.

Being born a royal is both a curse and a blessing. We live in bounty but our options in life are limited. Everything is laid out in front of us, and yet we do not have the liberty of choosing our own path. I envy the commoners who can choose who they love and spend the rest of their life with. If I could, I would choose liberty over bounty, for I believe the former is a right, and the latter a privilege.

I pray that you find a woman who will love you more than I do, and who is ready to support you when you are King, which I never doubt you will be great at being. I will be more than happy to witness your success from afar as you deliver your kingdom to greatness. 

I hope that we remain friends. My heart will probably die each time I see you with another woman, but I would totally be destroyed if you take me out of your life.

My love will be with you always,

The Princess of Nova Iorca  

He crumpled the letter and threw it as hard as he could, hot tears streaming down his face. He felt sick after reading that devastating letter from the Princess, rapidly draining the energy out of his body. He fell into his limbs and sobbed, his tears soaking the cold, stone floor.

William's entire body was shaking, his breaths shallow. Color was drained from his face as the realization hit him like a slap in the face. The identity of the girl in his vision was finally revealed to him, as there was only one Princess of Nova Iorca that existed during his lifetime. 

Mystic Hillary Diane.

 

Chapter Text

William stood numbly in the middle of the forest, devoid of any emotion as he processed the vision he just saw. The letter from the Princess of Nova Iorca, who was the younger Mystic Hillary, was definitely nonexistent. He was sure of it. He could not recall receiving such letter from the then Princess, let alone professing his feelings to her. It was true that he did harbor affections towards Mystic Hillary, but he kept those feelings to himself. Because as the letter said, a romantic relationship would only cause trouble for both of them, especially for him as he was intent on succeeding his father. 

As he tried to make sense of what he just saw, his thoughts were interrupted by the incessant shouting that came from his companion, Douglas. 

"My Lord! My Lord!", Douglas screamed at the top of his lungs as he rode his horse towards his Master. "Where have you been, My Lord? I have been blowing my bullhorn for quite a while. I was worried that something happened to you". 

"Forgive me, lad", William apologized, feeling guilty for having forgotten that Douglas was with him and had been waiting for him. "I...uh...I found this". William held the Staff of Truth up. 

Douglas squinted as he examined the object with great interest. "Is that...is that the Eye's Staff?".

"Indeed", William affirmed. "And we now know how the Eye vanished from her home". 

"How?" the young lad inquired.

"A woman, whose face was hidden, captured the Eye and brought her somewhere else", William explained. "As to where she was taken, sadly, we have no clue" 

"This is terrible", Douglas gasped, flabbergasted by the terrible news. "The Council must be notified immediately".  

"Indeed, my lad", William said. "But before we do that, you said that you blew your bullhorn. Did you see anything?"

Douglas nodded. "Aye, my Lord". He slipped his hand in his pocket and fished a gold dangling earring, encrusted with rubies and shaped like a flame. 

William took the earring and examined in it his hand. "The woman who abducted Varvara must have owned this earring". 

"It's very possible, my Lord". 

William slid the earring into his own pocket and handed Douglas the Staff as he mounted on his horse. 

"Very well, then. We shall now begin our journey back home. It is imperative that we bring the news to the Council as soon as possible". 

"Aye, my Lord".


 

William and Douglas travelled to Arizoana to request an audience with the Council. After the taxing journeys, he planned to rest for five days at Arizoana and then go home to Pietro Minore. Douglas was looking forward to his rest too, as he spent most of the nights awake serving as lookout. William reminded himself to take another page on his next journey so that Douglas and the other page could take turns on guarding their camp while the other one rests.

That night, Douglas was once again assigned to watch over their camp. However, due to exhaustion, he fell asleep in the middle of his watch.

Unbeknownst to the sleeping page, Hadeshah, the same woman who abducted Varvara, silently infiltrated their camp. 

The horses felt Hadeshah's presence, but before they could make a sound, she silenced them to sleep using her magic, her presence still undetected. She silently crept towards the inside of the tentand sawthe sleeping form of William. She knelt beside him as she titled her head, admiring Mystic Hillary's handiwork of making him look beyond his age. Hadeshah chuckled at how good looking he still was despite the gray hair and wrinkles. Her eyes drank the naked form of the former king, whose only cover was the blanket that shrouded his lower limbs. If she had to admit, he looked better that way than when he still looked young. Such a pity, she thought, for he would perish in her hands soon. 

She lifted her right hand and it glowed purple as she reached for his neck, ready to strangle the life out of him. But before her right hand was able to touch his neck, her left hand accidentally rested on his hands that were tucked in his belly.  

Prince William and Princess Hillary, riding their horses on top of a small hill near the castle of Nova Iorca, were surrounded by a group of masked men, also in their horses with their swords drawn. The two, who were bickering before the bandits arrived, pulled their swords of out their sheaths the moment one of the men asked Princess Hillary to be handed over.

Who are you? Reveal yourselves”, Hillary demanded forcefully.

"You shall not lay a finger on the princess", William boldly declared. "Not on my watch"

Not one of the men answered. Instead, they inched closer toward the two until their swords touched the two royals’ necks.

Instead of an affirmation, all he got was a full-throated laugh from the Princess.

"The man wants to die ", Hillary said, resentment dripping in her voice. "If so, let him. He needs not to but he is willing to play hero. Let us not begrudge him of such kindness. I am sure that you men would not mind seeing another dead body besides mine"

William did not respond. Instead, he sheathed his sword back. 

"I had a change of heart", William said, his eyes avoiding her stern gaze. He then turned to the men. "If you need to take her, then so be it. I shall not be a hindrance in your mission". 

His eyes then met the deep blue ones, the ones which were begging for an explanation. 

"Farewell, Princess. I'll see you back at the castle, if you're still alive by then", he bid Hillary goodbye.

William kicked his steed and moved away from the Princess. He was easily let go by the armed men. As he left her in the hands of the bandits, Hillary’s hands began to sweat.   

May you live forever, Prince”, Hillary bellowed. It wasn’t a wish of goodwill.

William hadn’t gone far away from them when he pulled his steed, charged right at an armed man and wrestled him to the ground. He landed forcefully on top of the man, surely injuring the man’s ribs. William swiftly pulled his sword and plunged it into the man’s lungs, killing him instantly.

The men were stunned at William’s sudden reversal but they were quick on their feet too. One of the men elbowed Hillary on her stomach, the latter coughing up blood afterwards. However, she wasn’t easily deterred. She swiped her sword at her attacker, leaving a deep, long gash at the chest and throwing him out of his horse. Hillary kicked her steed and ran over the bleeding man, crushing him to death.

William rushed back to Hillary’s side, fending off the rest of the armed men. They held their own, as they were excellent fighters themselves. As they fought men after men, they didn’t realize what a great pair they would make, their attacks synchronized and coordinated with ease. From a handful, the bandits were reduced to two, one for each of them. Their energies were greatly diminished, but their wills weren’t.

So how about that”, Hillary taunted the remaining bandits. “You lost a couple of men to a young boy and girl”.

One of the men grunted in frustration.

Let’s get this over with. You’re wasting our time, vermins. I could have destroyed this girl over here if not for your meddling”, William sneered.

The corner of Hillary’s mouth twitched.

With one loud shriek, one of the men charged towards William. Before the man could swipe his sword at him, he forcefully thrust his sword into the man’s body and twisted it, blood oozing from the wound. When he felt the weight of the man’s body straining his arms, William pushed the man away from him and off his horse, the latter dead before he could touch the hardness of the ground.

Then William heard a bone-chilling scream coming from Hillary. When he turned around he saw that her right arm was bleeding. Panic crept in his bloodstream. He quickly rushed to her defense and as her attacker launched the fatal strike, William shielded Hillary from the deadly sword and received the lethal blow, his stomach enduring the extreme pain.

William woke up from the nightmare, sweating and panting. As soon as his eyes came into focus, he saw the woman who abducted Varvara kneeling in front of him, her face hidden within her hood and her purple eyes were the only distinctive feature that he could see. The glow in her right hand was gone.  

“You!”, he grunted forcefully as he took his sword from his side and pointed it towards the woman, the blade almost touching her neck. “Who are you and what do you want?”

The woman remained silent, her deep purple orbs poring over his blue ones. Something stirred inside both of them, and neither could explain what it was.  Before they knew it, their lips were only inches apart, hot breaths fanning their faces. William could not see the woman’s face, as it was shrouded in darkness, but he could definitely feel that the woman’s cheeks were flushed.

“My name is Hadeshah. You asked me what I wanted. Do you really wanted to know?”, the woman whispered seductively.

“Yes”, William breathed, his deep voice sending a chill down her spine and a pool of wetness between her thighs.  

“Very well”, Hadeshah finger’s crept behind his neck, her fingernails lightly scratching his skin making William’s shaft lightly stir. “You shall know what I want”.

Instead of going for his lips, Hadeshah went for his neck, drinking the hollows of this throat. William gasped at the contact, his sensitive neck appreciating the attention it was receiving. Hadeshah flicked her tongue and nipped at the thin layer of skin, leaving a deep blue mark. Her mouth momentarily detached from his neck as she moistened her fingers. Her hand traveled to his chest, down to his stomach, beneath the covers and into his member. Her small hand gently gripped his hardening shaft, her thumb circling over the head. She tightened her hold a little and slowly, she stroked William, her movements eliciting a low groan from his lips. Hadeshah was desperate to join him, but her will to not fall over was stronger than her desire. She pumped faster as his hips thrusted against her hand, meeting her halfway. In one forceful thrust, William came, his hot spurts soaking her hand and the blanket. Hadeshah pulled her hand from his shaft and inserted her fingers in his mouth, making him suck his own seed. As he licked her hand, her hips swayed involuntarily, her sex jealous of the fingers that was pleasured by his mouth. She withdrew her hand from his mouth and rested it back in his nape, the other in his broad chest.  

William felt her legs shift so he slipped his hand under her dress and between her thighs, the hot wetness palpable from afar. His hand crept further up until he reached her naked core. He cupped her mound and she felt her gasp in his neck. He rubbed her sensitive nub as he slipped a finger inside her, her fingernails scraping his nape and chest. She let out a soft moan as she arched her back in pleasure. Knowing that she was open and ready, William pushed another finger and thrusted into her as deep as his long digits could go. She rode his hand until her muscles clenched, her sweet juices drenching his fingers.

Hadeshah was panting in his shoulder, drunk in complete ecstasy. William touched her back to calm her down. But before he could stroke her, she suddenly vanished, the air instantly becoming chilly.

As William came down from his sensual high, he began to realize the complexity of situation he was in. He kissed a woman who vanished into thin air. He kept seeing visions of Mystic Hillary. And then, he just had a tryst with the woman who was most likely a disciple of Lord Vladimir.   

What did I get myself into?


"Inconceivable!", King John pounded his fist on the table, his face white as a sheet, when he heard William's report.

As soon as William came back from his journey to Flavopietro, he requested an audience with the Council of Elders to report what he saw in the Eye's home. Like the last Council meeting, King John Forbes was not in attendance. He said that he was ill. 

"Now, now, good King, let us not get ahead of ourselves", King Lincoln soothed his agitated colleague. He then turned to William. "Are you sure that what you have said is the truth?"

William nodded. "Yes, my King. I even know the woman's name. It's Hadeshah". 

"How did you...?" King Lincoln was curious as he was flabbergasted.

William scolded himself for revealing such information. "I apologize. I cannot reveal my sources for I could betray their confidence. But if it pleases you, we can command the Seer's staff to ascertain the truth of my testimony". 

Both Kings were stunned at William's suggestion. 

"Preposterous", dismissed King John. "The Staff only obeys Varvara. She created it to only follow her voice". 

"Indeed", King Lincoln seconded. "It's impossible for you to have commanded the Staff of Truth". 

This was the first time William heard of the Staff's unique characteristic. "Perhaps I could demonstrate so that the doubts in your mind will be erased?" William volunteered. 

"Very well", said King Lincoln. He reached for the Staff, laid in the middle of the round table, and handed it to William. "Perhaps you would like to do the honors". 

"Of course, my King". 

William took the Staff from King Lincoln. Just like he did last time, he prayed to the Staff that it show them the truth of Varvara's disappearance. The magical Staff then showed the two kings the same truth it showed William in the forest. The two kings simply watched in silence, their mouths agape in disbelief. 

"This is..this is...", King Lincoln was unable to form a coherent sentencethought. 

"It is indeed obeying the commands of other people", King John remarked. "But why?"

William shrugged his shoulders. "Forgive me, for I do not know the answer to your question". 

"The Staff could be under a spell", said King Lincoln. "Either Varvara ordered it to obey other people's commands, or her captor was cunning enough to realize that we would look for her Staff and they bewitched it to mislead us. The Staff, being a powerful object, could only be bewitched by someone as powerful as a god. Even Mystic Hillary could not control the Staff using her own powers".

"I found the Staff hidden under the ashes", William recalled. "I doubt that Varvara's captor saw it."

"But you did", King John countered. "And according to your story, you found it easily too. It is entirely possible that the captor planted it in a spot where it can be unearthed easily, like near the tree where she lives".

"If Varvara ordered the Staff to obey other people", King Lincoln voiced out his thoughts, "she did so in order to point us to her abductor. If that was true, she must have taken precautions for it not to be seen or taken by evil forces".

King John was thinking hard. His fellow King's explanation seemed to have convinced him. 

"Very well. The Staff isn't tampered, then", King John conceded, then shifted the conversation, "Now, about that mysterious woman. We have never seen her before, nor do we know someone who can breathe purple fire. Is it possible that she is one of Lord Vladimir's sympathizers in Aquilon who are carrying out these attacks alone? Or is she acting on his orders?"

"Both are possible at this point, my King", William replied. "Without knowing who she is, we cannot ascertain the truth at this point. However, the chances of either being true are very high. No one from any of the kingdoms would dare harm Varvara. Any worshipper of Her Eminence Zveda knows that Varvara is to be respected and revered. Therefore, only an acolyte of Lord Vladimir, who despises our goddess, could have done it."

"I suppose you are right", King Lincoln conceded. "But does that mean that Mystic Hillary's mission was still undone? That her sacrifice was all for naught?"

William thought long and hard about his response. During his last meeting with the Council, he had accidently formulated the theory that Lord Vladimir was still out there, biding his time. The recent development did not offer a significant evidence to support his claim. Nevertheless, his gut feeling intensified. He felt damn sure that Lord Vladimir had a hand in Varvara's disappearance.

"My Kings, you know who I suspect was behind all of this, and my opinion was only reinforced by this fresh development. In my mind, there was no doubt that this was an attack ordered by Lord Vladimir himself. "

King John leaned over King Lincoln's shoulder and whispered something to his ear. The latter nodded intently. When King John broke off, he directed his gaze at William.  

"William", King John said, "Lincoln and I need to discuss this. Could you give us a moment?"

"Of course", William stood up from his seat, bowed his head and left the chamber. 

As the two kings deliberated, William leaned his back against the stone wall. He put his hands inside his pockets and felt the small gold earring that sat there the entire time, its existence almost forgotten. He fished the earring out his pocket and admired its intricate design. Surely, he thought, this must belong to Hadeshah. Whoever she was, she must have been wealthy, as only the best smiths in the empire could forge such exquisite jewelry. William considered the possibility that the female acolyte of Lord Vladimir was of influential stature. A noble, or worse, royalty. 

William debated with himself whether to show this evidence to the Kings. In the end, he decided to withhold it from them. There is too much yet unknown about her. Besides, his tryst with the woman might harm his credibility to lead the crusade against Lord Vladimir. After a night of reverie, he vowed never to fall for Hadeshah's advances ever again, as she would clearly use him to advance Lord Vladimir's goals. 

Also, he felt that he betrayed the woman he kissed at the ball when he succumbed to his fleshly desire with Hadeshah. His focus should be with her and not with Hadeshah, despite the undeniable sexual attraction he had with the latter. Hadeshah was a desirableattraction, but a distraction nevertheless. His true goal was the woman who was the dawn to his dusk.

As soon as he returned the earring to his pocket, the door to the chamber opened and King Lincoln emerged. 

"William, can you please come inside now?"

"Yes, my King". 

William returned to his previous seat, anxious to heat the Kings' decision. He straightened himself and rested his hands on table, his fingers wrapped around each other. 

"Well now", King Lincoln began. "John and I constitute the quorum, and whatever John Forbes' vote is will not affect the decision of the Council. We, the Council, have decided to grant you authority to lead the eradication of forces sympathetic to Lord Vladimir. It is the Council's opinion that there are people who are acting on his behalf. Whether or not it is Lord Vladimir himself who is commanding them, we do not know. Thus, we order you to find out whether he is involved. Either way, you are to destroy the evil forces, so that this will not escalate into a full-blown crisis". 

William nodded.  "Thank you, my King", he said. 

"We will give you free rein on this in one condition", King John warned.

"Name it, my King". 

"You will operate in secrecy. Nobody must know of your mission. If the public knew about this, they will certainly be terrified. If we can quietly stop this before it breaks out, then it will be for the better", King John ordered. 

William bowed his head and rested his closed fist on his chest. 

"Understood", he accepted. 

Chapter Text

In the dark depths of Lihvo, Hadeshah was inspecting the army she had built for her Master. It was still a far cry from what his Master commanded before, if not for the meddling of Mystic Hillary. But for the moment, that would do. One step at a time, Hadeshah thought. After their mission the next day, she would have an army large enough to consolidate power for her Master. 

Hadeshah was satisfied to see the force that she had assembled for the past few months. After her inspection, she dismissed the men so that they would be able to get some rest, and proceeded to the cavern where she was supposed to meet with her Master. 

Inside the cavern, she found her Master waiting for her. Her Master, like her, was wearing a black hooded robe with purple fastenings. However, unlike her, his face was clearly seen under the hood, his eyes purple too. 

“Lord Vladimir”, Hadeshah greeted as she bowed to her Master. 

“My faithful servant Hadeshah”, Lord Vladimir replied, “The preparations are complete, I presume?” 

“Yes, my Lord”, she replied, “The men are already resting and ready to strike at dawn”. 

“Very good”, Lord Vladimir praised Hadeshah. “What about John Forbes? Is he under our control yet?” 

Hadeshah nodded. “He is, my Lord. All it took was a little seduction and trickery to make him succumb to my powers. You are sly for formulating such plan, my Lord.

Lord Vladimir chuckled. “Women have always been the weakness of men. Exploit that weakness and we shall be able to attain our goals. Remember that, Hadeshah”. 

“Certainly, my Lord”, Hadeshah replied, her tryst with the disgraced king of Pietro Minore lurking at the back of her mind. The thought of her in his arms made her stomach lurch in anticipation. She would have to be a fool not to admit that the man made her feel pleasure like she never thought was possible. However, she also knew that he was a major hindrance to their plans, and she was uncertain if she could trust herself not to give in to her desire for him. After all, she was just a woman, not an immortal.  

Hadeshah’s thoughts didn’t escape the controlling senses of Lord Vladimir. 

“I see that you were reflecting on what I just said", Lord Vladimir noticed. "I know what you did with that poor excuse of a king".  

Hadeshah remained silent, her thoughts conflicted. 

"I'll have you know, Hadeshah, that I do not approve your fraternization with that meddling fool, and for the time being, I shall deal with him myself. You shall take no action concerning him directly. However, if you can kill him in battle, then you shall be dearly rewarded", Lord Vladimir commanded his lieutenant.  

"Understood, my Lord", Hadeshah conceded, albeit reluctantly.  


Hadeshah took a deep breath and let the heat simmer in her stomach. When she felt the intense heat seeping throughout out her body, she exhaled forcefully, a gargantuan fire blast coming out of her mouth. The flames landed on the giant metal gates of Magnacollis, instantly melting the barrier into a hot, viscous liquid. Many soldiers of Magnacollis who were on the opposite side of the gate were burned and buried alive under the hot melted metal. Still, some were able to escape, but the Magnacollean army was already harshly scalped. 

In a flick of her hand, Hadeshah solidified the melted metal, allowing her and her army to enter the kingdom of Magnacollis without meeting resistance. The remainder of the brave soldiers of Magnacollis clashed with Hadeshah’s fighters, but they there outnumbered and out-armed. Within minutes, Hadeshah and her men had destroyed Magnacollis’ first line of defense. 

“Men, you divide yourselves into fleets of two. The first one will scour the kingdom, take as many male hostages as possible, for we are going make them fight for Lord Vladimir. You may take the women too for your entertainment and pleasure. Take gold and supplies as well, for we are going to need them to sustain our future conquests”, Hadeshah commanded her men.

“The second fleet”, she continued, “will come with me. We will infiltrate the castle of Magnacollis and capture King John Forbes. Kill as many nobles and royalty as possible. Take the servants as they shall be under our employment after Magnacollis falls”. 

“Am I clear, men?”

Hadeshah’s fighters grunted in affirmation. 

“Very well, I shall see you all here at the gates. Come now, soldiers". 

Hadeshah and her men reached the castle of Magnacollis without significant resistance, thanks to her incredible powers. The guards deployed at the castle gates were easily vanquished by Hadeshah's men. So far, things were going according to her plan. 

When Hadeshah entered the throne room, a kneeling and bloodied King John Forbes instantly caught her attention, his hands tied to his back and had multiple swords and spears pointing at him. The king grimaced when he saw the wicked Hadeshah.

"You!", King John Forbes lurched forward, attempting to tackle the woman, but her men successfully pulled him away. "How could you?! Traitor!"

"I have not betrayed anyone, you foolish excuse for a king", Hadeshah fired back, her voice laced with disgust. "I have only been loyal to my Master, Lord Vladimir". 

"You liar!", he screamed, spitting blood out of his mouth  "You fooled us all!". 

"I have no business listening to the babble of a worthless king", Hadeshah dismissed, his rambles getting through her nerves. "Kill him. He has no use for us. I thought I already got him under my influence, but apparently I was mistaken. No matter, no matter. We are fortunate to have known early on that he would be a nuisance to us. We do not have place in our ranks for pathetic men like him". 

Hadeshah's men nodded. Just when one of the men was about to plunge the sword on King John Forbes, a familiar voice emerged from the doorway of the throne room. 

"Stop, I say! You shall not lay a finger on the King!"

Hadeshah spun to look at the owner of the voice. It was William, the disgraced king. He was with a handful of men when he infiltrated the throne room. He and his men immediately went for her soldiers, the throne room echoing with the sounds of clanging swords and spears. While no one was looking, Hadeshah waved her hand to summon her own sword and silently plunged the weapon into King John Forbes, killing the monarch in one stroke. 

William caught sight of the assassination. He finished off the soldier he was fighting and then aimed his attack towards Hadeshah, who managed to put up her sword just in time to prevent him from thrusting his sword into her. 

"You witch!" William hissed at Hadeshah. 

"You vermin!” Hadeshah hissed back. "And a meddling fool! You shall meet your death really soon". 

"Not before yours", he grunted, pushing his sword on to Hadeshah, their faces inching closer.

Hadeshah could not help but notice the little drops of sweat that had formed on Williams’s forehead. Under the darkness of her disguise, Hadeshah licked her lips as if lapping the moisture that had accumulated in the expanse of his face. His blue eyes pored over her purple ones, sending shivers to her core. His face would definitely be a perfect fit against her shoulder, Hadeshah thought.

Her momentary lapse in concentration caused her to weaken her grip on her sword. William charged at her, her sword flying in midair. Hadeshah stepped back to regain her balance. She grunted in frustration as she snuck her elbows into him, hitting him in the stomach. William coughed at the impact. Hadeshah took the split second advantage to run away from William and to snatch her sword from the floor, knocking him in the process. When Hadeshah was able to retrieve her sword, she swiped the blade against William, aiming for his chest.

But Hadeshah never got to slash William as she suddenly felt her sword being stopped in midair as a woman in a white fighting suit, the same one who injured her eye before, suddenly materialized from thin air, vapor and a flash of light accompanying her appearance. The woman was angling her sword against Hadeshah’s, exerting all her energy not to let the wicked woman overpower her.

"You again", Hadeshah snarled. "You shall pay for your interference to my Master's plan".

Beneath her mask, a smirk formed on the woman's lips. 


 William could not believe his eyes. The woman, who he was sure was the same one who kissed him in the pond, came to his rescue. His heart was fluttering, yet confused at the same time. Both women whom he had dallied with - one romantically and one sexually - were both at the same place at the same time, their swords drawn. William wanted nothing more than to stop time and ask them the questions that have been running over in his mind, but of course he could not do that. Especially when the two women were intent on killing each other. 

"You again", William heard Hadeshah snarl. 

William stood up and ran behind Hadeshah and hit the base of her head with his arm, causing the latter to loudly shriek in pain. Hadeshah fell down on her knees, her vision momentarily blurry and her head spinning. She grunted in frustration as she immediately transformed herself into a giant snake, prompting some of William's men to shiver in fear and to escape from the throne room.

Hadeshah hissed before striking at William, aiming to land her poisonous fangs on his body. William was able step back and avoid her attack. His eyes darted sideward and saw that the woman in white was behind Hadeshah, ready to strike the monstrous snake.  

Run to the door. I'll handle this witch, the woman in white said in his thoughts. 

He didn't know how the woman was able to communicate to his thoughts, but he had no intention of violating her command, so he ran to Hadeshah's side and went for the doorway.

Hadeshah noticed that William tried to run away from her, but he was no match to her keen senses. Before he could go any further, she hissed warningly and hit him with her giant snake head, throwing him across the room. His back and skull hit the stone walls with tremendous force, causing him to partially lose his consciousness instantly, blood trickling at the back of his head.


Hashanah gasped in horror as she saw William being thrown across the room and his body hitting the wall violently. She lifted her hand and a large ball of fire emerged from her palm. Hashanah forcefully threw the ball of fire onto Hadeshah, who hissed loudly as the shots of flame burned her scaly skin. Hashanah took the opportunity to rush towards the lifeless form of William, panic rising on her chest.

She almost didn’t notice the tears that swelled in her eyes as she lifted William’s limp body from the floor and rested his head on her lap.

Hashanah placed her hand on top of William and it glowed, stopping the bleeding and the removing pain from his body.


 Somewhere in William’s stupor, he noticed a soft body of a woman gently cradling him. Beneath the tremendous ache in his back and head, he felt her gentle touch slowly alleviating the pain, causing him to sigh in relief. As he buried himself in the woman’s lap, he saw a bright light blinding him underneath his closed eyes.

William heard the door creak open as Hillary emerged from its opening, locking it as soon as she was completely inside the room. Her lips and brows were stern, but her eyes were sad. In fact, they were red and puffy, as if she had cried recently. Hillary marched towards the bed where he was in. He looked away from her and his eyes were gazing the window beside him.

"What were you thinking, Prince?", Hillary asked him, her voice laced with fury. Her hands tightly gripped the sheets on William's bed, her knuckles almost white. "You could have been killed!"

William didn't respond.

"The bandits were after me. No need to infringe with affairs that weren't yours, you meddling fool". Her voice wasn't as upset as before.

Still, nothing from him.

"Or are you trying to curry favor from me? Tell me what you want, and you will be handsomely rewarded. Let that be the end of it", she grappled desperately.

Silence.

"If you die before me, I swear on my grave, I will follow you to the depths of the underworld and run my sword through your rotting body ten times".

William turned his head towards her, his eyes kind and caring. He gently broke Hillary's grip on the sheets and intertwined her fingers with his. He pulled her hand and brought it to his lips to kiss her soft skin.

"I love you too, Hillary", he replied softly.

William heard her breath hitch and felt her hand stiffen under his touch. She wasn't looking at him, but at the window which he had been gazing at earlier. She tried her best to hide her emotion, but it was evident to William that her resistance was crumbling under the weight of her affections for him, which she tried her best to deny and pretend that never existed.

William removed his hand from her and reached to cup her face, his fingers gently rubbing her cheek. Hillary relaxed under his touch as her lips followed his thumb, desperately wanting to kiss it. When she finally does, William found it to be the most erotic sight in the world.

"Join me", he pulled her gently.

Without another word, Hillary climbed on the bed to join him, resting her head on his shoulder and wrapping his stomach with her arm. William removed her head from his shoulder and rested it on the left side of his chest, her ear pressed against his exposed skin.

"Listen, carefully. Did you hear that? That's the sound of my heart beating".

It was her turn to remain silent.

"And I promise you, from now own, these heartbeats will only belong to you, as you are the reason why my blood keeps rushing through my veins, why air keeps going through my lungs, why my heart keeps pounding", William declared.

Hillary looked up at him, her eyes glistening.

"I would kill to have you now, Hillary", he said, referring to her letter. "I do not want to wait in another lifetime, for we may have none".

William dipped his head to meet her lips in a heated kiss, pouring out their affections in their mouths. Her intensity exceeded his, finally letting out the emotions she kept at bay. He was caught off guard when she hooked her leg against his thigh, her knee brushing over his crotch.

When the broke off to catch some air, neither said a word. Frankly, none was necessary as there was nothing else needed to be said.

Hillary shifted so that she was cradling William, his head resting on her bosom. Their positions were reversed.

"Hear that?", she said. "In this life or the next, only you will hold ownership to this. If I would be sent to the underworld for this crime that we are about to commit, then so be it. This heart will still beat for you. Only yours"

That moment, tears gently streamed in William's face. He had never felt so braver in his entire life.

“Hillary”, a half-conscious William mumbled, his eyes still closed. “Hillary…stay…with me…”

His hand weakly reached for the woman’s chest, desperate to feel her beating heart. When his hand rested on the left side of her chest, he felt her heart race. He then slowly took the woman’s hand and placed it on his heart, his faint beats a huge contrast to her strong ones.

“Remember…these…will always…be yours”, he said in between his labored breathing. He felt drops of hot tears drench the back of his hand.

William slipped into unconsciousness as he was magically carried off away from the deadly throne room.

Chapter Text

Hashanhah, along with an unconscious William, magically appeared inside the Castle of Nova Iorca, in the empty bedroom of the little girl Chelsea. The former king's injuries were already healed, but he was still very weak. Hashanah pulled William's unconscious body from the floor towards the base of Chelsea's bed, draining much of her energy.

Despite his injures being completely healed, he lost a lot of blood, a vast amount of which stained his clothes. One by one, Hashanah gently removed the pieces of his armor, and then finally his shirt, leaving only his pants as his body covering. Once he was rid of his constraints, Hashanah pulled William on top of the bed and gently laid the pillow beneath his head, making sure he was lying comfortably. She sat beside him and lightly stroked his forehead, causing him to stir a little, but then he returned to his unconscious state. 

Hashanah looked around. Everything seemed to be in order. Nobody was there. The coast was clear. 

Slowly, Hashanah leaned forward and planted a soft, light kiss in between his eyebrows.

Oh how she wished that moment lasted forever. How she wished that she could turn the clock, back to the time when everything was simple and carefree. 

When she was about to leave, she was stunned to see Chelsea watching her from the doorway. 

"Little Chelsea...I...I....", Hashanah stammered, her cheeks blushing. 

Chelsea happily approached Hashanah and hugged her hips. "It's great to see you, Hashanah". 

Hashanah was relieved that Chelsea chose not to ask questions. "How are you, my little butterfly?"

"I am doing fine, thank you", Chelsea said. She leaned her head sidewards to take a peek at the man who was sleeping on her bed. "Who is he?"

"That man?", Hadeshah replied. "That man is you fa...”, Hadesha caught herself, “I mean, he was a former king. His name is William. And he was gravely injured from battle". 

"Poor him", Chelsea pitied the unconscious man. "Is he going to be alright?" 

Hashanah nodded and smiled. "He is, my love. In fact, you can help him get better". 

"How?", the little girl asked, eager to help the stranger in her bed. 

Hashanah led Chelsea towards the bed to gaze at William.

"My smart little girl, you can guard the good man while he's sleeping. Do you think you can do that, little butterfly?", Hashanah gently challenged Chelsea. 

Chelsea nodded. “Yes, you can count on me. I’ll take good care of him”

“Very good”, Hashanah praised the little girl. “When he wakes up, bring him to King Hugo or to Queen Dorothea. Is that understood?”

“Alright”. Hashanah knelt to kiss Chelsea on the temple. “I’ll be on my way, love. I’ll see you again tonight. Take care of yourself”.

“Good bye, Hashanah”, Chelsea waved. “I’ll see you soon. Take care too”

“I will”.

In an instant, Hashanah transformed into a butterfly, glowing and fluttering in the air, and flew away from the little girl’s bedroom.


 The warm rays of the sun kissed William’s skin, its light almost blinding him as he woke up the next day. He stretched his arms and legs, the soft chirps of the birds tickling his ear. As he gazed around his unfamiliar surroundings, he immediately noticed the little girl sleeping beside him, her face as serene as a calm sea in the morning. For reasons William could not explain, he felt his heart race as he caressed the girl’s face.

When he sat on the edge of the bed, he suddenly became aware that he was not wearing his shirt. His armor had gone missing too. He looked around and saw his garment and weapons neatly deposited at the wooden shelf across the room. He stood up and checked his possessions. Nothing was lost, he sighed in relief. As a matter of fact, his shirt, which he was sure was severely stained with his blood, was spotless. He wondered who was responsible for all of this. 

William tried to recall the events that had occurred before he passed out. He remembered charging in the throne room, along with his men, and seeing King John Forbes being assassinated by Hadeshah. He recalled her transforming into a large, terrifying snake and throwing him across the room, causing him to hit his back and head against on the wall. He winced at the memory, his hand subconsciously touching his neck. He recalled being in tremendous pain and then being saved by the same mysterious woman who had kissed him and who he had been searching for ever since.

That woman. Oh how he felt relieved and confused when he saw her instantly appear in front of him to deflect Hadeshah’s sword from being plunged into his body. At that time, he wanted nothing more than to pull her away and to ask the questions that kept him up at night but it was not the time for that. Not only was the woman beautiful – her blue eyes especially so – she was incredibly brave too. When Hadeshah, in her serpentine form was occupied, the beautiful woman in white urged him to run away to safety, completely ignoring her own.

And then there’s the vision, the one that was clearest among all of the ones he had so far. He saw himself lying in a bed when Mystic Hillary, who looked like she had just cried, entered the room and berated him for his carelessness. But all of her coldness towards him melted away when he said the three words he never imagined he would tell the then-princess: I love you. After the seeing the vision, he could not remember what happened afterwards. The next thing he knew, he was waking up next to the little girl. 

As more visions occurred to William, the more confused he got.  Each of them – the masked ball, the letter and the battle on the hill – seemed to have happened in the past since he saw younger versions of him and Mystic Hillary. However, William could not recall having such memories, and he was sure that those episodes would have been significant enough to be retained in his memory.  

For the first time since the visions started, it occurred to him that his memories might have been tampered. He was not sure if that was even plausible or what would it mean if his memories were indeed altered, but he floated the idea nevertheless.


 William left the girl’s bedroom and explored the place. He became aware that he must have been inside the castle of Nova Iorca as he had been there for Mystic Hillary’s last rites.

Realizing where he was, William decided to seek an audience with King Hugo. He needed to inform anyone with authority about the death of King John Forbes and the fall of Magnacollis to the hands of the hostile forces. He wasn’t sure if anyone from the Council was already made aware of the dire development.

Thankfully, he ran across into Queen Dorothea, who was puzzled as to why he was inside the castle. He explained to the Queen that he was fighting in Magnacollis before he woke up in a little girl’s bedroom.

“Little girl? You mean dear Chelsea?”, Queen Dorothea tried to clarify.

“I don’t know who she was. She was sleeping when I woke up next to her”, William explained. So, the little girl’s name was Chelsea. He made a note of it in his mind.

“Chelsea is the little girl left at the doorstep of our servants when she was still a baby”, Queen Dorothea explained, “nobody knew who her real parents are, but our servants were kind enough to take her in. My daughter Hillary took a liking to the child and permitted her to live in the castle. I too have been enamored to the little girl so I have taken guardianship over Chelsea, as I can provide for her better”.

“I see”, William nodded. His intrigue over Chelsea only multiplied.

Queen Dorothea shifted the conversation back to his request to seek audience with her son. “I have to admit that your story is quite hard to believe. I’m sorry I cannot permit you to see my son, as I am convinced that your efforts to make your case will be futile”, she declared with finality. “However, you are welcome to stay in here for as long as you like. Feel free to make use of our castle and servants”.

William bowed at the Queen, deciding not to overturn her decision. He did, however, take her permission to make use of their servants.

Once he was out of the Queen’s sight, he called a handmaiden to assist him.

“What is it, my Lord?”, asked Huma, a young handmaiden.

“I need the assistance of two messengers. Send them to me, if you please”, he requested.

“Certainly, my Lord”.

In a matter of minutes, two pages were sent to him. He wrote three letters, one to King John of Arizoana, another to King Lincoln of Meridia Carolinnes and the last one was to his brother, King Roger. The first two letters were notifying the kings of the death of King John Forbes and the fall of Magnacollis. The third letter was informing his brother that he was spared from the war and he was safe in Nova Iorca. In all of the letters, he chose not to disclose how he was able to escape to Nova Iorca, in case the letter fell into the wrong hands.

Now that he had accomplished his official duty, William had set to fulfill his duty to himself next.


William found Chelsea’s whereabouts through Queen Dorothea, who told him that her favorite spot was a tree inside the castle grounds. Chelsea, according to the Queen, used to sit under said tree with Mystic Hillary when she was still alive. Even after the Regent’s death, Chelsea still chose to seek refuge there.

He saw the little girl napping under the cool shade of the tree. William could not help but feel all the troubles melt away as he gazed at Chelsea’s face. Somehow, he could understand why Mystic Hillary had a special connection to her. The girl had a capability to tear his heart and mend it at the same time.

Without thinking, he sat next to Chelsea. Chelsea’s sleepy head drooped to his arm. He didn’t shy away from the sudden contact to his skin. Instead, he gently placed her head on his lap. Chelsea quietly mumbled as she rested on his thigh, tugging his heart a little.

William simply watched Chelsea sleep. He caught himself wanting to stroke her hair, hesitating to do so. But in the end, the urge to take care of the little girl overtook him.

After a while, Chelsea started to move. She yawned as she opened her eyes and found herself in the lap of the man she was delegated to watch over. She quickly sat up, stunned to find the man beside her.

William chuckled at her reaction, finding it very adorable. “Hello, Chelsea”.

Chelsea’s eyes were wide in shock. “You...you know my name?”

He nodded. “Indeed. Queen Dorothea told me. She also told me that I could find you here”.

She tried to distance herself from him. “I...I always stay in this tree”. 

He sensed the fright and distrust in Chelsea’s heart, so he tried to approach her slowly. “I can see why. It’s cool in here”.

“My Mama Hillary cast a spell on it”, she said.

There it was. Chelsea finally volunteered the information William was looking for.

“Is that so?”, William was interested to hear more. “She did a great job with it”.

Chelsea began to accustom herself with William. “She was very good to me”.

“Yes, I can tell”, he agreed.

The little girl nodded, a smile slowly forming in her lips. “She was the best”.

“I also think she was the best”, William said, though he was unsure if he was lying, “she was very brave and very strong”.

Chelsea was genuinely heartened to hear another person admire her Mama. “I love her so much”.

“And I think she loves you as well”, he told the absolute truth.

“Hashanah is right”, she said. “You are a nice man”.

“Who?” William never heard of that name before.

“Hashanah is the fairy my Mama sent to protect me”, Chelsea answered.

“What does she look like?”, William probed further.

“She looks like my Mama. But she isn’t my Mama”, Chelsea explained. “She says my Mama’s still alive”.

William tried to appear nonchalant, despite his shock over what Chelsea just said.

“But if she looks like your Mama”, William asked, “how come she’s not your Mama?”

Chelsea looked up at him to meet his eyes.

“I know she’s telling the truth. She’s not my Mama”, Chelsea said.

“Do you believe her?”, William challenged Chelsea’s belief.

She nodded. “I do”.

As much as William wanted to believe Chelsea, he could not simply rely on a little girl’s belief. However, he admired her unshakable faith. Ah, the faith and optimism of the youth. William wished he could share Chelsea’s worldview despite the cynicism that he acquired over the years. He used to have the same indomitable faith Chelsea had, but he was hurt and disappointed time and time again that he gave up on putting too much faith – in the world, in himself – so that he won’t be disappointed.

“Are you alright, King William?” asked a worried Chelsea, breaking his reverie. 

“How did you know my name?”, William was surprised to learn. 

“Hasnhanah told me", she explained. "She told me when you were still sleeping. She also told me to watch over you". 

So it was Hashanah too who transported William to Nova Iorca and into Chelsea's bedroom. "Did she?"

Chelsea nodded. "Yes. Though I wasn't able to obey her since I fell asleep". 

William chuckled, finding Chelsea very smart and adorable. Little by little, he was starting to enjoy her company. "I think you did a good job, little girl. I have a feeling that you stood beside and watched while I was unconscious instead of visiting this tree yesterday". 

Chelsea nodded again. "I did". 

"Then let me show you my gratitude for being very patient and kind to me", William said. "Would you like a hug?"

"I do! Whenever I hug my Mama, I always feel better", Chelsea said excitedly. 

"Then I hope you feel better when I hug you too", William opened his arms to the little girl. 

Chelsea threw herself towards him, her arms squeezing him as tightly as possible. 

Gradually, William felt the tension and the confusion in his heart melt away. On the first day of his new life, he was given the gift of being introduced to this loving little girl. All of the darkness that haunted him before - his grave sins, the subsequent punishment, his deep sleep and reawakening - became all meaningless and insignificant. At that moment, the only thing that mattered was that there was a soul existing who would not judge him for his sins and flaws, nor his stature or accomplishment. That kind soul did not hesitate to welcome him in her heart. Though he was privileged to have known Chelsea, he still felt unworthy next to her, a small and helpless child. 

A king humbling to an insignificant little girl. 

When William broke away from Chelsea, his tears had already formed in his eyes. It did not escape the little girl's attention. 

"You're crying", she noted. "Are you sad?"

William shook his head, holding Chelsea's hand. "No, I am not. In fact, I am happy to have known someone like you. I now understand why your Mama loves you so much. You are very easy to like and love, little girl". 

Then it was Chelsea's turn to tear up.

"I don't know who my real Mama or Papa is. But I am lucky that Mama Hillary loved me like her own daughter. If I could meet my real Papa, I wish he would be like you”, Chelsea teared up on his shoulder.

William thought he wasn’t deserving to become anyone’s father, not with all the sins that he had committed. But if he would be blessed with a daughter, he prayed that she would be like Chelsea too.

 

Chapter Text

William, hiding behind a large curtain inside Chelsea’s bedroom, watched Hashanah lull the little girl to sleep. As he was observing the two, he could not help but note the apparent closeness between the two. It seemed that the affections Chelsea had for Mystic Hillary were transferred to Hashanah. He could not blame Chelsea, though. The woman looked exactly like the Regent and her actions and mannerisms were too. It was as if Mystic Hillary never left.

Chelsea was completely asleep, Hashanah stood up and walked towards the large curtain. William’s heart raced, afraid that she was aware of his presence. As she closed in on him, William pressed himself harder on the wall, as if there was any place he could go to, his eyes tightly shut. He then felt a soft tugging of the curtain as the soft light from the moon suddenly filled his eyes, himself already exposed to the suspecting woman.

“What are you doing here?” Hashanah whispered angrily.

“I...”, William was apologetic. “I came to see you”.

Hashanah was surprised by his response. “Why?”

“I wanted to thank you for saving my life. If it was not for you, Hadeshah could have killed me”, he told her.

Hashanah looked away and simply nodded. She was not too eager to reminisce those terrible events.

“I also have another reason to see you”

“What is it?”, Hashanah met his eyes, unsure if she wanted to continue this conversation.

“You kissed me in the ball, didn’t you?” It wasn’t a question.

She responded to him with stiff silence.

“Each time I see you, I see a vision of myself and Mystic Hillary”, he said. “Tell me, is all of it real? Why would I have a relationship with the woman who treated me like an enemy? Why? I demand an answer from you”

Again, Hashanah’s lips were tightly shut. She turned from him and tried to escape. She walked away as fast as her legs could carry her, away from Chelsea’s bedroom. He followed her, almost skipping.

“Please wait!” William called her as quietly as he could but she didn’t stop.

At the end of the corridor, Hashanah opened a door to her right and entered the room. It was a small library. William

feared that she would get away and ran towards her, through the door and into the room.

But before she could walk further, his hand landed on her elbow as she pulled away from his firm grip, grunting in between.

And that moment, another vision presented itself to both of them.

Hillary eagerly pulled William towards the top of the hill. It was the same one where both of them were almost killed in the hands of the bandits. Hillary felt him tense in her hand as they climbed on top the hill. She squeezed his hand, wanting to let him know that she felt his pain.

Why did you bring us here?” William asked. “This place brings terrible memories”

Hillary cupped his face and tiptoed to kiss him. “That´s exactly the same reason why I brought us here”.

Can you please elaborate?”

It’s not only you who was traumatized on this hill, my love”, Hillary pressed her hand deeper in his cheek. “I was too. I thought I was going to die, and I was terrified. But the thought of losing you was more so. I do not want this hill to bear a terrible memory for us, so I thought we would make a special one”

There is nothing in this hill but death and devastation”, William said, his forehead meeting hers.

Hillary shook her head. “No. There is also life and love. If we would allow it, we can overcome death.”

William held her hands in his cheeks. “I would gladly die for you, Hillary”,

Please don’t say that. You don’t really mean that”, said Hillary, her voice shaking and her eyes glistening.

But I do”William affirmed. “You are worth living and dying for”.

If you would die for me”, her thumb traced the side of his cheek, “then let me die for you too”.

We will die together”, William said breathlessly, his knees beginning to shake.

Hillary pulled him by his collar and kissed him, withdrawing her hand from t his face and wrapping it around the back of his neck. She felt him groan against her lips as he grabbed her towards him and deepened the kiss. Hillary let herself drown in his caresses, opening her heart and soul to him. He wanted nothing more in the world than to join her – to truly be with her – but he feared that he might push her into something that she wasn’t prepared for.

When they mutually broke apart to gasp for air, William pushed her gently away from him.

Hillary”, he panted, “you know I love you and I desire you. But As much as I want all of you…we can’t go further…”

Hillary silenced him with another desperate kiss.

Yes, we can”, she said in between kisses. “I want you to take me right here. This hill will be the witness to our love, the love that will conquer death. The love that will defy gods and men. The love that is stronger than anything else in the universe”

William was overwhelmed by her bold declaration. He never knew the magnitude of her love for him until then. He felt insignificant and an unworthy recipient of her love.

You have an incredible capacity to love”, he said. “Maybe another man will be more worthy of your affections”.

No”, she said. “You will not decide who is worthy of my love and who is not. It is only I who could make that judgment, and I deem you the only man worthy of me”.

William could not believe his incredible luck. The most beautiful, kind, brave, intelligent, resilient woman was in love with him.

Alright”, he finally relented. “You shall have me. And I, you. I swear on the constant sun, moon and stars that I will always, always love you”.

Hillary was elated to hear those words him. She felt that she could float in complete happiness.

William kissed Hillary gently and tenderly, letting himself enjoy the soft warmth her lips. Hillary responded with the same intensity, if not more so, and it wasn’t long until their mouths opened and their tongues began to dance. William could not get enough of the sweetness of her lips; he feared he could not live without that addicting taste afterwards.

Hillary’s hands traveled from his chest to his neck, pulling him impossibly close. She could not get enough of his taste, his scent, his spirit. Her knees were almost weak from excitement. Hillary was usually the one who had a steelier resolve between them. But at that time, hers was as fragile as sand.

She closed her eyes as his lips left hers and made its way in to her neck, down to her collarbone. She felt ticklish at the contact, causing her to giggle. William loved the sound of her soft chuckles, his heart always bursting whenever he heard such divine melody.

His hands soon accompanied his probing lips. His large palms covered her soft bosom, kneading it like a soft pillow and making her moan in deep bliss. She pushed herself towards his gentle, firm hands, wanting more of the attention he was pouring on her.

Come with me”, she murmured in his hair.

She pulled him with her as she knelt down on the soft grass. He went down with her, his ministrations uninterrupted. Once they were close to the ground, she grasped a handful of his shirt and lay her back on the surface, taking him with her. He was secretly thrilled at her boldness.

When she could no longer take the pleasurable sensation she was receiving, she finally gave in and arched her back to give him more access to her soft flesh.

I want to...” he tried to speak.

Go ahead...” she read his mind.

One of his hands went further south, down her stomach and into her thigh. He ran his hand through the entire length of her leg, asking for permission. She bent her legs as if saying yes. His hand traveled to the edge of her skirt and gently pulled it up to her waist, her lower body completely exposed. The cool breeze kissed her thighs and core, alleviating the heat in her body a little.

Wait”, she told him.

He did as she commanded him. She propped herself up to reach her waist and pulled her dress off her body, tossing the discarded garment to her side. His eyes drank the divine sight in front on him, his pupils instantly darkening.

She smirked at the immediate reaction she caused him. Her pointer finger slowly trailed from his chest up to his neck and on to his chin, his head tilting in submission.

Your turn, Prince”, she commanded huskily.

He was too willing to oblige. Not breaking his eye contact with her, he untied the strings of his shirt and grabbed her hands, pulling them towards the hem of his garment. Her hands were almost shaking as she lifted her unnecessary barrier, his upper body completely uncovered.

His hands went back to her bosom and pushed her back towards the soft ground, his body accompanying hers. His head roamed above her left breast, eagerly admiring her soft pink peaks. He leaned down and his tongue flicked her nipple, while his hand pinched the other one.

She twitched at his sudden move, a soft moan escaping her lips. His mouth closed on her breast, licking and sucking the supple flesh while his hand was firmly massaging the other. His combined ministrations were overwhelming her sensitive nerves, drowning her in complete ecstasy.

His free hand decided to be more playful as it roamed above her wet and heated center. The cool gust of wind cannot reduce the heat that was emanating from her core. His hand gently rested on her entrance, his thumb teasing her hard nub. Her hips thrust at the immediate contact, her body feeling his heightened arousal in his breeches.

Soon , his thumb started circling at her bud, and she loved it. Her breathing became uneven and her movements erratic as he stepped up his ministrations, the friction between their bodies causing their arousal to intensify.

She felt his frustration at his breeches, its presence becoming increasingly unnecessary. Her hand reached to the band of his trousers and tried to pull it away from his body. Once his garment was down on his rear, her foot completed the deed and took his remaining garment out of his body, her breast feeling his sigh of relief.

He ceased from his ministration as he looked up from in between her twin peaks. “I want to taste you”.

She simply nodded, unable to form a coherent thought.

His lips left a trail of kisses, from her soft breasts down to her flat stomach until to her unadulterated mound. He licked his lips in anticipation and dived down to her dripping entrance, her sweet, sweet nectar filling his taste buds. He sucked and nipped the lips of her inflamed flesh, his tongue swiping her drenched slit.

Her breathless sighs crescended into throaty moans, her hips gyrating in circles. He kept his delicious assault on her sex, pressure slowly building in her stomach, until one long swipe on her entrance finally washed off the pleasure all over her body, her jaw clenching at the intensity. She could only shout out his name as she rode the waves of her release, his tongue still lapping at her wetness.

He released her, his eyes nearly black as he looked at her. He stroked himself as he watched his lover come down from her sensual high, her eyes fluttering.

He leaned over her, his arms on either side of her body. She simply looked at him, dazed and drunk in pleasure.

I need you…please...”, he murmured.

I need you too”, she said, spreading her legs to welcome him home.

He wrapped his hand around his hardened shaft, carefully guiding the tip to her opening. Slowly, he pushed himself inside her, gradually breaking her maidenhead and sliding inside her completely. He felt her tense and tighten around him as blood trickled in her entrance. She winced in pain, tears springing from her eyes. In the midst of his immense pleasure, his heart broke at her suffering.

I am so sorry”, his hand reached her face to wipe her tears. “I didn’t mean to hurt you”.

It’s alright”, she consoled him. “You have already bled for me. Let me do the same for you”.

Thinking quickly, he began to kiss her neck and face, moving down to her breasts. She focused on his ministrations, and eventually the pain in her center began to ebb, and then feeling nothing but amazing fullness.

Please go on”, she urged him.

He nodded as he pulled himself out of her slowly, biting his lip at the feeling of her tight wetness around his member. He pulled out completely before pushing back in, her hips rolling at the delicious friction. A small moan escaped her lips. He took it as her permission to continue.

He set a steady pace, thrusting inside her firmly. As he went on, he felt her relax and moisten around his member. His movements gradually quickened, her hips matching his thrusts as she felt another release building inside her.

Harder” she demanded breathlessly.

I...am yours...to...command” William struggled to speak as he obeyed her. 

He groaned as he forcefully thrusted into her, each push eliciting a cry of pleasure from her lips. He could feel his own release building inside him, and he prayed that he would not end this tryst prematurely.

And then, her muscles started to clench, signaling that she was about to come. And when she did, t he tightness and the heat around him intensified a hundredfold. Her walls clamped down on him, finally forcing him to release himself inside her, a triumphant roar escaping his lips.

He convulsed over her, his hands clenching the grass tightly as his release left him winded. She was still in the throes of her own release too, milking him for all he was worth and running her nails harshly along his back.

As his breathing came back to normal, his heart felt like it was soaring across the skies, devoid of all the anguish and fears that terrorized him the last time he was at that same hill.

She offered herself to him, and she became completely his. Nothing could ever erase that irrevocable truth.

William came back to his senses as he felt Hashanah’s lips pleasuring his solid shaft, his eyelids fluttering at the immense sensation. He found himself backed against the wall, an ethereal goddess going down on him. The sight only made him harder, if that was even possible. He quivered when she licked him slowly, from the base all the way to the tip. His large hands traveled to her head and grasped a handful of her braided hair as she began to draw him into her mouth in earnest, a litany of exclamations flying out of him.

Absorbed in pure ecstasy, he pushed himself into the back of Hashanah’s mouth. Instead of pulling back, she only moved forward. Deciding that she needed to breathe, Hashanah took out him out of her mouth and then flicked her tongue on his head.

Her sweet, loving mouth possessively drew him into an intense, desperate release. Hashanah settled herself between him as his liquid eruption splashed all over her tongue, drinking everything that William could give. He collapsed against the wall, his chest heaving at the intense release.

William pulled Hashanah up from her knees and kissed her deeply, tasting his own essence in her mouth. His snaked his hand to her center but she stopped him from moving further.

“No”, Hashanah shook her head.

“But why?”, he asked. “I want to pleasure you”.

“I cannot”, she reasoned. “I would be betraying a certain someone if I’d allow you to”.

William was confused. “Who?”

“Hillary”, Hashanah said.

“But you’re Hillary”, William said. “I felt the same way with Hillary in the vision as I am feeling with you right now. I now know that everything that I saw in the visions – they were real. Real as you and me”.

Hashanah simply shook her head, her eyes glistening.

William suddenly remembered Chelsea’s words. She too denied Hashanah was Hillary.

Without removing her gaze to him, Hashanah waved gently her hand and an invisible shield appeared around them, their conversation protected within the perimeter of the shield.

“I am not Hillary”, she said. “She...before she fought Lord Vladimir, she sent me to protect you and Chelsea”.

“How would I know that you’re not really her?”, he wanted to know once and for all. “What if you’re just lying? There’s no proof that you aren’t her”.

“Because the real Hilary could have removed the curse she placed upon you. I couldn’t”.

William broke his gaze from her, disappointed with what he just heard, but Hashanah held his face and gently turned it back to hers, as if begging him to believe her.

“Hillary…she was beyond devastated when she heard that you were captured by Lord Vladimir and was put into a deep sleep. She wasn’t sure if she was the one who could give that true love's kiss, as she did not know whether you still loved her after all that had happened. But she did try to kiss you before she battled Lord Vladimir. When you woke up, she was deeply touched that you still love her, even though you didn't know it."

“But why?” he wanted her to answer. “Why did I forget? Did I hurt her? Please tell me”. He was desperate for answers. He needed to know. He feared what Hashanah might say, as he could not forgive himself if he had ever hurt Hillary, but he must know. If he indeed had hurt her, he must face the consequences of his own guilt.

Hashanah fought back the tears that were threatening to fall.

“You…you’ll know in due course”, she replied tearfully. “I wish I could tell you everything right now, but I can’t. Not before my mission is complete”.

William bit his lip and bowed his head down, disappointed that she did not reveal the truth that he was desperate to seek, and instead forcing himself to be content with what was revealed to him.

“If you must know”, she added, “Hillary is alive. She’s not dead as believed. The kings thought wrong when they didn’t find her body. But please do not let another soul know of this secret. Otherwise, Hadeshah might use that knowledge against us”.

“I understand”, he whispered.

“Thank you”.

William held Hashanah’s face and wiped her tears with his hand, Hashanah’s invisible shield melting around them. She held him dearly, appreciating his kind gesture. In a split second, Hashanah transformed into a butterfly and hovered around William for quite some time. He opened his palm and the butterfly landed on top of it as if to say goodbye. William smiled in acknowledgment and it fluttered away from him.

As he watched the enchanted creature fly away into the night sky, another realization dawned into him, as if he was slapped in the face.

The Regent was not supposed to fall in love.


Thousands of miles away from Nova Iorca in the dark depths of Lihvo, Hadeshah closed her eyes as her belly flipped with rage and jealousy at the vision Varvara, who was under her control, had shown in front of her. Despite Hashanah's effort to keep their conversation secret, Hadeshah managed to infiltrate them and listen to the revelations. Her suspicions were confirmed: The woman in white, Hashanah, was Mystic Hillary's alter ego, and the Regent herself was alive. Ever since Hashanah saved little Chelsea from her, Hadeshah thought that she was somehow connected to Mystic Hillary, as the latter was known to be deeply caring and protective of the little girl. Hadeshah also suspected that Mystic Hillary was alive because of the unusual coincidence of the missing Regent's body and the absence of the red moon, which signifies the birth of the next Regent.

But what was consuming her more was the affection William gave to Hashanah. How dare that filthy succubus touch the man she desired. She clenched her fist in rage, her sharp fingernails piercing her palm causing her blood to trickle.

Hadeshah felt powerless under her Master’s command not to fraternize with William. She must obey his word, or else face his wrath. However, he never said anything about that interfering wench. Hadeshah smirked as she formulated a plan to get back at Hashanah and to get rid of her once and for all.

That whore would regret the day she crossed me, Hadeshah thought.

Chapter Text

 

Hadeshah formulated her plan to take down Hashanah and the little girl Chelsea as she walked towards the cave where her Master resided. The two women, whose continued existence was already causing trouble, were connected by a bigger nuisance the biggest of them all - Mystic Hillary. Being a clever tactician, Hadeshah thought of taking down the easier targets first. However, she did not have as much time to spare. William, who knew that Mystic Hillary was alive, would surely scour the entire Aquilon for any trace of missing Regent.

Hashanah should be eliminated first, she thought. William could be distracted through another diversion. Once both William and Hashanah were out of the way, she would be free to take little Chelsea and dispose of her once and for all, as her Master wished. As little as she was, Chelsea posed the same threat to them as Mystic Hillary herself, Lord Vladimir warned. Hashanah asked her Master as to why Chelsea needed to be eliminated, but he would not answer. He simply insisted that she would be as troublesome for them as Mystic Hillary. The little girl should not be allowed to live any longer.  

When Hadeshah arrived at Lord Vladimir's cave, she was surprised to see a body, glowing in purple and lying on top of a stone surface which was not present the last time she was there. Behind the stone surface was Lord Vladimir himself, his palm hovering above the body. As Hadeshah came closer, she began to recognize the face that was attached to the body - the one belonging to the man she just killed, King John Forbes. 

"My Lord, may I know what this is?" she demanded an explanation. 

"Patience, my loyal lieutenant" Lord Vladimir said. "I have decided to revive King John Forbes and control him. You were too quick to use your sword. I admire your killer instincts but you need to restrain them a little. He could be very useful for us”

"How so, my Lord?" Hadeshah wasn't entirely happy with her Master's decision. "He managed to escape my control and..."

"You should have delivered him to me" Lord Vladimir interrupted her, his voice laced with impatience. "My powers are superior to yours. I can control him much better than you".

"Aye, my Lord. You are right, I am weak" Hadeshah conceded. “But, how will this man be able to help us with our plans?”

Lord Vladimir chuckled, his laugh very sinister. "I know what you are planning, Hadeshah, and I must say that it's brilliant. You can use John Forbes as a distraction for William while you engage Hashanah and the pesky little girl. Besides, their rivalry sprang way back to their youth. I am sure they will not mind fighting each other once in a while"  

"But what about Mystic Hillary, Master? What if she comes back?" asked a worried Hadeshah.  

Lord Vladimir laughed again. "Do not worry about her. I shall take care of her myself. The sooner you execute your plan, the sooner I can get rid of Hillary. Your success is detrimental to mine. Do not fail".

"Understood, my Lord" she said. 

Beneath the hood, Hadeshah cackled as she took pleasure at the thought of killing Hashanah, her lust for the latter's blood almost rivaling her lust for William. 


Back in Arizoana, William had met with Kings John and Lincoln after the news of the fall of Magnacollis had reached them. The two were stunned at Hadeshah’s swiftness to organize and deploy an army that was strong enough to topple an entire kingdom. William, on behalf of the Council, hadn’t completed his investigation and yet she was able to launch a surprise attack that left Magnacollis and the rest of Aquilon devastated.

“She is not to be underestimated ever again” an agitated King John pounded his fist on the table. “It was a mistake for us to do so in the first place”

“She was unknown to us back then” King Lincoln reasoned, his eyes closed, “even if we expedited our actions, she still would have been ahead of us. Her existence was well hidden by Lord Vladimir.”

“I agree with that assessment” seconded William. “There was no way for us to have prevented this. She was two steps ahead of us. Besides, Hadeshah herself is an expert fighter and tactician”.

“What do you mean?” King Lincoln sought to clarify.

“She was probably the most skilled warrior I have ever fought with” William recalled, burying the still fresh trauma beneath the stoic voice. “She was swift, cunning and ruthless. A perfect general for Lord Vladimir. I have never seen any person who possesses such skill. And let us not forget that Hadeshah has magical powers too. I have seen it with my own eyes. Her powers are comparable to Mystic Hillary’s. Lord Vladimir probably granted them to her”.

The other two kings sighed in despair. William, however, remained hopeful despite the dire future.

“How can we destroy Lord Vladimir’s general?” King John implored, “If what you say is true, then the only person who can vanquish Hadeshah is…”

“A god” William finished. “The only person who could beat Hadeshah is a god”.

“Oh merciful Zveda” King Lincoln lamented, looking up to the ceiling and raising his hands as if begging the goddess, “How can we defeat that menace?".

“There is someone who could” William said. “A warrior, whose skills and powers rival those of Hadeshah’s”

The two kings were taken aback.

“Who?” King Lincoln asked.

“Give us his name!” King John demanded, pounding his fist on the table again.

 “Her name is Hashanah” William said calmly. “She was sent by Mystic Hillary herself”.

King John almost stood up from his seat as King Lincoln covered his mouth in shock.

“That is preposterous! How could the divine Regent have sent her?” King John was indignant.

“Before Mystic Hillary died, Hashanah was born out of Mystic Hillary’s powers to protect Aquilon in the event that she failed in her courageous mission to take down Lord Vladimir herself. Hashanah is, in a way, Mystic Hillary’s fallback in case things went wrong. Well, things did go wrong, but we have Hashanah to rely on” William explained, only revealing the details on Hashanah that were suitable to the kings’ ears.

A calmer King Lincoln was scratching his chin. “How did you know all of this?”

“Hashanah fought with me against Hadeshah in Magnacollis” William replied, “She was also the one who transported me to Nova Iorca when I was severely hurt. I was able to talk to her to express my gratitude and she was able to reveal as much”. William’s heart swelled with pride for Hashanah.

“Is there anything else that she told you?” King John inquired, his eyebrows furrowed.

William shook his head. “I am afraid that is all there is”.  

“But when can we expect to see her?” King Lincoln asked pointedly.

William shrugged his shoulders as his gaze focused on the table. “I confess that I have no idea. She just appears without a warning. Since she is presumably a supernatural being, we cannot really expect her to be present every time Hadeshah decides to reveal herself to us”.

The two kings simply looked at each other.

“We must not rely entirely on Hashanah” King John said. “It is better to assume that she will not come to assist us. It would be foolish of us to do otherwise”.

“Agreed” the other two men nodded.

The meeting went on to discuss their strategy to eradicate Hadeshah. In the meantime, they have decided to strengthen the forces of the remaining kingdoms and to not engage a confrontation with Hadeshah. They would let her come to them, as they were sure she was bound to come back.

Throughout the discussion, William struggled not to reveal that Mystic Hillary was alive. The news of her survival would certainly have delighted the two kings, but he would have to break his promise to Hashanah if he did so.  It also meant that Mystic Hillary would once again be in harm’s way. Ever since the vision in the library, William wanted to see her so badly, to ask all the questions that had been running in his mind ever since he woke up from Lord Vladimir’s curse. He wanted to beg for her forgiveness, for whatever it was that he did to hurt her, despite Hashanah’s refusal to tell him anything.

Before the meeting ended, King John delivered an unexpected decree.

“King Lincoln and I decided to appoint you as King John Forbes’ replacement to the Council” King John announced to a stunned William. “You have been very instrumental in carrying out the duties of the Council so we have agreed to let you in, despite your absence of a crown”.

William dropped his jaw, shocked and at the same time honored to be given such an invaluable duty. He bowed his head to the two kings and rested his clenched fist over his heart. “I am humbled to be appointed to the Council and honored to accept the duties and responsibilities”.

“Very good” King Lincoln commended him.

William could not believe his good fortune. He never expected to receive such glad tidings, especially then considering when he had just been reintroduced into the society. During his youth, he had dreamed of becoming a member of the Council and his dream had just been fulfilled. He was practically glowing when he heard the decree. Maybe his hard work and dedication had paid off, William thought.

He could not wait to tell Hashanah about this.


William came home to Pietro Minore, his mother and his brother relieved to see him alive and well. The news of his apparent demise had reached his home, but this was immediately disproved when the royal family received his letter attesting to his survival. Once William set his foot into the castle he was met with applause, cheers and respectful bows. The reception to him was similar to when he woke up from Lord Vladimir's curse. The festive mood in the kingdom was boosted by the news of William´s appointment to the Council of Elders and thus far becoming the first non-monarch to accomplish such feat. Willian had never been so exalted in his entire life. 

The following evening, the kingdom arranged a lavish feast in William's honor. The feast, hosted by his brother King Roger, was quite excessive and unnecessary in William's opinion, due to the fact that the kingdom of Magnacollis fell recently. William thought the feast was disrespectful of the people who had been captured and died. Nevertheless, the feast was held.

During the feast itself, William excused himself from the celebrations and went to the terraces to get some fresh air. He gazed at the lovely night sky, wondering where Hashanah might be. Was she with Chelsea at that moment, singing the little girl to sleep? What did she do whenever he didn't need her? Where did she live? 

And then there was Mystic Hillary. There was no doubt that they had a shared past, even thought he could not remember it. Who wiped his memories? And why did they do such thing? He was yet to find out. But he was desperate to know. William had no clue. He prayed that Hillary would come back soon, so that she could explain to him herself.

Amid the desperation for answers, he missed Hillary. He truly did. The visions brought back the old flames that were long thought to be gone, along with his buried memories. Both Hashanah and he were surprised that his feelings for Hillary were fully unearthed before his memories were unlocked. 

In the midst of his reverie, his mother, Queen Virginia, broke his thought by gently tapping his shoulder. William slightly jumped at the contact, and smiled at his dear mother. 

"What brings you here, Mother? You should be at the feast" William told her.

Queen Virginia shook her head. "This is where the honoree of the feast is. It is only prudent that I come here to celebrate". She rested her head on his shoulder as she wrapped her arm around his son. William then squeezed her shoulder, sighing at the comfort of his mother's touch. 

"Mother, I have something to ask" William hesitated to ask his mother.

"I am happy to answer, my son" Queen Virginia obliged. 

William licked his lips. "Mother, I am not sure if Lord Vladimir's curse had tampered my memories but...was there any instance that I dallied with anyone before I foolishly abducted Mystic Hillary?"

Queen Virginia was taken aback by her son's question. "I had been disapproving of your habit of taking wenches to your bed. But other than that, I have no recollection of you having relations - sexual or romantic – with other women. In fact, I was incredibly disappointed in your inability to bring home a consort and mother to you heir. Why? Why did you ask?"

His mother's words were like a punch to his gut. He had been sleeping with wenches? He felt sick at the thought. William knew that he had been with Mystic Hillary, but he had no idea when and for how long. He simply prayed that he hadn't slept with the wenches while he was with her.

"I..." William struggled to answer, "I should have looked for a wife when I had the opportunity". 

William did find someone who could be his wife. In fact, she was the only one he felt who could fulfill that role. However, given the circumstances that surrounded them, marriage was out of the question. In fact, they had to keep their relationship hidden. 

For the first time, William imagined what their lives would be like if they were not born royal. He could have married her in a heartbeat, and they could have had children…

Children.

He had been keeping his tears at bay, but the thought of the children he would never have finally broke his resolve. Oh how wonderful his life would have been if he and Mystic Hillary had children. Maybe a little boy or a little girl running around the fields and then he would play with them until dusk. Or he would carry them in his shoulders and run as fast as he could, as if he was their steed. William's heart broke into a million pieces, lamenting at a future he was never destined to have. 

"My son..." Queen Virginia squeezed her son's hand. 

William was probably not destined to be married or have children. But damn, it would not stop him for salvaging the remainin source of his happiness and life. The alpha to his omega. The golden sun to his silver moon. His one and only love. 

He needed to find Mystic Hillary himself.


Chelsea played with her doll as she sat below the cool shade of her favorite tree. Queen Dorothea, who read a book to her, left a few minutes ago to attend to some very important matters. The Dowager Queen promised to return as soon as she was finished dealing with those matters. Chelsea gleefully hid Queen Dorothea goodbye, eagerly waiting for the latter's return.

While she was alone, Chelsea played with her little doll Charlotte. The doll was no ordinary one. It was given to Mystic Hillary by King Roger. According to him, it was a royal artifact of the House of Clinton, the ruling clan of Pietro Minore. Mystic Hillary then gave it to Chelsea as a birthday gift last year. Chelsea named the doll Charlotte. Ever since, Chelsea and Charlotte were inseparable.

Chelsea treated Charlotte the way her Mama Hillary treated her: with utmost love. She always held Charlotte in her arms, afraid that she might lose the doll. The doll was a constant fixture in Chelsea's personage until the death of her Mama Hillary, when she became detached to the doll because it reminded her of her Mama's loss. But recently, she started playing with Charlotte again. Her guardians, Queen Dorothea and Saleha, were relieved to see her playing with her doll again, as it meant that she was going back to her old, gleeful self. 

Chelsea brought Charlotte to her favorite tree that day. When Queen Dorothea left her alone, Chelsea took off the necklace that was hidden beneath her dress. It was the necklace with the dragon crest and was given to her by her Mama Hillary. 

"Sssshhh, don't tell anyone I gave this to you, alright?" Mystic Hillary warned Chelsea when she gave the necklace. 

Because Chelsea loved Charlotte so much, she thought it would be great idea to make the doll wear it. Chelsea removed the necklace from her and put it in Charlotte, the chain of the necklace loosely hanging on the neck of the doll. Chelsea smiled at Charlotte as she remembered the moment she received the gift from her Mama.

"I only give this to people special to my heart" Mystic Hillary told her. "You will receive this necklace, and it means you are special to me". 

Chelsea hugged Charlotte as if she was her Mama Hillary hugging her. She closed her eyes, imagining it was her Mama who was hugging her when she finally came back. Day and night, Chelsea prayed to the goddess Zveda for her Mama´s return, so that they would play, sing, read stories, and tell how much they love each other for the rest of their lives. 

When Chelsea opened her eyes, King William was sitting next to her. Her eyes lit up, happy to see the kind man she recently found as a friend. Suddenly remembering her manners, Chelsea stood up and bowed to the King. King William did not acknowledge her gesture. Instead, he extended his hand to the little girl. Chelsea held King William's. When her small hand touched his large one, Chelsea was instantly stunned, causing the little girl to drop her doll and collapse into King William. The man caught her, satisfied that he accomplished his duty. Without another word, King William vanished into thin air, back to the dark lair where he came from.

 


Somewhere in Lihvo, Hadeshah watched the abduction of Chelsea through Varvara's magic. She was pleased with the flawless execution of her plan. Her new deputy was proving himself to be very useful. Lord Vladimir was right in keeping him in their ranks. 

Well done, John Forbes, Hadeshah silently commended her lieutenant. 

Chapter Text

Hadeshah stepped towards the bank of the river, her bones aching after a tedious day of preparation for her next siege. She had noticed that her newly acquired soldiers from Magnacollis still needed much work, so she put everyone to a rough day of training. The Magnacolleans were excellent archers but very poor swordsmen. Hadeshah, along with John Forbes, oversaw the training of the men. At the end of the day, they were able to make progress with the army, but that was not to say that the work was easy. The training made her so exhausted that she made a rare trip to the River Nave, the river that runs through Lihvo, to soothe the tensions in her body.

Hadeshah removed her hooded robe and dress, the chilly winds scraping the sensitive skin of her naked body. She tossed her long, brown hair as she arched her neck and closed her eyes, ready to release the tension.

She slowly submerged herself in the water. She shivered as she swam from the edge up to the middle of the river. Hadeshah raised her right hand and summoned her powers, making it instantly white hot. She dipped her right hand into the water and in an instant, the water warmed from its normal state, becoming like a hot spring within seconds. Hot steams emerged from the river, combating the cool air that blew over the river.

Satisfied with the warmth of the water, Hadeshah swam back to the shallow edge, resting her body on the bank. 

Slowly, the hot water rubbed her sore muscles, alleviating the ache that accumulated over the past few hours. Hadeshah moaned in satisfaction. She rubbed her nape to fully ease the pain on her upper back. Her muscles slowly began to loosen.

Hedeshah enjoyed the soothing warmth of the water, leaning her back against the edge of the river. Her purple eyes fluttered as she arched her neck. A soft sigh escaped her lips. Her right hand reached for her left shoulder and rubbed it. As her hand kneaded her shoulder, the image of William ravishing her naked flesh flashed in her mind. 

Yes, William. Make love to me.


Behind the tall trees that surrounded the River Nave, John Forbes caught the sight of Hadeshah going to the river for a soak. He did not intend to follow her. He was just passing by when he caught a glimpse of her, and he was curious as to what she was going to do. He was stunned when he saw Hadeshah, whose back was turned against him, slowly remove her garments and gently placed them near the river bank. His breath was caught in his throat as he admired the surprisingly luscious curves of his general. The small waist that looked like the perfect bridge between her back and her limbs. The wide hips ripe for childbearing. The ample bottom that was irresistible to touch. And oh, the creamy smooth skin that was always hidden by her black robes. He licked his lips as his mouth watered over the goddess in front of him. He was aching to get his hands all over her perfect body, but he had to exercise his self- control. 

When Hadeshah dipped herself into the water, John Forbes moved behind the trees to catch a better glimpse. Good fortunes were with him when Hadeshah turned around and for the first time, he was able to see the full beauty of her face. Her bright purple eyes were so magnificent; he had to blink twice to assure himself that it was real. Her long brown locks looked so soft and silky to the touch. John Forbes was almost grateful that Hadeshah always hid her face underneath her hood so that no other men could have the pleasure of witnessing her ethereal beauty.


Hadeshah burned for William. Yes. Oh how she wanted him at that moment. She desired nothing more than to lean against his strong chest, just like she did during their tryst, and be worshipped by his hands. Oh his strong hands. His long slender fingers. How they felt so good inside her. Instinctively, she let her hands play with her body, fantasizing that it wasn't her small hands that were caressing her but his large ones.

She let her hands splay on her flat stomach, feeling the rough uneven lines that adorned her belly. She abhorred herself for having such imperfection. She thought William would not appreciate the blemish so her hands travelled down to her hips. Her hips that would surely be pleasing to his eyes and to his touch. She traced the outline of her curves, envisioning William gripping her by the hips and grinding himself against her. Inadvertently, she gyrated her hips as her hands moved backward into the supple cheeks of her bottom and squeezed them. She bit her lower lip, realizing how firm her rear was, before her hands glided back to her stomach and up to her soft breasts. 

Hadeshah recalled how William ravished her breasts, how he kneaded them like a large cat. She pushed herself against her hands, frustrated that her small hands could not envelope her breasts like his large ones could. To compensate for the lacking, she pressed her bosom more firmly, pinching the hard peaks of her nipples. The sensation caused an immediate reaction. She arched her back when a faint jolt travelled all throughout her body.

“Touch me, please”, she gasped softly.

Her right hand left her breast and snaked towards her mound, the soft chestnut curls cushioning her drenched entrance. She moved her middle finger around her slit repeatedly, imagining that is was his stiff member that was touching her center. She then moved her finger up to her hard nub, swollen from the intense teasing. She rubbed her bud and immediately, jolts of pleasure ran though her every vein, her breath caught in her throat. She grew wetter and hotter as she touched herself more. The pooled moisture had nothing to do with the warm water that soaked her. 

“Oh, William…Oh…please….” she moaned.

She stroked herself in the midst of her wanton hunger, her fantasy of William worshipping her body only intensified the pleasure. Soon, a tightening sensation built at the base of her stomach, and was only rapidly accumulating with every rub. Finally, Hadeshah hit her climax, unable to control the loud moan that came out from her throat. She continued to stroke herself, milking all the pleasure she could get until she was sated and spent. 

She rested her head on the edge of the river, gasping as if shehad run all the way to the mountains, her lust satisfied – for now.

She would only be completely satisfied if William’s seed was splattered all over her body.


John Forbes could not believe what he was witnessing. The extraordinarily erotic episode of Hadeshah touching herself unfolded right in front of him. Her hungry gasps, her desperate moans and the seductive arches of her neck were more than enough to make him stiff. His eyes darkened at the lush woman who was in the middle of pleasuring herself. He licked his lips, wanting to taste every inch of her soft skin. He saw how small her hands too. Perfect, just perfect, he thought. Hadeshah would have been the perfect woman to climb to bed with him and pleasure him all over. The thought of him planting a dark mark on her neck exhilarated him. Hearing her scream his name would probably be his downfall.

Instinctively, he reached down to his breaches and exposed himself, his hard member standing proudly like a soldier in attention. He slowly stroked himself, rubbing the skin of his member against his palm. Hadeshah’s moans and gasps only made him more angry and desperate.

“Touch me, please”, he heard Hadeshah gasp.

That was the first time he heard her speak, and the invitation only intensified his desire forher. He had half a mind to join her in the river. Would he or would he not? Hadeshah would surely be furious if he suddenly appeared out of nowhere and touched her, but she was too damn irresistible. John Forbes was torn. In the end, he decided to test the waters first before trying to join her.

He crept closer towards the bank, managing to remain unseen by his general. He was able to see her more clearly, and he was only too happy to be able to do so. His only frustration was that almost all of her body was submerged into the waters. He would have died if he was able to take a peek of her soft, ample breasts.

Each second spent watching her only crumbled John Forbes’ resolve to wait. By the time Hadeshah was gasping for air, he had already decided to jump into the water and please her himself. However, he heard something that shattered all his pent up desires and

“Oh, William…Oh…please….”, Hadeshah moaned.

So she was fantasizing about William, the deposed king, and it made his blood boil in an instant. There was nothing more devastating for a man than the woman that he desired was longing for someone else. He only was only made aware of William when Hadeshah ordered him to impersonate the man in order to abduct the girl Chelsea. From what he knew, he thought that William was a pathetic lowlife with very huge ego but very little abilities. He could not understand why the ever dominant Hadeshah would want a halfwit like William when she could have had him, a man more superior to that flaccid man in every way.

His arousal was quickly turned to anger. His sexual frustration only added to the fire in his heart. He quickly left the river to plot against that filthy swine.

As he left the woods, he could have sworn he saw someone spying on them from the waterfalls.


Douglas was stunned at the sight that unfolded below him. Hiding above the falls that led to the river, he was sent by William to look for Mystic Hillary in Lihvo, the last place where she was known to have been. William was supposed to come with the page but his duties with the Council prevented him for making this trip. Since every man in the ranks was being prepared in case of a sudden attack from Lord Vladimir’s forces, William was forced to delegate the smallest contingent for this mission as possible. Thus, he chose Douglas and the page was sent alone.

Douglas rubbed his eyes and splashed water into them just to make sure he was not having hallucinations. He moved as close as he could be to the edge of the waterfall to get the best possible view. By then, he confirmed that his sight was not failing him. Two people, who everyone thought were dead, were moving freely within Lihvo. His Master prepared him for the possible shock that he might encounter in this mission, but it was nothing compared to the real thing.

As a last ditch effort, he slapped himself to see if he was dreaming. Sadly, he was not. He opened his eyes again and still saw the two figures near the river bank, a man spying on a bathing woman. Douglas took a deep breath to calm himself. He thought that he would be sick after the discovery. He needed to take a short rest, but his Master relied on him to bring him the news as quickly as possible. Wasting no time, Douglas raced back to the surface and got on his horse, ready to go back to Pietro Minore.

Before Douglas was able to go far from the waterfall, a poisoned arrow flew from nowhere, plunging in his neck. Despite an injured throat, Douglas was able to scream in pain. The impact caused him to fall from his moving steed and hit his head on the large rock, shattering his skull and splattering his blood all over the grassy ground. He was dead in an instant. The poor page was no match against the poisoned arrow and the forceful impact on the huge rock.

A few moments later, the shadow of a smirking John Forbes emerged from behind the trees. As soon as he saw Douglas spying on them, he quickly and quietly hunted down for the poor page. He did not want to reveal himself, in case the page might survive, so he fired a poison arrow to the unsuspecting Douglas and it hit him just where John Forbes wanted to. As soon as he was sure that the page was dead, he approached him to take a good look at his most recent prey. He used his foot to turn Douglas’s head, getting a good look of the dead boy’s last expression. He smirked, satisfied by his handiwork. His foot travelled downwards to see if there was anything to identify the page he just killed. John Forbes noticed a coat of arms in the sword that was hanging on the dead boy’s belt. The coat of arms of Pietro Minore.

So William sent this boy to spy on them. Good thing he was able to stop him, John Forbes thought. Whatever the young spy found, William was surely going to use it on them especially that Chelsea, his daughter and the one who Lord Vladimir warned would succeed Mystic Hillary as the next Regent, was locked up in their dungeons.

Dead men tell no tales, John Forbes told himself triumphantly.

 

Chapter Text

HELP MEEEEEEEE! 

William heard Chelsea's blood curdling screams as he found himself at the top of a rocky

cliff. He turned around and saw how Hadeshah, using her powers, gripped the girl's neck as the latter hang on the edge of the cliff. Chelsea was crying and struggling to break free, even if it meant that she would fall if she managed to do so. William felt panic rise in his chest. He crept closer to the woman and her hostage, but Hadeshah, using her powers, made Chelsea choke and gasp for air. 

"Chelsea!" William stepped forward instinctively. His senses heightened tremendously, ready to catch Chelsea if she fell. 

"Don't you dare come closer, King" Hadeshah warned "or it will be the end of this petulant child".  

William backed down. He must not aggravate Hadesah, or else it would be Chelsea's life. But still, his will to save the child was undeterred. 

"What do you want then?" William asked.

Hadeshah laughed like a maniac, obviously taking pleasure at his predicament. 

"Good, good. You are quick-witted it seems. I am glad that you understand the gravity of the situation" Hadeshah sneered. 

"State your terms and begone!" William was getting impatient. He despised Hadeshah for taking advantage of an innocent little girl who had nothing to do with their dispute. 

"Easy, my King. We got all day for this" Hadeshah was clearly amused. 

"Give. Me. The. Child" William's voice was uncharacteristically forceful and sinister. 

Somewhere beneath the hood, Hadeshah licked her lips, turned on by his aggressiveness. She would have loved to hear his rough voice if ever he would be inside her. However, she tried to push those feelings aside . There were more pressing matters at hand. 

"I will, certainly" Hadeshah said. "If you abide by my wishes".  

"Name it" William grunted.

"Good" Hadeshah smirked. "For me to release Chelsea, you must do one thing: Deliver Hillary's head to me within a week's time. Then I will give you the child unharmed. That's all I am asking".

You hag!” he barked at the woman, disbelieving. “There is no way I would kill Hillary. Besides, you know she's dead!" he lied.

Hadeshah laughed. Something at the back of William’s mind told him that he heard that laugh before, only that Hadeshah’s was more frightening.

Oh typical William. Do you think you can fool me? I heard you and Hashanah. I know everything. Hillary's alive." she retorted

What makes you think I'll give her to you? I will die before giving her to you" William fired back. 

Oh? Did you not almost kill her to gain leverage against her kingdom?” Hadeshah accused.

My sins have nothing to do with this! I have already repented and paid for my transgressions!" he defended himself forcefully.

Hadeshah scoffed. "Typical Clinton. Proud and always thinking of himself"

William simply grunted.

"So King, take heed of my wish. Or else, the child’s head is mine” Hashanah warned him. 

William looked back to the girl who was dangling and crying at the edge of the cliff. He felt like an executioner who was carrying out a death sentence. Will he sacrifice a young, innocent life? Or the future of Aquilon? Whatever choice he made, there was only one outcome: someone's life would end.

Unless he could somehow can rescue Chelsea from Hadeshah. 

"I know what you are thinking, William" said Hadeshah. "I know your every single move. The moment you try to thwart me, the child is dead". 

Damn. Hadeshah was two steps ahead of him. William roared and punched the ground in frustration, hot, angry tears dripping. As he sobbed, he heard Chelsea's wailing plea from Hadeshah's grasp.

"Please don't kill my Mama! Please!"

William woke up from his nightmare, his lungs burning for air and his forehead dripping in cold sweat. He looked around and saw that the moon was still up, and that he was still in the comfort of his bed in Pietro Minore. He wiped his face with his hand, hoping it would wash off some of the lingering shock from his dream. Chelsea's wails, albeit imaginary, were both terrifying and heartbreaking. He could not imagine himself hearing the real thing. He would probably lose his sanity if ever actually heard it. The thing that disturbed and broke his heart the most was her desperate plea not to kill her Mama Hillary. If it was in fact how Chelsea felt, then William would have crumbled in shame. A young girl was infinitely more courageous and selfless than him, a man who was supposed to be exalted by his people for his honor and bravery.

Despite the fact that the source of his restlessness was a nightmare, he could not help but feel that it was real; that Hadeshah spoke to him through that awful dream. He wanted Chelsea out of Hadeshah's clutches, but what if that was only a rouse to lure him? What if it was a means to trick him into doing something foolish? But if the threat was indeed true, he had no time to spare. He needed to retrieve her before her captors could do her harm.

William secretly feared that Hadeshah knew he was looking for Hillary. Knowing her, he thought, she might have looked into his activities before making her demands. He just hoped that Douglas had good news to bring.

The more he thought about his dream, the more he felt helpless. He did not know why, but he somehow had affinity for Chelsea. He only met her once, but felt very at ease talking to her as if she was...connected to him somehow. And she was naturally fond of him too. He was surprised that she wanted someone like him to be her father, despite having only known him for a few hours. Oddly enough, he wanted someone like her to be his daughter too, had he been given the chance to father a child. There was no doubt that their mutual affection was raw and true, and it made William's dream a thousand times more difficult to bear. 

Right away, he formulated a plan: He would leave right away for Nova Iorca to ascertain the truth of his dream. He desperately hoped that Chelsea was safe in the castle. But if she wasn't, then he would have to seek Hashanah's help in rescuing Chelsea. If there was anyone who could thwart Hadeshah, it would be Hashanah. 

William stormed out of his bed to change clothes and to prepare for his journey to Nova Iorca. He would have to leave right away in case Hadeshah's threat was real. Seven days are too short for him to verify the threat and to plan a successful rescue.

Before he left his room, he wrote a letter to his mother, telling her of his journey to Nova Iorca. He did not say why, as it may only put unnecessary burdens on her. Even if the threat was real, there was no reason for his mother to worry about a little girl who was not related to her. 

As William kicked his steed and left for Nova Iorca, his weak heart reached out to the strongest person he ever knew. 

Hillary, wherever you are, please help me. 


William arrived at Nova Iorca two days later after a grueling trip. He and his steed tried their best to reach the kingdom as soon as possible, but their bodies could only sustain so much fatigue. William was forced to stop when his steed could not carry him. He felt pity for the beast. He himself was deprived of sleep but his mind was alert and wide-awake. When he and his steed finally settled for a place to retire, he himself did not want to sleep, partly because he was afraid that the nightmare might recur. It was due to complete exhaustion that William managed to accidentally close his eyes and get that much needed rest. 

When he entered the Castle of Nova Iorca, he was greeted by an astonished Queen Dorothea, who was not expecting his arrival. After all, he went to Nova Iorca without prior notice. He did not even properly say goodbye to his mother or to his brother. The Dowager Queen, nevertheless, accepted him with great hospitality. 

"Dear King William" greeted Queen Dorothea "You look fatigued. May I offer you some bread and wine, and then you can rest". 

William was about to reject the Queen's generous offer, but his body was failing him. He felt weak and famished. The moment he stepped inside the castle, his body almost fell to the ground. Embarrassing as it was, he decided to take up the Queen on her offer. 

As he was eating and drinking in the kitchens where he insisted to eat instead of the dining hall, the Queen sat down with him, trying to know his reasons for a sudden visit. 

"You could have sent an emissary first before coming here yourself" Queen Dorothea said. "What made it so urgent for you?”

William chewed his bread, looking away as he tried to come up with a suitable explanation. He could not just tell her about his dream. 

"I...I..." he stammered. "The... I was sent here as ordered by the Council. I apologize I cannot divulge the exact circumstance".

"Oh my" Queen Dorothea's eyes widened as she unconsciously rested her hand on her chest. "I did not know it would be something so serious".

Fuck. William should not have invoked the Council. It might have given the Queen a wrong impression that he was acting on his official capacity. He tried to remain calm as he finished the rest of his food.

Once he was done eating, he quietly tried to ask Queen Dorothea about Chelsea. 

"My Queen, I was just wondering...." he tested the waters "how's little Chelsea?"

"What do you mean?" William noticed that her response was too quick.

"I have grown fond of the little girl since I met her" he explained calmly. "Is she here? Can I see her? I am sure she would be happy to see me too".

Queen Dorothea looked away, afraid to meet his eyes. "She's not here". 

"Pardon?"

She sighed. "She's not in the castle". 

"Where is she then?" William did not like the tone of this conversation at all. 

"She..." Queen Dorothea hesitated "...we don't know". 

William scrunched his forehead. "What do you mean that you don't know?"  

Queen Dorothea was already visible shaking and in tears. "Somebody took her. And we don't know who and why". 

William's face went pale as Queen Dorothea confirmed the worst of his fears. Chelsea was abducted, and there was no doubt that Hadeshah was the one who was responsible for the girl’s disappearance.

She was also aware how fond he was of the girl, so she tried to use it as leverage against him.  

That sly fox, William thought angrily in his mind as he unconsciously clenched his fists until his knuckles were white as sheet. His reaction did not escape Queen Dorothea’s notice.

“I know how fond you were of Chelsea” she said. “I apologize for not protecting her enough. I am sure if my daughter was here, she would have been devastated.

“You don’t have to apologize, Your Majesty” William replied. He felt devastated too, though he tried to hide it.

“She was last seen on her favorite tree. I left her there to attend to some of my duties, When I came back, the only remnants of her that I found were her favorite doll and my daughter’s dragon crest necklace, which she gave to Chelsea” Queen Dorothea told him.

Wait, did she say dragon crest necklace?

“May I see the necklace”, William asked before he could stop himself.

Queen Dorothea was puzzled by his request. “Of course. I don’t see why not”.

The Queen led William to what used to be Hillary’s bedroom. Because it once belonged to a Regent, it was a lot more magnificent than what William had in Pietro Minore. He wasn’t envious, though, as he had other things in mind to worry about than the grandeur of a bedroom.

William quickly spotted the doll and the necklace sitting in the bed. He absentmindedly walked forward even before the Queen did, breaking royal courtesy. As he knelt down to examine to the objects, his hand started to tremble. He could not believe his eyes. It was the exact same necklace Hillary gave to him years ago when they first met, as he had seen in his very first vision. He was stunned as he was heartbroken. The only tangible memory he had of Hillary, the one he loved and the one he betrayed, rested in his rough palms.

“My queen” William asked, his voice shaking “how many necklaces like these are there?”

“I beg your pardon?” said a confused Queen Dorothea.

“Is this necklace the only one in the world?” William clarified.

The Queen did not like his line of questioning, fearing that he might have known something that he shouldn’t. “Yes, this is the only one. My husband and I had it made for Hillary was she was born to celebrate her birth. He had high hopes for her, and believed that she would rule like a dragon. Well, she did rule like a dragon. A mighty dragon indeed". the Queen finished proudly.

William hesitated to ask “Did…did you know why she gave this to Chelsea?”

“It was hers. She could give it to anyone who she wished, I suppose… ” her voice fainted.

William felt that Queen Dorothea was hiding something. He stood up to face her and looked directly in her eye.

“Your Majesty, do you have something that you wish to tell me?”

The Queen’s lips were quivering. “I…I…”

“Please, tell me. I might be able to help you”, he begged her.

Queen Dorothea looked away, tears pooling in her eyes. “You are the last person who I should be telling this to, but I believe that you are my only hope right now”.

William was all ears.

“Once, when Hillary was already Regent, I came to this room to wake her up. Being her mother, I entered without knocking and saw my daughter undressing. She quickly turned away from me, but not before I saw the several uneven lines that marked her abdomen. I knew what those were and there was no doubt in my mind what had happened”.

“What happened to her?” William was afraid to hear what the Queen would say.

“My daughter bore a child…” Queen Dorothea wept “…against the law of Nova Iorca and Aquilon”.

William froze as his mind went blank. It took several minutes before he was able to speak. “How did she…?”

“I do not know for sure, but I have a theory”, said Queen Dorothea, who was still sobbing.

“Please, tell me” he begged. William did not realize that he was already weeping too.

Queen Dorothea walked around and sat the edge of the bed. William followed and sat beside her. She took a deep breath as she told William everything she knew.

“Right after she was named Regent, she had gone missing…” she began.

William fidgeted in his seat. The Queen was referring to his abduction of Hillary.

“After her abduction, Hillary wanted to go into hiding since you were able to escape when she was rescued. That did not make much sense to me since she never ever backed down against anyone who threatened her. I knew something was up. As you know, she was gone for a year while her brother ruled Nova Iorca on her behalf. And when she came back, it was also the time that you were captured in the Forest of Flavopietro. And you were captured because she herself told the guards where to find you”.

“I was confused as to what had happened during that time that made Hillary want to go into hiding. But after seeing the lines in her stomach, everything made sense: She had used her time in isolation to hide her pregnancy and to give birth to her child”.

“Furthermore, I do not believe for a second that you abducted Hillary”, Queen Dorothea confessed.

“But I was there” William insisted. “I remember how I tied her hands and legs without protest…”

Queen Dorothea shook her head. “My daughter was probably the most skilled fighter in Aquilon. She could have overpowered you easily. Also, she was Regent, the most powerful mortal in Aquilon. A handmaiden of Zveda. Who’s to say that she did not tamper your memories? Or mine? Or everyone else’s”?”

William did not have a concrete answer to counter Queen Dorothea’s claims. He felt so many things at once, but mostly anger and heartbreak. He was angry at Hillary for punishing him for a crime that he did not commit. The thought of Hillary carrying another man’s child was pure torture to him. He too wanted to kill the man who had touched Hillary and left her like a cheap whore. But at the same time, he felt sorrow for her too. If only he had known, she would not have gone through this all alone. He would have been right beside her. Even in secrecy.

Queen Dorothea looked into the distance. “When you were captured and sentenced, I saw that she was beyond devastated. I caught her crying the night you were exiled. It was only years later that I figured out why she had acted the way she did that night”

“Why?” William gripped Queen Dorothea’s shoulders. He felt spent after crying a million tears. “Please tell me why, I beg you…”

“You loved each other” the Queen said with conviction. “And your love had borne fruit. Do you see now, my son? You are the father of Hillary’s child”.

Another fresh round of tears flowed from his eyes, his heart breaking into a million pieces. The faceless man who he thought treated her like a whore? That was him. All him. He let her face the onslaught of the universe alone. He was a pathetic man, and a pathetic father. He was selfish and conceited. He was even not worthy to wipe Hillary’s dirty feet. He felt minuscule compared to her. Nevertheless, Hillary herself deemed him worthy. She deemed him honorable. She even gave him the best gift he could ever receive: a child of his own.

Queen Dorothea comforted the sobbing William, letting him weep in her shoulder. For the first time in years, she felt at peace with herself and with her daughter, now that she had welcomed a son. All this time, she knew how William loved her daughter, and she believed he had never committed the crimes that he was accused of. That was why it was very easy to forgive him. When he first asked for her forgiveness back during Hillary’s funeral, Queen Dorothea wanted to tell everything, but she felt that it was not the right time.

William looked up to Queen Dorothea, imploring “Why didn’t Hillary tell me? Why did she tamper my memories? I could have protected our child too. I could have made sure that her secret was safe. I would have offered to be executed in exchange for her if ever our secret was made known”.

Queen Dorothea’s eyes were sad. “I don’t know, my son. All I know was that she was depressed weeks before the supposed abduction. I’m sorry if I could not shed more light”.

William nodded, disappointed that Queen Dorothea did not have the answer. However, there was one last thing he needed to know.

“Your Majesty…”

“Mother” she said. “Call me Mother please. Because of Hillary, you are my son”.

He felt undeserving to be called Queen Dorothea’s son, but he obliged nevertheless.

“Mother” he said “Why did you tell all of this? Are you trying to say…?”

She answered truthfully. “You and Hillary had a daughter. A very beautiful one too”

William was silent.

Queen Dorothea continued, almost choking in tears “The child came to this castle almost at the same time Hillary went back from hiding. Everybody thought that the child was abandoned, but in reality, she was not. Hillary was able to hide your child in plain sight. For years, nobody thought that the child belonged to my daughter. Even I was tricked. But once I knew that Hillary had been pregnant, it was not hard to deduce who her child was”.

The Queen sighed. “Hillary never let Chelsea out of her sight. The only reason your child is missing right now is because Hillary’s not here to protect her”

William processed everything Queen Dorothea said. The dragon crest necklace already gave him a hint. But hearing the whole truth…it felt…surreal.

“I know where Chelsea is right now” he confessed.

Queen Dorothea almost jumped. “Where?”

“Lord Vladimir’s lackeys took her” he said.

She gasped in shock. “Oh no….”

William thought it was time to finally come clean to Queen Dorothea. “Chelsea was the real reason why I came here. I had a dream that she was abducted. I had to verify that it was true”

Queen Dorothea’s hands covered her mouth. “They must have known that you were her father”.

“Yes, they do” William’s anger towards Hadeshah was simmering. He swore to make her pay for taking his daughter away. Kill her, if he must.

“What do they want then?”

He bowed his head as the realization came crashing towards him. He felt like he fell in a deeper hole. Hadeshah had asked him to do the one thing a father should never do: choose between the life of his daughter and her mother.

“My son?” Queen Dorothea prodded him when he was not answering. “What is it that they want?”

William buried his face in his hands. “Hillary. They want Hillary’s head”.

The Queen was confused. “My daughter’s dead. Why would they want her head? Unless…”

“She’s alive” William finished it for her. “She’s somewhere out there, I can tell you that. I have sent my man to look for her in hopes of finding her before they do. I have underestimated them. They had another plan in mind: They want me to find her and kill her for them”.

“Oh, my dear Hillary” an overwhelmed Queen Dorothea broke down. “Please, my son, please save my daughter and my granddaughter. They are as precious to me as they are to you. Please…I beg you…”

William stood up. His resolve was never firmer. His path was clear. There was no way to go but forward. Suddenly, his life had a definite purpose. The revelations he had learned only made him more committed of getting Chelsea back and, in the end, bringing Lord Vladimir to justice. He wanted a safe and peaceful world for the two most important people in his life. He did not want Hillary’s sacrifice to be made futile, but he wanted it to be her last.

He vowed to be the man he wasn’t before.

Chapter Text

Lord Vladimir, Hadeshah and John Forbes watched everything unfold - from William's journey to Queen Dorothea's revelation - from their lair in Lihvo. Everyone but Lord Vladimir was stunned to hear the truth, especially Hadeshah who had been on the hunt for Mystic Hillary longer.

"Did the Queen speak of the truth, my Lord?" Hadeshah implored her Master. 

Lord Vladimir chuckled. "Dorothea is a clever woman. I was not surprised that she figured it out". 

"So it is true, then!" Hadeshah gasped in shock.

“Yes. The Queen spoke of the truth” Lord Vladimir confirmed. “After Hillary wiped out William’s memory, the only person who had known of their affair was me, as I had been spying on her for years. I used that knowledge to trap Hillary herself”.

“What do you mean, my Lord?” John Forbes asked.

“When Hillary cursed William to make him look old and to make no other woman fall in love with him, I realized that the only person who could was Hillary herself. So when William foolishly came to me, I designed a curse that only Hillary could break”

“With a true love’s kiss…” Hadeshah whispered.

“Precisely. I made Hillary own up to her cruel curse. She thought back then that if she could not have William, then nobody could. That’s why she cursed him so”, Lord Vladimir explained.

Hadeshah was yearning to hear more about this enigmatic tale; Mystic Hillary’s actions reminded her of her own. “My Lord, was jealousy the only reason why Mystic Hillary cursed William?”

Both Lord Vladimir and John Forbes disliked Hadeshah’s questioning, albeit for different reasons, the latter almost audibly grunting in disgust.

“No” Lord Vladimir replied. “William did something more terrible to her. She forgave him since, even if William had not asked for forgiveness, as he did not even have a recollection of his real sin. Had she not been a fool, she should have had better fortunes now”.

“Was it the abduction?” asked John Forbes.

“No it wasn’t. Dorothea was right. The abduction was a farce” Lord Vladimir said.

“What did he do, then?” Hadeshah’s heart, or a likeness of it, was racing.

Lord Vladimir became suspicious of Hadeshah. “I shall withhold that answer to your question for now, dear disciple. Its secrecy is detrimental to our plans right now. I promise to divulge everything once we have conquered all of Aquilon”

“Yes, my Lord”, Hadeshah bowed, her longing present in her voice.

“Well then, I shall leave you two, Hadeshah, John Forbes. William will surely attempt to rescue the wretched child at the earliest possible time. If he did, let him enter the dungeon where the girl is. Meet him there, and kill the girl in front of his eyes. But do not kill him before Hillary’s alter ego arrives. The meddling whore is sure to save the child and her father”.

“But what about Mystic Hillary, my Lord? What if she arrives?” John Forbes asked his Master.

“She will not” Lord Vladimir assured them. “But if she does, I will know right away and deal with her myself. I will not allow her to live any longer” he declared with finality.

Lord Vladimir vanished into thin air, leaving John Forbes and Hadeshah to themselves. With their Master gone, Hadeshah decided to retire to her cave.

“Someone is very interested in William” John Forbes taunted, causing Hadeshah to stop in her tracks. She remained silent for quite a while and then continued walking.

“I know our Master has forbidden you to fraternize with him” he taunted her again. Hadeshah stopped once more, this time she was rooted on the spot

“What are you trying to say?” Hadeshah looked behind her.

John Forbes slowly walked towards Hadeshah as he licked his lips, his voice husky with desire. “I saw you in the river. You were touching yourself while fantasizing about him”.

Hadeshah spun around and slapped him hard in the face, a sharp crack echoing around them. Her hand left a visible red mark. John Forbes gingerly cupped his aching cheek. Instead of being deterred, he was more determined to get her.

“How dare you” Hadeshah reached for his neck and crushed his throat, determined to force the air out of him. She was almost successful until she felt the temperature of his skin suddenly dropped, colder than the coolest ice. Hadesha felt the skin on her palms get burned by the intense frost. She winced and gasped, waving her limp hand to make the pain ebb.

John Forbes chuckled. “You are not the only one who has powers in here. Our Master has granted me special abilities too”.

Helpless to fight back, Hadeshah instead spit on his face. John Forbes wiped her spit, his temper soaring in an instant.

It was John Forbes’s turn to choke Hadeshah, squeezing her neck as tightly as he could, the veins in his arms protruding. Hadeshah gasped for air as she thrashed from his grip.

“I have a proposition for you” he said. “Once we have conquered all of Aquilon, you will be intimate with me whenever I desire”.

“What…if…” she choked “I…refuse?”. She desperately pulled his hand out his neck but he was just too strong. “That…hardly…seems…fair”

John Forbes smirked. He loved seeing her choke and whimper. Surely, she would once she was already on his bed.

“William dies by my hand”.

Hadeshah’s fearful gasp thrilled John Forbes, only intensifying his desire for her.


As predicted by Lord Vladimir, William indeed had quietly infiltrated their lair in hopes of finding Chelsea. William was surprised with the ease he as able to enter and outwit the men guarding the lair. He was suspicious but hopeful. Quietly, he slipped in between halls and dark alleys, looking to find his way towards his captured daughter.

Finally, he managed to reach the underground dungeons. As he descended, he started to shiver due to the extreme cold. He feared that Chelsea might have frozen to death. He hurried to check out each of the enclosed cells in the dungeons in hopes of finding his daughter there.

One by one, he glimpsed at each cell but Chelsea was not in them. William was slowly losing hope until he saw the cell in the middle of the alley of other cells. Unlike the others, this cell seemed to have no keyhole. Curious, William crept closer to that peculiar cell and took a peek inside.

He tiptoed so he could see the small opening that connected the cell to the outside world, and lo and behold, Chelsea was sleeping soundly on the floor of the cell, surrounded by hay. Her arms and legs were chained to the wall. His daughter looked exhausted, but she seemed unharmed. William breathed in relief.

William gently pushed the door. To his surprise, the door opened, the faint light from the dungeons slowly creeping towards the inside of the cell. William quietly tiptoed towards Chelsea. His heart was exalting, seeing his daughter unharmed. His tears were threatening to flow. This was the first time he saw Chelsea after he found out that he was her father.

Just as William started to kneel in front of his child’s sleeping form, he felt his head being hit deliberately by a strong, unknown force. He felt shaky, his balance unsteady. He almost tripped himself as he was seeing everything in double. He turned around and he saw Hadeshah, her leg lifted up high. Apparently, she had kicked him in the head when his back was turned.

“Hello, my King” Hadeshah greeted him with a raspy voice. “I am excited to see you again”.

“You hag”, William warned her forcefully despite his lightheadedness. “You have the nerve to take my daughter away from me”.

“Ah, so you know the truth” Hadeshah chuckled “finally, you caught up”.

“Take my daughter out of this. She has nothing to do with our fight” William ordered her.

“Oh do not be stupid, King” she snarled. “This is Hillary’s daughter. She’s her heir to the throne and to the Regency. This child became involved the moment she was conceived”.

“So, a coward woman like you is frightened of a child” William taunted her.

Hadeshah tightened her grip considerably, his lungs almost out of air. He seemed to have touched a nerve. “Take. It. Back”

“No”, William coughed.

“Take it back”.

“Give me my daughter first” he ordered her menacingly, his voice deeper than usual.

“Never”.

William closed the distance between them and gripped her elbow in an attempt to break it. Hadeshah blocked his hand, but he swiftly used his position to his advantage. William flipped Hadeshah in midair, causing her back and head to hit the stone floor as she fell.

Hillary pulled away from William as she stormed into the dark cupboard, her feet stomping loudly against the stone floor. William scurried to catch up with the irate Queen, his own temper slowly brewing. When both of them were inside, he firmly locked the door. 

You sack of wine”, Hillary berated him, her temper rising. “You scum, you corrupt scoundrel...how can you even ask me to lift the sanctions on your kingdom when it was you who encouraged your council to bribe my men to approve the trade agreement?!” She was heaving with fury. 

We have no choice, Hillary, you know that!”, William fired back. “Our economy is in shambles and the trade agreement with your kingdom is the only way we could recover! How heartless can you be?”

Hillary scoffed. “You’re the one who is calling me heartless! Am I the one who sent young men to battle with Magnacollis just because someone’s ego was hurt?”

It’s wasn’t only my ego that was hurt. It was an entire kingdom’s”, he said in between gritted teeth, pushing her back against the wall. 

Someone’s just too damn proud to admit that he was wrong”, she hissed, her breath fanning his face. 

I do not want you to take John Forbes’ side ever again”, he warned. “Or maybe he’s fucking you good?”

So says the man who’s been fucking wenches left and right just because his member has not been anywhere near my heat”, she accused, utmost disgust laced in her voice. 

Maybe I do. Five years, Hillary. Five years since that day on the hill...”

And since then, both of us have become King and Queen! It would have been devastating if either of us were found out. It would be our heads in the garrote!", she reminded him bitterly. 

YOU COULD HAVE ABDICATED!”, William was screaming. 

That is not your decision to make, you bastard!" Hillary struck him down. 

You wanted to rule as well. Admit it”. It was William’s turn to accuse her. 

So what if I do? It is my right! I am the rightful heir to the throne!”, Hillary defended herself. 

You are just thirsty for power”. 

William’s accusation struck a nerve, aggravating her temper. But she did not want him to have the upper hand. “I wasn’t the one who was jealous for not being selected to the Council of Elders. I am not as insecure as you”. 

He pushed her further into the wall. “Take that back”. 

So it’s true”, Hillary rejected him. 

Take. It. Back”, William fiercely reiterated.

What if I refused?”, she dared him. 

William’s eyes darted from her deep blue ones down to her soft pink lips. Hillary had seemed to notice him and her pupils darkened in an instant, her body shifting underneath his. 

I think you have an idea what I’ll do to you”

You have not been faithful to me for five whole years”, Hillary’s gaze never left his luscious lips, her tongue licking her own. 

You should leave me then” he challenged her.

I will”

William’s face crept towards hers, his lips closing in. Their tension and frustration, built for over five years of unspent desires , were finally ripe for release. 

So”, he said huskily, his lips inches away from hers, “Will you take it back?”

No”, her eyes fluttering, her breathing erratic. 

Then so be it”. 

William’s mouth slanted towards her in a deliriously powerful kiss that left her head spinning and mad with need. Her arms immediately latched around his neck as her fingers landed on his brown locks. Her tongue fought its way towards his mouth, his arousal starting to build. He then gripped her hips as if to claim possession of her body. 

Desperate and hungry for release, they ability to think reasonably was suddenly impaired. Consequences be damned, Hillary somehow managed to float in her drunk mind. Their delicious assault on each other’s bodies continued until William shoved Hillary’s dress upward, his member aching to gain entrance to her liquid smooth sex. 

I dare you”, she breathed, her nostrils flaring. 

He did not respond. But instead, his member parted her entrance until she took him completely, her body trembling as each inch disappeared inside her heated confines. 

Hillary wrapped legs around his hips, meeting his thrusts with her own. “You hurt me so much”, she hissed through clenched teeth. 

Liar”, he fired back huskily. “You enjoy seeing me suffer”. 

She gasped as he closed in on the neck, “Am I like your wenches? Am I like the loose women you stick your member in?”

William grunted. “You...damn...you’re infinitely more precious”.

Hillary bucked hard against him, her lips parting in pure ecstasy. “I hate you...for saying that...you treat me...no better...than those wenches”. 

William did not respond. Instead, the thrusted harder, eliciting a louder and more erotic moan from her. 

"My wenches...did not...scream...like that", he grunted in between thrusts.

"You bastard", she said in between gritted teeth.

The heat in the cupboard became unbearable as two of them got off, waves and waves of pleasure washing over them. Hillary arched her back against the cool wall as she stilled for her sensual high to ebb. William pressed himself deeper inside Hillary, his seed spilling in her womb. 

At that moment, William felt hot tears soaking his shoulder. Hillary's face was resting against his shoulder, sobbing. He gently stroked her golden blonde hair, his heart carrying her pain tenfold.

Hadeshah was rolling on the floor in pain as William was coughing for air. Both were stunned by the vision that they had seen, Hadeshah more so. It was the second time she had seen a vision of Hillary, the first was during her tryst with William. The visions felt...so palpable and so real. Her head was spinning from the pain in her head and from the vision when she forced herself to stand up and to fight William. When she did, she was a bit unstable. But being a damn fighter that she was, she was determined to carry out the orders of her Master.

From nowhere, Hadeshah summoned her sword and it instantly appeared on her right hand, the mighty weapon gleaming in the darkness of the cell. She roared as she charged towards William, driving her sword. He expertly dodged her blow as he turned around to jab the base of her neck with his elbow. Hadeshah felt shaky as snarled at herself, frustrated that she made such elementary mistake. She regained her footing as she calculated her next move. She and William circled around each other, waiting for the other to strike. She wanted to bait him into attacking her first.

Hadeshah could not figure out William’s planned move, and over time she was getting impatient of the dance that they got themselves into. Finally breaking from their orbit, Hadeshah charged once again, this time aiming for his arm. However, an extraordinarily focused William was able to block her sword with his. Hadeshah was intent on breaking his hold on the sword, so she grunted as she pushed harder against his sword. William, turning his defense into offense, rotated his word, forcing Hadeshah to twist her arm and let go of him. This only made her more frustrated. She threw her sword away and instead blasted two large balls of fire from her hand, a loud roar accompanying the blazing flames. William covered himself with his arms, but the force of the blast threw him several feet away. Thankfully, he was able to land properly unlike before. He stood up and regained his footing, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

Just as when Hadeshah was about to throw another huge ball of fire, a familiar voice interrupted their intense fight.

“The meddling whore is outside! I’ll handle this weakling!”

Hadeshah grunted, but she left without another word.

William was stunned to see the living form of John Forbes standing by the doorway. He clearly remembered Hadeshah killing him back in Magnacollis. And now, he’s working for Hadeshah. John Forbes’ eyes were deep purple like Hadeshah’s, unlike the brown ones that William remembered. His kind face was replaced by a sinister one, his eyebrows in a perpetual curve. William recalled the John Forbes who he feuded before, and it was nothing like the John Forbes standing right in front of him, infinitely more merciless and menacing.

“Hello, William” greeted John Forbes.

William did not answer. He focused on holding his ground. He did not wish to give his opponent an opening to attack him.

“So...this is the man Hadeshah is desperate for” John Forbes taunted William.

William felt disgusted at the reminder of his tryst with the wicked lady, but he tried not to let it destroy his concentration.

“Stay away from Hadeshah”, warned John Forbes.

Still silence from William.

“Or maybe...” wondered John Forbes “…if your Mystic Hillary is anywhere was desirable as Hadeshah, maybe I can take her too?”. He licked his lips to taunt William.

At that point, William’s temper soared to dangerous heights. He was fighting himself not to run his sword through John Forbes recklessly.

Without warning, John Forbes vanished into thin air. William turned around to look for his opponent, but he was not anywhere in sight. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain at the base of his neck. John Forbes had reappeared behind him and snuck a stealth attack on him. William was temporarily outbalanced but he was able to regain his footing. He dropped his sword, turned around and punched John Forbes in the jaw. John Forbes, who was nursing his dislocated jaw, also threw his sword to the ground and tried to land a punch on William’s face. William, however, successfully caught the former’s arm and twisted it until he felt the other’s bone snap, eliciting a painful scream.

With a broken jaw and arm, John Forbes was in no condition to fight but he still went for it anyway. William, however, was determined to finish this so that he could save Chelsea. Once John Forbes charged and he was in his perimeter, William caught him and hit John Forbes’ member with his knee, effectively incapacitating him. John Forbes fell into the ground, his hands covering his groin as he succumbed to excruciating pain. William hovered above an agonizing John Forbes and kicked him in the face for good measure, the latter’s mouth bleeding profusely.

With John Forbes out of the way, William rushed to his sleeping daughter. He picked up his sword from the ground and broke the chains that bound his daughter with it. He was relieved and thankful that she was unhurt. However, she was incredibly weak. When William lifted her in his arms, she gently stirred against his chest

“Papa”, Chelsea moaned.

“Sssssssshhhh”, William stopped himself from crying when he heard her calling him her Papa. “You’re safe with me”.

“I am glad Papa”, Chelsea smiled weakly.

“How did you know it was me?” he asked Chelsea.

“Mama told me” she replied. “She visited me in my dreams. She told me who you really are”.

Oh Hillary. Even in absence, or near death, she was still looking out for them both. William felt a twinge of guilt and regret in his heart. There was no human more loving and forgiving that Hillary.

“Let’s get you out of here. You’re coming home with me. I’ll take care of you. We’ll find Mama soon” William promised.

“I know you will, Papa” Chelsea whispered before drifting back to sleep.

As soon as William stood up, he heard a blood-curdling scream from outside the cell.


Hashanah was lying in a pool of her own blood as Hadeshah stood a foot away, brandishing her bloody sword. When William arrived, he almost felt sick at the gruesome sight. He felt his blood turn ice cold with panic. As he carried Chelsea in his arms, he rushed towards the fallen warrior. He gently laid Chelsea on the floor as he shifted his focus on Hashanah. Hashanah’s blood turned her white garb into almost red all over. William gently cupped Hashanah’s face and patted her awake. She simply moaned.

“Accept it, King” Hashanah said “she will die”.

“No” William refused. “She’ll survive I know it”.

Hadeshah laughed hysterically. “Still in denial, I see. I wonder what your reaction would be if I managed to kill your beloved Hillary”.

You dare touch Hillary and I’ll kill you, William thought. Hadeshah’s threat broke William’s restraint. Chest heaving with fury, William stood up, pulled his sword and forcefully ran it though the back of an unsuspecting Hadeshah. She gasped in the middle of her hysterical laugh, blood streaming from her mouth and chest, before she fell down into the floor herself.

William returned to the injured Hashanah, who was barely keeping herself awake. He was trying hard not to break down, as both Hashanah and Chelsea relied on him to take them so safety. William took off his shirt and tied it around Hashanah’s wound, hoping that it would stop the bleeding. He realized that the wound was so deep that he was quickly losing her. His lips started trembling, fearful for the worst. Oh no no no…

Unbeknownst to William, Hashanah’s left hand, which was tucked underneath her body, slowly reached for Chelsea’s. A struggling Hashanah, fighting for their lives, tried to carry them out of this dangerous lair by making them all vanish and materialize elsewhere, but she was too weak to do so. William saw their bodies vanish, only to reappear in the exact same spot they were in. Seeing Hashanah fight for their lives, his heart broke into a million pieces. He felt useless and insignificant to do anything.

For one last time, Hashanah’s chest heaved, and the three of them vanished from the accursed dungeon, away from the danger that almost claimed them all.

Chapter Text

William, along with an unconscious Hashanah and Chelsea, appeared in the middle of the forest near the cleanest and purest river he had ever seen, the moon glowing beautifully above them. He rested his hand on Chelsea’s chest, relieved that she was breathing normally, just incredibly weak. He then checked Hashanah’s breathing. Hers was fainter than Chelsea’s. Panic rose in his chest. He could not afford to lose Hashanah. His shirt which he used to clean her wound was now completely drenched in her blood. He felt her pulse, and it only confirmed what he knew. He frantically looked around for anything he could use to stop the bleeding, but a couple of leaves and twigs were no use for him.

Slowly, William felt her temperature drop and her pulse fade away. Each faint pulse from Hashanah spilled a drop of tear from William. A wound so deep would have driven him into indescribable pain, but Hashanah was taking it all silently. Just like Hillary. Just like how she took in all the years of pain he had inflicted upon her. Even if William tried to be angry at Hillary for punishing him for her lie, he could not. He knew deep inside that she did all to protect Chelsea. If there was any doubt whether she had loved or had forgiven him, those doubts were completely destroyed. Chelsea, who was the ultimate testament to their hard-fought love, was right beside them, breathing and living. Hillary, who had erased all of his recollection of her, chose not to erase the most undeniable proof that what they shared was raw and real. 

An almost dying Hashanah could not move, but she could feel and hear his heart. She could hear his heart scream in agony. She had never seen him in such a state of grief. While her physical body bled, her heart bled for him too. 

In the midst of pain and incredible weakness, Hashanah was fighting for her life. Death was not an option for her. She would defy Zveda, or even the almighty Creator just to fulfill her mission of bringing peace to Aquilon and to see Hillary be united with the two people she loved the most. 

Hashanah heaved her chest, and with tremendous effort, she whispered "River". 

William, who was sobbing beside her, caught the faint sound from Hashanah. 

"River" she repeated. 

William nodded, encouraged by her plea for help. "Yes, yes. I'll get you to the river. Ssssshhhh..."

He gently scooped her from the ground, careful not to aggravate her wound, and carried her to the river. He was not sure what to do, but his feet kept carrying him to the water, as if the ground was guiding him to do so. He hesitated to lower her body into the water, fearing that she might drown. But as soon as he did, the river glowed, and so did Hashanah. He was frightened, but he was more fearful for Hashanah, so he submerged himself to the water too, holding her close to him so she would not sink. He waded both of them to the middle of the river, the warm glow of her skin felt soothing against him. He looked around and saw a swarm of fireflies hovering above them. William was awed, remembering that fateful night when he first met Hashanah, when the fireflies guided hid him to her. 

William looked down on Hashanah and saw that her bleeding had stopped. Gradually, he felt her breathing deepen and her temperature rise. His eyes widened. The rise and fall of her chest brought joy and relief to his heart. Her eyes were still closed. Hashanah leaned her head towards his chest and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, as if like a princess being rescued by her prince.

"Thank you for saving us, me and Chelsea" she thanked him, still with her eyes closed. 

"Shhhh, you're still weak. Let's get you out of the water".

Once Bill got her out of the water, Hashanah and the river returned to their normal states. The glow was gone and the fireflies had left. William gently laid Hashanah to the ground, thankful that she was safe from harm.

A few minutes had passed, Hashanah opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was a smiling yet tearful William. His finger reached for her face and ran it across her cheek. Hashanah took his hand and squeezed it. 

"I cannot thank you enough" Hashanah said. "I almost let Hadeshah kill me". 

William bowed to kiss her forehead. "There is no need to thank me. You are a part of Hillary. I will ensure that no more harm comes to her, not to even the thinnest strand of her hair". 

Hashanah smiled. "She is grateful to have you. Even when you thought she hated you. I...I just wanted you to know that". 

"I know"

William looked away from Hashanah and to his sleeping daughter. He checked Chelsea's forehead. Her temperature seemed fine, but she didn't seem ready to wake up any time soon. Hashanah saw William's sudden devotion to Chelsea, so she stood up to help him attend to the little girl's needs. 

"She's so weak right now, but she seems fine. I wonder why" William said. 

"I might have an idea, but..." she hesitated.

William furrowed his brow. "But what?"

"You might hate Hillary for what I might say" said an apologetic Hashanah. 

William shook his head. "I already know, Hashanah. Chelsea is our child". 

Hashanah's jaw dropped. "How did you know?"

"Queen Dorothea told me. She had long suspected that Chelsea was Hillary's daughter. It was not hard to deduce that I was her father either" he explained calmly. 

"I...I..." an ever eloquent Hashanah stammered "...I'm sorry I did not tell you the truth myself. You deserve to hear it from me or from Hillary. I thought that I could fulfill my mission first before telling you everything. I tried my best to keep you all from harm". 

William gently cupped her face and shook his head, his eyes kind and devoid of any anger or bitterness. "You are indeed a part of Hillary. She would keep her troubles herself, no matter how hard". 

Hashanah closed her eyes and nodded. 

He smiled, and kissed the space between her eye brows. "Look at me, Hashanah". She obliged. "I want you - and Hillary - to remember that Chelsea and I will always be here for you no matter what. When the world has forsaken you, we shall still be by your side. All we ask is that you trust us with the truth". 

A single drop of tear streamed in her cheeks.

"William" Hashanah held his hands "I think it's time for me to have faith in you. I should have done so in the beginning. You deserve that much from me". 

His heart raced. His eyes widened. The truth that he very much craved for was finally going to be revealed to him. 

"Please close your eyes. I want more than to just say the truth. I want you to feel it" Hashanah said. 

William closed his eyes, feeling his body drawn to another realm of time and space. 

He found himself walking in the halls of his castle as he saw Queen Hillary, six years younger than her present self, enter the library. Curious, he followed her inside. He noticed that she was carrying a little pouch with her. 

Hillary sat down on the writing desk and took a piece of clean parchment. She took the quill, dipped it in ink and slowly wrote two identical letters:

On this day, on the fourth year of my reign, I hereby declare my abdication from the throne of Nova Iorca, and all titles associated with it, effective immediately. 

Hillary Diane, Queen of Nova Iorca

William gasped at the letter, aghast that Hillary even thought of abdication. Hillary was an effective Queen and ruler, beloved by her people. Why would she give it all up? 

William thought that she was making a grave mistake, so he tried to grab the parchment away from her. To his amazement, his hands passed though the parchment, as if it was air. He tried again, and again, but it made no difference. He realized that he was only drifting in Hillary's memories. He had no power to change it, just as he had no power to alter his.

Hillary finished writing the letter and fished something from the small pouch. It was her royal seal, engraved with the image of the dragon. She reached for the burner and melted the red wax in it. When the wax was already liquid, she poured a small portion of it in each letter. She pressed her seal in each blob of wax, rendering her abdication final and irrevocable. 

She took another piece of parchment and wrote another letter, this time addressed to him: 

My beloved William, 

I am handing you my letter of abdication from the throne of Nova Iorca. I no longer wan t t o be Queen. Being of service to my peop le has been the gr eatest joy and honor of my life, but my accomplishments seem insignificant without you in it. 

I have thought about what happened between us in the cellar. I was heartbroken to see what had become of us since that day on the hill. Did we really drift further apart? Were we too different since then? Maybe. But I do know that I still love you. And I know, despite our falling-out, that you love me too.

Th at is why it was easy for me to let go of my dream. Living my dream is one in a million, but being with you is once i n a lifetime. My dream brings me joy and fulfillment, but being with you brings me happiness. If the choice is bet ween you and my dream, I easily choose you. 

I want you to read my abdication and this letter to your court and to mine. I want our people to know how much I love you. I am ready to face the consequences of being with you. Anything otherwise will be infinitely worse. 

I hope this letter will bring you joy the way it did to me. I have never been so relieved in my entire life than when I decided to give everything up for you. I look forward to spending the rest of my days with you. Maybe we can build a family too...

I love you so much. You will always be my best friend, my beloved and my King. 

Hillary

As soon as she finished her letter, she pressed the parchment in her heart and closed her eyes, smiling as tears fell from her eyes. She looked so content and at peace. William, who was watching her from the side, was anything but. His heart was crushed at her decision to leave everything for him. In the grand scheme of things, it should have been him, the less known, less powerful and less influential between them, who should have abdicated. Instead, it was she, the one who was already in the skies, who chose to descend to the lowly earth. William could not believe that she had given everything up for them. It only made him feel worse for treating her like a dog with rabies. 

Suddenly, William's surroundings dissolved. For a moment, he thought that everything was falling into him, so he crouched and shielded himself with his arms, his heart pounding madly. But the expected debris of stone did not come. Instead, he found himself at the entrance of his personal study, the door slightly ajar. 

William saw Hillary approaching the study. Her face was stoic but he could clearly see the gleam in her eyes. She held two envelopes in her chest. He suspected that those were the letters she wrote for him and her declaration of abdication. He noticed that she was trying hard to contain her elation and excitement. He hoped that he was not about to wipe out her enthusiasm...

Hillary noticed that the door was ajar. She stopped to check if there was someone inside, and indeed there was. She heard King William, also six years younger than the current William, talking to his mother, Queen Virginia. Hillary froze, and so did the older William. The two decided to listen to the conversation inside. 

"I heard you in the cellar", Queen Virginia confronted the young William. "You and Queen Hillary". 

Hillary and the older William did not hear any response, but it was evident that Hillary's heart sank. 

"You were fucking her" Queen Virginia accused. 

The older William looked at Hillary, who was deathly pale. 

"Yes, I was fucking her" the younger William confirmed.

"Why? Do you have a relationship with her?" his mother asked pointedly. 

Hillary closed her eyes, praying that the young William's response would not break her heart. The older William, however, knew where this was going, and he felt sick at himself. Disgusted, even.

"I did not have a relationship with that woman, Queen Hillary" William heard his younger self say, emphasizing each word to prove his point, wanting to kick himself for issuing such a strong denial when he could have not done so. Hillary, on the other hand, was already quietly sobbing. She just heard the love of her life, whom she just gave up everything for, deny her at the first opportunity that had come his way. 

" Why were you fucking her then?" Queen Virginia further interrogated. 

The younger William replied "She was asking for sex in return for the removal of the sanctions on us". 

Hillary was heaving and crying as the older William broke down in the floor, sobbing. He was horrified with what his younger self had done. It turned out, his real transgression against Hillary was worse than he originally thought. Not only he denied her at the first opportunity that he had, he also used her as a scapegoat instead of owning up to his actions. William realized how a huge of a coward he was. A huge fucking coward. There was Hillary, ready to give up everything and to give it all up for him, and there was him, a lowly, dirty swine who could not even own up to his actions and instead falsely lay the blame on someone else. The difference could not have been starker. 

And the hypocrisy could not have been clearer. 

Hillary could not be ar to hear any more words from this conversation, so she ran away from the study. She was going to burn her letters and go home to Nova Iorca. 

The older William stood up to catch her. He almost did, but not before the surroundings dissolved again and transformed itself into a river. 

William saw Hillary bathing in a river. He did not know where he was, but he assumed that Hillary was back in Nova Iorca. He could only see her smooth, creamy back covered by the wet strands of her golden blonde hair. When she turned around, he felt himself sink further. Hillary's eyes were uneven, dark circles prominent und er them. Her eyes w ere still vibrant blue, but they were devoid of any life or emotion. She was visibly struggling from the heartbreak he caused. William was struggling too, but it was nowhere near the pain she felt. 

Hillary swam back to the bank. But as she waded, William heard her give the most piercing scream he had ever heard in his life. She grabbed the back of her left shoulder as she wailed in agony. He saw her struggling to carry herself towards the edge of the river, almost drowning in the process. She was thrashing and kicking and shouting for help, but no one came. Panicking, William dived on the river and pulled her towards the edge. Unlike earlier, he was actually able to touch her while in her memory. He pulled her and carried her to the surface where she coughed the water out of her lungs. 

A naked Hillary turned her back against William, and he was surprised that a burn mark, in the shape of a dragon, had appeared on her left shoulder. It must have been the one Hillary was nursing earlier. William knelt down and kissed the ground that came into contact with her s kin as he witnessed the most incredible moment in Hillary's life. 

There was no doubt about it. The burn mark on her shoulder pointed to a single undeniable fact.

The new Regent had been chosen, and Hillary was the chosen one.

Queen Hillary just ascended to Mystic Hillary.

"Oh Your Benevolence" William quietly paid respects to the woman whose reputation he just destroyed. 

 

Chapter Text

William found himself this time in a familiar place: his bedroom. In fact, he saw himself sleeping. His right arm was splayed in his bed, while his left was in his chest, his fist closed. He looked terrible, as if he ha d cried all night. William wondered if he had been crying because of his betrayal. 

A few seconds later, Hillary materialized in front on the bed. It appeared to William that she had already realized that she could use her powers. Like his younger self, she looked terrible. She seemed to have been crying her eyes out too. 

Hillary looked at the sleeping William and hovered her hand over him. She was arguing with herself whether to do what she was planning to do. She began to cry again, but she had made her decision. She had no choice. 

"By the powers granted upon me" Hillary said tearily "I command that your memories of us be removed from your mind, and that they be replaced with memories of us being indifferent to each other. Likewise, let the memories of those who have known about our love be removed too. Let there be no trace of our relationship be remained in the memories of all people in Aquilon"

Hillary's eyes, bathed in tears, began to glow. And so did her hand. The sleeping William's head glowed too. The light from his head flew towards her hand and she caught it. Once she had closed her hand, the lights were extinguished, as if nothing had happened. She broke down and sat on the left side of the bed. Like when she found out about his betrayal, Hillary was quietly sobbing. The older William thought that he could not cry anymore, but he was surprised that he did. He sat next to Hillary, hoping that he could comfort her even if he knew she could not feel her presence.

Hillary took the sleeping William's hand and opened it. The older William was stunned at what he found in his younger self's hands: the dragon crest Hillary gave him. There was no doubt what he had been doing before he slept. He had been crying about his betrayal. Hillary took the crest from his hand tucked it in her dress. 

Both Hillary and the older William noticed the two pieces of parchment that was on the table beside his bed. Curious, Hillary reached for first letter, a short one, and silently read its contents:

This is to declare that I, William Jefferson III, King of Pietro Minore, will abdicate the throne and all offices associated with it effective immediately. 

This declaration is final and irrevocable. 

William Jefferson III

W illiam's seal, the eagle, was forged on the wax below the handwriting .The older William and Hillary were stunned, the latter almost wanting to snatch the letter away from the former just to see whether his eyes were fooling him. He read and re-read the letter. There was no doubt. He had indeed written his abdication. But that was only half of the story.

Hillary reached for the second letter. It was much longer than the first:

Hillary, 

I wanted to begin this letter with "My dearest Hillary" but given what I have done, I do not think I have the right to call you as such. 

I could not imagine what you've gone through since I made that false accusation. I should not have told everyone that you asked for sex in exchange for the removal of the sanctions. We both know what happened: it was I who coerced you into removing the sanctions and the sex that had happened afterwards was not because of your own volition. Or at least, it was I who initiated it. 

I know you would not believe me, but the reason why I easily succumbed to my fleshly desires that day in the cellar was because that I missed you dearly. It has been so hard for me to go on without your touch, especially when I finally had experienced paradise on that day on the hill. I tried to sustain myself, but I was weak, so I resorted to bedding wenches every now and then. I should have though that you were probably craving for a man's warmth too, but you were chaste and strong. Once again , I´ve been selfish. I am sorry.

My apology, repentance and penance begins with this letter. I know it would take a lot more than a simple letter for you to forgive me. I could kill myself right here and right now, but I know it might not be enough to earn your forgiveness. I have entertained the possibility that nothing I do will be enough. That is simply fair, given the magnitude of what I did to you, but I want to carry the weight of my sin all the same.

As part of my penance, I shall abdicate the throne of Pietro Minore. Afterwards, please allow me to serve as your loyal knight, dedicated to protect you from harm. I vow to serve you for the rest of my days. Now that you have ascended to the Regency, more harm is bound to come to you. Please, let my body shield you from the swords that dare to take your life. Being your defender will be the most honorable thing that I will ever do. I hope you will accept me as your loyal servant. 

I know you may not wish to hear this but I love you so much, and words cannot describe how proud I was when you ascended to the Regency. Your ascension should have been the proudest moment of your life, but because of my petty lie, you were marred by controversy. But do not worry, my Queen. I shall restore your good name that I have tarnished.

I hope that one day you can forgive me. That is all I am asking. I wanted your love, but I do not deserve it any more than the vilest creature in this world. You, the most beautiful, smart and loving person. You deserve much more than someone like I am. I only regret that our laws prohibit you from being with someone who you love and you deserve. 

My love will be with you always. 

William

Hillary screamed, but no sound emerged from her mouth. She was so overcome with emotion that she crumpled the parchment in her hand and it instantly caught on fire, thanks to her fiery powers. The ashes fell on the bed, tarnishing the immaculate white sheets. Hillary was heaving, like she did outside William's study when he denied her in front his mother. This was the first time William saw Hillary cry like this, and it shattered him to pieces. Why did he ever treat her like this? 

"Why, William? Why did y ou have to make it hard for me to love you?" Hillary whispered in between sobs. 

"Because I am a coward and a fool" the older William replied, even if she could not hear him. He rested his hand on her shoulder and gently rubbed it. 

Hillary seemed to have felt his touch, as she calmed down a bit. However, she did not look towards William's direction. 

At that moment, Willia m wished for Hillary to stab him to death.

The surroundings dissolved again, and William found himself sitting in Hillary's bed. Suddenly, the door barged open. A panicked Hillary entered the room and unknowingly sat beside William. He noticed that she was white as sheet, and her fist was clenched. When she had sat down, she rubbed her midsection and she began to cry. 

"Oh Hillary" William understood what Hillary was going through. He rubbed her back and shoulder hoping to ease some of her anguish. 

"I need you here with me, William" she whispered. "I cannot go through this alone". 

"I am here, Hillary" he cooed, standing up from the bed and kneeling in front of her as if she could see and hear him. "I will do anything to protect Chelsea". 

Suddenly, Hillary's whimpers stopped. An idea just flickered on her mind....

The surroundings changed again. This time, William was inside the throne room of Nova Iorca. Also inside were Hillary and his younger self, locked in an apparently bitter argument. The older William seemed to have a recollection of this specific memory. 

"You lie!" the younger William fired at Hillary. "You know the truth! You did the things that I accused you of!"

The older William felt ashamed and ridden with guilt. Even with the tampered memories, his younger self persisted the lie. At that moment, the young King William had no recollection of his shared past with Mystic Hillary. The older William could not imagine what his beloved must have felt when she was pelted with the same falsehood, at first to use her as scapegoat, and now to take advantage of her politically.

"How dare you" Hillary replied in between gritted teeth. The older William noticed that she was completely furious. 

"Remove the sanctions at once! Or else this will be seen as an aggression by the Regent, who is supposed to be impartial!" the younger William bellowed. 

Unable to take any of his lies anymore, Hillary roared as she cast a powerful spell on him, the younger William falling into a deep daze instantly. 

"I command you", Hillary bellowed, her eyes glowing and her voice deeper " to succumb to my power, and do whatever I say. You will have no memories of my commands. You will remember doing everything I order you as if it was your own volition. Am I understood?"

"Yes, Your Benevolence" a dazed William replied. 

"Now, I want you to abduct me and take me to Flavopietro" Hillary ordered him. 

Hillary's eyes went back to normal, and the younger William took control of himself, the latter feeling a bit nauseous. The younger William immediately hit the base of Hillary's neck, rendering her unconscious. He caught her limp body, carried it in his arms and scurried away from the throne room.

Stunned, the older William realized what had just happened. Queen Dorothea was right. Hillary herself had ordered him to capture her and planted a false memory so that she could hide her pregnancy. He had so many emotions running through his chest at the moment, but no matter what he felt, it was only fair that she did what she did. After all, it was as good as he crucified her upside down when he falsely accused her of peddling for sex. 

Everything dissolved again. This time, William was in a small hut, where a visibly pregnant Hillary was rubbing her round belly as she sat in a chair facing the window. This must be when she was hiding and he was eluding capture. William saw a Hillary full of bliss, very different from the Hillary he saw before. She was happy, content and at peace. Instinctively, William approached Hillary and knelt beside her so he could rub her belly too. 

The moment his hand touched her belly, all of his grief, guilt and regret melted away. Instead, they were replaced by a surreal feeling of happiness. Chelsea. Chelsea was inside her belly. A funny smile formed on his face as he explored the roundness of her abdomen. It felt amazing. It felt amazing to have been given the honor of bringing a new life into this world. It felt amazing that the most beautiful and smart li ttle one would emerge from this b elly to capture his heart and mind...

"Chelsea, I am excited to meet you" Hillary cooed at her unborn child. "Your father isn't with us right now. I do not know if he will, but that's alright. I promise that you'll always have me. I will protect you and take care of you, my love. You may not recognize me as your real mother, but I'll make sure that you are loved". 

The scene shifted again. It was the dead of the night and Hillary stood outside a small house, her arms carrying a bundle. She lay down the bundle in the stoop, tears falling as she leaned to kiss her daughter goodbye. 

"Oh Hillary" William went to her side and held her. 

So this is what it's like to give a child away. Your own child. William thought that it was the hardest thing any parent could do. But Hillary did it without qualms. She stood strong even though she had to face the challenges alone, while he was on the other side of the world, wallowing himself in pity. 

Again, the surroundings shifted. He was on the foot of the same hill where he and Hillary first made love. The cool breeze tickled his skin and the damp grass kissed his feet. The dandelions danced along the rhythms of the gentle wind. 

William looked up and saw the familiar form of Hillary on top of the hill, her back turned against him. He was unsure what would happen next, as she was not moving. Neither did he. Was it a memory? A dream? Or was it something else?

Slowly, Hillary turned towards him, revealing her ever beautiful face and her eyes that shared the same color as the clearest skies. She was smiling at him, her face full of joy, different from the Hillary that he had seen in the memories. Her hair gently flew against the wind. She was not wearing her usual queenly garb. Instead, she was donning a flesh robe with golden fastenings. She looked relaxed and free from worries. William had not seen her like that since that day on the same hill eleven years ago. 

Hillary extended her arm to him, inviting him to come to her. He hesitated. Why was she smiling at him? Why was she welcoming him with open arms? After all that he did, the last thing that she should be doing was to show him kindness. 

William saw Hillary nod her head once, making her invitation clear. Finally, he felt guilty of ignoring her so he climbed up the hill to meet her at the top. 

Once he was on the top, instead of taking her hand, he knelt in front of her and wept.

Hillary was visibly puzzled by his gesture.

Why are you crying, my love?” she asked him, her voice laced with empathy.

William looked up to her. “Why? Why did you keep our child? You could have stopped the pregnancy and I would have been completely out of your life”

Hillary shook her head, her eyes filled with sadness. “I could not do that to you. To us. Even when we drifted apart, even if we hurt each other, I still believed you loved me. And the fact that you are here right now proves that I am right”.

I have always loved you very much, just not very well” he said with deep regret.

Hillary lifted him up from the ground until he was standing tall. She cupped his face so that he was looking at her.

Dear William. You hurt me, and I hurt you. I have regretted what I did to you. I am sorry that I hid our child at your expense. I am sorry that I placed that cruel curse on you. I was selfish. I wanted you to suffer as miserably as I did. But I didn’t realize that I was punishing myself too. Seeing you suffer like that – it broke my heart more than I could have imagined” she said sincerely.

Hillary caressed his cheek with her thumb. “But I have never regretted loving you. No”.

She ran her fingers through his face, loving each wrinkle that lined it.

It was my curse that made you look like this. You have grown more handsome, my love. I thought that by making you look older, I would surely detest your appearance so it would be easier for me to forget you. The opposite happened. I fell more deeply in love with you. The more you were flawed, the more perfect are to my eyes” Hillary admired him.

William held back the tears that threatened to fall. He had already spent so much time crying, but he felt that he could still cry a lot more.

I want to prove myself to you” William said “I want to prove how much I love you right now”

You can do one thing…” she challenged him.

Name it, my love”.

Kiss me”.

William was only too happy to oblige. He dipped his head to meet her lips, savoring the taste that he missed for five whole years. It was more than the taste of passion or pleasure. It was the taste of love, forgiveness, faith, hope, strength and many m ore things that Hillary had personified. That kiss was the beginning of the road to his reconciliation with her and with himself. For the first time, he felt that he could forgive himself, because she had forgiven him. All the darkness of their past – she was willing to let go and move onward with him. Only if he was willing to let go too.

The two of them broke apart to gasp for air, their hearts full of joy. After all those years, they finally found each other, back on the same hill where it all started.

They had come to a full circle.

Hillary, come back to us” William said. “I need you. Chelsea needs you. Aquilon needs you”.

Hillary shook her head. “I cannot do that just yet. I came here because I need you”.

I am ready, my love” William assured her.

I don’t know where my body is, but I am…I am fighting for my life right now. I need you to find me and save my body. Hashanah can help you. I trust both of you to rescue me”.

William suddenly panicked at this dire news. “ Where were you the last time you remembered?”

I was battling Vladimir at Lihvo. He was able to overpower me. That was the last memory I had”. Hillary recalled.

William kissed her temple. “Do not worry, my love. Have faith in me and Hashanah. We will save you”.

Thank you”, Hillary smiled faintly, holding his hand. “But please, do it fast”.

I will. I promise”.

I love you”.

I love you too”.

William woke up from the vision, gasping. Hashahah was gasping too, her eyes wide. She seemed to be stunned and confused.

“What’s the matter?” asked a worried William. “Are you alright?”

“The last vision...” said Hashanah, her eyes fixed on the ground. “…we need to save Hillary fast”.

“Yes” William scrambled to stand up. “We need to bring Chelsea to my home and then get back to Lihvo”

Hashanah nodded, still gasping. “I agree with your plan. Hillary…oh my…she must have interfered with the visions to seek help.”

“I know. I didn’t expect her at the end of it” William said.

“We better act fast. I can take us to Pietro Minore and then we’ll go right back to Lihvo” Hashanah said.

William nodded as he scooped a still sleeping Chelsea from the ground. He admired her innocent face as she stirred in his arms.

“We have to succeed in our mission, Hashanah” he said, still looking at his daughter. “I cannot let my daughter lose her mother”.

“You can count on me, my King”, Hashanah stood beside him and held her arm, proud and ready to be fighting beside him.

William nodded.

“Let’s save Hillary. She has already saved all of us. It’s time that we return the favor” he declared.

Chapter Text

William and Hashanah reappeared at the dungeons where they left a few hours ago, both with swords drawn and their senses heightened. The two of them almost fainted at the large stain of blood, the mixture of what had belonged to Hashanah and Hadeshah. Hashanah was especially shaken by the sight, as she could have died on the spot if not for William’s swift actions and her desperate will to survive. 

Hadeshah, however, was nowhere to be found. Surely, her body would have been rotting somewhere, as it was Zveda’s punishment that the bodies of the wicked be putrefied within a day after their deaths.

The two fighters carefully searched the dungeon cells for any trace of Hillary. Using her powers, Hashanah was able to detect the presence of each prisoner in the dungeon. To their dismay, Hillary was not among them. 

“She’s not here” Hashanah shook her head, crestfallen. 

“Let’s look further. Hillary’s counting on us” said an equally disappointed William, who looked around to cover Hashanah’s back.

Once they had thoroughly scoured the dungeons, the pair decided to take search for Hillary somewhere else. 


"THAT MEDDLING WHORE!"

Lord Vladimir roared in anger as he intercepted Hillary's message to William and Hashanah. He thought he already took care of Hillary, but that whore kept defying him, even in the brink of death. His temple pounded with fury. He needed to take care of Hillary before the other two meddling fools could retrieve her. 

The bloody body of Hadeshah, in the brink of death thanks to William, lied in front of him. 

Lord Vladimir lifted his hand so it hovered over her, his palms and eyes glowing in purple. 

"I command you, surrender your powers to me" he ordered the unconscious Hadeshah. 


"You will never take my powers away from me! Even if you kill me, I'll never surrender them to you!" Hillary, who was standing on top of the hill beneath the clearest blue skies, defiantly screamed as she watched everything from there.

Hillary woke up from her slumber recently. She had no grasp of what had happened yet, but she knew that things were going dire when she saw the image of Lord Vladimir looking down on her. 

She raised her right hand and her eyes glowed in white. Her voice shifted into a deep and infinitely more powerful tone. 

"Oh merciful goddess Zveda" she commanded "I pray that the powers you and The Creator granted me will be protected. I shall be your humble servant once more. Protect my body so that I can protect the s acred power that you have bestowed upon me".

Her eyes returned to its normal color of blue. 

"Please William" she added on a whispered voice, a single tear running through her cheek. "I entrust my life to you. Save me the way I saved you. I love you, my brave King".

The glow in her hand intensified. It was now brighter than the sun, so much that Hillary was almost blinded. The light persisted for a while until it faded, and Hillary was lying in the grass, unconscious and unmoving. 


Hadeshah's body glowed in blue before Lord Vladimir could siphon her powers. He gnashed his teeth in fury as once again, Hillary was able to thwart him. He regretted letting her live and make her do his bidding. He could have killed her right away when he had the opportunity and then finish her daughter afterwards, who herself inherited the Regent powers. Lord Vladimir was a man obsessed with perfection. He did not take failures very well, especially if it was his own.

However, he was a gifted tactician. Even in the midst on adversity, he had always been able to think of a plan and turn things around in his favor. That was what made him a fearsome opponent. He was quick witted and cunning. In fact, the only other person who could compete with his wit was Mystic Hillary herself.

Lord Vladimir was not going to let Hillary outsmart him. Therefore, he immediately came up with another plan. He smirked as he ran his plan through his cunning mind. 

He abandoned the dying Hadeshah and vanished to find John Forbes. 


William and Hashanah slowly and silently made their way towards what seemed to be a large cavern that was connected from the dungeons. To avoid detection, Hashanah cast a simple spell to make their appearance blend with their surroundings like a chameleon. Hiding while in motion wasn't as easy as William thought it would. 

When the pair arrived at the cavern, they became instantly suspicious of the sweeping silence. No Lord Vladimir, no John Forbes nor any of their soldiers. However, the cavern was lit, as if it had been recently used. 

"This is strange" Hashanah whispered. 

"Indeed" William agreed. 

Hashanah opened her palm and closed her eyes. A small patch of light emerged from the end of her fingertips. The light slowly burst and transformed its color from white to red. Hashanah's eyes were suddenly filled with panic and urgency. 

"Someone's coming" she said as she closed her palm, extinguishing the ball of light. 

True enough, someone did come. It was the tall and rigid form of John Forbes emerging from one of the tunnels leading to the cavern. William remembered injuring the man when he fought with him a few hours ago, but the latter seemed to have fully recovered from his wounds. There was no trace of the vast amount of blood that stained his face and clothes. He was fit as a fiddle, ready to take them both to a brutal fight. 

"You two again?  For someone who hate us, you seem too fond of visiting us. I apologize, I do not care for visitors." John Forbes said brashly. 

William had no time for this dilly-dallying. He was getting impatient. He pointed his sword towards his opponent. "Where's Hillary? Where are you hiding her?"

John Forbes chuckled. "Why are you so impatient? Though I myself do not care for visitors, my Master has ordered me to show some hospitality". John Forbes opened his palm, his eyes turning purple and electric shocks visibly spouting from his fingertips. 

"Then I will be glad to accept your hospitality" Hashanah gently pushed William aside to shield him. She copied John Forbes' movements and a small blue flame flickered in her palm, her eyes glowing in white instead. 

Underneath the resentment, John Forbes could not help but admire Hashanah's beauty. After all, she was the spitting image of the woman he truly desired, Hadeshah. 

"You will give her back. Now”.Hashanah's voice changed, as if multiple voices were speaking through her. She tone was uncharacteristically menacing, and it sent chills down William's spine. 

"But what if I refuse?" John Forbes taunted them both, clicking his tongue. 

William stepped forward so he was side-by-side with Hashanah. "We kill you. Once and for all". 

Without any warning, William charged towards John Forbes, who then launched several electric shots towards the former. William was quick on his feet, easily dodging the attacks. He was able to close the distance between them and wield his sword, aiming to hit John Forbes in the chest. A swift John Forbes masterfully caught the sword in between his two palms. William was stunned at John Forbes' incredible ability. His momentary lapse gave John Forbes the opportunity to electrocute the sword. The electricity traveled from John Forbes's palms to the handle of William's sword, causing the latter to scream in pain and drop his weapon. However, William was not going to be deterred. He took a gamble and stabbed John Forbes' eyes using his two fingers. The evil lieutenant gasped in pain, his eyes bleeding and his vision blurred. 

It was Hashanah's turn to attack John Forbes. She launched herself towards him and fired several balls of white hot flames. However, her attacks didn't reach John Forbes because a powerful shield, in the shape of a dome, suddenly enveloped the currently blind John Forbes, who was rolling and crawling on the ground. The balls of fire bounced from the shield, almost hitting William and Hashanah, but the two were able to take cover in a large rock and protect themselves from the backfiring flames. 

When William and Hashanah emerged from the rock, they saw the evil Lord Vladimir standing inside the shield, protecting the injured John Forbes.

"So, it's the meddling whore and the clueless fool. I am glad to see you again" Lord Vladimir said, his crooked smile showing his rotting teeth. 

"I wish I could say the same, Lord Vladimir" William fired back, seeming to have found a rare sliver of courage to face a god. 

Lord Vladimir chuckled. "Ah. The headstrong William. Attacks before thinking. Didn't that same attitude get you in trouble when we first met? Too bad, there isn't a Hillary to save you this time. She's probably dead". 

William was secretly disheartened by what Lord Vladimir said, but he refused to believe what the former just said. "No, you're lying". 

Lord Vladimir shrugged. "Suit yourself. Because I feel like giving you mercy today, I shall leave you two to search for Hillary's corpse in my lair. Feel free to explore my humble abode" he brandished his hand to show them his lair "I hope you'll like what you'll see. 

Lord Vladimir let out a sinister laugh. In an instant, he and John Forbes vanished from sight. William and Hashanah tried to catch them but it was too late. 

"Damn", William cursed. 

"We can't do anything about it now" said a frustrated Hashanah, who was trying to remain composed. "Let's just take Lord Vladimir at his word and search for Hillary in the rest of the caverns. We don't have much time to spare". 

He simply nodded. 

Hashanah opened her palm again and the small fire flickered. 

"The fire will become bigger when we're closer to Hillary. Let's go" Hashanah told him. 

William nodded. 

The search for Hillary turned out to be a complicated maze. Tunnels leading to several more tunnels made their search tedious and confusing. Thanks to Hashanah's fire, they were able to take the correct path towards Hillary. However, it wasn't until an hour when they entered a cavern and the flame in Hashanah's hand crackled merrily like a firework. 

"She's here" said Hashanah, her voice laced with excitement. 

William sheathed his sword. "Let's look around". 

The two of them crept around the cavern but they saw no sign of Hillary. Behind every rock and in between every corner, they searched for any trace of the missing Regent. After they had scoured the place upside down, both expressed their disappointment and frustration for failing to find the person they were looking for. 

"Maybe Lord Vladimir was lying" said William in between his gritted teeth. 

"No, he's telling the truth. My fire can confirm that" Hashanah pointed to the ball of flame in her hand. 

"Maybe she is invisible?" he suggested. 

Hashanah shook her head. "Lord Vladimir isn't like that. He has a flair for the dramatic..." Hashanah said the last word slowly as a realization dawned on her, her eyes focused on the ground. 

"What is it?" William detected her change of tone. "Do you know where Hillary is?". 

"I am not sure but...."

Hashanah looked up and saw in the high ceiling of the cavern, the body of what seemed to be Hadeshah, clad in her usual dark cloak, her arms stretched wide and her head drooping downwards as if she was crucified in the air.

Hashanah gasped in shock, her hand covering her mouth, as she sought refuge in William's arms, who was also in disbelief at what he was seeing. 

"Merciful Zveda" William gasped "Did...did Lord Vladimir do this?"

"Most likely. He isn't one who treats his minions kindly. I am sure John Forbes will be discarded sooner or later" Hashanah said. 

"Is Hadeshah dead?" he asked. 

"No, she isn't" Hashanah denied. "If she is, she would have smelled like rotting flesh".

"I see..."

"But what confuses me..." Hashanah broke away from William "...is why my fire keeps flickering when Hadeshah is the only one here...unless..."

William seemed to have followed her train of thought, his sweat turning cold instantly.

"Get her down. Quick" he commanded. 

Hashanah nodded. She raised her arm. Her palm and Hadeshah softly glowed. Slowly, Hadeshah was carried down to the ground where William and Hasahanah caught her. 

Both of them were hesitant to touch Hadeshah, fearing the truth that they might would find. Finally, William decided that is was he who would unmask the unconscious woman in front of them. 

Their fears were suddenly confirmed when the sweet, beautiful face of Hillary was revealed under the dark hood. Her long, golden blonde hair fell on the ground, making a contrast against the darkness of the cavern. Her face looked so serene and peaceful as if she was just sleeping.  

Oh no. This cannot be happening. 

Hashanah cried in horror as William's tears started falling, a combination of shock, anguish and grief running though his chest. 

"This...this cannot be true. Hillary...." he sobbed as he lifted her body on his lap, his fingers caressing her jaw. 

"We can verify if it's really her" Hashanah's lips quivered as she tried to offer a voice of reason in the midst of the hysteria. 

Hashanah gingerly removed the hooded cloak. Underneath it was Hillary dressed in a black fighting garb, complete with a breast plate and leather gloves and boots. One by one, while in tears, Hashanah eased Hillary's body of the heavy burdens. William simply wept at the sight of his beloved, blaming himself who failing to save her as he had promised.

Hashanah turned Hillary to her side and pulled the latter's collar to reveal her shapely shoulders. Hashanah felt sick with dread when she saw the burn mark in the shape of a dragon: the mark of the Regent. She couldn't help but weep and weep, realizing the horrible mistake she and William had made. 

William was still in denial. He could not believe that all this time, Hadeshah was Hillary, being manipulated by Lord Vladimir himself. In his last ditch attempt to push the horrible truth away from him, William took off Hillary's clothes to reveal the long scar that marred her chest. 

The scar. The same stab wound William inflicted upon her. 

He could vividly remember that moment when he plunged the sword upon Hillary, not knowing who she really was. He played and replayed that moment in his head, each time tearing his heart in two. 

"Hashanah" he pleaded "please tell me that this is all but a terrible nightmare". 

"I'm sorry, but this isn't" Hashanah lamented tearfully. "I wish this was a nightmare too, but unfortunately, we are all awake in this cruel reality". 

Hashanah's denial opened the floodgates of emotions William tried to put at bay. He roared in deep agony, the echoes of his screams reverberating across the dark cavern. He clung into Hillary tighter, the closeness never enough to narrow the distance he felt from her. 

"Why?" William looked up and screamed into the heavens. "IS THIS OUR PUNISHMENT FOR CHOOSING TO LOVE? ANSWER ME! I DEMAND TO KNOW!" He ended his lamentations with a heartbreaking sob. 

"Please" Hashanah tried to calm him down, she too in tears "You will only incur the wrath of Zveda and The Creator, the ancient God who created everything and has dominion over us. Do not make it worse for yourself". 

"IS THERE ANYTHING WORSE THAN THIS?" he screamed "DEATH IS A MUCH BETTER PUNISHMENT THAN THIS!"

There was only silence.

“ANSWER ME! YOU HAVE FORSAKEN US, AND NOW YOU REFUSE TO GIVE US ANSWERS? WHAT KIND OF A GOD ARE YOU?” William continued to weep, his tears drenching Hillary’s face as if she too was crying.

As Hashanah watched the tragic scene unfold in front of her, she blamed herself for failing to do her mission.  If only she recognized Hadeshah early . She should have been more forthcoming. She felt as if she betrayed Hillary herself. Hillary was clear in her marching orders, and she failed all of them. She failed to protect Aquilon, William and Chelsea. 

And now Hillary herself. 

Pick up the pieces, Hashanah. Stand up. If you're knocked down, get back up. 

Hashanah seemed to have heard Hillary whisper in her head. The sound of the Regent's voice was very comforting to Hashanah. As she closed her eyes, she contemplated how Hillary, in the midst of hardship and adversity, fought to regain her footing. 

Did Hillary ever lose hope? 

Never. 

And so I wouldn't either, Hashanah thought, her resolve firm and resolute. 

Hashanah took a deep breath to clear her head. Hillary was right. Every second wasted looking back kept her from looking forward. There was no way to go but onward, and her journey begins with that hardest first step. 

She gently patted the shoulder of a still sobbing William, who was inconsolable. She leaned down to wrap him in her arms, alleviating the pain that he felt. 

"Shhhh, let's get you up" she cooed "Everything will be fine. Remember, Hillary's still alive". Hashanah could not believe how strong she seemed. Maybe she really was, she thought. 

William wiped the tears away from his eyes, willing himself not to cry anymore. It was hard not to, but he felt that he had cried all the tears out of his body. His sobs turned into heaves. It wasn't as exhausting as crying, but nevertheless just as painful. 

Hashanah cupped his face so that he was looking at her. 

"William" she said "listen to me. We have to stay strong. For Hillary. For Chelsea. They depend on us now. We can't let them down". 

He choked, but nodded at the same time. He understood the position he and Hashanah were in, and he was willing to step up. 

All for Hillary's sake.

He held Hashanah's hand and squeezed it, showing his appreciation. He leaned over to kiss her on the cheek as a sign of gratitude. Hashanah tried to suppress her smile. It was gratifying for her to receive validation from both Hillary and William themselves. 

She wasn't a complete failure after all. 

William stood up and scooped Hillary in his arms. He bowed his head to kiss the space between his eyebrows. When he fell back in love with her, he had always dreamed and hoped that someday, if fate would allow it, that he would be carrying her like this in their marital bed. 

Not in her death bed. 

But no matter. It's not too late to save her and the Empire she vowed to protect. As he stood sturdy and tall, Hashanah gripped her arm, ready to carry Hillary home.

"Don't worry my love, we're almost there, I promise. Our suffering will end soon" he whispered to her ear before vanishing from the dreaded cavern. 

 

Chapter Text

William and Hashanah appeared inside Hillary's bedroom in Nova Iorca. He gently laid her on her bed as if she was made of the most delicate porcelain. Once Hillary was properly tucked, Hashanah waved her hand, and the Regent's dark fighting garb was transformed into a beautiful gold gown, fit for a goddess. Her long, golden hair was wrapped in a braided bun which looked like a halo around her head. The gown had intricate details on the bodice, so intricate that it no human could have possibly woven those details into a dress. Hillary looked gorgeous, William thought, making his heart race at her inexplicable beauty. She looked ever more magnificent at that moment than he could ever remember.

He sat down beside Hillary. He took her hand and kissed it with deep affection, savoring her smooth skin that he missed for five whole years. Just when he thought he couldn't cry anymore, William's eyes pooled with more tears. He refused to accept that they were condemned to this life of misery, when they only wanted to experience happiness with each other. Was that too much to ask?

Why?

That question had been circulating on his head for a couple of months ever since his reawakening. And now, the question gained an entirely different meaning when everything was revealed to him: from his betrayal, to her pregnancy and now to her real identity. It wasn’t anymore the question of why things happened the way they did to them.

The question now was: Why them?

Why, of all people, did they have to fall in love with each other? From the beginning, their relationship had been doomed to spell trouble: a princess forbidden to marry another prince, and then later on, a Regent forbidden to fall in love at all. But even with those barriers, from cruel laws to tampered memories, somehow, they have soldiered on. Looking at Hillary’s face, William was able to answer the question that was troubling him for a long time.

Because they chose each other.

He remembered that moment when the sword plunged on him on the hill when he shielded his body to protect Hillary. And when she brought him back to the same hill to give herself entirely to him. Looking back, he realized that either of them could have walked away early on, when they could have easily say that what they had was just a play. A superficial affair. But they chose each other, and they had chosen to make what they had real and true. They were in it for the long haul since the very beginning.

If I were given a chance to live another life, I would choose you over and over again.

William recited those words in his head repeatedly, making his heart flutter again and again. He would never get tired of hearing that she chose him and he chose her. He didn’t know whether it was the separation that made him grow fonder of her. But either way, he loved her more than he ever did before.

And that was all that mattered at the moment.

William rested Hillary’s hand on her chest and bent down to plant a kiss on her cheek. He wanted so desperately to kiss her on the lips, but he did not want to do it when she could not feel it. He wanted her to be awake when he tells her how sorry he was, how much he loved her, and how far he was willing to go for her. He wanted her to be awake when he kissed her, so that she could see and feel what he truly felt for her all these years.

I love you so much, Hillary.

He turned towards a waiting Hashanah, who was dutifully guarding the lovers whom she had sworn to protect. William, taking on the mantle of Hillary’s guardian and defender, stood up to give her his marching orders.

“It's time to bring our family together”, he said.


William and Hashanah reappeared in his bedroom in Pietro Minore where Chelsea was soundly sleeping. So many hours since her rescue and she hadn't woken up. William was starting to worry for his sole daughter. 

"Is she alright?" He asked Hashanah.

Hashanah knelt down beside Chelsea and checked her pulse.

"She's alright" said Hashanah, who stood back up. "It seems she is just extremely weak".

"Why? Do you know?"

Hashanah shrugged her shoulders. "I think I know why".

"Pray tell" William begged.

"I think Hillary, when she was still Hadeshah, sucked Chelsea's powers..."

William was incredulous. "My daughter has powers?!"

She nodded fervently. "Yes. She does. She inherited them from her mother".

William simply covered his mouth with his hand, unsure of what to say.

"Hadeshah sucked Chelsea's powers, that's why she's incredibly weak" Hashanah explained. "By then, Hadeshah became twice as powerful, having got Hillary's and Chelsea's powers. With that, she became as powerful as Lord Vladimir himself".

William could not believe he was hearing this.

"I suspect Lord Vladimir tried to suck Hillary's powers from her, so she sealed her body from him. That's why Hillary is unconscious. She's not dying. She's simply... sealed".

He began pacing back and forth, thinking of ways to save his beloved.

"If you say Hillary is sealed, then how do we unseal her?” William asked.

Hashanah shook her head. "I do not know. Only Hillary knows. That is what we must find out immediately".

William sighed, both in relief and in despair. He was thankful that Hillary was still alive but...how would he wake her?

"What can we do?" William asked.

"I will search for the solution," Hashanah volunteered. She approached William and placed her hand on her shoulder. “I promise, I will bring your family back together. It’s one of the missions that I have to fulfill”

He looked at her and nodded, grateful for her commitment. She reciprocated his acknowledgement with another soft smile. William opened his arms and let Hashanah come to him, embracing him like an old friend.

“I am so grateful to you and to Hillary. You, for being resolute in your mission, and Hillary, for always thinking about others, even in the brink of death. I am so glad that she sent you, and I am glad that Hillary is Regent,” William said truthfully.

In between his arms, Hashanah was in tears. “Thank you, on behalf of Hillary and myself. You have truly become a better man. Hillary would be so proud of you”

Hashanah broke from the embrace and wiped her tears with the back of her hand. A question had emerged from her mind, and she needed to hear William’s response.   

“My King, I have a question for you, and I need you to answer it truthfully”

“Alright." 

Hashanah looked at him in the eye. “If Hillary comes back, what do you plan to do? What if the empire finds out about your relationship and about Chelsea?”

William broke away and walked idly towards the window, his gaze steady on the night sky. He played with his fingers as he pondered what he would say.

“I will be honest with you, as my dishonesty hurt Hillary in the past,” he said “The truth is...I have no idea what I will do. But one thing is certain: I will never betray Hillary ever again. I will cherish her and our daughter, like a husband and father would. I have already accepted that I may never be her husband, as much as I want to be. But that will not hinder me from loving her like my wife.”

Hashanah smiled. She closed her eyes and secretly preserved William’s words in her memory so that Hillary could hear this when she woke up.

From the bed, William and Hashanah heard a soft moaning sound. They looked around and saw Chelsea gently stirring. William stepped forward, excited but unsure whether his daughter would wake up. When Chelsea moved her head sideways and pushed her arms to stretch. William and Hashanah caught each other’s eyes and sighed with relief. The two of them quickly approached the newly awakened little girl, sitting on each side of the bed. Hashanah fought every urge not to touch Chelsea’s cheek, as she wanted her father to touch her first.

“Papa,” Chelsea looked to William, her eyes squinting. “Hello, Papa”.

“Hello, Little Princess,” William caressed Chelsea’s forehead and kissed it for the very first time. “How do you feel?”

“I feel sleepy,” Chelsea yawned. She looked up to her other side. “Hashanah?”

Hashanah smiled, happy and relieved to speak to Chelsea again. “I miss you, my Little Butterfly. It’s been quite some time since we last read for bedtime. Do you miss it?”

Chelsea nodded. “I do. I love your reading, Hashanah”.

Hashanah giggled. “Thank you. Now that your Papa is here, maybe he can read for you now and then I can go to bed early too”.

William chuckled. “I would love to read to you every night and tuck you to bed. Even if you grow up, I will still read to you and tuck you if you want me to”.

The little girl smiled, thrilled that her Papa would be reading to her. “Mama said the same thing to me. Did Mama tell you that?”

William and Hashanah stared at each other, the latter awaiting for the former’s cue. He mouthed “I’ll take care of it”. She nodded.

“Chelsea?” William called.

“Yes Papa?”

William was threading lightly. “I have good news for you”

Chelsea yawned again, her exhaustion evident. “What is it, Papa?”

He took a deep breath.

Hillary, help me.

Chelsea was looking at him, eager to hear what he had to say.

“Chelsea, about your Mama…,” William tried very hard not to stammer “we have found her”.

Chelsea’s eyes widened.

“And…,” William continued “we got her back. Papa and Hashanah rescued her.”

Without any word, Chelsea struggled to get up despite her weak body. Hashanah helped the little girl as the latter looked at the adults, desperate for them to tell her more.

“Is she okay? Where is she? When can I see her…?”

William took Chelsea's tiny hand and wrapped it with his palm. He prayed that it everything would be alright.

“She’s in her bedroom, and we will see her now”.


William, Hashanah and Chelsea reappeared inside Hillary’s bedroom, with William carrying a weak Chelsea in his arms. When they materialized, the little girl immediately noticed the sleeping form of her mother lying in the bed which she used to occupy.

“Mama,” Chelsea said softly as her hand reached for her beloved Mother.

William gently laid Chelsea on Hillary’s left side. He then went around the bed and sat on the opposite side. Meanwhile, Hashanah was drinking in this scene of a bittersweet family reunion.

Chelsea, with all her might, turned to her side and wrapped her arms around her sleeping mother. William followed suit and enclosed the mother and daughter in his long arms. He leaned closer so that he could feel them better.

William never felt more complete.

William recalled his words back in the cavern, of how he and Hillary were severely punished for loving each other. That they were treated unfairly. That no one had ever suffered so cruelly for love. But as he sat with Hillary and Chelsea, his lamentations became utterly meaningless. He realized that he had said those awful things because he had dealt with a terrible loss in the midst of hopelessness. He thought back then that given his terrible, terrible sin, he and his family would always be broken.     

But the fates are wise. They had other plans for them.

For the first time ever, William, Hillary and Chelsea were together in the flesh. Not in a vision or in a memory. William looked at daughter and her mother and saw the two most precious things in his life. His heart burst with so much love for them. He didn’t think he could feel so much love for any two persons in the universe.   

When everything’s over, you will never be sad or lonely again, William promised to his two girls.  

Slowly, exhaustion started to claim both William and Chelsea. Their eyes closed without objection as they let sleep take over their bodies, all the worries gradually drifting away. They let themselves rest, readying themselves for the challenges that would face them the next day.

Hashanah smiled with satisfaction as her sleeping spell did its work on the man and his daughter. She waved her hand and a large protective bubble enclosed the sleeping family.

“The real fight begins tomorrow”, Hashanah said to all three of them, “Hold on to each other, for that will be your greatest strength”

Chapter Text

From afar, Lord Vladimir could already see the tall, indestructible walls of Nova Iorca. He, along with thousands of his fighters, have travelled all the way from Lihvo to the bustling kingdom of Nova Iorca. Alongside him was his new lieutenant, John Forbes, riding his steed as dark as the night. Behind them were the fighters, mostly Magnacolleans, who had pledged their allegiance to them after the fall of Magnacollis. 

This was the day Lord Vladimir had always dreamed of. Nova Iorca was the kingdom he had aspired to possess ever since. During his first invasion, he was not able to capture the city, as Hillary thwarted him before he could have done so. Now, with the pestering Regent out of the way, he could fulfill his dream without interruptions. Lord Vladimir would almost shiver just thinking about Nova Iorca falling into his clutches.

What made Nova Iorca a prized target for the ambitious god was that it was Hillary's kingdom, the one she ruled over and took care as Queen. During her reign, Nova Iorca prospered and flourished. Hillary became a respected and beloved figure in her kingdom. She was exalted by the people of Nova Iorca. Even with the lie promulgated by then King William against her, Nova Iorcans still respected her.

Lord Vladimir knew he could never attain such level of respect, and he was jealous of Hillary for it.

Ever since the dawn of time, Lord Vladimir had always despised the Regent, just because of their duty to protect Aquilon from him. But he had hated no Regent with more vitriol than he did Hillary. Among all of them, it was Hillary who had gone further than anyone to dispose him. It was fortunate for him that Hillary created Hashanah, which removed some of her powers from her body, before she tried to seal him away. 

But the Wheels of Fate have turned. Who's the one who is sealed now? Lord Vladimir thought gleefully, causing him to chuckle. 

He looked behind him and saw the massive army that Hadeshah had amassed for him. He basked at the thought that Hillary herself had a hand on what would be the downfall of her beloved kingdom. Had the meddling wench and the insufferable fool not interfered, he would have had Hadeshah by his side for the invasion of Nova Iorca, and he would have delighted to see the horror of the Regent Queen killing her own people.

As they approach the gates of Nova Iorca, Lord Vladimir's heart raced. He had never been this close to tasting victory.  Finally, the indestructible and indomitable Nova Iorca would fall to the hands on its greatest enemy. 

By nightfall, Lord Vladimir vowed to himself, the streets of Nova Iorca would be painted in blood. 


Far away from the impending battle, Hashanah appeared in the cleanest river of Aquilon, the same one where she brought William and Chelsea and had her wounds healed. Only the most knowledgeable in magical secrets knew about this river. Aside from its healing powers, this river could also cleanse the soul of its impurities. 

Hashanah went to this river in an attempt to find out what would unseal Hillary. While she was glad that Hillary protected herself from the evil Lord, all of them were pushed into a deeper hole trying to figure out how to revive the unconscious Regent. 

Hashanah took off her boots and walked on the surface of the water as if it were hard ground. The water rippled whenever her feet touched the surface. It was a sight to behold. The only other people who could do such magic were Zveda and Hillary. 

When Hashanah was in the middle of the river, she sat down and folded her legs with one over the other. Hashanah folded her hands in prayer and closed her eyes to begin her venture into Hillary's deeper soul.

Hillary if you can hear me, please let me in. I am your friend. I have come here to save you. 

---

Hillary if you can hear me, please let me in. I am your friend. I have come here to save you. 

Hashanah's words echoed across the green grassy hill as an unconscious Hillary lay on top of it, laying flat on her stomach and her arms splayed across the dandelions. Her breaths were constant and steady as if she was only sleeping. 

Hashanah's prayer was loud and clear, but Hillary did not respond. 


William sat in the gardens inside the castle grounds of Nova Iorca, stroking Chelsea's hair, who was sleeping on his lap. He knew that at that moment, Hashanah was praying to Hillary to let her see through her soul. He was praying too, to Zveda to help Hashanah in her mission.  

He desperately wanted Hashanah to succeed. He really did. He wanted to see the love of his life open her eyes. He wanted to see her play with their daughter. He wanted her to be welcomed back a hero. He wanted her to rule Aquilon in her full glory. 

He wanted to tell her how much he loved her. 

When she woke up, he vowed to shower her and their daughter with the love and affection he never afforded them before. He could not wait for their family to be complete. He was uncertain of the future that awaited them, but he knew that being with his girls and protecting them was the right thing to do. 

Hillary, my love, please hear me. Come back to me so that I can tell you how much I love you. 


William's voice reverberated across the hill, causing Hillary to stir from her deep unconsciousness. 


Hashanah felt the sudden burst of energy rushing through her veins in the middle of her prayer. She knew she got through Hillary, but not enough to scratch the surface. Whatever it was, it needed to continue. 


Nova Iorca was engulfed in total chaos as Lord Vladimir's soldiers wreaked havoc everywhere, from killing people to burning houses, markets and property. Shrieks and screams were heard everywhere. Once a bustling city, Nova Iorca turned into a hellhole within a matter of minutes. 

Lord Vladimir could not have been prouder of his handiwork. 


John Forbes led the siege of Nova Iorca in his steed. The citizens were horrified to see the King of Magnacollis, an ally, lead the massacre. He never had never felt so alive, killing lowlife scums who dared to oppose him and his Master. The current world order, an order where the people worship Zveda, will be completely destroyed. It will be replaced a new one: an order where all of Aquilon would worship Lord Vladimir. 

And he, John Forbes, would rule the entire Empire. 

And then he would take Hillary, the woman who was Hadeshah all along, for himself. 


Queen Dorothea led a small group of people through the secret tunnel that connected the castle to the mountains, holding a torch that gave light to the dark passageway.  Before Hillary faced Lord Vladimir, she told her mother about this secret tunnel. The Dowager Queen recalled their conversation that hot summer night almost a year ago. 

"Mother, if I were to perish and Nova Iorca falls..." Hillary was choking. 

"Don't!" Dorothea interrupted her daughter, her voice shaking. "You will triumph over that terrible man. I know you will".

"I am glad you have confidence in me, Mother," Hillary smiled sadly. "Take care of little Chelsea when I'm gone". 

Dorothea knew that Chelsea held a special place in her daughter's heart. "I will, Hillary. She'll be loved like no other child will". 

"And if King William comes back..."

"You want me to forgive him, don't you?"

Hillary nodded slowly before bowing her head, ashamed to ask such impossible favor from her mother. 

Queen Dorothea lifted Hillary's chin so that she was facing daughter. 

"My child, I know how you have loved William..."

Hillary was stunned at her mother's revelation. "I...how...?"

"My little girl, I am your mother. I know your heart like the back of my hand. And I know you blame yourself for what happened to him", Dorothea replied. She was referring to Lord Vladimir's curse to William. 

Finally, Hillary broke down in front of her mother. She launched herself into the Queen's arms and spilled her tears on the latter's shoulder. 

"I wanted to hate him, Mother, for what he did to me. But I couldn't. When I punished him, I didn't realize I was punishing myself too. I cannot bear to see him suffer anymore," Hillary wept. 

"Shhhhh," Queen Dorothea cooed, stroking her daughter's hair. “It’s alright, my little girl. Let it all out".

Hillary continued to sob, pouring out all of her anguish in her tears. 

"If you are given a chance," Queen Dorothea asked, "will you marry him?"

In the midst of tears in her shoulder, the Dowager Queen felt the strong nod from her daughter. 

"Then hold on to it. It will sustain you through the dark days ahead".

Queen Dorothea fought the tears that threatened to fall from her eyes as she and the Nova Iorcans traversed the tunnel. Hillary's body was left in her bedroom, sleeping soundly and unable to wake up. Who knows what bastard could have killed her daughter and desecrated her body.  Queen Dorothea would have stayed with Hillary, but the lives of Nova Iorcans were at stake. She needed to rescue as many people as possible. 

She prayed that her daughter would come out alive.

Hillary, come back to us. I love you and miss you so much  


Hashanah felt another surge of powerful energy run through her body. It was so strong that she had to stop breathing to let the energy wash all over her. Her brows furrowed, her heart raced and her palms pressed tighter. She could feel Hillary responding to her call. 


In the midst of the utter chaos, Lord Vladimir quietly slipped inside the castle of Nova Iorca with one goal in mind: to retrieve the Sword of Peace. The Sword, which belonged to the Regent, was the single most powerful weapon in existence. The Sword could destroy any weapon, and was itself indestructible. With it, he would kill Hillary once and for all. 

Lord Vladimir found it befitting that Hillary would be impaled by her own Sword. 

He made his way past the fighting and the fleeing, and found himself in the deepest bowels of the castle, which he surmised to be underground. It was similar to the cavern that he had in Lihvo, with a very high ceiling and a damp, rocky ground. In the middle of the cavern was an empty stone surface. 

The stone surface that should have carried the Sword of Peace. 

Fuck. 

Lord Vladimir roared in anger to find the Sword gone. Somehow, he had been hoodwinked. Someone must have taken the Sword before he did. He turned back and left the cavern, determined to find the sword for himself. 

Inside Hillary's bedroom, the Sword of Peace appeared in between Hillary's hands, ready to serve its master the moment she awakened. 


John Forbes and his men finally managed to infiltrate the castle. So far, their plan had been in motion smoothly and with minimal troubles. They were on track to capture Nova Iorca by nightfall. 

Seeing that his men could take care of the castle without his directions, he delegated his lieutenant to oversee the takeover of the castle. He had a personal mission to attend to. 

He set his sights towards Hillary's bedroom. 


Chelsea woke up from her nap, feeling sated and refreshed. She stretched her arms and let out a long yawn. She opened her eyes and saw the kind, smiling face of her father. 

"You're awake, my little girl. Did you have a good nap?"

Chelsea nodded, stifling a yawn. "I did, Papa."

William chuckled, stroking her forehead. "I'm glad. I hope you feel stronger now'. 

The little girl snuggled closer. "I'm happy that you're here, Papa". 

"I am happy that you are here with me too. You brought so much joy to my life," William said truthfully. 

Chelsea giggled. "I have a great Mama and a great Papa". 

"You have a great Mama, alright. Papa, I am not sure. Don't you miss Mama?"

She nodded slowly. "I do, Papa. I wish I could see her soon". 

William tucked her hair behind her ear. "Then pray. Close your eyes and pray that Mama will come back to us". 

The little girl obeyed. She closed her eyes and prayed for her Mother's return. 

Mama, I love you so much. Please come back to us. When you do, I promise I'll read your favorite stories before you go to bed. 


Hashanah had experienced to strongest surge yet. Her body was almost shaking and she almost fell from her sitting position. Beads of sweat started to form on her forehead. He heart was beating twice as fast, her breathing so erratic. 

Slowly, Hashanah started to drift into unconsciousness. She felt like her mind was being sucked by a black hole. She fought to stay awake, but the force was just too strong. She felt she could not hold on much longer.

Finally, the force became too strong that Hashanah gave in, falling into the surface of the water. 

Before she lost her thought, a vision flashed before Hashanah, burning it forever in her memory.

Hillary, behind the hood, stood beside the sleeping form of William. The Regent took a deep breath and slowly, she dipped her head to capture his lips in a long, languid kiss. She flinched at the coldness of his lips. William did not respond, but as time went on, she felt the warmth return to his lips, slowly bringing back the life into his body. In the middle of the kiss, Hillary breathed in relief, realizing that her attempt to wake the man from his cursed sleep was successful.

The scene shifted. This time, Hillary was on top of the hill, the same one where she and William met in their joint vision. Hillary was looking into the skies, a single tear running down her cheeks. 

"Please William" she added on a whispered voice, a single tear running through her cheek. "I entrust my life to you. Save me the way I saved you. I love you, my brave King".


Lord Vladimir approached the door of Hillary's bedroom. From across the hallway, he saw his lieutenant, John Forbes, approaching too. 

"My Lord," John Forbes bowed to his Master when they met at the door. "So far, our plan is going well. We are on track to capture the kingdom by nightfall". 

"Excellent," Lord Vladimir commended his lieutenant. "What about the King? And the Dowager Queen? Have you found them yet?"

John Forbes shook his head. "No, my Lord. They are yet to be found!"

"THEN GET MOVING!" Lord Vladimir screamed, his temper getting the best of him. "I WANT EVERY ONE OF HILLARY'S KIN DEAD!"

"Of course, my Lord," John Forbes said. "But may I ask, what are you going to do with Mystic Hillary, my Lord?"

"I shall take the Sword of Peace and then finally kill the woman with my own hands," the evil god replied. 

John Forbes nodded, as if agreeing. But deep inside, he was in turmoil. He had asked his Master to spare the woman he desired, and he was promised that he would. However, it seemed that those promises were empty. All his time as a follower of Lord Vladimir, he felt that he had always been treated as a lesser being than Hadeshah. And when Hadeshah was gone from their ranks, he was promoted as commanding general of their forces, but he still felt he was not afforded the same respect his lord gave to Hadeshah. 

"What are you waiting for? Go and search for her kin! They could be gone from the castle as we speak!" Lord Vladimir bellowed impatiently. 

John Forbes did not move, conflicted if he should still obey his Master. Unknowingly, his hand crawled into the handle of his sword and gripped it. 

"I...I will...immediately," John Forbes stammered. 

"Good. Now go". 

John Forbes turned away from Lord Vladimir, and that turnabout was more than physical. It was symbolic as well. That turn marked his turnabout in allegiance. From that moment, he was no longer a follower of Lord Vladimir. 

He was now a freeman, loyal to the Empire and to Mystic Hillary. 

John Forbes grabbed his sword from its sheath and turned again to face his Master. He swiped the sword against Lord Vladimir's neck but the latter was too swift. The evil god leaned down, buried his fingers in John Forbes chest and sent electric shocks all over his body, causing the latter to convulse in pain. Lord Vladimir could smell the odor of burnt flesh as he withdrew his hand, the lifeless body of John Forbes falling into the stone floor. 


Hashanah stirred from unconsciousness, finding herself still floating on the surface of the water. Her head was pounding. The last things she remembered were the twin visions of Hillary, one kissing William and the other, a cryptic message to him. Hashanah stood up and pondered what that vision meant. What was Hillary trying to say? 

Save me the way I saved you. 

What did Hillary mean by that? Save her the way she saved William? How? 

The first vision flashed in her mind. 

The Regent took a deep breath and slowly, she dipped her head to capture his lips in a long, languid kiss. 

Hashanah figured it all out. It was as clear as day.

Hillary needed William to kiss her awake. 

Hashanah could not help but smile. After all this time, Hillary still held a soft spot for William. If things were not as dire, she could have teased Hillary for it. 

In a gust of wind, Hashanah vanished from the river, taking the good news to William. 


William and Chelsea went back to the castle to get a book to read. After her long nap, the mood to read suddenly struck Chelsea, and she pulled her father towards his personal library. Of course, William was only too happy to oblige. He loved how his daughter loved reading. He surmised that his daughter inherited this trait from both of her parents, as he and Hillary were both prolific readers.

The father and his daughter were happily reading, the latter sitting on his lap, when Hashanah appeared out of thin air, smiling from ear to ear. Chelsea let out a yelp of delight when she saw her dear friend, running towards Hashanah and launching herself into the kind lady who just appeared from nowhere.

William stood up from his chair to greet Hashanah.

“I sense that you have good tidings for us. Your face seems to tell us so,” said a hopeful William.

“Yes, I do,” Hashanah replied. “I now know how to unseal Hillary”.

“Pray tell”.

Hashanah took William’s hand and squeezed it.

“You, my King. You alone can break Hillary’s seal”.

William scrunched his forehead. “I don’t follow...?”

“Hillary’s words were clear. She left them specifically for you. ‘Save me the way I saved you’,” Hashanah continued.

“What does she want me to do then?” William stepped forward, ready to fulfill his mission.

Hashanah could not shake the smile off her face. “She wanted you to kiss her, like she did when she saved you from Lord Vladimir’s curse”.

William blinked. “Why me?”

“Because she trusts you. Remember that she ran to you for help when she was dying...”

“But it was my fault that she was in the brink of death,” William interrupted her.

Hashanah shook her head. “Of course she knew that. But still, she came to you. That’s how her big her faith is to you.”

William finally understood. He had never felt so loved until then.

“Alright. Let’s wake Hillary up”.


When William and Hashanah appeared in the castle of Nova Iorca, they were surprised to find it in total chaos. The castle was burning and many of its structures were destroyed. The two looked at each other in horror and one thing seemed to be going on in their minds.

Hillary’s body.

The pair bravely scoured the castle, hoping that they weren’t too late. As they went along, they fought soldiers of Lord Vladimir and rescued innocent people who were either trapped or captured by the invaders. As much as they wanted to get to Hillary as soon as possible, William and Hashanah could not just leave the people who needed help, as Hillary would have done the same if the roles were reversed.

Finally, the two were able to reach the corridor where Hillary’s bedroom was, and they were surprised to find Lord Vladimir and a dead John Forbes at the entrance. Horrified but emboldened, the pair drew out their swords, ready to take down the evil god.

“Don’t you dare take a step further, you vile creature!” William bellowed angrily, his veins protruding in his temple.

Hashanah readied herself to battle Lord Vladimir. “You shall not lay a finger on the Regent!”

From the other end of the corridor, Lord Vladimir let out a loud laugh. “I love how you to project yourselves as high and mighty, when in fact, you are nothing compared to me. I am an all-powerful god, and you are just measly mortals who I can crush with my fingers”.

“We may not be as strong as you are, but we both know that beyond that door, someone else is,” Hashanah was trying to taunt Lord Vladimir into making a mistake. “She alone can take you down, and you know it. That's why you want to kill her when she cannot fight back". 

"CEASE THAT FOOLISHNESS AT ONCE!" Hashanah's taunts seemed to be getting under his skin. 

William took the hint from Hashanah and fired some sharp words himself. "Face it, Vladimir. You can't die, but Hillary can seal you away". 

"Enough!"

An agitated Lord Vladimir began throwing purple balls of fire to both William and Hashanah. The two took advantage of his unfocused aim to close their distance from the evil god; while one was dodging the flames, the other was running towards Lord Vladimir. Soon after, they were within striking distance of the evil god, who conjured a double-ended spear out of thin air to protect himself. Hashanah and William simultaneously swiped their swords at Lord Vladimir, but the latter was able to block them through his spear. The two pushed harder so that Lord Vladimir's grip on the spear would loosen, but the evil god was cunning. He blew a huge breath of fire, and that threw William and Hashanah away from him, both slumping on the floor. 

Hashanah was determined to get past Lord Vladimir, so she quickly got back up and charged towards him. But before she could wield her sword, Lord Vladimir raised his hand and suddenly, Hashanah felt like she was being choked by at invisible hand. 

"This is what you get for defying me, you meddling wench," Lord Vladimir cackled sinisterly. 

William panicked. He needed to save Hashanah fast. He rummaged through his body and he found a small dagger sheathed near where his sword was. Perfect. William pulled the dagger and aimed for Lord Vladimir's leg. He squinted so as not to hit Hashanah. In the count of three, William expertly threw the dagger towards Lord Vladimir, and it landed squarely on the latter's leg, stabbing it and engulfing the evil god in pain. 

Thanks to William, Lord Vladimir lost his hold on Hashanah and the invisible shield was broken. The evil god was knocked down, nursing his injured leg. Knowing they only had seconds, William and Hashanah ran as fast as they could towards the door of Hillary's bedroom. Lord Vladimir tried to get up but William managed to kick him in the face when he reached him, the former's nose was left bloody. Hashanah magically opened the door and the two of them entered hurriedly. She sealed the door before Lord Vladimir could do anything. 

"Damn it!" William and Hashanah heard Lord Vladimir scream from outside. 

"That was close," said William, panting. 

"I agree," Hashanah seconded, her heart racing. 

The pair turned their attention towards the bed, where Hillary was soundly asleep. She was as beautiful as ever. Hashanah noticed the Sword of Peace neatly tucked in Hillary's hand. 

"Her Sword. It must know its Master will wake up soon," Hashanah said, walking towards the left side of the bed.

William followed and took the opposite side. "I see. It follows the heart of its Master, doesn't it?"

Hashanah nodded. "It does. And so do I."

William scrunched his forehead, confused. 

"My time here is up, my King," Hashanah explained, her voice cracking. "I have fulfilled my mission. Once Hillary is awake, I'll no longer exist. I'll be back to where I belong: in Hillary". 

William felt a mixture of joy and sadness, joy because finally, Hillary would be with him, and sadness because Hashanah would be gone for good. He was thankful to Hashanah, for protecting them and bringing his family together. In his final act of gratitude, William went around the bed and embraced Hashanah.

"Thank you, Hashanah. Without you, things would have gone differently," he whispered in her ear. "I would have never met my daughter, and she would have been dead. We owe your our lives and our happiness". 

"It was my honor," Hashanah said tearily, gripping William's arm. "But if you really wish to thank me, all I ask is that you love and protect Hillary."

"I will," William kissed her temple. 

Hashanah pulled away and motioned William towards the bed. She moved away and turned back to give him some privacy. For the last time, William looked at Hashanah, forever grateful for her selflessness. 

William then turned to the sleeping Hillary, her beauty never failing to take his breath away. His finger traced her jawline, her smooth skin tickling his rough touch. He licked his lips in anticipation. Slowly, he dipped his head and pressed his lips ever so lightly against hers. 

At first, Hillary did not respond, but William kept pressing his lips, slowly building the pressure. He held her hand and covered it with his long digits. Still no reaction from her. 

After a while, he felt the warmth slowly rushing to her lips, and her hand relaxed. He could feel her heartbeat strengthen too. Encouraged by her reaction, he kept pressing. Soon, Hillary gently withdrew her hand from his grip and William felt her arms wrap around his neck. When Hillary parted her lips, William took it as a signal to move forward. He pulled Hillary into a sitting position and poured everything he felt into that kiss. Oh, how he missed her. How sweet she tasted. Hillary felt the same way too. She was devouring him with as much passion as he did, wanting to make up for the five years of lies and deceit that set them apart and replace it with love and trust. 

The two mutually broke apart, gasping for air but smiling. William missed that unique smile, accentuated by the overbite. Those eyes which clearly bore happiness. 

Hillary leaned her head on his shoulder, her hand in his chest. 

"I always knew you would save me," she whispered.

 

 

Chapter Text

William could not believe it. Hillary – his Hillary – was clinging onto him, breathing and very much alive. She was clinging very tightly too, afraid that he would let her go. However, William had no intention to. She came back to him, and he would never, ever let her get away from him this time.

“Hillary…I…I…,” William held her tighter, dipping his head on her shoulder and he let his tears freely fall.

“Shhhhh…,” Hillary rested her chin in his shoulder, she too was on the verge of tears. “I am here. I’m not going anywhere. Not ever”.

“I’m so sorry...I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry….” William blurted out his deep-felt apology again and again. “I am a fool for hurting you and Chelsea. I was only thinking of myself back then. I shouldn’t have done those terrible things to you. I am so sorry” He knew Hillary had already forgiven him, but he needed to say it. He needed her to hear him beg for her forgiveness. It was the closure that they both needed.

“I…I…,”Hillary stammered, “I have already forgiven you a long time ago, but hearing you say that…it pulled the thorns that were entwined in my heart. I forgive you. I hope you’ll forgive yourself too”.

“And I am sorry too,” she added “I tried to get even with you. I shouldn’t have. Two wrongs do not make a right. We just ended up hurting each other. Nobody won. We both lost”.

William simply wept on her shoulder. Hillary did too. Both had wronged each other in the past. But they both recognized that the other was more important than their wrongdoings. Wallowing in the past would not help. It would just prolong the pain. Forgiveness and trust were so much easier than to bear ill will against someone you truly love.

Hillary pulled back gently away from him, wanting to look at his face. He had aged significantly, thanks to her curse. His salt and pepper hair and the wrinkles on his face made him look twenty years older than her, though in reality, she was just younger by a year. His body was thicker than before, but it had clearly bore the signs of aging. Nevertheless, to her, he was the most handsome man to walk in the Empire.

She picked up his hand. His fingers were as long and slender as she remembered; only they were now marred by wrinkles. Still, Hillary found them beautiful.

“You have changed a lot, and yet you remained the same,” Hillary remarked with amazement. “Every day, I learn new things about you, and I love it. I love everything about you. I truly do.”

William caressed her cheek. “I cannot believe that someone like you exists. How can you be so perfect when the rest of us aren’t?”

Hillary shook her head. “You of all people should know that I am not perfect.”

“I beg to disagree. You are amazing, and you are perfect,” he kissed her temple.

Hillary felt her blood rush. After all those years, she still felt exhilarated every time he kissed her.

“William?”

“Hmmm?”

“I want to see Chelsea. I want to see our daughter. I want to know what it is like to play with her, not as her adoptive mother, but as her real one. Please, let me see our daughter,” Hillary begged.

William bit his lip. Hillary did not know what was happening outside. His hesitation did not escape her notice.

“What is it? Is she hurt? Tell me,” said Hillary, her fear present in her voice.

William shook her head. “She’s fine. She was with me in Pietro Minore when Hashanah fetched me to wake you up. I can assure you that she’s safe. However…”

Hillary did not like the direction William was heading.

“However…Nova Iorca is under siege by Lord Vladimir. Everything beyond this room is in total chaos. Hashanah and I found the castle almost destroyed when we appeared". 

Hillary's face fell. Oh no. This could not be happening. 

"We have to recapture Nova Iorca. Vladimir has wanted this capture this kingdom for years," Hillary said urgently. "He invaded more kingdoms before, but for him, nothing is as prized as Nova Iorca". 

"I see. Is that because of you?"

Hillary nodded. "For some reason, I invoke jealousy from him. It was probably because I command a deeper respect from Aquilonians than he does. Not my fault. I didn't push him to do terrible things to innocent people". 

She looked down on her lap and found the Sword of Peace. Took it and flipped it playfully, as if it was a wooden sword. 

"Good to see you again, old friend," Hillary talked to her Sword affectionately. "What do you know; we'll be battling Vladimir like the good old days". 

William nodded, pulling his sword as well. "Let's go. We need to gather the surviving soldiers". 

"Hold on," Hillary got up from the bed. She removed her braid so that her long, golden hair flowed freely. Her dress, which was filled with elaborate designs, was not fit for fighting. She raised her Sword and looked up to the ceiling. Her body and her Sword glowed. She glowed so bright that William had to cover his eyes. When the brightness subsided, her dress was gone. Her hair changed too. She was wearing her hair in a long, sleek ponytail that kept her vision clear. Her fighting garb was complete with a protective suit, a breastplate, metal armbands and boots. Her Sword was in her right hand, while her left hand carried a round shield with the dragon emblem, her personal seal. 

William stared at Hillary and thought she looked magnificent. If not for the ongoing chaos outside her room, he would have been happy just staring at her the whole day. 

Hillary noticed that he was paying too much attention to her. It was one of his traits that annoyed but endeared her at the same time. But at that moment, they have very little time to waste. 

"William!" Hillary snapped. "Go stand over there," she pointed at the spot about three feet away from her. 

William, crashing back to reality, obeyed the Regent's orders and stood at where Hillary asked him to. 

"What will I do, then?" he asked.

"Just stand straight and don't move," she replied. Hillary, using her Sword, tapped each of his shoulders as if she was knighting him. Bill, on the other hand, felt a gentle warmth envelope his body. He realized that he was glowing too. He closed his eyes to shield himself from the light. But like earlier, the brightness subsided too. When William opened his eyes, he found himself in complete fighting garb, similar to the oneHillary had. He even got a new sword, lighter but sharper than his old one. William looked at his sword admiringly. He swished the sword and he was impressed at how easy it was to wield. 

"This is amazing. Thank you, Hillary," said Bill, still admiring his sword.

Hillary smiled and nodded. "I'm glad that you like it. You'll going to need it. Consider it as a gift of gratitude for saving the Regent's life". 

"But I do not deserve -"

She cut him off. "No arguments. We have pressing matters at hand. Are you ready?" Hillary extended her hand to him. 

William nodded and took her hand, proud as ever to fight alongside her. "I am. Let's go, my love". 

Hillary's ears turned red when William said "my love" but neither had the chance to notice it, as they swiveled the door open and left the room hand in hand. Once outside, they both broke their grips and separated to cover as much ground as possible. They weren't far from the door when William heard Hillary scream. He turned around and saw her kneeling beside the body of John Forbes. 

"What happened to him?" she asked him, horrified. 

"I don't know. He was already like that when Hashanah and I came here. He was under the control of Lord Vladimir and it seemed that they led the invasion of Nova Iorca. Will you try to heal him then?"

Hillary nodded. "I hope he isn't dead yet. The papilla are not yet taking his body, so there is still hope". 

"Alright. While you heal him, I'll check around the area. Just yell if you need me, do you understand?"

Hillary nodded again. William left her alone with the King of Magnacollis. 

Her hand hovered over John Forbes, glowing as soon as she did so. She roamed her hand over him, trying to heal him from injuries. Indeed, her magic was working. His burned skin returned to normal. However, she could not feel any signs of live from John Forbes. No breathing. No pulse. Skin cold to the touch. Oh no. Hillary felt defeated when she realized that she had lost him. 

As a final gesture of respect, Hillary gently arranged John Forbes's body, folding his hands over his chest. It was the least she could do. She felt horrible for giving him aid too late. However, there was no use dwelling on a something that had already come and gone when there were lives at stake at that moment.

Hillary stood up and walked away to join William. But Hillary had not walked far when she heard a moaning sound. She turned around and was stunned to find John Forbes stirring. Her eyes went round and her jaw dropped. She couldn't believe it. John Forbes was alive! She immediately went back to him and checked if he was alright. 

"Your Majesty, can you hear me?" Hillary asked John. Please let him be alright...

John Forbes coughed as he tried to sit up. At first, he was having difficulty doing so, but Hillary assisted him. Soon, his energy was slowly returning to him. After a while, he was able to stand up as if nothing had happened. 

He was examining his body. "How did I get in here?" He turned to Hillary. "Your Benevolence! You're alive!"

Hillary nodded, relieved. "Yes, I am. I am glad to see you". 

John Forbes bowed. "The pleasure is all mine, Your Benevolence. But may I ask, how did I get in here?"

"You were with Vladimir," she replied. 

He was astonished. "How can that be? The last thing I remember is being stabbed by that terrible woman, Hadeshah". 

"Hadeshah?" Hillary quirked an eyebrow. "Who is she?"

"She is Lord Vladimir's general. She must be stopped at all costs. She is terribly effective, I must say," John Forbes warned. 

Hillary nodded. "Understood. Though I am wondering, " Hillary looked at both of her hands "how did you get up? You were dead. Unless..."

"Unless what?" he asked. 

Her eyes opened wider. "Unless I was elevated to being a goddess when I woke up". 

"Impossible..." John Forbes was at loss for words. 

"I know," Hillary said. "We must ask William what happened to me before he ki....before he woke me up," Hillary kicked herself on how she almost told John that William kissed her awake. 

"William is here?" asked an astonished John. 

Hillary nodded. "He was leading the rescue of the innocent civilians. Come on". 

Before they left, Hillary bestowed John Forbes the same armor she bestowed William. Now with another fighter in their ranks, Hillary commanded John Forbes, alongside William, to gather as many troops as possible and to rescue as many lives as possible. He gladly accepted the mission. 

Somewhere in the castle, Hillary and John Forbes met up with William, who was just stabbing an enemy fighter. The two rushed to William's aid, relieved that he was alright. 

"Why didn't you call me?" Hillary told her lover off, a little miffed.

"He was not as strong as I imagined," William was referring to the soldier he just killed. "I see that the King is alive and well," he nodded to the King of Magnacollis and extended his hand. 

John Forbes accepted William's handshake and nodded. "Thank you". 

"William, how did John Forbes end up with Vladimir? His last recollection was that he was being stabbed by Hadeshah. Is she still around the castle?" If so, we should eliminate her first,” Hillary readied herself to kill her yet-unknown alter ego. . .

William sighed. This was not going to be an easy conversation. 

"Your Benevolence, when you fought Lord Vladimir, he overpowered you and controlled you to do his bidding. When you were under his spell, you were…Hadeshah. Hadeshah was you". William hoped that he did not hurt her, but she had to know the truth.  

Hillary gasped in shock, her free hand covering her mouth. She wanted to seek refuge in William’s arms but the presence of another person made it impossible for her to do so. John Forbes was stunned as well, shocked to learn that it was the Regent herself who killed him the first time. 

"Was I...Vladimir used me?" Hillary asked William. 

William nodded. "Yes. Lord Vladimir named you Hadeshah when he controlled you. We didn't know it back then. I was also nearly killed by Hadeshah. She captured Chelsea too and sucked her powers to strengthen herself. When we rescued Chelsea, I..." William didn't know how to continue. "I...I stabbed Hadeshah in the chest. I almost killed her". He was apologetic. 

Hillary reached beneath her garb, her hand shaking, and felt a long scar marring her chest. John Forbes felt for his scar too. The three of them were staring at each other with confused and horrified looks. The silence was uncomfortable. Neither of them knew what to say or what to do.  

Finally, it was Hillary who broke the silence. "We all got played by Vladimir. He needs to be stopped". 

The two men nodded, readying their swords for battle. "We are prepared, Your Benevolence." 

"Alright. Do as I command. Gather all the troops loyal to us. We cannot let this kingdom fall into his clutches. I will take care of the evil god," Hillary gave her marching orders. 

The two Kings left without another word while Hillary was left to her own devices. She decided to look for Vladimir on each of the rooms in the corridor, but she was left disappointed every time she kicked the door open and found the room either untouched or completely destroyed. Still, she did not let her guard down. Vladimir was a cunning player. She got played once. She would not let it happen again.

She ran off the corridor and decided to scour the grounds for any trace of Vladimir. He was surely waiting for her to look for him. Hillary cautioned that she might be walking into his trap, but she was ready this time.

When she arrived at the entrance of the castle, she felt her stomach churn at the traces of carnage that had occurred there. There were dead bodies, both Nova Iorcans and hostile forces alike, scattered all over. The walls and floors were stained in blood. The furniture were burned and destroyed. It looked nothing like the entrance hall that she grew up on. In the middle of the giant arch was the flag of Nova Iorca, slashed in the middle and heavily stained with blood, an apt metaphor to what had happened to the kingdom that very day.

Hillary could not help but blame herself for the terrible things that had happened to her people. She looked around and saw the horror-filled faces of each of her dead subjects. Had she not been weak, Vladimir could not have done this. What’s more was that she had a hand in bringing all of this into fruition too. She stared at her free hand, and at that moment, she had the urge to cut it off her arm, as that hand had cost the lives of so many of her beloved people.

As much as she wanted to punish herself for being a failure, she could not do that just yet. She was her kingdom’s only hope now, and she needed to be strong for her people.

With the fate of the kingdom and the entire Empire on her shoulders at that moment, she had no room for errors.

She had to get everything right.

Suddenly, the memory of her showing her mother the secret passage flashed in her mind. Hillary’s sweat turned ice cold in an instant, her face draining its color. With all her thoughts on William and the situation at hand, she had almost forgotten about her Mother.

Hillary rushed at the basement of the castle were the secret passage was located. She was relieved to find the entrance unlocked. She muttered a small prayer of gratitude to Zveda. It meant that her mother must have used this entry to evacuate their people to safety.

When Hillary turned her back, she was stunned to find Vladimir standing behind her.

“Hello, Hillary. We meet again,” Vladimir sneered.

“You vermin,” she snarled in between gritted teeth, her voice laced with venom. “You dared hurt my people and my kingdom!”

He laughed that sinister laugh of his. “Oh, you didn’t expect this would happen, Hillary? You know I’ve always wanted Nova Iorca for myself”.

Hillary widened her stance and drew her Sword. “We have unfinished business, Vladimir. After this, only one will survive”.

Vladimir laughed again. His laughs were so painful that it almost made her ears bleed. “What makes you think that you’ll survive against me?”

Hillary’s eyes glowed, a strong gush of wind, almost as strong as a thunderstorm, suddenly enveloped them both. She magically made her Sword and shield disappear. She raised her hand, her palms open, and a large ball of light appeared on top of her fingertips.

“The good will always prevail over evil,” her voice changed. It was now deep, and it echoed loudly across the enclosed passage.

Vladimir’s eyes glowed too, but instead of white like Hillary’s, his were dark purple. He mimicked Hillary’s movements, and a large black ball appeared on top of his palm.

He made several arm motions as if he was doing martial art, and suddenly, the enclosed passage around them vanished. Instead, they were in a vast nothingness. Nothing. Just, her, Vladimir, and the darkness.

“Where are we?” Hillary asked, her eyes never leaving Vladimir.

“We are in the Crossroads of Time, where all time periods meet,” he explained. “Whoever gets defeated will be trapped in the Crossroads forever, never to return again.

Hillary’s eyebrows furrowed.

“You’re afraid, aren’t you?” Vladimir taunted her, taking pleasure at her hesitance.

Despite the brave front, Hillary was frightened. She feared that she might never see her family again – her mother, her brothers, William and Chelsea. Nevertheless, it did not deter her will to take Vladimir down once and for all.

“So what if I am?” she taunted back.

“You’re right, it doesn’t matter,” Vladimir conceded, “because either way, you’re going to die!”

Vladimir swiftly turned around, his robes flying in the air, and a huge wasp of smoke surrounded him. He transformed himself into a giant, horrifying demon, complete with long horns, large fangs, bat-like wings and a long, pronged tail. His eyes and teeth were colored yellow. His pupils were like that of a cat.

Hillary looked up and watched her in opponent in awe. She wasn’t fazed with his transformation, though. She knew that Vladimir had a flair for the dramatic, and he did it just to weaken her resolve. But inside, Hillary knew that she could take him down.

She could take him down this time.

Hillary, unlike Vladimir, folded her hands as if in prayer. She closed her eyes and bowed her head. She let her powers flow on every vein in her body, feeling the energy surge.

She opened her eyes and they lit up again. This time, her hands were lit up too. She stepped forward and put herself in a fighting stance, ready to battle Vladimir.

A battle to death.

Hillary never felt this powerful.

Vladimir laughed at his puny opponent. Making the first move, his tail tried to swat Hillary away, but she was swift. She rolled under his swaying tail and once she was behind him, she sent out a huge blast of fire. Her blast, however, was nothing to the demon. Though it did make him lose his temper. Vladimir tried squash her with his feet, but she was able to evade his huge stomps.

Hillary realized that it was useless fighting Vladimir using her powers alone, so she summoned her Sword and shield back. She charged towards the demon, aiming to injure his limbs. When she was close enough, she felt his massive hand pound on her body, hitting her leg. It hurt, but she was not enough to hinder her movements. She stood back up and swiped at his knee, successful in her attempt this time. She heard Vladimir yelp in pain as purple blood trickled down his wound. The cut was deep enough to make Vladimir limp, but he still had an advantage over Hillary. Using his breath, he blew a large blast of fire towards Hillary. She, out of instinct, raised her shield to protect herself from the deadly fire. However, the blast was too strong and the fire was too hot that the shield flew away from her grasp and into oblivion.

Vladimir laughed, pleased that Hillary was defenseless. “See what what will happen to you? You’ll be like that shield. You’ll be falling into a deep abyss, never to be seen again. Never to return. Are you excited to face your destiny?”

“I am excited to face my destiny,” Hillary said defiantly. “And my destiny is to destroy you and to bring peace back to Aquilon”.

And to be with my family who loves me, she thought.

“Ha!” Vladimir was amused by her defiance. “You speak of destroying me, when you could have done so in the past and you failed! You are a failure! And your failure began the moment you fell in love with that weakling you call a King!”

Nobody insults my man in front of me”, Hillary muttered underneath her breath.

Roaring in anger and in defiance, Hillary launched herself into the demon. This time, she sprang from the ground several feet away from him and flew towards Vladimir. In the middle of her flight, she came close to his eye and stabbed it deeply with her Sword. When she was on the ground, she turned around and saw Vladimir agonizing over his stabbed eye. Hillary smirked in triumph as she stood up.

“You….you meddling wench!” Vladimir roared angrily.

Vladimir transformed himself back to his human form. The Sword was already pulled from his eye but his wounds were still bleeding. Hillary opened her hand as if grasping the Sword, and it flew from the ground into her hand, catching it impeccably. She wiped the bloody sword with her cloak and sheathed it.

“Let’s finish this. No weapons,” Hillary challenged him.

Panting and nursing his wounds, Vladimir roared as he raised his hand and blasted Hillary with a continuous ray of dark energy. Before it could hit her, Hillary blasted her own, a think long stream of energy and light emerging from her hand. The two rays met at the center, each battling for dominance like their masters. The force between the two energy rays was so strong that it pushed Hillary and Vladimir further apart. The point of contact between the two rays produced a blinding light so the Regent and the evil god had to cover their eyes from the harshness of the light.

They could not see each other, but they felt what was going on, and Hillary was losing. She felt the push on her was getting stronger, and she knew Vladimir was closing the distance. From her closed eyelids, she could tell that the dark energy ray was overpowering her light. Aside from the force and the light, the heat emanating from the energy rays was becoming so unbearable that it threatened to burn her skin. She was already sweating profusely, and the heat was contributing to the weakening of her body.

Soon, her arms and legs began to wobble. She felt like melting. Her feet were slipping, but she remained standing. She stepped back every once in a while to maintain her balance, but she could not hold it much longer.

No you cannot give up.

A voice spoke in her head. A familiar voice, belonging to the woman who stood in her placeduring her absence.

You told me not to give up. You had faith in me. In us. Will you give up on us now?

“I don’t want to give up. But I am alone. I cannot do it alone,” she whispered.

You are not alone, Hillary.

“I am. I am trapped in the Crossroads of Time. Nobody will find me here. If I lose, I’ll be gone forever. I don’t want to lose, but my body is weak”, Hillary conceded.

Suddenly, a man’s voice played in Hillary’s head.

I will never betray Hillary ever again. I will cherish her and our daughter, like a husband and father would. I have already accepted that I may never be her husband, as much as I want to be. But that will not hinder me from loving her like my wife.”

It was the first time Hillary heard William say that. Where had he said it? Was it an illusion? A memory? She yearned to know. No, she ached to know.

That was your beloved, Hillary. He spoke those words when carried you to Nova Iorca. It wasn’t an illusion, Hillary. William did say that. Those words were the absolute truth, the voice said.

“Oh, William,” a single drop of tear flowed from Hillary’s eye.

Do you want him? Your child? Your family?

“Of course, I do”.

Then you know what to do.

In one great push, Hillary refocused her energy so that her ray of light regained its strength. With her renewed strength, her powers were strengthened too. She could feel her energy overpowering Vladimir’s, as she was groaning on the other side.

“You bitch! You’ll pay for this!” he screamed.

Incensed by his roar of apparent defeat, Hillary decided that it was time to finish the job. She pushed harder – despite her arms and legs wobbling – and for the last time, she screamed as she blasted her strongest ray of energy, and hit Vladimir squarely in the chest, knocking the life out of him.

“I…I did it…,” Hillary whispered as she smiled weakly.

With all her energy drained, she fell into the ground unconscious. Her dark surroundings returned to its original form. The hidden passage was back, as well as the door connecting it to the castle. Vladimir was trapped in the Crossroads of Time, lost in eternity.



Chapter Text

“Hillary, Hillary...can you hear me?”

Hillary stirred from her unconsciousness as she felt a pair of strong, gentle arms envelope her. She looked around and found herself looking at the high ceiling of the empty secret passage, which led to outside the castle. There was nobody else around them. She snuggled closer to the warm body, drawing comfort from the man that she had loved and known so well. Hillary smiled discreetly. She had always known that he would be right there to greet her when she opened her eyes.

“You came for me,” she murmured, closing her eyes and smelling his familiar scent.

“I did” she heard William say, feeling the touch of his fingers on her face. “I will always be by your side. You’ll never be alone, that I promise. I will always love you, my Queen”.

In the midst of her weakened state, she felt her heart burst. She was all over the moon. She hadn’t heard him whisper his devotion to her for years. After she wiped their shared past from his memory, she thought that his feelings for her were gone too. But she was proven wrong when he woke up from her kiss. She was proven wrong when she woke up from his kiss.

She was proven wrong when he was there to cradle her on his arms.

Her powers could tamper his memories, but not his heart.

And she was incredibly touched.

For the first time since she regained her consciousness, she opened her eyes and the first thing she saw was William’s beautiful face, smiling at her. She felt safe in his arms. Hillary reached for his face just to see if he was real, and this was not just a dream. When her fingers felt his strong jaw, his soft cheek and his salt-and-pepper hair, she felt relief rush all over her. William was there. Vladimir was gone.

Everything would be alright.

Hillary tried to pull herself up, but she was too weak to do so. William gently pushed her into a sitting position. She still felt a little nauseous. Her battle with Vladimir really took a toll on her.

As a matter of fact, the battle took so much toll that Hillary noticed a dramatic change in her body.

When she looked down, she saw her hips were wider than she remembered. Her hands too were different. Her fingers were thicker and her palms were lined with more wrinkles. She touched her face, and she felt her cheeks fuller than usual, but more wrinkled too. She pulled a stand of her hair. It was not as shiny and sleek as before. It had a duller color but was thicker too. Hillary started to panic. What had happened to her?

William sensed her distress. “What is it, my love?”

Hillary’s breath shallowed. “What happened to me, William? What’s wrong with my body? Why is everything different than I remembered?”

William, of course, knew that her body had changed dramatically, but he was more concerned with her safety. Now that Hillary had noticed it, he had no choice but to tell the truth.

“Hillary, your body seemed to have aged. You were like that when I found you,” William replied.

Hillary felt ashamed. She looked horrible, and she had no way to fix this. After fighting with Vladimir, she was sure that she had expended all her powers. She could not reverse this unpleasant side effect.

She gently pushed William away, hoping he would not look at her. She thought he might just be withholding his thoughts so he would not hurt her feelings.

“Don’t look at me,” Hillary covered her face with her tiny hands. “I look like a hag. I do not have my powers anymore and I’ll be like this forever.” She reached for her cloak and wrapped herself all over with it.

William chuckled. He found her distress oddly adorable. He pulled the cloak out of her body and removed her hands from her face. When there was nothing covering her now, she closed her eyes, as if that would prevent William from seeing her aged face.

William knew Hillary. He knew her mind. He knew her heart. And he knew what would erase her doubts on herself. While her eyes were still closed, he turned her face towards him. He leaned down and gently pressed his lips against hers.

At first, Hillary did not respond. She was tense. Too many things running on her mind. But William knew how to penetrate her defenses. He rubbed her back, easing her of all the tension in her body. His hands gently ran from her upper back, all the way to her hips. Oh those hips. They felt perfect against his hands. He loved them more than he did before. His fingers traced her curvy body up to her breasts, which were fuller than he remembered.

Slowly, Hillary started to melt at his touch. The wall she had built against William started to topple. Soon, she was responding to his kiss. She nipped his lips and sucked them, urging him to move forward. Encouraged by her reaction, William gently pushed his tongue on her mouth, begging for an entrance. Hillary welcomed him on her mouth, talking in all the words that William wanted to say through that passionate kiss.

When the need for air came up to them, the two mutually broke apart. Hillary smiled against his lips, relieved that he was still enamored with her.

“You’re more beautiful than I have ever seen you before,” William declared without hesitation. “Is my kiss enough proof for you?”

Hillary nodded. “Yes. I have no doubts now.”

William hugged her tighter, not wanting to let her go. Ever.

“William?” Hillary called his name hesitantly.

“Hmmmm?”

“I...I...I am sorry that I cannot remove your curse,” Hillary apologized, deep in regret. “I know you have longed for your youthful self, and I’m sorry that I cannot bring that back. And if I...if I...,” her voice shook, “if I will be gone before you, there is no one else to love you. I am so sorry for taking away your chance to love another”.

William shook his head. “No, do not regret this. I want to keep this, you and I. When we grow old, I want both of us to have wrinkles. I want both of us to have white hair. And I want only one woman to fall in love with me until I die, and that’s you. Only you, Hillary. No one else.”

Tears sprang from Hillary’s eyes. William just declared his eternal devotion to her, making her heart soar.


 

William and Hillary traversed the secret passage until the other end, where they found a group of refugees fleeing the carnage in Nova Iorca. Among the refugees was Hillary’s mother, Queen Dorothea, who led them out of the kingdom to safety.

As soon as mother and daughter locked eyes, the two of them ran towards and each other and cried on each other’s shoulder. Queen Dorothea was thankful that her daughter survived, and Hillary missed her beloved Mother so much. No words could express the happiness that they felt. Everybody, including William, witnessed the heartwarming reunion of a mother and her daughter, both of whom had suffered like no other.

As Hillary was welcomed back by her people, the night had fallen unto them. And for the first time since Hillary was born, the red moon had appeared in the sky, signaling the birth of the new Regent.

“Look,” Hillary said tearily as she pulled William to her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders, her head resting on his chest. “The new Regent is upon us. We’re finally free”.

Hillary felt all the weight of the world come off her shoulders. She was no longer Mystic Hillary. She was not even Queen Hillary.

She was just Hillary, the mother of Chelsea and the love of William’s life.


Hillary could not wait to see her daughter any longer, so that night, she and William left for Pietro Minore. They took two horses from the stables of Nova Iorca and traveled to William’s home. That night, they made love for the first time in six years. Their desires were insatiable. Hillary craved for his touch as much as he craved hers. At first, Hillary was unsure how to proceed, but William was there to guide her, to make her feel loved.

Hillary moaned triumphantly when she mounted William and rode him, feeling his flesh deep inside her. She missed William’s gentleness, his ability to make her feel safe. As she moved, the gentle rhythm of their hips slowly built the pleasure that eluded them for so long.

They did not need to rush. They had all the time in the world.


When William and Hillary reached Pietro Minore, a beaming Chelsea was waiting for them. Hillary could not run faster to be with her daughter. When she caught Chelsea in her arms, she lifted her little girl up and twirled her around for as long as possible, both of them laughing and crying. 

"Mama," Chelsea hugged Hillary tightly and gripped her mother's back, her eyes closed, unable to believe that this was real. 

"I'm here, my Little Princess," Hillary gently rubbed Chelsea's back, resting her chin on her daughter's shoulder. "I am here for good". 

In the background, William watched the two most important women in his life catch up the time that was stolen from them. 

That's my family. We're finally complete. 


Hillary's return to Aquilon was not entirely marked with rosy moments. There were trying times too. When The Council convened to discuss Hillary's actions when she was still Regent, she was officially stripped of her title and William was dismissed from the Council, especially considering John Forbes returned. In addition to the removal of her titles, Hillary was forbidden to leave Nova Iorca for ten years, unless the Council approved of her departure. She was to be killed the moment she set foot outside the borders of Nova Iorca. 

The events leading up to Vladimir's rise prompted the Council to change the laws on the Regency. From then on, the Regent would not have the power to decide on matters regarding the security and well being of Aquilon. The Regent, however, would retain their peacekeeping duties. 


William decided to move to Nova Iorca to be with Hillary. Queen Dorothy and the rest of Hillary's grateful family welcomed him with open arms. Being an instrument in bringing the peace back to Nova Iorca, King Hugo II, Hillary's brother, bestowed knighthood to the deposed king. Hillary, despite being punished by the Council for her misdeeds as Regent, was still beloved by her people. As gratitude for her service, Hillary was given the title Queen Emerita, meaning, a former Queen. Her title gave her the same rank and privilege as her mother, Queen Dorothea. 

One day, when both William and Hillary were free of their civic duties, they left Chelsea to be cared for by a maid and climbed the hill that bore witness to their love and suffering. When they were finally on top, Hillary felt free. She ran all across the hill, giggling and laughing. She cried her delight to the clear blue skies. She invited William to join her and soon, they were chasing each other. William, being in very playful mood, knocked Hillary over and they found themselves rolling in the fresh green grass. They felt like they were children again. 

Once they stopped rolling, the laughter didn't subside. They hadn't laughed this hard since they could remember. William snuck his hand on her waist and tickled it, causing Hillary to giggle uncontrollably. She wasn't going to let him have the last laugh (no pun intended) so she reached for his neck and touched his sensitive spots. William jerked his head and captured her hand between the crook of his neck and shoulder, obviously trying to suppress his laugh. Hillary giggled, knowing that she had him.

Once they had used all their energy up, they simply lay in the grass, watching the clouds above them. Hillary laid her head on his chest as she wrapped her arm around his torso. William pulled her closer to him, her presence being his refuge. 

"Hillary?"

"Mmhmmm?" she said lazily. 

"Remember that day almost eleven years ago? When you were scared that I almost died, you brought me back here to offer yourself?"

Hillary snuggled closer. That memory never failed to make her heart clench. "Of course. How could I forget?"

"Well," William secretly prayed that the words would come correctly from his mouth "after you fought Lord Vladimir, I thought I lost you, and I was scared to death". 

"And I am here. There's no need to worry," Hillary assured him. 

"I know, I know. But after I almost lost you, I too want to offer myself."

Hillary looked up and quirked her eyebrow. "What are you saying?"

William reached deep into his pocket and took out a ring. The band of the ring was engraved with small intricate marks of fire and ice - Hillary was fire and he was ice. Hillary's eyes widened. 

"Hillary," William said, "I offer myself to you the way you offered yourself to me years ago. You gave me your innocence, I give you the rest of my life. If you will have me, then allow me to insert this ring on your finger". 

Hillary could not believe what she just heard. She remembered that grim night a year ago when she cried on her mothers arms, confessing for the first time her dream of being married to William. Now, that dream was within her reach. In fact, it was resting on William's hand. Hillary intertwined her fingers around his, enclosing the ring in between their palms, as tears blurred her vision of the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.

"William, why do you even need to ask? You know what my response will be," Hillary said cheekily. 

William chuckled tearily. He knew his life would never be boring with her. He slowly snuck the ring into her finger and kissed the expanse of her forehead. 

"Then I cannot wait to be married to you," he whispered. 

"Not yet," Hillary said. 

William was confused. "Why?"

Hillary smiled. "I want to be married in your home the day I am free". 


Ten years to the day, William and Hillary had aged. More wrinkles lined their faces. William's hair had turned completely white and hers was duller in color. He lost a lot of weight while she had packed more. Nevertheless, they felt as youthful as they day they first met. 

Their daughter Chelsea, now a vibrant young woman, paved the aisle for her mother to walk through. Hillary, wearing the crown her mother wore during her own wedding, was clad in all white. Hillary walked the aisle alone, and at the end of it, was the man who crossed the bridge of death just to be with her.

William beamed as he saw his bride approach him from the other end of the aisle. The long walk from the entrance of the castle to the grand hall was very symbolic of their journey. Mo matter how long the journey was, in the end, they would find their way to each other. 

When they kissed for the first time as husband and wife, it was as exhilarating as their very first. But this time, there was no longer any guise of secrecy. They were free to kiss, to embrace, to profess. 

And their wedding night was like no other. They made love so passionately that it made the gods blush. 


A thousand years had passed since the legend of Mystic Hillary, the bravest and most valiant Regent Aquilon ever had, and William, her loving and loyal knight and King. They were already in the realm of the spirits, but their story lived on. Every time an eclipse was to be seen in the skies of Aquilon, it was said that Hillary and William would descend from their dwellings, the sun and moon respectively, and made love in the cleanest, purest river in the Empire.

It was the night of the solar eclipse. Hillary, in her sunny golden gown, waited for William at the river. 

Suddenly, William materialized from thin air. He was glad to see his wife whom he missed terribly. 

"What took you so long?" Hillary greeted her husband. "I almost thought you weren't coming". 

"I had to see off our daughter. She was dancing with the northern lights. She dances so beautifully, doesn't she?" William admired their only daughter. 

"I know. But she's on her own now. You have to let her go so she can grow," Hillary said. 

William nodded. "I know. My duties are all done, except for one". 

"And that is?"

"To you," he smiled.

William and Hillary kissed under the light of the eclipse. True to the legend, they made love. 

Eclipses have come and gone, but their love was constant, like the rays of the sun and the beams of the moon. 

Constant, enduring, everlasting.