It was the next morning when I heard a familiar knock on my door. My eyes opened and, I sat up in bed. My eyes immediately fell on the icy expression of Aeryn, who was standing in her maid outfit as expected.
“Shall I answer, or does my lord require more sleep?” She had a somewhat bitter bite to her words this morning, but I decided to ignore them.
“She didn’t come last night.” I yawned, stretching as I glanced over at the door. “It looks like she has more self-control than you did.”
Aeryn snorted. “Perhaps she is a masochist? I understood the futility of trying to fight you. This speaks more to her lack of intelligence.”
I looked over at Aeryn. “You’re quite grumpy this morning. Upset that we didn’t play at all last night?”
“Do not be ridiculous.” Aeryn’s face turned red. “That is… impossible.”
I shrugged, sitting up and throwing a robe on me as a second wave of knocks struck the door. “Answer it. It’s about time you let her in.”
Aeryn rolled her eyes and walked over the door, opening it and stepping to the side. As I had predicted, Bala stumbled into the room. She was still wearing her armor. Her eyes were red and puffy as if she hadn’t slept the night before. As Aeryn shut the door, Bala shot me a frustrated look. Her entire body seemed to be shaking, and she had a very haggard expression. However, her cheeks were also flushed, and her red lips were slightly parted, giving off a sense of sensuality that betrayed the boyish appearance she aimed for.
“Wh-what have you done to me?” Bala took three tries to pull out her sword.
In her current state, all of her dangerousness seemed to have evaporated. Her knees were squeezed together and she was continuously shaking. Her grip on the sword was weak and she could barely keep it up. I suspected that if we were to fight in the current state, I’d be able to beat her.
“I do not know what you mean?” I asked innocently, walking over to my table and pouring a glass of wine for myself. “Are you perhaps suffering from some affliction?”
Only a second of doubt flashed across Bala’s face, followed by more anger. “D-don’t toy with me! Ever since our spar the previous day, my body has felt wrong. You must have cast some devil magic on me! I’ll have you cure it or I’ll see you dead!”
“Really?” I asked, taking a sip. “That doesn’t sound like a threat to make to a prince. Tell me. How does your body feel different? If you can describe the symptoms, perhaps we can help with a solution.”
Her face grew into a fiery rage. She slammed the sword down on my table. Instantly, it broke in half and the breakfast that Aeryn had left for me scattered all over. I stood up and took a step back, avoiding any of the flying food.
“Enough! You know what you’ve done!” She shouted. “You are no king! You’re not even a prince! You’re just a curse placed on the human realm. You have no right to even be alive anymore! My sister will- “
She stopped in the middle of her tirade. Her sword was pointed at me and she was still breathing hard. Meanwhile, my expression remained calm as I looked her up and down with a slight smile.
“Your sister will… kill me?” I finished her words.
Bala’s eyes flashed, a bit of worry starting to appear. Even if she hated me, her tirade here had clearly pushed. All I had to do was call for help and guards would storm in here and arrest her. Of course, this could very well start a war with the elvish nation, and possibly destroy her sister’s plans completely. I could tell that she realized she was in some kind of trap, but as a warrior, not a schemer, she wasn’t clever enough to think of a way out.
Had she gone to her sister, Bala might have avoided this. However, I knew that Saria was cruel and Bala was still relatively young. There was no way she would have went to her sister before trying to resolve the issue herself. The second she had entered this room, she was already wrapped around my finger.
“Yes…” I continued at the frowning Bala. “I know about your plan to kill me during our match. That was exactly why Saria had gone to the effort to end our marriage in such a humiliating way. There were options to mitigate, but she wanted me to become angry enough to make a challenge. Then, you were supposed to kill me during the battle. I also know that when that failed, your sister plotted to poison me. So far, the elvish nation has plotted on my life three times, I wonder what father would think if he knew about this.”
Bala’s expression went white and she took a step back. “Y-you have no proof!”
I sighed and pulled something out of my pocket. Touching a few emblems on the stone, it began to glow, and right in front of me, an image of Saria formed.
“You imbecile! I gave you a simple order. Kill Prince David, and you bungled that up!”
“I’m sorry, sister! That spell I used should have been strong enough to kill him!”
“You failed! And now his suspicions are up! The Prince was supposed to be a dunce, yet I felt he was almost as skillful as me in political maneuvering. Had I known he would be so clever, I never would have been so brazen! Now, he wants to come to the elf kingdom! You’ve made my mission much harder!” As the image backhanded someone, Bala winced and her hand went to her face.
I stopped the recording. I actually didn’t know about the recording until the previous night. Thankful, during my discussion with Baba, she had revealed that the images from these kinds of stones were always saved to be reviewed later. As a result, I had all the evidence I needed. It didn’t really matter. I was prepared to push forward no matter what, but the helpless look on Bala’s face was satisfying.
“You…” That was the only word she could get out as she looked at me helplessly.
“Prince… or perhaps I should call you princess.” She winced as I spoke. “I won’t beat around the bush any longer. I’ve poisoned you.”
Her eyes flashed. “Ah!”
“Your sister has plotted against me. You have plotted against me.”
She gritted her teeth. “Then why don’t you just reveal our plots? With that stone, you could throw us in prison, or even take our heads!”
I smiled. “Because I need you.”
“Need?” Bala’s face curled bitterly.
“It’s really simple,” I explained. “Your country is in possession of my sister. I want her back. If I were to bring you or your sister harm, it would make it much more difficult to accomplish my mission.”
“Then… you can trade us…” Bala suggested.
I chuckled. “The problem is… you and Bala have no value.”
“What did you say?” Anger carpeted her face.
“Think about it. The future heir is in the elf kingdom, being raised to run the country. My sister is being courted by your brother. Yet, you and your sister were sent here. Her hand was given to a devil simply to placate my father and our alliance. That was the trade, after all, my sister goes to the elf nation to learn magic while your princess was wedded to me.”
“Exactly! Equal trade!”
“Except that the pair of you were always expendable. The elves wouldn’t have seen it as an equal trade. My sister means 1/6th of the human realm. The pair of you? You were a necessary sacrifice. The second your father sent you here, he had abandoned you.”
Bala lowered her head, and I could see a bit of understanding in her eyes. It was likely she already knew as much. Saria wasn’t foolish and likely had figured this as well. That was part of the reason Saria was so desperate. She couldn’t truly break off our marriage. She could only truly do it through my death. That was why she plotted so viciously. She was thrown away by the elves and sold off to a hated devil in exchange for a princess who had true value. It was a bitter thought, but I didn’t think I was wrong on this.
“You were… supposed to choose… me or my sister.” The words came out from Bala’s mouth. “But on the journey, she asked me to pretend to be her brother. She had me learn the sword and dress as a boy… to keep our brothers from becoming interested. The side effect was that no one protested when we were to be sold like cattle. Then, my sister offered to make herself the only fiancée… I just… didn’t want to be married to a devil like you!”
I nodded. I had looked into things, and this was the fiancée’s first visit. Before then, it was only an agreement between the two kings. I was to marry one of the daughters, but it was never specified which. I had assumed the king had picked, but it looked like he had sent both as a sentiment of goodwill. Although I spoke of the elvish nation wanting to take advantage of the human realm, their relationship was actually quite good. My father was good friends with the King of the elves. If that wasn’t the case, how could he be willing to give his daughter to a devil, no matter the cost?
Therefore, he sent both daughters, and the more clever of the two realized they were all but being abandoned, and thus decided to try to kill me. They had been for a week before the original Prince David had died. The elf elder, who I now knew was the steward, had declared me weak, claiming that unless I could fight, the marriage was off. The real Prince David, after years of being looked down on, had reached a breaking point. Had he thought about it clearly, he would have realized the marriage couldn’t be broken off, but he fell right for her trap and challenged the prince to show he was worthy of her.
The plan went perfectly, and Prince David died to a challenge he himself had issued. No one would have cared other than my doppelganger mother. Then I came into the picture. Saria knew that she couldn’t break off the engagement herself, so when I pressed her, she had no choice but to accept things as they were. I had lost some face that day, but at the time, I was still just trying to figure things out.
Now, I had all the puzzle pieces and could see the whole picture. I looked up at the girl. She wasn’t a dishonest type. That was why she had confessed just now. It was likely something that had been burning in her mind every moment she had to deal with me. Like Aeryn who forced herself to wear a mask every day, both women were prone to follow their hearts.
“I do not have any malicious intent towards the elf kingdom,” I said simply. “In fact, I hope to preserve the alliance between us. However, the only way that happens is if the human realm remains strong. I will have my sister back. You can help me, or you can be ground to ash.”
Bala’s eyes focused again and she gave a bitter expression. “Help you?”
I took out a vial from my pocket. “This is the antidote for your poison. If you don’t drink it, the effects will grow more and more severe. You will lose control… and eventually, your sanity. No elf will be able to help you through this. Only I can produce a cure. You can call it, devil magic.”
“So… what? A promise? A blood pact?” She spoke, her voice sounding somewhat defeated.
I smiled. “The antidote will only work for twenty-four hours. Then, your symptoms will return. That means, every twenty-four hours, you must return to me.”
I chucked the vial over to her and she caught it. This was truly why I had seen Baba the night before. If I simply planted my seed in her, I could enslave her, but that slavery could also potentially be removed. From what I understood, abortion was still possible with the right magic, and then the slavery binding would be gone. Using a mixture of my semen and blood, I created a magical cure that was only temporary. It would subside the effects of blood exposure, but it was severely weakened. In the end, her lustful aphrodisiac would always return. The longest she’d be able to avoid me was 48-72 hours. At that point, she would lose all reason and break under the sexual torment.
Bala looked down at the vial like it was a snake, still hesitating to drink from it. “What do you want me to do?” She demanded.
“You’re a knight,” I said simply. “I need your protection.”
Her eyes widened. “Protection? Can’t you have any bodyguard in the castle?”
“First off, your sister is currently my most immediate threat. Her biggest weakness is that she looks down on you. She doesn’t filter herself around you because she doesn’t see you as a threat. I can use that. You will help me stay ahead of your sister’s plans.”
Bala grimaced bitterly. “Is that all this is?”
I shook my head, “Even if your sister wasn’t a threat, I do not know where anyone’s loyalties lie. Even a trusted head maid betrayed me. Some castle employees belong to my uncle, some to the elves, and some might even be spies for other nations. I need someone who is… invested… in keeping me alive. I’m needed to make your antidote. If I die, your only option would be to throw yourself at another devil and become his love slave. Comparatively, I think my conditions are light.”
The girl shivered as expected, a look of revulsion on her face as she contemplated another devil having her. After a few moments of silence, she pulled off the cork and drank the vial in a single gulp. After grimacing bitterly, I could see her cheeks starting to recover. The slightly erotic tinge she was giving off started to fade away. It took less than a minute before she returned to her original cold self.
“So, do we have an agreement?” I asked.
Bala let out a growl, chucking the vial at the floor. “Very well! I will do your bidding, but I will never be your ally!”
I sighed, “That is fine. It’s my bidding that I need doing. In the castle, we are fine. Do as your sister asks unless it threatens my life. Then tell me about it. I will be getting ready to leave with your elvish party back to your homeland. At that point, my safety will be in your hands.”
“Is that all?” She demanded.
“No… I have one more thing for you to do for me.”
“What is it?” She said, her face pulled into a grimace.
“The woman who calls herself my mother. Every day she leaves in the morning and every night she comes to my door. I wish to know what she does throughout the day.”
“I’m a bodyguard, not a spy!” She spat.
My expression didn’t change. I simply continued to look at her. After a moment, she finally dropped her head helplessly.
“Very well, but there isn’t much time. We leave in less than a week.” Bala admitted.
“Just return to my room when you have an answer,” I said. “I won’t provide you another antidote until you do.”
Bala froze for a second but then nodded bitterly. She finally put up her sword, turned, and then left the room. When the door shut, I let out a breath. I hadn’t expected her to pull out a sword. She was such a violent woman. Fortunately, she didn’t think very much. That was a major reason I targeted her and not her sister. Even if I had something on Saria, I feared she come up with some way to make things difficult. She would never just sit back and allow herself to be subjugated. That was exactly the reason she tried to kill me in the first place, despite her father’s wishes.
“I’m a bit surprised.” Aeryn’s words caused me to glance up.
“What is that?” I asked.
“I thought you would sleep with her. Even though she is a tomboy, she is quite pretty.”
“Did you think I was making you watch?” I asked, causing her to lower her head. “Or did you expect me to have both of you at once?”
Her cheeks flushed red and fury painted her face. “You pig!”
I turned away, ignoring her. “No… she is not someone I’d take to my bed. She’d be the type to take her own life if I pushed her too far.”
“And what of me? Is my life meaningless?” Aeryn responded bitterly.
“You’re exactly the opposite,” I admitted. “You would have taken your life if I didn’t enslave you. This was the only way I could save you.”
Aeryn’s expression flashed from shock to anger. “You bastard. Do not act like you’re doing me any favors!”
“Mm… perhaps her body doesn’t excite me as your does.” I turned to Aeryn, her expression freezing. “I’m sorry for making you jealous, but you’re the only girl that can satisfy me.”
“Don’t say those lies.” Aeryn turned away, her face grimacing. “Those cruel words only hurt me more.”
I sighed, frowning slightly. Perhaps, I did take things a little far today. I supposed I’d need to make it up to Aeryn, in my own way.
“It was a long night and I stayed up for most of it,” I said. “One thing you are right about. Bala’s timing was inconvenient.”
Aeryn turned away. “Then I will give Master some peace and quiet. You can sleep as late as you want.”
“Actually, there is something I feel much more than tired.” I walked up to Aeryn from behind and grabbed her shoulders. “Since we put off doing anything last night, then I shall take my enjoyment this morning.”
Aeryn’s back was to me and I couldn’t see her expression in the slightest. I unbuttoned the back of her dress, reached up and then pushed her dress off her shoulders. As Aeryn’s dress fell to the ground, revealing her naked body, she didn’t resist in the slightest.