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I watched as Gregory sucked on Julian’s dick. It wasn’t like it wasn’t obvious that the two men were sexually active with each other, but this was the first time I had seen it first-hand. Gregory idolized Julian, and as his lips stroked Julian’s member, he looked up adoringly at his big brother. Julian, on the other hand, wore a disinterested look. It looked mostly like he was humoring Gregory.

Of course, this was the reality behind Julian in a nutshell. He felt nothing. I didn’t know if his penis literally lacked the ability to feel sexual pleasure, or if he was dead inside for some other reason. I simply knew it for what it was. Julian experienced no joy, ever. The feeling of sexual pleasure did nothing for him. He could cum, but it was an empty feeling for him. That was the truth behind Julian.

As a result of his nonexistent sexual drive, he overcompensated. That would be an understatement. He completely saturated the world in lust. Perhaps it took extreme sexual perversion to get him to feel even a little bit of happiness. I didn’t know that either. I just knew that he hated himself for his sexual perversion in the same way that I had hated myself for my sexual promiscuity.

For me, I was always secretly guilty of the sex I enjoyed. I didn’t see myself as a good person. However, the same guilt manifested itself in a wildly different way for Julian. He decided to make everyone as perverted as him. If everyone was a sexual deviant, then Julian was simply one among a crowd. I suspected that was the reasoning behind Julian. He wanted to paint the world in his image, and his image was a self-hating narcissist determined to gain any satisfaction he could, no matter to what extreme he had to go.

Julian finished up, having Gregory swallow down a load. When he finished up, there was an unexpected knock on the door and Gregory quickly got off his knees and wiped his mouth.

“Who do you suppose it is, brother?” Gregory asked with a smile.

Julian sighed. “Likely fourth brother. He has it in his mind to pursue the stolen treasury. He seems to think he has a way to head off the Bandit who robbed the castle and ‘murdered’ the princess. On that note, the last I heard, our body had been stolen, but father informed me today that he’s having the body placed in the tomb until Daphne comes to take it. Where did you come up with a spare?”

“I didn’t need to go far, brother. A slave woman, er, not the elf woman, was found dead in Cornelia’s room. After burning the body, the difference would be difficult to make. Of course, I took care of the servant who found her.”

“What of the elf girl?” Julian asked.

“Vanished the same night as Cornelia died.”

Julian nodded. “Keep searching. If you find her, send someone to kill her. I don’t like loose ends. However, to think Cornelia would so quickly take to torturing and raping. She would have been great.”

I nearly gagged on that if I had a mouth to gag on. Julian was back to reaching his own conclusions. I supposed it was simpler to believe that after seeing the underground sexual torture, that I became enamored and bought a slave girl to test it out on. Since nobles barely saw slaves as people, I guess Julian assumed I was starting to make the jump into complete depravity. On the upside, they still knew nothing about my identity.

The door knocked again, and Julian have a sigh, moving to go answer it. However, instead of the expected Devon, it was Richard standing at the door. Even Julian seemed somewhat surprised by the unexpected guest.

“What a surprise, brother, what is it?”

“Ah, 1st and 2nd brothers… I, see you’re together.” Richard peered around uncomfortably for a second before continuing, “I, uh, need your help.”

Julian’s eyebrow rose and he looked surprised and amused at once. “Really? Brother has finally come to ask us for help. What kind of help does brother need?”

“That is.” Richard was very stiff and formal with the two flamboyant men, as opposed to Devon who was openly antagonistic. “Let me just take you to my room.”

“Oh, I’d never take a refusal to come to brother’s room, of course.”

Richard ignored that, immediately turning and leaving. Julian and Gregory looked at each other. Julian gave a shrug and followed after his third brother. Their rooms were not far away, and it only took a minute before he opened the door and let the two men into his bedroom. As they entered, their eyes immediately fell on a woman who was sitting on Richard’s bed.

The woman looked haggard. She had big black pillows under her eyes, messy hair, and seemed to lack any dignity or presence. She was still shaking and when she saw Julian and Gregory enter, she made a small yelp before turning her head away, looking down like an abused animal.

“What is this, brother? I’m not against foursomes but perhaps I should pick the girl next time?”

Richard gave no reaction to his prodding, and instead, shook his head. “Sylvia has been like this since last night. I’d have just ignored her, but there is something odd when you analyze her. Try it.”

Julian frowned, but a second later, he squinted at Sylvia. His eyes opened big and his mouth fell. Gregory was only a few steps behind.

“By the gods,” Gregory whispered. “That, how?”

“Cornelia did it to me last night.” Sylvia let out in a whining voice, holding up the ring, “She did this to me.”

“That’s the answer she gave me.” Richard sighed. “Of course, I told her that Cornelia died two nights ago. Perhaps she is in shock. I knew the two women were competitive…”

That was an understatement, but I was focused on Julian, who wasn’t waving away her claim as easily as his brother. He stared at her with narrowed eyes as he moved up and looked at the ring. He went to pull it off, but the ring wouldn’t move. After a few seconds of pulling, he finally let go.

“A… cursed ring,” he said softly.

“It must be!” Richard responded. “Is there any way to remove it?”

Julian nodded slowly. “Maybe, but I have to wonder why there is a cursed ring that makes her identify as Cornelia Bartrum.”

“But don’t you recognize it, brother,” Gregory spoke up. “That is the ring Cornelia Bartrum wore.”

“Wait… you’re right, I thought it looked familiar.” Richard moved up and grabbed the ring.

Julian scratched his cheek. “The woman named Cornelia Bartrum was perhaps not Cornelia at all. Her identity must have been faked.”

Only Sylvia gasped, apparently the only one in the room who hadn’t been able to jump to that realization on her own.

Then Gregory spoke up, “But how did it end up on Sylvia.”

Julian looked down at Sylvia. I could almost see his mind working. The body went missing, now the ring was on Sylvia. I couldn’t be alive. That didn’t even register in his mind. That must mean that she probably stole it to be more like me, just like she stole the body as some kind of trophy. It might have been an appropriate conclusion in another situation.

“I’m telling the truth!” Sylvia shouted. “She came to my room last night. But her face was different. It was pale and otherworldly. B-b-beautiful. The ritual succeeded. Don’t you see? She’s Qetesh’s now… and she’s come back… to punish us all. This is only the beginning! In two weeks, she says she’ll kill me in two weeks! I have to run! We all have to! She’s coming, oh, gods, she’s coming for me!”

Julian slapped her as she started to grow into hysterics. Even I was surprised by how much I had terrified her. Of course, she wasn’t entirely wrong, but I never expected her to actually convince herself of that.

“I’m sorry, brother, if it was simple, I wouldn’t have come to you,” Richard apologized to Julian, even though it was Julian who slapped Sylvia. “Do you know what she is talking about?”

“I do not. The girl must be…”

“Cornelia!” Sylvia shouted at Julian’s irritation, “She was the sacrifice. We killed her! We raped her!”

“What!” Richard’s eyes widened and he turned his eyes to his two brothers. “Is this true?”

Julian hid the displeased look on his face and gave Richard a smile. “Well, it seems like your beloved Sylvia pulled a switch on us. The girl who was sacrificed was indeed your betrothed.”

“Oh, gods…” Richard bent over, looking like he might throw up for a second. “Will this… will this hurt the royal family.”

Of course, that was the selfish Richard I expected. For a brief second, I thought he might show some concern, but that concern seemed to be more about his station as a royal. Would the nation be threatened by them raping me to death?

“No, all third brother needs to know is that we took care of it. She died in an unfortunate accident. That is all.”

“Right, a-and what of Sylvia?” He looked down at Sylvia with as much concern as the mud on the wall.

“She has given me something to think on. I’ll look to see if I can get the ring removed. I’m sure if we pool our resources, we can find an enchanter who specializes in curses. We’ll get this sorted out.” Julian patted Richard on the back and then turned to Sylvia, “In the meantime, I’ll increase security on you, and if you’d like to escape to one of my private villas, I’ll offer it to you.”

“N-no… I must stay by Richard’s side!” Sylvia demanded. “But thank you! Thank you for helping me!”

“It’s fine. This is what family does for each other.”

While Sylvia cried and thanked Julian, he quickly bid her farewell and left the room with Gregory in tow. They were only a few steps from the room when Gregory started talking.

“Do you believe what she’s saying about Cornelia returning? I mean, her body did disappear.”

“Of course not.” Julian laughed. “You’re too quick to believe superstition, brother. Besides, you said you saw dragging marks. Clearly, the woman took Cornelia’s body tried on the ring, and is too embarrassed to admit it herself. However, after using me to get her revenge, she has already pushed her luck too far.”

“What does brother have in mind?” Gregory asked.

“An accident. Removing an active curse can be dangerous business. Perhaps for a few extra gold coins, our curse remover might fail to save her. That will spare us one more problem.”

“Mm, does brother want me to go find one yet?”

“No, first go to father and let him know that I do not condone the marriage of Sylvia with dear brother. I have some letters to write, so I will see you later.”

“Yes, of course, brother.”

Julian entered his room alone, sitting down at his desk. As he started writing down his thoughts on a parchment, I came to the realization that this was the point I had been waiting for. I had one more thing to do, but it wasn’t something I was able to do by myself. I began to concentrate, and the temperature in the room started to become colder. Julian didn’t notice it at first, but after a moment, he frowned, putting his head up.

At this point and time, the door opened, and a woman stepped in. She wore a completely white robe. Her face was obscured by a hood and veil, but anyone who saw her could tell she had an ethereal beauty to her that could captivate any man with her eyes alone.

Julian’s eyes locked on hers. “I… didn’t send for any servants.”

She didn’t say anything, taking a few steps towards him. Her body shined in the light. My skill was working at full bloom, and as a result, she stood there as solidly as anyone could.

“No-no… have we met before you?”

Julian was staring cautiously but started backing away until his feet hit the bed. Meanwhile, she only stared at him, her head cocked to the side as she watched him carefully. After a moment, she took another step towards him, carefully moving forward.

“No… Cornelia?”

She took another step forward. He flicked his wrist, and a knife flew out from his hand. The knife was aimed perfectly for the woman’s heart. However, despite her solid appearance, the knife kept going and it slid through her body and thumped into the door behind with a solid thud.

At this point, Julian’s breath was starting the quicken. “What are you?”

With a panicked look, he turned and grabbed a pillow off the bed and threw it. She pulled out her hand and caught the pillow in the air, dropping it to her side. Her approach continued on in complete silence, not even the footsteps could be heard.

“You can’t be… Qetesh?” Julian’s voice was tight now, but he had already grown afraid.

She took the next step. He fell back onto his butt, looking up at this mysterious otherworldly beauty approaching him. It might have been pride that kept him from shouting for guards. Perhaps, his brain just couldn’t process what was happening. Or maybe he already knew it was too late. She finally reached the foot of his bed. Then, she reached down, and pulled back the veil, revealing what was hidden underneath.

He stared blankly at her with his mouth open. There was no recognition on his face. This woman was not someone that he knew. Furthermore, there wasn’t a single scream that touched the air as he died.

I released the power after we were done. That night, Min and I fled the city in a merchant carriage filled with generous donations from Pratter and Sandor, who were fleeing in the opposite direction. I didn’t know if we’d ever see them again, but I did know that I was finally done with this city. Now, I just had one last loose end, Nova.

Our cart passed the gates just as the bells started ringing, signifying the death of someone in the royal family.

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