I sighed, leaving a flower at Lyra’s door. For the last week, I had left a flower at her door every day. I was being cautious and trying to buy back her trust just a little bit at a time. Well, it didn’t really seem like it was doing anything though, I just wasn’t willing to throw in the towel.
“How long are you going to do that for?” Brooke asked, standing at her doorway with her arms crossed.
“As long as it takes,” I responded.
“You know she’s just chopping them up and throwing them out.”
“Geh…” I shot her a dirty look. “She won’t talk to me or open her door. What else should I do? Kick it down?”
Brooke shrugged. “If I understood women, I’d be knee-deep in pussy right now.”
“You are a woman? You don’t get to not understand women. That’s against the rules.”
“The majority! Ah… damn it… it doesn’t matter. It’s too late anyway.”
Brooke blinked. “Too late? What do you mean? What are you doing?”
I shrugged. “Apparently, my mother and I have been invited to some kind of social event tonight. The council will be there, that includes Caleb’s father. I’m supposed to bring a date. Lyra would be the best person to bring. My sister or daughter seems a little off. Apparently, if you don’t arrive on the arm of a woman, you’re making a statement that you’re interested in finding another woman.”
Brooke frowned. “Are you saying that I should get dressed?”
“Eh?” I said, stepping back. “Actually… um… how do I say this…”
Brooke narrowed her eyes as she realized that I hadn’t been giving her a roundabout way of inviting her along. I meant no offense, but they said the person on your arm also made a statement. Mother tolerated me adding Brooke to my harem. She considered it a mercy that I was taking in a poor commoner and not someone who deserved any position. I couldn’t bring her for the same reason I couldn’t bring my sister or daughter. It reflected badly on me and through extension the council.
Other than Lyra, there was Rhea, but she was in no state to come out in public. If she was seen, it would surely look badly on the noble house. In the end, I could only go alone. Brooke wasn’t that hurt though. She understood all this well enough. She was just giving me a hard time.
Brooke sighed, shrugging it off. “Well, maybe it’s a good idea that you bring home another girl. A harem of two lolis, a lesbian, a wallflower, and a girl who won’t even talk to you does leave something to be desired.”
I frowned. “What would that serve? Think about it, in six months, I’m gone. What will happen to everyone here I’m leaving behind? How will deflowering some girl do her any good? I mean, maybe Caleb will regain control of this body. Then, anyone I brought in to his harem, their future would be on me. Or, maybe he dies, in which case his harem is disbanded and who knows where all the girls go off to.”
“Unless…” Brooke said.
She raised an eyebrow. “Unless you produce an heir.”
I blinked. “What? What are you suggesting?”
Brooke shrugged. “You told me yourself. All they want is for you to produce a baby heir. The previous Caleb had been trying for years and failing because his proclivities left him more likely to kill a girl than impregnate her. The best thing you can do in the next six months is pick a girl who would make a good Queen, get her pregnant, and then even if Caleb dies, they’ll at least be able to continue their family line. Then, everyone will move on. His mom will be able to toss her crazy affection onto her grandson, a more stable woman can be in power, and the harem will go to wherever harems go when he joins the council. It seems like a win/win…”
I scratched my head and let out a laugh. “Damn… that does make sense. Still, six months is a short period of time. Unless my soul is what allows me to have 50/50 babies, then the chances of having a male are slim.”
“If anyone could, it’d be you.”
I slowly nodded. “You’re right… That means… tonight… I’m going to look for the future Queen of Matahari.”
“That’s the spirit!”
I turned away and left the desolate harem halls. The answer really had been in my face the entire time. I had got so caught up in demons and politics that I hadn’t even considered the big picture. I was a man in another world. This world had a population of mostly women. From the get-go, my job had always been to breed and produce offspring. To many, this could be considered a dream. You could have unprotected sex with any number of beautiful women, and they’d thank you for it.
When I first came to this world, I had treated it like my oyster. I tossed myself at my mother, sisters, and maids relentlessly, showing no restraint. After things had spiraled out of control, I got it in my head that I had some deep responsibility toward this world. I had dreams of building a harem of women, but I was so caught up on trying to just make people happy that I lost my way a bit. I grew obsessed about the things I lost and became terrified and frozen in one way or another.
Here I was now, in another country, in the body of a Prince. It was literally a second life. A harem already existed here, and an inherent need to build and use it. Yet, I was so busy feeling sorry for myself that I overlooked what a blessing this all was. I wasn’t cursed by being stuck in this body, I was being given the opportunity to test-drive my own harem and sew my oats.
I cared for Madison, Hannah, Mako, and the rest, but I had to accept what they had accepted a long time ago. I was a man in a world of women. It was time I started acting like it.
Feeling good about this sudden epiphany, I returned to my room with my bodyguards following closely. I put out the finest wear that I could find and prepared for the night. It turned out to be a shirt and trousers with a jacket. I believe the maid called the art on the shirt batik. It was red in color, which I was told symbolized the nobility of this house. Sighing, I decided I wouldn’t let the past drag me down.
When the time came, I left my room and headed to my mother’s chambers. I had actually stayed away from her room in the past. This was the first time I was traveling there of my own volition. I had been treating her like the enemy, scared that she’d take something away from my real mother Morgan. However, the Queen was just a woman who had lost her son. She had shown me many times that she didn’t mean me any harm. Well, as long as I didn’t reveal my true origin to her, not that I thought she’d believe it any more than Lyra.
For the first time since I had woken up in this palace, I felt relaxed. I knocked casually on mother’s door. It opened after a moment, revealing a beautiful woman with light-brown skin, dark velvety hair, and an imposing figure. She was wearing a particularly fine embroidered blouse and long skirt. She was similarly wearing red, which allowed her features to be even more pronounced, especially the deep red lipstick that covered her lips.
“Baby?” She said, somewhat surprised by my presence.
“Mother.” I smiled, “Shall we go?”
She seemed surprised at my sudden change in attitude, but she didn’t hesitate to smile and finish putting on her earring before offering an arm to me. The pair of us headed through the castle and out to the front, where a hovercar was waiting not unlike the ones from Amaryllis.
“No palanquin?” I asked.
Mother sniffed. “Palanquins are for when you wish to be seen by the public. Tonight, I thought we should head to our destination swiftly and in comfort.”
I nodded, agreeing with her instantly. “Where is this event, anyway?”
Mother shot me an amused look. “It’s being held in your ancestral home, my sweet boy. Your grandfather and father put this together to raise money for the damage to the city. It’s also to alleviate concerns that you were dead or missing. You haven’t been seen in public for some time, and many of the government officials have grown uneasy. You haven’t produced very many children of late and they want to make sure you’re busy creating an heir.”
I laughed awkwardly considering how close it was to me being dead or missing. The official’s concerns were very real. I don’t know how my mother had managed to keep her city-wide search for me away from the aristocratic ears. That didn’t mean they didn’t hear things and suspect, but as long as mother played dumb and I was present, they couldn’t come up with any arguments. Who was to say I haven’t been sitting in the mansion as right as rain as opposed to working in a mine with my life on the line.
Perhaps this social gathering had been put off for months. That only meant I had to be impressive and let these people know I had things under control. However, I also worried about meeting the father and grandfather. These are men I had never seen in my life, and while mother accepted my change in personality, I wasn’t sure how these men would take it. It was possible they could grow suspicious or even cause me real trouble.
“My son…” Mom suddenly spoke up as the car drove away from the palace, an awkward expression on her face. “In the past, while you were going through your experimental phase, I tried to keep your public presence at a minimum. I picked women to join you from desperate houses, distant locations, and unimportant diplomats so that there was never a diplomatic incident.
“That said, you’ve been out of the public for many years now, and you must make sure to put on a proper presence. The woman at this event are not toys to be played with. Most of them have powerful parents. Some of them our house does not wish to inadvertently become Queen. Others, we cannot afford to offend. Basically, listen to mother when it comes to picking the women who you bed with, and do not play your usual games.
“We’ve been pressured to the point where your public appearance was all but mandatory. Your behavior lately… you also seem to have changed the way you treat your women. The point being, our Sakina family is depending on your performance, so please do your best.”
I smiled and nodded, “Yes, mother.”
Our conversation ended with that. I didn’t really know what to make of everything. The Caleb she was worried about was a completely different Caleb. Then again, I didn’t exactly have a great track record either. After waking up, I had an assassination attempt, no pregnancies, and disappeared for several weeks. I wasn’t any more trustworthy than the old Caleb.
With those kinds of thoughts, I watched the streets fly by. The city really was completely unlike Amaryllis. From a dark, almost Victorian city to an exotic and colorful tropical city. We finally pulled up to a large mansion that had dozens of other cars pulling up as well. This mansion was easily about three times the size of the one that housed the Bonholdt family. Well, they were a noble line.
Once Caleb had a boy, he would join the council and also be living in this mansion. Well, I hoped to be gone before that happened. Even if I got a girl pregnant today, it wouldn’t be born before I had jumped out of this body. I didn’t like the idea of abandoning a child, but if I saw this instead as leaving something behind for my mother who had lost everything, I didn’t feel as bad about it. That child would be well taken care of as a prince, and probably end up in a life far better than anything my children from Amaryllis would experience.
Upon entering the mansion, I was surrounded by people that I didn’t know. I was truly out of my element here. I was typically uncomfortable around a lot of people in the first place, and now these people ranged from old to young in a variety of dress and shapes. It was then that I realized the place had a rather large proportion of men. There were still more women present, especially among the youthful and the servant class. However, I suspected just about every man in the city was invited. Most of them were far older than me, and they all had positions of power.
As mother took me around, introducing me to person after to person, I began to get a better understanding of the structure of this nation, and it wasn’t what I had originally thought. In Amaryllis, men were sort of like celebrities. They were put in the public eye, but ultimately the city was run by women down to the core. In Matahari, the situation looked to be the reverse. Women were a figurehead, like my mother the Queen, but it was the council who truly ruled the city, and that council was made up of all men. As I looked around, I saw more and more men who looked to have positions of power in the city. This was probably why men were never seen on the street.
After introducing just about every person of importance in the room, a few directly, most just gestured to from across the room, mother finished. As for father and the other council members, I didn’t get a good look at them. They were apparently in a back room filled with cigar smoke. Mom glanced at the room and then turned to me, patting my head encouragingly.
“My sweet boy, please go mingle a bit. Your mother must go report to the council.”
Something about her look caught me a little. “Are you okay?”
She smiled. “All is fine, my baby, do not worry. How about you meet a few nice girls for your harem? I will be back shortly.”
As mother walked away, a handful of girls began to approach me. They ranged from about thirteen to twenty. It was instantly clear to me that they had been waiting for my mother to leave to strike. I put on a smile as a cacophony of dresses surrounded me, trapping me in.
“Prince Caleb, my name is Scarlet. When was the last time you were at an event?”
“It was five years ago…” Another woman spoke up. “You may not remember me, Prince Caleb, I’m June, my father is the head of treasury. I’m very good with numbers, unlike some of the women here.”
“Ah! I heard Prince Caleb is really mean to girls, is that true?” Those words came from a young thirteen-year-old.
The other women immediately shot her a glare, and then without a word, she was shoved outside of the group, completely abandoned in an instant. She looked like she was about to cry, but given the looks of some of the other women, her chances were up. She was a thirteen-year-old girl who had just spoken whatever was on her mind, but she had risked insulting me, so the other women took care of it smoothly.
These women were all contenders for the throne. Like mother had warned me about, some of these women came from houses that opposed Sakina. If they were impregnated, they would pull power away from our house, not give power to it. Who became the mother of my child would also become the next Queen. A Queen had charge of the palace, and not much in the ways of how the city was run, but she did have power over her son.
The Queen dictated how her son was raised, and who her son slept with. When her son joined the council, the Queen would be responsible for teaching him everything he knew. Whether he sided with the Sakina family, or the family of his mother, would also depend on the Queen. This was a key period for someone else to insert their daughter in and basically supplant the rule. It might not matter for the next twenty years, but if the wrong woman became queen, in a few decades the entire family could be depowered.
“Ladies…” I smiled, wishing that Lyra came with me and I could have avoided this scenario altogether. “It has been some time. I’m afraid I’m still reacclimating to my presence in public. I think I need a drink.”
I dismissed myself and immediately pushed through the women. Several of them gave surprised looks as I walked by. I didn’t do this because I was afraid of these women. Mother had already explained to me in excruciating detail who I could chase and who I had to put off. However, I wanted to show these women that I wasn’t someone they could easily corner. Mother had advised me to not be too docile, or they may take advantage of me.
Heading to the bartender, a pretty girl with curly hair, I immediately ordered a stiff drink. With a sip, I felt the comfort of alcohol I had rarely touched in the intervening years. After drinking myself to death, I had always worried I’d end up an alcoholic if I started consuming in this world, so I rarely ever touched the stuff. However, now definitely felt like a time to get a drink.
As I put the empty glass down, I noticed at least fifty women scattered across the room eyeing me. I was like a sacrificial lamb that all of these women were waiting to descend on. A 17year-old prince with the power to make them a Queen. For five years, presumably since my sexual maturity, I had remained exclusive and only had women added to my harem through backroom deals. Suddenly, I was on the market, and it was a free for all.
Even though I had a reputation with women, it was relatively quiet, and the temptation to become a Queen was far too much. Of course, these women weren’t all power-hungry, but even those who were being heavily pushed by their families to do whatever possible to get close to me. It was such an environment.
That was when I noticed a single girl who wasn’t looking at me out of the corner of her eyes. I didn’t recall my mother introducing her, so she must not have been in the room at the time. She was about my age, pretty, and standing by herself. She had a two piece dress on that displayed just a hint of bellybutton, and a small stud earring in her nose. Her hair was short, but pretty, and a small figure that seemed sporty and fit.
It felt like an extremely cliché moment, but I still felt compelled to approach her. Don’t they say the best woman to have power are the woman who don’t want it? I suppose I could put that to the test.
I walked across the hallway, making sure to take a path that outdistanced and avoided any of the girls who were looking towards me, giving them no chance to break away from their groups and sucking me into a conversation I wasn’t interested in having. I immediately stood next to the strange girl. She noticed me, but she didn’t say anything. Therefore, I didn’t say a word either. Instead, I just stood by her. She was looking out over the balcony at a lake down below. With the moon shining off it, it was actually quite beautiful.
Our backs were to the party, so no one could see if our mouths were open or not. In an instant, I had cut myself off from the rest of the party, and none of the girls would dare come out here and try to cause trouble.
Ah… I was already falling back into old habits. Didn’t I come here with the intent to find a queen? Now I was just trying to avoid everyone again. This kind of stuff was too difficult. I probably would just wait for the Queen to return and then I’d let her make the connections. I didn’t want to accidentally make any mistakes. I let out a long sigh.
The girl’s eyes flickered over to me. “Prince Caleb.”
I smiled, “Hey.”
“You haven’t been meeting me of late. I thought you had forgotten about us.”
“Us?” I blinked.
“Are you still having doubts about this? We made an agreement.”
“I don’t…” I shook my head. “Right, what of it?”
If I pretended I didn’t know, it’d only backfire on me, causing more problems. Rather, I decided to pretend I understood what she was talking about.
“Che…” She put an ugly expression on her face. “The revolution is coming. Your family line is at an end. We’re less than half a year away from beginning. Everyone you know will be dead. This is the only way you’re going to survive the coming storm, so it’d be best if you didn’t give me your attitude.”
My eyes widened. “R-right, of course, what do I need to do?”
The girl glanced around first before leaning forward. “Meet me in the greenhouse in an hour. You’ll receive further orders.”
The girl spun around and walked away, disappearing into the party room. I put my hand on my forehead. What in the hell? Just when I thought this whole thing was going to be simple. What did she say? Less than half a month? That meant whatever was going down was going to happen before I was out of here. Why did this freaking country have to be falling apart? Why did I have to be in the middle of it? I wanted to blame Lilith.
I finally turned around, preparing to face another round of women suitors when the doors which lead back to the council were shoved open. A large group of men came out, and in the middle of them was my mother. I frowned as I looked at the group, which settled on a place at the top of a stairway to give their announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen, after careful discussion, the council has decided that Queen Talitha Sakina has not acted in the best interests of this country. For her dereliction of duty and in order to seek recompense, she will be given ten lashings, as per disciplinary law!”