I sat in my room, waiting for it to get dark. Brooke was still out, which was a bit unfortunate. The note that Veronika had left for me was still in my hand. She wanted me to meet her by the lake.
The lake was the centerpiece of the island, and all of the buildings were constructed circling around it. It was the most distinguishable feature of the island, which could be seen from just about anywhere. It was beautiful, while also managing to keep diplomats a select distance away from each other. Rivals could be put on the opposite side of the lake. They could always keep an eye on what the other was doing, while at the same time being separated by a barrier to prevent open confrontation. At least, that was my thoughts when I considered the design of this place.
When the time came, I grabbed the two guards at my door. They were Matahari, but not the same guards I had back in the mansion. Those were technically palace guards and were thus left behind on this voyage. Everyone here was under the direct employ of the council However, these two were assigned by grandfather to keep me safe now.
However, I was hoping that they would follow my orders instead of just my grandfather’s. I rarely had any special requests, but something about Veronika’s note and then the cryptic warning I had received from Rhea. It left me a little uneasy.
“I want you to trail behind me and keep hidden,” I explained. “If I appear in any trouble, come immediately.”
Perhaps I was being paranoid, but Veronika’s letter already spoke of betrayal. I had to consider the possibility that the accusation that Veronika was leveling Kemala’s way was her own betrayal. I didn’t like having to be this paranoid, but even my sister Hannah had once lured me to capture in such a manner. This time wouldn’t be the same. Thus, besides the fact the meeting location was far more open on a lakeside, I’d also keep some guards in waiting. That should cover my bases.
After a few moments of thought, I pulled a special coat out which I had been given. There was a magical rune sewn into the inside of it. From my understanding, this was a protection rune and would resist an attack. It was basically this world’s version of a bulletproof vest. I put it on and sighed. I hated being this suspicious. She was having my child, after all. Why would my supposed daughter want to give me any harm?
Straightening my coat and taking a breath, I finally headed out of the small mansion we had been given during our stay in Amaryllis. In truth, this place was actually a bit larger than the Bonholdt mansion, but compared to the palace it felt like a bit of a downgrade. My sense of value truly had been corrupted in every way. I’m not even sure how I could live without maids and personal assistants.
It was a dark, muggy night, but the stars were out and the few clouds in the sky were few and far between. I worked my way down to the lake, keeping my eyes sharp. As I had ordered, the two guards fell back. I didn’t know where they were, but I felt better knowing that they were there having my back. Despite a shaky feeling in the back of my mind, this was nothing like the time I had been taken by the Primrose.
As I reached the lake edge, I looked both ways down the grassy shore and didn’t see Veronika in either direction. I told myself she was just being late and gulped on easily as I waited. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long. A rustle from a bush nearby and then Veronika came walking out. She was by herself, and I instantly breathed slightly better. When she saw me, she smiled and immediately ran to me.
“Father!” She cried, wrapping her arms around me.
I suddenly felt stupid acting so paranoid. She was my lover, my adoptive daughter, and the mother of my child. She had shown me nothing but forgiveness and affection since I first met her, and there was no reason to believe the future would be any different. I kissed her, and after a moment of surprise, she closed her eyes and kissed me back. Her lips tingled slightly in the cold air, but the warmth of her body welcoming. I had grown used to the warmth of Matahari, and the coldness here was getting to me more than I liked to admit.
When she finally pulled away, she put her head on my chest. “I was scared. However, Veronika was a good girl. She did everything daddy told her. She did everything she was supposed to do.”
“Ah, it’s good that you contacted me. Perhaps you should explain what you meant a bit more. I’m honestly a little confused. How is Kemala betraying me?”
“Hmm?” Veronika cocked her head. “Kemala is not betraying you at all. She was betraying me and daddy. That’s why Veronika had to remove her. After all, if I let her go, then she would have warned you.”
My heart went immediately cold and I pulled away from her. “Wh-what?”
Veronika laughed the big smile on her face not altering a hair from what she always showed. “You know, we were going to wait to do this, but that nosy girl looked in my bag and found things she shouldn’t. Taking care of her quietly was quite difficult. Then, of course, I had to get you out here at night. That was especially difficult. Daddy will be proud.
“Daddy…” I sputtered. “I’m your dad… right?”
She giggled. “Are you confused? Well, I was only ever yours in name, but you knew that, right? However, my true daddy is Davont. He made me, after all.”
“Davont!” I gasped. “Not my father? Or even my grandfather… but… him…”
I felt a strange numbness overtake me. I had pulled away from her, but my entire body was feeling weak. I took a step back, almost tripping over myself. I was drugged. Her kiss must have been the poison. Damn it. Of everything I had considered, I never considered a poisonous kiss. Had she offered me a drink, I would have found some way to avoid it. This though, this was ridiculous.
“Davont… he’s seriously assassinating me?” I asked in disbelief.
I really couldn’t believe the irony of it. I was here trying to stop Terah from killing them, and he turned around and plotted to have me killed too. It was too impulsive, and he was only signing his own death warrant by doing this.
“Well, the first time I poisoned you didn’t work.” Veronika put on a pouty face. “You had to go and survive! And my method was really good too. The time-release was perfect. No one even realized it was me! However, since you survived once poisoning, I won’t be so subtle this time.”
“G-guards!” I shouted.
“Hehe…” Veronika snickered. “Your Mother picked very well. The guards in the palace were very loyal. These guards… well, let’s just say their loyalty belongs to Matahari.”
I collapsed down to one knee. “Damn it, Veronika… Why? You’re even having my child!”
“I’m actually really proud of that one.” Veronika only giggled again, touching her stomach affectionately. “The baby will be showing soon. I needed to pin it on you or I’d be in trouble. Sorry, but I’ve been pregnant since before I joined your harem! You would never guess who the baby’s daddy is though.”
I shook my head, trying to cope with things as I finally landed on the ground. “Is it… Davont?”
“Nope!” She leaned down and touched my nose. I tried to swat her hand away, but I flopped mostly like a fish.
She was right. I really would have assumed it was Davont the way she held him as her daddy.
“What’s the point of poisoning me here? Are you going to start an international incident?” I demanded.
We weren’t exactly in a hidden area. If someone happened to be keeping tabs on us, they could clearly see what was being done. I still didn’t understand why I was being killed here. Was the castle really that much of a safer place. Unless… Davont was working for the women! Perhaps she was working with Terah after all!
She shook her head. “I’m not poisoning you here. That was just a paralyzing agent. I have a rune that protects me from it, but you will be paralyzed for a few hours. Just enough time to set things up properly.”
She snapped her fingers, and the two women I had brought along with me came out. They immediately began wrapping me up in a blanket and then carried me. As far as visibility, I could now feel some rune’s being activated. With my eyes closed, I became more aware of such things. These probably were illusions or something that made it so I wasn’t seen despite being in plain sight. I forgot once again that this was a world with magic, and my own common sense couldn’t be applied to everything. Now that I was being carried off, I couldn’t even guess what they were going to do to me.
The island wasn’t that large, and the walk only took a few minutes before I was dropped on the floor. The blanket was pulled off a few minutes later and Veronika was still looking down at me with her damnable grin.
“What are you doing?” I demanded.
“Setting the crime scene, silly.” Veronika giggled. “You see, tonight, you’re going to be murdered. And the person who is going to do it… is none other than the leader of the house herself, Councilwoman Donah.”
Councilwoman Donah was the woman who did the majority of the speeches regarding turning men into a protected class. She was the leader of the Extended Male Protection Act that threatened to damn every man influenced by it. Did they want to frame her for my murder? So, she wasn’t on the feminist side after all. I didn’t know if that made this whole thing better or worse.
Although I could no longer bend my neck, I could still move my eyes and mouth. I looked around to see that I was still outdoors, but I seemed to be in a garden area. The guards seemed to have left, and Veronika was whistling to herself as she prepared the scene.
“So, what?” I asked, trying to keep her talking. “A dead body is found in Donah’s garden? She loses some of her votes and power. I mean, even if one could say that Donah wasn’t the guilty party, one could argue that she’s not the one to see men protected when one literally dies in her own backyard. Then, Davont gets rid of a political rival and also manages to shift the vote?
“You think you have this whole thing figured out, don’t you?” Veronika giggled.
She had no clue. If I didn’t open my mouth and tell her, then her precious daddy would follow me to the grave. Terah would likely make sure of that. In fact, if he took her on as a lover, she’d probably prefer it! It would make her assassination attempt even easier!
“Do you want to hear a secret?” Veronika asked, and then leaned down next to me. “It’s a juicy one.”
I didn’t respond. Instead, I merely watched her with my eyes turned towards her. I had a feeling that whatever she told me, it wouldn’t matter what response I gave. She felt she had me in a trap, and honestly, she pretty much did. No matter how much I fought, I couldn’t move my body. Even the capacity to put on magic eluded me.
She opened up my shirt, pulling away from the protective coat with the rune on it. She ran her hand up and down my chest as she leaned closed, her lips pursed seductively.
“The father of my baby… is your grandfather.”
My eyes widened. A sudden flash of a few days ago. He put a hand on her shoulder and spoke about pregnancy! That hand seemed oddly familiar with her at the time. I had completely failed to notice it.
“Mm…” She nodded. “He’s been fucking me since I was 8, and he’s much better at it than you…”
I ignored her slight, still feeling confused, “But Davont… Grandfather…”
“They’re enemies?” She laughed. “An ongoing lie the two have perpetrated all this time. There are too few men in the world to squabble over who has the most power when a woman could take it all in an instant. With them pretending to be on opposite sides, that lends power to when they agree to something and allows them to manipulate other parties by playing off each other. My daddies are both clever, huh? One daddy had me, and one daddy made my baby, and neither is you…”
I was completely speechless. It wasn’t a political ploy at all. My own grandfather had decided to assassinate me. Perhaps it was because of my inability to have children. Grandpa only knew about Veronika. It was no wonder he wasn’t that impressed because he was the one who impregnated her. Had he known I had several other women pregnant, would things be different right now? Probably not. They had already had my death in their plans a long time ago.
What was Mother even whipped for? They were probably angrier I survived than anything else related to the things she had done. Now, they were going to use my death to forward the male cause at this peace talk. This couldn’t have been a more laughable thing. Now, I couldn’t even decide if I wanted Terah to succeed or not. If she murdered these two bastards, it’d only serve them right. They were wielding their authority with such extreme prejudice that it bordered on hateful.
While I was still recovering from that blow that her words delivered, Veronika casually went into a purse she had on her side and pulled out a knife. It was large and shined in the moonlight.
“I have done my duty,” Veronika said, somewhat to herself.
“Wait…. Wait…” As the moment came closer, the realization I was about to die again came closing home.
I was about to be murdered by a thirteen-year-old girl who used to call me daddy. Any way you looked at it, this was beyond pathetic.
“Goodbye, lover…” she raised the knife up.
“Bitch!” Someone slammed into both of us, and Veronika went falling to the side.
She dropped the knife and I could hear it bouncing away on the concrete. I struggled to move, only to find myself as paralyzed as ever. It was supposed to last hours, and she’d gotten everything done in thirty minutes.
“You…!” Veronika growled, standing back up, her face painted with anger.
I glanced over to see Kemala standing opposite her. There was blood running down her face and a grimace in her expression. She also had numerous scratches and dirt on her clothing. It wasn’t clear what Veronika had done to her to put her out of the way, but it was clear by her ferocious expression that it hadn’t been enough.
“Brother!” She said. “I will keep you safe!”
I couldn’t even shake my head helplessly. I could only lie there was she ran at the other woman and they began fighting. I was shocked to find Kemala actually had the upper hand. Before, Veronika must have used surprise for her advantage, just like she had done to me. Kemala actually seemed to know some combat moves. When she punched, it was a full-blown punch that sent the other girl sprawling. Of course, as Veronika stood, she didn’t hesitate to grab dirt and chuck it at Kemala’s face.
I remembered now that Kemala had actually been raised to be with me. That apparently included combat. I supposed in the event of an attack, she’d be the last line of defense for me. That ended up coming true today. Perhaps, Mother had once planned for Kemala to be the next queen. As soon as she got pregnant, another switch could be planned. That still didn’t explain the presence of Terah.
The two girls ended up landing on top of me. Someone’s elbow slammed in my gut, but even if I wanted to defend myself, I couldn’t. The two girls ended up rolling over me, and I could hear fighting from behind. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see behind me, and I could only guess what was going on with their scuffle. I also worried that the guard was still around. If they came out now, Kemala would be doomed.
“Enough of this!” I heard a shout, and then an explosion of magic which caused the hair on the back of my head to stand up.
I was pushed a few feet away, rolling over back on to my back. I heard the drawing of steel and then I looked up to see Veronika standing over me. I could only close my eyes in aggravation.
“Kemala… I’m sorry.” I whispered.
“You’re sorry for her?” Veronika asked. “You should be worried about yourself!”
She slammed the knife into me. I could feel the pain of the blade slicing into my chest. She did it again and again. I wish I could say the paralysis numbed the pain, but it did no such thing. Blood splattered Veronika’s face as she stabbed me over and over again. Her eyes turned unhinged, and she started laughing as she continued to do it.
“No!” I heard a scream and then a flash of metal.
Veronika laugh turned into a gurgle, and a moment later blood erupted from her neck. Her wide, crazed eyes and the hideous smile on her face didn’t change a single bit as she collapsed down on top of me. A moment later, she was shoved away, and my waning vision barely managed to make out Kemala. She looked even worse than before. She was covered in blood.
“Brother… n-no… I lost you once. I can’t do it. I can’t lose you again!” She cried. Holding me tightly.
Despite her holding me, I felt cold. Everything was cold. Her voice was distant. Her face was dim. I could barely see a thing. It was becoming difficult to think. What did I need to do? What did she need to do? Could she get me to a healer? No, that had to be too much damage. I began to move my lips.
Kemala grabbed my head and pulled my lips to her ear.
Distantly I heard her words. “What was that? Brother… please… don’t go… Don’t leave Kemala. She’ll be good! I’ll get pregnant! I’ll do it… Please…”
“Run…” I whispered, surprised my lungs hadn’t collapsed and I could still speak. “Brooke… escape… follow… Brooke…”
All of my remaining strength was gone. My eyes closed as I heard the crying wails of Kemala. This body had the great misfortune of having died twice, both times in the presence of this woman. Darkness overtook me, and I fell into a deep sleep.
As I slept, symbols began to appear in my mind. They were runes, magical runes. They flickered across my vision. They contained knowledge. They were secrets and data and information. More and more came. They had actually been there before. Ever since the day I had absorbed the demon lord’s power. The power had disappeared, and I had learned nothing. But now that I was asleep, I began to learn. Deep within a deathly dream, symbols fluttered across my vision, and I started to study them.