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The Curse of Beauty

Jade Ryre








This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 by Jade
Ryre

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.



First Edition:
February, 2018




Author’s note: This work is only for ADULT.

All characters are 18+



** Individual pictured is model and used for illustrative purpose only




Chapter 1

47th year of Ryeo Kingdom.

Spring had come in full force. Roane closed her eyes, savoring the gentle warmth of the sun. Above, the sun was bright, clouds floated in endless sky. Up there, everything seemed to move in slow, steady pace as if the Gods didn’t care with her, or anyone else under the sky. And the knowledge didn’t make her feel any better. She desperately wanted to run away. But she was a princess. Here, in the palace, was her place, at least for now.

Roane knew almost everyone was looking forward to this day. The ministers, the nobles and other important personages had gathered in the Palace’s yard. Their booming laughter echoed in her ears. Close, but seemed so far away. She wanted to block those happy sounds. She wished she was anywhere else but in here.

The servants were busy. The palace was busy. Everyone was busy. Her brothers and sisters took their pace on the raised dais. They seemed happy. Did they care so little of her? she wondered.

Roane wasn’t their favorite sister, she knew. Not even one of her many siblings took notice of her distress. She had never felt this lonely before.

A gong sound heralded the ceremony was going to start soon. In the yard, the priestess lined up, making a circle, ready for their ritual. The ceremony was ready. No turning back now. Her fate was sealed. No one could or would save her. Only miracle could help her escape this betrothal.

The ritual dance began. And panic took hold of her. Glancing around, she was desperately looking for something or someone for help.

All of her siblings only cared about their own needs. Her eldest half-brother, Prince Kyo, he was scowling and stared dagger at yet another of her half-brother, Prince Lee who seated beside a golden-eyed beauty, Princess Luna. Luna grandfather had been the crown prince of Glim—one of the former three kingdoms, but he had wisely bent his knee to his former general, King Teo, the first king who united the three warring kingdoms. So Luna shouldn’t have that much influence in the palace, she wasn’t even the blood of the founder of Ryeo, yet the girl held much higher place than Roane.

Roane sighed inwardly, wishing that Luna stopped pitted her brothers against each other. She had that effect on men.

But Roane knew it wasn’t the beautiful princess’ fault. Luna couldn’t help that the men flocked around her, for with her golden eyes, she was a rare beauty. Sometimes Roane wished she had the same eyes as Luna, unlike her own dark brown eyes.

Oh, she shouldn’t complain. It wasn’t like she was hideously ugly. She was just alright. And if indeed she took after her mother; she even could safely say that she was on the pretty side. But she hoped with a prettier face, men would stare at her face instead of her tits. She wished she could inspire some respect from men instead of lust! Even in her innocent, she knew what those men wanted from her. She knew what her ample charm ignited in men, she wasn’t that stupid, of course, she had noticed.

Thumping sound of the drums broke her maudlin thought. Goodness, she had another pressing matter. Who cared with her face? People only cared about the blood that ran through her vein. A king’s blood. She could be as ugly as a mouse, and they still would marry her off to the enemy.

Below the dais, the priestesses lifted their hands to the sky. The summoning dance began. All eyes were on them, but Roane couldn’t rouse her interest, so she merely looking without really seeing.

Oh, why it has to be me…

The drums beat faster, and gracefully, the priestesses twirled, sending their colorful robe flew, twisting in rainbow color.

Roane stole a glance at her father, the king. He wasn’t smiling like the others. But again, her father was rarely smiling. He was a stern and firm ruler. Now, he seemed in deep conversation with Queen Reo, the bane of her mother and other concubines’ existence.

Her brother sudden question made her jumped with alarm. “Shouldn’t you smiling now?” Kyo asked.

She forced a smile. “Of course, Brother.”

Today ceremony was held in her honor, she knew, but still, she couldn’t find her spirit. She didn’t even have a strength to fake it. Her mother, Lady Josi, said the betrothal was for the best. Surely not for her best interest!

“I heard they’re fucking horse in the north,” said Kyo. He was an ass of brother. And hearing his jest, their other brothers were laughing, following Kyo’s lead.

Roane took a deep breath and ignored her brother. She knew he was looking someone to vent his wroth. And that someone wouldn’t be her. She had enough trouble as it was. No need to add more.

“Why don’t you see the ritual, Brother. It’s quite splendid.”

He made another crass joke, but she wasn’t listening. Her thought was back to her mother. The Kingdom of Tan was where her mother hailed from. But Roane was born here, in the Kingdom of Reo. Even though, she was half a Tan, she didn’t feel like it. And now, in two short days, she would be packed to the north to marry some foreign prince she had never heard about. They said this marriage was to seal the amity, but it seemed like she was sent to be a hostage more than anything else.

She had pleaded with her father. She didn’t wish to marry the prince. But of course, her father hadn’t listened. Roane was a daughter of his least favorite concubine after all. And at eighteen, she knew she had to marry soon, but she had expected her father would marry her to one of her many cousins or even his general.

Why it has to be this dratted prince?

Suddenly, the drums quieted, and a silence descended as the great door squeaked open, revealing a tall, slender, yet graceful figure clad in flowing yellow robe, Lady Kyla, the high priestess. Roane couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful lady as she walked to the center of the yard. She walked with grace as if she was floating, not merely walk like other mortals. But Roane knew the lady was made of flesh and blood.

Lady Kyla was indeed a beauty, different beauty than Princess Luna. Lady Kyla’s beauty was that of cold beauty, one might permit to admire, yet forbidden to touch.

Looking the lady features, one by one, she shouldn’t be beautiful. Her eyes weren’t overly big, so was her lips, but her nose was high and straight. Her face not overly feminine either, but somehow the combination radiated unapproachable beauty that was uncommon even among women.

Roane heard Kyo cursed in her right. “Hell! I’d shag her if she didn’t have a cock,” he said, then he chuckled. Of course, her other brothers had to laugh along with him.

Yes, the lady wasn’t born female. And it made the whole thing seemed more unfair somehow. Lady Kyla was not really a ‘she’, yet the lady was much prettier than Roane. She wished she had Lady Kyla’s elegant, graceful body instead of her fat, clumsy self. Roane forever hated her tits and bottom. It was too big, making her looked like an elephant just like what her brothers said, especially when she wore thick clothes. And she didn’t want to wear thin clothes either, for men would stare her big tits. Oh, she hated it!

The ritual dance resumed again with Lady Kyla as the leader, and Roane heard her brothers still made another lewd comment. In a time like this, she dearly wished she could smack her brothers. They behaved like a barbarian instead of a prince. She didn’t mind if they mocked her, but not Kyla. Though, no longer as close as before, Kyla was still her friend. She knew it was an odd friendship, the priestess and the princess. But Roane was happy whenever she was with her.

As if summoned by her thought, Kyla’s gaze met with hers, and she detected a slight smile on her friend’s face before she twirled and broke the contact.

She let out a weary sigh. She wished a hero would come to rescue her. She didn’t need a handsome prince just any man would do.


***


Roane stopped in her track. Her feet seemed to freeze. Glancing around, a heavy drizzle fell, wetting the land and cloaking the palace with a cold fog. This was a bad omen, she thought. She didn’t want to go, but here she was, bundled in her thick cloak, ready to depart to the north, despite the rain. She had cried all night, even her mother’s warm, shooting voice couldn’t console her. She was beyond despair.

“Let’s go, Girl,” said her mother. She led the way into the palace’s yard where the guard was waiting, and Roane followed, dragging her feet.

Each step seemed heavier than the last, but Roane went along with her mother and the servants.

Her heart skipped a beat. She saw another cloaked form, standing on the edge of the terrace.

Kyla why she is here?

The priestess stood facing the stair, looking at the yard below, seemed still unaware of her party’s presence. Kyla looked so serene surrounded by the mist, like some ethereal creature. Slowly, she turned her tall body, curtsying to Roane’s mother first.

“Thank you, Lady Kyla, for coming here. Does His Majesty send you?” Mother asked in a hopeful tone.

Roane sighed inwardly. Even after all these years, her mother seemed still want the king’s love.

“I’m afraid not, my lady. I’m here following the Gods’ wishes. The rain it is a bad omen, isn’t it?” Kyla said in even tone. Her voice was a tad deeper than that of women, but not overly so. Her voice was devoid any emotion as if she just relayed the message from the Gods.

“Bad omen?” Mother whispered as if she didn’t want to believe it.

Kyla smiled softly. “Don’t worry, my lady. I’ll escort Princess Roane to the border.”

An involuntary smile tugged at Roane’s lip. Yes, she would like Kyla’s company, even it just up to the border. She knew Kyla still cared for her. Kyla gave her advice all over the years, warned her of the Queen Reo’s many schemes. She knew if not for Kyla’s help, she and her mother wouldn’t be here. They would be banished long time ago, like her half-brother, Prince Ryu.

“Shall we depart now, Princess?” Kyla asked, her solemn eyes held hers.

“Yes… of course, we shall,” she said. She couldn’t help the hint of joy in her voice.


***


After a day lumbering through countryside, they stopped at the crossroad inn. The inn wasn’t big. It was just a tad bigger than Roane’s mother’s quarter in the palace. She looked at the dismal place, noting that it looked old and the roof seemed worn out. And she prayed it wouldn’t leak.

The innkeeper greeted her party warmly. He said her room was his best room, but of course, it not up to par with her room in the palace.

She entered the room with the guards trailing behind her. She glanced up at the ceiling and released her pent-up breath. Thank god, it didn’t leak.

If this room was the best, she shuddered to think of the other rooms. But wisely she kept her mussing to herself, and said her thank to the old man as he bowed and left the room.

Well, at least here is warm

Her guards and Kyla seemed unperturbed. It seemed only her, the one who found everything undesirable from the weather and now, this inn. As if everything was set against her happiness.

She glanced at Kyla. She saw a faint smile on her friend’s lips as if she found something amusing, but said nothing.

“We will depart after the dawn broke tomorrow. I pray the rain will stop by then,” Kyla said. “I hope you can rest well tonight.”

Roane gave a nod to her guards, silently told them to leave. She didn’t want them to hear a scandalous thing she was about to say.

“But I wish the rain will fall harder tomorrow,” she said petulantly.

Kyla smiled. “Ah… yes, of course, Princess. But I had to ride the horse. And I much prefer dry than wet.”

She nudged the bed with her hand. Thank Gods, it looked fine. She flung her body on the bed. “I told you to ride the carriage, didn’t I?”

But she knew why Kyla had refused. The road was muddy, and it was hard enough for a carriage to pass with only her inside. She wished they took a large carriage, but she didn’t know that Kyla was planning to tag along.

Scanning her friend’s form, she noted that Kyla’s clothes were wet and her skin looked pale. In short, she looked wretched. “You’re wet. Better change now,” Roane stated the obvious.

“I’ll take my leave then.”

“Where are you going?” she said, stopping Kyla in her track.

Kyla turned around, brows furrowed. “I’ll stay with the other guards.”

“With those men?” she asked a bit too loudly. She was horrified that her friend even considered such notion.

Kyla looked at her oddly. “Of course, Princess. Not many rooms left. And I am no princess,” she said with a smile.

Roane couldn’t possibly let her. She knew how those men looked at her friend. She wondered how Kyla didn’t see it. Why Kyla didn’t realize how beautiful she was?

Roane knew her friend was going to refuse. “Sleep here. I can’t sleep in a strange bed,” she lied. “I command you. I’m your princess.”

Saying it like this, she knew her friend couldn’t possibly refuse.

Chapter 2

Heavy rain fell outside. The night was cold. Roane could feel it seeping through the wall. She shivered and scooted closer, seeking warmth, until her breasts brushed something hard, it’s akin to a wall of hard muscle, yet it was warm. She moved even closer, pressing harder. In the fog of slumber, she heard a muffled groan. Slowly, she opened her eyes, looking the source of the sound in the darkness.

“Kyla?” she mumbled, still half asleep. She felt her friend’s body tensed. She stayed silent for a moment. “Nothing, Princess,” she rasped. Her voice seemed odd in Roane’s ears, somehow it felt foreign, like someone else in her friend’s voice.

Propelled on her elbow, Roane peered in the darkness, looking for her friend’s face. She flung her eyes wide, and slowly her vision adjusted, “Are you okay?” she put her small hand on Kyla’s forehead, afraid that her friend got a fever. “You shouldn’t ride in the rain,” she scolded.

“I’m okay, Princess. Please go back to sleep,” was her terse reply as if she was annoyed at Roane, and she wondered why.

Forcefully Kyla removed Roane’s hand from her forehead, she seemed brusque. She had a touch of impatience, which didn’t like the friend Roane had known, maybe Kyla was really ill.

“Go back to sleep, please,” Kyla implored again.

And Roane didn’t like the tone of her voice, but reluctantly, she laid back, staring at the darkness. She remembered a long time ago memory, when they were just a slip of a girl.

“We often saw the stars together, didn’t we? Hiding in the darkness, facing the stars. I miss those days,” she let out a sigh. “Back then, we were young and carefree.”

“Yes, I also miss Lady Pona’s birch on my bottom,” Kyla chuckled. Roane liked that sound. That’s the friend she knew.

“I didn’t know she did that to you,” she turned her slight form, staying on her side, her heavy breast fell on her arm.

Roane truly hadn’t known the cruel treatment her friend received. And for some time, she even hated Kyla for avoiding her, but it turned out wasn’t the case.

As if Kyla could read her mind and guilt over her past misgiving, “Of course, you didn’t know, Princess. I should take no joy, remember?” she said.

They were facing each other and smiled, her friend’s face lit up, for fleeting moment Roane could see the old Kyla, full of mischief and happy. Her face relaxed, and it made Roane’s heart warmed.

Kyla was truly beautiful, she thought. Her long hair framed her face, making her looked softer and more woman.

“Do you… do you ever wish that you are someone else?” The question tumbled out her mouth before she realized. Or becomes a woman in truth? Roane added silently.

Kyla looked at her, she couldn’t fathom what her friend’s gaze meant, for moments she thought Kyla wasn’t going to answer.

“I’m a high priestess. What should I possibly want to be? My family was probably long dead. Don’t you know, we, the priestess, are the blessed one? We are born to serve the Gods.”

But the way she said it, made it sounded like a curse instead of bless.

“Your family, maybe they still live somewhere, don’t you want to find them?”

“They’re traitors, Princess. Maybe they hanged already. And my sister, maybe sold to some old lord. That’s if she’s lucky.”

She never knew that her family met such tragic fate.

“Probably, I’m the only lucky one in the family. My pretty face saved me.”

Roane didn’t detect any vanity or boasting in her friend’s statement. And indeed she was pretty. Roane knew that beautiful face was the mark of Gods’ bless, at least in this kingdom.

Slowly, she lifted her hand to Kyla’s face. “I’m sorry, truly I am.”

She trailed her finger on Kyla’s high cheekbone, then down to her square chin. Kyla and her, they were truly different, she thought. Kyla’s face was harsh, unlike Roane’s soft, rounded face.

“Don’t be, Princess. It’s not your fault either. That’s just how fate works, isn’t it?” Kyla paused to catch Roane’s wandering hand, “I’m glad I met you in the palace. You make it bearable, somehow.”

It was not often they speak so openly like this. Roane couldn’t help the smiled on her face. “You too. I’m glad I met you. You’re such a dear friend. I wish we can race and play in the palace every day, and never grow up.”

Kyla smiled too. “But we’re no longer a child,” she said as she released Roane’s hand.

Of course, Roane knew that. The evidence was obvious. It was hard to miss. “Why we have to grow up.” She glanced at her breasts. It had grown so big, too big for her slender body. “See, it’s too big now!”

She lifted her gaze, her heart skipped a beat as she saw Kyla’s gaze. It made her shivered. In her friend’s eyes, somehow her big breasts looked almost beautiful.

“Definitely, not too big, Princess,” Kyla said in oddly thick, deep voice. Her tits seemed to cast a spell on her friend.

Then it dawned on her. Yes, of course, she wanted to kick herself. She was being dense. She shouldn’t say thing like that, especially when her friend didn’t have any breasts.

She suspected her friend never saw a girl’s tits. “Do you want to see it?” she offered in a whisper. She waited in a batted breath.

Kyla’s jaw fell, her mouth hanged open as if she was lost for words.

Roane smiled despite herself. It was not often, ones could catch the lofty high priestess in this state. She wanted to chuckle aloud.

“I will show you,” she said wickedly. Her hands moved to open her tunic, revealing her rounded globe to her friend bugged eyes.

For a long while, Kyla just stared at her tits without saying anything. Kyla swallowed hard. And it made Roane’s heart beat faster. And a dark thought crossed her mind, for a moment, she was worried that her tits indeed looked deformed.

She bit her lip. “Do you think there are too big?” she asked softly.

As if with a great deal of effort, Kyla yanked her gaze. Her eyes were on Roane’s face. “They are beautiful. Not too big, definitely not too big,” she rasped.

Roane’s heart swelled with jubilance joy. “Touch it,” she said. She guided her friend’s trembling hand to her soft, firm mound.

She felt a jolt of shock when finally Kyla’s hand brushed her tits. And her friend seemed to feel the same, for suddenly, she bolted up.

“I’m sorry, Princess. I have something to attend now,” Kyla said, still in odd, thick voice. “I have to go.”

Roane wanted to ask what ‘something’ was, but her friend fled the room even before she was able to utter a single word.

She wondered what’s wrong. It was so unlike Kyla to run so gracelessly like chased by the devil himself.


***


The carriage slogged pass through the muddy road. The heavy rain last night made the road difficult to travel, but they stubbornly brave the road north. If it up to her, Roane would insist they should stay at the inn for few more days, but alas, the captain of the guard had another idea. They had to cross the border before the new moon, the king’s command, he said. And he couldn’t be swayed whether using her female’s wiles or sharp command.

Roane had to stay inside the carriage by herself. She hoped Kyla would accompany her inside, but her friend preferred to ride among the guards.

Peeking outside, Roane saw Kyla sat atop her mare with a sword slung on her back. Roane had never seen her outside the palace before. It made her forget that Kyla was priestess-warrior, not a merely pretty decoration in the palace.

As if summoned by her thought, Kyla turned her face, catching Roane’s eyes, making her heart started to beat faster, and her face flushed, remembering last night. Whatever had passed between them. It oddly made her felt strangely uncomfortable.

Kyla slowed her horse. “Do you need something, Princess?” she asked.

“Ummm… No, I just never saw you with a sword.”

“This road is dangerous, some say. We, the priestess do fight too. And, most people tend to forget what we are,” she said in good humor.

Her friend looked like a strange creature, like someone she barely knew. Kyla seemed at ease in her warrior’s gear. What you truly are? Roane wanted to ask, but she kept her mouth tightly shut. She wondered what was inside her friend’s heart. Is she a woman or man? Is that why she fled the room? Because she is a man? That thought made Roane flushed harder. But no, it couldn’t be. She was being silly. She just not yet adjusted to the idea of Kyla the warrior, that’s all.

She wondered if Kyla had a choice, how she would live, as a woman or as a man. But of course, just like her, Kyla had no choice. Kyla was raised as a priestess, and assuming the opposite gender of what they born with, was the way they lived to keep their body chaste.

She glanced up, looking at Kyla’s profile closely, imagining if she was a man. Her heart skipped a beat. Kyla would be a handsome man too, she thought.

Kyla spun her head, catching her looking again. As if knew what she thought, “Do I look handsome, Princess?” she asked.

Roane blushed hard. Her cheeks felt warm.

“Ah… yess…” But her voice died as she heard buzzing sounds. Arrow! Dear Gods, what was happening?

“Hide, Princess!” Kyla said as she shut the window.

Hiding in the carriage, Roane could hear clamoring sounds of horses and clang of steels. People shouted and shrieked. She didn’t know who won the battle, or who the enemy was. She wanted to help, but she didn’t know how to fight. She was a princess, weak and useless.

Suddenly the carriage’s door flung open. She yelped and tried to shy away.

“It’s me,” said Kyla with a deeper voice than usual. “We have to run, Princess. Follow me.”

Without question, she followed Kyla, barreling through the battle. Roane didn’t dare to glance at the fighting soldiers around her. She just ran blindly, following Kyla into the forest, while her friend fended swords and arrows that came to their way.

She was out of breath. Her knee felt weak, but she had to keep running. A little more… and more the trees started to thicken. And finally, her legs gave out, making her stumbled.

Roane felt Kyla’s hands, steadying her. “Be careful, Princess,” she said.

“Let’s take a rest,” Kyla said as she led her to sit near a fallen big tree.

“Who are they?”

Kyla shook her head. “I don’t know. Probably the Tan, or some clans who don’t desire the amity.” Her tone was grave, it seemed she knew more, but didn’t wish to share the knowledge to Roane.

“What should we do now?”

Kyla looked at her with odd eyes. She seemed different somehow. She looked tougher than usual, her movement still graceful, yet it different.

“We should take a shelter in a nearby castle,” Kyla paused to tear her skirt, revealing trousers underneath. “But we can’t take the road. It’s too dangerous,” Kyla muttered. She gathered her—no, it’s his long hair and tied it on the top of his head. Roane was speechless as she saw her friend transforming from a beautiful woman into a beautiful man.

Looking at him now, he seemed to grow few inches taller and his body heavier. For the first time, Roane realized that Kyla not as fragile as she thought.

“You look like a man, now,” Roane couldn’t help but said it aloud.

Kyla lifted an eyebrow. “Am I not?” he asked, making Roane confused even more. Am I not? What did he mean by that?

“Umm… I… You always look beautiful that’s why,” she blurted, desperate to make sense of things. “Not that you don’t look beautiful now,” she added fast.

He chuckled. “I can say the same of you,” he said as he held her gaze.

Again, what that meant?

“Stop admiring each other, shall we?” he said, breaking the gaze. “I know Lord Jin’s land is just beyond this mountain. I should bring you there, Princess.”

Roane nodded.

“But first I have to tend my wound,” he said.

Roane’s eyes widened, and for the first time, she noticed blood on his tunic. “Are you okay?” she scrambled to touch him.

“I’m okay,” he said, stopping her with a look.

With a deft hand, he opened his tunic revealing his wound and hard torso. He wore s necklace with a wolf’s tooth around his neck, it fell down to the center of his hard chest. Naked waist up, he indeed looked very much like a man. His body wasn’t overly large. It was lean, but toned and seemed hard. It was a man’s body. But somehow, his pretty face fitted together with the rest of him.

Roane shook her head. She should stop gawking, she knew. But she couldn’t help but stare this stranger in front of her. He was Kyla, her friend, yet he wasn’t. How could a person completely change like this? Then, she remembered what she did last night. Oh, God! She showed her tits to him, a man. That was why he fled the room. She flushed hard. Her face must be beet red now.

“You still have that talisman,” she said, trying to find neutral ground and chased away her awkwardness. Roane knew the priestess tried to confiscate the necklace when they were still a child.

“I’m stubborn, you know it, Princess. It’s all I have left from my family.”

Kyla took a flask of wine and soaked and dabbed the wound with it. He winced slightly, she saw a fleeting pain on his face.

Shaking her head, now wasn’t time to berate herself, she told herself. Yes, she could do that later, much later.

“What I can do to help?”

He gave her the remnant of her skirt. She took it. She knew what to do. Gently, she bound his wound with the cloth, trying her hardest not to brush his naked skin.

He glanced at her with a smile in his almond-shaped eyes. “Don’t afraid, Princess. I won’t bite, unless you ask me too.”

She didn’t understand what he meant, but she flushed regardless. It must be something naughty. This new Kyla deeply unsettled her, making her felt more awkward than usual.

Finally, she finished, she let out her pent-up breath. That made him chuckled.

“You do afraid of me,” he said with mirth.

Avoiding his gaze, “No, of course not,” she mumbled.

“If you say so, Princess.”

His gaze met hers. And her heart beat harder in her chest. “How about the guards… do they alive?” she whispered, afraid of his answer.

He chucked her chin with his hand, making her trembled at his touch. “I’m not sure. I hope some of them survive and alert your father about this travesty.” His gaze never wavered, pinning her. His dark eyes made her breathless, made her forgot how to breathe.

For a long while, they just stayed silent, holding each other gaze. “Are you ready to move now?” he whispered, breaking the silence.

Roane couldn’t stand his penetrating gaze anymore. She spun her face. “Umm… yes yes I’m ready,” she said and forced a chuckle. “My feet are okay now…” She moved, testing her feet and giggled like a silly girl. What’s wrong with me?

But Kyla just raised his eyebrow seeing her antic. It made her felt even more childish. He wasn’t much older than her, but somehow it felt like he was mature beyond his years, making her silly in comparison.

Chapter 3

Passing a narrow alley between the mountain and hill, they walked again, crossing the dense trees, after this mountain Kyla said they would reach the outpost of Lord Jin’s land.

But that seemed still far away. Trees and the mossy path ahead were all she could see. The path was uneven, sometimes muddy and full of wayward roots, shrub and small rock scratched Roane’s sore feet. She had to be careful, but at least, her feet not given out. She kept walking, despite her acute fatigue. But the path went on and on, she wasn’t sure about the direction, or how far they had gone. She refrained herself from complaining, or simply too tired to do so.

Her feet landed on something sticky, her heart lurched when her balance gone.

“Sorry,” she mumbled, blushing furiously as her back hit Kyla’s hard chest.

For a moment she forgot her tired bone, she bit her lips, not even in her wildest dream she thought her friend was hiding a hard body beneath his layers of clothes. It made her strangely over warmed, and no, it wasn’t because of the weather, for today was cold.

“It’s okay, Princess,” he murmured. His voice sent a shiver through her body, he felt so close, just right above her nape.

She shook her head, warding off her maudlin thought. It was just a shock, she told herself. The shock of seeing Kyla in a new light, that’s all. Soon, everything would back to normal.

They walked and walked. Now, the sun had almost set in the west. And the sky was started to darken and tinged with dark red.

“Let’s take a rest, Princess,” he said.

He chose vast grassland to sleep, so they could spot the enemy, long before they had a chance to attack. She didn’t question him. She completely agreed. She knew nothing about this kind of thing. All of this was new to her. All her life, she was merely living, not surviving.

Kyla went to gather dried bushed. He bent down, shuffling the bushes then rose, ready to search for another. It seemed her friend was making a bed for the two of them. And she didn’t know even the basic thing of surviving. The thought didn’t settle well with her. She ought to know something or anything, not clueless like this.

She held Kyla’s arm. She needed—had to know more about this unfortunate event. She couldn’t stay in the dark forever.

“Please tell me. I’m sure you know more about this… about this attack,” she implored.

For a moment, he was silent, assessing her. “Our kingdom is young, but the enmity with the Tan began long before, since the three kingdoms’ era, or farther back than that, no one can’t be sure. The clans around here have no love for them, neither the Tan. I know, Princess, I was born around this border. The hatred runs deep. So it can be them or the Tan, or both. But I’m sure the weapon is from south of the border, our own people’s, one can’t be too sure. But while I’m not sure who they are, one thing is sure, bringing you to safety.”

She bit her lip, thinking hard. “Yet you’re going to bring me to Lord Jin. He’s the leader one of this clan, isn’t he?”

“Well, yes, but he can’t kill a princess openly and have his head intact, can he? And yes, it’s good for you not trust him. Besides, it’s not him I place my hope to. Your brother is there. And I trust him.”

It was the end of the conversation. Kyla was back gathering bushes, busying himself.

They were lying on their back, staring at the dark sky and its stars. This was just like the old time. The stars were so many, twinkling in different colors. Roane loved stars, yet she couldn’t admire it fully, her mind still couldn’t proceed what had happened today. It was like a nightmare became a reality. Assassins and fleeing, it seemed so bizarre. And the man—or, whatever he was now. All of these seemed unreal.

Shifting, she felt Kyla’s body beside her, they didn’t really touch, but she felt him regardless. She convinced herself this was just to share the warmth and nothing else, for they couldn’t afford a fire, in case the enemy still around. She forced herself to take a steady breath and relax, but it didn’t work.

“Should I take another spot,” his deep voice startled her.

“Oh, no—”

“You seem uncomfortable, Princess.”

She dared to turn her face, her heart skipped a beat as their eyes collided. She tried to say something, but her voice died in her throat. He was too different from Kyla she knew.

“We often did this when we’re a child, didn’t we?” he whispered, his warm breath fanned her cheeks.

“Yes, seeing the stars together, and making up stories, it mostly you. You had many stories, I still remember most of them.”

“But that wasn’t a mere tale.”

“Yes, I know that was from your… your previous life. It seems much fun than being a princess. At least, when I was a child I thought so.”

But we’re no longer a child. His voice echoed in her mind.

“I was sad, I thought you abandoned me,” she said softly, remembering her childhood’s memory. “I waited and waited, but you never come again.”

He smiled, a bitter one. “I’m no princess, but you are. And I’m no girl, but you are. The priestess afraid I will stray off the path, little did they knew.”

What was that comment meant? But Roane kept her own mussing.

“I wish life stay simple, like when we’re just a child. I am not a princess. And you…” she couldn’t finish her word.

“I am what, Princess?” he paused, deep in his own thought. “Do you know why I’ve become what I am? Neither a woman nor a man?”

She shook her head. She only knew how the priestess lived, but why? She didn’t know.

“It’s to atone my sin in past life.”

“Sin?”

“Yes, sin. I’m a sinner, you know,” he chuckled. “I was eight at the time. I have—had a father, mother, and an older sister. We’re happy, but suddenly, in the middle of the night, soldiers burst into our house. I didn’t know what had happened. My father’s just the steward of the clan, not even its leader. And I was just a young boy. All I knew, they took me from my bed, locked me in a dark room with my weeping sister,” he paused.

The anguish in his voice made her eyes sting. He must be so scared.

“I don’t know for how long. I was hungry and thirsty. The next day, they took my sister, but not me. Gods only know what they did to her.”

Unwillingly, tears ran down her cheeks. Imagining him as a little boy, alone and in pain, losing all things that mattered the most.

“Don’t cry, Princess. I—”

“Then, what happened?” she cut him.

“A priestess came. I was delirious by then. I didn’t fully understand what she said. All I know that I supposed to die as a son of a traitor, but the Gods had chosen me to serve, they said, honored by the Gods to serve. Then the rest you already know, you meet that small boy—or rather a girl in the palace.”

In that very moment, Roane knew what he was. He was never a girl, just a boy masquerading as one, trying to survive in the only way he knew.

She took his hand in hers, squeezing it tightly. She glanced at his handsome face. A naughty thought crossed her mind, would it so bad kissing this man? No one had dared to steal a kiss from her, for pretty or not, she was still a princess.

She was mighty curious what a kiss would feel. She knew maids in the palace liked it. Did she dare to try?

Slowly she moved, lifting her slight form, gazing down at his face.

“Princess…” he whispered as if he knew what she about to do, but he didn’t try to stop her. And she took it as an invitation to taste.

She brushed his lips against hers, once, twice her touch was brief and light. For several moments, he just silently accepted her curious pecks.

But in a flash, he yanked her down, her breasts crushed on his hard chest. Her heartbeat galloped fast. She gasped as his lips took hers in hard, demanding a kiss. Oh, dear, what a kiss it was, so different from her pathetic attempt she called kiss.

His lips were hard, yet soft at the same time. He nibbled and devoured her, like she was a tasty feast. She couldn’t help the clamoring feeling he unleashed in her inexperience body. She had never felt this way before. This was wild and dangerous, untamed. He brought a maelstrom of feeling in her, awakening her from a deep slumber of innocent.

Suddenly, he slowed down and stopped completely, leaving her lips swollen and her body tingled with unfulfilled needs.

“That’s how man and woman kiss, Princess,” he said in a hoarse voice.

“Kiss…” Was that he called that thing?

“Yes, kiss.”

She looked at the man beneath her with new eyes. His face was back into that somber, indifferent face, but his racing heartbeat told her different story.

Then a thought struck her, “Have you done this before?”

He gave her an amused look.

“But you’re a priestess. You’re supposed to be…”

“What, Princess? Chaste?” he said with a shrug.

She blushed at his candor.

“As good as your tits feel, I think it best you move away, if you don’t want this to go further,” he said with a grin.

Dear Gods! She scrambled so fast as if she caught a fire. That made him chuckled anew.

She turned her back at him. This man, this strange man She didn’t know how to make of him.

Gingerly, she touched her swollen lips. But one thing she knew, she very much liked his kisses, and that made him more dangerous.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said, suddenly sober. “I think I should beg your forgiveness, am I not?”

She didn’t answer his question.

“It won’t happen again, I assure you, I’ll be in my best manner. And I’m sorry. I don’t want you to fear me,” he said.

Oh, how wrong he was. Yes, she feared him, but for an entirely different reason.


***


Morning came, after breaking their fast with wild berry, they continue their journey south. Much to Roane dismay, Kyla was back to his somber self as if their fateful kiss had never happened. But she was glad he didn’t keep his masquerade in her presence. At least, he was a man now. And her desire for him didn’t feel wrong that way. For now, she knew what she felt for her friend was. Yes, she was lusting after him. Two days ago, she wouldn’t think it even possible to feel this thing to any man, or lest her beautiful friend, yet here she was, wishing that he would kiss her again as he did last night.

She knew her feeling was totally inappropriate and untimely. They were fleeing a band of killers, after all. This was neither the time nor the place for in lust with someone.

“After that mountain is Lord Jin’s castle. I hope we arrive before sunset. Your brother is live there, isn’t he?”

“Yes, Ryu is live there, but it’s been years since the last time I saw him.” Maybe her brother wouldn’t remember her. She was a girl of thirteen when her father banished him from the capital city. But he was her brother. If she recalled him right, he was much better than their older brother, Kyo.

They walked and walked until her feet ached, bruised and scratched in so many places. She had never walked this far before. And the terrain was up and down, uneven and filled with an obstacle in many places.

Out of sudden, Kyla grabbed her arm and pressed her back into a big tree. His palm on her lips, muffled her gasps of surprise.

“Shhh…” He motioned with his yes, and Roane saw a movement in the tree, sounds of footsteps. Her heart beat madly. Oh, God, please don’t let them find us, she prayed.

Time seemed to move with excruciating slowness. She heard some shouts and receding footsteps. It seemed whoever they were they headed to another direction, slowly her body relaxed, but her heartbeat refused to slow down. Now, her sense was awash of the hard body that pressed so close on hers. Her skin flushed, and she felt odd tingles in inappropriate places of her body, yet she kept her silent. She didn’t want him to go. She loved the feel of him.

“They’ve gone,” he said. Slowly he removed his palm from her lips.

She felt bereft. She didn’t want to lose his warmth. She didn’t know when they could be this close again. Their worlds were different. He was a priestess. And she was a princess, even if she stayed in this kingdom, they fate shouldn’t cross again. This was their last chance to be together.

“Kiss me.” She gasped as soon as the words spilled out her mouth.

Chapter 4

For a heartbeat, Roane was sure Kyla was going to refuse her indecent request. But thank Gods, she was wrong. In a swift motion, he pushed her harder against the tree. His mouth swooped down, taking hers in urgency that matched her own. She could feel the tattooing beat of his heart. Yes, she had waited for this for so long, too long.

She felt his wandering hands on her clothes, seeking the naked skin beneath, impatient and demanding. And she couldn’t help but do the very same thing. She needed to touch him, needed to feel him. Yes, this felt so right. His touch. His kiss. Him.

He couldn’t get enough of this. He bit her lower lip, making her gasped, and he took it before his bold tongue slipped inside, compelling her to follow his dance. Oh, Gods! This was so wicked, but it made myriad feeling swirled inside her, her body tingled and restless as if she wanted to leap, molded herself into him.

Her heartbeat took a gallop, beating faster as their tongue mated.

Each brush of his tongue drove her mad, looking for more. He led her to a foreign land she never knew. Each touch of his hands sent her higher to a new place that screamed wants and needs.

His mouth found her nipple. Dear Gods! She felt a jolt of pleasure deep in her bone. She arched her back, giving herself to his mercy.

“Kyla, oh…” she moaned. The throbs in her loin became an insistence ache. She needed him, desperately so.

“Oh… please,” she whimpered. She wasn’t sure he led her to heaven or hell.

Panting hard, he tore his lips from hers. Her breath as labored as his. The dark look in his eyes made her trembled. She had never seen him like this. She couldn’t move, and didn’t want to.

“My beautiful princess,” he rasped.

She whimpered when he bolstered her up against the tree. She yelped in surprise, immediately clasping her legs around his hips. Oh, my! She could feel him there. So close to her aching core.

He bent down again. This time, his lips took her slowly as if he told himself to go slow, but she wouldn’t have it. She dug her heel deeper into his ass, pressing her core harder against him, seeking a relieve for the urgent need in her loin.

“We need to go slow, Princess,” he panted.

No, she felt going to die. She needed him now.

Grinding herself on his hard length, “Kyla… please…” she whimpered. She couldn’t wait any longer. The ache was torture. It became unbearable. She closed her eyes, marveling his hardness. Oh, yes she definitely needed this!

“Gods!” he grunted, his lips trailed to the curve of her neck, biting and nibbling, while his hands gathered her skirt up to her waist, baring her thighs.

She shivered from the sudden cold and anticipation.

“Yes… Kyla please,” she pleaded again.

He made a sound half a chuckle and half a groan. He made an impatience tug in his own trousers.

She bucked her hips, eager to feel his naked flesh.

“Patience, Princess,” he growled.

Then she felt it. Her eyes round with fear and excitement.

“We can’t go back after this,” he rasped. His eyes were dark with lust.

She cupped his cheeks and drew him for another kiss. Their lips fussed into one, while down there, she felt his length probed her entrance. She fought an urge to draw back. She felt a burn sensation.

But soon, the pleasure outweighed any discomfort she felt. Slowly, he began to enter her depth. She clung to him, drawing his strength. He took each of her startled gasps, murmuring sweet nonsenses.

“Oh… ohh…” she moaned when she felt his tip in her.

He stilled for a moment. “Don’t tell me to stop now,” he panted.

Is he daft? Of course, she wouldn’t. With her heels, she pushed his hips, sending him even deeper into her, fully inside.

“Ahhh…” He threw his head back, his lips opened in silent moans. His face was a mix of pain and pleasure.

She felt him there. It felt hot and alive inside her.

Then suddenly, he grabbed her bottom and started to move, in and out, of her. Their pace was slow at first, but it escalated rapidly.

He buried his teeth on her tender neck, while his hips bucked and bucked.

“Oh… oh Kyla yesss… oh,” she moaned as she held his shoulder for dear life.

Oh, Gods, she never knew this could feel like heaven. She never knew such pleasure exist on earth. He brought her close and closer to something wonderful. Yes, she was so close. She dug her claw deeper into his back and opened her thighs wider. Yes, faster, deeper, oh, he drove her crazy. She moaned aloud, didn’t care if anyone would listen. Her sense was deaf to anything else but the feel of him.

“Yes, like that princess, come… come for me,” he urged.

At first, she didn’t quite understand what he meant, but now, she knew. Yes, she needed to cross that edge. The heaven was waiting for her.

With soft cries, she shattered, convulsing all around him, milking him with her muscles. So this was heaven, pure unadulterated bliss. For a split second, she felt her vision dimmed.

“Ahhh… that’s it,” he grunted. His hips jerked and jerked, sending his release deep inside her.

For several moments, they pulsed together. Heartbeat raced in the same rhythm. Wild and erratic.

Their eyes met. She fought the blush that threatened to creep on her cheek.

He put his forehead on hers. “I broke my own vow. I won’t say I’m sorry, Princess,” he rasped.

“I didn’t expect you to.” How could one feel sorry for feeling this kind of pleasure?

But faint sounds from nearby made them suddenly alert. There was movement in the trees. Someone was coming.

“It’s no good if they found us like this,” he said as he withdrew his length from her core.

“Ah, yes,” she said awkwardly. She flushed hot, realizing how indecent they were.

She tugged her clothes, desperately to make herself presentable again. She couldn’t believe she was no longer a virgin, yet she didn’t regret it, not now, not ever.

She stole a glance at the beautiful man who just took her. What became of them now?

A familiar voice flew with the wind, calling her name, stopping her inner mussing.

“Hide,” Kyla said, drawing her deeper into the wood.

She didn’t protest, though, she felt like knew that voice.

From their hiding place, they saw men in green tunic came with spears and swords, and red rat in a black field painted on their arm. Lord Jin’s clan, said Kyla. But he said to wait, just to make sure those men were friends instead of the enemy. And she wholeheartedly agreed. It was better to be careful than sorry later.

But the young man who rode a big, mean-spirited stallion sealed their fate. It was Ryu, her half-brother. She felt half relief, half despair. For her little adventure with Kyla came to an end. It was selfish of her to want this newly founded relationship never to end, she knew that. She was a princess, and he was a priestess, they didn’t have prospect together. But she would find a way. She must!

Kyla recognized her brother too. “You should go, Princess,” he said.

She spun her hard so fast. It almost hurt. “What do you mean? Me? Only me? How about you?”

His face looked grave. He shook his head. “Life as priestess isn’t for me. You know firsthand how I broke the sacred vow,” he smiled without mirth. “I mean to find my sister, whether live or dead, I want to put the past to rest.”

Of course, she knew his reasoning, but

“They won’t let you. The priestess, the palace, the king,” her father wouldn’t let him. “They will…” She couldn’t finish her words. No, he mustn’t die. She wouldn’t let him.

“They will kill me, of course, I know, Princess,” he paused. “Unless if they think I already dead. A person can’t die twice, can he?”

“You mean to fake your death?” she asked wide-eyed. That probably worked, but the thought of never saw him again made her eyes stung with unshed tears.

“Yes, and it will be you, the one who brings the news. No one will gainsay a princess, I’m sure. Unless you’re rather not doing that for me.”

She didn’t know what to say. How could he left her just like this after what they shared, but she also understood that his current life was just charade. It must kill him inside to live, to pretend to be someone else.

She fought a tear and nodded. “Goodbye then. I shall miss you.” This might be for the best. They couldn’t be together. At least, one of them would be happy. “I wish you well,” she added, and meant it.

He smiled sadly. He seemed to want to say something. His eyes were full of untold secret. Secret she longed to know. She wished she had known him sooner, as a man, not a priestess.

“You too. Be safe, Princess,” he whispered, before he faded into the wood, leaving her to face her brother alone. But she knew he was still near, at least until he was sure she was really safe.

Chapter 5

Roane looked at her half-brother, Ryu. He seemed to grow even bigger and taller in these last five years. His shoulder became boarder and his face harsher. Out of all her brothers, she had never dreamed it would be Ryu, the one who came to her rescue. They were never particularly close. But she reluctantly admitted that it wasn’t Ryu’s fault. It was the others—Roane included—who avoided him, for he was born cursed, or so people believed.

They only stopped briefly at Lord Jin’s castle and continued their journey back to the capital, to their father’s palace with only less than a score of soldiers, Ryu’s trusted men.

“Are you really fine, Sister?” Ryu asked as they rode together at a slow pace.

No, I am not, she wanted to say. But she said, “I’m okay… How about my guards, Brother?”

“I found one of them heavily wounded as for other…” he trailed off, but Roane knew what he meant to say. All of them died.

They rode in silent after that, passing hills and valleys. This journey back was so different from her journey to the north. The weather was good. The sky was bright, but she felt a sense of doom. With each mile closer to the palace, her heart grew heavier.

“Don’t worry, Sis. We will catch whoever responsible for this,” said her brother, mistaking her sadness. “We still don’t know who is responsible for the attack,” he paused and looked at her pointedly. “But I’m pretty darn sure it’s the Tan. They don’t want peace, those bastards.”

Selfishly, she was glad that she no longer had to marry that foreigner prince, but she didn’t want to go back to the palace, not yet. For the palace’s wall was impregnable, there Kyla would forever lose to her. For entering palace meant death to him. The thought brought a terrible pain, like a knife to her broken heart.

Night had fallen when they arrived at Eksan Mountain. She didn’t have any strength left. She was numb, tired in more than one way.

Her brother gave a signal to stop.

“We take a rest here,” he said as he dismounted from his stallion.

His brother’s men immediately spread out. They moved without being told what to do as if this was daily occurrences for them. Some gathered dried branches and made fire.

She sat in front of the fire, looking at the flickering flames without really seeing it. Kyla will he be alright? She was being silly. He was just a man, surely he would be fine. This was what he wanted, she told herself, again and again. And she would be fine too, at least until her father brought a new suitor for her.

Fleeting shadow crossed as Ryu sat beside her, but for a long while, he just sat there, saying nothing.

“I know there’s something wrong with you… don’t say that you’re okay. Do they…” he couldn’t finish his words.

“I’m truly okay, Brother. I just in mourning… it’s not everyday people died because of me.” And it was true. She could recall the captain’s determined face very clearly, and those other soldiers too. Some of them even younger than her.

Ryu was back to silent. “I understand... I felt the same in my first battle, but it’s not your fault Roane,” he looked at her with gentle eyes. “It’s our duty—as a soldier I mean. Kill or die.”

She nodded. Her brother seemed to mature a lot. She couldn’t imagine her other brothers said all those things. We’re pampered little brat She knew.

“Tell me about the palace,” he said with a hint of a smile. “How about little Ami. The last time a saw her, she was just a baby.”

A smile tugged at Roane’s lips. “She is a big girl now, forever wreaking havoc in the palace.”

He chuckled. “I hope mother finds her match in her.”

She hoped too. She hoped someone dared to stop Queen Reo’s machination. Someone had to put her down once in a while.

“How about Kitten. She grows big too I suppose.”

Kitten was his way calling Luna. Did her brother fall to Luna’s charm too? she wondered. Not him too surely. She sighed loudly. “You’re under her spell too, it seems.”

Her brother’s brows furrowed. “What do you mean?”

“Oh, never mind.”

He procured some pouch from under his tunic. “Give this to her. I had promised her a rare bloom from the north,” he paused and frowned.

She knew their father still wouldn’t let him entered the palace. He was going to escort her until the city’s gate. She felt twinge of pity for her brother. He was a good man.

“I know, it’s bloody stupid, just give it to her. I can’t have a peaceful sleep until you give it to her,” he added.

She looked at her brother, confused. He couldn’t be had a wicked dream about her, could he?

Blissfully unaware of her confusion, he continued. “She closed to tear when I depart to the north and I… I just promised a sweet nonsense, you know, I detest a weeping girl.”

Yes, Roane remembered that Luna had been close to her brother, and forever tagging him along when she was younger. And she was better than Roane, for she was feeling nothing when their father had banished Ryu to the north, maybe just a touch of pity, nothing more.


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