Stage Play in the Hurricane
The servant bowed. The owner of the back was gazing outside the window. With a smile, the servant suggested, “Your Highness, you should rest more. Your coronation is coming up soon. If you look out of sorts, people will laugh at you.”
The owner of the back was thin and frail. After witnessing Ikana and Abner being affectionate with each other last time, Vera vomited up blood upon returning to her nation, and then she was bed ridden. She almost succumbed to her illness. Although she had recovered, the weakness and physical pain lingered. It also reinforced her strong determination. She might’ve been weak, but she had the determination and will to clear her path. She came to where she was in spite of virtually the entire nation opposing her. She wasn’t afraid of being tied down with thorns even if she had to walk alone.
The constant rain falling on the stone road was annoying and deprived Vera of peace. The flickering flames’ peril was akin to her mire. Vera knew she was doing something nobody would dare to, and she was aware of how extreme her actions were. She most certainly was cognizant of how much scheming and ambitions were involved, but she continued to blaze a trail. There was still hope with Abner. Ikana couldn’t have children. She received confirmation of that from a maid. A consort who couldn’t have children was disqualified. The imperial family’s lineage had to continue. Vera, herself, was a complete woman. Since that was the type of woman Abner liked, that meant she and Ikana were on equal playing grounds.
“There’s still no news from there, correct?”
“Mm, according to our intel, Ikana has also sent King Troy a private letter. There has been no response, though. In saying that, mm, how shall I put it? King Troy’s navy has started something. We do not know what he is thinking.”
Vera irritably turned around and asked her servant, “No, I am not talking about Troy but there.”
The servant lingered for a moment then shook his head: “Yes, that is how it is. There has been no news. Perhaps the ship sunk on the way. Ikana would never allow us to send people over. Though she does not control this area of our waters, she could bribe some pirates, including our concern that has always existed. I think they were, perhaps, silenced on the way; otherwise, news would have come from King Troy already.”
Vera didn’t reply. Instead, she continued gazing the window. She picked up a glass of red wine with her beautiful hand in a long white glove. She then hesitated for a moment before pouring her glass out. The red carpet rapidly absorbed the red wine, leaving a dark red mark comparable to blood. She shook her head: “I can’t drink. Bring a calming drink. I hope there is still some. Since I haven’t seen his corpse, he must still be working hard to complete his mission. He has never let me down, and I’m sure he won’t this time, either.”
Present time on Ikana’s end.
Ikana locked the door. Tone indifferent, she told the men, “I said, you don’t need to come see me at this time. I told you that you can only come and see me when my husband goes out. My husband is in the imperial palace right now. How am I supposed to explain myself if he sees that I invited you group of salty-fish-rotten-grass-smelling people to the imperial palace?”
The leader of the men casually laughed: “Consort Ikana, all else aside, it is not our fault, is it? You were the one who called us here. What, you call us to get here as soon as possible then make us wait? How do we know when King Abner isn’t around? Also, we are not having an affair, so why must we meet in private when King Abner isn’t around?”
Ikana sent a dagger ripping through the air and cut the man’s ear before pinning to the wall. Ikana took out a second dagger from underneath her skirt. She warned, “Quit with those sorts of jokes. If you dare make a joke about my relationship with Abner, I’ll slaughter the lot of you. I will never betray my Abner, not even in jokes. The next time I hear you mention it, I’ll cut off your tongues.”
“What a dangerous woman. Shall I consider King Abner lucky or unlucky?” jeered the man. He didn’t shout or panic. Instead, he nonchalantly touched his ear. A few drops of blood trickled onto the carpet. He wiped his grin off his face: “Fine, since you do not like jokes, please tell me what exactly you called us here for? We ensured the last job was tidy.”
“It’s not about last time but what’s next. Last time wasn’t bad, was it? Guess you people are somewhat useful. This time, however, I have something I want you to do, and that is to capture another person for me.”
“Consort Ikana, have you mistaken something? We are pirates. We murder and rob. We do not kidnap or smuggle people. If you want us to sink a ship, we can do that; however, if you want us to kidnap somebody on shore, that is beyond us.”
“I meant a kidnapping on the waters. After the coronation ceremony, Vera will join the navy parade on a ship, and she’ll spend the night aboard. I’m sure you’re capable of kidnapping Vera during that window. Don’t kill her. Bring her back. I’ll deal with her. Once the job is done, you will be paid five times the pay last time. What do you think?”
“Consort Ikana, I do not know what exactly you are thinking, but do you realise you just said she will be with the navy? You want us to kidnap their ruler in the presence of their navy? We may be strong pirates, but we are not powerful enough to take on the navy!!”
Ikana folded her arms: “How strong or weak you are has nothing to do with me. It’s impractical to try and kidnap her at shore. Not to mention it being outside your area. Didn’t you say that the waters were yours? That’s why I’m entrusting this to you. I’m sure you can do it. By the way, let me tell you that your people are enjoying themselves here with me. If you fail, I might get angry.”
“What did you say…?”
“I said, five times the original pay.”
Before the man had the chance to throw his anger at her, he found the dagger at his throat already. Ikana stomped on the ground. A secret door opened. She kicked open the lid of the chest sitting inside the secret door. The gold brightened the entire room. The man could no longer vent for his desire for the gold overwhelmed his rage.
“This is the deposit. It’s yours whether or not you succeed. Of course, I hope you can take more. That’ll be it, then. The next scene will immediately be starting. My husband is coming back, so I won’t waste any more time with you. Remember to leave via the small passage. Don’t let my husband catch you.”
Ikana pulled her dagger back. The man found himself torn between leaping at Ikana or the gold. Nevertheless, it only took a second for him to decide to grab the gold.
Ikana stomped on the gold with her black high-top boots. She looked at him with a condescending gaze and coldly said, “To apologise for your rudeness at the start of our meeting, to prove your loyalty, if you want to ensure your families’ safety and to walk away with the gold and your lives, lick my boot right now. You don’t need dignity. You only need to serve me.”
“Sorry for making you wait for so long, Beloved.”
Not long after, Ikana leaned on her husband with a bright smile. The pair sat on the most resplendent and wide location of the stage. She intimately leaned onto his shoulder and melted into the bliss. Abner watched the stage, waiting for the play to commence. As quick as he could, he turned to the leader next to him: “The first scene wasn’t bad. The foreshadowing was there, but your main female lead feels as though she’s faking it too much. Her acting isn’t natural. She isn’t emotionally invested. The male lead’s voice is a bit too shaky, too. Mm, the dance was decent. In general, it was passable. There is a lot left to be desired. Oh, right, right, I think you can change your opening theme. Yes, yes, yes, I know somebody else composed it, but the composer is by no means infallible. I’m somewhat educated on music. Yeah, you should change it to this…”
Ikana affectionately watched her husband passionately speaking and humming a tune. The box was totally sealed, so nobody would see the regent behaving so femininely. It was unlikely anybody would believe she behaved this way. The vassals spoke of the regent as a woman who could control everything. She was even capable of leading an army to battle, yet she was a blissful woman next to her husband. Nobody would believe she could look so affectionate.
Ikana crossed her legs. Her shiny leather boots reflected a light. The light from the flames dimmed. Abner tenderly pulled his wife into his embrace. Ikana wasn’t fond of stage plays for she considered the lame shows to be meaningless. Nevertheless, today, she wished that the play would last a while longer and then a while longer.
Abner watched the play, the actors and the dances, while Ikana only admired the side of her husband’s face. Ikana treasured her blissful life more than anything. She wouldn’t allow anybody to ruin it. She’d ensure her husband’s arm was hers even if it meant she had to be drenched in blood.