The Punishment

"You are playing dangerously with fire." He said, his voice cold and deadly.

"I am pulling the last strings of death, parables will do us both no good."

"You! I will feed you to my dragon!" DL said again.

The crowd watched on with interest at the back and forth between them.

"Thank you." Diamant said excited.

"What did you say?" He asked puzzled.

"I said thank you. That would be a favour. Give me a sword, let me make this quick." She explained.

"Then don't kill her." The woman who had been watching by the window side said. Maids following her every step, attending to her needs.

"Nana." DL said and held her hand tenderly. "You shouldn't have come down here. I don't want matters like this to stress you."

"Why do we kill those that want to live?" She said ignoring what he said. (The grandma of the King was addressed as Nana.)

"Because it is a punishment." DL said as his eyes lit in realization. Nana nodded with a smile.

He then turned to her.

"I will let you live till death would become your worst nightmare." He gave some orders to some warriors as he took his Nana's hand.

"I will be watching you." He said then he left.

The crowd was dismissed.

Diamant who had gone dumb due to shock regained her voice. Her heart raced with realization.

"No! Come back here, you foolish Lord. You must kill me." She cried out.

She spent the rest of the afternoon tied to the tree as she continually pleaded to be killed. Her pleading grew silent as she became weaker and weaker till she finally fell asleep and was back into her memories.

*******

Diamant opened the door and the little things hung on top of the door dangled. The fire in the fireplace danced softly. The room looked just as empty as it was that afternoon except that now, it smelt of burning wood and strong incense.

"You came, I knew you would. Little girls and curiosity."

A chair at the far end of the room creaked.

"I am not afraid of you." Diamant said to the Witch hidden in darkness. 

The room was silent for some time then the witch started laughing. She laughed so hard that she hurled over and came stumbling into the dim light.

Diamant looked up at her overpowering pitch-black eyes.

Then she stopped laughing, her lean hand sneaking up to Diamant's chin.

"I just want the process to be complete." She pitched her checks, "What a child."

"What do you want to show me? Is it something very important about my future? Tell me!" Diamant's breathy voice managed to say as she blinked her eyes repeatedly in worry. She looked sideways at the witch's hand that was on her cheek, it was turning black at every blink. Like there was a black ink spilling slowly beneath her skin.

"Aren't you so impatient? Just wait!" She snapped and Diamant froze. She watched the witch step away from her with squinted eyes.

"You have nothing to show me, do you?!" The realization slammed into her, anger flashed in her eyes.

Immediately Diamant hurried to the door but before she could grip the doorknob, she felt something tightened around her legs and threw her across the room. She crashed against the chairs, breaking them. Blood dripped from her nose, her head immediately went fuzzy and her sight blurry.

The witch hurled over and screamed in pain. She fell to the floor, scratching her nails against it, pain shooting across her body. Then slowly it left her and she stood up straight again.

"Stupid child, you've slowed down the process." Her voice wasn't hers anymore, it sounded inhumanly.

The witch came closer to Diamant who was trying helplessly to move away. 

The door busted opened at that point. Grandpa Gloss leaped into the room.

"Get away from her!" His confident voice boomed.

Diamant's heart lit with hope at the blurry image of her grandpa.

"And isn't that Gloss?!" A smile of recognition spread across the Witch's face. She turned around and clapped upon seeing him, "I can never be mistaken when it comes to you."

Gloss stopped immediately, shock and fear stealing away his confidence.

"You!"

"You can't run forever, I warned you. I...." Her face ashened with pain, she banged her hand on her chest repeatedly, she gasped loudly trying hard to breathe. Then she started coughing. Black blood splashed out of her mouth, she hurled over and held her chest. "Wrong." She managed to say in excruciating pain. Then her body shook in laughter, her bloodstained teeth barred her at them.

"I will get it right next time! " Her overpowering gaze held Gloss immobile. She fell flat to the ground, shaking frantically from pain. She turned to the ceiling and started laughing while she yanked at her long black hair.

Diamant was now wide awake, her head still ached but this wasn't the time to cry over that. With her eyes still on the witch, she slowly crawled to her grandpa who immediately hugged her tightly. They both got up, trying to escape without the Witch's notice. Then they heard her scream, an unstoppable force crashed them against the ground. They didn't linger over their defeat, they quickly found each other and held hands tightly.

The witch stood up, black smoke emitting from her. She approached them slowly with a menacing smile plastered on her face. Their heartbeats intensified as they tried to scurry away.

A force jammed into the witch and she stopped suddenly, her eyes fixed on the ceiling. An ear splitting scream rented the air, they had to break their hold and cover their ears instead. She looked at them, her eyes turning white, her veins black under her skin that was slowly regaining it's color.

"I am coming for you."

Then she bursted open. Blood splashed around the room, flesh and bones flung along with it. They ducked but still got hit. When it was over, the room smelt of rotten flesh and the fire was already off, an ascending smoke in its place.

They raced out of the room and didn't look back.

******

She felt hands on her and slowly her heavy eyelids opened. She looked up at the sky that was now filled with Stars.

Some slaves from the palace were the ones tending to her. She knew that they were there by order. She was too tired to fight them when they untied her.

They took her to a compound. It had four long houses facing the gate and one some distance away. They took her to the one at the middle and into one of the rooms. Their head, The Gimbai, waiting for them. The blast of heat hit Diamant while they stripped her. They cleaned her first then took her to a tub. She didn't resist them at all. Clean clothes were brought to the bathroom and placed at one side. They left her alone and no one said anything.

She slowly sank herself in the tub while she stared on mindlessly. As the water sipped into her skin, she realized that she didn't need anyone to kill her. She could just do it herself.

If you want a job done well, then do it yourself.

There were, at least, more than a million ways to die.

******************************

The tub was great, she pushed herself further into the warm water and relaxed letting it further tickle her skin. The Gimbai hadn't really given her any instructions on her job here. They all referred to her as the King's Special and the envious looks she got made her question if these people understood the real meaning of lucky.

He had let her live and enjoy life a little so that when she stopped wishing for death, he would kill her. What about that was so lucky? If he would give her death when she dreads it the most, why then should they want her place?

"Fools," she scorned at their ignorance closing her eyes. Her dark eyelashes casted a shadow on her puffy cheeks. Now that she was clean, she looked absolutely beautiful. Her skin glowed softly.

She frown slightly, the coldness slowly seeping into her and darkness taking over her as she tumbled back in memory lane.

******************

"We have to leave." He said immediately they got inside their house and he ensured that the door was firmly locked.

"Again?"

"Yes, again."

"But why?"

He looked at her in annoyance.

"You told me you were going back to the market to get those cakes but you went to see the Crescent Witch?!" His voice dissolved into a whisper 

"Was that were you were this afternoon? Did you lie to me this afternoon?" He walked closer to her, his heart battling with doubt and disappointment.

She looked down in shame, blinking back the tears that threatened to fall.

"Yes, grandpa."

He turned away from her, sadness washed over his face.

"Go and freshen up. We leave tonight, pack whatever you may, I will ready the horses."

"Grandpa?

"Pack those books that you love so much too but make sure your load isn't heavy in case we have to journey on foot."

"Grandpa?"

"And pay attention to the road this time! It might help." His voice was choked with tears but he cleared his throat.

"Grandpa?"

He held his hand up in the air.

"We've had enough tonight, we will talk tomorrow."

"She told me something," she said hurriedly "something about my past."

He stopped in his tracks at that and turned to her.

"Before her eyes became black?"

Diamant nodded.

He sucked in a breath. "What did she say?"

"Not to dive into its secrets."

"Good." He started walking away.

"Forgive me, please forgive me." She ran to her grandpa, wrapping her hands around him while she wept into his back.

He stood frozen like that for a while before turning around and embracing her while he patted her hair.

"Don't do that again, Little Gem. You scared me, I...I" he stifled, "I thought I lost you forever. Don't ever lie to me again."

"I will never, I promise."Diamant nodded vigorously.

He smiled and swept the tears away from her face.

"Now go and pack, those jealous traders are after us."

She smiled widely and grabbed her gowns in her hand. It was the game of chase and run again but that didn't bother her as long as she was together with her grandpa.

The scene once again disappeared.

*********************

She must have dozed off in the water because when she looked around again, some of the candles had ran out and the water had now lost all it's warmth.

She found her way out of the water, her legs wobbled from fatigue and she gripped the tub for support. She grabbed a towel, dried herself then changed into a simple gown.

She went into the room to see the fire burning softly. She looked around, two small beds were at each sides of the room.

Her roommate must be part of the palace prostitute considering that it was so late and she wasn't back yet or maybe she doesn't sleep in. Either way, Diamant was so happy she wasn't here.

She saw a mirror on the small table at the top side of the room. She took the mirror and examined her face, she looked too good for someone going through hell. Her face fell when she saw that the tattoo on her neck was almost obvious.

Her Grandpa had told her that he had made a mistake and had a wizard draw it to prove something he couldn't really remember. Diamant had always had to apply something her Grandpa gave her to make it disappear. The tattoo almost looked alive with blue and red fire around it.

Diamant wondered why her Grandpa would make such a silly mistake.

Who dares a wizard! She thought annoyed.

Although what her Grandpa applies to it does cover it up for years before it needs another covering up. She smiled remembering that she always carried the powder along with her notwithstanding where she went.

The powder was a special one, once applied, it would make the tattoo disappear. Gloss told her that it was made from a really special herb used to hide scars.

She went to the bathroom and found her gown on the floor. She checked it layer by layer then found the powder, surprised that it was still in intact. She applied it on her neck and it did its magic. She didn't need to worry for when next it would appear, by then, she would be dead.

Diamant went through her gown again to see if she could find anything useful. Then she found the dagger, the one she used on the Major General.

"Salvation at last." Her eyes twinkled in hope.

She went to the room, sat down by the fire as she admired the sharpness of the blade. She closed her eyes and thought of her Grandpa, thought of Rider then raised her hand to stab herself.

A furious hand hit the dagger away and called her name. Diamant blinked her eyes furiously, she hadn't heard her coming in.

"Sunain?" Diamant said surprised.

"Alive and well, I see. Well then, good for you. Now hand over the dagger and mind your business."

Sunain shot her angry looks as she picked up the dagger and locked it away in a box. She opened a part of the floor and kept the box there.

While Diamant was staring at the floor amazed that it had a safe, Sunain smartly kept the keys away.

Sunain must had been with some Ministers. The expensive perfume, rumpled dress and rough hair showed that.

"You are my business, Diamant." She said softly as she settled by Diamant's side on the floor.

"You knew I was your roommate." Diamant stated.

"Well, the DL did some findings and realized that we know each other so he put us together." She replied like she meant something else, something sad.

"You are lucky Nana came to help you. He would have killed you." Sunain said.

The tour and instructions of work she had been given immediately she was unchained, aided Sunain's knowledge of the people in Alusa.

"That old lady probably never learnt to mind her own business. I had it all under control, all my way." Diamant eyes darkened in anger.

Sunain flinched and turned away.

"Please, don't try to kill yourself again." Her voice came out low.

"And why?" Diamant scoffed as she stood up.

"Why should I listen to you? Since when do you matter in my decisions?" Diamant fired.

"I doubt you know what you are into. Not everyone can be so understanding." Sunain said, defensively.

"I know what I am doing. I am alone and I don't want to be alive. How hard is that to understand. Given the situation I am in right now, I do not even think I need anyone to understand. Your understanding is not something I desire."

"You are not alone, I am here." Sunain said.

"You are not family! I can do whatever I want with my life, Sunain. Don't get in my way." She said as she sat on the bed at the other side of the room.

"You want to kill yourself? That should be fine, go ahead!" She said throwing her hands up in the air. "But then, why take someone else with you?"

"You are talking absolute nonsense. I dare to ask, are you even in your right mind? I plan to kill only myself, I am not adding anyone else to this unique list." Diamant said.

"Well a certain Dragon Lord had gone behind your back and added my name to that list of yours. If you die, Diamant, he kills me too. You see now that my say do very much matter." Sunain said the last sentence in a whisper.

"No way! That is ridiculous." Diamant started pacing around in anger.

"It really is because I really want to live, I have a reason to live. I don't want this life yet I must survive it." Sunain replied watching Diamant pace around.

"He is using you to punish me. He won't kill me and he won't allow me do it myself?!" Diamant questioned in anger.

Before Sunain could reply there was a knock on the door. Sunain attended to it and there was murmuring, a warrior peeped in to see Diamant on the bed.

"It is all cleared, I promise. It won't happen again." Sunain said in a hushed tone.

They left and Sunain looked at her.

"They were doing their rounds. They will come again tomorrow, next tommorow and the day after, it will go on. They know that you tried to kill yourself, I don't know how but they know."

No one said anything after that.

Sunain went to the bathroom and Diamant tucked herself in bed.

She felt caught in a tight spot. This just got a whole lot harder. It would be hard for her to kill herself if there was always a patrol to check up on her. Also with Sunain's life tied with hers?

She sighed frustrated, it just got really complicated.

*********************************

(Flashback)

"Stupid, that is what I call it!" Lucius slammed his fist against the armrest, an angry snarl on the side of his face that wasn't covered with a mask. He now had a rescinding hairline.

The throne room was lit with different torches hug on the wall. The smell of burning wood, ink and incense seeped into the air.

He glared at his son who sat on the throne with a lazy smile on his face as he scratched his chin playfully.

"Well, you aren't the one with the crown. Looks like you won't be able to do anything about it, dear father."

Lucius stood up immediately, his blood red robe swished in the air.

"Don't be stupid, Sol. I didn't make Alusa this great with battles, mighty wars and trembling Kingdoms for you to ruin it with peace treaties!" His voice was dark and sinister.

"I am ruining it?" Sol raised an eyebrow. "Doesn't look like it to me. I see peace everywhere and that wasn't something I had when I was a child. Might I remind you, that was when you were King."

Lucius slammed his chair against the floor and it echoed throughout the room.

"What do you think you are? You are a mere fetus to me!" He squinted his eyes at Sol and grimaced.

"Wearing my crown, holding my specter, sitting on my throne!"

Lucius rushed up to him in fast and angry strides. When he got to Sol, he slammed his arm at the either sides of his throne.

"If not for the voices in my head, you wouldn't have had any of these by now. I would still be king."

Sol lifted an eyebrow at his father, a playful glint in his eyes.

"Have all you killed to possess?" Laughter bubbled from his throat and Lucius stood up straight with a frown.

"Oh yes, let us thank the voices in your head." Sol nodded then his face hardened and all the playfulness disappeared from his voice.

"Step away from your King, Minister Lucius."

Lucius stood fixated on a spot for a while, deliberating what to do. His shoulders tensed and for a minute, he wanted to fight but then his shoulders relaxed suddenly. He grunted then walked down the stairs, mumbling angry words to himself.

"Lucius!" Sol called out and he stopped with his back turned to him.

"When Canilus and his men get here, do well to be on your best behavior. Or you will leave me with no choice than to have you excorted to your chambers."

Lucius turned to him in a flash, rage brewing in his eyes. The room felt twice as hot instantly.

"How dare you! I am not a child, I am your father!"

Sol stood up slowly, one corner of his lips lifted in a smile.

"And I am the King, you will do as I say."

Lucius shot death glares at his son then walked out of the throne room. He bumped into Aurora at the door and hissed venomously.

"Stupid!" He muffled under his breath.

"What is the matter? father-in-law doesn't look happy." Aurora said walking up to Sol, her silver coloured hair packed in pony tail.

"When was he ever happy?" Sol questioned, pretending to think, then his face brightened up like he finally got the answer.

"Oh, when he has blood on him and rides a dragon into battle. I sure won't give him that pleasure." He said hoisting Aurora up against while she giggled.

"Maybe we should do something and find a common ground with him? I am sure he wants the best for Alusa just like the rest of us." She whispered in his ear while her legs were wrapped around him.

"A common ground with my father is impossible, Aurora. It is either you are killing or you are killing, that is his common ground." He started and his voice turned low and husky while he spoke against her neck.

"But you can find a common ground with me. You pick, clothes or nothing."

Her eyes grew huge with surprise.

"This is the throne room, Sol!"

"Yes, my throne room."

She gasped in obvious pretense.

"Is it?"

They laughed.

"Now to important matters" he traced the part of the blue dress that fit against her breasts tightly while he spoke. "I really hope you go with nothing. I don't really fancy this garmet getting in my way."

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