The Cruel Prince

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The cold and reluctant prince blinked away the intensity from his eyes

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The cold and reluctant prince blinked away the intensity from his eyes. His expression calmed, and I finally recognized the same prince my sister fell in love with. The handsome, even-tempered, and charming prince from the south. He loosened his posture and relaxed without taking his eyes from me, then gestured for me to come close while he waved for one of the servants to serve some tea.

I moved forward and took the cushioned seat across from him.

"I'm afraid, my marriage to your sister had been annulled. She is no longer my wife." He spoke with familiar tenderness in his voice.

My mouth dropped, we heard nothing of it, no news was sent to our manor of the annulment. Neither from the palace or Ying Yue. "Forgive me, prince Wang Jian, but this is the first time I'm hearing this. Please enlighten me of what happened."

He took a deep breath and wrapped his hand around the steaming cup of tea. I watched in anticipation as he sipped on his tea and noticed the tightness on his lip as he thought of my sister and the circumstances around him and her.

"I fought and lost. Your sister was the price I lost. I fought for many years, I tried every way I can. I injured my own brother and risked the wrath of my father, but I still lost in the end." The prince put his cup back down. "I couldn't win her; your sister fell in love with someone else and she is now with him. I would have sent a message to your house, but I don't feel like explaining any details, so I chose upon remaining silent and let your family believe your sister is still married to me for her sake."

"That still don't explain anything," I responded. "You can't just say you fought and lost, and she fell in love with someone else. There's more to it than those words."

The prince closed his eyes. "This is not one you can tell in one sitting. Her story must be told in episodes. I can't just tell you it's because she fell in love with my enemy, or I drove her to hate me just like that. There're great details about why things happened the way they did. It's a lot more than that and I don't think you'll ever comprehend completely even if I told you everything."

"Try me," I said, blowing the steam off my tea.

He snorted and lifted his eyes casually gazing at me. "You're welcome to stay at the palace for as long as you need. In those times I'm not busy, I might spare you some time for a little storytelling. Though, I'm aware of what brought you here. The news of what happened to your brother and your family reached us days ago. Words travel fast, especially when every lord in the country witnessed the beheading of a great lord and his son by the brute prince and princess of the Sui clan, ruler of the central kingdom.

I just didn't think you'd wind up here. We didn't even know you escaped. If I knew, I would have sent my men searching for you. You didn't have to go through what you went through. For that, I apologize, you were strong and brave to have survived all of that. I'm quite sure princess Sui Li had already sent scouts after you. I heard you were to be wed to her husband that she beheaded the day it all happened."

"Beheaded?" My cup slipped out of my palms, feeling my entire body melt. "Jingam was beheaded?" I murmured as terror resonated in my spine, losing my words from my throat in shock. The world around me dimmed and the realization of Jingam being dead settled in.

I gasped for breaths. "B-behead..."

The prince slid his cup aside, and reached his hand to my shoulder, steadying me as I fought for my balance. "Are you okay?" He murmured softly. "My apologies for breaking the terrible news. I had no idea you didn't know."

I shook my head weakly. "No, I didn't know. I didn't know she was going to do that. I thought she loved her husband, I thought she was after me, I thought she wanted to kill me."

I swallowed and thought of Yuanji. My heart raced uncertain of my brother's fate. "What of Yuanji? Have you heard the news about my brother?"

There was a frown, his forehead knotted out of concern, debating whether he should continue muttering all the details of bad news to me. He let out a very long exhale and spoke with heartbreaking tenderness. "He's alive, He Lian. But he's in captivity. I'm afraid this is not the right time to talk to you about this. Not when you're like this."

He placed both hands on my shoulders, steadying me. "You should rest and get cleaned. We'll talk again once you're well."

"No, we need to do something right now. Yuanji and my parents are in danger!"

"No harm will come to them for now, Princess Sui Li is very much enamored with your brother. She will not kill him. She will not risk upsetting him more if she were to win him over."

"W-what? That's ridiculous."

"Get some rest, He Lian. We'll speak again."

I frowned, he sounded just like Yuanji when he spoke to me. Like an older brother looking out for the best. I began to protest, but I felt another set of hands on my shoulders as the prince let go. I turned around to see who it was and found a female maidservant, she gave me a soft smile. "Come my lady. You must be very exhausted. We prepared a hot bath and food for you."

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