Note: As of 8/2 – 2013 this chapter was replaced with a new, modified, and MUCH better version. Well, at least according to me.
Disclaimer: Yu Wo is the genius, not me.
A Crown for the Demon
I yawned contentedly where I was laying on my bed, still warm after my training session and shower, and was just about to fall asleep when a high-pitched ringing pierced my ears, making me wince.
I hated that bloody bell; both what it meant and how it seemed to drive daggers into my head, so I allowed myself a small annoyed growl into my pillow before I let my face revert back to its usual emotionless state and rose from the bed.
Knowing how much tardiness was frowned upon, I quickly crossed my bare room. It was coloured in different shades of grey and white, and held only the most necessary furnishings. The bathroom I stepped into to conceal my real self – my yellow eyes behind blue lenses, my bruises, scars, and splotchy markings behind face-mask – was the same. Bland colours and nothing there that I didn't need. I gave myself a quick once-over in the mirror to make sure that all the visible marring of my skin had been masked and that the bandages and band-aids I was currently wearing were in good condition before I stepped back out into the main room and pulled on today's prescribed clothes.
Smoothing out some wrinkles in the shirt and putting my dyed caramel-brown hair up in a high ponytail – my black and white roots would start showing soon, but not yet – I walked up to the metal door guarding the entrance to my little basement lair and waited for it to open.
It did so just a second later, sliding open soundlessly and revealing the concrete steps beyond.
Stepping out beyond the threshold, I carefully let my thoughts go blank as I traversed the luxurious and stylish building. I kept to the shadows the entire time, trying to avoid contact with anyone so that I wouldn't have to act, and not just look like, the princess. I could, of course, play my part perfectly if I needed to, but I didn't exactly like doing it when I didn't have to.
As I reached a familiar heavy mahogany door, engraved with the family weapon – a horse prancing on a ball so small it could barely keep its hooves on it, ridiculus, really – I stepped in and bowed deeply after making sure that the door was properly shut. After all, if a servant passed by and saw the witch's "daughter" first bow to her and then, after permission was given, walk forward to fall to her knees in front of her desk, who knew what strange rumours would begin? Gossip of that sort was not something she would tolerate, this woman who would probably rather die than admit that she gave birth to me.
I have had many empty laughs over the fact that despite our technologically advanced world and all our knowledge, people like her still exists.
People who believe that the second twin has to be an evil demon, a changeling, just because she has mottled black and white hair, dark splotches marring her skin and slitted yellow eyes.
What makes it all so much worse is that she believes this in spite of the fact that she knows that babies like me, while rare in comparison to the ones born completely malformed and incapable of living, aren't all that unusual when both sides of the family have gone in and illegally messed with their genes, and are, in fact, the reason people aren't supposed to do that, other than the more immediate consequences if something goes wrong in the operation.
But enough of my rambling. Let us return to the situation at hand, shall we?
The witch was silent as I knelt before her.
She always was, at least for a time. So I waited, knowing that she would address me when she felt like doing so, and not a second sooner.
But as usual, I could not keep my thoughts and emotions still for long in her presence, and anger and fear started to rear their ugly heads like some kind of twisted monster. I would like nothing more than to tear her head off of those bony shoulders of hers, or just turn and run, run for as far as my legs would take me, but at the same time... I would never be able emotions were so strong that they nearly tore me apart every time they showed themselves, but I still knew that I would never be able to act on them.
I could not.
Because another part of me, a purer, nicer part of me, still had the need for her approval and affection, a longing for the warm embrace of a woman who hurt me.
That, in itself, was enough for a familiar feeling of self-loathing to rise to the surface. I was pathetic. Not even my own mother loved me. And I should hate her for it.
God knows I want to. I want to hate her so desperately.
But as long as that part of me still clings on to that feeble hope of that she might not be so bad, that she might love me, I cannot. Even the fact that I call her a witch is just a part of my desperate tries to make myself hate her.
Make myself feel a feeling that isn't really there. Or is there, but can never win. I almost wanted to laugh at myself. I'm really pathetic, aren't I? Despite all she did – and still does – I, or at least part of me, still considers her as my mother, a part of my family, just as surely as the princess, ogre or that idiot knight.
No, Theron is not an idiot. He is my brother. He loves me for who I am, and thinks that I am just as much of a human as he is.
But that could, on the other hand, be the very definition of idiocy.
No matter what I thought about the matter, however, the fact was that the mention of the idiot knight had calmed me down, letting me go back to waiting calmly.
Sooner or later, the witch would talk.
Until then, I would wait.
I settled down and listened, letting my eyes drift out of their previous focus on the emerald and sapphire carpet beneath me. There came a faint whirr from the air conditioner and an angry shout from somewhere inside the house. Footsteps passing by. A muffled conversation. Her breathing. My breathing. Her heartbeat. Mine slowing down to match hers.
My trance was broken when she spoke, leaving me unaware about just how much time had passed. Her orders were simple and to the point, as always.
"Sleep in my daughter's bed tonight. Kill."
I made a mental wince. I had hoped that I would get a little longer reprieve than this before a new mission came up so that my wounds from the last one would have time to heal. No such luck, apparently; and it wasn't as if I could say: "I'm sorry, but could I pass this time?", because these missions were the only reason she hadn't had me killed at birth. Cheery thought, right? The doctor/mad scientist now hiding out the basement had run a genetic analysis of me and my sister, and come to the conclusion that while my colouring and physical abilities would differ from the princess', we would otherwise be identical.
So they let me live, and raised me as a body double, a copy, of the princess, who would be able to take her place when things got dangerous, which they undeniably did when one came from a family such as ours. Very rich and famous, yes, but also with a lot of enemies.
I gave myself a mental shake, reminding myself of my current situation, and responded to the witch's order, voice even and void of emotions.
"Yes, my lady."
Then I simply went back to waiting. Even if I had already received my instructions, leaving without permission was not looked upon kindly, and besides, she might have something more to say.
I stood up and bowed deeply before making my way over to the door and letting myself out into the corridor again.
The walk back to my room went by quickly as I turned over this latest mission in my head. I was operating on a minimum of information, either because the witch herself didn't know much, or because she hadn't deemed it necessary for me to know any more than my orders.
Which was highly likely.
Whatever her reason, though, it meant that I didn't know how many intruders there would be, nor what kind of weapons they preferred, or even what their goal was – kidnap or kill? This made putting up a plan somewhat more difficult, but as I stepped back inside my admittedly drab room, I had one that had a pretty high chance of working out.
I was just about to go over it again to polish up some details for myself when I noticed something out of place in my room.
More specifically, something was laying on my bed, and I hadn't put it there.
For normal people, that would probably not have been so terribly odd, but for me it was. The people who had access to this room could be counted on one hand, and out of that handful, I had been talking to one, two were on a business trip together and the last was probably busy getting her nails manicured or something...
So how in the blue blazes did a present, of all things, end up in my room?
Well, the fact that it was a present meant that it had to have something to do with the idiot knight, but still... he was supposed to be away with the ogre in a neighbouring city, negotiating some kind of contract... He hadn't been too specific.
This probably had less to do with the fact that he didn't want me to know what he was doing, and more to do with how things that didn't interest him seemed to have a hard time sticking around in his head.
A smile blossomed on my face at the thought of my sweet, scatterbrained and optimistic brother.
Don't underestimate him just because I said that, though. Theron is extremely smart, and a strategist. If he wanted something to happen, it would – and sooner rather than later.
That in mind, I figured that maybe the present's appearance wasn't so improbable after all, considering it was my naming day today.
That's right. Not birthday. Naming day.
The naming day celebrates the anniversary of the day Theron gave me a name back when I was six years old. I hadn't had one before then.
We came to the compromise of celebrating that instead of my birthday when he had realized that I didn't like my birthday much and he still had wanted me to celebrate something.
I had always thought that he had done that mostly just so that he could have an excuse to give me presents, no matter how hard I found it to receive them; I could never give him anything in return, after all.
Knowing how hurt he would be if I didn't open his present, though, I walked up to my bed and sat down next to it. It was wrapped in red gift wrap, and tied with a black wrapping string. The whole thing looked rather... ungainly, and had more tape than it should, leading me to believe that he had done it himself.
This thought made me all the more reluctant to open it – the thought of him putting down so much effort into something he didn't seem to know how to do, just for my sake, and me just ripping all that effort apart. Because that looked like the only way I would be able to open it – through force. There was almost more tape than there was wrapping, if I had to be honest.
Staring uneasily at it, I noticed a white envelope laying next to it. I almost pounced on the chance to postpone the ripping until later and quickly snatched it up.
Opening it carefully, I dug up a birthday card featuring a very cute pile of tiger cubs. I smiled and shook my head. Every year, he found a tiger-themed card for me, honouring the name he had given me. The precious memory echoed through my head.
"I know! Your name can be Tigris! 'Cause tigers are strong, and pretty, like you, and you even have tiger-stripes and tiger-eyes!"
Even then, I had protested that the dark markings covering my body didn't look even the slightest bit like tiger-stripes, but he hadn't listened to me.
Still doesn't, for that matter.
I shook my head and flipped the card over to read his message.
Hi Tigris! Sorry I couldn't deliver this to you personally, but I barely made it inside the gates before dad shipped me off to another boring meeting... Anyway, happy naming day! I think I've found you the perfect present. Actually, I was stupid not to think about it earlier. Read the instructions and other stuff in the second envelope carefully before you do anything! (It's inside the present, so don't go looking for it on your bed and think that I forgot it – I didn't!) I'll be back in three days or so to see how you like it! Take care of yourself until then, OK? /Theron
I smiled at his worrying and at the messy handwriting cramped in on the small card, the words getting smaller and smaller toward the end, as if he had realized that he was running out of room. His signature was cramped in sideways, almost wedged in between two words.
Then I re-read it and frowned. What could he possibly have given me that required instructions?
Looking over at the present laying beside me again, I sighed. He had probably written that on purpose, to get me curious enough to open it. He knew about both my aversion for present-opening and my curious nature.
I give up. I never win against that idiot knight.
I picked up the red package and put it in my lap. After staring at something that might just as well have been named "The Impenetrable Tape Fortress of Doom" for a few seconds, I began to pull off the wrapping string. That was the easiest part, so it made sense to start with that. But once it was finally off, I had come to the dark realization that "easiest" may not actually mean "easy".
Glaring at the Tape Fortress of Doom – if it had been that hard to pull off the damn string, I didn't like thinking about how hard the rest of it would be to open – I seriously considered going into my training room to fetch something sharp and pointy to open it with.
But... There might be something fragile underneath. I don't want to harm it.
With an irritated puff of air, I blew my fringe out of my eyes and got started.
Much frustration and many curses and rants later, I finally managed to get the wrapping off.
Just so you can get a picture of exactly how bad it had been: when I began, the package had been lumpy and even slightly round, but when all the wrapping had come off, I was left with a square cardboard box and a thick envelope.
Turning said box over in my hands (it had landed with its bottom, and therefore only a bunch of very small letters, facing me), I read the blazing wordsSecond Life, and then, in a smaller style beneath it, Beast Crown.
Artfully arranged about the writing were a bunch of pictures, featuring landscapes and creatures I was sure didn't exist.
What is this? I wondered with a frown and reached for the envelope. The idiot had said that I should read the contents of the envelope first, right? Maybe he had included some kind of explanation...
Opening the envelope and emptying its contents over the bed, I felt my eye twitch. What was up with all thesepapers? There had to be hundreds of them. OK, maybe not hundreds, but certainly very, very many.
This had better be good, idiot knight, and not just another joke of yours, because if it is, I'm definitely gonna clobber you.
To those curious souls who wonder about where this story stands in relation to ½ Prince:
I will be fetching my inspiration mostly from the novels, but since I have read the manhua, elements from that may sneak in here and there.
Beast Queen is set three years after the main story is finished. In other words, after volume 8 (about which I have to ask: did anyone else read the epilogue? Only in ½ Prince, I say. Only in ½ Prince). I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, though, and will warn about them in the beginning of the chapters they show up in.
This story is an OC story. If the real ½ Prince characters show up in any way, it will probably only be as they are mentioned by someone, seen in the distance, or have very minor interactions with my characters. So they won't show up much. If you feel that you absolutely MUST have a specific scene involving someone in the original cast, however, I am open to ideas. Write a review or PM me about it and I can discuss it with you. If the idea is good, I might use it.
I think that is all. For now, anyway. Please review! Constructive criticism is welcomed.