Happy deepavali :)


I tapped my pen repeatedly against the desk. Tap. Tap. Tap.

I twisted the said pen in between my fingers and tapped it against the desk again.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Dimitri glared at me from the corner of his eye. He was listening, or pretending to listen to Lord Badica's endless sermon.

While it was true that Lord Badica was infamous for his long speeches that no one on the council listened to, today's session was a little different. Today, there were many people nodding along and agreeing with Lord Badica.

Today, I had to repeatedly suppress the urge to stick my pen into Lord Badica's eye.

"It is not wise for the future queen of this country to travel unannounced to perilous lands-"

Even Dimitri's deep reservoir of patience was wearing thin. "Yes, you've already said that."

"Perhaps," Nathan Ivashkov chimed in, looking contrite but I knew he was anything but. "It would be wise to educate the Princess on the ways of the Russovian society, Your Grace."

Dimitri's eyes narrowed at the implication and I snorted. But before either of us could reply, there was a loud laugh from the end of the table.

Ekaterina Zeklos, my illustrious aunt.

"Ways of the Russovian society?" She scoffed.

"Only so that she doesn't have any such hasty actions in the future." Lord Ivashkov hastened to clarify while Lord Badica trembled with righteous anger.

"What ways do you speak of, Lord Ivashkov?" Aunt Rina asked politely but the mockery was clear. "Shall we inform our new Queen that she has no right to meddle in state affairs? That despite being one of the heads of State, she's not allowed to care for her citizens?"

You tell them, Aunt Rina!

I couldn't stop smiling like a fool when many council members looked uncomfortable at my aunt's words. All those rallying against Rose's actions were nothing but cowards, hiding behind tradition and decorum to mask their support or compliance with the deeply rooted patriarchy in the Russovian society. As much as I loved her, Olena had never really spoken up against it, leaving my aunt to fight a lone battle. But she wasn't alone anymore.

Rose was here and things would only be better under her rule.

"That's not what I-" Lord Ivashkov tried to defend himself but Aunt Rina didn't allow him to speak.

"Spare us, Lord Ivashkov. We all know your stance in this issue."

"Lady Ekaterina," Lord Badica leaned back on his seat with a patronizing smile at my aunt that made me want to knock him cold. "Please do not turn this discussion to something irrelevant, as you are so often prone to do. This is simply an issue of decorum and of protocols being violated. Clearly our future Queen is impulsive and one can't help but wonder if such a bold move as travelling to a war zone is becoming of a Queen."

The hall stilled at his words.

I drew a sharp breath, stricken to notice many actually looking like they agreed with Lord Badica. And I wasn't the only one who did.

Dimitri's knuckles turned white, his eyes narrowed to slits. He managed to restrain himself through the superhuman power he possessed called self-control but I could see how angry he was…and how worried.

As my aunt rose to the challenge and the council dissolved into arguments and chaos, my eyes remained on Dimitri who sat frozen in his seat. I could almost see the gears turning in his head and I hoped, I prayed that this meeting didn't affect his relationship with Rose.

For the first time in this life, Dimitri was content and happy.

While it was clear that going to Halvi has earned Rose the favor of the common people, it had set two of the four royal houses against her. In an ideal world, this wouldn't be a worrying factor but in Russovia, the games played by the royals ran deep.

There was no saying what effect Rose's Halvi trip could have on the future.


Gregory wiped sweat off his brow as the sun glared down on the earth. The air seemed dense and stifling, the wind neither gentle nor cool. It was not a day meant to be spent outdoors but people rarely ever listened to nature.

Especially not people who were hell bent on rebelling against their own country.

Against their own leaders.

Gregory and the other members of the terror outfit they'd aptly named traasa were assembled on the rocky terrain within the dense forests of Russovia.

Squinting against the sun, Gregory's keen eyes swept over the mass of traasa soldiers gathered, his lips twitching up in a smile as he took in the scene.

Their numbers were growing per day.

Perhaps that what his leaders wanted to talk about, Gregory mused as he stood waiting for the leaders of traasa to speak.

Or maybe they wanted to speak about the destruction of Halvi.

Gregory could barely contain a shout of glee at the fond remembrance of what they'd done to Halvi.

What they'd done to Belikov.

What they would continue to do to that man who had the audacity to rule a free country like theirs.

Gregory was pulled out of his celebratory thoughts when his leaders climbed up the massive rock and stood glaring down at everyone.

The stout man, who was called Papa Narak and the hefty man called Vinashak were present. The third leader, the masked man, was absent.

The masked man, Anaama, did not stay in the traasa camp like the other leaders. Being one of the important ministers in Belikov's cabinet, Anaama had duties to take care of. He couldn't keep visiting the camp.

Which was why Gregory cherished each and every visit by the masked leader.

It was during these visits that Gregory knew he was contributing to their cause.

He was training to be a spy under the master spy himself.

If things went well, Gregory knew he'd end up being drafted to work in the Royal Court as a spy.

He couldn't wait to fight.

He couldn't wait to prove himself.

But most importantly, Gregory couldn't wait to take down the royalty.

But for now, he had to be patient. He had to listen to his leaders and do as he was told.

"All my brothers of traasa!" The stout man, Papa Narak began the speech while the hefty man, Vinashak took turns at staring down each initiate. "Listen while I speak."

If Gregory had any sense of humor, he'd have laughed at the way Papa Narak puffed out his chest as he spoke. But Gregory was a man who saw his leaders as gods, the people who would one day liberate Russovia.

He respected them to the point of hero worship and beyond.

"I know all of you have been training with utmost dedication," Papa Narak continued. "Indeed, it is through your efforts that we are inching closer to our goal. Soon, my brothers, soon a time will come when all of you will get a chance to fight this great war against royalty!"

A cheer rose from the traasa soldiers. Gregory pumped his fist in the air as he imagined slaughtering the royal family.

"We have already succeeded in blasting a bomb in the country of Loha," Vinashak took over. "We have succeeded in reducing the town of Halvi to ashes. We've showed that traasa is much bigger, much greater than anything Belikov ever imagined."

The cheer grew in volume.

Vinashak raised his hand and instantly, the soldiers quietened. "But the time has come to move to bigger and better things."

Pin-drop silence fell over the camp.

"Next week, we'll be drafting a fresh batch of spies to the Russovian Court," Vinashak said. "You see, two days later is the day of shravana. The royal ladies will be spending that day in Fort Shyala."

Gregory frowned, puzzled.

"The spies drafted will find out all the details about that trip." Papa Narak said. "All details. Using that, we will attack Fort Shyala!"

Gregory grinned as his fellow soldiers cheered.

Attack Fort Shyala?

Situated two hundred kilometers from the capital Magadha, Fort Shyla has always been the destination for the royal family on the day of shravana. The ladies of the royal family, accompanied by a fraction of Russovian guards would stay there for a day or two. It would be easy to overpower the guards accompanying the ladies. The army couldn't reach there in time since the nearest army base was Magadha itself which was two hundred kilometers away.

Attacking the Fort would be easy, Gregory realized.

He hoped and prayed with all his heart that he'd get a chance to fight.

If he did, Gregory knew he'd dedicate each and every drop of his blood to ensure their victory.

But spilling blood would hardly be necessary, Gregory thought smugly. After all, they just had to finish off the few soldiers escorting the ladies.

Then the ladies would be fair game.

By any chance, if any of them caught his fancy, he'd take the merciful road and make her his.

It was a win-win situation.


"So…what are you saying exactly?" I asked, throwing my hands up. I could feel a headache brewing behind my eyes already.

Neal's voice echoed through the speaker. "Rose, I told you. Russovia is a patriarchy and-"

"And what? How is my going to Halvi affecting anyone at all?"

"Rose, listen to me." Neal said, deliberately calm against my increasing frustration. "We've spoken about the four families of Russovia, haven't we?"

He waited for me to agree before continuing. "The heads of those four families are…difficult. Old fashioned."

I couldn't keep quiet any longer. "I know all that, Neal but how does me going to Halvi affect them at all?"

Neal breathed in softly. "Rose, they don't want a pro-active queen. Is it so hard for you to imagine?"

"No but-"

"Rose." He cut me off firmly. "You can't deny that going to Halvi was an impulsive decision and exactly the kind of thing I've repeatedly told you to avoid."

"But I was just trying to help!" I knew my tone was distinctly whiny now but I couldn't help it.

Neal's voice softened. "I know, firefly. I do. But the royals are a bunch of misogynist old fools who feel threatened by a woman in power, especially someone who cares enough to want to change the system. The very system that's kept them in power all this time."

"I hate this," I told him emphatically, throwing myself into the couch in the guest chambers in Viktoria's palace. "I hate this, I hate this, I hate this!"

"I know," Neal said soothingly. "But there's nothing you can do. For now, at least."

I dragged my hands through my hair. "Did they…did they tell this to Dimitri?"

Neal sighed. "Yes. But I heard that Lady Ekaterina Zeklos really stood up for you. You know, Ivan's aunt? The head of the Zeklos family? That's two out of the four families, kiddo."

I scoffed. "Two? I'm not even sure if you can count the Belikov family if Dimitri just sat there silently and listened to all this crap."


"I need to go," I told him, not in a mood to listen to how Dimitri was helpless or whatever he was about to say to defend my fiance. "We're leaving for Fort Shyala soon."

"Okay. Take care of yourself…and Rose?"


"Do not get into a fight with Dimitri over this." Neal cautioned. "I know you don't want to hear it but there's nothing he could have done."

"Sure," I said glibly. "Bye."

Disconnecting the call, I mulled over Neal's words. For the first time in a long time, I was inclined to agree with my brother.

I couldn't pick a fight over this. Dimitri's silence over everything had not angered me. Not really.

No, I realized, what I was feeling was far from anger.

It was hurt.

"And then, and then she screamed!" Viktoria exclaimed, gesturing wildly to the general amusement of the table. "She was all like 'aah! Don't hurt me!' and I said, all cool: 'sister, I wouldn't dream of it!'"

I plastered on a grin when her eyes met mine as they roved over everyone to gauge our reactions.

"The things you do, Vika." Dimitri said from my right, shaking his head but he was clearly fighting a smile.

I hastily ducked my head, both to hide my lack of amusement and to avert my eyes from my fiance's general direction.

Hard to do when the man was sitting right next to me at Olena's dining table.

"This is all because of you," Karolina said and I turned so fast I developed a crick in my neck. But I needn't have worried.

She was clearly addressing Ivan, who protested his innocence.

I breathed out slowly, relieved to not be accused of something else on top of everything. Distantly, I realized that I wasn't exactly being fair and that I was perhaps overreacting.

I had not really been accused of anything, after all.

Nothing at all, except of being too impulsive. By the heads of powerful royal families who said all that to my fiance's face.

The emperor himself who just sat there and listened…and perhaps agreed with secretly?

A warm hand landing on mine almost made me jump. I looked up to see Olena peering at me with concern.

"Are you alright?" she asked, keeping her voice low.

"Of course," I nodded, trying to smile.

But she wasn't fooled.

Throwing a discrete glance over my shoulder, undoubtedly at Dimitri, Olena leaned closer. "Rose, it's okay if you're not. I understand that all this must be overwhelming. You've only been here a few days and we already-"

"No, Olena." I cut her off when I felt Dimitri's attention shifting away from the rest of the table. The last thing I needed was his concern. "I'm fine. Really. Just a slight headache."

"You need to rest, dear. Why don't you go to the Vajra tonight? Vika must have exhausted you and we need you rested before we leave for Shyla in the morning."

"No, it's fine, it's really-"

"Nonsense, Rose." Olena patted my hand gently. "Dimitri?"

"Yes, mama?"

I kept my eyes fixed on my plate, feeling Dimitri's gaze burning the side of my face.

"Take Rose with you tonight. I'm afraid Vika has been too much-"

"No, really, she didn't do anything-" I tried to protest at the same time as Vika who loudly swore that she's been very good to me. Unfortunately, she hit the table with her hands and I couldn't hide a wince at the loud noise.

"See?" Olena ran her fingers through my hair soothingly and I resisted the urge to melt. Bowing my head under the light pressure, I screwed my eyes shut against the unfolding disaster. "The poor girl has a headache. Dimitri, if you would…?"

"Of course, mama." There was a light scraping sound of a chair being pushed back and then I felt Dimitri's warm hands on my shoulder.

"Rose?" He gently pulled me up and I went along, unable to do anything short of shrugging him off in front of the family. "Come, lets go."

"Dimitri, I'm fine…" I tried but faltered when I actually looked at him. Damn, he was wearing that stern face of his that made me want to punch him.

But as I watched, his expression shifted. Barely masked concern shone in his eyes, hidden behind the confusion as he looked at me.

Hastily, I rearranged my face until it was more or less blank.

But it only seemed to heighten his confusion and I wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all. I longed to tell him what I felt, I wanted to make me feel a fraction of this mess of emotions…but no, I couldn't do any of that.

"I'm fine." I repeated, taking care to keep my voice low as I gently stepped away from his hold.

Yeah, not exactly reassuring.

Dimitri kept shooting me concerned glances all the way to the Vajra. Several times he looked like he was on the verge of saying something but thankfully, he said nothing.

I didn't know what I might have said if he'd prodded me even a little.

"You will be leaving at 4 in the morning," Dimitri said as he pulled the car door open for me. Vajra shone in the darkness like…well, like its namesake - the diamond.

I kept my eyes averted from him as I got out, walking away slightly while gazing at the palace.

"I'm sure mama will call before then." Dimitri continued, falling into step beside me as we walked into the palace.

I hummed, non-committal.

Dimitri seemed to hesitate at my lack of response, throwing us into an awkward silence that I'd managed to avoid in the car by pretending to be asleep.

"The guest bedroom is this side, yes?" I mumbled, finally at the crossroad that would take me away from his stifling presence.

"Yes, up the stairs and to the right." He moved slightly, as if to show me the way and I panicked, quickly climbing the stairs myself.

"Good night, Dimitri." I managed, slowing my ascent slightly when I was convinced that he wouldn't follow me.

"Rose?" Somehow, his almost whisper carried over, making me halt.

But I didn't turn around. "Hmm?"

"Are you…" he trailed off, sounding so unlike himself that I turned around to look at him.

Dimitri…looked conflicted. Unsure, in a way he never was.

"Did something happen?" he finally settled on.

I breathed in sharply.

So, he'd caught on to the fact that I wasn't just suffering from an ordinary headache. I could tell him everything…he'd asked, after all. I could really hurt him, driving in the knife and twisting until I was assured that he'd felt exactly what I was feeling.

Or I could take the high road, a voice scarily like Neal's urged. I could let this go.

"Dimitri," was all I ended up saying. I shrugged when he looked at me expectantly. "I don't know what to tell you, if anything…"

"Rose," He took a single step up the stairs. "You can tell me anything."

I laughed, the sound hollow and resonating through the vast, empty space between us. "Do you trust me, Dimitri?"

"What are you-?"

I smiled, feeling my eyes burn. "Do you trust me to be your wife? To be your queen?"

I could see the exact moment that Dimitri's breath caught. The moment felt heavy, laden with oh so much and even he seemed to realize that, unaware as he was of what was going through my head.

"Yes," he answered in a whisper, almost as if he didn't need to think about it.

A single tear trailed down my cheek. "Liar."

"Rose, I'm not-"

"Let's pretend you are not," I agreed softly. "You may trust me with yourself…but you don't trust me with your country."

"What are you talking about?"

I turned my back to him but didn't walk away. Not yet. "Do you know the absolute worst part, Comrade?"

"Rose, tell me what's going on-"

"The absolute worst part-" I talked over him, needing to get this out right now, before I got completely choked up. "-is that you more or less told that yo everyone. Everyone except me."

I quickly walked away, wiping my wet cheeks hastily. "Welcome to Russovia, Rose."

AN: I'm not sure how many of you are still reading this story and if you are, thank you! :)

Also, please don't leave reviews asking me to update. I can't even begin to describe how much of a turn-off that is. I completely understand that you are impatient but I have a life, you know? I'm not obligated to write this story and update regularly. I write because I enjoy writing and I really don't need advise on how often to update or how I can manage. I know many of you will ignore this note and come back with the "update soon" and the "if you write one chapter per month you can finish the story" Woah, like really? I never knew! Such wisdom, wow! *slow claps*

Leave a review only if you have something genuine/nice to say. Motivate a writer, don't pull them down. Especially if you are getting to read hours of their hard work for free.