CHAPTER 1

[ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERWORLD]


There was an Empire that was ruled by a beautiful Queen. Her husband -the ruler was killed at an attempted assassination during an expedition, a year after their marriage, leaving her with an unborn child. The Queen was left with no choice but to rule the whole Empire, the Underworld alone while carrying her precious baby. Despite the fact that she was left miserable by the King's death, she continued to show love, kindness, and joy. She ruled with justice and wisdom and everyone in the land loved her.

The Queen was blessed with a ravishing Princess that brought even more happiness and light to the whole Empire. But the Queen, traumatized by the King's death, is more than afraid to lose her just like how she lost her husband and locked her little Goddess away from the world.

The Princess was forbidden to go outside the cathedral. The Central Cathedral is a huge, 100-story square white tower with mirror-like marble walls. That towers at the center of the Human Empire within a vast square plot on a hill at the center of Centoria, Unlike other castles, the Cathedral had no guards and not many people can be seen within these floors. However, there are complete loyal followers that work under the absolute command of the Queen, they are called the Integrity Knights, but nothing more than thirty-three of them. Only limited floors were given access for the Princess, from the 96th floor to the 99th. These floors are where efficient learning and combat training are held. Even the topmost floor where the Queen resides is forbidden for her to enter. She was taught about the ways of life, rulership, history, and swordsmanship. She was provided with everything and grew up to be a reflection of perfection.

Yes, she is perfect in every way possible. Her outstanding ability to handle a sword, her flawless beauty that surpasses every maiden in the land, and her strategic and leadership capability is extremely remarkable though unreasonable at times.

The Queen watched closely as her daughter swung her rapier -her weapon of choice just like her mother- in a speed of light and landed on her opponent's shoulders causing him to kneel in defeat.

"I can't beat you so easily Princess, your speed is incomparable."

The Princess sheathed her sword and smiled cheerfully. "You'll get me next time Eldrie!"

"I surely will next time, your majesty!"

Eldrie is the Princess's personal guard, Integrity Knight thirty-two. He had pledged to protect her since she was still an infant. His loyalty and commitment to the Princess have already been proven, countless times.

The young Lady noticed her mother from a distance and quickly ran into her.

"Mother! I beat Eldire on a duel, twice today!"

The Queen chuckled to her daughter's cheerful statement.

"You worked hard for it. I'm proud of you Stacia!"

Over these years the Queen would always want not just good, but the best for her daughter. Watching her baby grow to a decent, fine woman; at first, she perceived it as an accomplishment for raising a daughter. But as time flies, as the Princess began to surpass her mother bit by bit, the Queen grew insecure. She came to realize that one day, the Princess will soon take over the rulership and power. The Queen didn't want this anymore. She only wants power for herself, to be the only ruler, and everything she holds is excessively not enough for her. She craved for more and more power and journeyed to the Dark Territory to the Kingdom of Alfeim.

In possession of something everyone yearns for, she took advantage of this. She took advantage of her own daughter. In exchange for power, she offered to give her daughter to the firstborn son of Alfeim's King Vector, Sugou Oberon.

"I want her to be mine Quinella, and if you give her to me, I will let you take even half of what I have."

Taking pleasure in this, Quinella agreed to offer her as Prince Oberon's second wife, on the day she turns sixteen.

At the balcony at the 99th floor of the cathedral's luxurious chambers stood a beauty. Her long chestnut hair swayed with the cool gust of the wind as she inhaled deeply with her eyes closed appreciating the atmosphere. It wasn't too sunny nor too cloudy, the weather was perfect. Her eyes followed the birds who freely flew across the vast sky.

-I wonder what the outside world looks like.

She smiled as the thought came to her mind. The Princess who literally never been out of these floors always wished to see the whole Empire, to see her people. But now that her sixteenth birthday is coming, might as well subside that worry. Her mother promised her to show the world upon reaching that age.

The door creaked open and Stacia turned to see her mother enter her room to sit on her bed. The Queen motioned her hand, "Come sit." Stacia didn't hesitate and immediately obliged. "You know I've always wanted the best for you right?" She spoke softly with a motherly smile on her face.

"I know mother, and I will always do my best to make you proud," Stacia replied as she reciprocated a smile.

"I know you will. Do you remember the promise I made you?"

"Yes, mother. Two days from now when I turn sixteen, I can go see the outside world. I'm excited! There is so much I want to do. I always wanted to see the ocean or a river. I want to climb a tree. I want to see the market, the people, and I want to go to a festival!" Stacia exclaimed as she danced happily across the room in excitement. The Queen chuckled to see her daughter happy. But poor Stacia has no idea of how tragic the future awaits for her.

Chapter 1: Escape from the Underworld

It's already twilight; the limitless skies were diffused from the shade of navy blue to pink to darker orange. The sound of the birds chirping decelerated; the warm lights from the town began to radiate as darkness slowly plunder the heavens as Stacia walked at the now empty hallways where she shouldn't be. It was early but already as quiet as midnight. As she walks past through a massive door she heard voices rising that seemed to express the emotion of anger. But this voice is also familiar to her, could it be her mother? But why is she mad? Is there something wrong? Does this have to do with the upcoming celebration? Submerged by curiosity and reluctant at first but her body moved on its own to get closer to the door.

"Are you sure about this Quinella? Just for half of the Dark Territory?" It was a voice that Stacia had heard before, a voice of a man in his late forties, Integrity Knight One, Bercouli.

"I'm not stupid Bercouli! I may only get half but that doesn't mean that I won't dominate until the whole land falls into my own darkness!"

Stacia's POV

"I'm not stupid Bercouli! I may only get half but that doesn't mean that I won't dominate until the whole land falls into my own darkness!"

Is the talking about the Dark Lands? Her own darkness? I know that eavesdropping on a royal discussion is wrong but from what I just heard, my curiosity has become more extreme that I just want to listen more to this.

"I am the only ruler, I am the Administrator! Nothing can stop me and nothing can beat me! Stacia is mine! She is my tool! I can do whatever I want with her in exchange for power, for the power of the whole world! Stacia will be sold to the Dark Territory!"

Did I just hear them right? Sell me to the Dark Territory?! She sounds like my mother but what she said doesn't sound anything like her at all. Who is this person? Why is she calling me a tool?

I want to listen more to their conversation but all I can hear now is the sound of my own heartbeat. What are going to do with me?! I began to recall the promises my mother has said and doubt every word. Is this person I'm hearing really my mother? No, it can't be, I know her and she would never act something as disgraceful as this. Conquering the world? Selling me? Scratch that, I probably just misheard everything. I then notice that the sound of footsteps came closer to the door so I quickly look around for a place to hide. Just in time to get behind I pillar, I saw my mother and two other Integrity Knight exit from the hall. She really looks like her but it feels like I'm looking at a different person. Her eyes are dark, her smile isn't sweet anymore and her presence is frightening me.

I tried to follow them while staying at their blind spot when the three in front of me stopped at turned around. I quickly got behind another pillar while trying to calm myself down. I should be hearing the footsteps trail off but instead, the sound gets louder and louder. There was a momentary silence but I can't move yet, I know that they are behind me. The next thing I heard was the sound of a blade gliding from its sheath. The sound of metal hitting the marble floor made one last step until a voice stopped it.

"Bercouli, we don't want them to keep us waiting don't we?" The stern change in her voice causes me to flinch in horror.

"Y-Yes, forgive me, your highness."

I finally heard them walk away and in my relief, I leaned my back on the pillar as my legs started losing its strength and I fell on the floor. I have to get out of here but I am still dumbfounded from the sudden discovery. I covered my mouth with my hand and stifled at my sobs. My heart feels like being squeezed that it's making me hard to breathe. Dammit, why am I crying?! Just what in the world is going on?! What will happen to me?! Just when my vision became darker, a golden portal appeared in front of me. It looks like a passage that I hardly believe that I wasn't dreaming. A hand appeared and gestured me to come in. I didn't know what threat it holds, all I know is that the light was very alluring so started walking towards the entrance. I reached out my hand to hold the one that appeared from the portal, it was warm. Then, it pulled me right through the glowing passage. I squinted my eyes open and before I knew it, I fell on a wooden floor.

"It's okay, you're safe." I slowly opened one eye and looked at the owner of the voice. A scrawny, doll-like with milky-white skin, chestnut-brown eyes, and short, curly hair of the same color. She wore a magician-like robe with velvet-like luster and a greatly inflated hat made from the same material and carries a staff longer than her own height, all of which made her look like an elderly scholar. Her most striking feature was her eyes, fringed by long eyelashes and beyond the round glasses, daintily worn on her nose, give an overwhelming presence of knowledge and wisdom. Just looking at these eyes made me feel like being sucked into a depth with no definite end, but she was wearing a smile. "Follow me."

I rummaged my eyes all over the book-filled place. A great library! I never knew a place like this would appear within the Cathedral. But what floor could we be in? I decided to stay silent and followed the girl who miraculously brought me here. "Um..." I couldn't utter a single word that I was still left in awe of where I am in. She led me to a table and invited me to sit, offering me a cup of tea.

" I am Cardinal, and I will be the one to guide you. We only have limited time so listen carefully."

Cardinal? I've never heard of this before. All these years I have thought that my knowledge is vast to understand all about the Underworld and the Cathedral but now I understand how far I still am.

"The reason I brought you here is to tell you the truth." The truth? Does this mean that my whole life was a lie?! I looked directly at her as my eyes widened. All I hope is to wake up from whatever dream I am in, but the look in her eyes is telling me that this is reality. "It's true then? About me and the dark territory," I clenched my fist that was under the table. I just realize how pity I am, if everyone is behind this that means that I was all alone. I have no choice but to blindly trust this Cardinal.

"Yes, it is." I gave full attention to every word that came out of her mouth just as I could hardly believe any of it. She began explaining everything and my mother's plan to become the Administrator, to have pure authority over the world. It sounds like a far impossible dream but the plan has long been laid out and I am merely part of it. Bit by bit of what Cardinal has said, I became fully convinced that this isn't a dream, nor a fairy tale, this is real.

"What am I going to do to stop her?" Although it may take some time to process and perceive this new truth, there is no time to drown in my own misery. I have to be brave and stand for me, for the people. I don't want this beautiful Empire to fall in the hands of the wicked.

"There is nothing you can do... for now," Nothing? Of course, I cannot do anything against my mother. If I were to face her here and now, I would only end up taking my last breath.

"Cardinal, please tell me what I can do. I have to do something, I can't sit and watch as she conquers the Underworld and turns it into toys for the Dark Territory."

"Then run away. Escape from the Underworld." She sternly looked at me, "You're powerless now but I will tell you everything I can and give you everything I can give you."

The key to saving the Underworld is to escape from it? Wouldn't that be a pure dishonor? I, who entirely want to stop the evil from hovering will run away?

Her lips moved along every sound of every syllable and from then, I kept the name permanently printed in my head.

"How will I find him?" I asked.

"You don't need to find him, you are destined to meet him at the right time." Just then, with just a single command with her staff, a blinding light appeared in front of me that I have to close my eyes from its illuminance. Despite that, my eyes tried to stir at its light. Now, appearing in front of me is a weapon, forged to be divine.

"It's not an ordinary sword Stacia, it is called the Radiant Light. Only the power of a Goddes can have the ability to wield it. Now go, begin your journey, the future of the Underworld now rests in your shoulders. Become strong to be able to swing this. I believe in you and that you will meet him one day..."

Yes, that's right, one day, I will meet him, I will meet the Black Swordsman!

To be continued...