Chapter 18:

Coincidences and the Future

Fighting For My Freedom In Another World

I didn’t wake up again until almost a full day after I fell unconscious. Bookmark here

I was in a room I didn’t recognise, lying in a bed small enough that I only barely could fit in it. The room was entirely bereft of other furniture, save for a single tall closet which cast a long shadow over the rest of the room. Bookmark here

Alena was asleep next to me, her upper body leaned against the bed. Her legs were firmly on the floor, but her arms were on my side and her head rested on my belly. Where were we, and how long had we been there? Had the princess carried me the whole way to… Wherever we were now?Bookmark here

Unable to think of anything else to do, and unwilling to wake Alena up, I simply stared up at the ceiling and waited. What else was there? Bookmark here

Being the only one awake in the room… There was something about it that lended itself well to making you think about all sorts of things. It may also have helped that I had been left little time to ponder things before that. Something about being unexpectedly attacked twice in a row didn’t really favour idle thinking. Bookmark here

But still, being attacked twice in one day… Was that kind of thing a common occurrence in this world, or was I just particularly unlucky? Bookmark here

At least one thing was clear. Bookmark here

I needed to start taking things into my own hands, somehow. If I just kept going with the flow, and we kept going the way we had… And if that led to us being attacked again… I wasn’t sure I’d make it. Bookmark here

I wasn’t sure I would be able to manage a third time. It felt like I could very well end up snapping for real the next time I had to endure… had to endure that. Using my magic wasn’t exactly fun. I could barely control it myself, I felt absolutely awful after every time I tried to use it, and it felt like it was just a matter of time before I’d end up doing something I would regret. Bookmark here

On the other hand, it seemed almost just as likely I’d fail to use the magic whenever I needed it the most. Bookmark here

Something clearly needed to change. I didn’t know what yet, but figuring that out was… Probably not something I could do on my own. I’d have to hope the princess would have some good ideas once she woke up. Bookmark here

It took at least another good hour or two until that happened. She rubbed her eyes as she looked up at me. Bookmark here

“...Maria? You’re awake! I’ll have you know that took way too long. Please wake up sooner next time you fall unconscious because of mystical weird magic stuff you can’t control, alright?”
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“How am I supposed to change anything about something you just said yourself I can’t control? I’d argue that is, by definition, impossible.”
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“I don’t care. I want it, and that means you’ll do it. Doesn’t matter if it’s possible or not.”
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“How old are you even, Alena?”
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“Nineteen? How come?”Bookmark here

That would, contrary to my prior expectations, make her older than me. I had up until now been firmly convinced we were at best about the same age.
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“I… I was just thinking that it doesn’t really feel right for you to be older than me, considering the way you act sometimes. Come to think of it, does the calendar here work the same as in my old world? Like, will I be able to know when my birthday rolls around? I would imagine a totally different system would make conversion a bit difficult.”
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“As far as I’m aware it shouldn’t be too different. We’ve tried to synchronise our units of measurement to other worlds, using what the people coming here from other worlds have had to say. In other words, it’s a really easy conversion!”Bookmark here

A bright smile spread across the princess’s face and she held up a finger for the sake of emphasis.Bookmark here

“The witch was going to be executed two days before her birthday, so you’d be turning 18 today. Come to think about it, I never said anything about that… I guess I’m a day late, but happy birthday, Maria!” Bookmark here

The princess gave me a warm hug to go along with the congratulations. Bookmark here

“How do you know that’s actually my birthday and not just the witches’?”
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“Easy. Everyone else that ever came to this world from another one arrived at the same age as they were in their own world. So you’d have to be fairly exactly the same age as the witch to take her place.”
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“I’m the same age, and have the same name, just by coincidence?”Bookmark here

That was… a rather unsettling coincidence.Bookmark here

“More accurately, I guess you’re the one that got sent here instead of anyone else in your world or some other word purely because of that very coincidence. You’re here precisely because you have the same name, age, and fashion sense, and probably a whole lot of other things in common too… and also because you timed an untimely death, I guess. That part’s probably important too. But come to think of it… I’m really glad you at least don’t have the same kind of personality she did… Now that would have been a major pain.”
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“You do realise I would be dead by now if I did, right?”
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“All the more reason to be happy you’re not like her!”Bookmark here

Talking about random topics that didn’t mean much was admittedly fun, and being congratulated and hugged by the princess — who still had her arms around me — was quite a rush. Bookmark here

However, I had already spent far too long just going along with things. As much as I would have loved to just chat with the princess, there were more important things to consider. Bookmark here

“Alena, I can’t just keep going along with some vague mission I don’t even know a thing about. Is there anything more to that mission you mentioned than just ‘go to this vaguely defined place and do something that may or may not have to do with some sort of criminal activity’?
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“If there is, then I know as little about it as you do. I wasn’t really told anything.”
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“Don’t you find that weird? Even setting me aside, you’ve already almost been killed twice already. Are we really just that unlucky? Or is there something more at work here? I mean, you’re the princess, and you still barely know what we’re supposed to be doing. Wouldn’t think the king would put his own daughter in that kind of danger.”
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“Actually, about that…”Bookmark here

Alena looked away and hesitated for a moment before she continued to speak. Bookmark here

“...He may not have known I was the one that set out on it. Originally you were just supposed to be accompanied by a soldier from the king’s own private guard, someone he knew he could trust, but I kind of… Came with you instead without telling anyone, before anyone had the time to find out.”Bookmark here

Those news should probably have come as a massive shock, but somehow it made much more sense than it reasonably should have. The princess barely knew anything about what we were supposed to be doing, but if it wasn’t even her mission in the first place…Bookmark here

“I guess it kind of makes sense… Except for one thing. Why go with me and put yourself in danger when you could just have let someone else do it?”
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“I promise I have at least two very good reasons for that. I don’t think my father’s words, his gestures, what he shows to everyone… There are times where I feel like that can’t be who he really is. Like there’s these small parts that are just subtly off about it all. Things that make it feel like he’s just acting, the same way I do sometimes, except in a much more sophisticated manner, so much that almost no one would catch on to it. I’m not really fully confident myself either. But somehow I just felt like I couldn’t be sure you would be safe if I didn’t go with you myself.”Bookmark here

If his own daughter couldn’t tell for sure, then who could ever hope to? I hadn’t met the man, so the hopes of me realizing anything off were certainly slim. Bookmark here

“Aside from my father acting weird, there’s also something more urgent. My father wanted me married within the next few days, even though I haven’t even met anyone I’d want to even consider marrying yet, and even though there should be plenty of time left to consider, considering my father is still healthy and well.”
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“Surely not… now? I’ve only been here for two days, sure, but I haven’t seen any reason at all it’d need to be so urgent. Who would you even marry?”
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“You’d think so. But I do mean now. Not just now, but today. It would have happened today if I had stayed in the capital. I don’t know who I would have been married to… My father set out some criteria for a potential partner for me a few years back, and he would probably just choose anyone willing that fits his standards. I doubt I would have much of a say in things at this point. I’ve been stubborn about it for too long..:”Bookmark here

What was I even supposed to say to that? I had no idea how to respond, but somehow I felt like saying something, no matter what, would be better than letting the silence linger.Bookmark here

“But why? It just seems so unnecessary to not at least wait a few years if you don’t even want it yourself…”
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“It’s because of the way the laws of this kingdom are written. An unmarried princess cannot rule on her own. I would need to marry someone, and only then would I be able to succeed the throne. Being king is not a lifetime position here… my father will be succeeded by me as soon as I marry someone. If I had been a boy, I would have become king the day I turned twenty, regardless of anything else.”
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“So you came with me so you wouldn’t have to marry? But in that case, what happens when you get back?”
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“I’ll probably be forced to marry someone as soon as I do. However… there might be a way of getting around that, if I have your aid. Will you help me?”Bookmark here

I didn’t even have to think about it.Bookmark here

“I will do whatever I can for you, Alena.”Bookmark here

At the time, I wasn’t quite sure I realised exactly what that would imply… Bookmark here

...But even if I had, I doubt my answer would have been different. Bookmark here

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