Chapter 17:

Emperor’s Day (4)

Mad God


“Pffft, you start to look like a little piggy~” Isha laughed as they sat in a restaurant, pointing her finger at Ren, whose little face became swollen where she took the hit.


“Ugh… an unexpected development,” Ren murmured, rubbing her now craggy face with a little bit of annoyance in her voice.


“Well, Master, you did take the hit pretty well. You didn’t even flinch.” Zern praised.


“Still, you should’ve dodged. That is your way of fighting, not taking it head on.” Leinor sighed, who sat next to her, gently pressed an ice bag to her chin.


“Uuu… true, but his eyes pissed me off! He looked at me like a little girl!”


“You ARE a little girl,” Isha added, gulping down her ordered wine while Zern quietly ate his steak.


“I am already an adult!” Ren proclaimed, looking provocatively at Isha.


“Like hell you are!”


“I have had it since the start of this year! I do!” Ren countered.


“Pfft!” Isha sprayed wine from her nostrils right onto Ren, drenching her completely.


“Yuck! Don’t do that. It’s filled with gooey stuff!” she cried out, grabbing the table sheet and wiping her face off with it while Leinor laughed silently, trying to help her clean up.


“Easy, easy, let me help,” Leinor whispered to her, picking her up and letting her sit in his lap while he cleaned her face and started to feed her with small bites from his plate.


“Gross. You two make me sick.” Isha moaned as she stuck her tongue out.


“Hah, jealous?” Ren grinned, chewing on a juicy piece of meat.


“Not really. Of course, your boytoy wags his tail for you. It’s not surprising.” She snorted as she ordered another jug of wine.


“J-e-a-l-o-u-s~” Ren moaned, stretching in Leinor’s lap, enjoying herself to the fullest.


“You… you!” Isha fumed, and soon, surprising them, tears welled in her eyes. “Fuck you! I AM jealous! When I was the same age as you, I sold my body just to get dried-up bread in exchange! So FUCK YOU! BOTH OF YOU!”


“Sshh… It’s okay….” Ren stood up suddenly and climbed over the table, hugging Isha and snuggling up to her.


“Hey, let… let me go!” she struggled as she was almost crying.


“Ssh, it’s okay. I’m sorry I made fun of you,” she whispered, her voice being honest and kind.


“S-stop… that… you are… grossing me… out.” Isha sniffed as she worked back her tears.


“Ahaha, am I? Weren’t you laughing at me because of how I look now?”


“Fuck you…” she murmured, wiping her tears before reaching towards the wine jug again.


“I’m… sorry.” blurted Leinor.


“Stop. Just stop. I just lost my cool for a moment.” Isha sighed, shaking her head as if she just got out from under the shower, taking a deep breath before picking off Ren from her neck and throwing her back onto Leinor’s lap like a doll “None of you at fault for it. Life is unfair. Some got to be born into wealth, some into poverty, and some even died before seeing the sunlight. It’s my job to bring the most out of what I have been dealt.”


“You’re a strong one. I like you!” Ren raised her thumb at her.


“Hmf. Who cares about that? Anyway, I’m going. Thanks for dinner. Meet you all tomorrow and be ready, I’ll whack any one of you if we meet!” she said with a tinge of red on her face, and also, her legs were a bit wobbly.


“Let me escort you back.” Zern stood up.


“Like I need that!” she rolled her eyes, but still, after Zern got up, she did not refuse it while walking out of the restaurant.


“She should hook up with Zern if Boursat only looks at her like a daughter.” Ren murmured, looking after them.


“Why do you hate Zern so much?” Leinor chuckled.


“Ahaha, don’t say that. I think they would look good together! She is a fiery one, and Zern’s a little too stiff. Maybe some iron working on him would help him soften up.”


“Why is your mouth so dirty?”


“Huh?” Ren blinked her eyes but soon laughed. “I’m not the dirty one here~” she smiled with a tinge of excitement and grabbed the wine jug left behind.


“Ren. We shouldn’t.” Leinor cut in immediately.


“Come on, just a little sip~” she giggled cheekily and took a sip. “Ouch, it stings the inside of my mouth!”


“Silly.” he patted her head gently. “We should go home.”


“Don’t you want a sip? It’s tasty!”


“We shouldn’t even taste it yet. So no.”


“Awww… come on~” she giggled and took another sip, and soon she turned back, kissing Leinor on the lips.


The sudden attack completely froze his entire body like an electric shock buzzing through every fiber of his being. Ren’s soft, small lips slowly pressed on his while the little sip of wine flowed through as she made him drink it while wrapping her hands around his neck and looking into his eyes with a sly, provocative gaze. Leinor soon recovered and held her waist with confidence, returning the kiss, forgetting himself in it as he tasted the sweet, sweet aroma of her whole being. When their lips separated, Ren giggled, licking it with a happy expression.


“Was it yummy~?”


“Mmm.” Leinor nodded, still dazed.


“And the wine?”


“That too.” came another slight nod as he gently held her face, closing in again.


“I think that was enough.” came a voice from next to them, and when they looked, Anya was standing there with a calm expression.


“Ah!” both of them exclaimed at the same time, looking a bit lost.


“I was looking for you, Young Lady. If I remember correctly, you are still under house arrest by yours truly.” Anya’s eyes traveled to her daughter’s face.


“Ugh… Mom… I can explain!”


“I’m listening.”


“We had a big fight in the first round and-”


“And you should have come home after that, resting for tomorrow. It seems like you two forgot yourself.”


“It’s my fault Lady Anya, I-”


“Silence, boy. You are only engaged, not married yet.” Anya cut in, looking at his hands which still held Ren’s waist.


Realizing that, Leinor immediately let go of her as Ren hopped out of his lap, fiddling with the edge of her clothes.


“Let’s go,” Anya commanded.


“Tomorrow, LeiLei~” Ren smiled before going after her mother as he stayed there watching her leave, touching his lips and soon trembling all over, leaning back on his chair, releasing a satisfied, happy smile that was on his face even when he went to sleep in his still empty room back in the palace.


….

…..


“We need to keep an eye on her more closely.”


“Yes, My Lady. It was my fault.” Hal bowed, lowering his head as far as he could.


“No, Hal. It wasn’t.” Anya smiled, lying on the sofa in the main living room, watching the flame in the fireplace with a half-empty wine glass in her hand while the moonlight peered through the windows. “She is just like me. Ahahaha, I don't blame her, I was the same. Anyway, she has grown up quickly, a few years, and they may marry. Until then, we don’t need a scandal so keep an eye on her to not do any stupid thing. Let them develop their love in the upcoming 4-5 years before they marry, and they can do what they want afterward! I’m afraid I’ll need to wait a long time to have grandchildren.”


“My Lady, it’s-”


“Hal. You also know, XenXen and I tried a lot of times before it finally happened. The stronger you are, the harder it is to bear a child. Also, I’m afraid she ruined her body, which is our fault. She will face more obstacles than I did.”


“No, it’s not your fault, don’t say that, My Lady.”


“It is. We are her parents. We should have done something. In the past two years, her growth has been stunted. Thank god she had her first period, or I would have freaked out by now!” she said, shaking her head while emptying her glass. “But her height, body, everything is… stunted, or developing too slowly. She should have gained at least a few centimeters in the past two years, no? She started refining her body too early, and now she is at a level where she is almost done with it. We look young because we reach the fifth and sixth level around the age we are looking at now... She? She probably will look like a child forever. What future is that?” Anya moaned, frustrated, holding her head, but Hal didn’t have an answer to that.


….

…..


The following day when the top 50 assembled near the arena, Leinor looked especially happy. The second to arrive was Zern, coming up to him with a warm cup of tea.


“Here, Prince.”


“Thank you. How was yesterday?”


“You mean? I just escorted Lady Isha home.”


“Lady… huh?”


“What, you don’t see me as one, boytoy?” Isha arrived right then.


“Not really.” he answered honestly, by reflex, sipping the tea Zern brought over.


“The feeling is mutual because you ain’t a man either.” Isha countered.


“Woah, everyone is here already? What did I miss?” Ren laughed as she arrived, hopping onto Leinor’s back, climbing onto him, and grinning widely.


“Someone is in a good mood!” Isha said as she watched them.


“Of course!” Ren showed a big V with her fingers. “I’m out of house arrest by this morning! Mom said I can move around freely again!”


“Oooh, the big girl is out of mommy’s prison, ey?” Isha smirked at her while Zern only silently sighed and instead went and brought a few more cups of tea for them.


“I’m fired up. Let’s get this party started, and after we finish, we’ll hold a way bigger party, what do you think?”


“A party? What, with orange juice? Count me out.” Isha shook her head.


“Come on, Boobie Lady~ It will be fun!”


“What did you call me?”


“Moody Lady.”


“Oh no, you didn’t!”


“Then I didn’t. Anyway, it’s a party, yey~!”


“Let it go, Lady Isha.” Zern cut in, patting her shoulders. “Master sometimes has too much energy, the tournament will be a good exercise for her, letting out the built-up energies. She will probably be too tired and the first to cancel it.”


“I don’t know how you put up with her.” Isha nodded at him with an understanding gaze.


“She is surprisingly easy to get along with, and I never felt she shows a different personality to us than how she feels inside. She is honest. I can’t say that about others this surely. I think you know what I mean. I saw how others wear masks, especially if you go higher and higher in the social ranks. Master never holds back her feelings or hides them. She wears them proudly. The same goes for the Prince. He is reserved, compared to the Master… but honestly, he has the same personality deep down… and I can feel at ease with them.”


“Looking at them makes me rethink my sanity. But that’s true. I never met someone as annoying as her.” She agreed with him quickly.


“Just wait until we fight. I’ll make you eat every word left your lips, Boobie Lady!” Ren cut in quickly.


“You-!” Isha flared up again, but the arriving Emperor up on the wall silenced everybody.


“I’m happy to announce the start of the competition’s second round in celebration of our glorious Empire’s National Day. We don’t just celebrate our home but also our young stars, and I hope we will see great performances from you, and you will all show the world that our next generation can’t be underestimated!”


While he gave his speech, Ren saw Anya up at the walls, watching her with a small smile as her lips formed some words that made Ren giggle. “Beat them all up, sweetie.”


“Hey, LeiLei,” Ren whispered.


“Hm?”


“If you beat me when we meet, I’ll let you kiss me again.”


Lienor’s face immediately went tomato red, but as she clung to his back, Ren felt the fighting spirit rising in Leinor.


“Fufufu, that's it! Now you look like someone ready~” she pecked the back of his head.


“After a night of constant grading, here are the new rankings.” Aerthus IX said, and with a swish of his sleeves, 50 silvery medallions flew down from the wall, landing in every competitor’s hands. “Every piece has a number etched into it. If your number is drawn, come up to the stage.”


“Fufufu, still number one~” Ren laughed while Leinor was number two.


“Oh, I came up to third.” Zern showed his while Isha’s mouth was twitching


“What about you, Boobie?”


“Don’t call me that!”


“Nuuumbeeeer~ Whaaaat iiiiissss iiiiiit~”


“Te… tenth....”


“Well, you took it lazily yesterday. Don’t worry, this means nothing!” Ren tried to cheer her up, but Leinor was smirking at her, making Isha fume with anger.


“First battle is between number 2 and 44!” The Emperor’s voice resonated again after drawing them out from a box.


“Good luck! Make it quick~” Ren laughed, jumping off his back and patting his bottom.


“Good luck, Prince.”


“Hmf, don’t look at me, boytoy.”


“Yeah, sure.” Leinor rolled his eyes before jumping up to the stage. His enemy seemed to be a younger-looking man, around his mid-twenties with short, black hair and green eyes, a bit skinny looking, but his facial expressions showed experience while he cupped his hands, and Leinor returned the greeting.


“The battles from now on permit the use of personal weapons and armor. Maiming or killing your opponent is forbidden.” Aerthus IX said while looking down at his son, “Everybody. When in the ring, ranks, origin, nothing matters. Don’t think about consequences, as there won’t be any if you beat someone. Social rankings are forfeited when you step on the floor of the arena! We want to see talented people rise, from every place of life, just like Xendar did. Remember. The Empire is your home. If you protect it, it will do the same to you. Now… let’s start the second round of the competition!”