Chapter 1- Barrel of Grapes
On the other side of Kizilalem, bordering Kalkan was the Tazak kingdom. As opposed to Kalkan which was predominantly demon society, Tazak kingdom was ruled by none other than human beings. Kalkan and Tazak were enemies since the beginning, with Demon King and the Tazak monarchy opposing each other at each opportunity, each seeking to destroy the other.
Just like their counterparts, the residents of Tazak kingdom feared and despised their neighboring kingdom, largely due to their beliefs that demons were responsible for every misfortune that occurred to them. If a lightning struck somebody, they said demon sent it to kill that person. If an earthquake destroyed a city it would be demons that would be suspected of plotting to break down the kingdom’s infrastructure with their diabolical ways. If they see a demon, they had a policy of killing them on sight. Although some radical factions like Pishak Priests have recommended capturing them in order to harvest their body parts for usage in manufacturing various ways of dealing with demons such as weapons imbued with demon’s own power, many preferred exterminating them altogether.
The fact of the matter is that the people of the region are taught ever since they were young that demons are embodiment of calamity and evil, which is why anyone suspected of association to demons was promptly jailed or even executed.
The Knights of Ozen, the elite force of guardians tasked with protecting the citizens of Tazak kingdom, were the primary enforcers of the authority of the crown and by extension humanity. Although they are supposedly loyal to the crown, their members were selected from the members of noble families; in a sense only people born to higher level of society could become Knights of Ozen. They were trained from young age on prowess of sword, and some even specialized in magical arts. With strong monarch the Knights of Ozen would be most loyal.
Currently, however was a transitional period. The old king was getting weaker and weaker day by day, and it was obvious that he was fast approaching his death bed. His successor, prince Sala, was going to become the next king promptly. Of course due to the age old tradition the prince has to take a bride before assuming the throne, and the problem was that the prince Sala seemed rather picky in his choice, rejecting any potential suitors for trivial reasons and he didn’t seem to have any particular person in mind. This was rather troubling for his ailing father who wished to pass on the mantle of the king before his death.
Current king’s health kept deteriorating and prince is now forced to go to marriage interviews with various potential consorts despite his reluctance to do so. The prince actually challenged the age old tradition, calling it useless, outdated, and obsolete, but the ever so traditionalist nobles have made it clear that they will only support the prince as the king if he follows the customs thoroughly.
The fact was that the ten nobles are supposed to give the approval seals in order to recognize the new king. Without their seals, the king could not assume the mantle of rule. Of course each noble wanted to have greater influence, due to this they persisted in trying to get prince Sala married to one of their daughters. Ten nobles meant ten noble families, each holding enough power to receive titles of lords. If one managed to become in laws of the future king, then the influence they hold would drastically increase, making one noble family have the reins to controlling the kingdom. Of course, they were obligated to give their approval when the prince selects his bride without any objections, but it did not stop them from trying to land things in their own favor. If prince chose someone unknown, they still will be obligated to give their seal of approval or risk losing their lordship due to the fact it could be considered treason to disapprove future king’s decision. Yet, right now when the matter is still undecided, nobles had the chance to allure the young prince with their daughters, in order to have a chance for gaining power without breaking losing trust of people.
Of course, there were more than ten noble families, but the requirement for becoming the king is approval by ten of them. If the prince did not choose a bride soon, the nobles could decide on another candidate to take on the throne. Prince Sala represented the Rondeleia line of royalty, his grandfather who took over the seat as the king more than fifty years ago, thereby starting the dynasty of Rondeleia royalty. But that did not mean that only members of Rondeleia family were eligible to become the rulers. There were four other families that had the qualification to produce the next king, they were rather eager to gain an upper hand as well. If prince Sala fails to find a bride in the next six month then it would mean one of the qualified candidates can advance to the throne, with the approval of ten noble families of course. Because of needing backing of nobles, there was a lot of bribing and swindling during this time, none was sure who was on whose side.
On the street of the Tazak kingdom, in a certain shop. A man wearing nothing but rags was violently thrown out of the building.
“Never come back.” The store owner screamed on the top of his lungs. Not only did he discover this glutton eating raw meat inside the butcher shop, but there was a giant hole in the wooden wall, most likely made by the same man. When he asked what his name was, the man just proceeded to burp loudly with gluttonous eyes looking over raw slices of meat.
He was going around like a savage, with a gluttonous grin covering his face. The shop keeper was so enraged that he grabbed the man by the rags and dragged him out of the shop. Then he proceeded to throw him out. ‘I hope I never see this vandal again, the repair costs to the wall are going to be pricy, damn that glutton!’
Said glutton, on the other hand did not really care about the fact that he was thrown out of the butcher shop. Instead his curious gaze was focused on a yellow butterfly flying nearby him. When the butterfly started to fly further away, he proceeded to follow it, trying to catch it.
Everyone who saw him on the street averted their eyes upon seeing man clad in rags chasing a butterfly like some joyful buffoon. He kept chasing it until it flew into the carriage that was standing on the road, ready to go at any time.
Following the butterfly, he climbed into the carriage. Strangely none noticed him due to the fact that cab driver was at the front of the carriage talking to a soldier. Young man soon found himself inside the carriage filled with barrels. It was a big carriage, requiring eight horses to make it go. The carriage had a roof on top preventing the man from being seen once he entered the carriage.
Young man soon lost sight of butterfly. When he was about to climb out of the carriage he took a whiff and smelled the delicious aroma.
It was smell of food. He felt so hungry that reason didn’t seem to matter. He quickly proceeded to open the lid of one of the barrels.
It was filled with grapes. Young man thought himself fortunate to have found barrel full of grapes. So he proceeded to eat them as fast as he could, filling his cheeks with grapes like a hamster. He kept eating and eating without stopping.
From the outside he heard a sound.
“So, you’re off towards the prince’s castle?”
“Indeed, it’s a special delivery, highest quality grapes, prince’s favorites. He requested us to give them to him personally and leave it in his room.”
“Well, then I am off now” the voice that seemingly belonged to the cart driver said as he proceeded to take the reins of horses in order to have them gallop in the direction of tall castle at the end of the road.
Young man noticed that the carriage started moving, but he didn’t care, he just wanted to eat. The carriage driver had no idea he had an unwanted passenger on the back eating all the goods that were supposed to be given to the prince.
Young man ate so many grapes that the barrel was three forth empty. The barrel was very large, so it was impressive that he could eat so much in one sitting. Then he had a rather rational idea of getting into the barrel himself with all of his body in order to get to grapes in hard to reach parts. After he climbed into the barrel he put the lid on top himself in order to lock the smell of grapes within the barrel and prevent that sweet aroma from escaping.
Now there was no evidence that anyone was inside the carriage, it just looked like many innocent barrels.
The carriage driver proceeded to drive forward without noticing any changes. The barrel helplessly moved a little when the carriage moved over small rocks on the road.
When it came time to unpack, the carriage driver told the servants outside the royal family’s mansion to be extremely careful for this delivery was requested by prince himself. Any failure to do exactly as commanded or insubordination could be met with fatal punishment. Scared out of their wits, the servant complied and carried the barrels towards the mansion.
They were told to put the barrels inside the prince’s room and leave immediately. They did just that while noticing the large bed and the furniture inside the room. They were all red and golden in color, befitting a true royalty.
As soon as they were done they swiftly exited the room, fearing prince’s wrath if they did anything wrong.
What they did not notice however was the weight difference one particular barrel had in comparison to the rest. It was much heavier; they must have thought it was due to the barrel having slightly more grapes in it than usual. The prince was known for having a extreme liking to grapes.
From the barrel, a snoring noise could be heard. The young man had been sleeping inside of it after he was finished eating. Eating and sleeping…the most pleasurable things in life, well maybe not…there was also romantic fantasies involving women.
He kept sleeping there until the day turned to night. The door of the room was opened and the exhausted owner of the room had entered it.
“Good grief! Why do they always insist on suitors! I have enough problems as it is, they just don’t know when to stop!” the prince exclaimed furiously. He sat on his bed and started taking off his clothing. “I need to find a way to get them to support me without marriage, it’s just absurd!” prince violently threw his clothing off the bed. “It’s so frustrating! Not only that, the others only keep giving me problems, do this, do that…can’t they see I am trying….”
Still frustrated, the prince was overtaken by his urge to sleep. Completely naked except for underwear, covered only by a bed cover he dozed off to sleep.
However, the sleeping prince did not realize that he was not alone inside the room. The lid of the barrel moved and popped off, and from inside the barrel young man emerged with outstretched arms.
“Not comfortable sleeping inside a barrel” then he saw the luxurious bed made of ivory encrusted with jewels and gold plates, covered in flower shaped carvings. “Now that’s what I am talking about!” he excitedly made his way to the bed without realizing it was already occupied. Most likely because the room was not lighted considering the owner of the room fell asleep.
Feeling the soft mattress underneath him, young man put himself under the covers of the bed, and proceeded to sleep.
For some reason, all night long he dreamt of hugging something very soft against his face. So soft he could describe it as angelic. He did not realize however that he was hugging the owner of the bed in his sleep.
Chapter 2- Not Alone In Bed
As the morning sun showed itself against the curtains of the room, young man slowly opened his eyes. There he was lying on the bed from yesterday, but he was not alone. Beside him was a person who had shoulder length blonde hair, very beautiful face, straight nose, long eyelashes, very delicate lips, and very delicate skin. That was as much as he could tell from looking at the person who was covered by blanket only leaving the head visible.
Feeling somewhat dreadful, young man came close to the person sleeping next to him. “No way” while fearing the worst, he closed one eye while taking the blanket off the person.
The sight that greeted him, the bare body that is, made him sigh in relief. “Oh, it is a girl. Thanks goodness!” then he realized what he just said and looked again at the bare body, a curvaceous figure in front of him. “uh ow” this was definitely weird.
Just as he was about to sneak away from the bed, the girl opened her eyes and saw him holding the blanket with rather pervy look on his face. With fury matched only by intensity of embarrassment she proceeded to scream “NO!!!” so loudly that the person put his hands on his ears. Then she proceeded to slap him on the face.
“Ouch! So you really are a girl, huh” young man said without a hint of embarrassment. After hearing his statement the girl put her hands around her chest as if to protect herself from his gaze, but his sight was already glued on her.
“You bastard! Who sent you?” She screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Sent me? What do you mean?” young man began, but then another person burst into the room.
“Young master Sala, are you alright? I heard the scream and…” it was a maid, who looked in her late teens, black hair and black eyes, very serious expression. Nothing could be told about her figure aside from the fact that she looked enamoring in black maid dress. She saw the scene with prince Sala half-naked covering her breasts with her hands on top of the bed with man in rags standing on top of the bed. The maid’s eyes opened wide in disbelief at the scene that was in front of her.
“Um, hello?” young man said casually with a wide grin. “What’s up?”
“You scumbag” the maid radiated a killing aura around her that seemed to be permeated in bloodlust. “Do you realize what you have done?”
“Oh, I haven’t done anything, at least I don’t think so.” He said it without visible fear. Even facing a bloodlust radiating from the maid did not seem to frighten him in the least.
The maid stood there and touched a pendant on her neck. Immediately, out of thin air a sharp ax materialized itself. The ax was ornate and silverfish white in color. Without a doubt it was extremely deadly. “Not admitting your fault even when caught red handed. Unforgivable! I will purge you!” She swung the ax at him.
Young man managed to dodge by ducking down and pulling on the bed covers leaving the girl on the bed completely exposed, she shrieked.
“Master Sala!” The maid was distracted for a few seconds allowing the young man to run for his life out of the bedroom.
Shortly after, he was being chased by the scary maid with an ax. The mansion was extremely big, so while he was running, she threw the ax at him which ended up being lodged on the wall, barely missing his face.
“Wow.” He looked at her smugly. She now was weaponless.
Then, to his horror, she pulled out two more axes out of thin air, holding one in each hand she proceeded to charge. Now he was running for his dear life, a literally ax crazy maid right behind him. She threw another ax at him which landed bit too close for comfort near his foot on the floor.
Apparently they weren’t on the floor level inside the mansion, meaning there were stairs underneath it. The young man jumped off the top level from the balcony that was on the inside instead of taking the stairs. He landed inside a water fountain that was located indoors. It barely broke his fall with some water inside of it. Now he felt like a wet dog. A second later there was an ax swinging down on the fountain on the exact location where his head was just two seconds ago.
Wet, almost out of breath, young man was running inside the huge building.
“What kind of a ridiculous house is this, it’s damn too big!” it was safe to say he was lost inside the house. Now he was in a room with lots of armors. The ax maid might come very soon, he needed to do something… but what? Then an idea hit him.
When the maid entered the room full of armors, she couldn’t see the man she was chasing.
“Where are you? Show yourself!” She shouted out loud, but no response came. She walked through the room, not noticing a very suspicious looking armor moving by itself towards the exiting point of the room.
Just as the young man thought he had escaped while having the full plate armor on, he heard a sound of metal blade touching the neck of the armor.
“Hold it right there.” The sound came from behind him.
When he turned his head he saw the same girl he saw in the bedroom, only now she was wearing a towel around herself which she held by one hand, while in the other was a sharp rapier sword. The sword’s sharp tip was near his neck, he was at her mercy.
“You are coming with me!” She commanded him, as he was stuck in a helpless situation.
Internally he thought ‘What the heck have I gotten myself into?’
Chapter 3- A Crucial Discovery
Young man ended up being put inside of a wooden cage. While inside the cage he thought ‘What kind of a messed up house is this? To have a human-sized wooden cage just conveniently lying around in a personal jail room, are they some kind of jail workers? Perhaps their house has such a bad security that they have to resort to capturing their intruders on their own, then the cages would make sense.’
“Answer my question, you pervert, who sent you?” the maid said with an angry expression, thankfully she no longer had an ax in her hands.
“Pervert? Tell it to the lady in a towel, or by the way it’s slipping away” Young man retorted.
The blonde girl, Prince Sala, immediately ended up pulling the towel to her chest, now looking extremely embarrassed.
“Aurelia, I will come back in second, I need a change.” She disappeared for about two minutes and came back wearing garments befitting of a prince. Now with those clothes on, she looked like a broad-shouldered prince. The only thing that stayed the same was that annoyed expression on her face. Aurelia, the maid, kept staring daggers at the young man who just shrugged in confusion.
“Now, tell me, who is the villain who sent you? Are you someone’s spy?”
Young man just stared at Prince Sala with dumb expression “Spy? Me? Hm, I suppose I would make a great spy, but maybe not…”
“Quit mumbling to yourself and answer his highness’s question!” the maid said in a harsh tone.
“His highness? Isn’t it more like her ladyship? I mean I got a very close look and that Prince of yours is definitely a woman.” He said it without a hint of embarrassment.
“You scumbag!” she pounded on the walls of the cage he was sitting in while he was pointing his tongue at her just to make her angry.
The Prince Sala just had his arm on his forehead trying to assess the situation. “Not good, if he goes free then my secret will be out. If I kill him it will spread malicious rumors. What can I do? What can I do…” then an idea struck him.
“Oi, you bugwart, what is your name?” She asked him while the maid was pinching the young man’s cheeks in anger.
The young man said “Baaakiit?” he meant to ask what bugwart is supposed to mean, but he ended up saying something entirely else because the maid was clutching his face.
“Bakit? What a weird name.” The Prince looked at the man with serious expression. “I will give you a choices that will decide your fate. You can either chose to be killed on spot, or left in the dungeon for eternity without seeing a single soul till your demise…”
“Wow, those choices don’t seem very applicable.” Young man whispered.
“Or you can serve me.” Prince finished.
“Does that mean I can get out of the cage?”
“Yes, if you declare your loyalty to me with contract spell.”
“I don’t know how to cast that spell though” he admitted.
“I can cast it, but you need to put a drop of your blood to seal it.”
“Ok, that is fine by me.” He smiled without fear, Prince Sala was astounded how even under these circumstances he could keep his head straight. ‘Whoever trained him did an excellent job.’
“Then…” a swirl of golden energy appeared within Prince’s right palm, in it was a golden needle. He gave the needle to the young man. “Poke your hand with it.”
Young man reluctantly poked his right hand with a needle. The droplet of blood extended from his thumb and traveled along his palm until it became a writing of blood.
“Read the writing on your palm” he commanded.
“I declare my loyalty to Sala Rosine Augustus Monte Rondeleia, and I hereby sweat to follow all of his orders or suffer death as a penalty. I shall do the bidding of the one I call my master and I shall not disclose his secrets. Upon this I swear with my living soul.”
“Then the contract is complete” Prince declared.
The writing on young man’s palm not disappeared in flames, while he was looking at it with confusion filled eyes. “What just happened?”
“Now, you are my loyal dog.”
The cage opened, and the young man stepped out of it.
“You will do as I command or you will die the second you decide to betray me, is that clear?” The Prince said with an angry look in his eyes.
“Ok, that is fine by me. But is it a secret that you are a cross-dressing pervert?”
The reaction was instantaneous; the Prince lost his cool composure and leapt at the young man, what ensued could only be described as a catfight, with the Prince on top of the young man beating at him furiously.
“Prince Sala, please…” the maid apparently thought it was too much to take in, but the Prince kept punching the young man who was still smiling from amusement. For some reason he was not scared at all from this supposed Master of his, he was just glad to be out of the cage. Apparently the Prince mistook his amused reaction to mean something else, because she now was slapping him. “Wow, she definitely is a girl” he thought after hearing her angry reaction.
Just like that Sala Rondeleia gained a new servant whom she called Bakit, who reluctantly accepted position as her loyal servant.