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44 BEFORE THE WEDDING 2



Emong walked down the street, his face and body covered by a heavy cloak. The wedding was announced way ahead of time. It was a good thing that they planned their course of action an hour before the announcement. His role in the plan was then pushed forward.

He weaved down the streets, walking unhurriedly towards the most popular tavern in the middle class district. At that time of the night, many of the men congregated at that tavern for a night of drinking and relaxation. Emong was still some meters away, but he could already hear the boisterous laughter of the tavern-goers.

He entered the tavern unnoticed. He sat at the bar and ordered a drink. He listened on the topic of every group. One group caught his attention; they were talking about the Queen.

He grabbed his tankard of beer and walked straight to the men talking. The five men stopped what they were talking upon seeing the arrival of Emong.

Emong sat down at one of the empty seats and said, "Please don't stop talking. I wanted to know about the Queen."

The men looked at each other. One of them approached Emong and asked him in a low voice, "Aren't you working for the King?"

Emong scoffed, "King? Pah! What a joke! I wanted to get out of it as soon as possible. So, Queen, what's so special about her? I have heard too many people talking about it as if she's our savior."

The men felt at ease immediately because the guy was with them. The largest guy among them then placed his hand on Emong's shoulder as if to show support. But all Emong felt was how heavy those hands were.

"Boy, you've come to the right people. We'll tell you."

And so the men told Emong of what Hiro told him earlier, about Queen Alexa and what happened after her execution. Now, Emong only has to do is persuade them to support their future Queen.

"So," the large man said in conclusion, "if the Queen is against the King, then we will all stand with her and take down the ruler. But if she's not, we'll hope that our next generation could get out of this shithole."

Emong smiled, "Say, why don't we just support the Queen from the start, after all we know that the future Queen would be an anti-King?"

All five looked at him in wonder. The one on his right spoke first, "How could you be sure that the Queen will be against the King? Do you know who will be Queen?"

"Eh? You don't know?" Emong smiled at the men. "The woman the King chose to be his Queen is one of the prisoners taken from Oniro. You know Onirons are very loyal to their Kingdom. And I think that she will use this opportunity to go against the King, knowing full well that her words will finally be heard."

"An Oniron prisoner?" another man asked skeptically. "I don't think the King will do that. He knows what the Onirons are capable of! Where did you hear that load of bull?"

Emong shrugged his shoulders. "It's up to you. I heard it from the palace guards earlier. So, whether you believe me or not, I don't care. But we'll see on the wedding."


And then Emong left the tavern and hoped that the men he talked will spread the news far and wide.

***

On the balcony in General Hiro's home sat the general himself, drinking his fourth bottle of beer. He couldn't accept the fact that he would be sending his beloved to danger.

He was deliberately planning on assassinating the King at that moment to prevent Denaire from walking into fire when his thoughts were disrupted by a knock on the door.

"Come in," he said.

He knew then who came in as soon as the door opened. That fragrance, that walk, he knew it very well. He didn't look though, afraid that the tide of his emotions would break the barrier he had been building the whole afternoon.

But Denaire had a different way of thinking, for she approached Hiro and sat down beside him. She took the glass that Hiro has been drinking his beer and downed it in one go. Hiro was shocked at what she did that he couldn't move and speak for a second.

As he recovered, he took the glass and bottle away from Denaire and threw it out the balcony; a shattering sound was heard afterwards.

"What do you think you're doing?" Hiro scolded her. But instead of seeing a scared Denaire, he only saw a smiling one.

Hiro's face was in utter disbelief. "Denaire, what are you thinking?"

Denaire sighed, "I don't know Hiro. I thought that drinking would ease my fear and anxiety away."

Hiro's heart softened. "Denaire," he said softly. "You could walk away from this. I have been thinking for a while now. Maybe I should – "

"Assassinate the King?" Denaire interrupted him.

"How-how did you know?"

"I just know that something like that would cross your mind. But Hiro, we have been through this. Assassinating him is impossible and this is the most effective one. We could gather a lot more forces too. "

"In the expense of you," Hiro sighed in defeat. "I just wanted to look for a more better plan but – "

Denaire held his face and said reassuringly, "I'll be okay, I promise. I'll be fine."

Hiro smiled sadly, "The way how you say it says otherwise."

Denaire unknowingly slid down a tear which didn't escape Hiro's eyes. He wiped it away with his thumb. "Denaire, I'm afraid that the King would unhinge you. He could do very cruel things to you. I'm afraid that you will lose your mind because of him. I'm afraid that he'd be the first one to take you, one you don't love. I can't bear to think that you're selling your body to him for a chance of freedom. And that I think your first should be the one you will truly cherish, a happy memory."

Hiro was baffled at Denaire's reply, a reply that he did not want to hear at that moment, like a goodbye.