The Princess and the Emperor

BY : Raven Arrow
Category: +1 through F > Arthur and the Invisibles
Dragon prints: 384
Disclaimer: Nothing here belongs to me. “Arthur and the Invisibles” and its characters belong to Luc Besson, Celine Garcia and Europacorp respectively. I am making no profit off of this, nor do I intend to. Again, I own nothing.

Two days. She had only two days left to find a husband. Two days to find her prince, her king, her successor — the man she would give her first kiss to, who would give her children that would succeed her once her time as queen came to an end. Despite Selenia's confident tone as she told Arthur “I’ve still got time left,” deep inside, she knew there wasn’t much time left to find a husband.

Two days was enough to think about it, but it wasn’t enough time to pick and choose the right one. She had to be very precise, very careful in her decision for the man she chose would be the king of the First Kingdom, in charge of ruling her land…and she’d be bound to him as his wife for eternity — not that she would be a submissive queen, no; of course not. She would rule beside him, equally. After all, it was her land. 

Still, it was quite a big decision to make and she hadn’t even found a potential candidate for a spouse yet, much less mulled over it long enough. Back home, there wasn’t anyone who caught her eye — training and sparring were the only things that caught her attention. She hadn’t even really noticed how close her coming of age was until just a week prior, when it hit her that she would be 1001 moons old in a matter of days. In just a few days, she would be taking the throne — she would become queen. And a queen needed a king as per minimoy tradition, so she would have to bestow her first kiss to someone … but who? 

It didn’t really help that she was currently on a mission either. With focusing on their voyage to Necropolis, how could she ever find a suitor that was fit to be her king? She struggled to prioritize helping her people out by assisting the young Arthur in this quest, choosing who would get her first kiss and her inevitable confrontation with the evil M — Maltazard.

Maltazard… although she didn’t say his name aloud, it still sent chills running down her spine, yet also a strange feeling inside though she didn’t know what it was. On one hand, the mere thought of him enraged her, for he’d lived up to his name in the most heinous ways possible — countless slaughtering of villages, cities and people, bounding those who survived into slavery and betraying his own people. The evil M ruled the Seventh Kingdom with an iron fist, its founding solely for his vengeance. 

Selenia was well aware that this vengeance wasn’t the only thing that fueled him now though, for she knew he wanted control over the six remaining kingdoms, including hers, through any means necessary. Especially if it meant taking her for himself, getting her first kiss and thus, her hand in marriage and her throne as well.

Well, he wouldn’t get his way, not if she had anything to say about it. She would have to find a husband soon, or else she'd be facing Maltazard alone... alone and unwed. And she knew he would do whatever he could to get what he wanted, since she knew the power her first kiss had and why he wanted it so badly, for it wasn't just the marriage aspect and gaining rule over the First Kingdom alone. No, there was something else too, and it involved a personal thing regarding the emperor of Necropolis. 

Though when Selenia thought of what this exact thing was, she couldn’t help but feel slightly…disappointed, for some odd reason. She had known this for a while now, as the days before her ascendance of the throne neared. It was even more or less implied when one of Maltazard’s soldiers — who attacked her kingdom just a day prior, which set her, her brother Betameche and their new companion Arthur off on this journey to begin with — told her, “Selenia, the master wishes to see you. Follow us and no harm will come to you!” She knew what the soldier meant, what the emperor wanted to see her for.

He wanted her first kiss and by extension, her as his bride. He wanted her to marry him, to be his queen, to —

Her brow furrowed for a second, her fists clenching yet trembling as a sudden wave of thoughts entered her mind. What if the two days passed and she hadn't found a husband? What if she ventured into the evil M's lair alone? What would happen then? Would she be able to fight and defeat him, kill him with the sword — the sword he once held and carried so many years ago? Or would he survive? Would he overpower her— no, no, she wouldn't let him. She wouldn't bow down to him; not now, not ever. But still, she thought of the possibilities...what if he learned she was unmarried and then stole a kiss from her? An ironically painful twist of fate it would be, that was certain. 

She shook her head. She couldn't let such terrible thoughts dwell any longer. She would be married within two days, and she would face Maltazard alone and prepared. She would not submit nor bow down to him. She would not let him win. She was Princess Selenia, the future queen of the First Kingdom, thus it was her duty to see this mission through. She would succeed...or at least die trying.

Selenia gulped at the thought of being torn apart, ripped to shreds — being slaughtered for the sake of trying to bring down the evil M. She didn't want to die, but she knew some of the greatest heroes made the biggest sacrifices. And what other choice did she have, anyway? It was either she battle evil M alone, risking death by doing so, or... or marry him

She shuddered, though a part of her was curious. What would such an outcome be like? What would happen if she did marry Maltazard? She deliberated over the probable outcome. In a way, she supposed there would be some positives. For one, it could end the war between the Necropolis and the First Kingdom, thus saving countless lives. It was better than having more of her people die in battle or from raids and attacks by the emperor's army — and hell, it would even save the lives of the innocent beings who were unfortunate to live in his empire. She didn't like the thought of people dying, whether they be from her land or not. She wasn't heartless, not like he was. She didn't see people as disposable means to an end, even if they weren't on her side — she saw them as living beings, regardless of where they came from. By ending the war, many lives would be spared from a cruel end. 

Secondly, diplomatic relations would improve drastically. With Selenia's marriage to Maltazard, the war between their kingdoms would cease. Not entirely peaceful relations, but they would get there if they worked hard enough. Perhaps, their armies could even be joined. Either way, the constant raids and attacks upon her land and her people would cease.

And thirdly, well…perhaps, she could tame him easier that way. If he were her husband, he would have to listen to her, right? He would have to hear her out, since they would be bound to one another forever. So maybe, just maybe, she could make it work. 

Selenia shook her head and sighed. “No, you can’t think like that,” she scolded herself. “He’s the evil M, and you’re to be the next queen…if you wed him, he gains control over your kingdom, not to mention you and your people. You can’t let that happen. Besides, you’ve still got two days…it can’t be too hard to find the right one.” Though she didn’t sound so sure, nor was she reassured by her own words. Technically, she could go on and fight him while unwed, but there were still many risks, and she couldn’t imagine what would happen even if she did make it out there alive. What would happen if she returned to her kingdom unmarried? Her father’s disappointment — no, everyone’s disappointment would me immeasurable. The minimoys needed a new king, just as they were in need of a queen. 

But who would fill that role? Selenia looked over at the sleeping Arthur, who she had told of her need to fulfill this tradition just moments before, and she immediately ruled him out. He was a human boy, a child not of this world. How could she marry a human, much less a young one at that? She was a minimoy princess who was to be 1,001 moons soon, thus she had more experience and wisdom than he did… how could he ever match up to that? How could he ever fulfill the duty of being a king with his lack of knowledge of this world, his lack of experience even in years? She was an adult, he was a child. He was new to this world while she had all the knowledge she could ever need of it, having been born there. Moreover, she simply didn’t harness any romantic feelings for him and even if he were older, this would still be the case. The closest thing to affection she felt for him was a friendship, that’s all — nothing more, nothing less. Though she was aware he probably felt some sort of infatuation for her, she wouldn’t return that. They were too different, and not in the right way either. Even if she did hold any feelings for him, she knew it would still be unreasonable to make him the king of the minimoys — they needed a ruler who was aware of their world, the dangers, the history, its people; someone who knew everything.

So no, she wouldn’t consider Arthur, not even for a moment. She was merely helping him out, that was all. Once this mission was over, they would part ways and he would be back to his world, and she… she was still unaware what fate had in store for her. Hopefully, it was something that would benefit her kingdom and her people. It had to be. 

Perhaps, the princess would bump into a man along the way. Perhaps this man would be worthy of her first kiss. She could only hope. She could only pray to the gods she would find him because if not, then she would have to make a choice between going into battle alone...

…or marrying the enemy…

Selenia sighed as she laid back, closing her eyes as she tried to sleep, though these thoughts still consumed her mind even as she drifted off. If only she had more time. 

If only things were easier.


A pitiful insect-like soldier dressed in bright red armor entered the dark room, prodded by his fellow men who cowered behind. He looked towards them and if it were not for his helmet, they would see the fearful look in his eyes. “Why do I have to break the news to him? You know how he is when he’s disturbed!”

“You led the raid, Bruce,” one of his fellow soldiers said. “And you were the first to discover this, so you should tell him.”

Another soldier nodded and added, “Besides, it was your idea to stay behind and keep an on eye on them just to make sure the princess—”

“I know, I know,” Bruce sighed, and he shuddered a little. “But he would’ve been furious if we hadn’t made absolutely sure… besides, you two haven’t done anything aside from stand around like idiots! Why don’t you do something for once—?”

I’ll tell him.”

The osmates turned to see emperor's son, the dark prince, standing there behind them all. “But – but Prince Darkos, your—” Bruce and the other osmates began to protest, only for the prince to ignore their cries as he went to the throne room himself. 

Darkos rushed into the throne room, utmost energy in each sprint he did. If only the wings on his back actually worked, instead of sagging behind much like his father's, then he could just fly there and get the message across quicker. But alas, his wings were practically useless and served as a reminder of the unfortunate circumstances of his birth, the less than desirable results of his parents' — albeit, short-lived — union and one of the many burdens he'd inherited from his maternal side. 

“Father, father!” cried the dark prince as he entered the throne room.

There sitting on the throne — that of which was surrounded by rubies — was none other than the emperor himself: Maltazard, or better known by the rest of the six kingdoms and their residents as the evil M

Maltazard turned his head towards his son, his multi-colored eyes narrowing as he stood up and yelled, “Darkos, why is it that you dare to disturb me?!” One of the important things to note about the emperor was that he didn’t like being disturbed…at all. Especially when it came to the times when he would sit on the throne, lost in his thoughts—his schemes, mostly, but now was a different occasion. Now was the occasion where his thoughts were occupied by something more grand, or rather someone.

And both his osmates and son knew who it was that occupied his thoughts, of the red-headed princess with a fiery personality who was to have an eye kept on her at all times, especially when it came to a certain detail about her — one that the emperor had to be updated on regularly and this time, the news would please him. Or at least, his son hoped it would. “Father, I have very urgent news!”

“Well then, my son, speak up,” ordered the emperor, a brow raising. “It better be as important as you say it is, or else — well, I’m sure you’re aware of what happens to those who interrupt me for fickle matters, right?” His voice dripped with venom, with one hand balled up into a fist, claws clearly showing.

Darkos gulped and nodded. “I promise you it’s important! It’s – it’s about Princess Selenia—!”

Maltazard quickly stood up at the mere mention of the princess of the first kingdom. “What news do you bring about Princess Selenia?” he asked, voice filled with anticipation, almost a hint of strange excitement in it. He hoped the one he had been watching over carefully for so many moons was still—

“She hasn’t kissed anyone yet, Father,” Darkos whispered. “She’s unmarried. Not even her new companion has won her over, let alone any other.”

A smirk made its way across Maltazard’s face, his grimy teeth forming a grin. So she was still unwed… “Really now?” he asked, chuckling. “Is that so? Then it looks like I won’t have to do much work, after all…” Perfect. The little flower is still ripe for the picking, he thought, licking his lips. The lovely princess would be the key to breaking the curse that bound him to his current cursed form. Not only that, but she would grant him rule over the first kingdom as well, which only made him grin even wider. Everything was coming together all too well.

It seemed almost too easy. All he had to do was steal a kiss and everything was his — his old form, the first kingdom and the hand of the fair Selenia in marriage. 

To say the emperor was delighted was an understatement of the century. He was over the moon.

Darkos noticed this and backed away out of the throne room, too weirded out by his father’s sudden change in disposure. He understood why the princess was so important to the emperor, but sometimes the way the emperor would act was… strange, to say the least. Too strange even for his own son.

But Emperor Maltazard paid no mind to his son’s departure, for all his thoughts were focused upon the lovely flower he would soon pluck — the kiss that would free him of his ailments. 

His impending marriage.


Two days had passed and Selenia still hadn’t found a husband. She still hadn’t had her first kiss, hadn’t passed her powers onto anyone, hadn’t found any potential candidate the future king of her people — for all intents and purposes, she was still unmarried. To say this worried the princess was an understatement of the century. 

It wasn’t like she hadn’t tried her best to find a good suitor, but no matter where she looked, she couldn’t find anyone she was willing to give her first kiss to. She had even, just for a fleeting moment, considered settling for less no more than an hour ago — at Max's kingdom, during a dance. Until the 'king' of the party decided to be too forward in his suggestions, making her feel rather uneasy. The moment he mentioned having seven wives was the moment she gave up and decided to bail, as there was no way she would settle for such a sleaze — helpfulness be damned; she had more self-worth than that, and she wasn't that desperate. Nor was she a bigamist. She was the heiress to the throne, therefore she needed someone who was worthy of her... 

Yet she found no one who fit that role, and now time was running out. It was the last day now, or rather the last night, and she was venturing into Necropolis unmarried. Unclaimed, like a budding yellow daffodil, ready to be plucked at any given moment...especially by the claws of none other than — 

No. No, she couldn't think like that. Not now, when she was this close to confronting him. Not when she managed to beat some of his osmates and his son in battle not too long ago. Not when she had the sword, ready to strike down M. She wouldn't give up.

One of Max's friends — the one who found them as they had hidden away in the damaged straw, drifting in the water, hiding from the osmates — was currently leading them through a secret path, to their final destination. “Come on, man, follow me,” he said, gesturing for them to follow as he held a map in one hand. Selenia followed the Koolomassai man, with Arthur and Betameche trailing behind her. The path appeared to be through some sort of catacombs. “Look, if you go this way, you’ll travel safe.”

“Oh, great,” Betameche groaned.

The Koolomassai man pulled the map open, holding one end while Arthur held the other as he demonstrated it to the princess, who looked at it carefully. “This is from Max,” he explained. “It will lead you right to M’s quarters.” With that, the Koolomassai male left, leaving Selenia to study the map carefully. Her eyes were focused on the exact spot she was headed to, where her possible destiny awaited her. She looked ahead to the dark path where her destination was, so close that she could smell it…even almost taste it.

But although Selenia was mostly prepared, a part of her had this uneasy feeling inside of her, mainly in her chest. Why was that though? She didn’t understand. She had the sword, and she had been training well enough in the art of battling. She could take M on, yet something didn’t feel quite right as she told herself that. She couldn’t quite make out why, but something inside of her felt differently.

Still, she trekked onward, her brother and companion tailing her. There would be no giving up and turning back now, not when she had been anticipating this for three days. This was something she had to do, something she must do for her people, for her kingdom and even for herself — or so she told herself when it came to the final part.

Betameche was studying the map when a loud bellow echoed throughout the catacombs from the distant bar. Selenia’s ears twitched as she could faintly make out the words —

I WANT THEM!”

The trio looked around, making sure no one else was behind them. Betameche flinched as he asked anxiously, “What was that unearthly scream?”

Selenia placed a hand on her younger brother’s shoulder, causing him to jerk his head towards her, startled. “Oh, just Darkos throwing a little temper tantrum.” She snatched the map from his hands, rolling it up as she took it.

Arthur turned towards her and asked, “You think Max will be able to delay him for long?”

“Max is a real smooth talker. I think we can count on him,” she replied bluntly, as she had to admit that even though the Koolomassai DJ could be quite a sleaze, he had his own merits. Not that she didn’t still find his comments rather distasteful – oh no, she was still very much miffed by that. What kind of man thinks a woman wants to be his eighth wife? Much less let him be the king of her kingdom? Please. She rolled her eyes as she moved on, walking ahead of the two. “Come on, let’s go.”

Arthur followed her, though Betameche stayed behind for a moment to rant: “Yeah, right. How can you even think about trusting a guy like—” He turned and saw that the two were moving ahead of him and quickly scrambled to catch up to them, just as his sister cut him off.

“Don’t start, Betameche. Just keep walking and shut up, please,” she stressed the last word. It wasn’t like she didn’t love her younger brother — on the contrary, she cared for him a lot seeing as how their mother…well, the former queen been gone since Beta was really, really young, so the princess had to take to being a maternal figure of sorts while being the elder sibling at the same time, at least in their younger days. Now though as she was older, she got quite annoyed by his antics, ramblings and general behavior. It wasn’t her fault that she would snap at him or act snarky though, since he was the one who kept pushing her buttons.

“W-what’s that growling noise?” asked the prince, stammering as he dragged behind the elder sibling.

“What growling noise?” she asked, pretending as though she didn’t hear it. But she did hear the growling. She could hear it very well, but chose not to show it. It didn’t matter — she couldn’t let herself get frightened so easily, not when she was this close. Besides, she wasn’t a coward, not like her brother. So she decided to push his buttons a little. “I don’t hear anything.”

“Cut it out, Selenia,” Beta cried. “I know you’re just saying that to give me the creeps. Come on, what was it?”

She rolled her eyes and scoffed. “It’s the yeti,” she lied, trying to further push his fears just so he would shut his mouth for one second. Truth be told, she didn’t know where the growl was coming from, nor did she need to know. “It’s growling because you woke him up. Now he’s gonna eat you…” She smirked as she ascended the stairs, knowing that did the trick.

Yet Selenia still couldn't help but think of Maltazard, and for some ungodly reason...she thought of the other option she'd lamented. You can't think like that, she stressed. 

But she did think like that. She didn't know why, but she did. And it boggled her mind to no end...yet she still wondered, what if?


After a while of walking up the stairs, the trio stopped in front of wooden boards that read 'No way out.' Betameche studied the map just to make sure this was the right place, before looking up from it and saying, "This is it."

"Thank you, Betameche," Selenia said sarcastically. "Without you, we'd be completely lost." She held her hand out. "Now give me your knife."

Betameche gave her his little contraption, filled with all sorts of items ranging from weapons — one of which was, obviously, a knife — to silly little objects for his own amusement. "Okay but don't break it."

She unsheathed the knife and drove it right into the wooden board, firm enough so it had a good grip in as it let down rope. She turned to the two boys. "Come on, boys, let's go."

The two hesitated, looking nervous as the drop was pretty far. "After you, Selenia," her brother said, gesturing for her to go ahead.

"Princesses first," Arthur quickly added with a nod.

She rolled her eyes. "Men only act like gentlemen when it suits them, huh?" she asked snarkily, huffing as she grabbed the rope and slid down. Cowards, she thought as she let out a 'humph!' Can't handle a long ride down? Thought they would've stopped being so scared of heights by now. The ride down took only a couple of minutes before she found herself at the end of the rope and she let go, gracefully landing on her feet to the ground below. She had swung from higher branches back home, so this was a piece of cake for her.

Unlike her brother or Arthur, the latter of which had quite a rough landing. Of course, he was a kid and an inexperienced one at that, so she couldn't fault him too much, but still, did he have to cry out so loudly? At this rate, he was going to grab the attention of the Seides — insects the evil M had captured as his slaves to not only serve him, but help build Necropolis' empire — who would in turn then grab the attention of the osmates. She quickly pulled him aside before the slaves and guards could take notice of him. "Shh!"

“Selenia, it’s crawling with Seides!” he whispered-yelled.

“What do you think we’re hiding for?” she asked, as it was obvious.

The trio watched as the slaves pulled a cart of food, mainly fruits — crawling with smaller insects, no doubt, as the entire empire was filled to the brim with insects in general, the smallest of which were considered ‘delicacies’ despite how revolting such a cuisine was — to the main lair.

“What are they doing?” asked the young boy.

“They must be taking food to their master,” replied the princess, who couldn’t help but feel pity for them. It wasn’t their fault they served the empire, for they had no choice. They were enslaved, just as how Mino — her father’s advisor Miro’s son — probably was. Prisoners of Necropolis, prisoners of the evil M, of Maltazard. If only she could do something to free them, but what could she do? She had no power here, for she was not a ruler but a princess of another kingdom, which was at war with this one. She would try to save Mino obviously, but even then that would be a difficult feat — one that required a good plan and M’s defeat, which became more uncertain to her as she lingered on such a thought. “Let’s follow them.” That was the only thing she could do for now, sadly… if only there was a way to release them all.

So they followed the Seides and the guards, up until they were all right near the entrance to Maltazard’s quarters. It was usually around this time he would be having lunch. Perfect, Selenia thought. Time to finally settle things once and for all.

“Do you think he’s there?” asked Arthur.

Selenia nodded. “Yep.

“Wh-what are we going to do, Selenia?” asked Betameche, his voice shaking in fear.

“I’m gonna spoil his lunch,” she said determinedly, stepping forward bravely with the sword in her hand. She headed towards his quarters, ready to fight. If she was going to die, she would die with glory and take him down with her. And if she lived, she would free the prisoners and slaves and return to her kingdom and take her place as queen, somehow even without a husband. Either way, she was ready to confront the evil M.

But she heard her brother whisper he’s not gonna like that and the sound of footsteps behind her, so she quickly turned and unsheathed the sword. She held it up to near the tip of Arthur's chin, not enough to cut him obviously, as she didn't want to harm him. He was a companion and she cared for him like he was a friend, but he wasn't supposed to follow her. He was supposed to go his own way now. She would go her own way, towards Maltazard...no matter what the outcome would be. 

"But—"

"This is where our paths separate, Arthur," the princess said firmly. "I have to deal with this alone." For everyone's sake...and mine, she added quietly to herself.

"What do you mean?" the child asked. "I thought we were a team."

“Well the team is about to split up,” she went on, finally explaining the last stage of the plan. “You’re gonna go look for your treasure, and I’m gonna take care of M. If I succeed, we’ll meet back here.”

“And if you fail?” he asked, worried.

“If I should fail…” Selenia trailed off. She hadn’t found a husband yet and she certainly wouldn’t choose the boy, yet she knew the first kingdom needed a ruler as her father was growing older and older — he would be too old to run it within a hundred more years. So, she looked towards her brother. “Betameche, if I fail, I want you to take my place in the line of ascension,” she told him, as much as it pained her to say it. She didn’t want to die, nor did she want to place such a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of her younger brother, who wasn’t fit nor ready to be king, and she knew very well he didn’t want to be king either but…there wasn’t any other option. She was unmarried, thus this was the only fallback her kingdom could rely on should her mission be botched.

“What?!” cried Betameche as he ran up to his sister, though keeping a few feet away from her as he didn’t want the tip of the sword anywhere near him. “You – you can’t be serious! Me, be king? I’m too young, too lacking in any knowledge, too — I’m too me! Please tell me you’re kidding!” he begged her.

Selenia shook her head sadly. “I’m not,” she said, her tone softer yet still firm. “I have no husband, so you are the only one who could fill such a spot if I don’t return. There is a book somewhere you can read, hopefully you’ll gain some knowledge from that and this adventure we’ve been on.” She patted his shoulder with her free hand. “Be a good king, little brother.” She looked to Arthur. “And good luck, Arthur. I wish you a safe journey. May you find your treasure and return home to your grandmother.”

“But, wait—!”

“We have to—”

Selenia—!!”

Despite the protests arising from both her brother and new friend, the princess continued towards Maltazard’s quarters, quickly closing the doors behind her so they wouldn’t get any ideas of following her any further. This was something she needed to do on her own. She had to do this, as it was now or never.

So Selenia moved forward, carefully making her way through to the dining area of his quarters. She carefully moved alongside the rocks, hiding behind one as she came to the right location. She peered from behind a rock and saw him, Maltazard, walking right towards the banquet table. Although the shadows obscured his figure, she could still vaguely see his silhouette and he looked exactly as how the legends described him — a shell of his former self, man turned monster; the emperor of Necropolis, dark and cruel, taking it in strides despite the misery he brought with him. Though, she couldn't help but note there was misery within him too, for she'd been told by Miro that Maltazard had once been young and — according to some of the women who'd been around during his earlier years, before his downfall — quite...handsome. She even saw a photo of him once, before it had been taken down from the old grand hall of heroes, when she was about 900 moons old. She had to admit even now, the younger M looked quite...nice on the eyes, though she dare not say it aloud nor to anyone, for fear of sounding insane or being taken into question on her character.

It was honestly sad to know that now, he was rotting away. The wings on his bag were so disheveled, so torn up that they didn't work anymore. His armor and bandages covered his chest and stomach, which were decaying so much to the point that if he ever so much as sipped mere tea, it would fall right through. He was much taller too, more than usual. Once a handsome minimoy, he now looked like a hybrid of a weevil — an insect that played a key factor in his current beastly appearance — and whatever was left of his former self. 

Much to her own surprise, the princess felt a twinge of sympathy for him. No one deserves — wait, what are you thinking? Have you forgotten who he is? she scolded herself. Besides, he's done this to himself. Yet she didn't feel any better telling herself that.

Maltazard stopped in front of the banquet of fruits set out for him, freshly picked by some of the many slaves that served his empire. Instead of picking the fruit, however, he circled one of his talons around a small roach and stabbed it. It flailed its legs as he lifted it towards his mouth, where he then flung it inside his maw and began to crunch down upon it, gobbling up the bug as though it were a delicacy. Not that he could ever tell, for he lost the ability to taste anything a long time ago, thanks to his curse. So he ate it regardless, as food was food.

Selenia felt like throwing up and she nearly did, but she held back her vomit by putting her hand to her mouth and gulping it back down. She couldn't let him hear her or else it would alert him of where she was, jeopardizing everything. So she waited a moment before she finally, carefully, took a few steps forward, about to unsheathe her sword and strike him behind —

But the moment she reached for her sword and began unsheathing it, it let out a sharp sound that alerted the emperor of her presence, making him turn his head slightly. She gasped, breathing in and out anxiously as she looked up from the sword towards him.

“I spent entire days polishing that sword to perfection,” he said, his back still turned to her as he made a ‘perfect’ gesture with his claws. If only she could see the smirk that formed on his lips, the glint of — albeit, selfish — hope in his eyes as he had been anticipating this for so long. Finally, after years of waiting and botched attempts to retrieve her during these past couple of days, patience paid off in the end. “I’d recognize that sound anywhere.”

Selenia tried to ignore the chills that the sound of M’s voice sent down her spine, cursing herself. His voice was much calmer than she had expected, almost…soothing. Firm yet still powerful, fit for someone like him. Stop that, she scolded herself once again. Focus. She reached for the sword once more, this time fully unsheathing it. She held it in front of her, ready to strike at any given moment. 

Maltazard chuckled. Silly girl thought she was intimidating him, but little did she know he had been expecting her. Though he would admit, he was quite impressed such a short young lady could pull the sword from the stone. He recalled the first time he had pulled it out, how it had been a little hard at first before it finally slipped out and into his tight grip. Oh, those were the days… “And who else would have been able to draw the sword from the stone besides you, Selenia?” he asked, turning and flashing a classical smirk at her.

Selenia gulped. She could now see him more clearly, especially his face with those multi-colored eyes — one blue as the sky, another amber as an autumn leave like hers; yet the way they bore into her sent a cold winter-like chill down her spine, and she cursed herself again. She felt herself tremble, her hand becoming clammy as it gripped onto the sword, her arm shaking as she tried to keep it held high and ready. Focus now, focus, she stressed to herself. But she couldn’t help it. She hadn’t expected him to be this tall, to sound so…dark and brooding yet calm and soothing all at once, despite what the legends said. She wasn’t feeling fear, no, but something else — something more unnerving that ate away at her despite her inner protests, but what exactly was it that she was feeling? And how could she get rid of it? It was driving her mad. 

“I’m delighted to see you, princess,” the emperor said, bowing his head and waving his hand in a greeting gesture. And it was true; he was elated to see her. At last, the flower bloomed and was right within his reach — who wouldn’t be delighted at such a prospect? He figured playing a little nicely would help him get what he wanted. It wouldn't be long now before...well. It was only a matter of time.

“Likewise,” she snarled. “This way, I’ll be able to kill you with my own two hands!” She held the sword high as she took another step forward, trying to assert her strength and make it clear to him that she didn’t come to chat. She came to fight, and that was all he was getting. He would receive nothing else from her, no matter how courteous he could make himself out to be. He was a monster and she would treat him as such. 

“Oh, why so much hatred?” he asked as he put a hand over his chest, feigning hurt. Really, she was all bark and no bite to him. She could declare that she would slay him like a beast all she wanted, but he knew she wouldn’t go through with it or be able to even if she tried. She was no match for him.

He turned away from her, back to the banquet as she began to rant. “Because you betrayed your own people, slaughtered entire populations and bound the rest into slavery!”  She felt rage building up within her with each word she spoke. How dare he ask such a question when he was well aware of all the pain and misery he brought? How could he even think of questioning her anger when he ruined so many lives and destroyed all the close friendships and bonds he’d had? When he used those who were weaker, deemed lesser by the higher ranks in Necropolis, as slaves to continue building his empire, which in of itself was founded on the basis of revenge against the first kingdom that had once been his home? She clenched one hand around the sword tightly, and another fist clenched even harder to the point where she felt her nails digging into her skin. How dare you ask questions you know the answers to? “You’re nothing but a monster!” she spat.

That set Maltazard off. It was one thing for her to spout silly threats, that he could tolerate, but what he wouldn’t tolerate was her talking of things she had no true understanding or knowledge of. Didn’t she ever learn to keep her mouth shut until she knew all of the facts, to not speak of things she know not of? Apparently not. “Speak not of monsters!” he snapped as he quickly turned to her, waving his arm to silence her. She yelped and jumped back startled while he glared down at her, eyes narrowing. “Nor of things which you are ignorant.” He raised a clawed finger at her, then turned from her as he began to walk around the table, explaining his side of the story.

“Back in the time when I was known as Maltazard the Good, Maltazard the Bountiful, He Who Watches and Protects, I inspired such confidence that when the drought came—” as he was reminiscing the past, he grabbed a piece of apricot, crumbling it up and letting its flaky remains drift down and ascend to the ground for emphasis “—one which lasted a thousand years, I was the one they chose for the crusade with the task of bringing back water, of course.” He balled his fist up proudly, determinedly. “But also, all the riches I could reap. Maltazard the Conqueror!” He lifted his hand up triumphantly, recalling the first taste of victory he’d gotten, centuries ago — at least centuries in their world terms, unlike the time passage terms that damned outsider would use.

Selenia rolled her eyes. “Ugh,” she grunted. He was so arrogant, so full of himself — not that she expected him to have any humility, but could he at least tone it down and not make it so obvious? Good grief. She suppressed the urge to comment on his stuck-up nature, holding her tongue. Let him brag and stick his head in the clouds of the past all he wants, she told herself. The more he talks, the less he’ll pay attention to you. Then you can strike. But for some reason, she didn’t find herself raising the sword — the same sword that he once held in his hands — for such an act. Rather, it stayed in its exact position in her hand. She didn’t understand, but she kept listening to him go on about his past accomplishments, how he was once a hero.

“How they praised and applauded me when I left, but I faced every hardship quite alone,” he continued, raising a finger as he uttered ‘but.’ “The hostile lands, the ferocious beasts, the bloodthirsty tribes lurking in the depths of contaminated plateaus, where even the humans dare not go.” He turned to her for a moment, their eyes meeting for a few minutes — hers staring him down as she stood across from him, while his glanced at her for a few seconds, then looked down. “But I survived all that.” He turned to the banquet, picking up a dried blueberry. “And having accomplished my mission, I returned to my village.” He crumbled it up in his hands, looking up with triumph — with an unfamiliar look of joy, a brief awe, wonder and…happiness — as he sprinkled the remains of it amount, as though the flakes were confetti floating about. He could remember the praises he had once gotten, the cheers that greeted him, how the citizens of the first kingdom had chanted his name with joy, some even calling for him to be their next king. Indeed, those were the golden days, and oh how he looked back at them ever so fondly. “Maltazard the Hero!” An unfamiliar smile graced his lips, a genuine one which surprised and perplexed his ‘visitor.’

Selenia rolled her eyes again, watching as the fragments of crumbled up blueberry fell in front of her. He sure had a knack for visuals, she'd give him that. Now if only he had went with performing instead of wallowing in this own filth, which led him to becoming...this.

Maltazard went on, walking towards her with each word he spoke. “Yet it was not long before the diseases and bewitchments which I’d encountered during my voyage began to disfigure my body.” He looked at his left arm with disgust, repulsed by his own revolting appearance. He was once handsome, so handsome that women flocked to him left and right — not that he entertained any of them, of course; he wouldn’t indulge in anything beneath him, no matter how he soaked up their praises and compliments and amused them for his own fun — but now he was a vile creature, rotting even at this very moment. What a painful twist his life had taken…though not in the way he was describing it now, but the reality was more humiliating, more painful to even acknowledge, so he lied a little. Not that a single lie mattered, for he was merely educating the princess before him, who needed to be knocked down this peg she set herself up on. She might have had what he needed, but that didn’t mean he would let her get away with ignorance. She was beautiful, yes, but she needed to learn a thing or two. 

“Fear spread through the people, fear of contamination.” Their eyes met again, her gaze less harsh. Clearly, his words were drawing her in. Good. “People stopped speaking to me. They crossed the street when I approached.” He stepped closer and closer, ignoring the sword which was now held right near his throat. The emperor wasn’t fazed by this as he knew she didn’t have the guts to drive the sword through, to slit his throat then and there. He was the ruler of necropolis and she a mere princess; it was clear who had the real power here, regardless of any…special qualities one of them possessed. “And very soon, I became Maltazard, the evil M.” The last words came out in a harsh whisper, to iterate his point further. 

She shook her head. She knew he was leaving things out, purposefully rewriting real events to hide his own sins, to tiptoe around acknowledging his own faults and errors. She wouldn’t let him lie to her, expecting her to believe every word that came from that filthy mouth of his. “Uh uh, the version recorded in history books is slightly different,” she said with a cheeky smile, turning away from him and walking off as she recounted the true tale of his downfall. At least, the one she had been told, that she read of, which was more believable than a supposed bewitchment disfiguring him. She wasn’t stupid, she wasn’t naïve — she knew what she spoke of, no matter how much he lied to himself about his own past, of his own fall from grace. He moved back slightly, fiddling with his talons, eyes narrowing defensively — almost anxiously, perhaps even a little nervous — as she went about telling some things he had omitted. “It is said that when you returned from your voyage, you celebrated for months on end, each day sinking a little further into drinking and debauchery until you began keeping company with the worst kind of insects.”

With each word that left her mouth, she would glance back at him for a few seconds and see how his glared at her in irritation, as if telling her to stop. But she didn't stop. “Even poisonous ones.” She ran her fingers over the sword, looking at her reflection in it as she twirled and played with it, careful not to cut herself. She had this playful tone in her voice, which drove the point further in its own way, much to his dismay. “Like a certain pretty young, uh…” She turned to him, trailing off on the words in a teasing manner as she asked, “Weevil?”

Maltazard had enough. “Silence!” he shouted, waving his hand threateningly as he couldn’t bear to hear any more of his past brought up. He couldn’t bear to listen to this… this insolent girl mock him by bringing up his own misfortunes.

Selenia shrugged, amused by how she managed to embarrass the emperor, the one who drove fear into so many people’s hearts yet couldn’t handle hearing about his own past. It was ridiculous, yet funny.  “You gave her powers to her, she gave her powers to you,” she said simply.

Maltazard waved his arm again, signaling for her to stop. “That’s enough, I tell you!” he yelled in a begging manner, then hunched over as he turned back to the table, gripping the sides of it in humiliation. How dare she bring up his past in an attempt to knock him down a peg? Didn’t she know when to hold her tongue? So he turned to rather undesirable activities, but it wasn’t without reason. If she had been through what he had prior, then she would have seen where he came from, why he resorted to drinking and hanging around less than well-meaning individuals. His fists clenched. If that damned human hadn’t come here and bewitched them with his frivolous books… none of this would have happened. The emperor wasn’t entirely to blame. No, a good chunk of the fault went onto that damned temptress of a weevil…and Archibald, he who stole the peoples’ praise from him despite not having done any heroic deeds like M had. What did that human bring with him? Not water to cure droughts, like M had, but a book. A book the people became so enamored with, for some reason, yet they never once consulted him to write in it—they just focused on Archibald this, and Archibald that… the king of darkness scowled. At least he showed him

She kept playing around with the sword, still running her hands along it in amusement. He turned his head and looked back at her. “I was…drunk,” he said slowly, defensively as he raised a finger in protest.

She turned to him and shrugged once more. “Uh, well, if you can’t hold your liquor, you shouldn’t indulge.” She looked back at the sword, finding his defensive nature rather entertaining. She had him right where she wanted, and in the easiest way too. Who knew the emperor of Necropolis could be so sensitive about his own mistakes? 

Maltazard’s shoulders collapsed and he shook his head, admitting: “Yes, I know. I let myself go a bit.” He fully turned to the princess and continued, “And it’s true, she stole a kiss from me.” He began to walk towards her and gestured to his talons, to his disfigured body. “One single kiss which has ruined my entire life.

Selenia glanced at the emperor. “Next time, try being a little more selective in your choice of partners,” she said cheekily.

“Next time, my partner will be the most beautiful of all,” he replied with a smirk, taking a few more steps closer to her. Standing across from him was the key, the solution to his ailments — the antidote to his sickness, the cure to the curse that left his body in its current state of decay. And she was twiddling her fingers, looking down, unaware that she had walked right into the lion’s den. “She whom I have watched blossom like a delicate flower…” As he came close enough to the point where they were only a step away from one another, he bent over to continue in a whisper, “And whom I have long dreamt of picking.” He pointed a clawed finger at her, grinning.

She swished the sword, quickly snipping off the claw up to the tip of his finger. He looked at the now short finger, startled though not hurt, for he had lost all ability to feel long ago thanks to his curse — which was both fortunate and unfortunate at the same time; fortunate that when he was cut, such as right now for example, it didn’t hurt him, but unfortunate that he couldn’t feel warmth or even…other types of pleasure, instead he was just numb. Though now, looking at his stub of a finger, he couldn’t help but feel a little bit impressed by the girl’s audacity — quite a daring action, one that no other would have dared to even try, but she wasn’t like any other, which was exactly why he chose her.

“Watch yourself,” she warned him in a playful tone, a smile donning her pink lips. “Delicate flowers might have thorns.”

Maltazard's grin grew wider as there was a glint of excitement in his eyes as he spoke, “Yes, and this lovely flower alone has the power to release me from the spell that binds me and make me look like my old self again.”

“Only the very first kiss of a princess has the power,” Selenia reminded him, having forgotten one important detail about her own self for a moment as she was relishing in knocking him down a couple of pegs. He was still too confident in himself. What a fool, she thought. But she didn’t realize she had played herself. Not until…

“I know,” Maltazard said, a serious look suddenly crossing his features. “And if my information is correct…” He studied her face for a moment. “You are still unmarried.

Selenia was about to make a snarky reply, until his words sunk in. Her breath caught in her throat, her stomach churning and her body trembling once more as she suddenly remembered… and then realized that he was correct. She cursed herself even more than she had the previous times, for she had assumed he wouldn’t find out, that he wouldn’t know — but he did know. He knew everything. Her mouth became dry, the sword nearly slipping from her clammy hands as thoughts raced through her mind.

One of the osmates must have told him. Maybe Darkos got the message through and sent one before we arrived here. She breathed in and out as she tried not to let the anxiety building up within her take over. Doesn't matter. He knows you're unmarried now. So what will you do now? Lying's out of the question. She pondered for a few seconds. She could try to strike at him now, drive her sword right through him yet when she tried to get a good grip on the sword, her fingers trembled and ached, her palms too clammy to get a tight hold on the weapon. Her breathing became more rapid as the anxiety began taking control. I — I can't do it, she confessed quietly.

And the other half of her mind screamed at her, reminding her she had come to fight him yet no matter how hard she tried to raise her sword, it fell down from her hands and clattered to the floor. The princess looked at the fallen weapon, then back up at the emperor, her amber eyes meeting his multicolored orbs. That damned smirk of his grew even more as he knew he had her right where he wanted her, and she hated that.

“Is my information correct or not?” Maltazard asked smugly, tapping his foot against the floor as he waited for her response.

Selenia gritted her teeth, taking a deep breath in, then out. Finally, she replied in a quiet voice, “Yes, your information is up to date.”

He chuckled. “Well, Selenia, it seems you aren’t as clever as I thought you were.”

She shot a glare at him, hissing: “Shut up or I’ll — I’ll strangle you, you no-good scoundrel!”

“Now, now, Selenia, there’s no need to resort to such vulgarities,” said Maltazard, tsking and shaking his head at her. “Besides, you and I both know you can’t do that. Unless, of course, you wish to try — though I will warn you, I have dodged such attempts on my life before when I was younger. So you might not have as much luck as you did with my finger.” He held up the clipped talon and added, “Which, by the way, wasn’t as effective as you may think it is. If you haven’t noticed, I can’t feel pain.” He flicked the nail away. 

“I know you can’t feel anything,” Selenia growled, glaring further at him. “Both on the outside and inside, you’re as numb and cold as ice. It suits you, really.” She thought on his words regarding her threat, his comment on how he had dealt with past murder attempts and sighed. He was right…she couldn’t fight him. Even if she could hypothetically take him down, there was something inside her that lacked the will to fight. “…but you are right, I can’t fight you. I don’t know why, but I can’t.” She shook her head. “But I’m not going to sit back and do nothing,” she declared. “I know what you want, what you plan on doing, and I cannot stand idly by and allow the destruction of my people to happen! As the future queen, it is my duty to ensure the safety of them and my kingdom.”

“Oh how noble you are,” Maltazard teased her. “Such courage and loyalty.” He walked around her, a mischievous look in his eyes. He knew where her priorities laid, but he had his own — and he wasn’t going to shy away from letting them be known either. “Well just like you, I have my own duties as emperor — furthering my empire, allowing my own people to thrive… and curing myself of this damned curse that has plagued me for so many decades on end.” He gestured at himself, his decaying form. “For heaven’s sake, look at me! For years and years, I have been slowly decomposing. I cannot taste, I cannot feel — oh yes, the immunity is a wonder, but it comes at the cost that my flesh is dying so much I can’t even drink tea anymore because my stomach is rotten to the point it doesn’t even hold it in!”

For a moment, in the look of despair that flashed across Maltazard’s face, Selenia saw a bit of vulnerability. It shocked her to see him like this, so pitiful to the point where she…she actually felt sympathy for him. And that shocked her too, the fact she felt a semblance of compassion towards her enemy. She didn’t understand it, but it was how she felt and she couldn’t convince herself he deserved this, because she knew no one did. No one deserved to decompose so much to the point where they were half dead essentially, at least on the outside. She wouldn’t wish such a thing upon anyone, not even M — not when she saw the effect it had upon him.

“So forgive me for having my own priorities in mind,” Maltazard continued, eyes narrowed at her. “I don’t even ask much from you, princess.” He stopped in front of her, once again bending down to her level. “Just one kiss, is all…”

She looked at him for a moment and thought about it. On one hand, she felt a strange sense of compassion for him and wished to see him relieved of his pain, only because she didn't like seeing anyone suffer for she had a heart. But on the other, if she kissed him, she would be marrying him, thus making him the king of the minimoys and giving him rule over her land. She couldn't take such a risk, not when she wasn't sure of the exact consequences. “But if I do that, you will become king of the first kingdom. You will have control over my kingdom, over my subjects. How do I know you won't spread your destruction right over there upon them, enslaving them like you've done with the seides? How can I take such a bold leap and marry you?”

He feigned hurt once again. “I can’t believe you would think so lowly of me. Why must you be such a downer?”

“Forgive me for keeping the safety of the citizens and kingdom as a priority,” she said snarkily. “But like I’ve said before, I have my duties as future queen. I cannot make such a bold decision in choosing you as my king and risk potentially destroying my own land as I know it. I have to know if this will be a rational choice or not.” She stepped closer to him. “So, you will have to do a lot more than just ask for a simple kiss. If you want a favor from me, you’ll have to do me a favor in return — that’s usually how these things work, correct?”

Maltazard frowned. She was so stubborn and yet, she had a point… yes, how could he have been so naïve to think she wouldn’t ask about the well-being of her precious kingdom and people? How could he have not thought of the fact she would ask him for a favor in return? “You are more clever than I thought, after all,” he remarked. “Yes, you are correct — that is usually how it works.” He pondered for a moment, thinking of words to say, and sighed. “Alright, I shall grant you a favor in return.”  

Selenia raised an eyebrow at him. “Go on, I'm listening…”

“If you give me your first kiss, then I shall cease all the raids upon the first kingdom,” Maltazard began, making gestures with his talons as he did so. “After all, if I am to become king, then there is no need to continue the war, is there? Your people will be spared and taken care of well. There won’t be any destruction, enslavements, slaughter or hostile takeover of any kind, just a fair rule.” He flashed a smile at her as he saw the intrigued look on her face. Yes, he was grabbing her attention and pulling her in — good! “Moreover, I will personally send some osmates to take care of things over there, since there’s much work to be done.”

“So you promise peace and diplomacy?” she asked him, sounding a bit hopeful. She knew she couldn’t get her hopes too high or expect much from him, yet what he offered was very promising. If it benefited her land, then she couldn’t really object. She needed the stability, less war and more diplomatic relations for the sake of everyone back home…even if it meant making a deal with M himself.

“Of course,” he said, nodding with a smile, which she couldn’t tell was genuine or not. “If the citizens there are to become my subjects, then I have to rule over them justly, don’t I? That is what your people expect from their new king…that is, if you choose to give them one. You only have until the evening to find a husband.” He turned from her with a shrug, smirking to himself as he saw her falter from the corner of his blue eye. “I cannot imagine how they would react once the news reaches that you have chosen to remain unmarried, leaving them without any king or future heirs. After all, your father won’t live forever…” He saw her bite her lip and grinned even wider. Yes, it’s working. Soon, I shall pluck the lovely flower from her stem. “Besides, it is better for a princess to marry an emperor who was once a hero of her kingdom than say, a child with no experience in ruling any land or a Koolomassai who spends nights partying away, unable to keep his vow to a single wife, let alone seven. Familiarity and devotion always help.”

The princess nodded, eyes gazing far off as she realized he had some good points. All of her other options would result in an unstable rule. She needed stability for her people in the form of someone who knew the land well enough and, well, Maltazard did know of the first kingdom. As much as she hated to admit it, she knew he had experience, despite the doubts she still had. And she couldn't return home unmarried, facing not only everyone's disappointment but also the despair that would follow, for indeed her father wouldn't live too long. There was a need for a successor and heirs, and where else would they find one? She couldn't afford to wait any longer, nor could she find anyone else. She was left to take what she could get and if that was in the form of a marriage to Emperor Maltazard, the evil M, ruler of the Seventh Kingdom, Necropolis... then so be it.

“And as a cherry on top, I’ll even let your friend and brother go back home safe and sound,” the emperor added. “I’ll even have the guards escort them back myself, if you so wish.” Seeing the way her eyes lit up slightly at that, he knew he had her right then and there — hook, line and sinker. “I shall grant you all of these, in exchange for one thing.”

Selenia stared at M for a moment, finding herself stammering as she asked, “All of this…for a kiss?”

Maltazard nodded at her with a smile. “Yes, just a single kiss and my curse shall be lifted, all my ailments shall be cured and I’ll be back to my old self once more.” He raised his finger. “Only if you grant me that favor shall I grant the favors I promise you.” He smirked at her, raising an eyebrow as he asked her, “So what do you say, my lovely flower? Does that sound like a fair trade?”

Selenia looked down, thinking over everything carefully. Everything he promised made her hopeful that her kingdom could benefit from such a marriage yet she still was uncertain. How could she know if he wasn’t lying to her? She couldn’t be too sure…but what other choice did she have? She couldn’t fight him, not when she felt this strange sympathy for him, and she knew it would only risk more war and deaths if she dared to pick up the sword and go through with her initial mission. She couldn’t let any more slaughtering, any more pillaging and slavery happen. She would not risk the safety of thousands — even millions — for her own stubborn side. The first kingdom needed peace and prosperity and well, even Necropolis did too. Such a land was founded for all the wrong reasons and perhaps, it was time to right those wrongs. A treaty of peace between both lands would lead to good relations, or at least decent ones. Furthermore, he was even promising to let Betameche and Arthur go, and she couldn't let them become prisoners — or even worse, end up like the seides. 

She needed a king, a husband, and he was offering to solve that problem of hers and even grant all the necessities for the first kingdom. No more violent raids, no more war, diplomacy and a decent rule — all of that would be given in exchange for her first kiss, one simple action that could make a big difference. She thought back to when she had asked herself what would happen if she did marry the evil M, and realized that she was now being forced to decide between that...or an ongoing war. 

It was a tough decision to make, a deal that would lead to some big consequences no matter which path was taken. So in the end, Selenia chose the path that seemed the least destructive.

“Yes,” she replied at last, nodding slowly. “It sounds like a fair trade.” She took a deep breath in, then out. “Alright then, Maltazard, I shall grant you my first kiss — one single kiss.” 

He grinned widely at her. “A wise decision that I can assure you shall not regret, Selenia,” he said confidently, pleased with the princess’ choice. Finally, he had won her over. “In return for this, I shall lend you the favors I promised.” In reality, he didn’t care about anything else — he just wanted their lips to touch, to be healed at last. And soon, he would have just that.

Selenia licked her lips nervously, her mouth and throat drier than a desert as she gulped. She felt sweat trickle down her forehead, her heart pounding furiously in her chest. Her face heated up, feeling hotter than the summer air. Her ears twitched anxiously. Her body was experiencing all this as she prepared herself for the kiss, for her marriage. She saw Maltazard lick his own lips, looking her up and down like a hunter would look at his prey. A part of her screamed at her to run, to get out of here while she still could but her feet were planted firmly on the ground where she stood, another part of her telling her to stay and go through with it. This was the only way, so she closed her eyes and stood on the tip of her toes, puckering her lips for a quick peck…

…only for Maltazard to pick Selenia up in his arms and smash his lips onto hers in a rather intense kiss, much to her shock and surprise. Her eyes shot open wide and she kicked her legs, pounding her fists onto his back, only to freeze when she felt his tongue poke at her lips. She gasped and he took the opportunity to slip his tongue inside her mouth, darting it around. She moaned as he dragged his tongue across her jaw, her teeth, studying every inch of the cavern and eventually, her own tongue. While he might not have felt it due to his curse, she did. She felt all the waves of pleasure from what was meant to be a single kiss, and as much as she hated to admit it, it felt...astounding. She couldn't help but cave into the overwhelming sensations that erupted from a single action, her limbs became limp and her eyes closed again as she allowed him to kiss her so intensely.

The princess shivered at the emperor's touch, wondering why she hadn't been told of this kind of kiss before — why she was only told of a simple peck on the lips. They made it sound so simple, so brief, so...plain. No one ever told her a kiss could be this sensational. She hated herself for enjoying it, for enjoying him as she knew he was the enemy, but damn it, he was good. Really good. Despite the harsh smell of his breath, the stench of him in general, the amount of rapture she felt from his tongue darting alongside hers was enough to make her give in and ignore all of her worries, all of the troubles and questions that plagued her for just this moment. 

Maltazard smirked as he noticed the princess giving in, taking the opportunity to brush a hand on her thigh, arousing another moan from her. It turned out much easier than he could have ever imagined. He had expected a fight, but instead she'd been willing to go along with the deal — willing to give him her first kiss. It was a blessing that she was so loyal to her people to the point of agreeing to this marriage, and now here he was: picking the delicate flower, marrying the beautiful princess and thus, lifting his curse. Patience truly was a virtue after all. He continued to drag his tongue on hers and stroke her thighs, savoring her shivers and little cries as he waited for the transformation to occur. 

And sure enough, it did. 

The first thing Maltazard felt was his size changing. He stood taller than practically everyone else in the kingdom and yet, as the kiss continued, he was growing shorter. Short to the point where he was only a mere few inches taller than Selenia, to the point where her legs and feet touched the floor again, not that she seemed to notice as her eyes were still shut. The second change that came was that the numbness and lack of taste disappeared, which was quite a benefit considering he now could feel the princess’ soft skin on from touching her thighs, and taste her tongue — which aroused a moan from him now, as much as he cursed himself for that. But she tasted nice, he had to admit. He would have to savor her more later. She truly was a lovely flower. 

The third change that came was that he noticed his hands and legs transforming, much to his delight. Instead of the grotesque, rough grey skin equipped with talons at the end of his bony fingers, he saw his hands slowly transform to their former state — normal pale skin, still a bit rough but not as gravelly as it'd been when he was under his cursed state, with regular length nails. A slight disappointment that he couldn't slice things as easily as he did before, but a minor price to pay as he was being healed with each second of this blessed kiss. Underneath the bandages, he felt his legs return to their regular state, no longer did he feel the sores and scaly callouses he had acquired from the poisonous kiss of the weevil, but instead he felt them return to the lanky yet athletic and nimble state they had been before, all healed up now. He didn't feel the strain he usually felt anymore. 

The fourth change was that his chest was healed up too. No more sores and scaly grey skin, no more decay and no more numbness — underneath the bandages on his chest, he felt good as new. He was back in his old skin again. 

Which led to the fifth and final change. His head — his face — it felt different now. His tongue felt shorter than it had just minutes ago, to the point where he quickly pulled the appendage out of the princess' mouth and back into his own. With it, he felt around inside his own mouth and saw his teeth were normal again. He felt hair on his chin — the short beard he once had back when he was a regular minimoy, it was back. Maltazard pulled his hand away from Selenia's thigh and felt around his head, knocking the regal head garment he usually wore off to feel his ears which were now back too, and — oh, his hair! His once long and gorgeous black hair was back! Though not tied up as it had been before, as it now reached a bit past his shoulders. He would tie it up later. 

Maltazard pulled away to not only catch his breath, allowing his new wife to do the same as well, but to also take a good look at himself now that he had been healed. He looked down at the marble floor, smirking as he saw his reflection, marveling at the sight. He was back at his old self again, even had the scars around the corner of his mouth and eye — indeed, the kiss has restored every part of him back to his glorious self. He marveled at the sight, counting the blessing he had received in the form of their mouths clashing. 

“Yes…yes!” M laughed triumphantly, chest puffing out proudly. To say he was delighted was an understatement — he was more than thrilled to have been healed after centuries of being stuck in that decomposing, monstrous form. “At last, I’m back to my old self again!” He looked to his new wife. “Thank you, my dear, for your service has brought me immeasurable joy.” And pleasure.

Selenia panted, trying to catch her breath after the rather intense first kiss she just had. It was quite good, but it literally left her nearly breathless afterwards. She breathed in and out rapidly, until she finally started to breathe normally again after a few minutes. She leaned against the table for a moment, eyes finally opened as she looked at the marble floor, at her own reflection. She couldn’t believe what she had just done. She gave her first kiss to Maltazard. She married him, making him king of her land and people. But they had made a deal, she then reasoned. If she healed him, he wouldn't wage war any longer and he would be a fair ruler and he would even let Beta and Arthur go — that was their agreement. 

Speaking of Maltazard, Selenia registered his words and looked up from the floor. She saw her new husband standing across from where she was, her eyes widening as she took in his changed form. She was aware that prior to his disfigurement, he had been quite the looker and had seen a photo of him before his downfall, but she hadn't expected him to be this handsome in person. She felt her cheeks flush, her lip quivering as she looked him up and down. Damn it, she cursed herself. Why can't you control yourself? Focus — you did your half of the deal, now he has to do his. She shook her head and cleared her throat. “You're welcome,” she said, trying to sound formal despite the rather heated moment that had occurred not too long ago. “So, now that that's settled, I believe it is time you grant me my favors.” 

Maltazard turned to her, an amused look crossing his newly restored features. It didn’t appear as menacing as it would have before since he now had the appearance of a regular minimoy, yet it still carried the same level of arrogance. “Now what’s the rush, my flower?” he asked in a playful tone, which felt quite condescending to her. “We’ve just had our wedding. Don’t you wish to celebrate?”

Selenia stared at him. “As much as I’d love to celebrate, I’d like to remind you that we had a deal,” she said firmly as she took a few steps closer. “I did my end of the bargain with the kiss, now it’s time you do yours with everything that you promised. Especially since the kiss was…longer than expected or planned.” She blushed at the last part, much to her dismay.

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, I know, we had a deal. No need to remind me — the bargain was made just minutes before our marriage, which by the way, was much better than I could have ever hoped for. Once again, I must thank you, my lovely bride.” He bowed to her as he had done when she had first came to his quarters, that damned grin seeming to appear again; she was beginning to get annoyed by it now, along with him. 

“Again, you’re welcome, but really, Maltazard, you have to keep your promise.” She put her hands on her hips. “I gave you the healing, now you give me my kingdom’s security and my brother and friend’s freedoms in turn. As your wife and empress, I command it.”

The emperor chuckled, amused by his wife's boldness. She was only empress as of a few minutes ago. She hardly had any power yet and here she was commanding him, the ruler of Necropolis for centuries. “Oh my dear sweet Selenia, we haven’t been married for even an hour, and already you think that you have so much power here.” He shook his head and tsked at her, taking a step close to her now. “I don't recall promising to grant the favor right away, especially since I haven't even had the chance to fully enjoy myself now that I'm healed. We haven't even started the festivities or had a wedding banquet yet.” He leaned in even closer to whisper into her ear, “Besides, I think you have forgotten one very important detail.”

“And what is that?” the princess asked, snorting.

“Not only am I the emperor of Necropolis, but with this marriage, you’ve granted me rule as king of the First Kingdom as well,” he explained, smirking. “Ergo, I have all the power and say what shall happen next. You have no power over me yet, princess…but as your king, I have power over you and what happens to my new land and new subjects. And right now, I don’t feel much like tending to diplomacy. I’d much rather enjoy my old self again, especially with my new bride…” He began to wrap an arm around her, humming the wedding march. 

She slapped his arm and pushed him back slightly. “You — you no good, lying son of a—!”

He raised his finger at her, no longer taloned but still lengthy. “Ah, ah, ah! Now is that any way to treat your husband?”

“Yes, when he’s being a scoundrel like you are right now!” Selenia shouted angrily, pointing her finger at him now. “We made a deal, and now you have to grant the favors you promised! Otherwise, there will be no celebrations, no—”

“Now what’s the rush, dear?” Maltazard asked calmly, placing his hands on his hips now. By the gods, this woman was so fiery and stubborn. It was attractive, he had to admit, yet it was getting rather irritating too at the same time. “We can sort this all out later.” That wasn’t something he could promise, since he’d only really cared about being healed — though he did admit being king of the minimoys now was a good bonus, since it meant one less kingdom to take over, and gaining the throne had been easier than he expected. Plus, he had the flower in his grasp…which made it all the more exciting and was something he would like to savor in the moment. “Right now, you need to calm down. Why not have a bite to eat?” He picked up a small cockroach between his fingers, offering it to her.

Selenia grimaced and pushed his hand away. “No thank you,” she dismissed. Her eyes narrowed as she saw him shrug and chuck the insect into his mouth, crunching it up. He wasn’t taking her seriously, and she hated that. She was his wife — his queen — now, he should be listening to her for heaven’s sake! “I won’t repeat myself after this,” she spoke sternly. “You said you would be a fair and just ruler. I want to see that happen, and I want to be sure that Betameche and Arthur will be—”

“Master?” came a shaky voice, belonging to none other than one of the many osmates.

Maltazard turned sharply in the direction of where the voice came from, eyes narrowed as he raised an arm, ready to strike as he bellowed: “Who dares disturb me?!”

The osmate blinked for a moment, surprised to see the emperor looking…normal. He saw Princess Selenia there and guessed that the wedding must have gone over successfully, after all. Then he quickly shook his head, remembering what he was there for. “It’s me, Bruce, I — I have important news.”

Maltazard walked over to the osmate, glaring at him. “What could be of importance now? The princess is now married, as you can clearly see…” He gestured to himself. “And I’m no longer a shell of whom I once was. So what, pray tell, could be so important that you have disturbed me from having quality time with my bride?” He made a gesture to the bride in question, who scowled at him.

“We’ve — we’ve caught two trespassers,” said Bruce, trembling under the emperor’s glare. Even now that the cursed form was no more, the king of Necropolis was still absolutely horrifying to the soldier. “A child with white hair and—”

Selenia gasped. “Arthur, Betameche!” she cried in dismay as she ran over to the osmate, grabbing him by the scruff of his neck. “Release them at once!” she snarled, shaking Bruce violently. The osmate screeched and tried to pull her hands off him, only for the emperor to yank her off by himself. 

“Now, now Selenia, it’s unbecoming of a queen to treat her subjects in such a manner,” Maltazard scolded, shaking his head mockingly as his new wife struggled in his grasp, kicking her legs defiantly. “Much less a solider.”

“I don’t care whether I’m unbecoming or not!” Selenia spat, trying to yank her new husband’s arms off her. “You gave me your word, you said you’d let them go — you lied! You conned me! All you wanted was my kiss—!”

“That’s not entirely true,” said Maltazard, acting offended. In reality, he had what he wanted, and that was all he focused on right now: his victory. Besides, since they were married now, he might as well have some fun, no? “I did want the kiss, yes, for it was my only way of being cured. But I didn't con you. I'm not giving up on my word. I'm merely taking my time. You ought to learn a thing or two about patience.” He then looked to the osmate. “Bruce?”

“Yes, master?” asked the osmate, fearfully looking between the emperor and the new empress, who now horrified him as much as his boss did. For such a short woman, she sure had a quite the grip. Maybe the emperor was into that sort of thing. He shuddered inwardly at the thought. 

“Take the prisoners away,” Maltazard ordered in a simple manner, as if it were any other duo and not the specific two he included in his favor.

Selenia’s eyes widened at the command. The osmate nodded and began to head off. The princess struggled in the emperor’s hold as she shouted, “YOU SWINDLING CHARLATAN! YOU PROMISED YOU’D LET THEM GO, YOU SWORE TO ME YOU’D—!”

“And I shall let them go…just not now,” the emperor responded smugly. “Really, it’s no big deal, my lovely flower.”

Selenia was fuming by now. “NO BIG DEAL?! THAT’S MY BROTHER AND FRIEND YOU’RE THROWING IN THE DUNGEONS, YOU—YOU—UGH! I can’t even look at you!” She looked away from him.

He stared at her for a moment. The princess was like a flame that refused to go out, a very persistent one she was. No matter — she still wasn’t any match for him, even as the new empress. “Perhaps another kiss might help?” he teased her. “Since you seemed to enjoy the first so much—”

“Go to hell, you monster!” she shouted.

That did it for him. He tolerated her stubbornness and lack of manners up until that point. Wife or not, he wouldn’t allow her to speak of such things, especially not when he was being so generous. He could have sent in a swarm of osmates to raid the first kingdom and take it over by now, but he hadn’t. And yet she was so ungrateful and impatient. Well, two could play at that game.

Maltazard released Selenia from his grasp, confusing her for a moment until he whispered harshly, “You might have healed me, but that doesn’t mean you can count on me to tolerate your insolence. You may be my wife now, but you mustn’t forget I am your king too. And as your king, you are to treat me with dignity and respect. For now, you will have to be punished.” With a snap of his fingers, more osmates appeared. “Take her away!” he ordered.

Selenia's eyes widened and she kicked, trying to throw punches as she was seized by the soldiers. “You really are as cruel as the legends say!” she yelled, eyes narrowed as she looked at Maltazard all while trying to break free of the osmates’ hold on her now. “You can’t even treat your own empress right!”

“Do we take her to the same cell as the current prisoners?” asked one osmate.

Maltazard shook his head. “No, take her to my chambers. After all, like she said, she is the empress now…” He grinned lasciviously at the last few words, licking his lips and laughing as he saw her eyes widen. He gave her a licentious wink, before waving his hand, signaling for the guards to ‘escort’ her out.

Selenia kicked and screamed at the guards, struggling to free herself. “Leave me alone! Let me go!” As she was dragged away to M’s chambers, she gave the lord of Necropolis one last glare before she was ‘escorted’ out of the quarters. She felt tears sting the back of her eyes, a strange aching feeling in her heart. She knew she shouldn’t have trusted him to keep his word, she knew she shouldn’t have been so foolish to fall for his tricks, she knew she should’ve been more careful — she knew she should have seen this coming a mile away, that she shouldn’t be surprised by his actions, but…for some reason, it hurt so much.

And she couldn’t fathom why his actions hurt her as badly as they did. She could only wonder why it made her heart ache so much, why she was near tears. She could only ask herself, “What have you gotten yourself into now?”

Because now, she was no longer just Princess Selenia, daughter of Emperor Sifrat of Matradoy, the fifteenth of that name governor of the First Kingdom. She was now the empress consort of Emperor Maltazard, the evil M, ruler of Necropolis and now a ruler of the First Kingdom too. And there was nothing she could do to change that. Nothing at all. For once her lips had met his, they were wed for eternity.

To think just one kiss could lead to such a thing… and yet, it happened.



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