Finally glancing over her shoulder, the Grey Queen looked at her Minister before her form swept around her desk and she was across the room in front of him. This motion was enough to make him look up and that cold wickedness she’d shown earlier was no longer in her eyes. “Neculai,” She said, almost soothingly, and in one of the most calmest voices he’d heard her use yet. “I know death will not be peace for you. But let me ease one of your regrets. Those old days, that old way, though it is still with me, take on your dying day my promise that the title of fear and the reign of terror is Never coming back.” She kept her eyes locked on him while her form shifted back.
“It is impossible to explain this with what little time life gives you, but.... If you just take my word for it. I will vow over your grave that those times are long since over.” She stepped back from him, knowing Neculai wouldn't want to grow close enough to take her word, even once he was one his death bed, but she trusted that he’d take it with a grain of salt. Things may change when he leaves, but they may change for the better, given time and with some relationships marked.
Joseph eyes followed his friend down to the floor and he shifted a little but overall, didn't move much. He glanced up as the same girl came back with food for Philip before walking over with a damp rag for the slight fever he had. The coolness of the cloth felt good on his heated skin and he propped himself up again once she took the rag back. He only lifted himself up enough so that he could drink more easily and he used one hand to take the cup from her, again giving her a thankful look before drinking. The herbs were strong and the drink had a different flavor to it. Not a bad flavor, just different.
He handed her back the cup back to her with a small nod then that same nod towards Philip and he made a slight ‘go away’ motion with a questioning look to the girl. He was wondering if she could get his friend to leave for a little while, sure Joseph knew Philip wanted to hover and make sure that he was alright, but the former prince wanted to rest alone for a little while. Silently he made this request and tried to do it without Philip noticing.
Where Ximena was, in the room she’d previously shared with Philip and Joseph, she heard a slight knock on the door and when she opened it, it wasn't any of her friends that were standing there. It was Ryuu standing there, but he seemed out of place, like he was uncomfortable with something. “Ximena,” He greeted her quietly and there wasn't any allured tone to his greeting. The Summoner then looked past her into the room, clearly looking right then left before looking back at her again almost sheepishly. “May I come in?” He asked and didn't move forwards like some higher ups might do, assuming she’d just say yes. He stood still in the hall by her doorway and didn't make a move to enter until he had her permission.
Neculai leaned to his wooden stick, his face showing sorrow and regret. He knew what was happening. People still remembered the days of dictatorship even if it was long time ago. Each overreaction was a warning for them that those days were coming back.
The minister watched his queens back and sighed at her question before answering with honesty and neither he sugarcoated his reply to her bitter question.
"No, my Queen. I showed my disagreement when you still had time to reconsider. It is now too late, my queen..There is no point on talking about it. You cannot stop the rumors. People will never forget this day. They will always wonder why didn't their powerful queen punish the devil directly. They will always remember how a human had to tolerate the pain instead of the demon. The gap which is already between humans and other races will deepen more."
Neculai started coughing, shifting slightly to put more weight on his stick as he gazed down sadly.
"My queen...I apologise for my rudeness. I cannot be as patient as you because my time in this world is limited. One of these days I will just leave and I only take my regrets for my failures. How can I rest in peace when I die knowing that Grey Queen will become the feared queen once again? The idea of rebellion might sound foolish to you but it is not impossible...Once they question your justice, sparkles of rage will appear. The one you keep in dungeon, was once a feared prince in Chamlek. But fear soon changed to rage and mere peasants took over the throne. They will soon encourage others to take down their rulers too and my Queen...what is your guarantee that your own people would never do such a thing? Fear can be put aside easily but love can never be replaced. My Queen...the prophecies warn us about chaos but we have to watch our own moves first."
Philip got off the bed and sat down on floor to let Joseph be comfortable. He leaned to the wall, becoming all silent for a while before he noticed the same girl coming back. This time she didn't look as cheerful as earlier. She had a pillow and a blanket in her hands. Silently, she handed them to Philip then walked back to doorway and picked something up. She walked over to Philip and placed the plate of food in front of him before kneeling beside the bed and damped a piece of cloth in bowl of water before gently wiping Joseph's face since he had a very slight fever from the wounds. After cooling down his face, again she went to the doorway and brought a herbal drink which could help with the healing process and make him feel less drained.
Eric watched Ximena go and then looked dead at Ryuu, his eyes narrowed and his hands still clamped tightly to each other. Ryuu also watched Ximena go and he slowly looked back over at Eric before shutting and locking the cell door and stepping back a little.
“Did she tell you?” The Summoner asked and Eric bared his teeth in A scowling snarl.
“That Joseph is still alive? Yeah, she told me.” Eric’s voice no longer had a broken tone to it. It was now wrathful and his eyes flickered with anger towards Ryuu.
“Then you're going to just love hearing what's happened to him because of your little escape attempt,” The summoner smirked and he grinned as Eric's eyes widened. “He took a punishment that should have been for you. 50 lashing from a whip,” Eric's expression showed the disbelief as Ryuu continued, “and my Queen wanted you to know that if anything like that little stunt you pulled happens again, Joseph will receive another 150 additional lashings.” Ryuu’s smile faded a little at this and he turned away to leave. “I’d hate to have anything else like that happen to your brother. He’s honestly a fool who doesn't deserve any of this….”
“Ryuu!” There was the rattling of chains as Eric pulled himself up to his feet and stepped towards the front of his cell, anger clear in his voice, but Ryuu didn't stop and he continued to walk away, leaving to let the devil digest what he’d just been told.
Joseph looked away slightly when Philip told him to stop with the look he had. It couldn't be helped that he had a loyal friend. And since all was done and mostly said, he had to agree that he too hated being stuck in these rooms. But Joseph couldn't go anywhere. He just had to heal and wait, but Philip on the other hand could. His friend could leave whenever he wished. Not like Philip would though, he knew his friend would stay with him till he was healed and Joseph would ask nothing more of him then that.
Word of the proceeding spread like fire through the castle grounds and it wouldn't be long before many in the capital knew what had happened. Now the Queen wanted Eric’s little escape to be down played as much as possible, which was hard because of her extreme reaction to it. Some knew Eric didn't even make it out of the dungeons while others decided that Eric must have made it out and the demon may have killed some important members of nobility. Then there were those that claimed the devil escaped the dungeons and even got as the queen's chambers before he was stopped. All exaggerated tellings of what happened but one thing that was clear was that the wicked immortal was still there, apart of the Grey Queen even though she did well to keep that side of her under control.
Valerie returned to her study alone and waited half an hour before calling for Neculai. She stood behind her desk, looking out the window. From there she could see a fair portion of the capital city and the vast lands beyond. She was silent when he arrive, walking stick in hand since his granddaughter was not allowed to come with him for this. And after a few moments she spoke. “You disagree with how I handled that Devil’s escape attempt by taking it out on his brother?” She asked it how it was seen. There was no elegance and no coated points. That is what happened and that is what she did.
Ximena was beyond shocked when Eric claimed Joseph was dead. Didn't he know? Why didn't they tell him? She just stared at him with slightly widened eyes and then quickly nodded at his warning about Ryuu. Now she felt horrible about the Summoner. Why didn't he tell Eric sooner? Was it on purpose? She looked over at the doorway and nodded silently before standing and wiping at her wet face.
The dancer gave Eric one last look before passing Ryuu with a dropped head and followed the guard upstairs to the room they were kept. When she got there, nobody was in it. Where was Joseph? Philip? Even Artemis? She sighed and sat down on her bed, staring at her covered arms. Ximena thought of asking Ryuu why did he do such a thing but then again, if he was that wicked to keep Eric in dark, then she didn't have to talk honest with him. She would just play along. Like a stupid, submissive girl. Ximena dried her face with the sheets and reached for one of the cold plates. She ate a little before putting in aside and waited for others to come.
Philip stiffened when he felt Joseph's hand morning for his. He took his hand and frowned slightly at his expression before looking away with a 'Heh'. "You dummy. Even though you ran away from your position in Chamlek, you are still a prince...Ex prince...My master. And I have learned to be loyal to my prince and follow him everywhere. We will probably die but I don't care as long as it is for your sake. Stop with that look because I can't think of another purpose in life." He gritted his teeth and looked around the small room in frustration. "Ugh...I'm sick of being trapped in their silly rooms."
N.V was able to convince the old cook lady that he was not a little demon. She agreed to give him clothing and let him get back to his room. The kid was now heading to his room, quite sure somebody must have noticed his absence. N.V saw the tray of food behind his closed door and sighed, picking it up. It was...vegetable soup and a small piece of steak. N.V was about to scream. He shoved the steak in his mouth and left the vegetable soup behind his door as he got in. He examined the bite marks on his legs. He just hoped they weren't poisonous. He changed back to his fine clothes and opened the door again. She just kicked the tray away and let the soup spill on floor.
The Cacador heard some servants talking about somebody getting 50 lashes for his brother's failed attempt to escape. Well, poor guy....wait. N.V froze in place. Eric? Eric's brother? He was alive? Eric messed with him or...was just too stupid?
Eric didn't pull away when Ximena wrapped her arms around him, her voice shaking till she finally started crying. He closed his eyes when he heard what Ryuu promised to do in exchange for Ximena staying with him. That caused something in his chest to tighten and he tightened his two hands into fists around each other, trying to keep himself from beginning to tremble. When she mentioned Joseph again his composure finally cracked and he had to ask.
“W-why do you keep saying that? …. Joseph i-is dead.” His voice shook with grief and he looked at Ximena but her expression told him he was wrong. “Isn't he…?” He stared at Ximena, needing an answer. But if he found that Ryuu had lied so belatedly to him. He couldn't stop the shock from showing as he quickly glanced towards the still open cell door, but the Summoner wasn't there and he gritted his teeth, stiffening and making himself still before speaking again. “Ximena.... Whatever he’s promised you…. Whatever you think he is going to do for us…” He lifted his gaze to her’s and held it in the dark of the cell.
“Make sure you never truly give him all of your trust.” He looked away when footsteps started back from wherever Ryuu had been waiting and he stepped into sight of the cell, stiffening slightly when he saw that Ximena had her arms wrapped around Eric, but the former Prince just glanced at her once again before looking up and staring the Summoner down, that dangerous look in his eyes again.
“It’s time to go.” Ryuu told Ximena from the open cell door and when she stood up she could see that he’d brought a guard with him to led her out of the dungeons. Ryuu still had to tell Eric what had happened to his brother because of his failed little escape attempt.
Joseph’s gaze glanced up at his friend but his expression stayed the same. He then caught the bitterness Philip had in his smile and he narrowed his eyes slightly, looking away and laying his head back down. He didn't want to hear Philip finish that thought. This wasn't funny and those statements weren't making him feel any better. He took in a deep breath before letting it out slowly and cringing as it hurt to breath that deeply.
He then turned back to look at Philip and reached over one of his hands, curling his fingers in a motion for his friend to take his hand. When Philip did, Joseph’s grip tightened firmly and he gave Philip a more than reasonable look of, ‘Why do you even bother with me?’ He let out a shallower sigh and he relaxed his grip, still seeming tired but not as much any more. The only thing he could do now was rest. Rest and try to recover.
Ximena was relieved when his dangerous gaze was gone. But her relief was soon gone she she realised how broken he already was. It was still odd for her. She thought Eric was a strong man but she didn't have a demon side within her so who she was to judge. As he told her his pain, Ximena moved closer to him by his side. Suddenly her arms wrapped around him gently.
"Don't say that.You're the strongest of all. If you give up, what should we do?" Her voice was now shakier, almost breaking into tears. "I...I'm scared more that any of you. I have never been through these situations but...I...always selfishly think you will somehow save us. Because...Because...that's always what you did whenever I was in danger. Why...why are you giving up now?" Now she was crying, staining his shirt with her tears. "You don't care anymore? Even to Joseph? He almost died yet h-he is not giving up." Ximena sobbed. "I..I can help...H-he...Ryuu said...he will help me if I..." She bit her lips, too ashamed to say what she was considering to do. "If I 'go' with him...H-he allowed me to see you only this time. So, I won't see you again. J-just Don't talk like that again. I will somehow find a way to save us."
Philip waited until the girl was gone then he walked over and sat on the edge of bed. He patted his shoulder gently, careful not to cause any pain. "Hey, you're way too tough. I bet it was Eric, he was screaming curses at everyone." He tried to rise Joseph's mood. "You want to see him, Don't you? your brother." Philip sighed and looked down at the floor before shaking his head. "I Don't think they will listen to you right now. Their queen is somewhat a psycho. But that old man did protested slightly. Maybe he is on our side, huh?" He only glanced at Joseph before smirking bitterly. "Heh. As if. Everyone in this country are against us.We could live comfortably somewhere else...but as long as Eric and his demon are with us..."
Ryuu didn't want to leave Ximena, he really didn't want to leave her there with Eric. But he knew Eric probably wouldn't speak to her unless he wasn't there. After a few moments, he sighed and stiffly forced himself to walk a few cells away, still within earshot if the.Devil tried anything but far enough that he wouldn't hear them talk. Once Ryuu had left, Eric shifted and used his good hand to rub at his face. He then looked up at Ximena again and there was no sign of that dangerous look he’d just given her.
“I’m not angry with you…” He told her softly but his voice sounded hollow. He brought his good hand back down to layover hid brought up knees and he held his hands together, his expression unchanging as he gripped both hands together. “Just doing this…. L-living so long with…. With this.” He gestured towards the well faded tattoo on his face but it was clear he meant his demon side. “I don't think... I can keep doing this... For much longer….” His voice was so soft and frighteningly calm, showing how broken he truly felt. He didn't ask about Joseph or want to know why she’d mentioned him, he just thought it was something Ryuu had convinced her to say, still being under the impression that his younger brother was dead.
Joseph glanced towards the door slightly with tearful eyes when he heard Philip stop pacing. He watched the girl walk over and he wiped at his eyes while she gently stirred the soup she’d brought. He didn't refuse to eat, he just had to prop himself up a little so he could eat. Lying on his stomach wasn't an easy way to eat. He’d much rather be sitting up or at least on his side. But he knew he shouldn't and he didn't want to risk pulling out any stitches.
Once he was finished, he was more hesitant to settle back down and let her use the needles. But he could tell one way or another she’d use a couple and do he laid back down on the bad, resting his head on his arms and closing his eyes, trying not to flinch or shivered at the painless pinpricks. Once that was done, Joseph caught her gaze and gave her an appreciative look, silently thanking her and only looking away again when she simply smiled and left the room. Joseph stayed looking away from Philip and he seemed tired. Not sleepy, but drained and exhausted. He pressed his lips together tightly and tried to keep his expression neutral.
Ximena's hand stopped halfway when he gave the look. Her heart sank at this and she became pale with fear and worry. "E-eric..." She whispered. She hadn't been with him for as long time but she could feel something was not right about him. He wasn't a sweet type but never this aggressive towards his none enemies. Ximena just stared at him then noticed him scowling at Ryuu. She also saw his broken finger in an odd position. "Eric, you are hurt." She whispered and hesitantly looked back at Ryuu with tear in her eyes. "Sir, He needs some bandage and ointment...please?" She nodded to him slightly. It was obvious she wanted Ryuu away for a short time. Maybe Eric didn't want to talk in his presence? Ximena was afraid of Eric's mood but she was determined to get him to talk. The dancer slowly knelt down in front of Eric with a dropped head and wiped off her eyes.
"Eric...Please talk to me...Are you angry of me?" It was like talking to a stubborn child but that was the only way to talk to him in the unstable condition he was.
Philip didn't see Joseph since he was trying to stop his own tears. But then he caught the sight of a small figure at the doorway. Alarmed, he pulled his hands away and stepped in front of Joseph in a defensive way. He relaxed slightly when he saw it was the girl which supported the only one who defended Joseph. Neculai was his name, He remembered. The granddaughter was obviously embarrassed to disturb them as she shyly held up the tray of food in her hand. She also had brought painkiller needles.
Philip let her kneel beside Joseph and stood behind her. "You...are Neculai's maid, right? Who is he? Why...he stood against his queen?" He was thinking of meeting the old man but when he got no answer or section from the girl who was stirring the soup gently, he got impatient and grabbed her shoulder to turn her around. "Hey! I-" He was taken back by the girl's shocked exression. The girl then smiled and started pointing at her ear and then shook her head; She was deaf.
Philip nodded silently. The girl smiled again and held the full spoon to Joseph's mouth. She was persistent if he refused to eat and would even shove the spoon in his mouth. He needed nutrients to heal. After the soup was finished, she wanted to use the needles but Philip didn't trust what the needles were actually for. The girl only smiled again and immeditely shoved one of the needles in her own hand. So she got the permission to use them on Joseph. She shoved them gently and skilfully into his back.
“Really?” Eric’s voice was low and bitter sounding when Ximena mentioned everyone being worried. Herself and Joseph. His brother…. Was this some sick joke? It had to be since Ryuu was there. He didn't look up again and stayed sitting where he was. He indeed looked how he felt on the inside and he didn't say anything when Ximena tried to get him to talk.
Ryuu was hesitant as Ximena turned to him with pleading eyes. Even though Eric was her friend and he was in chains, he could still probably hurt her badly if provoked. The Summoner knew he shouldn't but a second wordless glance from Ximena, since Eric wasn't responding, finally broke him and he sighed, unlocking the cell door and looking at Ximena wearily before opening it. “Do not get too close to him.” He warned her and opened the door slowly, stepping inside with her but staying near the bars as she approached Eric.
Still the former prince didn't say anything else and he looked away as the dancer walked right over to him and stood in front of him. Because of his crying the mark on his face was visible again but that didn't seem to concern Eric at all. He didn't answer any of her questions and only glanced at her when she reached a hand out towards him. But the look he gave her, it was like the look a hungry wolf gives a lost lamb. There was danger in his eyes and his expression was grim, but it was only with that glance that he gave Ximena that look, he then looked past her towards Ryuu before scowling and looking down again.
Joseph stared up at Philip, watching him pace and turn away. He looked down for a moment then gritted his teeth, pushing himself over onto his side so he see his friend better. He looked pained and not just from the beating he’d received. He looked pained because he could see where his former servant and close friend was going with all the stress and hardship they’d recently faced. He looked down again, self pity and self loathing making him look regretful with a small smirk showing he was considering something Philip probably wouldn't like at all.
He let out a shaky breath and before Philip could judge what he was thinking by his expression, Joseph covered his face one hand, clearly not wanting his friend to know what he was considering. He turned back over onto his front and folded his arms in front of him, bowing his head down and completely hiding his expression. It was clear he was now crying too and hiding his expression was the only way Joseph could keep what he was thinking from Philip.
Ximena grabbed on the bars the moment she saw Eric. She furrowed her eyebrows seeing those chains on him. However, he didn't look much beaten up and that was a relief. "Eric!" She tried to get his attention again. "I...I'm glad you are okay. E-everyone were worried about you. Me, Joseph..." She didn't know they still had to tell him his brother was alive. "Sir?" Ximena looked at Ryuu with pleading eyes. "Can I go in? If it is just this once...I want to see him much closer." She then turned her head back to Eric and noticed Eric looked...dead inside. He barely made reactions and she wondered what was wrong with him. "Eric? Eric? Is something wrong?" Her voice was shaky but she kept on talking since she didn't know when she would see him again. "J-joseph will come to see you too. Have you eaten anything? D-do you need medical care?"
Philip snapped out of his thought when he noticed something waving in corner of his eyes. He looked at Joseph but didn't smile..Just silently stood and went to his side. His gaze wandered over those bandages, feeling his stomach turn. He then looked at his friend's expression and nodded slowly."Ximena is probably still with [b him]." He sighed and tried to stay calm when Joseph asked about his brother. Philip didn't say anything before suddenly grabbing Joseph's face and kneeling down to stare into his eyes directly."You Took His Punishment so I Am Sure He Is Okay. They think he will feel guilty by doing it? Heh...I wonder how long they will let you live!" He let go of Joseph's face roughly and started pacing in the room with his hands over his face to hide his tears and not to see Joseph anymore.
Ryuu smiled in return when Ximena thanked him and he stood up after her, seeing that she wanted to go now. “He’ll probably be glad to see you, though I can’t say the same for myself…” That last part Ryuu half mumbled and he decided to stop talking while they walked to the dungeons. He opened the inconspicuous door and stepped down into the semi dark stone halls.
After a few turns the summoner’s walk slowed and he stopped in front of the cell where Eric was. At first Eric didn’t look up when he saw Ryuu, he stayed where he was, sitting on the floor and looking down till he noticed someone familiar was with Ryuu. His head looked up and he saw Ximena, the chains that held him to the wall gave him enough slack so that he could stand and take a few steps towards the front of his cell. But he didn’t try to get up. He opened his mouth like he was going to say something but instead didn’t as he glanced at the Summoner with hatred in his eyes and he looked back down again.
Joseph only registered the dull pain that resonated through him as he was pulled up with a small shutter and forced to move. His legs still felt weak and the only thing that was keeping him up was Philip beside him. Some part of him knew that healers were going to tend to his wounds but that part of him was blocked out by the mind numbing pain. It took about half an hour to clean, stitch up, and wrap his wounds and it took almost everything in him not to flinch and jump at every touch. He let out a low sigh when the healers were finished and he turned his head, laying on his front and glanced over at were Philip was sitting. The pain had cleared his mind and he was more aware now than he had been in the Great Hall.
Gritting his teeth with some effort, Joseph shifted and reached out one hand waving it to get Philip’s attention. He knew his body would heal and scar but he wasn’t too worried about any serious repercussions, he wanted to know if his friend was alright and if Ximena had been hurt. He then gave a look that Philip knew. What about his brother? The former prince didn’t try to get up and he looked down blankly towards the floor, knowing he should be more worried about himself and probably outraged at the injustice of the proceedings. But he wasn’t, he was alive and that’s really all that mattered to him right now.
Ximena's face lightened up upon hearing his permission. She turned her head to him with a happy smile and wrapped her other hand on his, pressing gently."Thank you, sir!" She was fine with only seeing him once. Making sure he was okay, could make being trapped in this castle a bit better. She immediately got on her feet excitedly and impatiently waited for him to lead her. Ximena wanted to see him right now with no delay. Maybe Ryuu wasn't as heartless as she thought.
Philip was starting to feel helpless and desperate. He couldn't do anything to save Joseph. He was not even in a condition to save himself. The former servant didn't try to use any violence against the housecarl. He just silently held Joseph gently in his arms, cringing at the sight of those wounds and the blood staining his clothes. He barely noticed the healers coming. It was like the world was spinning around and something was ringing in his ears. He slowly stood and pulled Joseph up on his feet. He wrapped his arm around his prince's waist and supported him while following the healers.
Only his legs were functioning and his face was just...clueless of everything happening around him. Why...why would this woman do such a thing? She knew Joseph was just revived and was not in a good condition in the first place. If Joseph received more blows...He could even...die. Philip was pushed aside easily and he stared at them attending his ugly wounds. Philip stepped backward and felt the wall behind before sliding down and staring at nothing.
At back of the Castle, where the trashes were stored before being discarded every night, some loose stones started shaking before they were pushed away and a wet, bloody N.V pulled himself up gasping for fresh air. He crawled on the surface and pulled himself away from the hole tiredly. He stunk horribly and sewer water was dripping from his hair. There were some bitemark on his legs. It was a miracle he managed to survive. Shakily he got on his feet and looked around nervously. He needed to clean-up but his appearance screamed that he was indeed doing something bad. Panting, the kid leaned on the walls before using them to support his weight while moving to find a well or something like that...somewhere that the maids washed the clothes.
Instead, he found the back of stable...where the soldiers' horses were kept. He searched and found a crack in the wooden wall and shoved his small body through it. The horses became restless but thankfully didn't throw a tantrum. He crawled towards a bucket and found dirty water in it. Somebody had forgotten to dump it. Oh well. N.V shrugged and poured the water on himself to get rid of the blood and the stench.
He happily got rid of the smelly maid dress and got out of the stable from the same crack in underwear. N.V was thankful it was summer and he wasn't going to freeze but he needed some clothes asap. The little Cacador catiously searched the place, hiding in bushes perfectly until he found a fine covered wall. Skilfully he climbed up and reached the first window, looking through it. Great! Workers' kitchen...he pushed the window open and entered the small room before he heard a scream and lost his balance falling on floor.
The Summoner’s smile lessened a bit when Ximena said she wanted to see Eric, making him look away from her around the same time she looked away from him. Of course she wanted to see him, why now? Why did it have to be now that she wanted to see him? He sighed softly and nodded to Ximena deciding to phrase it this way. “I will allow that. But I can only let you see him once.” He’d decided to take Ximena down to the dungeons to see Eric then he’d send her back up while he stayed to tell Eric what has happened to his brother.
The proceedings continued with a long drawn out rhythm and the man delivering the blows didn't have any hesitation up till the last lick of the whip. He pulled the whip back like he was going to strike again but there was a slight motion from Valerie and he lowered his arm. Three guards had to stand and hold Philip back who’d struggled and wailed for them to stop. But he had been ignored and once Joseph was untied from the rack and pulled off of it, the Grey Queen stepped back and began to make her way out of the great hall. Joseph's back was cut and bleeding badly, from near his neck and the top of his shoulders to the small of his back and lower sides. His legs could only carry him a short way and when the guards let go, he collapsed onto the floor, shaking with pain.
Valerie waved a slight hand at the guard who were holding Philip down as she passed and they let him go. He was allowed to scramble up and rush to Joseph's side while the rest of the nobility that had been watching slowly left the hall. The guards and two housecarls stayed while waiting for the healers to arrive and the one who’d delivered the punishment recoiled the whip before drawing his sword and holding it in both hands, blade pointed down incase Philip decided to do anything hostile.
By the time the healers arrived, Joseph looked like he was on the verge of passing out. From blood lose or from the pain, it was hard to tell, but he still gritted his teeth as he was pulled up to stand and hurried out of the great hall to have his wounds taken care of. The healers allowed Philip to help support Joseph but once they got him lying down, they made him step out of the room so they could work. He’d be allowed to see Joseph once they were finished but not a moment sooner.
Ximena let him take her hand even though she stiffened her back at this uncomfortably. She grasped on her skirt with her free hand, trying to find the right words before she felt him rubbing her back of hand soothingly. Strangely, she actually relaxed under his touch and looked at his face directly. "Sir, I have to see Eric." She quickly hid her gaze from him after saying that and hoped he would allow her a visit. She was so worried for the former prince. Only seeing Eric once...would convince her that he was okay.
Neculai dropped his head with a soft sigh and just stepped back silently. He wasn't leased with the way this country was ruled. He knew she could keep peace but he was not sure for how long. He nodded at his granddaughter and she helped him leave the Great hall. He could hear more strikes coming down on the poor boy but sadly he didn't have the power to stop Valerie. He was not close to her and preferred it that way. No matter how beautiful the creatures of Light were, they were still not humans and he couldn't expect humanity from them. For immortals, life had no value. Short living beings like humans were not threat to them. But Neculai believed Light nation was not immune to chaos. It was sad he couldn't stop anything, the best he could do was going to his room and not being a part of the wicked show.
Philip was held down by the guards when his thrashes got stronger as Joseph received more strikes. He couldn't believe this was the Light nation people immigrated into for better life. Their queen seemed even worse than Eric. For once, he had a better idea of the older prince. Yes, he dragged his brother into this mess but Valerie' s way of punishment was far worse.
Johar looked satisfied when Valeiri ignored Neculai' s request. He admired Grey queen. He had seen her dictatorship and was one of the very few who missed those times. He didn't like low lives holding him back from controlling people. Peasants were a bunch of fools who couldn't even recognize what was best for them. They didn't deserve a great queen like Valerie who made these lands powerful in her clench. He stared at the scene with a smile on his face.
Ryuu noticed Ximena’s hesitation and her quick glances at him and he tried to hid his bothered expression. Smiling softly he shook his head and reached over taking one of her hands gently in his. “It is nothing you need to concern yourself with.” He told her calmly. Hr wasn't upset by her concern or her cautious curiosity. He rubbed the top of her hand with his thumb in a comforting manner and he waited patiently for her to ask what she wanted to about Eric.
By the time Neculai bowed down, the punishment was already four strikes in. But Joseph did not scream, his breathing hitched in fresh pain and he dug his nails into the frame of the rack. She hadn't made the proceedings wait when her older Minister stepped forwards with protest. “You forget your place, Neculai.” She said coldly, her eyes never leaving the scene in front of her. She doubted that the Minister was a traitor with his plead like Johar had said and she slowly turned and looked at him and his granddaughter.
“You do not need to stay if you do not wish see this happen. We will talk [i after] this punishment is finished.” To say the Queen was mad was an understatement. She was livid and turned her gaze back towards the rack, seeing two more licks from the whip had been added across Joseph's back. She understood how this looked, punishing the weak rather than the strong was cowardly. But she was making a statement and dealing with whatever backlash came from this would be apart of her statement. She’d only ever done a few wicked thing that were not justified completely in her older minister's eyes and when he stepped forwards with protest, most of the time she did stop and reconsider. Most of the time. But for this she would not because frankly at the moment she didn't care. But also because she knew this would help break Eric and keep him from acting out while giving him back something to lose.
She wasn't bothered by Philip’s screams nor did she seem bothered by this scorning her presence in the Light Nation. A life time before Neculai became one of her ministers, The Grey Queen had been much more willing to spill blood and beat down any opposition she had. Back then her rule would have been considered more of a dictatorship rather than an empire in her Iron vase grip. Yet she had relaxed that grip quite a bit in the past hundred years, slowly giving the nation's citizens more freedom than penalties and allowing criticism of her rule to be outspoken and rallied around. As long as the rallied cause remained peaceful, Valerie would accept that as only lobbying and nothing more.
She still had the power to turn the Nation right back around into a dictatorship which was something no one wanted. This little bit of unpopularity would not risk the fall of the Light Nation since she had tied it together so well. Neculai would be in his rights to speak out and the backlash from that would be dealt with, but she highly doubted any plots of a rebellion or attempts of assassination would come from this.
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