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    lilansui
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Reluctant Consort - Prologue. Prologue

Prologue

 

A sword rested on his shoulder, the sharp blade pressed against his neck. His clothes soaked from the rush of rain that had slowed down to a drizzle. Strange, but the worst moments in his life always seemed to coordinate with the rain.

How did the heavens know to match with his tears?

His knees hurt from kneeling on the stones in the courtyard at Kamran Estate. He shifted to ease the ache and the sword at his neck nicked his skin. He hissed at the painful sting.

Jihan imagined the sword could cut ten pigs with one sweep in the hands of its skilled master. The blade shifted away from his neck and he closed his eyes at the small relief. The man holding the sword to his neck had no softness in him. It wouldn’t matter how much Jihan pleaded, he would follow orders and kill Jihan if it came to it.

A scream cut through the night and Jihan forgot his discomfort. Heart in his throat, he watched two more men drag his older sister and her husband into the courtyard.

How had they found them?

A strangled cry escaped his lips when the man holding his sister pushed her to the ground next to him.

Jihan reached out to steady her.

“Can’t you be kinder?” Jihan asked, his eyes filling with tears.

Andiya kept her hands over her stomach to protect her unborn child. She leaned into Jihan, her tears clear on her cheeks, her gaze on her husband, Ishan.

Ishan knelt on the ground, maneuvering so that he was protecting Andiya with his body, when one of the men reached for her again.

“Leave her alone,” Jihan said, angry with their captors and their brutish ways. “She is pregnant. Tell me, how will you take responsibility if anything happens to the baby?”

The men stopped reaching for Andiya, and Ishan moved closer to his wife, holding her with care.

Ishan glared at their captors too, his arms around Andiya, giving her the warmth he could.

“Why are you doing this?” Jihan asked, when his sister gripped his left arm, her fingers tight, as she shook with fear. “How dare you invade Kamran Estate?”

“Don’t blame us,” a gruff voice said above Jihan. “You brought this on yourself.”

Jihan wished he could refute the accusation, but in the end, all he could lament was that his plan had not worked.

If it had, his sister and her husband would have already found refuge in the Iron Lands with his friend, Swallow. He had been willing to face the consequences of his actions alone.

Why had things gone so wrong?

“You dared—,” the gruff man above him growled out, not finishing his sentence.

The anger rolling off him made Jihan hope that their deaths would be swift, and not slow torture. He couldn’t bear the thought of Andiya and her child suffering.

Jihan felt Andiya’s grip on his arm tighten, and he looked up, his heart dropping when he saw the tall, forbidding man entering the courtyard. His silver armor shone in the moonlight, a heavy blood red cape flowing behind him. The stories Jihan had heard were true. In his armor, Duke Silver was enough to stop a weak man’s heart with fright.

Jihan found he couldn’t take his gaze away from the long sword Duke Silver held. That blood thirsty blade that had cut down thousands of lives during the West Nation Rebellion.

Jihan gulped thinking his life sure had fallen to the depths now. He could never have imagined facing death at the tip of Duke Silver’s blade.

Still…

Maybe this was their fate after all.

Duke Silver came to a stop before him, dripping with murderous intent, his face dark with anger.

“Duke Silver, we caught the woman and her husband on the road heading into the Iron Lands. Master Jihan was waiting here at Kamran Estate. We have not yet found his shadow guard,” the gruff one next to Jihan said.

“He sent him away,” Duke Silver said, his hard gaze speculative as he studied Jihan.

Andiya moved closer to Jihan, her eyes filled with fear. Seeing her fear helped Jihan with his decision.

Jihan pushed his sister into Ishan’s arms and crawled forward, making sure they were both behind him. Still on his knees, he straightened his back and faced Duke Silver.

He would be no cowering fool. He was the master of Kamran Estate after all: he had made all decisions in this place since he turned ten. Protected his sister, grown the family business, played just as hard, and even dared to love, twice. He had missed out on nothing.

So now, he would take responsibility for his decisions.

The rain started again, and Jihan was glad for it, as it would hide the tears he couldn’t hold back anymore.

“Punish me alone,” Jihan said, his fingers clenched to keep from shaking with the fear sinking in his heart.

Duke Silver’s dark gaze left him with no doubt that the Duke was angry enough to kill him and everyone in the Kamran Estate.

They had dared to ignore a royal edict and fooled an Imperial Prince. Their crime was beyond measure. The Emperor would have their lives.

“No matter how I look at it, Kamran Estate has done you wrong, Your Grace,” Jihan said, keeping his tone light. “Please know that my sister and her husband did not know about the Imperial Edict.”

Jihan ignored his sister’s cry of protest, and was grateful when Ishan held her tighter, muffling her words.

“I hid the truth from them. I planned their wedding even knowing that she was promised to marry into the royal family. I paid for their trip to the Iron Lands. All these decisions were made by me, alone,” Jihan continued. “They are not at fault. Please spare their lives and let your anger end with me. I will take responsibility for daring to disregard an Imperial Edict.”

Duke Silver pointed his sword at Jihan’s face, the tip an inch away from his left eye.

Jihan clenched his fists, fear racing through him he felt close to falling from it, but he needed to do this, for the sake of his sister, her unborn child and her husband.

He couldn’t bear the thought of the alternative, which would be watching his sister forced into an unwanted marriage, her child murdered…he shuddered.

Worse yet, they might decide to send both Andiya and her husband, Ishan, to their deaths.

Jihan couldn’t imagine bearing the burden of burying his sister and her child. It would be too much to ask of him.

No, this was better. He was alone after all, unmarried with no ties to anything. His life mattered less here.

Kamran Estate would go on without him, taken care of by his sister. Andiya might even get a son in the future and name that boy after him. She would smile looking at that child and think of him. It was enough. The thought gave him some strength.

Jihan locked his muscles in place, and stared at the tip of Duke Silver’s blade. He couldn’t help admiring how it shone in the moonlight. The stories were true.

How fierce Duke Silver looked, so handsome and fierce.

“Agreed, we shall do it the way you want. You take responsibility,” Duke Silver gritted out, after a short period of silence, keeping his sword steady as he spoke. “Jihan, how dare you look down on the Imperial Family? You shall indeed pay the price for their lives with yours.”

Jihan closed his eyes unwilling to watch Duke Silver swing a sword at him.

Things between them had already reached this point.

His heart was already shattered.

Why make it worse?

He took in a deep breath, steadying himself, ready for death…

***

***

Suilan Lee, 2019-2021
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Outstanding chapter! You’ve jumped in and captured our attention with intrigue, bravery, treachery and....  I’m definitely looking forward to the next chapter! 😃❤️

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No greater love does a man have then to sacrifice himself for others.  That sacrifice may be with his or her life or in some cases something even more...

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A very strong beginning that has caught my attention with its tension and characters. Excellent start!

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