I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea, but I had to go to the party, for the twins, for Joon Hwan, with whom I had created a bond of friendship, and for Ji Min, who I needed to make sure was ok, that she was getting used to family life.
The birthday party was at a location outside of the city, and I had to prepare myself, so I wouldn’t be reminded of the last time I had gone to a meeting outside the city, and how things had gone so bad at the vineyard.
When we arrived, we found the parking lot already full of cars, and a security detail was patrolling the area. My own security force joined them, I wasn’t going to allow anything to interrupt their first party back together, not after all they have gone through.
We arrived at the party, and a heavy silence fell over the room as soon as I people noticed I had arrived, but then, a couple of war cries bloke the silence, and I realized a couple of kids were running my way. I recognized little five year old, Halid, and little three year old, Emma. Halid jumped at me, but I used my powers to stop him mid air, and then I turned him upside down.
“Hello little warrior, I see you haven’t changed a bit. Surrender, and I promise I will let you go unharmed.”
“Never!” he yelled, voice full of conviction, while little Emma was initiating her own attack.
Halid’s parents had been with him at Aquarium, and they knew he was safe with me, but Emma’s father didn’t, her mother and her had been refugees because Faakhir had ordered their murder as a way to punish her father, who was running to save his daughter from me. I saw Halid’s parents nearby, and after making eye contact and making sure they knew what I intended, I sent Halid flying to them. Halid was laughing while his parents held him and reprimanded him for his attack, while Emma’s father was getting her away from me as fast as he could, despite the girl’s protests.
“You certainly know how to make an entrance,” Joon Hwan said, as he opened his arms so I could give him a hug.
“It wasn’t my fault, it was theirs. Happy birthday. How are you feeling on your first birthday after coming back?”
“I couldn’t be more grateful to you, having my sister with me is the biggest gift you could have given me,” right then Jin Min arrived, and her brother moved aside so I could hug her.
“How are you?”
“I’m good, still getting used to being back, but you were right, my family is not that bad,” she said, but her voice showed doubts, which was normal, after years of being in a bad situation, a person could get a lot of invisible injuries that took a lot of time to heal.
“I’m glad, but you must remember that I’m here if you even need anything.”
“You have done enough, you gave me what I wanted the most, you gave me my family back, and that’s something I never thought I would have,” she said, but I knew that by family she only meant her brother, she still couldn’t include her parents in the same category.
“Happy birthday,” Ethan said, and both of them turned to him so they could hug, then Kimball got his turn.
Representative Jeong also approached to welcome us, and I could tell that he wasn’t happy, he probably didn’t expect us to accept the invitation. And he wasn’t the only one who looked uncomfortable by our presence, but I saw a few familiar faces, people from Aquarium that knew me, and that didn’t hate me.
I made my way to one of the tables, one where I found a lot of familiar faces, and sat with them. They all offered me a warm welcome and I could see that people around us was looking at us with curiosity, and distrust.
“It seems that you don’t have that many fans in here,” said Teresa de Burgos, the representative’s mother. “I told my daughter that she should offer you an apology, but I’m afraid it won’t be soon, she still needs to gather her courage and prepare to swallow her words, it’s not easy for her to admit she was wrong.
“You know that’s not necessary, as long as she stops messing with me, and trying to kill me, I’m fine.”
“I raised her better than that, I expect more from her, she has to do the right thing.”
“Your daughter is a strong woman, with strong ideas, but that’s what makes her good at her job.”
The evening was more enjoyable than I expected, I had the chance to see some of the old refugees, and the opportunity to see by myself that they were all well. Some of the guests, those who were obviously Jeong’s friends, avoided me, and I could feel they didn’t trust me, I could even feel some fear from them.
The twins were teenagers, still the celebration felt a little childish. As the evening progressed, some people started to leave, those still in attendance got together for the cake. I could feel the tension between the guests, and I knew I was the reason for that.
The first ones to receive their slices of cake were the kids, by the time they started handing us our slices, the kids were done with them. Just as the server was setting the cake in front of me, little Emma climbed into my lap and grabbed my cake. I could feel how people froze around me, waiting for my response.
“What are you doing?” I calmly asked.
“I want more cake,” she said, full of innocence.
“But that’s my cake,” I said, my voice whining. “Would you like if I took your cake?” Emma shook her head. “And how do you think I will feel if you take my cake?”
“I like cake, I don’t want anyone to take my cake,” she said.
“Well, I don’t want anyone to take my cake either. Why don’t you ask for more if you already finished yours?”
“My daddy says it’s not polite to ask for more,” she explained.
“Well, it’s not polite to take other people’s cakes.”
“Can we share?” she asked, her eyes so big and her face so sweet I couldn’t say no.
“I guess so,” I said, and she immediately grabbed the fork and took a big bite out of it, then she proceeded to take a much smaller piece and offered it to me. I couldn’t help but let her feed me, or I risked Emma letting the cake fall all over me.
I could see that Kimball was trying, very hard, not to laugh, but Ethan, who was nearby with his friends, was just laughing out loud. Many of the guests were staring at me, most couldn’t believe what they were watching, but those who knew me only smiled, I wasn’t sure if they were smiling at me, or the people’s reaction to it.
“I told you you didn’t have to worry about her,” Michelle, Emma’s mother told her husband. “Kaiserin would never do anything to harm me, much less to harm little Emma.”
“But she is a murderer,” her husband protested.
“You are living in the past, you haven’t even bothered to get to know Kaiserin, she is a good person and a good friend. You have no idea how much the kids in Aquarium loved her, she is good with them.”
“Could you stop talking?” I asked her. “You are ruining my image,” but she only laughed as if I was telling a joke, with they were, kind of.
Just as I was trying to seem tougher, little Halid attacked again, climbing the chair from behind and putting his arms around my neck. The kid was heavy, and if it wasn’t for my powers, he could have hurt me, but with them, he wasn’t doing much damage.
“Halid!” his mother reprimanded, “leave Kaiserin alone.”
“After she surrenders,” the little guy replied.
“Aren’t you going to help me?” I asked Kimball, who couldn’t stop his laughter anymore.
“It seems you have everything under control,” he said.
“Don’t worry mother, I will rescue you,” Ethan said, approaching Halid and tickling him until he let go of me.
“Who would have thought that all we needed to defeat Kaiserin was a bunch of kid,” representative Burgos said.
“Don’t make a mistake, I cannot be defeated. Some of my enemies already tried using kids against me, thinking that would stop me, it didn’t. I love the little ones, and I wouldn’t hesitate to protect them, but if I find myself in a situation where my options are limited, I won’t doubt to take any action that allows me to succeed. I’m a warrior, I serve a bigger purpose, I’m not like you, I was raised to make difficult decisions. I’m willing to fight for a noble cause, and defend those important to me, but I’m merciless against those who attack me, I won’t stop before anything to destroy my enemies.”
“That’s what I like about you, my dear,” Teresa said, “you are a woman that is not afraid to get her hands dirty, and you certainly have the power to destroy her enemies, you already showed that many times, I don’t think people will forget anytime soon what you did to Emily. You are who you are, and no one is perfect. You remind me of a wild animal, calm and majestic, but lethal if attacked.”
“I’m not sure if you are insulting me, or complimenting me,” I told her.
“I’m pretty sure it was a compliment,” William said. “I’m sorry for being late.”
“That’s ok, better late than never,” Joon Hwan greeted him.
“It’s an honor to have you with us,” representative Jeong greeted him, and I couldn’t help but feel insulted.
“I’m just going to be here a minute, I thought Kaiserin would leave early and I was waiting for her to be gone, but I should have known she wouldn’t be able to resist spending time with the younglings, the little ones always gravitate towards her.”
“Maybe they like her because she treats them as equals, that makes them feel important,” Kimball said.
“There is no need for you to go,” Jeong said, “if Kaiserin’s presence bothers you…”
“That’s not it, It’s an honor and a pleasure to be in her presence,” William interrupted him before he could offer to kick me out of there, “is Kaiserin who doesn’t want me here, and the last thing I want to do is make her uncomfortable.”
“This is Joon Hwan’s party, and I know you became good friends during your time in Aquarium, if he wants you here, then I can’t ask otherwise.”
“Thanks,” William said, moving to a place where I wouldn’t be forced to see him.
“I still don’t know what to think about you,” representative Burgos said, “but I guess that I have a lot to thank you for, and a few reasons to ask for your forgiveness. I misjudged you, that’s more obvious every day, for the stories I’ve heard and the way you treat people, especially for the trust the most innocent place with you, I can see that you are a good, loyal person. But I also get that you can be quite bad for your enemies. You are both sides of the coin, you show both extremes, and I want to be on your good side.”
“Always looking for a way to survive, I couldn’t expect anything less from you,” I said with a smile. I could tell that it had cost her a lot just to approach me admitting to being wrong, I would have liked to make her suffer a little bit, but I respected her mother and liked her son, I wasn’t going to humiliate her in front of them.
The representative went back to where the rest of the members of the committee were gathered. I noticed the air felt different, lighter, and I realized that the perception of the people was changing, they weren’t as afraid, nor they felt that much distrust, some didn’t hate me as much. They were opening their minds to the possibility that the image they had of me was mistaken.
I still wasn’t sure what to think about William’s actions, but I had to accept that it felt better to be able to present a different face to them, and not to constantly feel their negative thoughts. I wasn’t sure if we would reach a point when we could all be friends, but at least I felt like the number of enemies I had was suddenly reduced.