It was weird going back to Aquarium, it was good to be back in a safe place, with my whole family, but I knew it wouldn’t last for long. I had too many things to do and my time was short. First, I had to go speak to Sofia, I needed to talk to her and go over our plans for the near future. Then, I needed to see William. I felt responsible for him after taking him out of the mansion and then taking off. I knew that I had done all I could to help him, but I needed to make sure he was safe and that he was recovering.
After spending some quality time with Kimball and Ethan, I went searching for my guest. It was easy to find Sofia’s mind in a place like Aquarium, her mind, unlike the mzansiers’ minds, wasn’t blinded against me. It took me just a few minutes to find the place where she was, and a few more to get to her. I should have expected to find her in Aquarium’s gardens, it was the place where she could think and meditate, and she had a lot to think about.
“I see you came back from the dead,” I said to Sofia when I arrived at where she was.
“That’s right. I have to say the experience was not what I was expecting, and I’m happy to be back.” Sofía smiled at me, and I felt only good feelings coming out of her. I was relieved that she wasn’t mad at me for choking her where I was faking her death. “I need to thank you for helping William. I know it wasn’t part of your plans and I appreciate that you went to help him.”
“I think that it won’t be the first nor the last time I will have to adapt my plans. This time it was easy, Emily is very unstable and it worked in my favor, she couldn’t wait to send me after William as soon as she learned that there was a chance he could survive. That and I think she wanted me out of the Palace, which is also in my favor. She supported me when I asked Faakhir for time to fix some problems in Mzansi.”
“You know Faakhir wants you, don’t you?”
“I know that, and Emily knows it too. I think I will use Emily to keep him away from me. It will be a hard few years.”
“But if someone can deal with the problems you will be facing, it’s you. I trust you and I know you will be fine. I wouldn’t have asked for your help if I didn’t think you were up for the challenge.”
“How is William?” I asked, looking for a change of topic.
“He will be fine, thanks to you. I knew that he wasn’t good, but I had no idea how bad he was. Emily lied to me about a lot of things. She kept him alive, as promised, but he wasn’t in a good situation. The few times I spoke to him, he told me everything was fine, he didn’t want me to worry about him. And I made the mistake of believing in him, I didn’t look into his past. I was focused on keeping him alive and didn’t pay enough attention to his well being. William was always serious about his role as protector, even if he was the youngest of my children, so having the lives of the people around him depending on his behavior was hard for him. He is still blaming himself for the death of the young man that tried to help him.
“I think that is normal that he feels somehow responsible for what happened, but sooner or later he will realize that he cannot take responsibility for other people’s actions. That young man made a decision, and it is an insult to his sacrifice, not to recognize that it was his choice.”
“I don’t think that Williams sees things like that. I was on my way to see him by the way. Would you like to come with me? I’m sure he would be glad to have the chance of thanking you for your help.”
“That would be great, thank you. I was planning on visiting him later, but going with you would be best.”
“Are you afraid of how he will react?”
“He saw me with Emily’s guards, he didn’t see me taking him out of the mansion. He doesn’t know how I helped in his rescue.”
“Don’t worry. I already told him what really happened.”
I followed Sofia to William’s room. He looked even more fragile on the hospital bed. I knew it would take him a while to get to his optimum body weight, and even longer to get his spirit back, but at least he wasn’t alone anymore, his mother would be there to help him. Not being alone would help in his recovery.
“William? Are you awake?” Sofia asked.
“Mother…” William saw me and went mute. His eyes showed first surprise, and then fear.
“This is Kaiserin,” Sofia introduced me, “she is the one I talked to you about. She is the one that went for you.” At first he didn’t say anything, he was looking around the room, I could see that something was holding him back, he was hesitating about something. “It’s ok, you can talk, Emily thinks you are dead, so her rules doesn’t apply anymore, she can’t hurt you.” His emotions changed drastically after those words, his emotions calmed down and he made a decision.
“I saw her in the basement,” he whispered so low it was hard to hear him, “I thought she was death coming for me.”
“I have been called a lot of names, but never death.”
William blushed, he didn’t think I would be able to hear him and he was ashamed. I could feel his inner struggle. I knew something was bothering him, and it wasn’t just my presence or the fact that he thought he had offended me. There was something wrong with him. The time under his sister’s control haven’t been kind to him. His physical abuse could be seen in his lack of weight and his sick parlor, but I knew that the worst injuries were those that couldn’t be seen easily. Whatever Emily had done to hurt his mind, it would take a long time to be fixed.
“She is a friend of mine,” Sofia said. “She will be working with our sister for the moment, until we can get enough resources to liberate the countries under her rule.”
“Emily is crazy, her greed is our of control,” William said, “the sister that I knew is long gone. Mother, she killed Charles, and she will kill anyone who stands in her way,” he was frantic, trying to warn us about something we already knew.
“I know, she tried to kill me too, and I’m her mother, she has no problem killing people, but we can’t sit and do nothing, that’s why we are planning on sopping her. What Emily is doing is wrong and someone has to stop her, as members of the Royal Family we have to do it, is our duty to protect hose under our care, even if we have to get rid of Emily and her husband to do it.”
“They are blinded by their ambition, they can’t see that the road they’re traveling won’t end well. Sooner or later the people under their rule will snap and rebel against them, and when that happens a lot of lives will be lost. What I’m trying to do is find a way to stop them from the inside before things get a chance to escalate. For the moment they trust their power, they think everyone is under their control, but eventually they will learn that’s not true.”
“Are you going to help us?” William asked. “Are you sure you will be able to fight them?”
“They went after my family, they attacked me. For the moment they think that I’m under their control, but they are wrong. Your sister and her husband made a grave mistake by fighting me. If they had left me alone, if their greed wasn’t so big, then I wouldn’t be here planning their end. But you don’t have to worry about it, you just focus on getting better.”
“I’m part of this. Emily and Faakhir took my brother and my freedom. When the time arrives, I want to be the one to judge them, as the King. I will take Emily’s place and show them how to be a real King. How a real leader worries about his people, not abuse them. How a real leader puts the needs of their people over his own. Emily and Faakhir will pay for everything they have done against our people and against us.”
“When the time comes, you will be part of this, but for now, I’m the one that has to be on the front lines. None of you can go to the Palace or talk to anyone, especially not any of the other rulers. You two are dead, and you have to remain dead until the right moment. If Emily finds out that I lied to her and that you are still alive, then our whole plan will crumble.”
“You cannot ask us to stay here and do nothing,” William said, his fear forgotten and replaced by anger.
“Of course I can. I’m sorry for this, but I need to remind you that this is my territory, this place is under my control, and no one goes in or out without my authorization, and you won’t be able to get out of Aquarium. I know this may seem like the same thing your sister did, like I’m holding you prisoner, but what I’m doing is what I think is best for everyone. By staying here you will help save a lot of people.”
“Staying here doesn’t mean that we won’t help. There are many ways of fighting and many ways to help,” Sofia added.
“I don’t want more people to die…” What William didn’t say was that he didn’t want more people dying because of him. I realized at that moment just how much guilt, he was carrying on his shoulders, guilt over things that were way out of his control.
“Dying is part of life. I can’t guarantee that there won’t be more deaths, but what I can do is promise to work on minimizing those losses as much as I can.”
“I want to help, I want to do something to stop Emily. I don’t want her to keep hurting innocent people.”
“When the time arrives you will help. For the moment we need you to heal and get your strength back. You need to prepare to be a King, because when the time arrives you will take over Emily and you will have to do a good job. You can’t repeat your sister’s mistakes.”
“I would never do what my sister has done.”
“I know you won’t, but it’s not enough to have good intentions. To be a good ruler, especially in a place like the one your sister is going to leave for us, you need to be prepared. My job is to get the Dominion back, yours will be to be a good ruler.
“Don’t worry about that, I will be by William’s side, helping him in everything I can. We won’t fail our people again,” Sofia said.
“I trust you, I know you will do the right thing.”
I left William and Sofia alone. After years of separation they needed time to be together. And I needed to be with my son. Despite everything I had done to him, he had no bad feeling for me, the incident with Faakhir was only a bad memory, even if I couldn’t stop blaming myself for my actions and the pain I had caused him. I knew that I had done what was best for him and myself, but that didn’t change the fact that I had hurt him, he had been in danger because of me, it was my hand that had hurt him.
As I walked to my room I wondered about what things I would be forced to do in name of freedom, how many more I would have to hurt to prove myself to Faakhir and Emily. I knew that I had to stop them, I needed to find a way to strip them of their power and give it back to the right people, but I knew that I would do a lot of things that I would later regret in the time I would be forced to stay with them.