Author’s Note: And now, a new short story, yo.
Also, self-reminder: Backup them precious uploaded stories and story chapters, yo.
And in other writing-related news, I’ll be working on the next chapter of sakiyama starting this week.
And again, honest constructive feedback is highly encouraged and will be highly appreciated.
Many of his subjects would find it unbelievable, but the Iron King cared very much about children.
That’s why he went out of the castle, disguised as a commoner.
“Please, Your Majesty…”
“We don’t like this kingdom anymore…”
Hearing those words from an orphaned pair of young and dark-skinned siblings, a brother and a sister, led to the breaking of his heart.
Yet, a part of him kept on telling him that those children were delusional, and that they weren’t capable of understanding the system that adults had to live with for everyone’s sake.
And then his thinking went back to when he decided to become a soldier for the kingdom.
“So that the children would truly smile and live happily.”
The king who he first worked for praised him after he said that.
It gave that soldier hope.
A few days later, that king who gave praise was assassinated.
That soldier then found himself under the command of a tyrant.
Whispers from some fellow soldiers got him into giving fake loyalty to the tyrant, all while they plotted to take the kingdom back and then teach that man a lesson as cruel as he was.
Anyone loyal to the tyrant were slain, even if they begged for mercy, for the rebels didn’t want to take chances.
Eventually, after many bloody battles, the rebels managed to take the kingdom back.
The one who became king, being the one who brought down the castle upon the tyrant within it during a banquet, seemed like a beacon of hope.
But the one who became king, being one who greatly feared for the safety of the kingdom, easily followed his paranoid advisors.
Anyone who didn’t follow the Iron King’s rules were executed.
After all, they didn’t want to take chances.
People followed the Iron King’s rules more and more while the Iron King had his hands on the kingdom.
Still, there were cries from the weak…but they were cries from adults.
The Iron King and his advisors thought that those adults should already know what to do.
So, why were those weak adults complaining?
The royal government didn’t understand, and they didn’t want to take chances.
And so, those weak ones were executed.
After that, more people followed the Iron King’s rules.
Still, the Iron King held no banquets.
In fact, he never held any banquets ever since he became king.
Remembering that he can be a victim of a plan similar to that one that he enacted, he vowed to not be in banquets, let alone hold one.
Sleeping wasn’t a comfortable experience too, even after he became king.
The Iron King’s castle had become a cold place, indeed.
Everyday, there was not much noise there.
Everyday, many thieves and assassins were easily spotted and executed there.
Everyday, lookouts slept on duty, and they got executed too.
And then those two children came, past the sleeping guards and through the cold quiet.
The Iron King almost brought his sword upon them when he was rudely awakened from sleeping on his throne.
When he recognized the fact that they were children, he immediately apologized.
Recently, he had been considering having children visit his castle, but his advisors wouldn’t let him because of the accompanying adults who probably wanted to take the kingdom.
Again, they didn’t want to take chances.
But now, the Iron King, sleepy and tired because of all the fearing, decided to ignore his own rules.
The Iron King believed that children weren’t great liars, so he didn’t worry when he approached them.
“What is the matter, children?” he tried to say with a warm voice.
He also realized that his voice sounded very hoarse.
Then, within his mind, he wished that the children wouldn’t be scared off.
Fortunately, the children didn’t leave.
The brother and sister tried to stand tall, tried to tower over the kneeling king, despite the height difference that remained.
And with their high and loud voices, the siblings declared the words that moved the king into becoming closer to his kingdom.
Now, the king walked through his sad kingdom, wearing the tattered clothes of the siblings’ late father.
As for those siblings, they walked with the king.
The sleeping guards, advisors, and servants didn’t notice them leave.
If there were people in the castle who noticed, they were too tired, their bodies not working properly, their loyalty had become unable to support their bodies.
When the king and the two children got out of the castle, they met a sun that reminded them of the sandy spaces in a faraway and foreign land.
The sun seemed to be shining rays of cruelty upon them.
The siblings that accompanied the king complained about the heat a lot.
And then the siblings complained about the many bad people in the kingdom.
A part of the Iron King wanted to ignore what they were saying, but the Iron King did not like ignoring children.
So he listened, even if their words tortured his hardened heart.
Eventually, he stumbled, tears falling from his eyes as well.
He tried to rub his eyes with a frayed sleeve, but that gave him more pain, for the sleeve was filled with dust and dirt.
And because he couldn’t see things clearly, he stayed on that spot, on the hard ground that had trash here and there.
The sister went to comfort the king, telling him that things will be better.
The brother went to seek help, calling the attention of anyone he could talk to.
The little girl beside the king ended up crying when her brother came back, tired and crying because of all the rejections from their fellow citizens.
For some time, they cried, and they stayed on the road.
Some time later, they meekly moved to the side after encountering some angry merchants.
More time passed, and they ended up sleeping with the people lying down on the sides of the streets.
To the king’s surprise, he found more warmth there, on the side of the street, with two good children.
He already forgot how long it had been since he felt comfortable while trying to sleep, but the past didn’t matter much to him now.
The king needed sleep, and he knew that.
And so he slept.
Nightmares never came when he slept during that time.
No cacophony of screaming, crying, and begging.
No bloody faces of the executed.
No hateful glares from the citizens.
The king felt surprise when he woke up.
“Your Majesty? Is that you?”
There was a woman looking at him.
She seemed to be as old and wrinkled as he was, but she wasn’t wearing something like the cold frown that he usually wore.
She was smiling.
Not a big smile, but still a smile.
Such beauty was a rare thing to him, especially in his cold kingdom.
How would such a thing endure in his weary kingdom?
The king feared that he was in delirium, though, for he did not want to take chances.
“Are you…are you real?” the king asked.
Without saying a word, the woman looked at him for a while.
And then…she embraced him.
“Yes,” she whispered.
The king would have closed his eyes, if not for the sight in front of them.
A gathering crowd of citizens were talking to each other, giving glances to their king while they did so.
“That’s the king?”
“I thought that he was always in the castle?”
“But the guards said that the king was missing…”
“Those two troublemakers really got him out of the castle?”
The doubt wasn’t surprising to the king.
After all, faults are hard to forget.
“…may I cry on your shoulder?” asked the king, to the woman who had her arms around his body.
“You may,” she answered softly, tightening her embrace. “Yes…you may, Your Majesty.”
After a long time of holding his tears back, the king cried again.
He tried not to be loud while crying, because he thought that it was a sign of weakness, and he hated being weak.
“Things can get better.”
“You have people who love you.”
“And you are trying to understand us.”
“With that…you have earned my loyalty.”
“Thank you…” the king answered, tears of melancholy and joy falling from his eyes.
The loud clanking of metal suddenly sounded, and then there were shouts.
“Where is the King?”
“Your Majesty, where are you?”
“Has anyone seen our King?”
The king turned, with his stiff neck, to where those shouts were coming from.
Distressed knights, with their helmets off, were looking around, calling for him, the leader who they strongly believed in.
“His Majesty is here!”
“He’s over here!”
The king was about to call them, but instead, the two children who led him outside did that for him.
Desperate for their king, the knights ran to a man in dirty, tattered clothes…a man who was accompanied by two smiling children and an embracing woman.
“Your…Majesty?” one confused knight asked, tilting his head to the side.
The woman let the king go, letting him face his knights.
“Yes,” the king declared, “I am your king…and I have not been one…up until now.”
A smile was on the king’s face, while the knights and the other citizens had hanging jaws and widened eyes.
“The king has…”
“The king understands us…”
“Is the end of the world coming!?”
That last sentence, though…
That last sentence made the king laugh…even if it hurt.
Panic ensued as the people sank into disbelief.
The knights, being very loyal, tried to maintain order, although their tired bodies experienced a lot of difficulty in handling the panicking crowd.
The two children and the woman helped the king up and moved him to somewhere safer.
And as for the king, who was moving along with the children and the woman…
The king laughed.
“An unbelievable but real tale!” the king shouted in between bouts of laughter. “What a strange thing, indeed!”
And so, for the first time, the king thought of holding a banquet, for he thought that celebrations were in order.
“All of the kingdom’s citizens must know about the miracle that I experienced!” the king thought as well.
The king also decided that the dark-skinned siblings and the smiling woman will become royal advisors as well.
He wouldn’t lie about a part of him still not wanting to take chances, though, but he didn’t trust that part of him as much as he did back then anymore.
The king knew that hope existed.
With that, he would move forward, even if he would stumble again at some point.