Chapter VI: Intro to the Beast

Rogue… That was what she had called him. It wasn't necessarily the most creative of nicknames, but it would do—for now.

Looking down at his worn leather cuffs, he couldn't help but think of that girl who called herself "Sharp". Nor could he forget those eyes. By no means were they breath-taking, but left an impression on him. They were unkempt and dull, like a rough onyx stone. But for a minute—mere seconds, even—he thought he saw a subtle gleam, a glisten of life within her seemingly-dismal existence. Then, the moment he mentioned the court, it disappeared.

His conclusion: Miss Sharp was an interesting person.

She perplexed him.

He felt the muscles in his lips twitch—a smile, perhaps? Impossible. They had barely been acquainted several hours ago. He barely even knew this "Sharp" persona of hers. But god. She was so damn entertaining, with that unyielding smirk and those witty returns. Yet, despite her seemingly rough exterior, he could practically smell her open wounds and see the resulting scars.

It was all a façade.

She was vulnerable. Just like the deer in the woods.

There was an abrupt snap, and he was forced to concede time. It was midday, and as the shadows of skeletal branches extended to smother all color, there were noises—hooting. The sounds were dreadful, resonating in a spin-chilling monotone, like the owls were moaning in pain. That was nature's cue to leave. Staying any longer would be stupid on his part, practically suicidal.

Crack.

It was the same noise from earlier. Something was watching him, stalking him with the utmost care. Rogue could feel it, the weight of its stare. Subtly, his fingers inched towards the resting bow. Bow in hand, he was ready to shoot. But not yet. Fingers anxiously drumming against the wood, he remained patient. If he could just isolate that one sound, and the direction from which it originated… An identical noise echoed through the woods.

Got it. Rogue smirked.

In one quick moment, he slide off his leather cuff and hurled it directly behind him, into an unsuspecting bush. Within the second, his bow was at the ready. Relying solely on instinct, he fired a blind shot. The bowstring was so tight, that the recoil rippled through his arms like an all-consuming wind. And the arrow sliced through the air with barely-audibly hiss.

There was a dull gurgling noise—undoubtedly the impalement of flesh. What he found was everything short of magnificent. It was just a bird, a cardinal, pitifully struggling against a well-engorged blade. Her natural red feathers were doused with burgundy. And it was splattered everywhere, staining blades of grass and seeping into the neglected earth. He could see it chirping desperately, but there was no sound. Her cries were muted.

She was… a waste of a good arrow.

Damn.

He used his foot to anchor her down and keep her from squirming. Then, he freed the arrow from her flesh. The cracking of bone was impossible to ignore, but she was still alive. Rogue wiped the blood with his fingers and proceeded to head home, leaving the struggling bird at the mercy of the scavengers.

Yes.

Just like the cardinal, she was vulnerable.

… … …

She looked at herself in the mirror: snow white skin, carnation-pink lip, and jet-black hair with a light curl. Damn—was this really her? She took a step closer to the mirror, fingers reaching for her reflection. They were hesitant, trembling even. Upon contact—when she was expecting to feel the fingertips of a separate entity—there was nothing, just the sensation of hard glass.

So this was really her. This disgusting creature staring back at the mirror was no illusion. And here she was, hoping it was a mirage…

She was wrong.

"Simply stunning…" The maid, who had been sewing lace into the trim, glanced up. Her hair, which had previously been pinned up, had succumbed to nothing but untamed coils. And there were bags under her eyes, layer upon layer of haggard folds. This woman had been too preoccupied, too consumed with the perfection of this dress. It was a wonder the woman hadn't gone blind.

But the dress was perfection. Never before had she see anything so expensive, with its intricate lace collar snaking up her neck and ruby-encrusted bodice restraining her waist. Then there was the skirt, the focus of the entire ensemble: layer upon layer of voluminously-tiered charcoal silk, topped with emerald chiffon. Beautifully elegant—but so goddamn itchy.

"I disagree." The noble loomed over her figure, circling her like a starving vulture. His eyes slowly wandered down her dress, lingering at her chest.

Pervert.

"More stuffing."

"What?" She felt the area around her chest, overwhelmed by the quantity of stuffing squeezing her breasts. "Stuffing is practically falling out my ass. Any more, and I'll look like a roast pig."

At her comeback, there was a flicker in his eye, followed by the formation of a sinister smile. "And also, it would seem as though the corset is not fitting enough. Pull it tighter."

"How tight, my lord."

"A good rule of thumb, if I can hear her complain—it's too loose." He pet her head, stroking her hair as if she was some goddamn dog.

"Bastard." Sharp sighed through clenched teeth.

"Perhaps you should put an apple in her mouth too…"

"Damn you." As she corset tightened, the blood rushed to her cheeks. She found solace in the mirror before her, leaning against the glass as a means of support and clinging onto the sides as if her life depended on it. The pressured escalated, reaching the pinnacle of her pain tolerance before plateauing. "Hell…" She could finally breathe. "Damnable torture device."

"Much better…but still missing something."

"Are you serious?" Regardless of how much she wanted to yell, the statement was barely above the whisper. Her voice was raspy, restricted by the infernal contraception around her waist; it almost sounded polite.

"It's the lips."

The lips?

"Paint them." He started towards the door.

Paint them?

This wasn't a goddamn art exhibition.

"What color? My lord?"

"Blood red."

Blood red lips…

Ironically, the stain tasted like blood too.

This was ridiculous. He wasn't paying her to be an assassin. He was paying her to be a doll—a pale, fragile, tea-loving piece of porcelain. She had come to the conclusion that the thing looking back at her wasn't Sharp. It was a porcelain doll.

"Perfect…" The man hissed as he licked his lips. He was staring at her as if she were a shiny piece of silver. "Leave us," he told his maid. And with the gentle wave of his wrist, his servant had scattered. When they were both alone, he crept up behind her.

Sharp didn't need to turn around to know he was within a breath's distance away. She could feel his presence. An uncomfortable chill crawled up her spine. "Now what?"

She stared at her reflection. It was as if a stranger was staring back at her. She was no longer a commoner. She was one of them…

Those noble bastards.

She hated them.

Yet, she seemed to fit their profile: slender, overdressed, and painted. God—those hideous blood red lips. She hated it. All of it.

"Now, we test your abilities."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning, we kill the beast."

Sharp clenched her fist. It was a good thing the servant had filed her nails down to stubs.

... ... ...

Her skin tasted like wine, sweet and indulgent.

Undoubtedly sinful.

Hell—they all tasted like wine. All four of them: four, equally-beautiful women with equally-gorgeous bodies. They clustered around him; skin chaffed against skin. In the darkness, they clung to him, intertwined in a mass of satin sheets and perspiring limbs. The pitch-darkness was accompanied by their moans and subtle breaths that followed. They sighed in unison.

He couldn't see their faces—but he didn't give a damn. Who they were was irrelevant. It didn't matter.

It never did.

All he knew was that he was the center of attention—him, their Prince—and they were the naked ornaments that worshipped him. His Majesty was a prideful person, his arrogance unmatched. But Kiernan didn't care. He was too preoccupied

He could feel everything:every curve, every tender kiss on the neck and every wandering hand. And he returned to them nothing but physical pleasure, immense physical satisfaction. There was no substance behind it, only loveless lust. Every kiss was reckless, amazing, but ultimately meaningless. His lips simply were marking the trail his tongue had mapped out ever-so-carefully. After hours of uninterrupted activity, the pleasured waned.

Satisfaction plateaued.

It was inevitable that one—if not two—would fall victim to false love. Perhaps she would wake in the morning, yearning for his touch but too weak to cry out.

One by one, the bodies hit the floor.

And he allowed himself to fall into a dreamless daze, lulled to sleep by their erratic breaths and satisfied sighs.


I'm finally back. Your reviews keep me motivated. Thanks everyone.

-Sera