I - Reliving your life
The day was incredibly hot, almost as if my skin were being seared by the intense heat. The blazing sun was so bright that it was difficult to even look at it, and the cacophony of the shouting crowd echoed relentlessly in my mind. The noise was overwhelming and made me feel unwell, but I knew I couldn't complain given my circumstances.
“KILL THAT MURDERER!”
“A PEST TO THE KINGDOM”
“YOU SHOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN SPARED!”
As I made my way through the densely packed crowds, the shouting intensified even further. Among the sea of unfamiliar faces, some individuals went so far as to spit in my direction. The hoarseness in my throat was a result of the desperate screams I had let out during my time in the dungeon. My eyes were bloodshot from the relentless crying and begging I had directed towards the kingdom's royals, yet my pleas fell on deaf ears—not even he paid the slightest attention.
In the bustling Kingdom of Rizalden, this day proved to be exceptionally busy and draining, for it marked the fateful moment of my impending demise. With brutal force, they dragged me along, my chains clinking ominously, toward the scaffold. As I reached the platform, I couldn't help but notice the haunting remnants of blood left by those who had met their fate there before me. The gleaming guillotine stood there, almost welcoming me, and a shiver ran down my spine. Nervously, I swallowed hard, my anxiety evident. Despite my fear, I refrained from shedding tears, for deep down, I knew there was no hope of salvation. No one believed my pleas, even though I spoke nothing but the truth.
Well, in this place, there really are no longer any souls by my side. The people who once stood with me have met their tragic end—their lives cruelly taken away, their bodies reduced to ashes through burning. I stand alone, surrounded by grim reminders of their absence.
Suddenly, a thunderous command, "KILL THE ACCUSED!" reverberated through the air, igniting an even louder and more unsettling chorus from the crowd. It was as if my impending doom had become an enthralling spectacle for their entertainment. I stole a quick, desperate glance at the one who had issued the order, and the knights holding my chains responded by wrenching me closer to the glistening blade of the guillotine. Trembling uncontrollably, I found myself standing beneath the cold, sharp edge, consumed by fear.
As I lifted my gaze towards the sky, a remarkable transformation occurred. The once scorching sun had been concealed behind dark clouds, and rain began to pour down heavily. It was as if the heavens themselves wept on my behalf, as I could no longer shed tears for my own sorrows. The downpour became a poignant symbol of the grief and turmoil that I could no longer express.
“I’m tired,” I whispered softly, my voice barely audible over the sound of the descending blade.
With frustration boiling inside me, I forcefully hurled my phone against the wall, unable to comprehend what the author had written. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I couldn't help but glance at my phone once more, only to find it lifeless. The screen lay shattered into pieces, and my hand trembled with anger.
My name is Lisha Stanford, and I recently celebrated my eighteenth birthday, signifying my newfound freedom. After arriving at my condo in Seoul, South Korea, an intriguing invitation appeared on my phone's screen. The invitation led me to a website featuring a novel called "Captivated by the Dancing Flower." My curiosity piqued, I decided to visit the site, intending to read just one chapter.
To my own surprise, I found myself completely engrossed in the n***********g through the night until the break of dawn. Despite my initial intention of reading just one chapter, I ended up devouring all of them. The narrative reached a satisfying conclusion, but an unexpected addition in the form of a side story about a minor character intrigued me.
The side story consisted of ten chapters, detailing Melantha Lovet Deion's unrequited love for the crown prince, the main character of the main plot. Her story culminated in her tragic death. Melantha, a princess from a fallen empire, captured my attention due to the uncanny parallels between her life and mine. However, I found her frustratingly naive! Her blind devotion to the crown prince struck me as foolish.
Melantha's love for the crown prince remained unspoken, and she maintained her composure whenever he was nearby, careful not to reveal her true feelings. However, her story took a heartbreaking turn when the crown prince, influenced by his lover's words, condemned her to death. Melantha became nothing more than a pawn in the narrative, used to enhance the protagonists' image. The frustration and anger I felt towards this unjust turn of events were so intense that I couldn't help but slam my new phone against the wall in exasperation.
Feeling overwhelmed with emotions, I collapsed onto the bed, my tears flowing uncontrollably. My head and chest ached from the intensity of my feelings; the pain was almost unbearable. I took heavy breaths, staring up at the ceiling of my condo.
"I should just get some sleep," I thought to myself, hoping that with rest, I could distance myself from the distressing impact of the story. When I woke up, I vowed to forget about the tormenting narrative that had consumed me.
As I opened my eyes, I found myself engulfed in a foreboding darkness. The atmosphere in this eerie place felt ominous and threatening. My eyes scanned the surroundings, and I noticed a woman standing a short distance away. She appeared to be dressed in ragged, tattered clothes, reminiscent of a beggar on the streets. Her silver hair was tangled and disheveled, and her body bore numerous bruises, some of which were still bleeding.
"Are you okay? What happened to you?" I inquired urgently as I rushed over to her side. Despite her condition, she looked at me with a sense of happiness in her eyes. As I observed her closely, I realized that her eyes held no trace of sadness; instead, they were filled with pure joy.
Is she happy?
To see me?
"You are finally back," she said at last. Confusion knitted my eyebrows together as her words puzzled me. I had no idea what she was referring to, as I couldn't recall any previous encounter with her or any reason for her to expect my return.
"Everything is in place according to the original plot. Now, it is up to you to fulfill your destiny," she said, pulling me into a tight embrace. Her words only added to my bewilderment, leaving me with more questions than answers. The reference to a preconceived plot and my supposed role in it left me feeling even more perplexed and uncertain about the situation.
"Live well, Melantha," she whispered into my ears, and a sudden chill ran down my spine, leaving me frozen in place. She gazed at me once more, a contented smile adorning her face, before vanishing like mist, dissipating right before my eyes. The enigmatic encounter left me feeling both intrigued and unsettled, trying to comprehend the meaning behind her words and the significance of her appearance in my life.
"Wait!" I screamed, instinctively stretching my hand out to her, but the scene before me shifted abruptly. Now, my hand was reaching out towards an ornate ceiling embellished with gold accents. This wasn't a dream, yet this wasn't my room either. Alarmed, I promptly rose to my feet, my eyes darting around the vast room. The decor, the grandeur, the ostentatiousness—everything felt eerily unfamiliar and exceedingly opulent for my tastes.
Where is this place?
"Your highness?" A girl appeared in the room, carrying a tray in her hands. She wore a dark green gown, and her presence added to my bewilderment. In my confusion, I rushed towards the mirror, only to find that the reflection staring back at me was not my own. This revelation further heightened the sense of disorientation and mystery surrounding my current situation.
"Who is this beautiful lady?" I inquired, my curiosity piqued by the reflection in the mirror. The unfamiliar face staring back at me was undoubtedly captivating, yet I couldn't shake off the feeling of being an outsider in this strange and opulent setting.
"Do you mean you, your highness?" The girl queried, her question indicating an apparent surprise and confusion at my apparent self-questioning.
"This!" I exclaimed, gesturing towards my unfamiliar reflection in the mirror. The face that stared back at me, while beautiful, was entirely unrecognizable.
"It is the princess of the Ythen Empire, Melantha Lovet Deion," she responded, bowing respectfully, seemingly oblivious to the gravity of my revelation. My eyes widened in shock as I recognized the name she had mentioned. It seemed that somehow I had been transported into the very novel I had been reading. I had become Melantha, the character from the story. The girl I encountered in the dark abyss was her, but the perplexing question remains.
How did I end up in this world, embodying her character?
Did I perhaps die?
The revelation was hard to process. Impossible even.
I had just fallen asleep, hadn't I?
Memories from before began to surface: the intense headache, the heavy sorrow, the long flight, and the discovery of the novel. But there was one recollection that sent a chill down my spine. Back at home, my sister had handed me a glass of wine as a parting gift.
Could that have had anything to do with my current predicament?
The question hung in the air, as puzzling and disconcerting as the strange events that had just unfolded. Despite the confusion, another recollection struck me. Before my departure, I unintentionally overheard a troubling conversation involving my family. I had caught snippets of a conversation between my mom, dad, and sister that hinted at a sinister plan. But I was too naive then, brushing off my suspicions. It occurred to me then that I had been poisoned. They were ready to harm me now that I had turned 18 and they could finally claim whatever they had been coveting. The realization that my own family was capable of such deceit and harm left me shaken.
How can they do this to me?
Overwhelmed by the weight of the revelations, I crumbled, collapsing onto the floor. It was all too much to bear. All I had ever yearned for was to be accepted, loved, and valued by my own family. The stark reality of their treachery was crushing, leaving me feeling utterly broken and betrayed.
"Your highness." The girl by the door instantly set down the tray she was carrying and rushed over to me. With a gentle touch, she helped guide me back to the bed, providing some comfort in the midst of the overwhelming confusion and sorrow.
"You need to lie down and rest, your highness. You have only just recovered from your illness," she advised, gently helping me to recline. She then turned her attention to the tray laden with an assortment of food, providing a small sense of normalcy in the whirlwind of my present circumstances.
In the midst of the confusion, a revelation struck me with certainty. Somehow, I had become Melantha, and I was now reliving her life. Armed with knowledge of the events to come from reading the novel, I saw an opportunity to alter her fate and find some semblance of peace. However, to effectively navigate her life and the story's timeline, I needed to understand the sequence of events that lay ahead. Thus, my first task was to familiarize myself with the timeline of the story and its unfolding events.
"By the way, what happened to me again? I seemed to have..." I started to ask, but I halted my sentence, feeling a sudden stiffness in my body. It was as if the memories of Melantha's fate were flooding back into my consciousness, and I was struck by the realization that I might already know what had befallen her. The weight of that knowledge was both daunting and unsettling.
As the truth sank in, I couldn't deny the reality of my situation. I was now living as Melantha, a princess of the Ythen Empire, and the weight of her responsibilities and the tragic events that lay ahead weighed heavily on me. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I grappled with the knowledge of what awaited her in this timeline. Refusing to let history repeat itself, I quickly stood up and rushed to the balcony, only to be met with a nightmarish sight. The traitors and rebels had launched their assault on the palace, and chaos reigned as fire rained down upon us, turning the night sky into a scene of devastation.
"Oh God, why now?" I muttered to myself, rooted to the spot as I watched the scene of chaos unfold. The sight of people desperately fleeing for their lives had me momentarily frozen in shock and disbelief.
The once-clear sky has now darkened, obscured by the suffocating black smoke that filled the air. The pungent stench of blood permeated the surroundings, emanating from the growing pile of lifeless bodies. My body trembled with horror, and I felt nauseous, but the overwhelming shock left me paralyzed. I stood in silence, witnessing the grim reality of the c*****e before me as people fought for their lives in a desperate plea for mercy. The scene was nothing short of a nightmare, and I felt powerless to intervene, weighed down by the enormity of the unfolding tragedy.
"What are you still doing here? Get out now!" A young man burst into my room, urgency in his voice. Judging by his demeanor and the way he is dressed in fine clothing, I assumed he was one of the princes, my brother in this new life. As I prepared to move towards him, my eyes widened in horror at the sight of a man emerging from behind him. I instinctively knew this man wasn't one of ours, but I was too stunned to issue a warning. The stranger plunged a blade into my brother's back, but remarkably, he didn't fall.
"Run, Melantha!" my brother screamed, bravely attempting to hold off the attacker and shield me from harm. The maid, finally comprehending the danger, rushed to my side, trembling with fear. I clung tightly to her hand, seeking comfort and support amidst the chaos. My brother, covered in wounds, displayed unwavering determination to protect me, refusing to yield. In that moment, I felt a sense of protection and safety I had never experienced before in my life. It was his selfless sacrifice that allowed my smaller stature to slip away from the assailant, granting me a chance to escape the perilous situation.
"Live!" he urged, his gaze locked onto mine as we ran with all our might, distancing ourselves from the danger. In that moment of chaos, uncertainty, and fear, his words rang loud and clear, resonating within me. As we fled, I couldn't predict the exact outcome of this harrowing day, but one thing was certain: the fate of everyone around me, except for me, would be one of tragedy and loss. I witnessed a struggle for survival as some fought bravely while others sought escape, myself included. In this desperate bid to live, I knew that my brother's sacrifice had set me on a path where I would be the sole survivor.
The devastating reality confronted me when I came across my parents' lifeless bodies in this altered life. Their luxurious clothing and crowns served as unmistakable identifiers. The sight pierced my heart, and tears streamed down my face as I comprehended the magnitude of this tragedy. The sound of my maid's sobs echoed in the air, reflecting the shared grief and anguish we experienced. I couldn't fathom how Melantha managed to endure such heartache and later fall for the man responsible for destroying her family. The weight of these events felt overwhelming, and I struggled to comprehend how she found the strength to bear such immense pain and navigate the complexities of her life. The burden of living as she did and facing the aftermath of this devastating attack was simply too much to bear.
However, I was yanked back to harsh reality when someone roughly grabbed my maid's hair. "Run, your highness!" she yelled, courageously attempting to fend off the man who was threateningly closing in on me. Her actions sparked my survival instincts, reminding me of the dire circumstances and the need to escape. She was no match for his brute force. In one swift, merciless swing of his sword, he ended her life.
My tears flowed uncontrollably as I ran with all my might, driven by the primal instinct to survive. Escaping capture was my sole focus; I couldn't afford to let them catch me. I had to break free from this nightmarish place! But in my desperate haste, fate seemed to intervene, and I collided with someone, sending me sprawling to the ground. To my surprise and relief, the person I had run into was dressed in the uniform of the Ythen Empire's knights. In this moment of chaos and uncertainty, a glimmer of hope emerged—perhaps this person could be trusted to help me escape this horrifying ordeal.
"Are you okay?" the man inquired with genuine concern as he helped me to my feet. His actions conveyed a sense of reassurance amidst the chaos and danger surrounding us.
"Please, help me!" I pleaded with him, my voice trembling with fear and desperation. In this harrowing moment, I clung to the hope that he would extend a helping hand and provide a lifeline to escape the impending danger.
"Alright," he responded casually, seemingly unfazed by the chaos surrounding us. His calm demeanor amid such turmoil struck me, causing me to study his face more closely, scrutinizing this unlikely ally in the midst of the crisis.
As I observed him more closely, I couldn't help but notice his striking features: a handsome face with light pink hair, captivating purple eyes, and thin red lips. However, a wave of dread washed over me when I finally recognized him. It was too late to flee when I saw his devilish grin, realizing that he was not the ally I had hoped for.
His name was Samuel, a traitor to the Ythen Empire. He dragged me into an ominously dark place, which I quickly identified as the kingdom's underground cell. The place was damp and drenched. The revolting stench was an unbearable mix of bodily fluids—spit, urine, and blood—that I couldn't differentiate among them. The overpowering smell triggered my gag reflex, and I vomited from the sheer intensity of it.
"Hey!" Samuel exclaimed, distancing himself from me, perhaps taken aback by my reaction. As my gaze darted around the darkness, my attention was drawn to another figure emerging from the shadows. Slowly, the man approached me, and a shiver ran down my spine, uncertain of the intentions of this new presence in such a grim and unsettling place.
"This is the princess?" he queried, lifting my chin not with a gentle touch but with the cold, menacing edge of a sword. The steel against my skin was chilling, intensifying the threat he posed and leaving me fearful of his intentions.
"Draw back your sword," Samuel's cold voice commanded, warning the man to back down. I couldn't see Samuel's face, but his tone was enough to indicate the tense standoff between the two men. I could only hope that Samuel's intervention would prevent any further harm from befalling me.
The man begrudgingly complied, sheathing his sword upon Samuel's order. His gaze, however, remained intense, fixated on me as he made a remark that sent a pang of unease through me. "She looks plain," he stated bluntly, assessing me with a critical eye. His words only added to the discomfort and uncertainty surrounding this encounter.
"I want her. Let us bring her back with us," he asserted, and then he departed, leaving me alone with Samuel. My heart raced with anxiety as I realized that I was now solely under Samuel's control, and I had no clue what he had in store for me. The sense of vulnerability and uncertainty continued to weigh heavily on my mind as I awaited my fate in the hands of this dangerous man.