Life often brought so many misconceptions and mishaps, and I was always wondering how I could even survive it. I lived in a world where women were treated so unfairly, like the only thing we could do was bow to men, bear children, and take care of the household. They felt like they could beat us, kill us, or sell us whenever they wanted to. We had no say in anything related to work, politics, or religion. We were being treated worse than dogs on the street. Even at court, the queen and her daughters were not allowed to step in, and all I could see was a bunch of arrogant men killing each other for power. They were greedy, selfish, and proud. I was always asking myself why I was born in this cruel world, but I did not realize I was there for something greater. I wanted the world to be peaceful again. I wanted to have the power to protect those I loved and all the nation.
The king had five daughters and no sons—I, Mai, was the fifth one. All my sisters were weak and naive, just like my father, and they had no interest in politics. In my time, we weren taught war, strategy, fighting, or anything related. We were taught how to be a princess like we were. They taught us how to get ready to be a mother. They taught us embroidery and how to flirt with powerful men. As I grew up, I always hid in the back of the fields where the generals and those men of war were training. I sat in the back room every time they were talking about strategic ways to defeat my kingdoms enemies. I learned the swords, the strategies, and politics thanks to my naughtiness. My father, the king, always carelessly did politics in front of me because I was young and playful; he didn think that I would care much about learning. My mother always told me that I looked and acted too much like a man, and she was always afraid that I wouldn find a man to marry me because of my behavior, but no one knew what was in my head.
In my kingdom, once a girl turned sixteen, she entered the age of maturity where her parents must choose a suitor for her. That was not the kind of life I wanted; I wanted a wild free life. Unfortunately, I was a princess, the daughter of the great king Rudolf and the most spoiled princess in the country. As the younger princess, my father allowed me to do everything I wanted. No one expected anything from me because I could never have reached anywhere close to being the queen or crown princess. Every day was a struggle for my father to choose his successor. The court wouldn leave him be. Since my father only had daughters, no one in court wanted a crown princess but a prince. He was in a demanding situation to find a solution. The poor man was too humble for these hungry power men at court.
My father decided to call for a family meeting as his most trusted people. He was desperate and wanted something to change. He wanted peace at court, and at the same time, he didn want to give these powerful men the opportunity to the throne, or else his people would perish. But he was too soft to scare them off. My father was getting older; all he ever wanted was a normal life with my mother. When he got in power, he didn like this kind of life, but he had to because he was obligated to do it. It was his duty as the first son of the king, my grandfather.
That night at the table, all seven of us sat for dinner. I looked into my fathers eyes; all I saw was sadness and desperation. He was a good king; he cared deeply about his country and his family, and all he ever wanted was for his country to prosper. He looked at each one of us, holding my mothers hand.
”My beloved, I have something to announce, ” he said with worries, all eyes immediately fixed on him and waiting for him to talk. He scratched his throat and continued, ”In three days time, I shall declare my heir to the throne. They want me to have my greedy cousin as heir while I have five beautiful daughters that can do equally the same job as the queen. ”
”What is on your mind, your majesty? ” my mother, Lisa, asked.
”Well, I was thinking three of our daughters are already married. Since Dana is already my firstborn, she can become the crown princess when the time comes for her to rule. She can give her husband the crown matrimonial. Otherwise, I don know what to do. What do you think, Dana? ”
Dana had always been shy and quiet, just like my father. She always wanted to stay away from politics. She looked at us incredibly sad and said, ”Father, why me? Why do I have to shoulder this responsibility just because Im the oldest? I don even know how to be queen, and they hate women in power. ”
”I understand you, honey, but right now, I want you to understand your fathers position also. It is exceedingly difficult for him. We love all of you, and we do want whats best for you. The fact that we were born royalty, we can be like any normal family. One person must make the sacrifice so we can be safe, and our nation can live in peace, ” my mother said to Dana. She looked at the rest of us and continued, ”Since Dana refuses to be the crown princess, who is brave enough to take her place? Jenna! Alisa! ” she said, looking at each one of them.
Jenna was the third child and Alisa the second. Lily and I were the youngest. Amongst all my sisters, Lily was the kindest and most beautiful soul of all. That was why I had always been closer to her and became very protective of her. She and I were the only two that were not married yet. She was engaged with the prime ministers son Thomas.
”Not me, ” Alisa replied.
Everybody else, including me, didn say anything for at least thirty seconds.
”I will accept to be the crown princess, father, ” I said.
I looked at my parents, and it felt like someone was about to have a heart attack. They were all in shock and looked confused.
”No, no, no, no, theres no way you can do that, Mai. You are our youngest and inexperienced. Also, there are too many corrupt officers. You are not even married yet. Who will defend you, honey, when they bully you and fathers not around? ” said my father.
”Papa, I know you and mom love me and are trying to protect me. Im fifteen; I know how to protect myself. I know Im wild and very free-spirited. Our people need a change, and I can give that to them. Mother said that someone must be willing to make the sacrifice for our family, our friends, and our nations. Your majesty, Im willing to be the sacrifice. The one thing I will promise if you make me your heir is I will give you a glorious, prosperous, and peaceful Zakiskta Kingdom, ” I replied with confidence.
My fathers eyes were widely open, and my mother was very excited and impressed by my words. I looked at my parents, and I could see hope.
My father shook his head and said, ”Since I have three days to announce my heir, I will have to evaluate you in many things for these three days. Does everybody on the table agree that Mai should be the crown princess? ”
Everyone nodded in agreement with what my father said.
”I will be retiring right after Mais coronation. I want you all to know that even though Mai is the youngest of all of us, once I pass my decree, I cannot go back on my words. Everyone should respect her for who she will be, including me. Before I start my decree, Mai, you must prove to me that you are ready to take care of the people. ”
”Yes, your majesty, ” I said, bowing my head.
”Now, let us all enjoy our meal before it gets cold. ”
We all smiled, picked up our utensils, and enjoyed the food.
The next day, my father woke me up at dawn; I wasn ready for it. I just got up and followed him outside. He brought me to a place that I didn recognize. I was still sleepy, and all I was asking in my head was what my father brought me here for. Without even paying attention, he threw his sword at me. Quickly I dodged the sword.
”Rule number one, a ruler is always on high alert; whether hes good or bad, he will always have enemies. You must be strong, fierce, and smart, especially as a woman. You must work three times harder than a man, ” my father said.
He kept throwing the sword at me repeatedly, and all I did was dodge the sword since I was still sleepy. I was thinking in my head about why my father was trying to kill me, but little did I know he was evaluating my fighting skills. He threw one last shot at me; I held the sword with my left hand and threw a punch with my right. He dodged the punch, then I hit the sword with the side of my hand. It distracted my father in a slip second, then I slid on the ground, landed on one hand, tackled his feet, grabbed the sword, then put it in his neck.
”Oh! Mai, where did you learn how to fight? In all my years of experience, it is impossible for you at your age to defeat me. When Lily told me that you could fight very well, I couldn believe it. Your footwork is amazing. ”
”Thank you, father, but no offense, I can defeat you because you are getting old. ”
We both laughed.
”Rule number two. A strong ruler needs powerful allies and strong and respectful nobles to support them. Come on, follow me somewhere. ”
He held my hands and took me to the barracks where the soldiers and generals were lodging. As we were passing by, every soldier on their feet bowed in reverence. They were also shocked to see a girl in a sleeping gown walking through the barracks—that had never happened before. We walked a while before we could reach the generals tent. As we entered the tent, three top generals walked halfway to meet us.
”Your majesty, welcome to our humble barrack. We didn know you were coming; otherwise, we would have come to welcome you. ”
”Don worry yourselves; I came unannounced. Generals, have you met my daughter Mai yet? ”
”No, your majesty! ” said the first general. ”Pleasure to meet you, my princess, ” he continued. He bowed, and the others followed.
”Pleasure is all mine, general, ” I responded.
”Im called Nikko, general first in command; this is Kamil, my second in command, and Bolo, my third in command. ”
”My three generals, its a pleasure. ”
”I come here today to ask you for your support, ” said my father.
”Whatever you say, my king, it shall be done, ” Bolo replied.
”I remember when the four of us were still young, fighting together. Even though we were of different status, I didn look at you, my friends, as just commoners, and you didn look at me as a prince. I made you all a promise to support you in the choices that you make and scold you for your wrongdoings. Since then, we all kept our promises. ”
All three generals shook their heads in agreement.
He continued, ”Even if Im a king, I need advice from my devoted friends not because it is a job you are trying to do well but because you are my friends, and I trust you. ” He sighed. ”Im sure in the back of your minds you are wondering why I brought my daughter to the generals barracks. Well, I wanted to tell you that I will declare Mai as my successor in the next two days. ”
Upon hearing these words, Kamil fell to his knees and said with his shaking voice, ”Oh, my king, are you sure you are making the right choice? She is a woman, and she is noticeably young. We are in a time of war right now. Don you think that would cause people to revolt? ”
”I understand your concern, Kamil. Tell me, would you prefer my cousin to be my successor, or would you prefer to have someone trained by me—my own blood—to be my successor? I would be happy to have the three most honored and respected generals as my support. ”
Before anyone could say anything, a low-rank soldier came inside the tent and bowed in reverence to the king and me. He turned to the generals and said with shaking hands, ”General Nikko, I have to report, theres war upon us. ”