Rows of screams and applause had swarmed the famed Kingdom of Dressrosa on this day. The citizens had organized large banquets in praise of their King and her Army, and the streets cheered with happiness. The general public had all reason to celebrate, for their Kingdom had acquired victory over a hostile foreign kingdom, and their daily lives had been preserved thanks to the grace of their King.
The majority of the army who had returned from their service on this campaign partook in the celebration, while the royal family ensured that the celebrations were running smoothly. Within the bustling cityscape, a brown-haired man with a regal demeanor stood upon a building and observed the cheerful scene. This man, equipped with two spears along his back, was the Crown Prince of this Kingdom — Longinus Judas.
By virtue of his strength and status, he was required to ensure the stability of the celebrations remained in-tact and that criminal behavior did not spike. As such, with a focused poise, Judas let out a calm breath. His eyes would become pigmented with red, and his vision encompassed the entire town square as silhouettes of varying colors. The colors he observed were positive and radiant, but there was one color in particular that worried him. It was a deep, rusted red emitted by a particularly strong and familiar presence to Judas.
"Hm...There is an issue. It seems I must address this soon, for the sake of the Queen, at the very least." The man spoke to himself, before continuing his duties to monitor the celebration that stretched till the sun came out the next morning.
The celebrations quietened and the people would return to their homes. As they did, Judas awoke from his brief respite on the roof he was monitoring from. He descended onto the ground with a single jump, landing on the ground without a single sound or impact. He located a nearby water fountain and splashed his face with water in order to wake himself up. A red glow enveloped his eyes once again as he searched for the familiar presence. He found the rusted red once more, and approached it quietly.
He reached the desired location to find the rusted red, Longinus Adelia, fast asleep. But she was guarded, as if afraid of something to consume her while asleep. Although Judas was tempted to wake her, he was afraid of causing a negative reaction to occur in the unstable Princess. Accordingly, he took his spears off his back and placed them on a bench near the woman, and sat down, awaiting for his sibling to awaken.
The dreams of the Princess were not happy ones. She was throw in a land vaster than her eyes could encompass, clad in gray clouds and mist so thick that she couldn’t see further than a palm of her nose. Adelia felt her feet sinking, covered in cold mud. That was a marshland, a chilling, silent pool. Adelia asked for someone one time, then screamed a second, but no human being was responding to her. Starting to rattle for the low temperatures, air bitterer than anything she experienced in Dressrosa, whose climate was warm even at its worst.
Not knowing what do, she started moving forward, hoping to find some exit from the nightmarish landscape. She proceeded fumbling, taking care or not stepping in any quagmire or some harms from below. Besides, her feet felt heavy, the humidity was drenching them from the inside so much that she believed they were turned into sponges.
After a time she could not quantify- seconds, days, perhaps years, perhaps less than instant- her left foot was clasped, caught by a viscid bite, the touch of a moving creature. She tried to pull her leg above the bed of mud, but the very something which was had clasped her leg was trying to drag her down. She panicked in disbelief, as her legs were so powerful they could kick away fortresses with easy. She had the best over the swamp with an enormous effort, and managed to get her limb in a 90 degrees positions. With that, she had pulled out the obstalce from below.
Adelia screamed and cried. What she stumbled upon was not a single beast, nor living one. A mass of mud had coalesced over skin, cemented by corpses in thick dirt. Those were young and all, pallid and vivid, their eyes pale as milk yet seething with rage. They were looking at her, they wanted Adelia to join them in their endless sleep in the cold bog.
Adelia delivered a kick to threw away the pile of muddy undeads, and run away in the other direction, her heart cannoning through her chest. She didn’t get more than a few steps before tumbling again, other dead emerging from the mud. She fell in the quagmire; more and more corpses were pinning her down. She fought tooth and nail, but for every dead she could repel, three others were already over her. They blocked her arms, legs, and tail, her head facing the colorless sky above. One of those corpses started to crawl over her bare midriff, sliming through her bust. It come face to face with Adelia, showing off its armored chest and a grin of pure hatred.
Adelia recognized the corpse. She stopped her struggle, and started to cry.
“I am sorry. I am so sorry. I didn’t want to do that. I never wanted to hurt any of you. I… I just want to save my friends. I didn’t want any of you to die.”
The dead wasn’t listening to her pleas of forgiveness; if it was, they did not matter to it. It pulled out a short sword, a medium sized dagger. The corpse screeched with craziness and aimed a downward stab, right through Adelia’s head.
Adelia closed her eyes. Once opened, she found herself in Dressrosa again. Her half-brother, the son of the King Judas, was resting near her, visibly concerned.
“J-Judas” Adelia asked him, her breath short and rasping “why are you here?”
Judas' eyes became alarmed as he saw her sister go through agony while she was asleep. Her body was shaking, tears dripped from her eyes and she began to vehemently apologize. As she suddenly awoke, Judas immediately told her. "To check up on you. Your aura yesterday was somber, and this nightmare you just had proved my point. If you would like, I may be able to help you with your problems?"
Judas was unaware of how to approach Adelia. Although they weren't distant by any means, Judas simply had incredible difficulty in approaching women of any kind, especially if they resembled his mother. However, for the sake of the Queen, Judas hardened himself. At least now, he had to play the part of a proper older sibling.
Adelia murmured through her teeth. She felt dizzy and adrifted, like a her mind was still wandering in the swamp of the nightmare. To get back to her senses, she inhaled as much as she could, then she got up to her knees, to not tower over her Judas too much. An half-baked smile crept to her face when she looked at Judas.
"It's nothing Judas, really nothing. It's that... you... it was kinda all the emotion coming.. I mean..." Adelia bit her lips: she was never good at making up lies, nor at wording her feelings in an articulate way. "Thank you a lot, but there is no need to worry. I was just overwhelmed by all the stuff that happened to me lately. I came from being a good-to-nothing to the kingdom heroine in the span of battle. I... just need a bit of time to recover, thats all. I mean, we have won the war, our brother is safe, I have got the respect of everyone: there is no reason to be sad, right? No reason at all... " But tears were coming again, blurring her sight.
"Don't lie to me, please...Adelia..." Judas tried to show his concern, but for him, it was excruciatingly difficult. "Ah...this feeling. Just what happened to you during this war?" Judas pleaded to know. He could not bear to see someone as pure as Adelia marred by this rusted red shroud.
"Nothing important that the news hadn't already told, brother." She answered. "Our army felt in an ambush from the hostile kingdom; we were flanked on every side, outnumbered by five at one. We fought bravely, with all the strength we could muster, but the enemies were still too many. I was in the front-line, trying to get a grasp of the situation. People were dying left and right... our people." She nodded, her mind going to the brave soldiers who lost their life in the pursuit of glory for Dressrosa and its King, butchered like cattle. Jason, Marion, Herman... she knew a few of them. They were young and old, rich and poor. Some of them wanted to retire for a peaceful life, other were willing to fight for the sake of their country with a smile on their face. None of them deserved to die. "After seeing so much death and suffering, I couldn't simply stomach it. I felt an urge, a invincible compulsion to make it stop, to destroy those who were killing my people and friends. And this is exactly what I did: I crushed them all, with no mercy, like a monster."
"...So that's it." Judas' heart sank as he heard Adelia's story. For the innocent, friendly young woman to be turned into that sort of monstrosity...exactly as the Red King wished. But Judas was not here to help his mother. The Crown Prince took his thoughts into healing Adelia, not only for herself, but for the sake of the Kingdom that relies on her joy.
"Listen, Adelia. I...have been through similar things before. You were nay a toddler, so you likely do not remember. However, at the meager age of 8 years old...I was put into a situation where either I was killed, or I killed my twin brother, Yeshua. Much like you, I took the path of no return. Till this day, I harbor regrets." Judas clenched his fist, and his chest tightened. Flashbacks of a smiling young boy with brown hair appeared in his mind.
"But, Adelia. We can help you. This strength you have...it is not monstrous. It's a gentle strength that is meant to save people. Extend your hand, Adelia, and I promise you that I will turn you into a warrior able to defend her comrades without killing anyone. Yes, I can help you reach the level even our King is unable to attain." Judas' gaze was fierce and steeled with resolve. This was no act of defiance, but this was an act to help one of his own. An act to repay his debts. An act...to redeem his sins.
Adelia nut colored eyes, which were reddened by her cry, turned wide open, almost blank. Had Judas just told her that the King, the wife of her mother, forced him to kill his twin brother at the age of eight? Niu had always been a cruel and callous woman, coldly sacrificing everyone to the tables of pragmatism. Yet Adelia’s mother, Queen Camelia, had always reassured her, that, as much as harsh the Queen was, she was doing everything to make the realm prosperous again. All the training Adelia has ever done to learn how to kill, all the horrible moments when she was forced to butcher poor animals or hurt defenseless prisoners, Niu justified all that on the ground that Adelia’s strength could have been useful for her realm only if she acquired the resolve to kill for it. And Adelia accepted these reasons, as much she couldn’t physically stomach to hurt other living beings willingly. But having her two elder children fight and killing each other, two of her very own kids laid down to die because of some heartless planning… How could Niu do that, what kind of monster she was to even think such thing?
Her rage manifested in a demonic, bloodthirsty grin. She did not recall how she looked like in the midst of her fury, but the rage she was feeling thinking about Niu’s cruelty was very similar to the surge of emotion that exploded within her heart in the chaos of battlefield. Her sight was turning red, her senses becoming sharper, those of a beast in search of her prey. Then saw her brother in the face, took aghast for the homicidal rage she was spewing at the moment. She returned to her meek, mortified self in less than a second.
“I-I am sorry, brother. I didn’t mean to scare you. I was just… so angry at Niu, at the things she had done to you. I have always thought I was the one the King had hurt the most, but you… “She cried again, this time a waterfall of tears and sobs.
“I am so sorry… Judas, I never knew about your brother. I just wish… I just wish to turn back in time and stop this from happening. All of this. But I don’t know what do. The only thing that I know now is that I hate Niu, I hate for everything she had done to our family, for the people she had killed or send to death in the pursuit of power. I hate her so much that makes my blood blaze through my veins. And that scares me. There is nothing gentle in my strength, nothing beautiful. It’s just anger and sorrow without control. I’m afraid the Red King had won: I am the animal she has been always dreaming of. How can I learn to master that?”
"Don't." Judas simply said, in response to all of her built up anger. "I...Nobody needs you to take the burden of fighting the King. But, to control your anger is a simple thing. You must channel it in a way that gives you joy. Tell me, Adelia...do you enjoy dancing?" Judas asked. Although momentarily horrified by the display of rage Adelia just showed, he calmed himself down, knowing that it was not her real form. Although bringing up what happened all those years ago pained him, he kept it at the back of his mind. This was not about him. He had to help Adelia.
"Well... kinda ". Adelia answered sheepishly. In truth, she had always like all kinds of activities which required or involved movement. She loved to run, loved to climb and loved to flop and spin around with no end. Her squirrel minks genes did not lied. But dancing? She remembered, from the few time she tried making some moves as child, the worried face of her mother and lots of damages to their estate. "I find dancing very liberating. But I am not exactly the most gracious or willowy person out there. I move more like an earthquake, rather than a ballerina."
"That is not a problem." Judas said, smiling. "I have learned directly from my father how to be a dancer. And I would like to impart these skills to you. I believe dancing will teach you self-control and liberation from these bottled feelings. I promise that you will enter combat and attain victory without taking a single life, so long as you choose to heed my guidance." Judas knew this was the only way to teach a woman of Adelia's strength the control she needed to become, not only a great fighter, but a fighter that did not compromise her own ideals. It was the only thing he could do for her.
Adelia's eyes widened open, returning to their usual brightness and cheerfulness. She went to her brother, with the biggest, warmest hug she could think of, burying almost the entirety of Judas' body between her bust. "Thank you, big bro..." She whispered, her voice returning to a sob, if one of happiness and joy. Life through Niu's household was brutal: since the very moment they had been born, the King's children were molded for the sake of politics in almost every fiber of their being, their personal dreams often trumped like ants under a heel. And yet, amidst the harshness of courtly life, flowers of gentleness like Judas could still blossom. She was happy to be close to a person like him, both as a friend and as a relative: he was a beacon of light, the hope she could, one day, make peace with herself.