The sun stretched towards the far western mountains. The sky, seemingly drenched in blood, once again, is turning pitch black as the sun continues to set. The cold air, breezed through the trees with a soft whistle flowing through the air, touching the lamps that are being lit by the house's servants.
Despite the cold autumn air, the house continued to be warm and is illuminated under the light by the stars that seem to be shining, each giving off their little twinkling lights that filled the dark sky.
It was like every other night, the entire house was buzzing due to the loud chattering and laughter that are created by the people who are attending the banquet.
"Welcome, our esteemed guests, to the House of Amora! We wish for you to be able to enjoy the night to your heart's content!" The Head Mistress of the House, Tanith said with a gracious smile on her face. She watched as the men flocked to their area of reception.
"Welcome, Master, to the House of Amora. May I ask you of the services that you wish to be brought upon you?" The lady at the desk asked as the customers picked their desired services, in accordance with the amount that they are willing to pay.
The lady smiled towards their valued customers as she called on to the Roses that are designated for each man.
The men clapped their hands in glee as the beautiful Roses of the House emerged to greet and accompany them.
In the midst of the marvelous sight, of beautiful women lingering together with men, a child can be seen, quietly observing the happenings in the house.
"Celestine! What have I told you, child?" Tanith said as she quickly approached the little girl upon seeing her.
Celestine pouted, "I'm sorry, Mama. I can't help but peek." She said, with her eyes seemingly glittering as she looked at her mother.
Tanith shook her head and said, "You do know, Celestine, that this place is not one that fits a child like you, right?"
"But Mama, this place is so much fun! Just look at my big sisters, they are clearly enjoying the accompaniment of our customers!" Celestine said, pointing at her sisters that are together with various men. Her eyes lit up when she saw one of the customers giving her big sister a gift. "And look, Mama! That man is giving a gift to big sister!"
Tanith sighed at the pitiful explanation of the child, she kneeled and looked at the girl in the eyes, "Celestine, it may still be hard for you to understand but, there is more than meets the eye. Just because they seem to enjoy the things that they are doing, doesn't mean that they actually do." She said, brushing her daughter's hair with her hand.
Celestine then tilted her head to the side, "Does that mean that my sisters are lying? Lying is bad, right?"
Tanith smiled sadly. "One day, you'll understand, my child. Not everyone can attain real freedom and happiness. I don't want you to become like us." She said and patted Celestine in the head, whose confusion seemed to be more apparent.
Celestine was about to open her mouth to ask when suddenly, a loud shout resonated throughout the hall. Tanith immediately left and went to the source of the commotion, Celestine quickly followed.
She was horrified to see one of her big sisters crying, as her hair is being pulled by a woman. Her cheeks are flushed, and her makeup is smudged.
"You whore! What right do you have as a prostitute to accept such gifts from my husband?" The woman shouted and clawed at the face of the poor girl. A deafening scream came out of her throat, the girl's face was bleeding because of the action of the woman.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" She wailed, but to no avail. The woman continued to hurt the poor girl. Celestine was shocked. He looked at the man who gave the gift to her big sister. The man was just looking at the scene in front of them, not even daring to help, even though he and her big sister were happily talking earlier. He just stared.
Celestine could feel her blood boil. It wasn't even her sister's fault, it was because of that cowardly man. He knew what kind of establishment this house is, and yet, he came here, completely ignoring the fact that he had a wife.
Celestine was about to run towards the woman, but she was held back by another one of her sisters. Her sister shook her head and held her to keep her in place.
Tanith was the first one to arrive, together with some of the guards of the house. With their help, her wounded sister was freed from the hands of the woman.
"All of you are such dirty whores! It is pitiful that all of you sell your body just for some little gold. Well, who wouldn't want an easy life where the only thing you can do is to act pretty and accept gifts from married men!" The woman shouted at Tanith as she eyed her from her shoes up to her face.
She then smirked, and said, "Your so-called establishment brings disgrace to all women like me, who only seek to serve their husbands rightfully. While all of you are celebrating your heart's content, the wives of these men are waiting in their homes, heartbroken. Truly, what a disgrace." And with one final look full of disdain, the woman, along with her husband then left.
As the other sisters were tending to the wounded, Tanith apologized to the guests for the events that has caused the disruption of the banquet.
"I truly am sorry for the inconvenience, my esteemed guests. There has been a little commotion, as an apology, all drinks should be lessened for a quarter of their prices. Let's all drink the night away!" Tanith announced. The awkward atmosphere from the events earlier quickly evaporated in the air as the customers and their attendants returned to their businesses.
Celestine, who was watching the whole scene, still cannot believe what she has seen.
It wasn't even her sister's fault, and yet, she was the one to apologize? Not only that, the action of her mother made it seem like what the woman has said earlier was true. When in fact, it is not. Celestine shook her head. She remembered what her mother has said earlier.
"Not everyone can attain real freedom and happiness."
But why is that? Freedom is not something that should be restrained, right? What does it even mean to be truly free? To be truly happy?
She looked around and saw the smiles of the people around her.
Why does it seem like nothing has ever happened?
All of them are drinking, dancing, and singing. They are doing everything that they want to do. Isn't this what freedom is? Being able to do everything that you want despite the circumstances. Her sister was dragged to shame! And yet, all of these people are smiling and laughing. Is this what real happiness is?
Once again, Celestine shook her head. She refuses to accept the answers that her young mind is bringing her.
Determined, she left the house in a haste. She wanted to know the answer. The real answer. Celestine later arrived at the local market. She saw different types of people. She never really thought about freedom and happiness before. Everything just seemed... normal.
As she was looking around, she saw a beautiful golden comb, it has an elaborate design as it is decorated with different colored crystals. Celestine remembered the gift of the man earlier to her big sister, it was a comb, like that one.
Celestine frowned. 'Will I achieve freedom if I can get the things that I want by myself? What about happiness?' She thought.
Steeling her resolve, Celestine approached the store and secretly grabbed the comb, but to no avail. The storekeeper noticed her action and immediately shouted. Celestine then quickly tried to run away, with the storekeeper tailing her from behind.
Just as she was feeling out of breath, Celestine bumped into and tumbled on top of a boy. Both of them looked at each other in the eyes.
"I-I'm sorry." Celestine said as she got up. She offered her hands towards the boy who accepted her help.
"You should have looked at where you're going." The boy mumbled, but his words failed to escape Celestine's ears.
She felt irritated. She looked at the boy's clothing, which seems to come from someone from the wealthy class. It seems that at a young age, the boy is already like those people, who feel like their on top of the world just because they have a little more than those of the commoners.
"I already said sorry, and besides, it is a free world. I can do whatever I want on this road. Be it run, bump into someone, or even tumble." Celestine said, not being fully aware of what she is saying. She just felt that she needed to talk against the boy.
The boy smirked. "The world belongs to my father, it is I who can do everything that I want to do here."
Celestine gasped in disbelief at what the boy is saying. She looked at the boy with wide eyes.
"Even if you are the son of the Emperor, you cannot stop me from wanting to achieve freedom! It is not something you can restrain just because you have some stupid title!" Celestine spat, frowning.
The two of them looked at each other in irritation.
The boy, just as he was attempting to open his mouth, was stopped by the loud shout of the storekeeper that has been following Celestine earlier.
Celestine, who was preparing to once again run is stopped by the boy who held her in her wrist. She hissed. She doesn't want to get caught.
She tried to free herself from the boy but to no avail, with no other choice, Celestine ran as fast as she can, the boy, who was holding on to her wrist, running with her too.
Both of them ran until they arrived at the forest near the East Lake. Due to exhaustion, both of them sat underneath a big tree.
"Why was that man even chasing you?" The boy asked as he caught his breath.
Celestine, who figured that she has no other choice but to say the truth, showed the comb from her pocket.
The boy's eyes widened, as he realized, "You're a thief?"
Celestine immediately shook her head. "No, I am not! Just this time..."
The boy laughed, it was a mocking laugh. "And you dared to spout nonsense about freedom earlier, yet you're actually just some random thief!" He said as he continued to laugh.
Celestine realized that the boy was right. Even though she just knew of the concept of freedom, she actually dared to assess its meaning by doing something that is morally incorrect. It seems like she really has a lot to learn. She hanged her head down in shame.
Noticing that the girl has not talked back to him, the boy stopped laughing and quietly gazed through the girl's solemn face.
Celestine looked up at the starry sky. Thinking about the events earlier, and the actions that she has done—which she deeply regrets, and by looking at the stolen comb, she can feel her heart get heavy with guilt.
She stood up, she will return the comb to the storekeeper. Without any words, she walked towards the entrance of the forest to leave, the boy, quietly following her.
At the sight of the girl, the storekeeper who was looking near the forest immediately shouted."You little thief!" He screamed as he aimed a rock towards the girl.
Not knowing what to do, Celestine just closed her eyes, waiting for the rock to hit her, however, it did not happen.
She can only feel her body being enveloped in an embrace, followed by a soft whisper saying, "Save yourself."
Celestine looked up to the boy who freed her from his embrace and ran away, dropping the comb in the process.
As the boy watched the girl run, he faced the storekeeper, and with a low voice, ordered his guards that were now in sight.
"Deal with this insolent man." The boy said, with a cold smile on his lips.
Noticing the dropped comb, he picked it up.
"Freedom?" He questioned as a small scheming smile flashed through his lips.
Comments (1)See all