The following series is a work of fiction. It explores potentially controversial themes such as Domestic Abuse. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Reader discretion is advised.
THE VILLAINESS IS A MARIONETTE
Han Yi Rim
Translated to English by
Won Hee Kim
The most beautiful woman in the world danced in the center of the Grand Hall. Once the song ended, she raised her hand in greeting. The people around her cheered and spilled wine from their glasses.
“Please dance with me as well, Your Highness!”
“It’s my turn now, Your Highness!”
The woman’s name was Kayena Hill, and she was the first princess of the Eldyme Empire. She was also the elder sister of His Majesty, Emperor Regef.
“It’s the emperor’s turn now.”
Regef, who had been watching the hall with his chin in his hand, soon made his way to Kayena. He replaced his cold expression with a smile and placed his lips on the back of her hand.
“Happy birthday, sister. Today, tomorrow, and forever after, please continue to be your beautiful self.”
Kayena laughed at Regef’s words. “It’s as if you put honey on your lips!” Such classless flattery was her favorite sort.
Regef internally sneered at his sister, who was always seeking validation through these meaningless compliments.
You have to stay beautiful so that your usefulness doesn’t decrease, he thought to himself.
As far as Regef was concerned, Kayena’s only merits were her legitimacy in the Imperial bloodline, her symbol as the most beautiful woman in the Empire, and her status as the one and only princess.
My beautiful, foolish doll.
“Oh, Regef,” Kayena said. She grabbed him and straightened his collar with her long hands. “You’re still a child.”
Her attitude was nothing short of insulting to the Emperor. However, Kayena didn’t even realize that it was a problem. She saw her younger brother as someone below her, someone that she had to take care of. That was a misperception that Regef had himself slowly encouraged.
“Do you like your gifts?” Regef asked.
“Very much! I especially like this dress.”
“Since you love roses, I wanted to give you a dress that would remind you of them.”
He tenderly tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear, and Kayena casually accepted his touch. She was used to that sort of kindness because she had been loved by so many.
“Now, will you do me the honor of dancing with me?”
The music began anew as they got into position.
Today, like all other days, she danced around and around in the Grand Hall, in the hands of the Emperor.
Kayena ran into the emperor’s bedroom.
“How could you just—” The court attendants were astonished at her nerve. Though she was the princess, there were still rules that Kayena had to follow. Even Kayena, no matter how ignorant she was, could not call the Emperor by his name or run into his room without his permission. Her rash behavior had only grown worse over time, and it would eventually bring her to ruin.
The knights tried to stop her, but Regef raised his hand to make them back down. “It’s fine,” he said.
Kayena, teary-eyed, ran into her younger brother’s arms.
“Regef, this has to be a conspiracy. It’s a plot! Kill that insolent bitch now!”
But Regef only looked down at his half-sister with indifferent eyes.
Not noticing his cold gaze, Kayena continued to deride the other woman. “How dare that rude, dirty bitch try to lure in Duke Kidrey! It’s all her fault. If not for her, he wouldn’t be so cold to me-”
Regef pushed her off of him.
Regef had brought down dim-witted male aristocrats using Kayena as his puppet. He had also used her toxic personality to keep the female aristocrats in line. Until now, she had done an excellent job… But she had gradually become a nuisance to him.
“Do you still not understand? I knew that you were an idiot, but I didn’t know that you were so dumb that you couldn’t read the situation.”
His cold words reached Kayena, and her instinct told her that something was horribly wrong. Unknowingly, she took a step back. Regef grabbed her to keep her from running.
“You can’t even kill Olivia properly. You come running to me with your tail between your legs, and you expect me to help you?”
“Do I have no choice but to take care of this myself? What a waste…”
He brushed Kayena’s trembling cheek with a gentle hand.
“How can you— how can you do…!”
“It’s unfortunate that you couldn’t seduce Duke Kidrey, but his vassal, Viscount Gillian, wants you, so I can at least throw you at him. Then we can negotiate.”
She looked at him in disbelief. “Regef, I’m your sister. How could you do this to me?”
Regef sighed at his sister, who still didn’t understand the situation.
“You need to realize that all of your power comes from me. Well, it’s too late for you to do anything about it now, anyway.”
“I refuse! How dare you insult me like this!”
Kayena looked as if she was about to go mad.
It felt like the world and everything she believed in was collapsing around her all at once.
“You can’t do this to me! I’m the one who made you Emperor!”
Regef laughed at her distressed cries. “You still haven’t realized that you were being used the entire time? My poor, pitiful doll.”
“Why? Why are you doing this? Did I do something wrong? Are you angry at me? I honestly don’t understand. You have no reason to do this to me.” Kayena managed to swallow down her anger and tried to entreat him as pitifully as possible. Her tears had never failed her before.
“Poor Kayena. You should have killed Olivia, then.”
Shaking his head, Regef went to sit on the sofa.
“It’s really sad. I can’t believe my older sister is such a horrible person.”
“What?” Was he going to frame her?
“Duke Kidrey asked if he could investigate the incident, right? Well, I’ll allow it.”
He leaned on the sofa and looked at Kayena with cold eyes.
“Lock that evil woman in her room.”
The knights grabbed her roughly. Kayena, who had never been treated like this before, screamed.
“Let go! Let me go! This is crazy—how dare you? Who do you think I am?”
She tried to push away the knights’ hands, but her body was too fragile, having been sheltered from hard labor her whole life.
Kayena called for Regef as if she was about to spit up blood. But soon enough, she was dragged away by the knights, and the bedroom door was closed tightly behind her.
The woman turned off the screen of her cell phone.
She had been reading a novel – it was one she had read many times to recount the villainess’s fall. It was heartbreaking to read about how she was sold to Viscount Gillian to lead a miserable life.
It reminded her of what she had experienced.
“Manager, don’t you have a meeting?” asked one of the junior staff.
The woman nodded. “Yes, I’m coming.”
Even during work, the woman couldn’t stop thinking about the novel. She kept getting a strange sense of déjà vu. The woman and the villainess were similar. They were both dolls that had been thoroughly used by someone.
“Are you leaving work already?”
The woman rarely went home early, but her coworker had asked because she had already packed her things. Without a word, the woman nodded and headed for the elevator.
“Wait a moment.”
It was Executive Director Kim.
“Let’s go down together.”
The elevator door closed.
“You’re leaving early today,” he said.
The woman said nothing.
“I looked over your mid-year review. Your work performance was good. You sure are competent.”
He put his hand on the woman’s shoulder. It felt like bugs were crawling all over her body.
“I’ll leave first,” said the woman.
She rushed outside as soon as the elevator door opened. Behind her, the director asked, “Are you still upset?”
The woman stopped walking.
“Thanks to me, you’ve become the youngest team manager, and you’ll soon become the deputy manager as well.”
“You need to realize that all of your power is borrowed from me. Well, it’s too late for you to do anything about it now, anyway.”
The woman laughed as she remembered Regef’s line in the novel. She looked back.
“You’re saying this because you need me again, aren’t you?”
Director Kim grinned and snapped his fingers at her. “You know, I only have one team manager right now.”
The woman laughed and turned back around. She was tired of living as someone’s doll.
That was when it happened.
“...Who are you?”
Someone was standing at the driver’s side of her car. He was wearing a black sweater and a hat that shaded his face. It felt ominous.
The man turned to her slowly. “It’s all your fault!”
The woman stepped back.
“It’s because of you that I’ve ended up like this!”
He rushed up to the woman and stabbed her in the stomach with a knife.
Director Kim, who was behind her, found the woman collapsed in between two cars. The man grabbed his knife and went to attack him as well.
“I’ll kill you, too!”
The woman, grasping at the wound in her belly, watched as the stranger attacked Director Kim.
I guess all villainesses get the same ending.
Her vision dimmed.
It isn’t so bad to die like this.
That was the woman’s last thought.
Her head was throbbing, and she was thirsty. The woman curled in on herself as she coughed several times.
She let out a few wheezing breaths and then cracked open her eyes. Someone’s voice was getting closer.
“Her Highness has awakened! Quickly, call the doctor!”
Holding her throbbing head, the woman looked around.
What happened? She had definitely been stabbed.
“Your Highness! Can you understand us?”
She could feel the nervous energy of the people rushing around her. She squinted her eyes to focus.
An old-fashioned looking woman—a foreigner—was looking at her anxiously. Strangely, she felt like she had seen this woman before.
Then the door opened, and someone came in.
“Announcing His Imperial Highness, the Prince.”
It was a young man with golden hair. He narrowed the distance between them in an instant.
“Kayena, are you all right?”
The man held the woman’s hand. Then, the woman’s eyes widened in shock.
How? How can this be?
The realization struck her like lightning.
“Yes, sister. I’m here.”
The man kissed her hand carefully and looked at her with a worried expression.
“I’m back,” she said.
Then she fainted.