Chapter 0 – Prologue
“War does not determine who is right—only who is left.”
I had seen many pretty things in my life, but nothing compared to the first time I saw the sword.
To the eight-year-old me, it wasn’t a pretty dress that I could wear and take off. It wasn’t a shiny trinket that I could play with and toss aside. Rather, the sword was a way of life that sung to me like a siren, luring me into its sharp-edged embrace. It promised me power, respect, and the ability to protect the people I loved.
When I convinced my parents to let me take combat lessons from Sir Sergius as my older brother did, neither of them expected me to stick with it for as long as I did.
But the years quickly passed. I was seventeen when my father gifted me with a custom-made sword that was meant to commemorate my acceptance into the Imperial Knights, which came two years earlier than expected.
Under the chandelier lights, the metal blade gleamed. I ran my fingers across the words inscribed on the fuller: veritas nunquam perit. The golden cross-guard was shaped like a crescent moon, etched with fish-scale designs that complemented the pommel. At the end of the hilt, a jade gemstone mirrored the color of my eyes. The grip was bound with black leather—the same material as the accompanying scabbard. I lifted it with my hand, testing its balance.
“It’s okay to be a coward, Dione,” my father said. He wrapped an arm around me, surrounding me with his signature scent of sandalwood and kopi luwak. “Just come back alive.”
I absentmindedly nodded and stared at my jagged reflection on the blade’s surface. For my family and my empire, I would stain it with the blood of rebels.
Little did I know, it was my blood that would end up spilling.