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Garden Of Poison

[Volume 1: Dante Blackthorn] When Anastasia and her sister Marianne are captured and shipped across the seas by pirates, they become commodities to be sold in a distant land. Marianne is taken as a courtesan, while Anastasia barely escapes a terrible fate by pretending to be mute. She is forced into the lowest ring of servants at the royal palace, where she endures a life of servitude and creates beautiful artwork to mask her pain. Despite years passing, Anastasia has never forgotten her sister's promise to return to their family together. However, with her movement restricted and the guards vigilant, escape seems impossible. When Anastasia comes into contact with the Forsaken Prince, her life spirals out of control and she triggers a Crux of incredible proportions. Now battling her own inner demons while navigating the treacherous politics of the royal court, Anastasia must confront the truth about her sister's fate and make a choice that could alter the course of an entire kingdom. [Volume 2: Emily Blackthorn] Princess Emily's life takes a turbulent turn when she is rejected, leaving her heartbroken and her soul at the brink of corruption. In a desperate bid to save herself, she journeys to the West. Enter the Storm Prince, a charismatic archdemon with striking blue eyes, with a saint-like smile. Emily had hoped she'd seen the last of him, but fate has other plans. As if her soul dying isn’t enough, someone wants to steal it! Caught between the suitors and the haunting nightmares that have plagued her since childhood, Emily begins to see Raylen in a new light. The blue-eyed demon may not be the monster she once thought.

ash_knight17 · Fantasy
Not enough ratings
286 Chs

After the dance floor

The soft music playing in one corner of the hall spread across the main hall, spilling into the nearby corridors. Anastasia kept up with Dante's footwork as they moved around the dance floor. Their eyes stayed on each other while ignoring the curious gazes of the world that watched them.

Anastasia was grateful to Marianne, because if it weren't for her sister's teaching, she was sure that she would have stomped on the prince's foot by now.

She felt the air leave her chest when Dante's fingers and hands grazed around her waist right after she twirled to return to his arms. He was a man whose hands were accustomed to holding weapons and killing men on the battlefield, but now she was in reverence that he was also skilled in the art of leading a woman on the dance floor.

"You look surprised," Dante remarked as they continued to dance.

Anastasia replied in her soft voice that caught Dante's attention, "I never would have guessed that you were well-versed when it came to the art of dance."

A slight smile appeared on Dante's lips, his eyes holding humour, but it didn't change much of his serious expression. He replied,

"When you have two sisters who are of age, and they are required to have exceptional footwork, sometimes you end up practising with them." Dante raised their hands before he placed one of his hands behind his neck, and she did the same as they stepped clockwise and counterclockwise where they danced. He asked her, "You seem to be acquainted with one of my brothers. Do you have siblings, Miss Flores?"

Marianne! Anastasia was so lost in what was happening that she had forgotten about her sister in the room. Her eyes moved to look at the crowd, and she noticed her sister, who wore a shocked expression.

At the same time, her and Dante's hands dropped to their sides briefly before his right hand snaked around her waist and settled on her back. He then pulled her towards him, which made Anastasia look back at him. She answered him,

"An elder sister. But she couldn't make it to the celebration," Anastasia added, to avoid meeting Marianne. Her sister was a known face among the royal family and court members. When he continued to stare at her, she explained, "She's allergic to the sand and the hot weather."

Though Anastasia had agreed to Dante's deal, she realised she didn't have to stick with it. After all, this person named Tasia, who belonged to a wealthy family, didn't exist, and she could go back to her maid duties once this night ended. She doubted that Dante would hunt her down. Would he?

"Don't even think about it," Dante warned her, with his eyes slightly narrowed at her.

"What?" Anastasia felt her stomach slightly drop at his daunting eyes directed at her.

"You have eyes that speak volumes, more than the words that leave your lips."

Dante looked at the young woman's eyes, darkened with kohl at the edges of her eyelids. He pushed her away from him and then pulled her back to him, having her twirl with her gown skirt spreading wide before she returned to him.

This time, Anastasia's back touched Dante's front, and his breath fell on her ear. She softly gulped when her eyes finally fell on the guests looking at them, and she whispered,

"There are people staring."

"Isn't that why we are here? Don't worry, I am not a man who will tarnish a woman's reputation," and though Dante said it, his action spoke otherwise, as his breath against her ear raised goosebumps on her skin.

Dante slowly released her from his hold. Anastasia turned around to face him and meet his eyes. She was no longer holding onto a rope but hanging by a thread that was going to break at any moment. Thankfully, when the music came to an end, they offered each other a polite bow.

Once she stepped out of this place, she would no longer be Tasia the guest, and would disappear in thin air. She internally apologised to the prince, even though he had subtly warned her.

Anastasia's feet were quick to step away from the dance floor, but before she could quietly escape from the hall, someone ordered,

"Stop right there. The young lady in the green gown."

Anastasia's footsteps froze, and she gingerly turned around to face the Mother Queen. She offered a deep bow to the older woman, who slowly made her way with her staff clicking on the marble floor, and her minister followed closely behind her.

"My Queen!" Anastasia greeted the woman. Her already pounding heart was ready to jump out of her throat.

"Where did you disappear to earlier? I have been looking for you," the Mother Queen said, raising her eyebrows.

"I forgot to fetch something from my room and then got busy with something else. Forgive me for my rude behaviour," Anastasia apologised to the Mother Queen, who stared at her with slightly narrowed eyes before a smile spread on her lips.

"My grandson must have occupied your time," The Mother Queen laughed and asked, "What is your name, girl?"

"Tasia Flores, my Queen," Anastasia noticed her sister standing at the far back, who wore a look of worry.

"Tasia…" The Mother Queen repeated her name as if to memorise it well, and she waved her hand, "Come here. Let me take a closer look at you."

Anastasia took careful steps towards the Mother Queen and bent her knees. She was taken aback when the old woman's hand shot up to hold her chin and turned it left and right before she hummed.

"It is decided, Aziel. Miss Flores will be the first one to give me my great-grandchild," the Mother Queen said with a satisfied tone.

"Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself, grandmother?" Dante remarked, as he took long strides to make his way towards where they stood.

"Oh, hush! When your grandfather and I were your age, we already had three children and were always active, if you know what I mean," came the unfiltered words of the Mother Queen, and Anastasia's cheeks turned pink, which were hidden behind the translucent veil.

Aziel coughed as if to bring the old woman back on track. But upon noticing her grandson's stare, the Mother Queen said, "What? It is the best age to have children and keep the romance alive."

Dante replied to his grandmother, "I think it would be best for you to not overwhelm Miss Flores with such thoughts, when we are only getting to know each other."

The Mother Queen gave a nod as if agreeing with Dante, and then stated, "I knew the moment I laid my eyes on her that she was the one. Don't I have a good eye?" She looked pleased. She then turned to look at Anastasia and said,

"I usually have my tea after noon. Join me tomorrow."

Blood drained from Anastasia's face, and her little heart was trying hard not to faint from the stress she was putting herself under. How was she going to do that? Earlier, it appeared easier to disappear from Dante's eyes, but this time, the Mother Queen demanded her attention. Even though she didn't know how that was going to happen, she obliged with a bow,

"I feel privileged by your invitation, my Queen. It would make me more than happy to join you."

"Wonderful! I look forward to it," the Mother Queen remarked, and Anastasia internally prayed in her head, 'Please don't look forward to it.'

"Pardon me, my Queen, I would like to be excused," Anastasia offered a bow.

The Mother Queen nodded before turning to look at her grandson and saying, "Dante, why don't you escort Tasia? We wouldn't want anyone to steal her," she joked.

"Of course, grandmother," Dante was respectful to his grandmother's words. Leaning forward, he gave her an airy kiss next to her cheek. He then turned to look at Anastasia and said, "Shall we, Tasia?"

Without missing a beat, Anastasia nodded.

Offering a bow to the Mother Queen, Anastasia stepped out of the main hall, accompanied by Dante. Some of the guests, who stood outside the main hall in the garden and corridors, offered a bow upon seeing Dante. A few glanced curiously at the young woman next to the first prince.

When they reached another corridor, Anastasia slowed down her footsteps and said to Dante, "Thank you for escorting me, Prince Dante. I will be… visiting the powder room." She needed to go back to the library to change her clothes and return to the servants' quarters.

Dante's footsteps came to a halt. He turned to look at her, and his demeanour turned cold, "About my grandmother, you don't have to meet her tomorrow. It would be best for her to not invest her hope in a lie. I know how to keep her busy, and I am sure you have your own plans."

Anastasia was grateful for his words and replied, "I do… Thank you."

"I will see you here tomorrow evening, Miss Flores," Dante offered a slight bow before walking past her, as he wasn't planning to spend the rest of his night at the main hall.

Once Prince Dante was out of her sight, Anastasia walked quickly. But before she could get far away from the main hall, from the opposite direction of the open corridor, walked Princess Niyasa, Princess Emily and the guest whom Anastasia had attended this noon, Lady Amara Lumbard. Each of the women were accompanied by their maid, and one of the maids was Charlotte.

Before Anastasia could find a hiding place, Princess Niyasa commented, "You seem to be the talk of the celebration tonight. We haven't met before."

Anastasia still had little wounds on the back of her fingers that the youngest princess had caused. She clutched her hands closely to her sides and offered a tight smile. Feeling Charlotte's stare, she felt sweat trickle from the nape of her neck. She offered a polite bow and greeted,

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Princess Niyasa. Princess Emily. I am Tasia Flores," and during that time, Lady Amara quietly glared at Anastasia for snatching Prince Dante right under her nose.

Though Anastasia had never interacted with Princess Emily, she was the kindest princess and the opposite of Princess Niyasa. She was beautiful with her auburn hair and hazel eyes. Princess Emily complimented her with a warm smile,

"I love your gown, it looks like it was made for you. I look forward to having my seamstress design it like that, but in a different colour."

"A praise coming from a beautiful princess like yourself means a lot to me, Princess Emily," Anastasia had never been complimented except by Marianne, and she could only thank her sister for the way she looked tonight.

"Please call me Emily," Princess Emily insisted, and she said, "I am sure that soon our titles won't matter."

"Hold your thoughts, Lily," Princess Niyasa said to her sister, adding, "They have only begun courting. And Amara hasn't given up on Brother Dante," she turned to her friend and offered an encouraging smile. "Anyways, we have to get back to the main hall. I am going to show my maid's sketches to everyone."

Her sketches… Anastasia thought. Her eyes briefly glanced at Charlotte, who was proudly carrying the parchments as if she was the one to draw them.

"Would you like to join us? The more, the merrier," Princess Emily asked Anastasia, wanting to know more about the woman whom Brother Dante had danced with.

"Forgive me, but I am tired and would like to retire for the night," Anastasia apologised and said, "I hope all of you enjoy the rest of your night."

Anastasia walked past them, and after taking a few steps, she slowly turned, noticing the three young women leave the corridor with their maids. A sigh escaped from her lips.

Not wasting another second, Anastasia quickly grabbed the front of her skirt and hurriedly walked to the library. Entering it, she made her way up the stairs. Going to the rack where she had placed her dress earlier, she noticed it missing. It was also the dress that Charlotte had given her.

"Was it on the other rack?" Anastasia murmured, before looking at the next rack in front and the one behind. She started to search for it, but not finding it on the top floor, she climbed down the stairs.

"Anna!" Marianne arrived at the library, quickly making her way to where her sister stood. "I was so worried earlier when yo— What happened?" She asked with a frown, noticing the tense look on her sister's face.

"The dress, it's missing… Someone must have taken it," Anastasia replied in dread. She needed to change into her regular lowly clothes, as she couldn't walk back to her room in her current attire.

Marianne placed her hand on her sister's arm and said, "I will go to your room and get your clothes here. Stay right here, okay?"

Anastasia stood behind one of the racks while Marianne approached the door, when suddenly someone opened it wide. It was Mr. Gilbert, the head in charge of the servants, who had shown up at the door. His eyes narrowed at her presence in here at this hour and he demanded,

"What is a courtesan doing in the library at this hour?"