Written by Mia Herrera
The young and soon to be King of Lima, Alois, was arriving in the City today. Three days after his arrival, his coronation would take place -and the great uniter, Dayana Rios, would step down as leader of the city. She would solely retain the title of Ambassador to Huancayo. After the assassination of his grandmother, Alois (who was just a baby) had been transported out of the city under the cover of night. The prince had been raised in the private district of Miraflores; he had never even set foot in the palace. His homecoming should have been a welcome affair, however, tensions in the city were high. Lima had found a leader in Dayana and citizens were wary of the change in power.
From the backseat of the carriage, Alois watched the landscape alter as they entered the city. He imagined how the peasants would chant at his arrival. He was awaiting his hero’s welcome. Their King was finally coming home. He could only fantasize for so long.
Alois adjusted his focus towards Julio, his government assigned bodyguard. Julio sat across from him, his constant sour face was expressionless. He blankly stared out the window. Once he felt the prince’s eyes on him, he turned toward him.
“Yes?” Julio questioned with a stern look on his face. Alois gave Julio a silly smile and asked him to describe Lima again. Julio let out a tired sigh as he prepared to retell the story for the hundredth time.
Julio had been fresh out of the academy with hopes of a job in the security force or an assignment to a council member. Instead, he had been shipped out to Miraflores to babysit a boy prince.
Alois would miss Julio and intended to have him visit the palace often once he had settled into his new role, “Julio, what will you do when I’m made King?” Alois asked once Julio was done recalling the beauty of Lima.
“I’ll probably be assigned to Azucena Rios back in Huancayo. I put in a request for her before we left Miraflores,” Julio told him. Julio had quickly grown tired of babysitting the boy prince and grew homesick before a fortnight. He would take any assignment as long as it was in Huancayo.
When the chief had assigned him to watch over the prince once the date for the coronation had been set. Julio had felt a sense of pride. He would be protecting their future King. However, any lingering feelings of pride quickly vanished once he met Alois.
Alois was barely a boy at fourteen years. He lacked any muscle or definition, and was too slow to maintain a conversation with. He could hardly handle a sword and had no interest in politics. His surname was the only reason for his ascension- a fact Julio quickly realized.
Julio had caught himself wondering whether Lima was safer with Dayana than with the boy prince. He had laughed once he caught himself. Julio had studied with Dayana in their hometown of Huancayo. Even then Dayana had been determined. She excelled in training and was at the top of their class. Dayana had always been destined to be great. She was a strong fighter with a mind for politics. Her mother, Azucena, was the leader of Huancayo and had taught Dayana all she knew. After the butchery of the royals the army began drafting and when he had been called for service Dayana followed. When the war had finished Dayana had eyes for council and politics. Julio wanted a career in the force and went to the academy. That’s where they parted and the next time he saw her was after she had become ambassador. She invited him to accompany her on her tour of the Republic. Julio had been tempted but his place was at the academy. He had refused her and a month later she was engaged.
After months at the academy, the stories started. Rumors and tall tales of Dayana’s tour. How she had employed bandits in order to gain favor with ransacked cities, how she had opponents and dissenters sent to the mines, how she had disowned her family. Julio remembered thinking she was finally lost, yet, despite her reputation, Dayana gained favor. Half of the Republic loved her. The other half was scared of her. That is why they never refused her. With a majority vote of the Republic Dayana Nguyen was made leader of Lima, until the heir to the crown was of age.
Julio was smart enough to realize why he had been assigned to the prince despite being a new recruit. The council foolishly believed Dayana would show restraint; however, Julio knew better. He accompanied the boy everywhere and protected him with his life. Dayana’s spies had eyes and ears everywhere. The prince would never be safe or free from her watchful gaze. Julio knew it was his duty to Lima and the Republic to make sure the heir ascended to the crown. Yet, he hoped once Dayana finally made her move, she would send another in her place. Julio feared where his loyalties would lie once tested.
Julio began to feel anxious when he started to recognize the sights outside the window. He had tried to warn Alois of the city, but the boy’s mind had been infested with delusions of the palace. All he thought of was the imagined unwavering love of ‘his’ people. Julio knew Dayana had changed the city for the better after the war, any allegiance Lima had would be for her. However, Alois refused to listen.
The next night was the rehearsal for the coronation and Alois was buzzing with excitement. His cheeks were getting sore from all the smiling he had practiced in the mirror. He had brought Lima the only valuable thing his family left him, and the weight in his pocket was the only thing grounding him. The handheld mirror was emerald encrusted and had Lima’s coordinates engraved on the handle. Alois was bringing it in hopes of giving it to Dayana Rios. He had heard stories of the fierce Ambassador and her efforts to help Lima. Alois wanted to thank her and show his gratitude. Dayana had protected the city when he was unable to. Now he was a man, about to be King. He could protect Lima and continue his family legacy.
Alois had kept the mirror hidden throughout their journey to the city. He knew the look Julio would give him when he gave it to Dayana. Julio was a very simple-minded man and did not understand how power dynamics worked. The guard was so loyal to him that he would grow suspicious of anything. Alois chuckled to himself as he recalled all of the times Julio had warned him of Dayana. Dayana was a general in his army, she was loyal to him and to Lima. Once Alois was King, then Julio would understand how royalty worked.
Julio surveyed the crowd with the focus of a predator hunting its prey. His skin prickled and he knew someone was watching him in return. Before he could find who was causing his discomfort, a mass of black hair jumped out at him.
“Julio!” Dara exclaimed, she jumped to hug him. Julio felt a wave of emotion overcome him at the sight of his childhood friend in a matching patrol uniform.
“Dara, you passed! I knew you would. We need to celebrate,” he told her. Before he could continue, Alois finally made himself known from behind Julio.
“Dara? Like Dara Rios? Is Dayana here?” Alois quickly asked. His eyes darted from Dara, then to the crowd, then back to her.
“Ah, you must be the prince. Please forgive my manners,” Dara eyed the boy before she bowed before him. Dara felt uneasy at how young the prince seemed to be. Her worries were interrupted by the obnoxious laugh Alois released.
“No one’s bowed before,” he explained, then turned to Julio, “Is that normal,” he asked.
Julio silently willed Alois to shut up. How was he to be King if he didn’t even know the customs they practiced?
“Ah prince you’re too funny,” Dara continued without missing a beat, “I do regret to inform you that the Ambassador won’t be in attendance tonight.” At the sound of the news, all leftover amusement disappeared from Alois’s face.
“I brought her a gift. You know, to thank her. Dayana has done so much for me while I was away,” Alois told Dara. Dara clenched her jaw but refused to let her smile waver. Being the daughter of a politician, she practiced her skills in faking emotions. She tilted her head to the side to feign concern while she studied the boy. Dara could feel the seeds of fear being planted within her. Could Dayana be right? Was this child unsuited for the role his birth gifted him? He was so naive, Dara thought to herself. He failed to understand Dayana’s absence was a sign of disrespect.
“Oh young prince, Dayana will be here tomorrow. For the actual coronation. I’m sure she wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she smiled at the boy and felt a swell of pity.
“Lieutenant Renzo will also be in attendance,” Dara added, her eyes were fixed on Alois; however, she observed Julio from the corner of her eye. Julio refused to let his stoic demeanor give in. He knew Dara was teasing him.
“Please prince if you would not mind. Julio is a childhood friend and I would like to catch up,” she said. She could hardly recognize her voice at these events.
“Oh sure! I didn’t even know Julio had any friends. He is always so quiet,” Alois quickly said. Before he left he began to bow to Dara as he fought his giggles.
“No. No. Prince. You don’t bow,” Dara urgently corrected. Her tone caught the attention of others and waved them off politely.
“People bow to you, you don’t bow,” Julio clarified as he straightened the prince. He could feel eyes on them. He needed to go over the etiquette with Alois or risk embarrassment for the prince.
Once Alois was a safe distance away from the patrollers, she finally let her smile fall.
“The boy is-” she began, “The prince is”, Julio corrected.
“Right! The prince is…” she tried again but faltered.
“He’s a goner, Dara,” Julio finished. Dara absentmindedly nodded as she watched Alois laugh as someone bowed to him.
“Dayana is actually coming tomorrow. Take this as a formal warning from the mighty Rios family. Wait until you see Azucena. All the stress Dayana has put on her is taking its toll,” Dara absentmindedly said while thinking of her aunt’s rapid weight loss.
“Things have only been getting crazier since you left. There are actual rallies for her.” Dara told him. Julio’s skin began to pickle again. He was becoming uneasy at all the mention of Dayana.
“Maybe you could plant a kiss on her and turn her back into a frog,” Dara struggled to say as she giggled. She puckered her lips at him and smirked once his mask of control cracked and turned to annoyance.
“You need to let that go,” Julio warned. He tried to look at anything but Dara’s knowing smirk.
The entire ride to the banquet hall the next day was filled with Alois’s endless excited chatter. After Dara’s warning the previous night, Julio enlisted more help in guarding the prince. The entire banquet hall would be locked down. He even tried to persuade the chief into refusing Dayana allowance into the hall. Despite all this, Dayana’s will stretched farther than the chief’s. The next evening, the city was abuzz with the confirmation of Dayana’s attendance.
“Do you think she will like it?” Alois asked Julio as he showed off the mirror. Julio’s right eyebrow disappeared into his hair, he wanted to burst out laughing. Julio struggled to remember a single time Dayana had ever shown an interest in her appearance. Not that she needed to. Dayana was beautiful in a stoic kind of way.
Julio nearly banged his head into the side of the carriage as he violently shook out his thoughts.
“I don’t think Dayana’s fiance would like it,” Julio replied bitterly, he fixed his eyes on the building as they arrived.
The royal palace could put cathedrals to shame with its beauty. The creme-coloured building was a source of glory for Lima.
Julio stepped out first and then Alois, “You don’t think he will think I’m trying to steal her? Do you?” Alois asked.
Alois was drowned out by the crowd, there were hundreds of people on the street, blocking the entrance. Where were all the guards?
“Stay close,” he yelled to Alois as he encased his wrist in a fierce hold. The mounds of bodies pushed and stretched for a chance to get near the prince.
“It’s okay, these are my fans,” Alois assured. He took a step away from Julio and was instantly hauled into the crowd. Julio’s head whipped toward the direction the boy disappeared into and grasped into the crowd.
Suddenly bullets were shot into the air. The thunderous roars of the crowd managed to get even louder and Julio pulled with everything he had. He secured his grip on Alois’s robe and pulled him out in a single motion. The impact of Alois on Julio caused them both to lose footing.
“We need to get back to the car”, Julio yelled and tried to drag Alois up. Alois’s small body was shaking and he had begun to expire. Nothing like that had ever happened in Miraflores. Guns went off again and this time people dressed in all black emerged from the crowd. In his haste, Alois had tripped and been pulled into the herd of people trying to escape. Julio cursed and again tried to search for the boy.
From the ground, Alois struggled to breathe, the people around him were running over him as if he weren’t there. His chest was tightening and he began to struggle for breath. The pace of the running had caused many to fall. Bodies were piling up around him effectively blocking his view.
While Alois searched in vain for Julio or the patrollers a man dressed in black approached the boy. He swiftly removed a body that had fallen on Alois’s lower half. Alois could cry from relief. Someone was here to help him! But once the man had discarded the body he lifted his right leg and stamped down on the prince’s leg. There was no mistaking the crunch his leg made. His wail was immediate, he grasped his leg and bawled. Salty tears clouded his vision and filled his mouth. As Alois began making his peace with his impending doom a figure emerged from the stampede. In a matter of seconds, the man was on the floor, still bodied, and dead eyes. When Alois looked up at Dayana Rios, The Great Uniter was standing above him.
“Come on prince, we need to get you to safety,” she said. Her face was grim, her braids were undone, and blood was sliding down her face from a cut on her cheek. Though disheveled Alois still thought she looked like a hero right out of a storybook.
With one hand she effortlessly picked him up. She supported his weight and led him towards the car. Whispers erupted as they passed through the crowd, “The Ambassador is here.”
Julio heard them before he saw them, his bones were flooded with a mix of relief and apprehension at the sight of the boy and the Ambassador. Julio wrenched Alois away from Dayana and threw the boy over his shoulder. Alois let out a cry at the movement but stayed quiet.
Once at the car the gunshots began again, Dayana whipped her head around to the sound intent on ending the noise.
“Get the boy in the car, I’ll deal with this,” she said and disappeared back into the herd. Julio almost followed her until he remembered where he was and who he was. This was not Huancayo or the army. He had to protect the prince. He ignored Alois’s cries for her and pushed him into the car. It was only once he was inside did he realize he had not even greeted her. She looked the same, just older. As if he could suddenly read his thoughts Alois whispered, “She’s so beautiful.” Only then did Julio return to reality.
He forced the driver out of the car and replaced him. Everyone was compromised. He spared one look out the window to search for her. Before he could change his mind he began to drive.
“Where are we going?” Alois questioned from the back seat.
Alois could faintly hear murmurs as he kept trying to lean towards the door. Every time he got too far the healer would tut at him. She was taking her time preparing a cast for his leg. It was just a fracture. Julio assured him it would heal soon enough. He would be recovering in Miraflores. Yet again he was being forced to flee Lima, run from his own city. He wasn’t even made King yet.
On the other side of the door, Julio and Dara were engaged in a heated discussion over the attack.
“Nobody knows Julio. Dayana took out one but the rest evaded the entire patrol. The chief is interrogating him now with Azucena,” Dara responded. Julio had driven straight to the Rios compound. No one would be able to get to the prince from here. Alois had cried the entire way mourning his ruined coronation.
“The president is pushing back the coronation, it’s not safe for him. The people want him dead. They don’t want another King,” Dara explained. Julio shook his head as he paced around.
“The Chen’s ruined the Republic and in their eyes Dayana saved it,” Dara continued.
“They want Dayana,” Julio whispered in disbelief, “They want her to lead them?” he pondered.
After the announcement of the coronation being pushed back aired, tension in the city eased. A week passed without any public sightings of the prince and not a single gang came forward to claim ownership of the attack. Ambassador Dayana used the incident as a catalyst to declare her interest in running for the position of head council once the coronation took place. Within days a wing of city hall was closed off for the Ambassador’s campaign camp. Her followers covered the city in signs of her name, people started wearing shirts with her face, and the news even began polling on her.
The entire Rios family had been at Dara’s when the Ambassador declared her candidacy. Alois had learned many colorful curses that night. He still could not understand why the Rios’s failed to support the Ambassador. Julio threatened to muzzle him if Alois publicly showed support for the Ambassador. Alois relented and made a deal with Julio.
The experience at the banquet had brought Alois shame. His people had tried to kill him because they feared his weak leadership. He made Julior agree to teach him how to defend himself. He would train in sword fighting and physical combat. All that was left was a mentor in politics.
Ambassador Dayana had always taken pride in her intelligence. The combined intelligence of her fiance and herself was no match for anyone. She had been preparing for the coronation months before a date had even been set. The only thing she did not expect was Julio’s assignment as the prince’s bodyguard. She had fervently pushed to get him his desired assignment as security for her mother. Yet, she couldn’t control everything and Julio was sent to Miraflores. Last-minute adjustments had to be made to ensure Julio wouldn’t get in the way.
“You’re sure no one found the rest of them,” Dayana questioned Renzo.
“They’re all gone and like I said the coronation has been pushed back,” he reassured her as they walked towards her designated wing.
“It was quite brilliant I might add. You should have seen his little face when his leg was crushed,” Dayana said in between giggles. Renzo joined in the laughter as they entered the hall. The couple ignored all the eyes shifting towards them and continued to their offices.
“Excuse me, Ambassador,” said a squeaky voice from behind them.
“Not now, Lina,” Dayana replied without sparing her assistant a look.
“Miss Ambassador. It’s important.” Lina tried to continue as she followed them. Dayana waved Lina off and walked faster. Renzo turned toward Lina and shook his head, quietly warning her. Lina cringed and tried to catch up to Dayana.
“No, Miss Ambassador you must know-” Lina tried to continue but was cut off once Dayana opened her office door. Lina hissed as she watched Dayana’s award-winning smile find its way onto her face.
In front of them sat a grim looking Julio and the boy prince, now fully healed. Renzo could feel the annoyance radiating off Dayana, he took the lead and introduced himself to the boy.
“Your grace, it’s a pleasure.” He said as he outstretched his hand toward the boy.
“I’m Renzo, Dayana’s fiancee,” Renzo said louder as he glanced at Julio.
Julio kept his gaze focused on Dayana who was still planted by the door communicating wordlessly with her poor assistant.
“Well to what do I owe the pleasure,” Dayana asked. Julio could hardly recognize her politician voice. Dayana waved Lina away and walked over to the boy. Julio noted how neither the Ambassador nor Lieutenant bowed before their prince.
Alois looked back at Julio for confirmation before he began, “I want a job here.” Renzo watched as Dayana’s stiff smile somehow got tighter. Her eyes slightly widened before she composed herself. Renzo hoped Lina had left the building or Dayana would murder her for not informing them of the company.
“You want a job here, your grace,” Dayana repeated slowly, she was sure she had misheard. Alois just nodded his head enthusiastically.
“Well after the banquet I decided I needed to become a better leader for my people. I don’t want to return to Miraflores. I need to be with my people. Julio is teaching me how to fight and I want you to teach me how to rule,” Alois quickly explained. Dayana looked between the boy and Julio’s sour face, and then at Renzo’s calculating look.
“Your grace it would be an honor to guide you in managing your city,” Dayana replied. This time she managed to make her smile look sincere.
“Julio,” Dayana said, Julio was suddenly back to reality.
“Ambassador,” he questioned.
“Can you leave us? We have a lot to discuss with the future King,” Renzo told Julio, a smirk planted on his face. Julio began to object when Alois chimed in, “Yes, please Julio. I need to do this by myself.” Julio’s face was unreadable as he exited the room. Dayana’s gaze was fixed on his back as she watched him walk down the hall.
“This will be so exciting, your grace,” Dayana said to the prince as she shut the door to the room, encapsulating the three of them inside.