Once upon a time, there was a kingdom ruled by a King and his loving and adoring Queen. Together, they birthed two children. The oldest was Princes Libre and the youngest was Prince Cupid.

The young royals were sheltered, having never stepped outside of the castle. Rumors say that the Princess was one of the fairest of them all, while her brother was one of the best-behaved children in the land. Kingdom people adored the perfect image of the royal family but failed to realize that the perfect image was simply an image.

If there was one thing that was not a rumor, it related to Princess Libre that was an extremely gorgeous girl. She was slim and tall, with curves that complimented her frame. Her hair was long so she kept it braided that underlined her stunningly gorgeous face. Not only was she physically beautiful, but spiritually too. Ever since she was a child, servants of the castle noted her positive and kindred soul.

She was like a rose in a bed of weeds.

When Libre was born, her mother instantly hated her for the simple fact that she was a girl. She saw her as competitor, not as her daughter. The king was indifferent toward her. He wanted his firstborn to be a boy so that he can inherit his throne but instead, he got Libre. During her childhood, she was beaten relentlessly by her mother for little mistakes such as playing with the servant children. When she was 7, a blessing in disguise came. Her brother was born. Cupid Ite Suro the second was born at the break of dawn. The word spread like wildfire. Prince was finally born into the royal family. The king mandated a celebration in the name of his newly born son. The land was filled with joy and happiness. It was the first time when Libre ever saw her mother smiling.

Ever since then, her parents ignored her and dotted on her brother. Growing up with no discipline and all the power in the world, Cupid became a nasty child. He would beat on all servants and maids when he didn’t get his way. He would deliberately tear his clothes up to anger his tailors and rip the flowers in the garden to the dismay of all gardeners. The Queen insisted on keeping Cupid away from Libre, but when the siblings did spend time together, it caused Libre headaches.

As she got older, she became bored with her life in the castle. She was tired of having the same conversations with the same maids and servants, so she wanted to get more freedom. The King and Queen wanted to keep their life private so their children never stepped outside the castle before. With the help of some guardsmen, she planned her first trip outside the castle for her the 18th birthday. When the day came, cloaked in a long robe obscuring her face and her body, she took her first steps out of the castle. The air was fresh and clean, the sun was warm on her face, and the color of the trees and grass were vibrant. She never experienced something so beautiful.

Her first trip outside the castle walls was to a little village close to the riverside. Libre was struck by the busyness of the village. Children were running around in the streets dressed in muddied clothes. It was strange; even though the kids were dirty they looked so happy. The townsmen and women were in the streets, dancing and singing to the jovial music playing from the bar. The waitresses from the bar were bustling to serve out ice-cold beers and ales. Libre spent her time in the village observing them from sidelines.

When she got back, her father sat her down to have a conversation. It was the first time she had a real conversation with her father in years. While looking her straight in the eyes he said, “I have arranged a marriage for you. He is a wealthy prince from across the sea who is looking for a princess.” Libre wasn’t surprised. She was hurt, but not surprised. She’s been waiting for this day ever since her brother was born. Her parents finally had their true heir, the only thing left to do was to get rid of the only obstacle in their perfect family. Libre.

Since then, she began taking frequent trips outside the castle. She could not bear staying in the castle, waiting to get whisked away by some stranger. One day, while walking through the village, she spotted a small shop. The strong energy radiating from the shop was… enticing and irresistible. She found herself knocking at the door, wanting to know more about it. The door opened up a crack and there stood a woman. She was middle-aged, short, and stout. Her hair was long and stringy nearly touching her buttocks. Libre knew exactly what this place was when she looked into the woman’s eyes, it was the place that the guardsmen warned her against. It was a witch shop. And the woman standing in front of her was a witch. Her bright violet stared at her, assessing her.

In a while, she swung the door open and beckoned Libre in.

The shop was small and welcoming. The floors were covered with rigs made of exotic animals. There were shelves filled with crystals and bubbling potions. Libre followed the witch to a small table in the back of the shop and sat down.

“What do you seek?” The witch asked with croaky and dry voice.

“I was just passing along the village and was drawn to your shop.”

“People do not come to my store without a purpose. What do you seek?”

Libre sat there thinking about the question. What did she want? After a while, Libre spoke in a whisper, “I want to be free.”

Free of her life in the castle, free of her impending marriage, free of her family. Just free.

The witch smiled. Not a pleasant one, but a twisted, evil smile.

“Nothing is free in my shop. Everything comes at a cost.”

“I have riches and jewels that I can give.”

“I’m well aware of your wealth, Princess. You can take off the cloak, you must be sweltering.”

Libre did as she was told, uncloaking herself. It felt refreshing to take off her cloak and show her face.

“You have something more valuable than your riches and your jewels. I want a half of your heart.”

“Half of my heart?” Libre asked, surprised.

“I am not a deceitful witch, Princess. I will tell you right now that taking away a half of your heart will take away the ability to love someone fully.”

Libre sat for a while longer before wrapping her cloak around her and standing to leave.

“I won’t miss a feeling that I’ve never felt before.” And with that Libre left the shop and went back to the castle.

The next day, Libre went back into town and to the witch shop. This time the door swung open before she could even knock.

“Ready?” The witch asked, her violet eyes glowing unnaturally bright.

Libre took a deep breath and said, “Ready.”

(to be continued)

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