“You Have Nothing I Want”
“All hail King Ozia! All hail King Ozia!”
Thousands of people bowing down, as far as the king could see.
“We’ll soon conquer the world,” said the king’s highest general.
“I believe so,” replied the king, “it’s the only matter of time. I just have to prepare Zuala to replace me.”
“Pardon me, my king, but what about your wife? You seem to never talk about her.”
King Ozia replied with a piercing glare.
“Forgive me my king. Please forgive this fool.”
“You are forgiven. Now, deal with these captives. I believe we can utilize them to our advantage. Throw the weak and frail away, and keep the rest.”
“Yes, my king.”
Ozia retreated from the crowd; it was time for lunch with Zuala.
Zuala was the Blue Princess. No one in the kingdom was allowed to wear blue-colored apparel—only she could. “I am blue, and blue is me,” she often said to her servants. Her presence attracts people’s attention, for the blue she wore was a stark contrast among everything—and everyone.
From a young age, she was rigorously trained by her father: Before lunch, it was all about fighting; after lunch, it was all about reading and writing. The only downtime she had was Sunday, where she would walk with her mother in the woods—talking about the birds and sky. Out of pity, Zuala’s mother would often sneak her some mint candies amid her father’s harsh schedule.
Zuala thought books were lame. Literature, war strategies, persuasion, table manners, poetry, yuck! The static world of words didn’t interest her. When she was twelve, she asked her dad to stop all the bookish lessons: She wanted to learn things her own way. This was one of the few wishes that were granted by her father.
Sixteen of age, Zuala was deemed almost ready by her father to replace him. On important kingly meetings, she would sit beside her father and discuss war strategies with other generals; on diplomatic meetings between friendly kingdoms, she would often represent her father, putting up polite gestures to please other diplomats while negotiating win-win trades between kingdoms.
One of the things Zuala liked most was knives—she had a peculiar relationship with it. When asked why, she candidly said, “I am physically weaker than men, but I have my knives.” Slender and nimble, no one in her kingdom—not even the fiercest of men—dared fighting her one-on-one, for they knew: it was only the matter of time before one of her knives touches their throat.
No, no, no; nobody wanted to deal with Blue Princess’ knives.
The food King Ozia and Zuala ate was the best in their kingdom. In a land where the common folk toil for scraps, they enjoy all the luxuries—even imported ones.
Sitting on the lunch table, King Ozia felt that it was time to give “The Talk.”
“Zuala, I have something important to say.”
“I’m listening,” replied Zuala swiftly.
“I am honestly surprised that you passed my rigorous training since you were young. Those days where you have to sit in the cold rain, or walk miles with water buckets, or gorge on books about strategies and literature were over. You have proved yourself worthy of ruling this kingdom.”
“Where are you going with this, dad?”
“My days are numbered, Zuala, and you’re an exquisitely fine person to rule this kingdom. I think you’re ready. But there’s one request I have of you before I hand down this crown.”
“H’m?” Zuala inquired.
“I want you to end your mother’s life.”
No panic, no flinch. They both spooned themselves the food they had on their plate. The air was starting to thicken.
“May I know why?” asked Zuala, after what seemed like an eternity.
“She has nothing I want.”
“She has nothing you want?”
“I have this kingdom; I have luxurious food; I have fine clothes; I can sleep with any lady I find cute. And above all, I have the perfect successor for this mighty kingdom. That useless little insect called your mother has nothing I want.”
“Why, then, did you make her your wife?”
“I want you,” replied King Ozia nonchalantly, while staring at Zuala.
“You want me?”
“Then why did you—”
“Stop questioning me!” King Ozia shouted as he slammed his fist on the table.
Zuala learned at a young age that there was no point in arguing with her father. She had perfected the expressionless nod she always gave to extricate herself from her father’s demands.
“This midnight, a servant will approach you to give you the key to your mother’s prison cell. You’re good with knives. Do your thing.”
A nod from Zuala was the only thing he received.
The moon was full and bright as Zuala entered the dungeon. An old torch in her right hand, the key in her left hand, and knives in her pocket.
It was time.
Five minutes of walking, she found herself in front of a room—her mother’s room. The key was slightly rusty, but it wasn’t hard to unlock the door.
“Mom?” Zuala said, slightly trembled.
There she was: disheveled, dirty, and tired.
There was one fist-sized hole in the room for ventilation. Ceiling two inches away, no space to walk; no light, no bed; dried bread in one corner, feces in another corner.
It was dismal.
“Mom, it’s me.”
“It’s you. You… who?” replied her mom.
“Zuala… I’ve heard that name before.”
“Of course you have!” Zuala interjected.
“That name sounds familiar, you know?” her mom said slowly, as if she was drugged by something.
Zuala brought her chin up, so they could meet at eye level. Her emaciated face looked different from her youthful one—she looked like a stranger from another land.
“Mom, please talk to me. Are you thirsty? I brought some fresh mountain water for you.”
“Water, fresh water, give,” her mom said, as she desperately tried to reach for the bottle. It took three bottles to quench her thirst, and she drank it like there was no tomorrow.
“Zuala… I finally remember who Zuala is. Are you Zuala?” said her mom, with slightly more vigor.
“Yes, I am.”
“It has been years, my dear daughter. I’d like to hug you, but why would the Blue Princess hug a dirty woman like—”
Her mom suddenly found herself in Zuala’s embrace. It had been such a long time. The sea of emotion within them came out as tears; the hug was so tight that Zuala feared it would break her mother’s bones.
That was the hug that her father couldn’t give—the hug of love.
“Let’s get out of here mom,” Zuala said, after the episodes of tears and hugs.
“But this is my home.”
“No, no, no; this is hell. I’ll show you our new home.”
“Our new home?”
“Yes,” Zuala replied with soft eyes.
“Where will you take us?”
Zuala stared into the ground as she tried to formulate what she wanted to say. “Mom, after seeing you, I have decided to abandon this queenship,” she finally said, after couple minutes of silence, “I don’t want all these strategizing, fighting, cajoling, acquiescing, commanding, ruling, and conquering anymore—I’m truly tired of this. Let’s go mom, I’ve planned an escape for both of us.”
“But why, my beloved Blue Princess? If you were queen, you could conquer the world, rule it, and have anything you wish for; why would you want to abandon it?
“Because this kingdom,” Zuala replied, “has nothing I want.”