What Yosua wants is peace. What Uncle Jeffett wants is retribution.
It feels like war always wins, violence always wins. There is only so much you can do in peaceful protest until it feels like you need to strike back if only to protect yourself.
And so Yosua cannot step down because he knows that the minute he does, Uncle Jeffett—or whoever he backs—is going to restart the war.
Chapter 2 excerpt
“So tell me, Han, which am I? The frog under the tempurung? Or the one afraid of the rain?” I raise an eyebrow at him, leaning back so I can watch both his face and his hands.
“Neither. It wasn’t meant as a statement.” He has the grace to look a little guilty. “I wasn’t, Yos. I wouldn’t. You’d never invite me back again and then where would I be?”
“Living it up in Maha, I suppose. Or playing raja in the kampungs around Bayangan.”
“Honest, Yos, I wasn’t mocking you. It was just a funny story!”
I sigh. “I know that. But only because I know you. Because you’re my friend. You are my friend, aren’t you?”
“Of course!” He looks affronted.
“I don’t know, Han. I don’t know anymore. Are they my friends or are they just trying to curry favour? Is Az always with me because he enjoys my company, or because he’s my guard? If he’s guarding me, is it out of altruism and goodwill or to preserve his family’s standing? Do you pass messages between Mikal and me because you are a trustworthy courier and my friend, or because you want money and a way to blackmail me?”
Han looks horrified. “I think you should renounce the throne and go back to living a normal person’s life.”
“I…I can’t.” I bury my face in my hands.
“You can’t or you won’t?”
“I can’t and I won’t.” I gather my courage to look up at him again. He’s got curiosity written all over his face. I’m relieved that it’s not judgement. “Who else is there, Han? My father has refused the crown and my uncle has retired to his estate. If I step down, there’s not only going to be great unrest in Bayangan, but whoever puts themselves forward will probably start another war with Terang and we’d be right back where we started. I won’t let that happen. I can’t.”
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The Tale of the Hostage Prince (Absolution 1.5)
But peace doesn’t come easily, not for a twenty-year-old servant playacting at being king.
With his parents brutally murdered and his uncle bent on revenge, Yosua must decide where his loyalties truly lie. With his only remaining relative and the kingdom he has claimed? Or with his best friend Mikal and the sultanate that raised him as a hostage?