Refusing Eina’s help, Hadjar climbed the stairs with difficulty. Facing the gates to the ‘World of Dreams’, he held his breath for a second and tried to calm his wildly pounding heart.
He hadn’t experienced the difficulties that came with puberty in his past life because he simply hadn’t been able to feel his body. It hadn’t been ideal, but it had still been much better than his current situation. Now, living in a brothel, he would constantly find himself desiring something he couldn’t afford.
Even if he had a hundred times more savings and suddenly decided to spend it all on indulging his wants—no girl would’ve agreed to it.
When the doors opened, Hadjar was calm. But he still felt a powerful surge of desire, even through his forced serenity.
Vats of water were positioned along the perimeter of the huge hall. Girls in wet, translucent silk capes danced in them. It would be impossible to call these capes clothes. The girls were graceful and seductive beyond all reason. They weren’t naked, but the wet cloth stuck to their bodies and inflamed the imagination. It somehow looked even more alluring than simple nakedness.
The branches of various fruit trees hung from the ceiling. One could just raise their hand and pluck a juicy, sweet fruit right off of one. Other girls smeared the lips of addled guests with this juice, which was full of the fragrant aroma of flowers and fields. Only the highest ranking officials were in here. Hadjar even noticed the sons of the most important military and economic leaders among them.
They were hugging several of the ‘fairies’, pushing their hands underneath their clothes and causing them to make languid, sweet sighs in response.
Some officials, unable to endure it any longer, were busy in the corners covered with thick fabrics. There, the things that had made the ‘Innocent Meadow’ famous were happening.
Half-naked ladies were walking around and lightly kissing men. This ensured even the more reluctant patrons were coaxed into participating. It was all so exciting.
Hadjar closed his eyes and sighed deeply.
He tried his best to calm the surge of heat that had arisen just below his waist.
“As you asked, honorable Eternal Stream, here he is,” Senta suddenly appeared in front of the tables.
She was dressed in red, loose clothes and unsettled people with her cold, unapproachable beauty. No one would dare to even think about touching her, let alone trying to paw her like the rest of the girls.
“Is this your best musician?”
Hadjar couldn’t believe it, but it seemed like the heavens had finally taken pity on him and had sent a famous scholar to help him. Eternal Stream had managed to become famous throughout the whole Kingdom in the last six years.
No one knew the true story of this man's life, but it was said that he was the heir of some famous clan that had gone on a journey to learn more about the world and its mysteries.
People said that he could make medicine that cured thousands of diseases and knew the answers to all questions.
He was dressed very plainly, in green clothes that were belted with a simple leather strap. His calm, gray eyes were alert, despite the situation.
There wasn’t a single trace of a beard on his face, and his thick hair had been tied into a tight ponytail.
He looked young, but in this world, age was difficult to discern.
“Yes, he is.”
“And what is this musician’s name?”
“Hadjar, venerable Eternal Stream.”
The Scholar immediately looked more interested, even if only for a moment.
“What a simple name, hopefully the musician is better. He said sluggishly.
No one mentioned that this was the name of the Prince of the Kingdom. Nobody wanted to incur the wrath of the local general, whose son was, at present, groping some of the most desirable women that Hadjar had ever seen in his life. And that was saying a lot, when you took into account that, in his past life, he had practically lived his life on the Internet.
“Can you play ‘The Song of Claird?’” The Scholar asked.
Hadjar knew this work well. Men with broken hearts often asked him to play this difficult song, but Hadjar played it skillfully and with ease.
“I can,” he nodded.
“Could you play ‘A Summer’s Day? ”
That was an even more complex piece of music, and few talented musicians would risk playing it without rehearsing it for a long time beforehand.
What about ‘Six Moments before Life’?”
The hall became a little quieter.
‘Six Moments before Life’ was a legend about the birth of world. It told the story of ancient gods that, tired of their loneliness, exhaled their six lives into the vast void, creating this majestic world. They sacrificed their lives to let others live.
A piece of music more complicated than that one would be impossible to find in this world (at least in the Kingdom itself). And yet, at the same time, this was the easiest task of all for Hadjar.
His mother used to sing that song to him every night before bed. He remembered all the notes and chords easily, but every time Hadjar played the song, he remembered the smiling Queen and her scent… her warm, gentle hands holding him.
“I can.” Hadjar sighed forlornly.
Many people took his sigh as a sign of impending disaster. Perhaps the Scholar thought so as well.
“Play.” He waved his hand imperiously, leaning back against the pillows.
And so, Hadjar began to play. With each new note, the heat in his heart was quickly replaced by the cold of the desert night. He was no longer interested in the dancing girls or the carnivorous, greedy laughter of the visitors. All that mattered to him in that moment was the memory of his mother.
He remembered her laugh, how she would run after him in the garden, how they’d painted Elaine’s nursery together.
What was happening to his sister right now? What horrors was Primus subjecting her to?
And the longer Hadjar played, the quieter it became. The people stopped what they’d been doing before, plunging into the sad music which was full of hope for a new dawn. They listened, but not for long.
Everyone soon resumed laughing, speaking and even yelling. The musician no longer interested them and only the scientist was still listening to the music, as if he were looking for answers to some of his own, hidden questions.
“Did you like it, venerable Scholar?” The Mistress bowed low.
“I'm satisfied,” Eternal Stream nodded. “I haven't heard this melody performed so well for a long time. May I ask you for a room where I can talk to Hadjar in private?”
“My musician isn’t an employee of this institution, honorable Scholar. But I’m sure that if you look for…”
“And I’m not a fan of men, dear Senta.”
She bowed immediately.
The Scholar waved it off casually.
“I want to reward this musician, but to do so, I have to know his desire. So, do you have a spare room we can use?”
Many were now interested in their conversation. They were jealous of Hadjar’s luck. Receiving a reward from one of the most famous scientists in recent years was an incredible success.
“Of course,” the owner nodded. “Let me show you the way.”
They went down a floor, and she opened the doors to a rather spacious room. There were several screens, mattresses and silk sheets there. Nothing superfluous, but still a relaxing enough atmosphere to indulge one’s desires in.
Senta, after a quick glance at the musician, went out and closed the door behind her.
Hadjar, without any hesitation, fell to his knees in front of the Scholar and pressed his forehead to the floor.
“Please, venerable Scientist, tell me if there is a cure that can restore meridians and nodes in the human body after they’ve been destroyed.”
The seconds passed as if they were years. Hadjar didn’t hear an answer, and the only thing that intruded on the silence were the echoes of the eternal feast in ‘Innocent Meadow.’
Suddenly, Hadjar heard the exact same sound that his own forehead had made a few seconds ago.
“Don’t you remember my saying?” A voice asked through tears. “Have you forgotten what I’ve taught you, your Highness?!”
Hadjar slowly looked up.
He saw the haughty scientist kneeling before him in a low bow, in the same pose Hadjar himself had been in.
“I’ve been looking for you, my Prince... I’ve been looking for you for so long…” The scientist sobbed.
“Your saying…” Hadjar repeated.
An almost forgotten scene from his childhood flashed before his eyes. An old, strict man, and his saying: “Southern winds will always come eventually, bringing cold winters with them.”
The First Royal Scholar had called it the eternal cycle of life in the world, where the death of one person always gave birth to another.