Pharaoh Seti became severely ill near the end of summer. He named Ramses as his successor. As the Pharaoh’s illness grew severe, even Maya could not do much to help. In the end, the Pharaoh passed away.
Now, Egypt had a new Pharaoh and the era of Ramses II began!
Ramses enacted a lot of changes the moment he ascended the throne. He made a swift reform on the officials in royal court. Other than Asher, Prince Teran, and a few others who remained in their position, he mercilessly replaced all insufficiently qualified officials. Furthermore, he sent all the courtesans from Prince Teran Asher. Judging from the dark circles under Asher’s eyes, it was obvious that those women were difficult to manage.
Ramses reviewed documents submitted from all over the kingdom day and night. It seemed as if he had changed into a completely different person. He became completely immersed in his new role.
His toothache recurred again due to the lack of rest.
“Ramses, you can’t continue to overwork yourself. You must sleep early tonight,” Maya said, giving her advice as his healer. Now, she was one of the few people who were allowed to call him by name.
“I’m fine. Just prepare some medicine for me.” He continued to read the documents seriously.
From where Maya stood, she could see Ramses’ side profile under the dim light. She noticed his dull complexion and the slight bloodshot in his eyes.
“Ramses, can you come with me?” She suddenly pulled him up and led him out of the room.
“What’s the matter, Maya?” He looked at her with a puzzled expression.
She paused to look at him and say, “I can easily make the toothache disappear. Can you shoot an arrow for me?”
Ramses was even more confused, but he did as she requested. He immediately ordered a servant to bring him a bow and arrow. Then, he aimed at the target, pulled the bowstring taut, and was about to shoot it.
“Wait, Ramses. Keep pulling the bowstring and only release the string when I say stop, ok?”
He raised an eyebrow in confusion, “Woman, what are you up to? If you are playing a trick on me, I will punish you.” However, even as he said that he still pulled the bowstring taut. He kept pulling but did not hear her say stop.
He pulled the bowstring tighter and tighter. Suddenly the bow snapped with a ‘bang’.
“Did you see that, Ramses? You are now like this bow that was pulled tight. I understand that you have just become the Pharaoh and are under a lot of pressure. You want to do your best so as not to disappoint your parents, officials, and the people. But you are overworking yourself. This makes you tired easily and causes you constant stress. This is why your toothache recur. If you don’t learn to relax, you will snap like this bow. Do you understand?” She realized that she had spoken a lot and wondered if he was going to scold her for nagging again.
He looked at her thoughtfully and seemed surprised for a moment. His expression gradually softened with a smile.
“I understand.” His smile was sincere like blooming flowers in spring that melted away the chill of the night.
Maya stared at him and was surprised by his unusual reaction. Have I misheard? This proud man actually said that he understood?
“However, you are still a very naggy woman.” He reached out and caressed her hair before turning around to return to his residence.
“Ramses, you…” She said indignantly.
“It’s late, I’m going to bed.” He looked back and winked, “I don’t want to end up like that bow.”
Maya couldn’t help but smirk. She felt a sudden rush of warmth in her heart and blurted out to his back, “Ramses, you will be a great Pharaoh.”
From then on, Ramses took heed of Maya’s advice and did everything well, and brought Egypt into a glorious era. Maya also did not forget what she came here for and continued to search for the thing. But she felt different about the task now than before. It was because she knew that once she found it, she had to leave Egypt and Ramses.
Whenever she thought about this, she felt a little pain in her heart.
One day, the Hittites conquered the whole of the Syrian kingdom. To stop the advancement of the Hittites army, Ramses decided to head out to war. He planned to lead four legions from the fortress in the eastern part of the Delta north along the Ridani and Oriente valleys to enter the Kadesh area.
Kadesh was located on the west bank of the upper Orente River where the current was swift. There were towering cliffs and dangerous terrains. It was also where the main route linking the north and south of Syria was located, making it a strategic base of the Syrian army. Ramses planned to attack Kadesh first and take control of this gorge before heading north to regain control over the whole of the Syrian kingdom.
Before leaving for battle, custom dictated that the Pharaoh had to perform a ritual and pray to the gods for victory. Ramses seemed to be in deep thoughts when he came to the temple. Maya stood beside Fehketi, the Great Priest, and looked at him with concern. When he suddenly turned to look at her, she quickly bowed her head.
“Your Majesty, please enter the temple for cleansing,” said Fehketi.
Ramses nodded. He turned to Maya and said, “You come with me.”
Huh? Maya looked at him in surprise. His expression was serious.
“Are you going with him or not?” Fehketi glanced at her and indicated to the temple attendant nearby to give the clothes that Ramses had to wear for the ritual to Maya.
“But…” Before she could speak further, someone pushed her into the temple’s cleansing chamber.
There was a beautiful pool in the chamber made of grey and light green marble. Pure white lotuses were floating on the pool surface. Four statues of goddesses guarded the four corners of the pool. Each statue had its hands up as if lifting something as water spouted out from the top of its hands and flowed into the pool with a calming sound.
Maya’s blushed and kept her gaze on the marble floor. She did not dare to look around and stood completely still. After some time, she heard Ramses saying, “If you’re still alive, come and scrub my back.”
Maya grumbled in her heart and had no choice but to go to him slowly with her gaze on the floor.
“Can’t you scrub it yourself?” She muttered softly and handed a towel to him.
Suddenly, she felt a little pain in her chin. Ramses held onto her chin and forced her to look at him. His sturdy chest instantly appeared before her eyes. Droplets of water flowed down his malt-colored skin. Her gaze couldn’t help follow the droplets, and her heart skipped a beat. She saw something that she shouldn’t.
She was stunned from shock. Ramses released her with a laugh and took the towel from her hand. “It’s alright, I can do it myself!”
Maya only recovered to her usual self when he finished putting on his clothes. She took the jewelry that he had to wear and helped him put them on. As she was helping him to put on a bracelet, Ramses suddenly glanced at her wrist, “The scar is still here.”
Maya looked at her wrist and nodded, “It’s alright.”
He frowned slightly but did not say anything.
After putting on the jewelry, Maya helped him to put on a crown. The crown had a golden cobra and an eagle centerpiece, which looked as if they were ready to strike at any time. He looked majestic and heroic wearing it.
“Done. You can go to the ceremony now.” She looked at him and said,
His expression seemed complicated as if he wanted to say something.
“By the way, do you have trouble with the lions?” She suddenly remembered about them.
“Why? Do you want to go with me too?” He teased her.
“I’m just asking.” Maya glared at him.
“Although they prefer you, they don’t disobey my commands. But Maya, you must remember…” Ramses’ expression suddenly turned serious, and he said with a heavy tone, “Just in case something happened to me, Memphis will be in chaos… If that happens, you must leave Egypt immediately, understand?”
“Why are you saying this?” She suddenly felt worried for him. “You will be fine, Ramses. Nothing will happen to you.”
“You will be the most outstanding Pharaoh Egypt has ever seen. You will be looked up on by everyone, Ramses. Nothing will happen to you. You will return victorious,” Maya said confidently. She then turned around to leave but was suddenly enveloped into a warm embrace. It felt as if she had fallen into a hot spring.
“Ramses?” She asked hesitantly, unsure of what he wanted to do.
She felt a hot breath by her ear and heard his slightly rugged voice, “You must stay safe too.”
She suddenly felt warmth and sadness in her heart.
Ramses, I will be fine. You must stay safe too.
Maya went to say goodbye to the lions. She was reluctant to part with them. As the lions were heading out to war, she feared that some of them may never return. That night, Nigel, the guard who had always been in charge of feeding the lions, prepared a scrumptious dinner for them. This could be their last meal in Egypt.
Warrior was the cleverest among them. It knew that it may never come back, so it kept sticking close to Maya, making her sad.
She hugged Warrior gently and caressed its back.
After a long time, Warrior suddenly purred at someone behind her. Maya turned around and saw a tall figure stepping forward from behind the avocado tree. It was Ramses. His black hair floated in the breeze. The moonlight on this face made him seem gentle.
He stood there and gazed at her silently.
His eyes were dark as the night, she could not read his emotions.
“Ramses, you are leaving tomorrow. You should get some rest.” Maya broke the silence between them.
Ramses still did not say a word and came forward. He caressed Warrior as it stuck to him.
“Ramses, if the lions have to fight, please let them come back alive. Don’t let them all die in the battle…” Maya felt sad and could not continue.
He stared at her. “Maya, are you more worried about the lions than me?”
“This is not what I mean.”
“Are you not worried about me at all?” he said unhappily.
“You will be fine, Ramses. You will return safely. I am certain.” She looked into his eye before turning away to lead the lions back to their cages.
“It’s late. You should return to rest.” She got up after locking the last cage.
Ramses suddenly grabbed her shoulder and pushed her against the avocado tree. He did not say anything but captured her lips.
His body pressed against her. Maya could feel the heat of his body through the thin clothes. Her heart beat faster. His tongue infiltrated between her teeth as she was trapped between his body and the tree trunk. She could not move at all and could only allow flames of passion to sweep her away. “Wait for me, Maya. I will return,” he whispered into her ear.
Her thoughts were a mess. The moment he released her, she pushed him away and ran back to her room.
I have to go home one day. I can’t fall in love with him…