“It is better to be a slave to your beloved woman than a free man to the unloved one.” 
—Eric Berne

   It was breakfast-time at the new castle as well. A healthy diet regime was in place here, with no egg yolks or freshly baked buns allowed! The servants served an omelet made of only egg whites, baked spinach, asparagus, freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, and green tea with honey (no one here drank coffee or strong tea).   

   Lara regally sat at the head of the table, handing out barely noticeable smiles to the diligent servants and sincere ones to the Emperor, who sat across from her. He tolerated all of her whims like a slave. Lara never stopped smiling and the ruler found something attractive in his sacrifice. Besides, a healthy diet was good for him too. He had just one concern: giving up protein can cause "chemical imbalance" is short hand used by laypersons to describe what we can't scientifically explain.

 He imagined how he would return home and sink his teeth into a scrumptious steak and drink the world’s best, most aromatic Brazilian coffee. But now… he was obediently doing as his Lara wished. Inhaling the fragrance of the candles and holding her hand, the Emperor’s thoughts gravitated to his sons more and more often. They were left with the nurse-maid whenever their father went away “to handle official matters”.

The Emperor even reminisced about the dog lovingly, wishing to bring back its trust and love no matter what. Why had he maltreated that poor creature? Why did he beat it to a bloody pulp? Now the Emperor could not find any explanation to his former hatred. A longing for home was blossoming in his soul. Elizabeth’s image hovered in front of him: here he was, pushing her away, giving her a carriage, throwing a rag in her face with contempt… What a scoundrel he used to be! The

  Emperor shuddered as he admitted his own cruelty.         
Lara noticed her lover’s hand caressing the air, like a dog’s back, and then clenching into a fist. The Emperor’s eyes were now set in a frame of black circles, and his forehead was divided by a wrinkle…

“Are you happy, Antonio?” Lara asked, afraid to even think that the answer might be no.

  The Emperor replied with a smile. He also had no idea where his happiness has gone.

   Returning to his castle, the first thing he did was rush to see his children, who greeted him with an icy stare and tense smiles.

“Father, where is mother? Why haven’t they found her yet? Why hasn’t the omnipotent Emperor taken advantage of everything at his disposal to search every house, every hut, every corner of the planet? Where is mommy?” Tears began streaming down the boys’ cheeks.

“Mom is in a safe place,” their father lied. “She’s painting a new picture.

   Artists are always unpredictable! Your mother asked me to leave her alone in solitude, to give you a kiss for her and tell you that she loves you and will be back soon.