Title: Venus and Lysander
Author: Yoshiyuki Ly
Genre: Historical Romance / Fantasy
Living as a nobleman and as a woman, Valerie of Lysander is sick of waiting for the world to change. The discrimination she suffers as an outcast builds into resentment. Once Val takes matters into her own hands, the whole Empire of Tynan feels her brand of justice. The Emperor’s adviser, Lucrezia of Azrith, wants more of Val’s ruthlessness—for revenge against the unjust, and for her own desires. Venus and Lysander is an intricate romance set in the fictional Victorian city of Eden, 250 years after the events in The Scorpion’s Empress.
Lucrezia is Lady Chancellor for the Emperor and a sorceress-in-hiding. She is forced to conceal her identity from the religious public for fear of death. As she learns to trust in Val’s chivalry and affections for her, they both fall for the softer sides behind their similar bulletproof personas. Lucrezia receives a mysterious warning about a sadistic enemy threatening the Azrith and Lysander families. Once they discover their nemesis’ true motive, Val and Lucrezia’s tyrannous devotion for one another is all they can count on to survive.
Yoshiyuki Ly was born in San Diego, CA. She lived there until moving away to college. In high school, she began writing fanfiction as a serious hobby. Her pen name represents her multiracial heritage and a unique, diverse outlook that reflects in her work. She is a writer and a gamer.
Valerie had nothing to say. She stared at the ground, breathing harder than before. Hunger no doubt clawed at her stomach. She kept licking her lips as a poor quench for her thirst. Valiantly, she resisted her weakness, jaw clenched in concentration. I shifted in my seat, moved by her efforts. Her breaths in particular echoed through the small cell, clouding my ears with my imagination. Was her need for food and drink the only reason she was like this?
“Well?” I asked.
“Such a difficult woman you are,” I said with a sigh.
I noticed then that she was distracted by her thoughts. Valerie appeared fixated on the images in her mind, staring at the ground to give a canvas to the colors. Now I was curious. I waited until she looked into my eyes. The intensity there acted as the avenue for my exploration. Non-intrusive, undetectable, I weaved my way into her mind to see her thoughts for myself.
There I saw Valerie’s fantasy: of her ripping the chains from the ground, of her grabbing me by my waist, shoving me against the wall and kissing my neck, hard. The suddenness of it all startled me. I fought not to recoil or react in any way. In her thoughts, I cried out in mixed want and denial; tried and failed to push her away. She overpowered me. She pinned my wrists to the wall over my head, hissing in my ear:
“How I’ve wanted to rip this control from you…”
Fantasy and reality blended together the longer I watched her ravage me. Never had I allowed anyone to touch me like this. To have me in such a way. My ego had kept me away from that. Yet here I watched Valerie do what I’d denied myself for so long. I watched and watched; wanted to keep watching; wanted to keep burning in this building heat. But it was too much—too much for me to handle.
I steeled myself when Emperor Xavier hailed me over. I made my way to him, to Lucrezia. Of course Father believed it was in my best interest to do this. Any other time, I would have refused these calls to make nice with other people. Yet I knew that I had misjudged the Emperor and Lucrezia both. If our goals did in fact align together, then there was no harm in speaking with them. No harm…that was what I tried to tell myself.
Being indebted to Lucrezia, to anyone, set me ill at ease.
“Lord Commander Valerie!” spoke Xavier, his arms wide in welcome. His guards allowed me to pass. “What a pleasure to see you here at court this fine evening! ‘Tis rare indeed for you to attend these dinners. At last your family needn’t excuse your absence.”
I bowed to him. “Your Imperial Majesty.” And Lucrezia—I took her hand in mine, kissing her soft, perfumed skin. “Lady Chancellor.”
Lucrezia sounded amused. “Good evening to you, my lord,” she said.
“You both look well,” I commented, uncertain of what else to say. “I am glad.”
Xavier smirked at me. “A gentleman of few words,” he observed. “I do enjoy your candor, Lord Valerie. It is most refreshing. After all, I owe my recent surge in health to you.”
“Please—Your Majesty, Lady Chancellor. Call me Val. We have known each other long enough, I believe.”
“Lord Val it is,” allowed Lucrezia, tasting the name. Her emphasis moved me.
“And we will know each other for a great deal longer!” espoused Xavier. “But that is a discussion for another time. Lord Val, you must be famished. The Lady Chancellor has beaten me to the monopoly on your time, I’m afraid. Won’t the two of you dine together? I must deal with a few trivial matters.”
I had to remind myself to reply with some grace. “I would be delighted.”
“As would I,” said Lucrezia, linking her arm in mine. “We shall speak anon, Xavier.”
Xavier gave an exaggerated bow from the seat of his throne. “Lucrezia.”
Eating dinner with Lucrezia was not awkward as I’d expected. I tended to not know what to say during gatherings such as these. I hadn’t the personality to keep up with the expected manners here at court. Lucrezia appeared to enjoy my attitudes. She didn’t hold me to the same standards as the nobles who stared at us together. Instead, she laughed in enjoyment over my disdain for these rules—and for everyone else’s rudeness around us.
I liked that she didn’t judge me for feeling the way I did.
“I must say, I find your bluntness quite charming, my lord,” remarked Lucrezia, smiling.
Over time, the conversation shifted to personal details. Ones that we didn’t mind others overhearing. I learned of her scholarly propensities—how she enjoyed studying the arcane, namely astronomy. I told Lucrezia of my fascination with emerging technology, namely that of guns and other ammunition. After the party at court was over that evening, Lucrezia bade me to return the next night, the night after that, and so on. I returned each time, more invigorated by her presence than the last. We kept up with one another intellectually throughout these couple of weeks. I actually looked forward to our next dinners together. Each time I left the Empyrean Palace, I wished I could return sooner—right away.
Valerie and I said not a word as we walked from the gallows out to the grounds. I didn’t want any of the guards to overhear our conversation. We stopped once we were outside in the chill of night, away from overhearing ears. She seemed embarrassed to have let her guard down with me. She couldn’t know how much it pleased me to see this rare side of her.
“Expect to see me at court this weekend,” I said. “Once I have a better feel for you, His Majesty will want to have a private audience with us. Let’s give it a few weeks first, shall we?”
“Yes…that’s fine,” replied Valerie, blinking hard to stay awake.
“For now, you ought to return home. I’m certain your family misses you terribly.”
“My sister-in-law will never let me hear the end of it…”
I smiled over her misfortune. “Have a good night, my lord.”
Unexpected, Valerie bent down to kiss my hand. She lingered there, uncertain, staring down at my boots. She then left across the grounds to her estate, oddly subdued. This transformation in her from defiant to demure was beyond fascinating. I’d always known Valerie as a private person who expected danger around every corner. But I sensed she was also deeply sensitive, as I was. She was multi-faceted, as she needed to be to survive.
I wished to see more of her faces—if they were just as beautiful as the one she wore each day.