If you haven’t read the series yet, you can read the series for yourself on TappyToons. I would provide a brief summary here but TappyToons’ summary doesn’t do the series justice and when I tried summarizing it myself I was 6 paragraphs in and I hadn’t passed the initial set up… so, please go read it if you haven’t yet because this is an epic story.
[Note: In the image above, front and center we have Arista Pioneer la Monique, the silver-haired beauty. To her left, I suspect, is Jieun (black hair), above Jieun is Allendis de Verita (green hair), above him is Crown Prince Ruveliss (blue hair), to the right of Crown Prince Ruveliss is Carsein de Rass (red hair) and below him is Princess Princia De Rua (blonde hair).]
A year ago when I started reading The Abandoned Empress, I decided to wait on posting anything until I had met all 6 characters seen above. I wanted to see how these different characters would be introduced and how the authors had planned the story’s progression, which is why I’m surprised that Princess Princia De Rua, the blonde girl right of Aristia, didn’t come onto the story’s stage until late in Season 2. It means that this story is going to be very long, sort of like Daughter of the Emperor (but with a plot that’s far more interesting).
When a plot-seed has been introduced, The Abandoned Empress thus far does a fantastic job of watering it by reminding us of past events in the moment or touching on the subject in a passing conversation. For example, Aristia is traumatized by her experience with Ruveliss in their past life, and particularly the violent end her child and she suffered at his hand. We see this trauma come about it different ways, a trembling whenever she’s around him, an inability to speak, etc. but where it really comes about it are in moments where she can’t fully separate the past and present as with the example I pulled below.
All of this goes towards my appreciation of the story-telling going on via the writing and art and makes me feel like the cover image I’ve chosen for this particular post means more than most anything else we’ve seen art wise in Seasons 1 and 2. The reason is that the cover image of this post is the first we see of Aristia’s possible future where she’s beaten her seemingly fated death by Ruveliss’ hand.
And make no mistake, this is the core of our story–rejecting fate.
Aristia is given a chance to relive her life by Vita, the god of this world, from age 10 to her death at approximately 17 (some translations have her dying at 19, but in chapter 9 it’s made clear by Vita that Aristia was 17). Vita took pity on Aristia who they used as a pawn and place holder for their beloved child Jieun. Aristia is most likely given this chance to relive her life by Vita because she was so faithful in her previous life that she earned the god’s pity. However, Aristia is told in no uncertain terms that even though she’s been given a chance to change certain things about her life (such as her relationship with her father) she won’t be able to avoid her fate. What we know of her fate is that she will fall in love with Ruveliss, and what we suspect is that she’s still fated to die at age 17. We also know that in the very first chapter she promised that should she ever live again she’d never love Ruveliss–which is her first wish and goal in rejecting fate.
At times, she seems to be moving towards that goal, particularly as she works her way towards becoming the heir to her house, but we also see that the odds are stacked against her. Ruveliss is aiming to keep her as a queen and despite showing some growing kindness towards her, his behavior is still very antagonistic in many ways. For example, whenever she shows promise as a capable fiance and crown princess, he smiles wickedly and privately shows aggressive behavior in his jealousy and envy of her. This is made worse by the god Vita “gifting” Aristia a middle name (a sign from the heavens that gives Aristia a right to inherit the throne independently of Ruveliss).
So, can she truly escape her fate? Thus far the answer has been, no. Aristia makes it very clear via her interpretation of events between herself and the current Emperor (Ruveliss’ father) and instances with Ruveliss that neither of them plans to let her escape marrying into the royal family. While she wants to reject them both she doesn’t say such and feels forced to carefully navigate the complicated ties between herself and Ruveliss. As a subject whose family and self has always been loyal to the throne, it’s hard for her to reject the prince should he want her, particularly after Vita’s given her a right to inherit the throne–rejecting him could mean her death and he clearly has had no qualms with that before. He holds all the power, despite the growing influence she is starting to show having involved herself in courtly politics, starting a business, and working towards becoming the heir of Monique.
However, she still has a chance–a chance Vita gives her a glimpse of in Chapter 9. Vita says, “You are the one who I look upon, you are the one who refuses fate, the path you take shall be your fate and what you wish for shall be your path….” My theory from this is that Aristia must say what she wants to change her destiny. Why? Well, part of it is Vita words “the path you take shall be your fate and what you wish for shall be your path” but another reason is what we see in the work. As best I can recall, Aristia has not named a wish for herself aside from wishing not to fall in love with Ruveliss. And, thus far, the only fate we’ve seen her truly avoid yet is falling for Ruveliss as she reminds herself over and over of Jieun’s expected arrival. In other instances, when she fully expresses her wishes and why, such as starting a business with her new friends or gaining the employment of a talented artisan, she only achieves such by voicing her wish. We’ve also seen this proven via her conversation with Vita, when the god gives her a new name. Had Aristia not spoken her wish to reject fate, Vita wouldn’t have given her the chance to change it by granting her a new name.
Perhaps in this life, Vita is testing Aristia by giving her the freedom to change through her words more so than her actions. Yet presently Arisitia seems to be suffering from the same issue she did before and what is, perhaps, the reason she suffered so much at Ruveliss’s hand in her past life: She doesn’t speak her mind. She hasn’t been able to avoid her engagement to Ruveliss, even though so far she’s been young enough that asking would probably have been forgiven by her age and granted if she could say that she wanted to inherit her house’s noble title and duty, helped also by the vocal support of her father.
Should she name her wish(es) out loud, she may be able to carve the path she’s trying to form through actions alone but, until then, so long as she’s relying on her father to name her his heir without telling him its what she wants; so long as she’s relaying on the prince and emperor to release her from her engagement through her actions alone; so long as she hopes or works for something without saying what she really feels… she’ll be unable to fully escape her fate.
Other “rejecting fate stories” almost always focus simply on a change in actions to achieve the goal, but this story seems to be about speaking your mind in addition to taking action.
As we enter Season 3, I hope we can see more of Aristia’s path to freedom from fate’s grasp.