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Satisfied, mom pressed her hands together, took two steps back while looking at the huge Earth Dragon head on the wall and ask me: “What is it?”
Mom was checking to see if the head was pinned up straight… For your information, I’m referring to the head of the Earth Dragon King, which mom sliced off and hung in the large hall. This was an exhibit for elf rulers to display hunts they were proud of. There were all sorts of strange creates. Mom decided to hang mine right in the middle.
Earth Dragons aren’t rare creatures and certainly not violent ones. They were just herbivorous creatures. The creatures displayed in this room were dangerous creatures. I saw the head of a flying dragon. And yes, that head has been tossed aside. Mom took it down to hang this Earth Dragon’s head… “Mom, an Earth Dragon’s head is nothing special. It pales in comparison to these other creatures, so I think it’s better that we don’t hang it up…”
I covered my face because I was feeling slightly embarrassed. All the other creatures were Fire Dragons, Nine-headed Snakes or ridiculously large eagles. Mine was an Earth Dragon head you could find anywhere. You may think that this will earn me the admiration of future generations, but in reality, they’ll just see how pathetic I was as a ruler. I mean, I killed a measly Earth Dragon, not a Fire Dragon. Man, people are going to shit themselves laughing.
“Why? I’m so proud of this. My son slayed an entire horde of Earth Dragons on his first campaign. This is a great achievement my eyes. Moreover, you used both your wits and bravery to take them down. You can’t measure bravery.” Mom turned around, leaned over and kissed my forehead. Her elegant fragrance enamoured me and took my breath away for an instant.
“Go and share the spoils of war, son. I’m sure the imperial palace guards are eagerly waiting to be awarded for their bravery and contributions.”
Mom stroked my head and said with a smile: “I’m really proud of your courage, my dear son. You are without a doubt my son and my brother’s descendant. I’m very proud of your achievement today. A ruler must carry his people’s burdens, live up to their trust and reciprocate their loyalty. You have done just that. You’re a competent king, and my most beloved child.”
I gave her a nod, then lifted my head up to look at her and said: “In that case, I have a request, mom.”
Mom, still smiling released her hands and said: “Tell me, son. Mom will do whatever you want.”
“I want three hours of free-time every day. I wish to roam freely in the elf capital during that time. I promise to not leave the capital and not do anything dangerous. I just want to be able to go out and play. The palace is too small for me now.”
I looked at mom earnestly. After mom woke up, it was going to be impossible for me to go out. But I still had important things to do. I had to repay the perfumer, try out the food at the street stalls and enjoy the outside world with Lucia. The elf capital is huge, but it’s unfortunate that I haven’t even walked two streets yet.
Mom paused to think for a bit before saying: “One hour. One hour at most. The most I can give you is one hour. It’s not that I don’t want to give you freedom. It’s just that danger still exists even in the capital. I can’t prioritise your freedom over your safety. From now on, you can go out for an hour after lunch, but you mustn’t exceed that time limit.”
Fine, one hour it is then… The look on mom’s face told me that I wouldn’t be getting anymore. One hour is better than nothing. At least it’s enough time to grab a bite and go for a stroll.
I nodded and bowed to express I understood, and then turned around and left the large hall. After I left I went to the back of the palace. It was noisy when I get there as the artisans were busy with the corpses. The body of Earth Dragons are essentially a body of gems. Their flesh could be eaten, their scales couldn’t be pierced by blades, their fat could be refined, and their bones could be used to concoct expensive medicinal ingredients or perfumes. Even their horns could be used to purify water after being grinded into a fine powder. Since we had a hugely successful hunt, the imperial palace guards set up a barbeque by the Earth Dragons’ corpses, and you guessed it… They barbequed their flesh and enjoyed their meal on the spot.
When I brought mom here before, she wanted to off the Earth Dragons’ head… I was just joking with her and told her I killed the Earth Dragon King myself. I said its huge head was my present to her. I never imagined she’d gleefully slice its head off and hang it up as a prize…
“His highness is here!”
Those around the barbeque threw what was in their hands down when they saw me and greeted me on one knee. I waved my hand with a smiled and said: “You were all heroic out there today. It’s your rest-time now, so don’t bother with formalities. Just do what you must. I came to play around as well.”
“Thank you, your highness!”
The men let out loud cheers. Immediately after, the sounds of metal and wine cups clanging rang through the air again. I walked into the middle of the crowd. The scent of grilled meat was quite nice. The men sat in small groups. I felt it wasn’t a good idea to force my way into any group, so I just walked around in the nearby vicinity.
“Ah, your highness.”
As soon as I turned my head around, a metal fork made its way into my mouth. A piping hot piece of meat filled my mouth. All my senses were overcome with the strong scent of elves’ ingredients. Lucia pulled her fork back as I tried to breathe while chewing the piece of Earth Dragon meat. How should I put it… It tasted like beef in my mouth. I don’t know what sorts of spices elves use, but it was comparable to grilled meat humans make and eat.
It honestly tasted quite good. I proceeded to swallow it. Lucia passed me a cup of grape wine and said: “The grape wine in the palace tastes great, but the beer outside the palace is great too. Would you like a cup, your highness?”
I nodded and took the cup with a smile. The wine in the cup had a very strong scent and felt mellow in my throat. The fragrant scent of grapes was evidently present. Instead of calling it wine, it’d be more fitting to call it liquor. I couldn’t help myself and had a few gulps before handing back to Lucia the empty cup.
Lucia looked at me with resentment as she took the cup and angrily said: “This is my wine!”
“This is my cup too!”
Lucia turned around and muttered: “You haven’t even kissed me…”
I felt bad and rubbed my head. Then I dragged Lucia to the wine barrel, took a wooden cup, and after two people poured the wine, Lucia looked at me while lifting up her cup and muttered: “Hmph… Well… I wish you and her highness good health.”
“Uhm, both her highness and you.”
We gently bumped our cups and drank our cups of grape wine.
Lucia smiled with hot flushes on her face as she leaned against the wine barrel. I wonder how much she’s had to drink, but it’s clear that she won’t be able to carry out her work tonight. No matter, it’s not like she’s the only member in the Shadow Squad. We leant our shoulders and heads on each other as we gazed at the rare sight of the moon and stars, and we both let out a long sigh.
I went through a huge ordeal after coming here not too long ago. I was fine right after it ended, but now that I’m free, I feel so tired and relaxed. I shouldn’t have any more problems to deal with in life from now, will I? I’ll probably just spend time accompanying Lucia and mom, and enjoy star-gazing and moon viewing.
That sort of life isn’t so bad.
The entirety of the moon was almost visible with just the final little bit still missing. I believe it’ll be full soon. How long have I lived here? I don’t think it’s even been a month.
Lucia looked at the sky and softly said: “The moon is nearly full, your highness.”
I closed my eyes and said with a smile: “Yeah, nearly. What’s next? Just accompanying you, I guess? Mom has granted me an hour to go out, so we can go for strolls outside in that hour in the future. We can buy some food, play and whatnot…”
Life from here on out won’t be some sort of grand epic. Mom experienced a war, but I don’t think I will. But isn’t this good? I mean it was so taxing just hunting Earth Dragons, it can’t be good for your health.
Lucia threw away her cup of wine with one hand, tightly grabbed my arm as she started crying and loudly yelled: “What?! Didn’t you choose to go to humanity?!”
I was so shocked I nearly tossed my own cup of wine away. I stared at Lucia who was extremely worked-up. Her emerald eyes were extra shiny under the moonlight. Do the eyes of elves shine and emit light when they get worked-up?!
“No, no, calm down first! Calm down!”
Lucia virtually glued her body to mine. Her boobs were firmly pressed against my arm and she was wearing a low-cut formal dress, so I couldn’t help but look… Lucia however, didn’t care about any of that. Her eyes were fixated on me. Her eyes were pleading me and showed that she was emotionally worked-up. She clinched my clothes tightly like she was trying to stab through my clothes and into my skin.
“Your highness, have you made up your mind?! So you’re going to stay forever?! W-wouldn’t that instigate a war?! If you’re willing to stay with us, I’m willing to do anything. Her highness would be really happy too, I know it!”
“Hang on, calm down first… Why are you so worked up over me staying with you? Am I supposed to go to humanity’s place for something?”
I looked at Lucia completely befuddled. Her expression changed from worked-up to lifeless and she continued to stare me in the face. After a while, she wiped her tears, took my cup away and said: “Your highness, you’ve had too much to drink. Have you forgotten? You’re meant to go to humanity’s place next month. Next month, you will be humanity’s prince, and won’t be back here until the following month. This was the agreement made at the war ten years ago. You have to go between two countries to fulfill your duty as a son.”
The war over their son?!
“You’re going there to study only in name. In truth, you’re going there to fulfill your role as a son. Your highness, you identity is very special. We weren’t completely victorious in that war, otherwise we’d never have you go to humanity.” Lucia sighed as she looked and softly continued: “An agreement on a single piece of paper brought peace for the two races. But is this a good thing…? No, this question is for you. Your highness, will you be tired?”
I don’t know…
I’ve never experienced it…
Usually people would go to other countries to become consort princes, or queens, and here I am running between two countries to play “son”. What the hell is this?! I’m a son regardless of which side I’m on! How did they come up with this agreement in that war?! So what we’re saying is that I have to go to humanity’s place next month and play son there too now?! What sort of mess is this?! I still haven’t sorted out last generation’s hatred, vengeances and whatnot, and now there’s this bizarre business?!
I laughed bitterly. This wasn’t something I could enquire about since it’s supposed to have been happening with me for the past ten years. They’ll suspect me if I ask, but if me running back-and-forth between the two countries can bring about peace for ten years, then it’s totally worth it. Perhaps we can maintain the peace if I continue doing so.
Since I’m the prince of humanity, I presume I won’t be treated badly. It should be fine. This agreement is extremely weird and ridiculous, but it looks like the war ten years ago really was just a fight over their son…
The fury of my mothers are scary…
I laughed bitterly and said: “There’s nothing bad about that right? I don’t suffer anything. I just have to make the trip between two countries. If this can prevent the people from suffering the repercussions of war, then I feel it’s worth it.”
Lucia looked up at me with pity and said: “But, your highness, won’t you be lonely? Humanity is different to us in every aspect, and I’m here… Your highness, won’t you be lonely?”
I couldn’t bear to tell her I was human… It’s actually more correct to say that I’m not used to the way we do things here… I’d probably be like a fish in water over there, after all, elves are very xenophobic, but humans should be more tolerant, right?
I scratched my head and answered with a smile: “I’ll be lonely for sure, but it’s precisely because I’ll be lonely that I’ll always be looking forward to coming back to see you, Lucia. It’s because I’ll be lonely that I treasure every minute spent with you and like you even more, Lucia. It’s because I have you in my heart that loneliness doesn’t overcome me.”
I knew it.
If I were able to meet a few more girls here, I’d never be single, I kid you not.
I tightly embraced Lucia who was clinging to me and staggered two steps back which made us fall into the corpse of an Earth Dragon. I landed on its nose, and all this gooey stuff came out wetting my pants.
“Ah… Sorry, your highness!”
I swiped a bit of the goo, held it up to my nose, took a whiff and said: “It’s alright, but Lucia, do you feel like we’ve smelt the scent of this goo somewhere before?”
Lucia wore an expression of disgust.
Hey, hey, hey!! I’m pondering over a serious matter here!!