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It’s said that freedom is relative…
Yes, I’m aware freedom is relative. There’s no such thing as absolute freedom.
But come on, this isn’t even remotely close to freedom!!
Lucia who was hugging my arm was focused on rummaging through the pile of fragrance sachets. Today is our first time going out. Lucia went out of her way to wear a long dress normal young girls would wear and for the first time, wasn’t carrying any weapons. She gleefully held onto my hand as we strolled down the street looking at things. It was also the first time I had my own wallet… It was filled to the brim with coins, so it was particularly heavy. Heavy enough to make me want to toss it away. And even then, as we were leaving, mom asked me for the eighteenth time if I needed more money…
I was having a leisurely stroll with my girlfriend, my pockets were filled to the brim with money, I didn’t have anything weighing on my mind, the streets weren’t too packed, and the temperature was warm… It was the perfect scenario for a free and blissful one hour…
But instead, I wore a dry smile, the corner of my eye wouldn’t stop twitching and the store owner in front of me didn’t dare to lift is head. While the store owner and I wore bitter looks, Lucia was excitedly rummaging through the fragrance sachets.
It was meant to be a beautiful and blissful afternoon.
And it would’ve been had it not been for the tens of imperial palace guards fully geared-up behind me…
“Okay! I want this one!”
Lucia happily picked up a fragrance sachet. The sachet had a really cute dolphin sewn onto it… Wait. There are dolphins in this world too? I nodded with bitter smiled as I took out my wallet which was as heavy as a shot-put. I looked at the price and tentatively handed the owner five brass coins. The owner looked as if he were crying as he said in a shaky voice: “Thank you for your generosity, your highness. Could you please leave now? I need to put food on the table for the family…”
“I’m sorry… I’m really sorry!”
There’s nothing I could do. I was just as helpless! I didn’t ask for these guards to follow me! They were sent by her highness! I can’t do anything about it! I can’t tell them to get lost!
I turned my head around, looked at them with a bitter smile and said: Say… I came out here just for some fun. I won’t be leaving the city… The way you’re going about this is negatively impacting the people, and my time with Lucia… How about you all head back first? I’ll be back within the hour, I promise!”
“I am afraid, we cannot do that.”
The captain took his helmet off and with a complex expression said: “To be honest, we do not wish to disturb you and Miss Lucia either. But her highness ordered us to follow you both wherever you go… It is hard on us too. If we return now, we will lose our lives. Just… Just… Just pretend we are not here, and go about your own business. Just pretend we are not here…”
And how do you expect me to do that?! How do I pretend there aren’t thirty men carrying weapons. Fully clad in metal armour aren’t around?! You guys essentially block off half the street. Look at the businesses and stores around you. There’s not a single customer in sight!!
Lucia tugged on my sleeve and said: ” It’s fine, your highness. Just let them follow us. Her highness gave me the order to not drive the guards away no matter what… I don’t want…”
I could see the fear looming in Lucia’s eyes… Normally, mom is tolerant and kind. But as soon as it’s about me, she becomes a ruthless tyrant. This applies for even Lucia whom she usually treats like her own daughter… The very thought of when she was almost burnt to death filled her with fear.
I let out a heavy sigh. Is this freedom?! This isn’t freedom!! This is essentially free time within a prison!! It’s like surveillance on a criminal!! When did mom’s love become a prison cell?! Why does she have to treat me like this when I only snuck out three times?!
I held Lucia’s hand and said: “Let’s go. I need to go and return a favour, and you can collect the perfume you ordered with her while we’re there as well.”
Lucia suddenly remembered something and said: “Oh no! I forgot about something!! Aaaahhh!! I still haven’t got the stuff!! She won’t be able to complete it before you leave now!!”
I smiled helplessly as I looked at her and asked: “What you’re after is spit, blood and hair, correct?” Lucia looked at me disbelievingly as though she got struck by lightning and stuttered: “Uhh… Uhh… Your highness… You… You… You… I…”
I looked at her and asked with a chuckle: “Ah, it’s fine. When you went to replenish your buff I bumped into that young lady and she brought it up with me so I gave her what she needed. Don’t worry, it should be done by now. But I’m curious what did you ask for that required those things from me.”
“AAAAHH!!! It’s nothing! Nothing! I don’t believe in some love potion that makes men loyal to you, nyahahahaha… It’s nothing, your highness… Don’t worry, I wouldn’t add it to your drink, ahahaha…”
The young girl looked at me with her blurry eyes. Can’t you see that you’re flustered? Are you aware that your honest lips just gave away your intention and plan?! Lucia’s face turned red and she fidgeted like a malfunctioning robot. She doesn’t know how to hide the lie because she doesn’t know how to tell lies.
I laughed while scratching my head and said: “You’re so silly. How would such a thing exist…? I won’t have a change of heart, so don’t worry. From the moment you escaped the horde of Earth Dragons and tightly embraced me, you became irreplaceable to me.”
“Uhm… Your highness…”
Lucia calmed down and shyly buried herself in my arms. It would’ve been the perfect moment for a kiss if those thirty metal-clad guards weren’t around… Lucia didn’t seem to be bothered by their presence, but I was!!
I walked up to the large workshop that was like a greenhouse, took a deep breath in and said: “It’s really squishy inside so I think it’s better if you guys don’t come in. Just wait for me here by the door. I’ll come out once I’m done with my business.”
“This is all there is to this place, where could I possibly run off to?! Don’t you trust me?! When have I ever ran off on my own accord?!”
“Several times… Your highness, our lives are in your hands, so please do not do anything silly…”
I wearily waved my hand with a long sigh and said: “Alright, alright, I get it. Don’t worry, I won’t get you guys in trouble…”
“Then please hurry, we don’t have much time left!”
“I know, I know. You guys are more long-winded than my mom.”
Okay, I take that back, you’re not more long-winded than mom…
I dragged Lucia into the building with me. I could hear the footsteps of the lady in black. She removed her mask when she saw us, revealing her smile. She then bowed and said: “Welcome your highness and you too, young lady. I was very happy to see you return victorious, your highness. You’ve managed to live up to your role as the prince. So what brings you here to my small store today? Please do not to ask anything of me. Did my concoction perhaps not work, and you are therefore here to punish me?”
I gave her a helpless smile, a little bow and said: “I apologise. Those people aren’t here for you. They’re actually here to keep an eye on me. Don’t worry about them. I just came here today to thank you for your concoction as it was a great help in my campaign.”
Her red lips shifted upwards. She then took a step back and said: “You are too kind, your highness. As I mentioned previously, it is my honour to be of service to you. Business may improve now if I mention your name. You need not repay me with anything. It should be me repaying you.”
“No, no, no. What happened in the past was my mom… Her highness’s favour to you, not mine. You helped me, so naturally, I have to repay the favour. This is about principle, so please don’t stand on ceremony.”
She laughed helplessly, bowed and said: “I shall take up your offer then. Thank you for your generosity and kindness.”
“It’s nothing. Well, here you go.”
I handed her a small vial. She bent over and took it with two hands. When she stood back up, her eyes glimmered with delight and said: “Dragon Pulp?! You are giving me something so valuable?!”
I said with a chuckle: “Yes. Humanity may be able to breed Earth Dragons, but I doubt they could squeeze the pulp out because it’s a magical liquid. They can neither extract nor store it, so their pulp is always extremely valuable. I killed a horde of them, so you can have this small vial.”
I didn’t actually obtain much dragon pulp this time because most of them exploded into smithereens. We were only able to extract the pulp from those we killed with our spears. But since there were twenty odd heads worth, this wasn’t much for me. That said, I was told this small vial of dragon pulp alone was enough to buy half the stores on a streets that couldn’t even be bought with gold. That’s because dragon pulp is an Earth Dragon’s most valuable magical essence. If it were used to create make-up products, it’d grant its user eternal youth.
Mom took the bulk of it, Lucia took some, and I just took this small vial-worth to repay this young lady.
She excitedly nodded. Then she bowed deeply again and said: “Thank you so much, your highness. This reward is really valuable. If I can be of service to you in any way in the future, please do not hesitate to call on me. I will to my utmost best for you.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Who knows, maybe all of Lucia’s stuff will be made by you in the future. You’re rumoured to be the best perfumer in the capital.”
Lucia giggled as she looked at me and said: “Yeah, that’s right. If it wasn’t for your highness, my order would be back-logged for a few months.”
The young lady couldn’t help but smile and said: “You are too kind with your words. I am just a normal perfumer. To be able to work with you is a great honour. Miss, if you need any perfumes in the future, just send me a message, and I will give it top priority. I will get it done in the shortest time possible.”
Lucia joyfully grabbed the young lady’s hands and thanked her with a smile. Lucia is just a normal girl after all. She has things she likes whether it is fragrance sachets or perfumes.
She looked at me with a smile, and then asked Lucia: “Oh, that’s right. Miss, the order you placed with me is ready. Did you want me to send it over after or did you want to take it with you now?”
Lucia got embarrassed and blushed as she looked at me. I shrugged and then said: “Let’s take it with us now… You’ve instructed her on how to use it, right?”
“Yes, but I can’t guarantee the results… This was made from magic and your feelings. If he doesn’t like you, then it won’t be of much use. However, I honestly think you don’t need this sort of stuff. His highness only has eyes for you.”
“That… Uhh… Better safe than sorry…”
Lucia blissfully and shyly took a pink heart-shaped liquid. I noticed that it was clear inside… I need to be careful with what I drink in future… Especially with drinks Lucia pours me. I don’t intend to cheat or anything, but I’m concerned about whether these questionable blends are poisonous…
Just as I was about to speak, an urgent bell sounded. This sound… Doesn’t this bell ring when the whole city is under martial law?! What happened?! Did someone attempt to assassinate mom or something?! Why is the entire city under martial law?! I took Lucia’s hand and bolted outside. Lucia stepped on my foot viciously and said: “What are you doing, your highness?!”
“The whole city is under martial law! Let’s hurry and go help out! Maybe something serious happened!”
The streets were littered with anxious steps, as well as the shrieks of women and the cries of children.
Lucia anxiously shouted: “Nothing happened! It’s your hour that’s up!”
She then grabbed my wrist with a death-grip and said: “I won’t let you go anywhere! We’re returning to the palace now! Her highness has run out of patience! We have to head back now!”
I looked at Lucia stunned and helplessly cussed: “Are you for real?! She rang the martial law bell just to get me to come home?! She got the whole city into a frenzy just to have me return for dinner?! Isn’t this supposed to be used to frighten invading enemies?! What? Is the kingdom done for if she doesn’t see me?!”
“To her highness, you disappearing would be the equivalent of the kingdom falling.”
I don’t get it…
What’s this strange motherly type of love…?
1 Bonus Son-con Chapter
Thank you for all your generous donations, we have reached the goal, and I will now get to translating the bonus chapter.