There were only two of us at the long table. Her majesty didn’t permit anybody from entering other than those serving up food, probably to put me at ease. In other words, it was a meal with just the two of us present.
The awkward atmosphere was suffocating. It seemed like I was breathing in colloids as opposed to oxygen… Neither of us spoke and I noticed that the empress had her eyes trained on me the whole time which was really creepy… Her eyes didn’t show kindness. A better description would be that it seemed as though she had killing intent between her eyebrows from all the years of killing… And right now, those eyes were staring at me. Even a soldier would tremble at her gaze. I was worried she’d suddenly pull out a sabre and slice me up…
This isn’t the feast at Hong Gate is it…?*
I gave it my all to swallow the meat stew and looked at my now empty bowl. The stew tasted… Horrible… I came here from another dimension where I could eat boat-loads and you’re getting me to eat this weird as hell meat stew? It tastes terrible and was really salty. Lucky I finished it on my first bowl and don’t have to continue. Next I’ll eat…
Her majesty suddenly slammed her hand on the table and stood up. I was so frightened I was ready to kneel down on the floor. I dropped my knife and fork on my plate which created a clunk sound. I looked at the empress who just suddenly stood up, clueless as to what she wanted. She stared right at me. She then aggressively and quickly reached her hand out towards me.
I shut my eyes.
Shit! My life is hanging in the balance!
The empress aggressively picked up my empty bowl in front of me and then pulled the pot on the table over with one hand. She then took a deep breath and wore an expression as if she were performing a religious ritual. She carefully picked up the stew spoon and filled my bowl up to the brim, and placed it before me. I looked at the stew before my eyes, jaw-dropped, as it swished around in the bowl gently. I then looked at her completely confused.
The empress on the other hand wore an expression of relief. In fact, it seemed like she was proud of herself. She smiled and sat down. She then patted her face hard.
She quietly muttered: “I did it! I did it! I did it!”
But since there were only two of us in the hall, I heard her…
Aren’t you referring to yourself incorrectly?**
Thank god. Thank god. It looks like her majesty treats me kindly. Well, at least she’s kind enough to fill up my bowl for me… Should I return the favour then? Yeah, she’s my mom at the end of the day. Although I can’t accept her right away, I still should fulfil my responsibility as her son…
I picked up the knife for cutting up bread and sliced a piece… I don’t know what to give her! There was only so much on the table and this was all I could think of! I placed the slice in front of her with my two quivering hands. She froze for a moment and looked at me. Her black shining eyes glimmered as if she couldn’t believe her eyes. She pursed her lips and asked: “This is…”
“Umm… Your majesty… If you don’t mind… Aaaahhh!! Don’t cry! Don’t Cry!!!”
Why is she suddenly crying?! Why did she cry after I handed her a slice of bread?!! She grabbed the slice of bread, crushed it in her hand and put it into her mouth. She chewed on it as she cried. Big droplet after big droplet fell from her eyes full of murderous intent scaring me, who was sitting in his seat so much that I didn’t dare to move.
“Uwaahhh!! My… My… My Son gave me bread…. Uwahhh!!! My son has accepted me! My son shared food with me!”
The empress hid her face as she cried, but I could see the corner of her mouth form a happy smile like a little kid…
Umm… You don’t have to over-react like that, do you…? And aren’t you still referring to yourself incorrectly?!
Maybe… Maybe this empress isn’t as violent as I thought… But shouldn’t she get her mental health checked?
She cried for a few minutes before stopping… I sat there in a daze the whole time without daring to budge an inch. She finally stopped. She wiped her tears by the corner of her eyes, laughed gently and said: “Sorry, my son. I’ve shown you an embarrassing side of myself…”
No. No. No. I don’t think embarrassing is the right word here. More like strange, don’t you think?!
I lowered my head and replied: “No… It’s nothing, your majesty…”
“But I’m very happy. I’m really happy to see you… You’ve just come back from that other woman. No matter what you say, living with the elves can’t compare to being in your own home here, right? Eat up, son. Here, let me get you another bowl.”
The empress excitedly stood up and looked at me with her glistening eyes. Under the pressure of her gaze, I lifted my bowl up, fought the strange taste of the meat stew and gulped it down mouthful after mouthful… Just who qualified this chef? If you can’t cook, you might as well grill meat like the elves. The elves may enjoy eating fruits and plants for the most part, but I love their wine and food. You’re a human and yet you can’t cook. You’re an embarrassment!
The empress elatedly filled my bowl up…
“Here, here, here. Eat up, my son…”
“Don’t stand on ceremony, my son. Let me get you another bowl.”
“Son, you look like you’ve been losing weight. Eat some more meat to nourish your body.”
“Your majesty… I beg you, please don’t give me anymore… It tastes… Really disgusting… I’m feeling a bit sick now…”
I frowned, flopped my torso onto the table and grabbed my belly. I felt like I’d see the stew a second time if I moved. I was exhausting myself to prevent myself from regurgitating it… I honestly can’t take it anymore. Kill me if it pleases you. I really can’t do this anymore! This is virtually torture. Torture!
The empress’s smile receded a little. When she saw my uncomfortable expression, she placed the stew spoon down and gently coughed. The door swung open and Nier was at the door. She respectfully bowed and then asked: “Did you need something, your majesty?”
“Come here, Nier.”
The empress’s expression and tone returned to being cold and domineering. Her eyes showed her infuriation. I felt like she was slowly reaching her limit. The air around her itself was screaming for mercy. In an instant, the atmosphere turned incomparably oppressive and heavy. Is this the anger of a sovereign? Is she going to commit a mass homicide? …It looks like I made a mistake… But who cares. You can do with me as you please. I’d rather die than have any more of that stew.
Nier walked up to the empress’s side. She whispered a few words to Nier, and then Nier turned and left. I sat up and Nier walked past me from behind. She didn’t say anything and left the room, quietly closing the door behind her.
Eh? She wasn’t finding fault with me?
“Sorry, my son, I got a little bit worked up.”
You’re always worked up!!
I shook my head, smiled meekly and said: “It’s fine, your majesty…”
She looked at me as if she wanted to say something. Her lips budged slightly, and then she pursed them tightly and said: “How’s that woman doing?”
I lowered my head slightly and respectfully replied: “Oh, you mean mo-… my mother? My mother is well, please don’t worry, your majesty.”
Her eyes had a hint of both sadness and hope as though my answer hurt her and triggered her somewhat, but I have no idea what I said wrong. She kept silent for a long time as she looked at me and let out a heavy sigh.
She muttered: “Forget it… We can’t rush it…”
She then rubbed her face, smiled again and said: “Now that you’re home, let me know if you need anything. I will satisfy your desires. Does anything come to mind right now? Say for instance, some sort of thing or… Hmm… A girl that you fancy? I’ll organise it for you…”
“Oh… No, there’s no need, your majesty… However, could I ask… For Nier to live with me?”
I realised how potentially misleading what I said could be as I blurted it out, but it was too late… I just wanted to have Nier stay by my side! I don’t have any feelings towards her! The important part is that she kills people too casually while with the empress so it’ll be better for her to stay with me… I truly hope that a beauty like her won’t become a killer who doesn’t bat an eye. That’d be such a pity.
The empress looked at me confused.
“Can’t you be a bit stronger?! You’re my son!”
She slammed her hand violently on the table. I was so scared I almost fell out of my chair due to weak knees. I quickly stood up, lowered my head and apologised; “Sorry. Sorry, your majesty… I… I understand… I’ll overcome it…”
She got up and left with a wave of her hand. I was left standing there awkwardly until I heard the sound of the door shut behind her as she left. Only then did I finally ease up and sit back down in my chair…
What exactly did I say wrong…?
In the bedroom of the inner chamber…
“AAAAHH!!! What have I done?! What have I done?!! Our relationship had just improved a little!! Why did I go and shout at my son… AAAHH!!! I’m such an idiot! I’m so stupid I should just go die! What sort of mom lashes out at her son for no rhyme or reason!! Aaahh!! I’m such a failure of a mother! My son is so cute and even shared some bread with me, so why did I yell at him… He clearly said he was lonely, so I could’ve just taken the opportunity to get him to move in with me and everything would’ve been fine! He calls that other woman mom but not me because of my stupidity!! Aaahh!!! If I had gotten him to move in then I would’ve been able to see him every day!!! I’m such a super-ultra-hyper idiot! Why did I have to go and get jealous of Nier?! I could’ve just gotten him to move in with me and it’d be fine! He must be so upset and lonely right now! It’s all my fault as his mom! I’m not worthy of being a mom!!”
On the second day, something which never happened since the establishment of the empire until now, happened. The empress didn’t turn up for the conference… The reason was… She was supposedly not well…
Of course, that was the day after…
That changed Nier’s perception of the world.
Someone actually managed to hate on themselves for more than twenty-four hours…
*A historical event that took place in 206 BC at Hong Gate (鸿门outside Xianyang, the capital of the Qin dynasty.
**Again with the common “I” and “I” for an emperor