Luna who was following me upstairs quietly said: “Miss Gilliante has yet to return today…”
I silently tugged on my garment that can’t be penetrated by blades and softly said: “I ordered her to not follow me. She might never come over again.”
Luna felt awkward and lowered her head as she slowly walked behind me. She was dressed in her black and white maid uniform. She used a cloth to cover her elf ears. She usually busies herself at the outer court, and then she turns in at night with Nier in her little room. I don’t know what the two of them talk about in there, but judging from Nier’s personality, I don’t think she’d say anything.
“So what will be of your safety then, your majesty?”
“I won’t be in danger.”
She lowered her head and softly muttered: “No, I… No, I mean… I, your humble servant do not think that will be the case.” Elves don’t use that many formalities in their speech, so as an elf, she was unaccustomed to the formal way humans spoke. Castell and others who belong to noble families can refer to themselves as “I”. However, servants like Luna have to refer to themselves as “your humble servant”.*
The Valkyries may have tragic backgrounds, but as the ruler’s bodyguards, they are allowed to refer to themselves as “I”. The captain can use a less formal version of “I.”
I turned around, scrubbed her head, smiled and said: “It’s alright. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“You don’t have to bother with the formalities of referring to yourself in a particular way with me. I’m an elf too… I mean, a mixed-blood. Just refer to me the way you would as an elf.”
She bowed her head to thank me and said: “Understood. Thank you, your majesty.”
After making several turns we arrived in front of my room. Someone dressed in white knelt silently by the door. She had her head lowered as she looked towards the room. She had her sword placed to one side and her two hands on her knees. She was leaning over in an apologetic pose very characteristic of Asian cultures while facing my room. I rubbed my eyes.
My eyes aren’t playing tricks on me, are they? That should be Nier, right?
I didn’t quite understand what was going on but walked up to her anyway. I supported her shoulder and she raised her head to look at me. I noticed that the left side of her face was swollen as well as traces of blood below her nose and her lips. I froze up for a moment, and then reached my hand out to gently wipe the blood off her face. I took a deep breath and asked: “What’s wrong? Who hit you?”
“I sincerely apologise, your majesty. I angered you this afternoon. I will accept any punishment you have for me, but please do not get rid of me.”
Nier prostrated herself and bowed her head to the floor before my feet. The fearless Nier I knew was trembling before me. Her voice was trembling with fear. She continued to tremble as she begged me: “I beg you… I beg you… Don’t kick me out…. Her majesty… Her majesty said that she’d kick me out of the Valkyrie squad if you kick me out… I… I… I don’t want to leave her majesty…. I… I don’t have anywhere I can go if I leave the Valkyrie squad…. So… So I beg you, please don’t kick me out….”
I helped Nier up. Nier’s tears were flowing out uncontrollably from her emerald eyes. Her tears rolled down the left side of her face where it was swollen. Her body was quaking with fear. She gripped my leg tightly as she begged me. I never saw her so afraid before, but I did know the reason why.
I turned around and took the winter cloak Luna was holding in her hand. I sighed and said: “Get up, Nier. Come with me.”
“Understood… Where do you want to go?”
“The inner court. Come see her majesty with me.”
Ten minutes later at the inner court.
The empress restlessly threw down her pen. She drew something indiscernible on the sheet of paper. She massaged her temples and asked the Valkyrie who entered a question.
The Valkyrie replied with an awkward look on her face: “Umm… Umm…”
“Stop stuttering, and out with it already. If someone trespasses into the inner court, just kill them and be done with it. A mess like this is so unseemly!”
The empress whipped her hand, stood up, walked up to the bed and aggressively pulled the curtains open.
“Umm… It…. It is his majesty… We had a bit of a run-in with him…. He seemed really angry and asked to come in…. We told him you were already resting but he insisted on coming in. He even attacked the Valkyries…”
The empress threw her pen at the face of the Valkyrie, walked over with big strides, grabbed her collar and shouted: “Where did you get the gall from?! Are you revolting against me?! The prince is my son. A son is being stopped at the door and prevented from seeing his mother?! Allow the prince to come and leave as he pleases from now. There’s no need to report to me. Are you all blind?! I wondered why the prince never came to the inner court. Turns out it was all because of you lot! If you dare to hurt the prince, I’ll personally kill you all one by one! Let the prince in! All of you come over here and kneel!”
The Valkyrie ran outside quivering. She wiped her sweat on her forehead and ran outside even though her legs were so weak she was struggling to stay on them. Whenever her majesty gets that angry, it’s like the entire room is set on fire. The anger of a sovereign really can kill everybody within a thousand mile radius. She’d probably be headless right now if she did something to the prince.
I looked at the Valkyrie before me coldly and returned the gun in my hand to my belt. The Valkyries watched me vigilantly and placed their drawn swords against my neck. I glared at them and asked: “Her majesty must’ve heard the gunshot before. Would you believe me if I told you that you’ll all be doomed if your swords scratch me?”
“The inner court…”
“Of course I know it’s her majesty’s resting place. That’s why I came here!”
I took two steps forward and the swords on my neck followed suit. I really must praise the Valkyries’ skills. They’re keeping their swords against my neck and staying in rhythm with each step I take. I don’t feel anything on my neck. They looked at each other and not one of them dared to make a move.
Nier had her head down as she followed behind me. She didn’t have her sword drawn. She was more like bystander as she stood behind me.
“Her majesty has orders! His majesty may enter and leave the inner court as he pleases from now on. There is no need to report it! Withdraw your swords! Her majesty called for all of us!!”
I took in a deep breath and watched the blades pull away from my neck in a quick moment. Last time I almost cried myself out of fear, but there’s something more important this time. I’m scared of her majesty killing me, but I don’t want to see Nier’s tears.
The empress walked out in the same military gear she wore during the day. She pat her face and then waved her hands. The Valkyries all knelt down at her motion. The empress looked at me and asked with a smile: “You don’t have to come in anymore. What are you looking for me for so late at night, son?”
I looked at the empress and felt my hands shake. I’m scared, but right now… No, when I saw Nier’s tears, I couldn’t suppress my anger. Perhaps it had to do with me drinking three glasses of red wine. But I felt angry as though somebody had destroyed something of mine.
But when I came face to face with the empress, I got scared again. I felt my entire body shaking. I didn’t know why either. The empress was clearly smiling gently, but why was I shaking instinctively? Was it because I wanted to flee? Is this… Is this a reaction from the memories of the original owner of this body?
“I know. I understand the mistake of the Valkyries. They’re all good girls. It’s just that they’re too rigid. The bodyguard unit caused you quite a bit of trouble, didn’t they? So… Elisa, off yourself.”
Just as I spoke out, and before I could reach my hand out, a young girl on the empress’s left hand side resolutely drew her sword and stabbed it through her heart.
I watched as blood spurt forth before the empress. The sword pierced right through her body. The young girl’s body jerked a few times. The last thing she did was look at the blood in front of the empress, reach her quivering hand out and fall before the empress, covering the blood stain with her body…
“Did you see that, son?”
The empress looked at me and smiled gently. She flipped the young girl’s corpse over with her foot. The girl wore a satisfied smile on her face. The empress looked back at me and quietly said: “You are the future emperor. You are their master. You are the emperor. If somebody disobeys you, just order them to kill themself and it will be settled. The same goes with Nier. Nier disobeyed you today, so you have all the rights to make her kill herself. Nier, have you apologised to the prince yet?”
I quivered as I responded: “Yes… Nier has apologised…”
“Do you have any other requests then, son?”
The empress reached her hand out as she looked at me with a smile.
“I… I… I want… No, nothing….”
*It’s the whole business with craploads of ways to refer to yourself as “I” in Chinese. That’s as close as I can think of. I won’t keep up with that and just use “I”, because it’s a nuisance, and you already get the point.