“Elves have no way to produce gunpowder?!”
“That’s right. It’s because it can easily damage the forests, so elves will never use gunpowder.”
I looked at the red-haired lady completely stunned. She was smoking her pipe and threw me a half-completed gun. She massaged her shoulders and said: “Oh, I just found out you were making it for an elf. Elves can’t use guns. You don’t have to worry. Whichever elf uses a gun is a traitor to them and will be exiled. Elves won’t produce gunpowder either, so even if you gave that gun to that female elf, she wouldn’t be able to use it.”
“Why didn’t you mention that from the start then?!’
“Because I wanted to make the gun as well. Prince, this gun of yours is really fascinating. Its structure isn’t complex, yet it can fire consecutively. If these were to be mass produced, what do you think…”
“Don’t, don’t, don’t! Don’t ever do that!”
“I know, I know. I don’t have any interest in making money from it. I’m just interested in these machines.”
She hit me on my head with her pipe, then got up, walked to the other side and had two puffs. I pushed the gunpowder by the side far away, looked at her tobacco pipe, frowned and said: “How do you have the guts to smoke in here where there’s gunpowder? Normally, you shouldn’t even have candles in here.”
“What’s with all the complaints, kid? I’ve been like this for many days already. There were never any explosions. Don’t worry, don’t worry. I started working with gunpowder long before you did. But, the gunpowder you made really doesn’t release smoke. That’s incredible.”
“This gunpowder explodes much easier than the black gunpowder, so be careful.” I angrily pushed away her pipe, then frowned and continued: “What should I make next…? Elves can’t use gunpowder… Oh yeah! An airgun!!”
Wouldn’t an airgun be the best weapon of choice for Lucia since she can control wind? Airguns rely on the principles of air compression. Her skill is basically a live air pump. And airguns don’t require bullets. You can just use projectiles. I can create a rifle that can fire consecutively now. It’s going to be very close to the modern day rifle!
I stood up, pulled a sheet of paper over and scribbled on it. The red-haired lady excitedly walked over to me and excitedly said: “Have you come up with something good again? Wow, this looks like it’ll be even more interesting!!”
After about ten minutes, I blew out a breath of air, and cheerfully picked up the sheet of paper, handed it to the red-haired lady and said: “Just make it like this. You can make as many of these as you like, because only one person can use it.”
“Okay, let’s have a look. This gun of yours is really fascinating.”
She felt satisfied and took it from me. I’ll leave the manufacturing process to her. She really enjoys creating these never-before-seen types of things. She won’t mass produce them, but will keep one for her own collection. She’s very proud of the fact that her workshop is the first to stock never-before-seen items. I suppose it’s a collector’s habit.
But that’s fine. I can turn this place into my own personal workshop like this. If I need to form my own guard unit in the future, I’ll make the guns for them here.
I walked out of the workshop. When Nier saw me, she extended her hand out. I looked at her and asked: “What’s wrong?”
Nier simply replied: “Candy.”
Behind her, several eyes were blinking as they looked at me. Their gazes hurt me deeply, because… I’m really sorry, but the candy I prepared for you all got scattered on the roads… I’ve been trying to recover these last few days and haven’t left the palace, so I forgot about it… I forgot…
“Your majesty, don’t tell me you forgot. These children were the main contributors in your rescue. Can you consider yourself a qualified prince if you fail these children?”
Nier’s expression didn’t change as she spoke. She just coldly spoke a truth I had no comeback for.
“It’s my mistake…”
I lowered my head and sincerely apologised. She spoke with a just a cold tone, but I could tell that she was slightly mad as her face was faintly red. I smiled helplessly, took out a bag I prepared just for today, bent over and gave it to the disappointed children. When they curiously opened it, the aroma of honey and spices burst forth, which froze even Nier in place. The empress bread, a bread that only royalty has the privilege of eating. Even the Valkyries only got a glimpse of it when the empress rewarded them with it. I specially asked for the cooks to prepare some more so I could share it with the children.
The children cried in a sharp tone and fought over the bread. White bread must be rare to them, let alone the addition of honey and spices. The contrast between their small dirty hands and the white bread saddened me, but unfortunately, there’s no way to eliminate all poverty from the world. Sometimes it’s due to the politics, but in a peaceful time like this, it’s sometimes because of people gambling and going bankrupt. That’s a mistake we brought on ourselves.
Nier looked at them and counted. She then hesitated for a moment before turning around to look at the eldest of the group and said: “There are two missing. Are the Ali sisters not here today?”
The kids froze for a brief moment when Nier brought them up. A kid then shook his head and quietly said: “A group of large men rocked up at Ali’s family’s home… Those men are really scary…”
The kids starting chattering amongst themselves. I looked at Nier. Nier’s eyes had turned ice-cold. Her right hand gripped her sword handle. She took a deep breath, looked at me and said: “Your majesty.”
I, who once lived in a modern era knew what was going on. I nodded without hesitation. Nier got up when she received my approval. I looked at the children and said: “Take us to Ali’s house. Selling children is going overboard. I’ll help out if there are any problems.”
Nier and I followed behind the children and squeezed through a dark alley. I looked at the children dressed in haggard clothing in front of me and felt upset. These children were pitiful. Not only do they face survival issues, they have to face safety issues too. Nobody can say for certain when these kids might die here. I know well how chaotic the slums are since I experienced it in the red-light district.
“I beg you! I beg you! I’ll pay! I’ll pay you! Don’t touch my daughter! I beg you!”
When we turned a corner, we saw a street that wasn’t very broad. A few men grabbed a woman and smashed her head onto the floor. She tightly gripped the man’s leg and didn’t let go even though her head was bleeding. The few other men by the side pushed a man who’d lost conscious over. The man that was pushed aside had a dagger stuck in his stomach and his head smashed straight onto the ground. He was killed.
The man who the woman was was clinging to, had two crying kids under his arm. He struggled to get the woman off his leg. He eventually got angry and threw the two kids onto the ground, pulled out a short flint pistol from his belt, pointed it at the woman’s head and loudly shouted: “LET GO! I’LL PUT A BULLET IN YOUR HEAD IF YOU DON’T LET GO! IT’S ONLY FAIR TO REPAY A DEBT! YOU OWE A DEBT, AND WE’RE TAKING THE TWO KIDS AS PAYMENT, WHAT ARE YOU UNHAPPY ABOUT?! KEEP SCREAMING AND I’LL MURDER YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY RIGHT HERE!”
The kids standing by our side watching, immediately shouted and rushed over when they saw the two kids get thrown onto the ground. The girl lying on the ground stood up while still crying and extended her hand towards her mother. When the woman saw Nier and I, she seemed to come to some sort of decisive decision and pushed her daughters towards Nier and I. When one of the men on the other side saw her, he immediately prepared to catch the young girls.
But how could he possibly have succeeded?
Nier’s sword got there first and she protected the girls.
“Who are you people?! Mind your own business! You got no fucking business here. How dare you interfere with our business?! Do you even understand what death is?!”
The leader kicked Ali’s mom away, turned around to face Nier and I shouted: “Nier! Put your sword away!”
Nier turned around and gave me a violent glare. I walked up to her, pulled Ali behind me and pressed her sword down. I looked at the man and said: “Their mother has a gun to her head, don’t be impulsive. Since they owe you a debt, they just need to pay the debt and all will be fine. I’ll pay her debt, but you must let go of her first!”
Nier was angry. She could kill. She could kill whenever she wanted, even if the target was an official. That’s a privilege the Valkyries have, and also their habit. It wouldn’t take her much effort to kill all the men before us. But my words were the equivalent of a royal decree. Nier won’t dare to oppose my order, even if she didn’t want to.
“You people should mind your own business. Judging from your clothing, you aren’t ordinary people, are you? The slums have their own set of rules, and we happen to be the rule here!”
He completely ignored me, and pointed his gun at Ali’s mother’s head again.
I looked at the eyes of the man with the gun. His eyes were filled with insanity, which told me he was serious. I wanted to calm him down and sort out the debt, but he was eager to kill!
A loud bang was heard before I could give my order. The scent of blood was mixed with the scent of smoke. I looked at Ali’s mom lying in a pool of blood, as blood poured forth from her forehead.
Ali shrieked from behind me. Their shriek was like a knife stabbing at my temples. I took in a deep breath, looked at Nier, turned around and said: “Nier.”
“Kill them all…”
That was the first time I realised I could sound so cold. Those men lost their lives before me just like that. I couldn’t do anything. The only thing I could do now was take their lives to offer them as a sacrifice to Ali’s mother…
Benevolence and morality are my bottom lines when doing things. But if the other party chooses not to respect my bottom line, then know that I too can be crazy and break my own rules.
I pushed Ali over to the group of children. Even naive children would be scared of my cold demeanour and run away. I had my back to the group of men and listened to Nier’s sword hack and slash them, as well as their shrieks in the moment before their deaths. The air was covered in the scent of blood. Breathing felt like I was drinking blood like when I battled the Earth Dragons.
A moment later, it was silent. It was the first time I was glad Nier was a killing machine.
I turned around. Nier didn’t kill the leader of the group. She only cut off his right arm. I walked up to his side and whispered to him: “If these are the rules of the slums, I’m happy to abide by them for once…”
I pulled out my handgun from my belt. Yes, I don’t kill people and I also hate killing people, but I know that the sentence that follows “an owed debt is a debt that must be paid” is “a life for a life”.
Nier’s cape was stuck to her body since it was soaked in blood. She wiped her face and then looked at me with the excitement that came from wielding her sword.
“Are you alright, Nier?”
“I’m so glad. It looks like I really was just too tired.”
Nier wiped her long sword clean and sheathed it. She stepped over the pools of blood, turned around and said: “Thank you, your majesty. It looks like you cured my illness.”
I was completely bewildered.
She looked at me, bent forward and said: “It’s nothing. Please return to the palace with me to clean ourselves.”
That was the first time I followed Nier’s suggestion, and we quickly left for the palace.
Nier quietly watched my back.
Please don’t hold any hope for me, your majesty. I am but a mere killing machine.
I can protect the children.
But will someone come to my rescue when I’m in trouble?
Being rescued is but a pipe-dream…
Nobody heard her dialogue with herself. Nier started to chase after the silhouette that turned back to look at her.