Knock. Knock. Knock…
The red-haired lady stroked her hair and shouted towards the door: “Come in. You don’t need to knock every time, Elizabeth. You’re the only one who knocks on the door of my run-down shop.”
The empress entered the workshop, looked at the stuff laid out on both sides, then smiled, bowed to salute her and said: “Basic formalities need to be maintained, master. I am here to see you.”
The red haired lady tapped her pipe, then faced Elizabeth, waved her hand and said: “Don’t do that. You’re the empress of humanity now. Only the gods are above you. If people saw you bowing to me, they’d probably tear my workshop down.”
“You jest, master. I do not believe both of my Valkyrie squads together would be able to lay a finger on you. So who would dare to tear down your workshop?”
The empress laughed, then raised her head and said: “I would like to thank you. My son has been disturbing you. Thank you for looking after my son for so long.”
“Stop joking. He didn’t disturb me. Troy made me really happy. Had I known that kid was so smart, maybe not reporting it would’ve been a good move. But when I weighed the cost-benefit ratio of being reported and then being punished by the ruler, I decided it was better to report it.” The pipe the red-haired lady was holding was releasing tobacco. She picked up a clip and burnt the lead inside, then rolled it into a bullet and finally threw it into a small box by the side.
“As long as you did not feel bothered.” The empress looked at the red-haired lady and said: “If it is not too much trouble, could you tell me what my son took from your shop?”
The red-haired lady took a puff, narrowed her eyes and said: “A gun.”
“Is that so…? Thank you for making my son a weapon. You need to be paid regardless of what any may say.”
The empress took out a small bag and placed it on the table. The cloth bag tipped over and a few shiny gold coins rolled out. It was a small bag, but there were at least a hundred gold coins in there. A hundred gold coins were enough for fifty muskets. The empress bowed and politely said: “It is not much.”
The red-haired lady shot a glance at the gold coins, reached her hand out to grab it and place it to a side. She then sighed and said: “Gold coins, gold coins, gold coins. This stuff doesn’t provide any benefits, yet is something I need. No, it’s something your society needs. We don’t need this sort of stuff in the mountains and forests.”
“Yes, the world relies on this stuff to revolve now. Even I myself somewhat fear it. Back then, I would have been more than willing to break my throne, but now when I see the national treasury change just a little, I get worried.”
“You love money the way you love your son.”
“Finances and children both need to be cared for.”
The empress laughed, then bowed and said: “I shall take my leave now, master. I will come visit you if I have time.”
“Alright. But, Elizabeth, I have something I should tell you. Your son is not normal person. However, he’s far too kind, the same way you were initially. If you want him to inherit the throne, you best train him.”
“You are absolutely right.”
The empress turned around, looked at the red-haired lady, smiled and asked: “Master, who do you think he resembles more?”
The red-haired lady paused for a moment. She raised her head and considered the question. She then laughed and replied: “He resembles Inard most. He’s not crazed like Vivian, and he’s also not as decisive as you.”
Elizabeth cleared her throat, helplessly smiled and then said: “Uhm…”
I had already entered the forest on my horse. To be honest, I was slightly scared when I first saw the forest… Because the forest honestly looked like it had no exit, but I didn’t feel that way when I exited the forest. A road had been made for the convenience of merchants, so horse carriages and merchant groups could travel on a stone path.
In my opinion, merchants are the hardest workers in this world. If there’s a business opportunity, they’ll go to elven territory or even hell itself to negotiate a deal. I travelled slowly on my horse alongside a group of merchants.
Nier didn’t say anything to me when I left. As a matter of fact, I felt like she was saying “I’m so glad this punk is finally leaving”, which I was a bit bitter about.
Luna didn’t come with me. She refused my request to come back to the elf nation with me. She looked at me with a smile and said: “I will just be treated as a pitiful insect that was abandoned after people got tired of me. I can only take care of you while I am here, so I have chosen to stay here.”
I was moved, but I’m no longer there!! I’m returning to the elves, so who are you going to be taking care of?!
Ahead of us is an elven post. The fully armoured elf soldiers there check everybody’s luggage. I got in the line on my horse and they eventually reached me.
The foot soldier suddenly knelt down on one knee and looked at me. I quickly checked to ensure that my ears were covered properly. After spending such a long time with the humans, I’ve forgotten some of the elven taboos. I looked at the two foot soldiers, waved my hand and said: “You don’t have to salute me. Just do what you have to do… Oh… But let me take this gun in. Don’t worry, there’s no gun powder in it, and neither did I bring any with me. It’s more accurate to call it a collector’s item than a weapon.”
I handed the gun to them without hesitation. They exchanged looks with each other, then quickly took a few steps back and said: “No, no, no. How could we inspect you, your highness…? No, no, no. It is fine. It is fine. Please have a safe trip, your highness. Her highness ordered us to just let you through if we saw you, so please go on ahead.”
“Thank you then.”
Well, that’s even better if I don’t have to go through inspections. I tapped my horse with my feet and just as I was about to continue forward, a pair of arms suddenly hugged me around my waist from behind. The horse neighed because of the sudden added weight. It’s pointless even if you neigh, bro! I want to call out myself after being hugged from behind so suddenly!
A familiar scent travelled to my nose from behind. I smiled helplessly and asked: “Lucia?”
A familiar lazy voice came from behind. Lucia leaned her entire body against mine and tightly hugged me around my waist, which nearly robbed me of my oxygen. Lucia didn’t laugh cheerfully or tear up. She just suddenly appeared behind me like that and hugged me.
I tapped my horse with my feet and asked the head leaning on my shoulder: “Shouldn’t you be at the imperial capital? Why are you at the border?”
“I remained at this post after you left and didn’t return.”
Lucia hugged me, then turned her head and bit my ear. While still holding my ear between her teeth, she vexingly said: “You have the scent of another woman on you, and it’s the scent of an elf. Your highness, don’t tell me you betrayed me while staying there.”
“No, I didn’t!”
Her breathing onto my ear caused it to become numb. I quickly begged for forgiveness, saying: “No, I didn’t. Honest. Believe me! And how did you know I hugged an elf…?”
“You just admitted to hugging someone else!!”
“It’s my mistake, my mistake!!”
“I don’t care! You lied, your highness! I’m very, very angry. I want to hug you until we arrive at the imperial capital! And you have to treat me to a meal too!”
I helplessly smiled and did my best to lean my torso forward so that angry Lucia could lean on my back. Lucia hugged me tightly and made it obvious she was pouting. I helplessly sighed. But besides Lucia’s smile, being able to see my loved one waiting for me when I returned truly is a blissful feeling.
The horse stepped off the elves stone road. I laughed out loud when I saw the lush green forests.
That’s right. I’m now the prince of elves again.