After dinner I looked at Lucia who still hadn’t changed into her skirt and asked: “Do you want to go out and play at noon today?”
Lucia took a moment before shaking her head and replying: “No, your highness. I won’t go out today. I need to do some extra training to ensure that I can perform well at the deer hunting festival.”
“But…. But I already have these things….”
I held up the cloth bag in my hand. Lucia looked at it, then forced a smile and said: “Even so, I feel more and more uneasy. Your highness, please allow me to do some training. That way I’ll feel a bit more at ease.”
I smiled and watched as Lucia walked out. It appears that Lucia was like me. We may not have had a single chance at victory at the start, however, we seem to get tunnel-visioned, and confidently give it our all. We now have something that’ll get a white deer king to come to me, yet we also feel tense like we’re headed to the guillotine.
Mom wasn’t wrong. I did indeed want to participate for the sake of marrying Lucia, therefore my goal was to win the deer hunting festival, not to participate for the experience. Since I have no skills, I require these things to win. Otherwise, not only will I cause Lucia to suffer with me, but I’ll also betray our future. This isn’t a death-game. Nobody will die if I win. It’s just a one-time event. The dreams of others are basically just delayed as long as I don’t participate in the future.
One year is insignificant to an elf.
But why? Why do I still feel uneasy when I don’t mean to cheat? I won’t bring harm to anybody, nor will anybody lose anything as a result of it, but it still bugs me. It makes me feel bad. It feels like I’m wronging someone when in reality, I don’t owe anybody anything.
I left the palace on my own. I wasn’t interested in Lucia’s training. I just wanted to take a stroll alone to calm myself down.
I took my time strolling down the streets. Not many people noticed me this time. I was deep in thought and didn’t pay attention to my surroundings. I just allowed my feet to take me wherever. When I noticed that the road under my feet had changed, I discovered that I’d arrived at the front of Mera’s workshop.
I stood in place at the front of the workshop. I had my hand placed on the door-ring, but I wasn’t sure whether I should enter or not. I don’t have any business today and shouldn’t have come here either. Am I supposed to just knock on the door and say to Mera: “My, Miss Mera, could we please go a r-(round)… I mean, have a chat to brighten up my mood?” I think Mera who’s extremely busy will just get angry and close the door on me. I honestly want to have a talk with someone, but Mera is the only one who I can speak with here.
Should I invite Mera for some tea?
“Ah, your highness. I have been waiting for you. What are you doing standing at the front door?”
The door got pulled open just as I was having an internal conflict with myself. Mera’s voice appeared before me. I raised my head and looked at Mera awkwardly. I had forgotten that Mera’s sense of smell is much superior to ours. She probably already noticed my presence when I got to the door. I was still hesitant.
“Ah, yeah, but I don’t have any business. I just wanted to have a chat….”
I smiled weakly and continued rather despairingly: “Alright, I’m know I’m pitiful and don’t even have somebody to talk to…. Do what you have to, I won’t bother you….”
Mera quickly pulled my wrist, smiled and said to me: “Wait, your highness. I did not say I was busy right now. Your timing is quite good as I usually go for some tea around this time. It would be an honour to share some tea with you, your highness.”
I turned around to look at her behind her black face veil, smiled and then said: “That’s great then. It’ll be on me this time.”
“I could not be happier.”
She smiled and then affectionately wrapped her arm around mine. I shivered all over. I wanted to break free but then realised that wrapping your arm around another here doesn’t mean much to the elves, so I didn’t push her away. Mera appeared to look much better today. It looks like she got some good rest yesterday. We didn’t say anything to each other. We just silently walked together to the teahouse, sat down, and ordered the same tea as yesterday.
“Your highness, if you need someone to talk to, just come right to me.” After we took a sip of our respective teas, Mera started the conversation. She smiled and said: “I understand the pain of not having anyone to talk to because I too am an outlier in my tribe. Sometimes when I want to talk to someone, I too cannot find someone. You must be the same as a half-blooded prince.”
I smiled bitterly, took a sip and said: “It’s not a problem of lineage for me, but rather because the queen is too strict with me…. I only have Lucia by my side. The female maids don’t dare speak to me. I asked them why and they told me it was because the queen forbids them from approaching me. There are also few people who come into the palace so I virtually don’t have any friends. You’re my only friend, Miss Mera.”
Mera wryly curled her lips and then said: “I am honoured to be your friend, your highness. Since we are friends, I will help you relieve some of your stress. Please share with me your frustrations, your highness.”
I sighed and then told Mera about it. I trust Mera because she sincerely worships mom and is sincerely thankful to her. That’s the reason I trust that she won’t tell others. Further, Mera is very conscious of avoiding attracting attention to herself so I doubt she’d do something that would.
“I see, I understand.”
I picked up my cup of tea and took a small sip because my throat was feeling uncomfortable after all that talking. Mera picked up the pot of tea, poured some hot-tea, and then looked at me with a smile and said: “First, please allow me to commend you on your fairness and kindness. I do not have any wine here, so I shall use tea as a substitute. I shall pay respect to your will to uphold justice, kindness and conscience.”
I looked at Mera, raised my cup of tea and then finished it in one go. I then smiled helplessly and said; “Please don’t say that…. I think that everybody would be the same….”
“If everybody treated virtue with importance, then this world would be a utopia. However, your majesty, not everybody views equality, benevolence and integrity with importance. I am very happy to know that my king possesses such virtue.”
She smiled as she looked at me, sighed and then said: “You are feeling conflicted right now because you feel that it is unfair. But it is actually fair since the power you possess is the queen’s power. And hence, you are displaying your strength the same way others do. It’s just that your strength is somebody else’s strength.”
“I think that’s incorrect….”
“Why is it incorrect? Because it is not your strength? Is it the king that wins the war in every war? The king relies on his soldiers and generals to win the war. It is not shameless to rely on the strength of others as you sometimes need to rely on the strength of others to accomplish things. The only thing is that your current strength is the queen’s strength and not your own.”
“Mine? The queen’s?”
“That is correct. Let us look at it like this. If you were the one who personally ordered someone to concoct the potion, you who discovered a cheat-method, and you who planned the contest, then you would not feel the sense of guilt of benefitting without having done anything you are feeling right now.”
Mera callously clasped her hands and continued: “A king does not necessarily need to possess his own strength. The problem right now, your highness, is that you do not have strength.”
I smiled helplessly. Mera wasn’t wrong. I don’t think I’d feel guilty like this if I wanted to cheat. The sense of guilt I’m now feeling is due to me having to cheat when I don’t want to, and because I can’t object to the plan mom gave me. If it were a plan I came up with, I’d probably be elated right now.
If I came up with it, then it proves that I wanted to cheat.
The problem right now is that I don’t want to cheat, yet I have no other option. And if I wanted to cheat, I have no means of cheating.
And the reason for that is because I lack the so-called strength. I understood the meaning of power, but I didn’t possess the weapon that would allow me to exercise my power. With the humans, I needed the Valkyries. Here, I need mom.
“But, I don’t think I need to, do I…?”
“No, you do need to. If you…want to save something, then you would understand that you cannot rely on anybody. You can only rely on your sword, or…those whom are loyal to you…. I believe that the latter is more appropriate for a king.”