“Your highness, I had no idea you were so skilled at grilling meat.”
Lucia ate her grilled meat as she gave her praise. Well, without a barbeque, you’ll get juicy meat no matter how I grill it. I just can’t chargrill meat. My grilling skills were honed when I went to barbeques with my classmates. The only thing that could comfort us on lonely nights was beer and grilled meat, but I’m still not sure if it was lamb or not.
We just tore off one leg of the rabbit, and that was enough for both of us. I wondered how the grilled rabbit store always hung several pieces of meat every day. I thought they killed tens of rabbits a day, but just one leg is enough.
Without a barbeque, I skewered the meat on Lucia’s arrow. I tried used a tree branch, but when I bit down, my mouth was filled with the plant-juices. After confirming that Lucia’s arrow didn’t have venom on it, I used her arrow since it was the closest thing to a skewer.
It’s a given I cut the arrowhead off. Lucia didn’t seem to care about me wasting an arrow of hers. She said that you could only use one arrow to kill a white deer king as it would’ve fled by the time you grabbed your second arrow, and hence, bringing so many arrows was pointless.
Lucia finished another serve and then licked the oil off the corner of her mouth and wiped her hands with the fur of the rabbit before finally sitting to one side satisfied. I threw the left over bones to one side and then sat by Lucia’s side and held her hand. Lucia revealed a smile, leaned onto my shoulder, and looked up to the sky.
I rarely stargazed in the past. If the night sky was not so beautiful and captivating, I probably wouldn’t have looked up at the sky. Lucia and I interlocked our fingers as we looked at the sky full of stars. The wind blew Lucia’s hair into my face. The faint fragrance surrounded me. She raised her head to look at the sky full of stars with her eyes full of spirit and said: “It’s so beautiful.”
I looked at the bright Milky Way and sighed.
“If only we had grape wine with us now.”
“We should be in the palace about now then. Didn’t we grill meat under the moonlight before? Well, except we grilled Earth Dragon meat that time.”
Lucia laughed and then said: “I think the Earth Dragon meat was tastier, though it wasn’t you who grilled it last time.”
“If you want some more, we can just go kill some more Earth Dragons again. You can lure them again and I‘ll create ballistae to kill them. “
Lucia turned her head around to look at me and asked: “Aren’t you concerned for me, your highness?”
“I was last time. But after last time, I think you’re almighty.”
Lucia knocked my head with a smile and then let out a long sigh, and in a reminiscent tone: “That’s the reason I’ve always done my best. Do you remember how we snuck out of the palace and we unfortunately got captured by bounty hunters, your highness? Elven girls were very popular at the time. They never had any interest in you, but you protected me and got bashed until your face was bruised and swollen. But even then, you desperately yelled at me to escape.”
I gave an awkward smile. I frankly don’t have that memory. That’s something Troy did, not me. However, I felt like I’ve done the same thing before. I had Nier leave and used myself as bait, though that was to allow Nier to return to the palace smoothly as well as to buy time. But thinking back on it now is scary.
“Luckily the patrol squad found us and saved us. After that, I decided I couldn’t be so weak and made up my mind to become capable enough to protect you, your highness.”
Lucia slowly tightened her grip on my hand. She looked at the sky and slowly said: “I was originally thin and small. I possessed neither strength nor stamina, and yet I went to find the wind elves for buffs. I didn’t know how to hunt at the time and had no survival skills in the wilderness. I remember I ate a venomous berry and had a severe stomach ache. I starved, froze and got hurt, but I only thought of you. In the end, I successfully wounded a white deer with a shot. When it tried to flee, I leapt at it and grabbed its leg. I can’t remember how long I got dragged along by it. At the end, I found myself silently lying on the altar of the wind elves.”
“It’s fine, your highness. It’s all in the past.”
Lucia smiled when she heard my sad tone. She comforted me instead by saying: “Your highness, that incident, your kindness and courage is worthy of my eternal loyalty to you. It’s not because of love or your kind favour, but because you will become an excellent king.”
An excellent king?
I heard something different from humanity.
I held Lucia’s hand tightly but memories of that white robe filled my mind. I don’t know what Troy has done for Lucia, but I do know I did the same for Nier. Lucia devotes her loyalty to me due to her belief that I’m an excellent king, so does that mean I’d be an excellent king in Nier’s eyes too?
The king that Lucia and Nier each conceptualise is different.
However, I had something I really wanted to ask.
I looked at Lucia and asked: “Lucia, I want to ask you a question. If there was somebody who wasn’t Troy, just an ordinary guy, but did what Troy did, then would you love him or would you still love Troy?”
I felt slightly nervous and guilty. The question had always troubled me. I do want to marry Lucia, but I know that I’m not this prince. I’m somebody else. If I have to see Lucia happy because she married “Troy”, then my conscience won’t forgive me. I’ll forever feel that I conned her.
Lucia looked and me and replied without hesitation: “Of course it would be that person.”
“Ah… I’m a little hurt….”
I was actually relieved….
“I love you because Troy was the only one that did that. There’s not just one Troy in the world, but the one who protected me back then, and the Troy who’s holding my hand right now is the Troy I love. I want to get married to this Troy, not just a name.”
Lucia smiled as she reached her hand out to touch my head and said: “What’s wrong, your highness? Why are thinking about such strange questions?’
“It’s nothing, just a spur of the moment thought.”
I sighed and then stretched my back. A gentle breeze came overhead and the leaves whistled in the wind as though they were laughing at my stupid question. Fair enough. I mean, even if I did reveal the truth, I don’t think anybody would believe me. But I felt slightly better now.
“Let’s turn in early then, your highness. We’ll have to continue pursuing the white deer king tomorrow. I think we’ll be able to find it in three or four days.”
Lucia put the fire out and we lay down together, holding each other’s hands tightly. It was my first time sleeping on a lawn. The grass prickled my face. I could feel the moisture of the mud and the temperature of the day. I listened to the sounds of the bugs and the gentle breeze as I looked at my love with her eyes shut before me.
The temperature was just right, the breeze was gentle, the stars were bright and my love was by my side.
It was truly soothing.
The second day….
The tree branches gently pushed aside the marks covered by the dirt. A hand covered the black cinders. Look up and you’d see a rabbit corpse lying underneath a tree as the wind blew its fur all over the place.
Left over cinders were grabbed, and then said person lay down on the ground to examine the grass which was still flat after being tread on. Said person waved their hand. A few black silhouettes nodded, and rushed towards the interior of the dark forest….