A kid dressed in thin dirty clothing spotted Nier, stood up from the ground and happily shouted: “Sis Nier!!” The children came out of all different places in the slums like rodents coming out of their dens. All of them were filthy and giving off steam. I honestly can’t stand that smell. It wasn’t because it smelt bad, but because of the chemical smell on them. Where did these children just come from? Nier didn’t mind it at all. She didn’t care that her cape would get smothered with hands prints and hugged a few of them.
The children revealed happy smiles. They crowded around Nier and spoke non-stop. Their gaunt faces were flush from the cold. Their bodies were so thin it looked like the wind could blow them away.
I noticed that their hands were covered in frostbite and blisters from burns. Nier quickly noticed it too. She grabbed the hands of a girl in front of her, pitifully stroked her small hand covered in frostbite and wounds, and said: “What… what… what happened to your hands?”
“Because it’s cold.”
The children looked at Nier. They looked at her thick white cape with envy. They looked at each other’s thin clothing they wore in all four seasons of the year, smiled bitterly and said: “It’s cold at home, so we go out to look for firewood in rubbish dumps to burn……”
Nier looked at the children’s hands and felt it hurt herself. She held those small hands tightly. Her gaze carried pity and despair. She could only protect the children’s’ hands at times like this, but she couldn’t hold their hands forever. Her cape belongs to the Valkyries. It’s something the empress bestowed upon her so she could never give it to the children.
But at the same time, Nier had nothing. She had no means of helping the group of children.
Winter is a boring season for the empress and me. We’d drink wine, eat snacks and watch actors and actresses put on romantic and heroic plays. There is never a need to be concerned about keeping warm in the palace. There’s never been a lack of fire wood in my room. However, winter is a time where these children struggle to survive as they hang on by a thread. The poor have no income during winter so they have to find ways to brave the cold and get through it.
There’s no firewood and no cotton clothing. While the empire is flourishing, poor people will always exist.
“Sis Nier…… Your majesty…… We beg you…… we beg you…… can you help us? We’ll be grateful if you can just give us some firewood. We just want to warm the room up.”
The kids looked at us and begged us. Nier looked at me and pursed her lips. I’ve never seen Nier beg me before, but I could see in her eyes that she was begging me. Nier is a Valkyrie who is capable of anything. She can take away anyone’s life yet she can’t protect a single child she wants to protect.
I opened my wallet, took out a few gold coins and handed them to the children. The empire’s gold coins are worth a lot. I don’t think these children have ever seen gold coins. The kids reacted with great surprise and then grabbed the coins and stuffed them into their shirts tightly as though they were afraid I’d go back on my words. They then bowed and left.
Nier stood up and looked at me with a complex expression. She softly said: “Thank you, your majesty.”
I looked in the direction the kids left in, sighed and said: “As a member of the royal family, seeing them suffer like that makes me sad to be honest.”
Nier stood by my side and looked in the direction the children left in. She lowered her head and in a quiet voice said: “I like children, but I have no way of protecting them…… I……. I can only grief. It’s just like back then. If it weren’t for her majesty, I would probably have frozen to death on the streets. However, where will… where will their empress be?”
I looked at Nier’s slightly blue expression. I froze up for a few seconds and then laughed. Nier turned her head around with surprise, looked at me somewhat angrily and grumbled: “Is what I said that funny? Or is it that my grief is a laughing matter for you?”
“That’s not it, Nier.”
I looked at Nier and smacked myself on my chest with a smile, and said: “They may not have her majesty, but they will have his majesty. While I can only do this much now, please believe me in me, I will protect the children. I definitely will. I’m just happy that I finally managed to do something for you.”
“Your majesty, you aren’t helping me. You are just helping those children.” Nier turned around and walked towards the workshop of the red-haired lady. I smiled and followed. When we reached the door, I pulled the door.
The door was locked……
Oh, right…… I recall that elves can’t stand cold places. The red-haired lady is Vyvyan and mom’s teacher. I learnt about that from what mom told me. I reckon she’s gone to a warm place to spend winter since she’s an elf.
“It looks like she’s not here…… Forget it then. Let’s head back.”
Nier nodded and the two of us walked out of the slums, and back to the market.
We then noticed a middle aged person in a black robe stood on the auction stage, shouting down at the crowd below. Sometimes a person or two would stop to listen to him, but they would then shake their head and leave. Some stopped, left a few bronze or silver coins behind and left.
“Alright, alright, your time is up. Get off. Get off. Next is the auction!”
Just when I was about to walk over and have a listen, a familiar skinny guy came up and pushed him roughly. He fumbled to pick up those few meagre coins and begged the skinny guy, but the skinny guy just gave him an earful and then pushed him towards the stage boundary. During the spat, that person’s body tilted and then he fell down heavily from the stage, landing right before me.
“You tired of living?! You only get that much time. And look, are there people giving you money? You might as well go and be a beggar! Just sell off that shoddy place of yours and all will be well. What are you struggling for…? My… if it isn’t your majesty.”
The skinny guy cursed as he raised his head. When his eyes met with mine, he quivered from head to toe. He then revealed a ridiculing smile. He rubbed his hands and continued, “Your majesty, do you… do you want to watch this auction? We got a great new horse. The horse really can run thousands of miles. We have not sold anyone since then, since I must be able to respond to your calls, hehe……”
I waved my hand to brush him off, helped up the middle-aged man and asked the skinny guy: “No…… I’m not interested in horses. But what’s happening here?”
“Him? My, your majesty, you aren’t aware, but you must pay to use this stage. He is trying to get donations for his orphanage and he refused to get off the stage after his time was up. He is in the wrong here, isn’t he?”
I nodded and then said: “I understand now. You continue with your auction.”
“Say… your majesty, how about I just send that horse to the palace for you? It really is a fantastic steed!”
“No, I’m not interested in horses.”
Nier watched me help the middle-aged man up, hesitated and then asked: “Orphanage?”
“That’s right, Nier.”
I looked at Nier, smiled and asked: “That must be like heaven to you, right?”