Alice looked at the empress and requested, “Your Majesty, Nier has not returned yet. I want to take a squad to go and see what happened.”
The empress silently put the pen in her hand down and read over the letter she had written. She then slowly sealed it before stamping it with the royal family’s seal wax. Alice silently waited for the empress. A moment after, the empress passed her the letter and said, “It looks like Nier’s predicament is my fault this time.”
“Are you talking about sending Nier on the delivery mission?”
“No, I underestimated my son’s abilities.” The empress looked at Alice and continued, “It’s evident that the church is cornered and desperate since they detained my Valkyrie. It looks like they were once threatened by my son, and the evidence which happens to be a threat to them is in his hands. They know that I don’t have any evidence, which is why they’re so fearless. They’re also angry because the evidence got cheated from them. I underestimated my son’s competence and made an unnecessary move by sending a letter of negotiation to them, thereby sacrificing Nier. I imagine that the evidence my son possesses will have become useless too.”
“It is time to go and rescue Nier then.”
“No.” The empress stopped Alice, who was worked up, and softly said, “Socina has replied. That woman’s fiancé is ill and on the brink of death. That woman is the one I prepared for my son to marry. Since the marriage over there has been dashed, I don’t need Nier to curb my son. Nier was just a replacement in the first place. I can do with or without her. I have to leave the nation soon, so it won’t be good if a disturbance happens. Thus, I don’t agree with your plan to rescue Nier.”
“There are no ‘buts’. Valkyries were always dispensable. I don’t care that there’s one less Nier. I’ve already forgotten how many Valkyries I’ve dispensed throughout all these years.”
The empress stood up and walked to the door. She looked at Alice, who was slightly agitated, and said, “I never thought you would have such a deep bond with Nier. There are no castles on the continent that could stop you, but how are you going to cross a castle sitting in the centre of a lake? Forget it. I’ll write a letter to my son. If he truly loves Nier, he’ll come running back irrespective of how Vyvyan tries to stop him. If he, too, feels that Nier is dispensable then we really can do with or without her.”
“Your Majesty, are you placing my hopes with His Majesty?”
“That’s right.” The empress walked back to her desk and said with a smile, “Aren’t all of you always questioning his abilities? This is a good opportunity to see what he’ll do.”
At the same time, inside the church’s castle.
The Pope pressed down on the merchant’s shoulders firmly and anxiously said, “What do we do? We thought she was just a mere Valkyrie. We didn’t expect her to be His Majesty’s woman. The empress doesn’t have any evidence against us, but the prince does. He destroyed our church as soon as he arrived. If we touch his woman, he’ll tear our castle down.”
“What are you afraid of?! The prince is just a brat! How old are you to be afraid of a brat?!”
“Shut up! Who was the one who spilt the beans when he got threatened by the brat?! And now you’re not scared?! If the prince finds out about this, he’ll rip your daughter’s limbs off!”
“Okay! Okay! Okay!”
The merchant took in a deep breath and said, “We have no choice then. Let’s do this. Let’s write a letter to the prince and ask him to exchange the evidence he has for his woman.”
“What about the Valkyrie then? Are you just going to keep her locked up like this? I’m worried that she’ll kill herself. If she does, the prince will slaughter all of us!”
“Just keep feeding her the drug! Slowly increase the dosage to turn her into a sow, and it’ll be settled! But nobody is to touch her.”
The merchant walked to the door with annoyance and said, “Remember to be nice with your tone in the letter.”
The door shut loudly. The two of them never wanted to be involved with the prince again.
Galle Village truly was the same as other villages. If there was a difference, it would be that it wasn’t as damp as I imagined it would be. My impression was that villages within forests were damper. Maybe I’ve turned rainforests into a stereotype. Galle Village was very dry even though it was within the forest. When I looked upwards, I could see sunlight. There weren’t many villagers, but it seemed like it was a little squishy in the village. I thought that was odd. It was just a celebration, so why were so many people here?
I jumped off my horse and handed the reins to the stableman and gave him two copper coins. Freya and Luna both dismounted. Luna looked at the stableman and made a small bow. She then asked, “Uncle Duisk?”
The stableman jerked his body. He then turned and looked at Luna blankly as if he’d seen a ghost. Luna looked at him blankly. She then pointed to her chest and said, “It’s me, Uncle. Luna. Luna Macy. The one who worshipped God in the temple.”
“Luna… Luna?! Aren’t you… aren’t you…”
The stableman mumbled her name a few times before he realised. He looked at Luna with surprise. Excitement and sadness showed in his eyes. He pointed at Luna and made out incoherent speech from excitement and surprise. Luna smiled, nodded and said, “Yes. After I got taken away… erm… Mr. Troy took me in. I worked as his maid so I didn’t have to deal with any abuse. Mr. Troy brought me home to take a look around this time.”
I took my hat off, revealing my human ears. Honestly speaking, it’s annoying having to always wear this hat when I’m here with the elves. The stableman looked at me and gave me a firm pat on my shoulder. He said, “Thank you so much for looking after our Luna, Mr. Kind Human. Luna is a gentle and kind girl. I’m so glad she didn’t face any abuse. God really doesn’t let his believers down!”
I smiled helplessly. God didn’t actually do anything. I really wish I had taken Luna in at the time, but I was only eight at the time. Luna wasn’t always as radiant as she is now. To the contrary, she was subjected to excessive abuse. It’s just that she’s not revealing her wounds to the villagers at home.
“It’s alright, it’s alright. Luna is very hard working. She fulfils her duties as a maid and I really like Luna.” I smiled and gave a nod.
Luna stood behind me as she got embarrassed. She then said, “This is Mr. Troy’s younger sister, Freya.”
“Greetings, I am Freya. I wish you good health.”
Freya greeted him gracefully and then revealed a smile like that of an esteemed noble. The stableman froze up and then looked at Luna and me before revealing a strange smile. He made way and said, “Luna, your father is no longer with us, but your brother and his family still are. They are in the village right now. I’ll take you to see them.”
Luna got surprised. She then laughed excitedly and exclaimed, “I really missed him. I haven’t seen him for so many years. Your… Ah, sorry, Mr. Troy, come and see my brother with me!”
“Uhm. It’s great that your family is still around. It looks like there were quite a few survivors then.”
“Not that many.”
The stableman sighed and continued, “There were originally seventy people in the village, but only seven or eight survivors who returned to the village remain. Luna can be considered lucky. If she was in the hands of the human empress, she would’ve met a tragic fate like all other female elves.”
I noticed that Luna’s body was quivering. I hesitated but ended up taking hold of her hand gently. Luna looked at me and then shook her head with an agonised feeling.
“It’s just up ahead. It’s the house at the corner. Luna, remember to explain the matter between you and Mr. Troy. I don’t know if your brother can accept it…”
Wait! Wait a second! There’s something wrong with that statement, isn’t there?! Accept what?! What do you want him to accept?!
*Saying our “Our Luna…” or “Our (insert name)…” is a Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean thing to say. It’s an affectionate and/or protective way of referring to an individual as a subject of a topic while at the same indicating their association to the speaker. The nuance it gives the listener is that the speaker really cares for the subject and is very close while at the same time making the listener feel like “He/she is very close to (speaker), I should look after him/her” or “He/she is very close to (speaker), I shouldn’t offend him/her or the (speaker) is going to get back at me”. It’s like saying to someone “This is MY lady” in English.