The cavalry stopped in front of us. They didn’t strike at us; instead, they surrounded us and kept quiet as guards would. They didn’t chase the fleeing tribesmen, either; focusing purely on surrounding us, instead. Lorana and I watched them tensely. Regardless of what the case is, Socina City’s relationship with us outside is very good. However, we’re not friends here and I secretly came here to snatch their mine, not to mention that I killed their people as well. They’re still a threat to us right now, so we can’t let our guard down.
A man who seemed to be a protocol officer walked up to us when we were exchanging glances. He looked at me and gave a deep bow before politely asking, “May I ask if you are the prince of the Rosvenor Empire, Prince Troy Galadriel Rosvenor?”
I looked at him and felt a little contradicted. I wasn’t sure if I should I reveal my identity, though they definitely know who I am, and hence, their question. They wouldn’t have just pulled someone over to ask if he was the Prince. That would be disrespecting the royal family, a crime punishable by decapitation.
After wrestling with myself for a while, I decided to admit my identity. It’s pointless to be hiding my identity right now. If I get killed for denying it, then there goes everything.
The protocol officer nodded before kneeling down on one knee on the sand. The cavalry around us also dismounted and knelt down on one knee. He loudly announced, “I apologise for my rudeness! It is a great honour to meet you, Your Majesty!!”
I looked at the group in front of me dumbfounded.
‘I didn’t think these guards from Socina City were a group that respected the royal family. It seems that they won’t harm me. Perhaps they’re not my enemies and can lead me out safely? Am I in luck or is Socina here to snatch it for themselves, except that they’re late?’
“Your Majesty, our city’s lord, Lord Karana Dominique Von Testersmill, wishes to invite you to see her for a chat.”
The protocol officer made an invitational hand gesture. I smiled.
‘It would seem that it has come to this in the end. I don’t know how much she knows but it would appear that she knows what I’m cooking in my pot right now. That said, I really admire and respect this woman. To take the risk of coming here personally as a woman, I would consider her an ambitious lord.’
‘Guess there’s good reason she’s a dreamer with a dream completely inappropriate for this era. Actually, I’d say that she, too, is an action taker, who’s competent at taking action. She’s relatively scary. If we let her continue in this fashion, she might really be able to raise a red flag in the future.’
I gave a nod and followed the protocol officer to head up front. Their medic helped Lorana heal her wound. But I’m not so sure that a human can treat an elf’s wound. I just wanted them to help Lorana stop the bleeding. The rest can be dealt with using the elven spring water in my camp.
The protocol officer went up to a horse carriage. The horse carriage pulled by two horses was tightly sealed. I couldn’t see the person inside whatsoever. The protocol officer didn’t intend to let me into the carriage, either. He knocked on the door and softly reported, “My lord, his Majesty has arrived…”
“Oh? Is that right?” A clear yet cold laugh came from inside. Please allow me to describe it like so because when I first heard her voice, it was akin to seeing melted ice course down a snowy mountain, yet at the same time similar the cold winds at the peak, yet venerable as amethyst. She definitely comes from the North. She’s graceful, noble and calm.
“Please allow me to speak to you separated by the carriage. I do not wish to let you see my face.”
I didn’t know which way she faced to speak, so it made me feel really awkward. I looked at the horse carriage in front of me. I went to speak, but then hesitated for a moment before saying, “That’s fine. But I want to know why you don’t want to let me see you.”
“Because I did something wrong and cannot face you. I did something wrong this time, so I cannot face you. I am actually kneeling in the horse carriage as I speak to you right now. It is up to you whether you believe me or not.”
A gentle laugh came from inside. I paused for a moment before replying, “You don’t need to kneel. I just want to know what you did wrong that you can’t face me.”
She laughed from inside and then solemnly responded “I shall admit my wrong then. Please hand the treasure map you have to me.”
I clenched my teeth.
‘It seems that she knows everything. She’s no run-of-the-mill lord. They don’t call her “The North’s Elizabeth” for no reason. I bet she figured out all of our plans already. That map that led us here might’ve been her work for all we know!’
“What are you talking about…?”
I tried to deny it but she cut me off with her laughter. I could just imagine the smug and proud look on her face as she laughed. If she was a dog, her tail would be a perfect fan right now. She laughed for a while before stopping and then spoke as if she was trying to hold in her laughter, “Your Majesty, please do not hide it any more. Are you saying that you still do not understand who the team you defeated belonged to?”
“Did you plan all this?”
“Not exactly. That team did not belong to me. They belonged to the opposing faction. That does not matter, though. To the contrary, I should thank you. I was the one who discovered the secret of this group first, among all in the desert. However, if I went straight to them, they would never hand it to me. Therefore, I wanted them to exchange it for something, and that was their lives. As such, I spread the news, so that everyone would surround this place. As a result, they became willing to exchange the map for their lives. I did not need to do anything in the desert thereafter. All I had to do was wait for someone to come out with the map.”
‘Her laughter indicated she was pleased with herself. But she had the right to be proud of herself. She perfectly coordinated one stratagem with another set of interlocking stratagems. So perfect I was speechless. I thought I found a method myself, but I unwittingly became her pawn. Her intelligence is far too frightening. I bet Freya would feel as though she met a comrade if she was here right now.’
“I just never thought that you would be the one we ended up finding. If I did not see the emblem on your chest, I would have committed a mistake that would destroy all of Socina. But this is good, is it not? Your Majesty, you hand the map in your hand to me and I shall ensure that you and your people are safely escorted out of the desert. Your Majesty, you stalled my envoy while coming here to find the mine. You sure are ambitious. Furthermore, not only did you find it, you even came here. Your Majesty, my respect for you knows no bounds.”
“And yet you want to take the map I worked so hard for?!”
“You could choose to not give it to me.” She removed her smile and then continued, “I will not make things hard for you, either. However, do you think that you could return safely if others attack you or you run into another skirmish? I will not harm you, but I can notify every one of your location.”
“Are you threatening me?!”
“Your Majesty, make no mistake. This is no-man’s land. There are no laws regulating it. I am treating you courteously as a vassal out of respect for you.”
I clenched my teeth. She was right. I had no argument for what she said. Nobody would know if she killed me here and nobody would say a word. She just needed to kill all of us. Plus, they definitely could.
“Now, Your Majesty, please make your decision. I trust that you will make the right choice, given how smart you are. I can promise you that if you hand me the map, I will do my utmost best to make things to your benefit when we trade. Are you still hesitant now?”