As soon as I got to the entrance of the camp, a body leapt at me, crashing straight into my arms and almost knocking me off the dune. I wobbled and then hugged Luna, who leapt at me. Luna’s familiar and soothing scent released itself in my arms as if the brightest flower was blooming in my arms.
“Your Majesty! Did you get hurt?!”
From my embrace, Luna looked up with a shocked expression. She reached her shaky hands up to touch the wound below my neck. I felt a cold prick on my nerves. I shook my head. I hugged her and softly replied, “I’m fine, Luna. I’m fine. It’s just a little scratch.”
“Your Majesty, you still need to treat your wound despite that!” Luna quickly ripped open my collar at the neck and bit my wound. I could feel Luna licking my wound and sucking the sand sitting on it. I could feel my warm blood pour out from the wound again. Luna sucked on my wound with all her might and then spat the blood and sand out to one side. She then took out a handkerchief from her shirt and pressed it on my wound.
I tightly grabbed hold of Luna’s hand and looked at her. I stroked her lips and she raised her head up to look at me with her teary eyes. She quivered as she said, “Your Majesty… I beg you… Please do not abandon me next time. Please do not abandon me… Please… I am so worried when I am not by your side. I was so worried about you… If you did not make it back… If you did not make it back… How… How… How would I continue living…?”
“If I don’t make it back, you must live on well.”
I stroked Luna’s head then bent down to gently kiss her lips. I could taste some of the sand and blood on her lips. That was the taste my wound left on her lips. I tasted my wound and the soothing fragrance in Luna’s mouth. I tasted her love for me, as well as my love for her. Luna closed her eyes and gently sucked me as though she desired me. The two of us were locked tightly in each other’s embrace with the feeling of excitement of making it through a crisis, in addition to our love for each other. We tasted each other’s love as if we were experiencing the most beautiful love in this world.
We released each other and then Luna asked with concern, “Your Majesty, where is Miss Lorana?”
‘Aren’t you a little late? But I get it. I’m several times more important than Lorana to Luna.’
I pointed behind me and replied, “I had someone take care of her. They’re on their way here now. Pack up our stuff and get ready to set out. Oh, right, how many of our people came back?”
“The two teams that split off both came back with no losses. They immediately returned when they reached the camp and saw no one.”
I was relieved to hear Luna’s answer.
‘Philes and Tarak were thinking well. They both made the most correct decision. It appears that I didn’t lose too many men then. I can take home over one-hundred men as it stands at present and the wounded have already left safely. That means I only lost a bit over thirty men.’
‘I can accept the loss. We just need to return and recuperate, and we’ll recover our strength. We’re fortunate we didn’t lose the entire unit and got something out of the journey.’
“Your Majesty, who did you ask?”
“Socina’s people…” I paused for a bit. I didn’t know if I should tell Luna about giving the map to Karana. But after some deliberation, I thought there was no point in hiding it. I looked at Luna and informed her, “I handed the map we found to them, and as repayment, they will safely escort us back to the city.”
I thought Luna would be shocked and scold me. I thought she’d criticise me. But she didn’t say anything. Instead, she revealed a relieved smile, looked at me and told me, “It is good that you can return to Troy City safely. That treasure map or whatever is nowhere near as important as you. I am glad you can return home safely, Your Majesty. It is great that you can return home.”
I stroked her head and chuckled. I responded, “Yeah. I want to return as soon as possible, too. I feel that I’m making you all roam around here for it. Not only do I want to go home, I want to ensure that you can all return home peacefully. Right now, I feel that ensuring you can leave this place safely is so much more meaningful than a map.”
“Uhm! Your Majesty, let us go home!”
“Uhm! Let’s go home.”
I led the remaining people out of the camp. When I told them about how I exchanged the map to leave this place safely, they all showed a look of relief. Judging from their reactions, it would seem that not even Philes, Tarak and company could continue fighting. The remaining soldiers were in decent condition, but their weapons were all broken. I couldn’t help but be joyous about my correct decision.
‘Though I’m reluctant to accept the outcome, I just made a decision which decided our lives. I already know very clearly what my biggest dream is. And that’s to return home, back to Nier and Lucia’s side, back to my loved ones’ sides. I don’t want to die. At least not here.’
‘Thinking about it, I’ve already achieved what I wanted. As opposed to saying that I wanted the mine, it would be more correct to say that I wanted recognition from others. I wanted them to acknowledge that I am qualified to be the Prince and future Emperor. I managed to get what I wanted among countless enemies this time. Socina’s people and my soldiers witnessed my efforts. I think that I can acknowledge myself after this.’
‘It doesn’t matter if we give the ore to Socina. We’ll just trade it in future. However, I now hold their lord in awe and veneration after this. She really is a smart person, who also takes action. She sees everyone as chess pieces. She meticulously calculates every step. I was completely ignorant of my place in this game. I was her pawn from beginning to end.’
‘She’s too frightening. She sat on the sideline and gained without doing a thing, but only someone smart would be able to see the situation clearly. It was my mistake for not bringing Freya. If Freya was here, she might’ve been able to read the situation properly.’
“Your Majesty, you truly are a smart man. There are those who fear death everywhere. However, it is very difficult to be able give up what you have on hand. You have a very good grasp on the situation and can make the best decisions. I am very happy to be able to work with you. You most certainly are Elizabeth’s child. Your intellect and decisiveness does not pale in comparison to Her Majesty. I promise you. I shall provide you with the most favourable value for this metal.”
Her voice was excited and eager. She looked at the map I handed her. She could barely hold back her excitement as she sincerely continued, “However, I know that you feel somewhat upset about this. Hence, I shall wait at Socina for you to come and scold me. Your Majesty, come to Socina if you have time!”