I saw Nara leap at Tarak and hug him tightly. I then told her, “Sorry, I might not be able to do what I promised you; but I did bring Tarak back in one piece.”
“That’s good enough. That’s good enough. I only want Tarak. I only need Tarak.” Nara wiped the corner of her eyes. Tarak’s face turned red as blood after being hugged by the girl he likes and hearing her response.
I smiled as I watched the two of them. I then looked at Nara, smiled and said, “That’s because it doesn’t matter to you who acquired the ore, isn’t that right? I bet you’ve spoken to Socina’s people， too.”
Nara pouted without a care and then replied, “Your Majesty, not putting all your eggs in one basket has been practiced since ancient times. Furthermore, I was hoping you would succeed more, since I placed Tarak in your care; hence, I held you in higher regard, thought more of you and trusted you most.”
“I’ve let you down in that case, then.”
“Not exactly. I did not suffer any losses in the end, and you brought Tarak back safe and sound. Most importantly, if you look at the entire event, you were the one who found the mine. Your Majesty, I hold you in very high regard. You also successfully found the mine, except, you did not manage to get your hands on it. However, I think your image with your men has significantly improved after your decision to give up in the end.”
I laughed, but didn’t say anything. Nara smiled then made an invitational hand gesture and said, “You must be exhausted from the rough journey, Your Majesty. Please pardon me for the modest dishes. Please have a seat, Your Majesty.”
“Ah, all right.”
I didn’t bring Luna with me this time, and Philes didn’t come with me either.
‘It wasn’t easy to return to Karnashun. All my men were exhausted. I didn’t give them any work today to allow them to have a day to rest. Socina’s people can be said to have fulfilled their duties on the way. Though the lord of Socina uses somewhat underhanded methods, she does keep promises. She protected us the entire way and took care of our wounded properly, so I don’t have any complaints.’
After Nara heard our entire story, she cut off Tarak, who was intending to continue. She looked at me and asked, “Your Majesty, you must have heard of the saying ‘do not put all your eggs in one basket’, right? I think that you must have had your own considerations when you decided to hand over something that took so much effort to obtain.”
I lingered for a moment before replying, “How shall I describe it… I definitely don’t feel too good about having to hand it over…”
“But you did.” Nara looked at me with a smile as if she was saying, “don’t lie to me.” She then continued, “Your Majesty, you worked so long for the map. Would you really hand it over due to fear of death? Further, I would assume that it was a bargaining chip in your negotiations. You must have come to some sort of agreement for you to hand her your chip, right?”
I grinned. I had a mouthful of ice wine then nodded and replied, “At the time, the thought of destroying it did cross my mind. If the lord of Socina went to snatch it from me, I would’ve burnt it up. Frankly speaking, the map doesn’t serve that much of a purpose to me, because the tribesmen are at my camp. Even without the map, they can give me an approximate location and I could just go look around the area.”
Nara looked at me and with a smile, asked, “I see. But why did you choose to hand it to her in the end? Or rather, what did you exchange it for?”
“I exchanged it for her allegiance.”
I looked at her and explained, “I told her that I would only hand it to her after she truly obtained the power to control Socina and supported me. This mineral is extremely important to her. She needs it more than I do. She was gambling this time, as well. If I took it, then she would lose her capital to contend with the elders. If that was how it went, then the elders wouldn’t be grateful to me, because they, too, were searching for the mine. If I take it, then I won’t get anything other than the mineral. On the other hand, if I supported the lord of Socina, she would subjugate her opposition. And, as I supported them, they would have to obey me. As for the mineral, I could obtain it through trade with them, and the price won’t change much. Moreover, loyalty can’t be purchased with money now, can it?”
Nara nodded and then placed her cup of wine down. She looked at me as though she was smiling yet not, and asked, “Your Majesty, it does not look like your ambition ends with ruling just one city. Could it be that you are after the world?”
I chuckled and replied, “If I wanted the world, all I have to do is wait. But then vassal states would look down on me, wouldn’t they? My mom conquered you with her sword. If I don’t accomplish anything, you would not submit to me. You might even declare independence.”
“Your Majesty, are you saying that the purpose of your trip to the five nations of the desert was to show yourself to us and then have us submit to you?” Nara laughed out loud then drank a cup of wine. Her expression became slightly stern as she coldly exclaimed, “That will work on anyone, but Karnashun will not join your side or the Empress’ side. Your Majesty, if you have any conflicts with Her Majesty, please do not drag Karanashun into it!”
I smiled helplessly and responded, “Since when did I make you feel that I wanted to butt heads with Her Majesty? She’s my mom. Why would I want to oppose her? Our relationship is very close. I don’t have any intention of usurping the throne. I just want to prepare myself to succeed the throne. I won’t have you do anything. To the contrary, I hope that you will be able to maintain your status quo after I succeed the throne.”
Nara’s expression relaxed a little after my response.
‘It appears that she wasn’t going to participate in any conflicts that could jeopardise her city. She is a woman who puts the gains of her city above all else, after all. I’m very aware of that. I don’t intend to get Karnashun to do anything for me either. I just wanted to let them know that I’m a qualified ruler, that’s all.’
“In that case, you need not worry, Your Majesty. After this event, I greatly admire you. You conquered the desert and managed to find the treasure in the desert. Based on that alone, you have surpassed the rulers of the desert by far.”
“Really? I shall not hesitate to accept your compliment then.”
I lifted up my cup of wine with a smile and she picked hers up to clink it with mine. We both finished them in one go. I placed my cup down and then glanced at Tarak. Tarak had his head down the entire time, not daring to look at me.
‘I really don’t get it. The guy could throw his life away for Nara, so why is he scared of confessing?’
‘Whatever, I’ll say it for him.’
“There’s one more thing I still have to do.”
“Please feel free to speak, Your Majesty. I will see that it is done, as long as it is within my capabilities.”
“You can do it for sure, and you will be elated to.” I looked at her and then pointed at Tarak. With a teasing smile, I said, “When we were in the desert, Tarak pleaded me to be the witness for your marriage.”
“I did not!! Your Majesty, you must not make false claims!! I do not have any feelings for Nara!”
‘Are you sick in the head, boy?!!’