The journey back felt more tiring. Perhaps I felt a sort of emptiness now that the job was over. When I suddenly woke up at night, I came to realise that there was nothing to do tomorrow. Luna was next to me. Underneath was the bed I was familiar with in the Royal Capital. The flames in the fireplace flickered. Overhead was a luxurious red bed curtain. I needed to think for a moment before telling myself I was already safe. I had returned.
‘Whenever I recall what took place in the desert, I can’t help but feel as thouh sand was blowing onto my face. While I didn’t achieve my end goal, I don’t have any regrets. I don’t have any regrets about the experience. To the contrary, I feel proud.’
‘It was the first time I didn’t rely on someone else’s strength, after all. I didn’t call for Mommy Vyvyan in the end, and Mommy Elizabeth didn’t provide me with any support in the end… Other than financially… I did everything myself, from the preparatory phase to the massacre in the desert. The experience has empowered me with confidence. I can resolve these situations with my strength, alone, now. I could get other vassal states to respect me.’
‘That is enough.’
I took in a deep breath when I saw Troy City up ahead.
‘We’re finally back here after a short rest stop at the Royal Capital. This place gives me a blissful feeling as if returning home now.’
Luna sat on one side and looked at Troy City. She softly remarked, “We are finally home…”
I chuckled. I looked at Luna and remarked, “Yeah, we’re home. Let’s go, Luna. We’re home now.”
Luna responded with a long sigh before looking at me with a smile and saying, “It is so nice to be home. Now the princess will take care of you tomorrow, and I can have a long vacation. I apologise Your Majesty, but I am a too exhausted.”
I nodded. I stroked her head and replied, “All right. It’s been a rough journey for you, Luna. Have a good rest for the next two days… I’m not going to get a chance to rest, though. I need to see Nier, then Her Majesty, then Lucia, and then Her Highness…”
“Hehe, you truly are very busy, Your Majesty.” Luna giggled then said, “I hope you will be able to get some good rest then, Your Majesty… Ah, Your Majesty, people have come to welcome you!”
We rode our horses over. A team of people dressed in white were already at the entrance. I recognised the white silhouettes. It was the Valkyries’ uniform. White uniforms and white steeds with no fancy decorations. That was the most formal reception the Valkyries gave. I remember when I first came to humanity’s lands. I was welcomed by Nier alone. It appears that the Empress is here to receive me this time.
My men’s uniforms were torn and tattered. Most of them have already bought new clothes to wear, because the sandstorm blew any loose clothing they had away. But nonetheless, all of them maintained their spirit. Although they weren’t neatly lined up, our team still maintained a gallant spirit after the fighting.
‘I think Mom will understand that.’
“Your Majesty, His Majesty’s team has arrived.”
“Really? Really…? Hurry and come take a look. Is my clothes worn properly…? How about my expression…? Mm… What do I do…? What do I do…? Would it be a bad idea to hug my son in front of so many people…? I… I want to kiss him…”
Castell helped Her Majesty adjust her cape that never had a problem in the first place, for the fifth time. Then he smiled helplessly and replied, “That would better be saved for the bedroom. It is not too appropriate to do that sort of stuff in front of the Valkyries.”
The Empress paused and then revealed a very disappointed and eager expression. She looked at her hand then looked below her horse carriage where Nier was all fidgety. She sighed and said, “Why can Nier hug him but not me? I want to hug him at these moments, too…. Why…? I’m his mother for that matter…”
Castell replied with a helpless smile, “That is because Miss Nier is His Majesty’s wife, while you are the Empress of the Rosvenor Empire.”
The Empress unhappily leaned back on the backrest, sighed and said to herself, “I want to be able to act without reserve and candidly as Nier does… It’s natural for me to want to hug my child at times like this… Why can’t I…? I knew I should’ve come alone.”
“Because besides being his majesty’s mother, you are also the mother of the empire.”
“But I only want to be my son’s mother.”
The Empress sighed and didn’t say anything after. Castell looked at the Empress with a slightly sad look. He didn’t know what to say. At the same time, her behaviour made it impossible for him to say anything else. Back then, the Empress only needed the empire. She was willing to forsake anything to ensure the prosperity of the empire. But now she didn’t even want her throne for the sake of her child.
‘She’s changed so much.’
‘Could it be that Her Majesty views His Majesty with more importance than the empire she fought for? If that is the case, if I was to say something to her, she probably wouldn’t say anything back. His Majesty shouldn’t have any wild ambitions at present, but once he does, it’ll be too frightening to even think about.’
‘That said, His Majesty seems to really respect his mother so it’s unlikely he’ll do something to Her Majesty.’
‘That would be for the best.’
I dismounted and hugged Nier, who threw herself at me. She sobbed as she leapt at me and tightly hugged me as though she was fusing her body with mine. I gently hugged her back.
‘I’ve reached safety, I’m home now, and I’m hugging Nier, yet a fear dwells within me.’
I hugged Nier tightly. I felt her warmth, and everything about her. Everything that occurred in the desert replayed itself in my memories, scaring me more than I could put into words. If I had made a single mistake, I might not be able to stand here hugging my loved one right now.
‘This is good. I’m so glad. My love is still by my side.’
“I’m back, Nier.”
I only realised my voice was hoarse when I spoke.
Nier tightly hugged me, bit my ear and in her hoarse and blissful voice murmured, “Uhm! Uhm! Welcome home, Your Majesty. Welcome home… Your Majesty, I was always waiting for your return. I kept on waiting… I kept on… I, Princess Nier Rosvenor Galadriel, have come to welcome you home, Your Majesty. Please follow me into the city.”
‘I don’t know why I feel so happy being welcomed home by Nier every time. The first impression she gave me was stunning, after all. If my love for Lucia developed as a result of us being together for a long time and going through ordeals, then my love for Nier was when she appeared before me and bowed to salute me.’
‘Uhm. I’m back, Nier.’
‘Nier as she is in this moment is about the same as she was back then, only that she’s now my Princess.