The snowy mountains were still some distance away from Socina City. We need to cross over the icy land in the north of Socina before we can arrive at the mountain paths. The snowy mountains looked as though they were right in front of us, yet it felt as if we never got closer. The sun was shining brightly overhead, but we couldn’t feel any warmth from it. The breeze from the direction of the snowy mountains was freezing. It felt as though the winds were blades cutting our skin. Although we had changed into completely new gear, it still felt cold. It was as though the cold wind and snow pierced through our every cell, to sting every inch on our skin.
As opposed to calling them mountain paths, I would argue that they’re better off described as the only place that you could walk on the mountains. We switched our horses out for Socina’s short and long-furred horses that were specialised in traversing the mountains. These horses were unafraid of the cold winds. However, I could tell that the temperature here in the mountains and the outside were drastically different. It was as though they were two different worlds. The temperature in the mountains was so low that I was shaking from head to toe. Ice quickly formed on the red scarf mom made me due to my breathing. We couldn’t speak to each other with the whistling cold winds and heavy snowfall. We had to tie ourselves together with ropes around our waists to avoid being separated.
Nightfall came even earlier in the mountains. I, however, was looking forward to night time already by noon. Despite being on horseback, the cold and fatigue wore me down, causing me to feel as if I ran out of energy. Had I not been on horseback, I probably would’ve had to take breaks after walking short distances.
At night, our guide led us to a small cave. There was quite a bit of residue from fires started.
‘It seems that a fair number of people have taken short breaks here.’
We left our horses outside and everybody entered the cave; but as I said, it was just a small cave. We were a group of about twenty people. When we squeezed into the cave, we virtually couldn’t budge.
“Shusia, come, I’ll hug you.”
Philes looked at Shusia. Shusia was a little embarrassed, but she ended up walking over to him and sitting in his lap, nevertheless. She leaned on him and looked at the fire. Philes looked at us and said, “If this is how it is, let us sit around the fire, then… Your Majesty… Could you squeeze in with Lord Karana? Nobody has the right to hug Lord Karana. after all, right…?”
“I don’t mind, but what about you, Karana?”
Hugging Karana for warmth is nothing but good news for me. She, though, is a married woman at the end of the day. She’s considered a widow now, but still, there are other people here. It won’t be good if somebody sees us, now, would it…?
Karana smiled, and then walked over to sit in front of me. She then wrapped the two of us up using an overcoat. She leaned her back on my chest. While looking at the fire, she smiled, “Staying alive in these mountains is of most importance. Further, this is not an unforgivable betrayal. Plus, there are very few women who have the privilege of resting on your chest, Your Majesty, so please allow me to use the Princess’ spot for now.”
“She’s not going to become a Princess, is she…?”
“Philes, what was that?”
“No, no, no, I did not saying anything. I did not say anything!!”
I glared at Philes, causing Shusia to softly giggle She then asked, “Your Majesty, when you told Instructor Nier about you and Miss Lucia… or when you told Miss Lucia about Instructor Nier, did they just calmly accept it?”
I quickly recalled their Earth-shaking battle, Lucia’s escape… and when Lucia saw Nier and me kissing in her wedding dress…
I touched my face then chuckled dryly, “Mm… I guess you could say they accepted it peacefully…”
“You sure are amazing, Your Majesty… to be forgiven after two-timing. Do you have plans to find yourself another princess?”
“I’m not two-timing! I… How could I possibly find a third Princess…? I’m loyal in love! I loved Nier and Lucia, because they’re very important people to me. I’m not the kind of person who likes them just because they’re a female!”
‘As if I dare to find myself a third girl… Nier and Lucia’s relationship has just relaxed a little. They would never allow me to have another woman. If there was going to be another woman, they’d have to be either Vyvyan or Elizabeth’s standard. Otherwise, she can’t beat the two of them…’
‘Nier and Lucia won’t hesitate to deal fatal blows when it comes to this, after all. I can’t let an innocent girl die at their hands…’
Shusia looked at me. She quietly giggled, and then gestured with her hand to hush. I looked down to see Karana had fallen asleep. She sat within close proximity to me with her head down. Despite having fallen asleep, she didn’t lean against me. She maintained a few centimetres distance from me.
Though she said survival was important, she still minds physical contact. She’s a widow, all right, one that loves her husband.
I smiled. I didn’t pull her into my arms; instead, I raised the coat up higher, trying to cover her best as I could. The fire in front of me crackled. Nobody was singing and drinking the way we did in the desert. We, virtually, fell into silence not long after sitting down, with just the sound of the wind whistling outside.
My eyes gradually shut. My head lowered and entered my dreams.
*Pant… Pant… Pant…*
‘I’ve already ran for a very long time … a very long time… truly… too long…’
‘How long have I run for? I don’t know… I don’t know… Probably around a week, I think… After my father was taken by that group and after I received my father’s head from them, I ran with all my might. I ran through the snow and northern winds. Behind me were screams and bloodshed. I’m getting further and further away from my home…’
‘I can’t turn back, though. I can’t take one step back. I don’t have anybody with me anymore. There’s nobody left with me to stop those maniacs…’
‘My father did what he did for their sake…’
‘My father did what he did for this continent…’
‘Our tribe has done our best every generation for the sake of this continent that the gods abandoned…’
‘Why… why… why…. does nobody remember that? Why didn’t anybody stand up? My father gave up everything he had for them, and yet he couldn’t even exchange it for mercy in the end. My father gave everything he had for that tyrant, yet had his life taken from him, just because he wouldn’t hand me over…’
‘That’s too disgusting…’
‘That’s too despicable…’
‘That’s too cold-hearted…’
‘I must continue to run. I must continue to run…’
‘I must find the power to seek revenge. I must acquire the power to get revenge. I can’t turn back now, but I must return to kill those traitors. I must save this continent again. I can’t let my father’s death be in vain. I can’t let the continent my tribe has protected for centuries be destroyed now.’
‘Run… Run… Run!!’
She suddenly slipped, causing her red silhouette to roll down the snow.
She couldn’t get to her feet again…