I looked at Elizabeth, who was examining the city defence blueprint in full gear, and called out to her from behind, “Mom.”
“Ah, Son, you’re back.”
I was surprised that mom reacted very calmly. She smiled, “I knew you were back already. Troy City hasn’t come under attack, yet. Karana has already told me what happened. By the looks of things, it seems that we’re cleaning another mess that the elves left behind.”
“Uhm. However, that doesn’t mean that Troy City won’t ever be attacked.” I looked at the blueprint that Mom was examining and softly said, “When I came back, I saw a village that had been looted by the anthropoids.”
Mom looked at my expression and asked, “It must’ve been very brutal, right?”
I clenched my teeth and gave an answered, “Uhm, very.”
“An Emperor doesn’t need to grief over the deaths of his people for long, for he needs to work hard for those alive.” Mom gave me a pat on my shoulder, and then touched my face. She let out a soft sigh and added, “Mommy swears that this time, Mommy will definitely support your attack on the North with all of the nation’s power. These anthropoids shouldn’t appear on our lands. Since they have appeared, I must make it so that they never appear here again.”
I looked at Mom and gave her a nod. Mom smiled then tenderly clasped my face. She looked into my eyes, “But before that, Mommy needs to defend Troy City from harm for you. Mommy will not let this city fall.”
“If it can’t be defended… Mom, you can leave.” I looked at the defence blueprint. Despite me being just a technician that never underwent military training under the military system, I could tell that Troy City, which was surrounded by flat plains, wasn’t suited for a defensive battle. All siege weapons would be effective against the city. The river ran through the city horizontally; consequently, if they poisoned it or blocked it to drown us, Troy City would be doomed. Furthermore, there are no cities nearby Troy City to assist. Therefore, if we get caught in a siege, even soldiers will be hard-pressed to escape.
That’s not to mention that we don’t have an army in the city. The only defence force is the militia that I made undergo training once a week. They’re basically just armed civilians. Their combat skills and their determination in battle are far inferior to a proper military’s, let alone having them fight against the brutal anthropoids.
The only military team that can fight against the anthropoids are the Valkyries, but there are too few Valkyries in the city. They’re struggling to defend the palace as is, so asking them to defend such a long city wall as well is unrealistic.
Honestly, I was very surprised to see that Troy City was still standing when I returned.
Mom dawdled. I quickly said, “Troy City isn’t suited for defensive battles. It’ll be very dangerous to fight a defensive battle here. We still have time to leave now, since the anthropoids have yet to gather outside the city. It’ll be impossible to break out if we get caught in a siege, though. Mom, I’m very concerned about your safety. If you get hurt here… I… I will feel very guilty!”
Mom looked at me in silence. She neither agreed nor objected. I believe that Elizabeth, who has been the God of Battle for a long time, comprehends the current predicament. In fact, she must know it better than I do. She must be aware of the chances of victory here and what the wise decision would be.
“Eighteen years ago, Mommy gave birth to you in that small village on a tattered bed. As a matter of fact, it was the elves that helped me deliver you. You were tiny back then. You had your eyes shut and appeared tiny. Your skin appeared transparent. You have no idea how blissful Mommy felt when Mommy held you back then. Mommy was worried about hurting you when Mommy gave you a kiss.”
Mom suddenly brought the past up from a decade ago. She spoke of things that I couldn’t connect with on a realistic level. I looked at Mom with a blank look, clueless as to what she meant by that.
‘I remember we were discussing the likelihood of being able to defend Troy City, not how I was when I was born.’
Mom didn’t look as though she had any intention of paying me any attention. She wore a blissful and shy smile. She looked ahead as if she could see the bliss that she felt eighteen years ago and the red cape used to wrap me up. She continued, “At the time, Mommy had no other thoughts on Mommy’s mind. Mommy didn’t think about eloping with your father, touring the entire continent or finding a beautiful place to build a home or any of those things. Mommy just thought about living on with you in Mommy’s arms. Mommy didn’t want to take one step away from you. Mommy just wanted to live somewhere peaceful and watch the cute and gentle you grow up.”
“But, Mommy never thought…”
Mom interjected, and then stood up. She walked up to me and clasped my face tightly. She looked at my eyes with a hint of sadness in hers. She resumed, “Mommy ran; Mommy ran away and abandoned you, leaving you in an unknown place. Mommy abandoned you and left alone. That’s why Mommy had to suffer for those last ten years. It’s also why Mommy angers you over and over again. It’s also why Mommy makes you feel hopeless. Mommy has always felt guilty and regretful. If Mommy didn’t abandon you back then and kept you by Mommy’s side, if Mommy just beared with the extra bit of difficulty and fatigue, you wouldn’t be suffering from the berserk mana condition. Luna wouldn’t have died, and you wouldn’t have gotten mad at Mommy for these things. Nothing that followed after that would’ve happened, either.”
“Mom… what’s the point of saying all this now?!”
Mom looked at me and raised her voice, “No! There’s meaning to it!”
She spun around swiftly and hit me on my face. She looked at the blueprint again and sternly said, “Mommy abandoned you once. The pain, despair and betrayal Mommy suffered was rightesouly deserved punishment. Mommy will not abandon you again this time. This city’s name is Troy City. It’s your home. Son, this is your home. Mommy will not abandon you this time. Mommy will not watch the anthropoids trample on your home. Mommy doesn’t have much time left to regret. Mommy will not back down this time. It would be a bliss for Mommy to die here, because Mommy didn’t abandon you this time. Mommy didn’t abandon Mommy’s most beloved son!”
I looked at her, and she turned her head to look at me. Her eyes showed determination tougher than steel. Mom appeared as dominant as she did on the battlefield here.
‘This must be Elizabeth’s form during wartime… This must be the heroic and dominant way Mom appeared in the war back then.’
‘I might not be able to convince Mom to leave.’
“Son, you should head to the elves now. The elves are the true gate that fends off the anthropoids. Vyvyan should be engaged in battle now. The elves will struggle with their numbers, if the anthropoids are leading a heavy assault. Mommy knows that you want to go to the elves at a time like this, so go. Mommy will definitely defend this place when you leave. Mommy will defend your home and your wives. Mommy should be protecting Mommy’s child in the first place. This is the mission the gods have given Mommy. Mommy is finally able to do something Mommy should do. Mommy is very happy right now, honest.”
Mom looked at me with a consoled, yet somewhat hopeless smile. Her voice was a little shaky and her gaze was complex to describe. There was affection, determination and more than anything, yearning.
I couldn’t resist the urge anymore. I walked over to Mom and hugged her. I clasped her face and kissed her.
The two of us tightly embraced. Mom didn’t resist; she allowed me to hug her, and we clung to each other. She wrapped her arms around my waist and pulled me in tight.
‘You can forgive me, right?! Surely you can forgive me, right?!’
Mom’s body was so gentle. The Empress that was always tough as steel, had a body as soft as Nier’s.
She’s just a woman, a wife and a mother.
A moment after, I reluctantly let go of mom and took two steps back. I looked at her somewhat red face and wiped the corner of my mouth. I sincerely said, “Stay safe, Mom. I’ll be back. I’ll definitely be back to rescue you. Don’t let anything happen to yourself before I return. If something happens to you, I’ll be very sad. You wouldn’t do something to make your son sad, would you?!”
Mom looked at me with a giggle and nodded.
“So wait for my return. You’re my most important mom. I will definitely return to your side!”
I clenched my teeth to force myself to steel my heart. I turned around then went to the door and pulled it open.
“Oh, right… Mom, let me tell you one last time.”
I suddenly stopped. I turned my head around to look at Mom, who reacted slightly surprised. I smiled and said, “Consider it the continuation of the mistake I made last time during the fireworks… Let me tell you again… I love you, too. I really do love you, too.”
I didn’t wait for mom’s response; instead, I gently shut the door. If I continued to look at her, I might not be able to find the determination to go to war.
‘I’ll definitely return!’
‘I will not allow my city, Troy City, to fall.’
‘I will not let Troy City, the city that houses my mom, Nier, Lucia and Freya to fall!!’