I looked at Mommy Elizabeth’s sleeping face for a long time without saying a word.
I used alcohol to profess my feelings to Elizabeth. Actually, I didn’t really use the power of alcohol, because I was clear-minded, so clear-minded I could see every inch of Elizabeth.
After I confessed, neither of us said anything. Neither of us spoke again, as though we had perfect chemistry. Mom didn’t reject me. We held hands and kissed under the moonlight.
I was sure I was going to be reprimanded by Freya again. After all, Mom and I left early. There was no way nobody noticed our absence. Nonetheless, they didn’t know where we went. Mommy Vyvyan probably knew exactly where we went without thinking, but she didn’t come to disturb us.
I really needed to thank Mommy Vyvyan. I was certain she wouldn’t publicise the deed, as it had to do with our reputation. As such, she had no choice but to deal with it in private. But we did the deed, so what could she say? Plus, I genuinely did like Mommy Elizabeth very much.
I stroked the black hair at the corner of Mommy Elizabeth’s mouth with delicate strokes. Her expression was very gentle. There was none of her usual aggression and pride. She was a woman just like Mommy Vyvyan. Actually, I’d say she was a bit more bashful than Mommy Vyvyan.
Mommy Elizabeth previously said so herself. She no longer knew who she was. What was Elizabeth? Should she be a proud and venerated Empress or a romantic and innocent young girl who jumped out of her window? She, herself, couldn’t tell. Neither could I.
Which identity of hers was her real one? She, herself, said that she was so used to wearing a mask that it became part of her flesh, and thus, nobody could tell which Elizabeth was the real one. Nevertheless, it didn’t matter. I liked Mommy Elizabeth and Mommy Vyvyan, not because they were my mother or because they were monarchs, but purely because I liked them regardless of however they were.
I looked at the side of mom’s face and then the moonlight outside. I took in a deep breath.
‘What have I done? What have I done after coming to this world? I have wives already, yet I’m still behaving this way. How am I going to face Elizabeth and Vyvyan from now? I don’t think the two of them will express anything or ask anything of me. Similarly, I won’t ask for anything again, but in spite of that, we’d still feel awkward when we’re alone, right?’
‘I can’t continue doing this with Mommy Elizabeth. I absolutely mustn’t. I just wanted to leave her with a beautiful memory for when she returns to Hilles City. She must feel very lonely. After all, her beloved Inard has passed away so many years ago and I got her only friend, Alice, killed. Castell is the only consolation she has left.’
Mom must’ve liked me, as well. There was no way she would’ve allowed me to do that, otherwise. It couldn’t be any easier for her to break free from me. I couldn’t beat her in a contest of strength. She didn’t resist, though. She didn’t show any signs of resistance.
‘Mommy Elizabeth might be able to forget Inard now, right? She no longer needs to stay loyal to Inard in the future, right? To be honest, Inard owes her far too much. He may be a good husband to Vyvyan, but definitely not to Elizabeth.’
I brushed away all of Mom’s hair on her face and then leaned in. Mom turned over, exposing her face to the moonlight. Her cherry-blossom lips slowly moved underneath the moonlight. I took in a deep breath and looked at the side of her face that was so beautiful it could virtually freeze time. I chuckled, and then slowly lowered my head down toward her face…
Mom seemed to be sleep talking.
I stopped midway. Mom looked as though she was in pain. Her hands jolted as though she wanted to grab something. I couldn’t see what she saw in her dreams, but I could sense that she was very emotional. Mom was very tense.
“Inard… Don’t… Don’t… leave me… Don’t…”
Mom’s body began to quiver. She extended her hand out as though she was trying to grab something in her dream. She grabbed my hand, and then her body shuddered. Next to her ear, I said, “I’m here, Elizabeth. I’m here. I’m here. I’m right beside you. I won’t leave. I’ll always be by your side from now.”
“Fuu… Inard… Inard… I love you… I love you so much… Inard… Don’t leave me… Don’t leave me… We’ll be together forever… Forever…”
Mommy Elizabeth’s body went limp. She apparently managed to grab onto my father who died to a dragon’s claw long ago. She revealed a smile with more bliss than ever before. Having Inard by her side was the most blissful thing to her.
‘Everything would be well if you had your lover by your side, right? Just how much do you love, Inard…? You still yearn for him despite it having been over ten years, despite the fact that he abandoned you and despite the fact that he married again, without leaving you with your most cherished child. You still dream of him. You still dream of holding his hand. And you still dream of being in love with him.’
‘Is there no way I can replace my father? Well, I guess. I’m just a substitute to Elizabeth, aren’t I? I’m just my father’s son, and that’s the end of it. Like me, Mom doesn’t love someone resembling Inard, but Inard, himself, the Inard who’s dead. She loves the elf named Inard, who did so many things together with her, stargazed with her and crossed lakes and mountains with her.’
‘I’m Troy, not Inard. I can’t replace the Inard in Elizabeth’s heart even though I look so similar to him and am sitting right next to her.’
Lucia once said that regardless of whether or not I was the Prince, or even if I was Troy or not, the one she liked was me. She loved me, who stayed by her side and protected her.
I thought that Mommy Elizabeth’s experience back then wasn’t remotely related to me. However, I came to understand that back then, she was the same as Lucia and Nier was now.
I sat straight up. I didn’t lean in toward her again. I stood up and went to the window. I gazed at the flames outside and the mountains to the west. The endlessly connected mountains covered my sight, but I still gazed in that direction. I looked into the darkness in the west.
My father died there. Correction, he may not have died there, but went missing there. I thought I should make a trip there. I wanted to see where my father fell. I wanted to see the path my father walked. I couldn’t see him, but I could see the life he lived.
‘In addition, I must break that bird cage. I must break that place! I won’t let Elizabeth be disappointed as Inard did. I won’t make her abandon an infant and ride away all alone. I won’t let it happen again!’