For a young girl, being able to give a present to the person she liked most was the most blissful feeling, especially when she could see him smile, which meant that it was the most magnificent festival. After all, Valentine’s Day was a day to express one’s love. The day presented an opportunity for the shy young girl to express her love. Of course, that didn’t apply to just the young girl.
Elizabeth rendered the kitchen staff so dumbfounded that they forgot to continue working. Nobody dared to believe the Empress of humanity, who was a more majestic and mysterious ruler than Vyvyan, would take the initiative to go into her kitchen. If not for her beauty and dignified eyes, they wouldn’t have believed it was the true Empress Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth swept her gaze over them, all of them shuddered and quickly saluted her. Elizabeth waved her hand: “All of you can leave. I want to make some stuff in the kitchen.”
“But… B-but His Majesty’s dinner…”
“Get lost. I can take care of my son’s dinner. Now, get out of here!’
The Valkyries behind Elizabeth rushed into the kitchen. The chefs trembled when they looked at the Valkyries’ swords at their waists. They left the kitchen as fast as their legs could take them. Elizabeth scanned the kitchen then shut the door after confirming there was nobody else present. She then picked up a chair and used it to block the door. After she finished her preparations, she took in a deep breath and took out a sheet of paper from her chest area…
Elizabeth treated the sheet of paper with great importance and didn’t want others to see it. However, the warmth and moist that came out with the sheet of paper – due to where she hid it – would make one blush. The Valkyries gathered around Elizabeth to await her order. Elizabeth took in a deep breath then declared, “Girls, your next job is to help me prepare the things on this sheet of paper! Understood?!”
“Yes, Your Majesty!”
The Valkyries are outstanding soldiers and Empress Elizabeth’s most feared bodyguard unit. Their job was to ensure her safety. They didn’t know how flour, butter, oil and honey were related to Empress Elizabeth’s safety. Nevertheless, since she gave the order, they wouldn’t refuse. Further, Empress Elizabeth looked serious; therefore, those things did indeed appear to of utmost importance to her. As such, the Valkyries did their best to turn the kitchen upside down and inside out.
“Today is Valentine’s Day, Onii-sama.”
I looked up. I was thinking about a town over several hundreds of kilometres away when Freya made the sudden statement. I didn’t quite follow what she was saying at first. Freya looked at me with a strange smile. She softly giggled: “So, as I said, Onii-sama, today is Valentine’s Day.”
“If my memory does me justice, wasn’t there a Valentine’s Day already?”
“This is the Valentine’s Day of another place. Although it is a repeat of our Valentine’s Day, women will not give up any opportunity where they can express their feelings or a day where they could look forward to their husband expressing his love for them. Therefore, it is quite popular with us here. Would you have prepared presents yet, Onii-sama?”
I froze. Freya smiled with pleasure: “I thought so. Onii-sama, I knew you did not prepare any presents, but it does not matter. I believe that the Princesses are not looking forward to receiving a present from you.”
“Wow, that hurts, Freya. Am I someone who won’t give any presents to them? I care about them a lot. Of course, I care about you greatly, too.”
Freya raised her eyebrows and gave me a happy smile: “You almost failed to get a passing grade, but that addition was right on time. I shall grudgingly give you a passing grade, then. Here you go, Onii-sama. Though I am not your wife or your mistress, women will not let a day where they can express their feelings slip. The same goes for me, Onii-sama. Thank you for taking care of me all this time.”
Freya handed me a small box with a smile. I lingered. Freya tilted her head, and then placed it in front of me: “It is just a chest pin, Onii-sama. After all, I always have yours on me now, but you do not need to look forward to it, since… I am not rich.”
“It’s fine. I’m very touched. Honest. Freya, thank you, and thank you for your present.”
I pulled Freya into my embrace. Nervous, Freya’s hands shook. The calm young girl was very shy when she was in my arms. Freya leaned on my chest then pushed me away. Smiling, she said, “I shall not take up anymore of your time. You should spend today with your wives. I am sure Miss Lucia and Miss Nier have prepared gifts for you. Leave work here to me, Onii-sama. Happy Valentine’s Day!”
Freya was right. After I left the office, I saw Lucia waiting for me in the corridor. Lucia stood to the side in her dressed. A bird perched on her palm and ate the food she held. The bright sun shone on her charming smile, giving the natural light the warmth and joy of a young girl. Lucia turned around when she heard my footsteps. Startled, the bird flew off. She dusted her hands, and then walked over. She wrapped her arm around mine and smiled: “Your Highness, are you done already?”
“Today… is Valentine’s Day, isn’t it…?”
I touched Lucia’s hair. She dallied for a moment, and then excitedly asked, “Does that mean that you have prepared a gift?!”
“Sorry… I haven’t…”
“I see…” Lucia nodded with disappointment; however, she quickly raised her spirit again. She grabbed a small box from the side and handed it to me: “It’s fine, though. Your Highness, this is a gift I prepared for you. This is tea powder I specifically brought from the elven lands. This small box cost me four months of my salary as a member of the Shadow Squad. You just need to boil it in some water, and then you’ll be able to drink the tea we had back in Duargana. You might even be able to remember our blissful days! Your Highness, here!”
Lucia handed me the box. She had a tinge of nostalgia in her eyes. Those days must been very precious to her. When I opened the box, a faint smell of tea drifted to my nose.
Some say the nose is the one sensory organ that stimulates the brain into recalling memories. The instant I smelt it, it felt as though I was walking on the streets of Duargana with the bright sun overhead and Lucia next to me. I could seemingly hear the sounds of elves and horse carriages. I could see Lucia scanning the place with her curious gaze, and I could see her calm and pretty eyes in the teahouse. I really did return to the past…
I grabbed hold of Lucia’s hand and muttered, “Lucia…”
Lucia lingered for a moment before smiling and replying, “It’s all right, Your Highness. I know that you have been busy with work recently. I’m happy you remember. I’m fine. After all, we didn’t bother with this festival in the past anyway…”
“No, it’s my fault. Lucia, please let me make up for my mistake. Let’s go to the flower garden and have some tea. Then, we’ll go to the streets for some fun, just as we did in the past. Let’s enjoy Duargana as we did in the past. I’m very fond of those days, too!”
“Of course. Let’s go now!”
“Uhm, understood! Thank you, Your Highness!”
I looked at the weird thing in front of me. Vyvyan, who was next to me, pressed her hand on mine and solemnly said, “Son, Mommy told you not to eat things of unknown origins when you were young.”
“What do you know?! This is the most popular refreshment in humanity’s lands. What’s this called? Cookies or something or rather. I made them following a recipe. I’m one hundred percent certain these are right!”
Though she said that, I could see nervousness filling Mommy Elizabeth’s eyes. Vyvyan furrowed her eyebrows: “So you hogged the kitchen for an entire afternoon, just to make this abomination? This is a cookie? Why is it that humanity’s sense of aesthetics continues to grow weirder and weirder? Son, don’t eat it. My instincts tell me that abomination is dangerous. Let me throw it out.”
Elizabeth thrust her sword into the table and coldly looked at Vyvyan: “You’ve never seen a cookie, so on what basis are you critiquing it? There’s no question I made them correctly. This is my gift for my son. You touch it, and I’ll have your head!”
In my mind: Vyvyan hasn’t seen cookies, but I have!! Even I think these aren’t authentic cookies. What the devil is this black and white burnt stuff here?!”
I raised my head and met with Mommy Elizabeth’s eager, yet nervous, gaze. How was I supposed to turn her down when she wore such an earnest and hopeful gaze? I picked up a piece, and put it in my mouth… It didn’t seem that bad. The sweet scent of honey and sugar dimmed the taste of the burnt parts a fair bit. God knows how much sugar and honey Mommy Elizabeth used. I pretended to be surprised” “They’re very nice.”
I quickly picked up another piece. Mommy Elizabeth dawdled for a second, and then smugly looked at Vyvyan. Vyvyan just grinned. Mommy Elizabeth was very conceited about her accomplishment for a long time, but when I realised that I might have to often eat that sort of stuff, I felt my future looked grim.
“It tastes bad, doesn’t it, Son? I had one, as well. It’s too sweet, isn’t it?” asked Vyvyan.
“Don’t tell Mommy Elizabeth…” I replied.
When it was bedtime, Mommy Vyvyan and I walked to her room. When we got to the door, she smiled: “So… come into Mommy’s room, then. Mommy shall make you some sweets. After all… back then, your favourite was…”
Vyvyan pulled me in before I could shout out…
Two hours later…
I pushed the door open with exhaustion. A naked body flew over and threw me onto the bed. My clothes were ripped off and stuffed into my mouth before I could scream. In my moments of panic, I saw Nier’s aroused expression: “Your Majesty, you didn’t expect that, did you? This is my present for you… You must enjoy yourself, okay…? Let me enjoy myself, too… Mm… Hmm…? Why does it taste… different…? There’s… a sweet taste?”
In my mind: “It’s your imagination!! It’s your imagination!! I swear that it’s your imagination!!”