I saw Castell. Smiling, he said, “My, Your Majesty. I honestly did not think that you would be back. As you have returned, I should now return to Hilles City.”
“I’m really curious as to what you’re doing here. I thought I was at Hilles City for a moment when I first saw you. This is the North; what are you doing here?”
I wasn’t excited or feeling fortunate to see Castell after a long time. I merely felt animosity and vigilance. He shouldn’t be in the North. He should’ve left already. He came here during the time I was on vacation with my wives, and he should’ve returned to Hilles City when they came back. I was surprised he was in the North during my absence. Nobody to keep him in check was present. Lucia can’t rein in his political wits and ambitions. If he did something unfortunate in the North to turn them into humanity’s subjects or even went as far as turning the North into a satellite state, then there really wouldn’t be anybody who could stop him.
Castell smiled helplessly then touched his head while keeping his eyes on me: “Your Majesty, it hurts me that you would say that. During your absence, I was the one who rectified Miss Freya’s deeds. But, instead, you are looking at me so vigilantly instead of rewarding me.”
“Do you not know how I perceive you? Before I thank you, I need to first verify what you’ve done in the North. It would’ve been far too easy for you to tamper with things when Freya was out of action and Lucia was in charge. You think I’m not afraid of the North becoming Rosvenor Empire’s vassal state after I give you my thanks?”
“If that was the case, what do you plan to do now?”
“What else but march an army South? I’ll ally with the elves and attack Hilles City,” I answered, sternly. “I will never submit. I conquered the North, so it should be a free land, an independent nation. It’s land that took much effort to nourish. Even if it isn’t as powerful or vast as the Rosvenor Empire, this place should not be under the jurisdiction of any other nation. It belongs to solely me and my people.”
Castell softly chuckled: “I understand, then, Your Majesty. However, you may rest assured, for I have certainly not done anything that could be detrimental to the North. After all, Alice is my example. I believe Her Majesty will kill me on the spot if I do anything that would negatively impact you. I am aware of that; therefore, you can rest assured. Everything I did was done in your name. Basically, it should be able to appease the anger of the masses. The newly selected nobles are also supportive of us. As for the dead nobles, I can only say that Miss Freya did a perfect job. There were basically no survivors. They will, therefore, just have to take our word for the explanation as to what exactly happened.”
I nodded: “I really do need to thank you, then. Lucia doesn’t have what it takes to handle politics, so you did a great job settling the North this time. Thank you very much. Of course, if you want to have a meal, I absolutely can treat you to a meal.”
Castell laughed in a soft voice: “Although I would be glad to, please forgive me, but I cannot accept your offer. As you are the ruler of the North now, while I am still Her Majesty’s personal attendant, I must be by Her Majesty’s side. Had Miss Lucia not pleaded for my intervention, I would have returned to Hilles City long before. Your Majesty, please forgive my bluntness, but I neither think well of you nor the North, because I lost Her Majesty here. Her Majesty left the North under the watch of so many people, yet nobody here realised her departure.”
“My mom’s legs are on her. You think we could stop her if she wanted to leave? As for where she went, do you not already know? You’re telling me you don’t know where Mom went during my absence?”
“It is precisely because I did not know where you went, either, that I do not know where Her Majesty went,” replied Castell, sighing before continuing. “I must return to Hilles City now. Her Majesty cannot stay here. Hilles City still needs her. After all, she is the Empress of the Rosvenor Empire.”
“I know. Soon, though, Her Majesty will return to my side, as she is my mom.”
Castell showed me a startled look for the first time. I didn’t smile or show any other expression. Instead, I kept my eyes on him with a stern and confident look. A moment later, he bowed wearing a smile: “As you have returned, I shall immediately leave for Hilles City. I hope you become a ruler who does not pale in comparison to Her Majesty. I also wish you a fast recovery.”
I didn’t know how I should evaluate Castell. I still did have that tinge of a positive impression of him, since he helped me a lot in the past. To add to that, he ran to report Alice’s assassination in spite of his serious injuries. Having said that, I really didn’t want to see him in the region I ruled. His ambitions and abilities were incredibly terrifying. Not even I could say that I could see through him with certainty. Freya should be able to offer some competition for him. The North should be safe with him gone. A threat from within is more frightening than a threat from the outside.
I went to Lucia’s room at night. She turned around and gave me a tender smile. She gently rocked Nona, who was in her arms. As soon as Nona saw me, she immediately reached her hand out and began to call out. I smiled, and then walked over to hold her. Lucia softly giggled. She stood next to me and watched Nona with a smile: “It’s all your fault. Nona would be asleep by now if you didn’t come in. Nona got all excited from head to toe as soon as she saw you.”
“Yeah? Sorry, sorry. That’s because Nona likes her dad, though, right? Nona, were you a good girl when Dad wasn’t around?”
I held Nona. She grabbed onto the buttons on my chest and cheerfully laughed. I gently rocked her then handed her to Lucia with a smile. I pinched her tiny face. Nona leaned on Lucia’s chest and Lucia began to hum a tune to help her sleep.
I walked over to the crib to check on Vera and Daisy, who were already asleep. Not even Vera could withstand the innate desire to sleep of an infant. I watched them sleep and affectionately caressed their faces. I really couldn’t get enough of looking at them. I never grew tired of looking at them no matter how long I looked or how I looked. My girls were seriously too cute. That was true for all of them.
I turned around to face Lucia. I never expected Nona to fall asleep so quickly. Lucia placed her into the crib and quietly asked, “Miss Ling Yue must’ve given birth, right?”
I gave a nod, albeit nervously: “Uhm.”
I presumed Lucia would be jealous. After all, Ling Yue was legitimately my mistress after she gave birth. We went about our affair as if it was absolutely natural, and we had even had a kid. Lucia probably couldn’t accept that… To my surprise, Lucia’s expression didn’t change. Instead, she kept looking at me and, in a slightly curious tone, asked, “Is she a girl, too?”
Lucia glared at me as if she was blaming me, yet bitter: “How like you. There are always so many women around you, be it mothers or children. That’s just you, Your Highness.”
I softly chuckled, and then caressed Lucia’s head: “Isn’t that good, though. Since they’re all girls, they won’t compete for the throne in the future. Moreover, I won’t be bias, because my children are all so cute. That goes for Nona, Vera, Daisy and Liu Yue. They’re all such cute girls. I actually feel that I don’t love them enough. I think that they’ll likely become good friends when they grow up.”
Lucia lowered her head and grabbed my hands. She softly said: “If you are alive, they probably could become good friends. Honestly speaking, I don’t have any feelings for Daisy. Without you, I doubt our children will have the chance to be together. You’re the one who keeps us together, Your Highness. That’s why you must live.”
I pulled Lucia into my embrace and bit her ear. I whispered, “I promise to live on for your sakes. I promise. I love you all, Lucia. I really love you all. I initially thought I was hopeless after Mommy Vyvyan said I had no hope. Now, however, I want to keep trying for your sakes. I’ll definitely survive for you all.”
Lucia looked into my eyes and softly sighed. In a slightly hopeless tone, she then said, “It must’ve been Miss Ling Yue who spurred you on, right…? Why is it that you can always obtain courage and strength from her, no matter what happens? Why…? Am I incapable of empowering you…? I keep wondering… why I’m so powerless…”
“You’re not.” I kissed Lucia, and then gently pressed her onto the bed. She reacted nervous. I gently pulled off her shirt from her chest and kissed her breasts. I continued in a soft tone: “Ling Yue helped me understand what I should do, but the one who’s always been by my side and the one I’ve always trusted is forever you… my most beloved Lucia…”