The elves’ forbidden zone was in a corner to the northwest of the elven lands. There was a structure shaped as a lighthouse there, which acted as a landmark. Nobody had any information on the place. The elves kept the place secretly hidden, while it was impossible for humans to approach it. So accordingly, I had no information on it. All I knew was it was a vast area of land. If there was a dragon there, there shouldn’t be many. The only trace of my father was a ring that was sent back. Meaning the place was even more mysterious.
“Will the dragon truly kill all elves? Why am I going there then? Am I going there to die? Is there any point to going there? If there’s an elf-killing dragon there, wouldn’t I be marching to my death?” I wondered.
I was desperate due to my condition and resorting to whatever means. The prophet, himself, said he didn’t know if the answer I sought was there, yet I headed there as if I had a screw loose.
I should’ve visited Mommy Vyvyan to ask her if she had any information she could share with me. However, I couldn’t bear to see her. I told her I wanted to die. Only to then say I wanted to live, because someone else motivated me. The questions I had on my mind were, “Would she get mad at me for treating her that way? Would she feel that I don’t love her?”
The honest truth was I really loved Mommy Vyvyan. I really, really loved her. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to muster up the determination to leave. She was my important mom, and my mom who had always been by my side. Of course, the same could be said of Mommy Elizabeth… Except… I felt my feelings for Mommy Elizabeth were somewhat different. What took place that night repeatedly replayed in my mind. I didn’t know why I forgot about it, but I recalled our affection that night.
I was taking a risk precisely because I wanted to stay with Mommy Elizabeth. I was quite certain I liked her as a woman. I didn’t understand her at first; nevertheless, I learnt more and more about her later on. I saw the gentle side of the Empress hidden underneath her mask. I saw the pure young girl’s infatuation and confusion. With time, I stopped perceiving her as an Empress. Instead, I perceived her merely as a widow. I saw the heartfelt pain and torment that wrecked her heart. She lost far too much. First, she lost her family, then her husband and then her son. She used her restraints as an Empress to tie up her torn heart, but it still bled. That was why she really cherished me.
I was the last one by Mommy Elizabeth’s side. She lost everything she ever loved. I felt sorry for her and, with the passage of time, eventually fell in love with her at some point. However, when I realised my feelings, I couldn’t part with her anymore. I didn’t know if she felt the same way. If she didn’t have any feelings for me, she wouldn’t have done that with me.
I patted the White Deer King’s neck and softly asked, “Hey, White Deer King, if I like a woman, would I succeed with my confession?”
The White Deer King snorted and looked at me as if it was saying, “Moron.”
I suppose it wasn’t going to bother with me. Speaking of which, it was single itself.
“Hey, you have a partner, don’t you? You can go home and get married once we return home. If you’re still willing, then you can come back and be m-, I mean, if you are willing, please continue being my partner.”
I swiftly changed my choice of words. Our relationship wasn’t rider and steed. The haughty White Deer King wasn’t going to acknowledge it was my steed. We were merely two individuals who were helping each other.
The White Deer King indifferently snorted then stopped in its tracks. It then began shaking its body with all its might to throw me off its back. It then stepped onto my head….
“Okay, okay, you’re a girl. You’re a girl. My mistake, my mistake.”
I immediately understood what it was saying… I was honestly astonished at the revelation. It didn’t resemble a female by any account. It was tougher than a male deer, and it had a single horn.
“How does it look like a male deer?! Why are you telling me you’re a female now?!!” I wanted to blurt. I always treated it as a male deer… I contemplated, “It didn’t react before, so why is it reacting to my remark now…?”
I mounted it again; it snorted again. It forgave me, apparently. Even so… I felt… I needed to find her a husband…
We slowly advanced inside the dark forest. The sun was still up outside, but it was already dark inside the forest. We didn’t plan to stop. Though I was about to run out of energy, I was out of time, too. I had to make haste.
I still had Ling Yue’s blood in my bag. I intended to drink it when I couldn’t hang on any longer. I didn’t want to waste a single moment. I didn’t know how much longer I needed. I didn’t want to die on the way. The White Deer King seemed to detect that I was physically unfit. It had slowed down a lot but was particularly steady.
I said, “Let’s rest early at night. Let’s find somewhere to rest first.”
The White deer King nodded. Perhaps it felt slightly guilty about throwing me off; she was especially obedient. I slowly leaned onto her body. The warmth of her fur was the only warmth I could feel. It was really comfortable in the dark and cold forest, so comfortable that I wanted to sleep.
Current time at the Imperial Palace in the North.
Tanya, puzzled, asked Elizabeth, “Your Majesty, you were looking for me?”
Elizabeth nodded, and then sat down to the side. She pointed to the chair in front of her. Strictly speaking, Tanya’s etiquette was inadequate. In Hilles City, the Valkyries would stop her, but since they were at the Imperial Palace in the North, Elizabeth didn’t say anything.
Tanya sat down with a lot of questions on her mind. To be candid, Tanya had no feelings or respect for the Empress of Rosvenor Empire, who was seated before her, for the Empress was an existence far too foreign to her. As such, she only knew the Empress was somebody she should respect but didn’t know the reason for it; hence, she only showed Elizabeth the most fundamental level of respect.
Elizabeth spread opened a map. The map was a military map that had evidently existed for some time. The map was covered with pencil marks and other marks. From Tanya’s perspective, it was but an ordinary map. To Elizabeth, on the other hand, it was a life and death battle. Elizabeth placed it before Tanya and then took in a deep breath. She queried, “Tanya, you are now my son’s bodyguard, correct?”
“Yes.” Tanya nodded then solemnly corrected her, “And His Majesty’s guard unit captain.”
“Uhm, got it.” Elizabeth nodded but didn’t seem to care about Tanya’s correction. She went on, “Do you intend to continue living by his side, then? Wait, what I meant was, ‘Do you intend to be his bodyguard forever? Is that how your loyalty for my son is?’”
“Sorry, I do not understand what you mean.”
Tanya had no idea what Elizabeth meant. Having said that, she was angry with the fact that Elizabeth questioned her loyalty as if she was belittling her. A hint of her anger had seeped into her tone: “Your Majesty, to be frank with you, I do not want to change who I devote my loyalty to. You already have so many Valkyries, so please do not bother with me.”
If somebody spoke to Elizabeth in that tone at Hilles City, their head would be rolling on the ground by the time the sentence ended. She wasn’t angry in the least with Tanya, however. As a matter of fact, she was pleased. She smirked: “What I meant was that it’s pointless for you to be my son’s bodyguard. Nier can replace you by all accounts. In fact, anybody in the unit could fulfil the shoes. My son trusts you so much, while you want to serve him so much, so isn’t it a bit of a waste for you to take on a post anybody can take?”
Tanya didn’t reply. Instead, she kept her gaze on Elizabeth. Elizabeth moved the map in front of her and elaborated, “You know, Freya is now an existence my son can never abandon. Despite her making such a mistake, he won’t punish her. Instead, he’ll allow her to continue staying by his side, not because he likes her more but because she’s too important to be replaced. What about you, though, Tanya? My son will care more for Freya, because of her irreplaceable existence, but what about you?”
Elizabeth rode the wave of momentum, giving Tanya no chance to speak: “How can you make yourself an irreplaceable existence to my son? A bodyguard won’t do, since he already has three bodyguards. So then, what exactly does he need?”
“I do not know…”
“That’s normal.” Elizabeth wasn’t disappointed; her goal was to incite panic. With a smile, she elaborated, “The answer is a general. My son doesn’t need a bodyguard, because he has brave soldiers by his side willing to die for him, but he lacks a general. He has to personally lead all of his campaigns and manage them on his own. If he had a skilled general, however, they would become someone irreplaceable to him. Therefore, I can now teach you how to be a general. I’ll teach you how to fight wars, how to lead an army and how to be a commander. I’ll teach you how to analyse battle situations and hone your judgement skills. I believe that, as long as you work hard, you’ll also become an irreplaceable individual to him once he returns!”