From Now On, I Can Smile (Part 5)
Elizabeth couldn’t receive the news. Although she planned to wait there for her son, that didn’t mean that she would be staring at the street all day to see if a white deer passed by. She had things to do. Because she had to eat, the roast bread and diluted grape wine she brought with her had begun to run out, Elizabeth went grocery shopping inside the city during the day.
Elizabeth saw Castell’s steed. That was enough to remind her she couldn’t escape in the end. She did everything she could come up with to hide, but she couldn’t escape her fate in the end. The so-called Phoenix’s Nest was her prison. She tried to escape it when she was young, but she went back in the end. Not only did she go back, but she also lost what she considered her happiness. History repeated itself again. It was excruciatingly hard to escape from it, but she had to return. Her son, Daisy, who she liked, and even she, herself, wanted to stay in the North; alas, she was destined to return to Hilles City alone on her steed.
It was the exact same as eighteen years ago. That was just how fate worked. That was Elizabeth’s fate; struggle as she may, it was impossible for her to break free. She was born in Hilles City, grew up there and it was also where she’d eventually be buried. She was tired and unwilling to try escaping anymore. Others viewed her as the ruler of the world, the ruler of the nation, a fearless Empress. In the end, though, she was just a pawn of fate. She had already failed. She was torn and tattered. Despair had overwhelmed her. Nobody could save her, and nobody could help her. In the past, she thought Inard could take her away and give her a different life. In the end, she couldn’t even take her son back with her.
Elizabeth was in the same position once again. She couldn’t defeat fate in the end. When she closed her eyes, she was still that teenage girl, hugging her son in despair and praying there’d be somebody who could save her, but there was no such person. Even Inard was relegated to helplessly watching her. She never truly grew up. She was always a powerless young girl waiting for somebody to save her and protect her desires that she still clung to. For some reason, when she looked at her son and Daisy, the despair and desire gradually increased day by day. She desperately hoped for the day where her son could hold her hand and run toward the sun. When she woke up, however, even her dream mocked her.
The dream belonged to Inard, but at some point, her son took over. Well, that wasn’t quite correct, since her son became more and more similar to his father, Inard. Inard had been gone for eighteen years at this point. Her memories of him had started to become a little fuzzy, so it was only normal for her son to have replaced him.
Her son said he’d help her destroy the cage. It was impossible to begin with; or rather, she perceived it to be impossible. Nevertheless, for some reason, she was glad when she saw her son. It was there just in a corner of her heart; that little spark of hope was there. She was glad, and she looked forward to her son destroying the huge stone palace to take her away.
It was impossible. The Rosvenor Empire was far too powerful. Elizabeth reinforced that cage to be indestructible. She, personally, saw the painful cage slowly reinforced. Not even wind could penetrate it. Her child would only spill his blood trying to break it. There’s no mother out there willing to see her child get hurt; Elizabeth was no different. Therefore, she submitted to her fate. She was already satisfied after hearing her son say he’d save her. As long as she could hear him call her “Mom,” she was happy.
Elizabeth was ready to return to Hilles City. She had even thought of how to deal with all that could happen. The blissful life in the North was forever a meaningless dream. It was time for her to wake from her dream. She was accustomed to it and no longer felt any pain. She calmly packed her things and prepared herself to head back at any moment. However, she still didn’t want to return. She was comparable to a kid who liked to laze in bed and would cling to his blanket, refusing to let go. She didn’t want to wake up yet; or rather, there was still something missing from her dream, and that was her son she wanted to see most.
Her son was on the verge of death, but she was sure he’d come back. She was absolutely certain he’d be back. If she had to leave, she wanted to ensure he was safe and sound before leaving. Though she knew she had to return when she saw Castell, she didn’t plan to meet up with him. Instead, she hid up. She resolved to hide from him until she could see her son.
She could return to Hilles City in peace once she saw her son healthy. Although she’d miss him afterwards, she could, at the very least, confirm her most beloved son was leading a hapy life with his wives and children. If she could be reassured of that much, she could probably smile while drinking alone, looking at a fire. It didn’t matter to her how she ended up. A mother has no woes, as long as her child is safe and sound.
Elizabeth watched the outside of the Imperial City. After her son took over the city, the once dark city gleamed as if it was a bright crystal light. Elizabeth looked toward the Imperial Palace with a blank look. She suddenly felt an empty sense of bliss.
“Just how many wishes do I have in this life? I wanted to marry Inard, have a child, revive my nation, watch my son grow up, get married and have his own children. I seemed to have achieved it all. My son has grown up, and he has his own kids now,” thought Elizabeth.
The Empress, who never showed any signs of aging or exhaustion in the mirror, felt tired from old age for the first time. She leaned onto the wall. Usually, she didn’t know what exhaustion meant, but she was getting on with age. Her son had become an adult, gotten married and had kids. Strictly speaking, her life was complete. She didn’t want anything else. Where her life went thereafter didn’t bother her. She was no longer the horse pulling a carriage; she was an old horse.. There was unlikely to be a chance to come back to the North after returning to Hilles City this time.
Elizabeth said in her mind, “Whatever, though. I’m old. I just need to wait for death. Inard, our son has grown up, and I’ve done what I had to do. I hope our son hasn’t let you down.”
Elizabeth drew her sword. She intensely gazed at the flame reflecting off her blade. She had used countless swords of different varieties before and even those from different locations. Some were long, others short; some were big, others small. She had been stained with the blood of different people before. She had wiped her sword at night countless times before. She thought about when she thrust this or that particular sword through someone’s heart. She had never considered thrusting this sword or another person’s sword into her own heart, because she had a son, and she wanted to be by his side. Hence, she didn’t want to die, and she couldn’t die. For the first time ever, she genuinely wondered what would happen if she stabbed herself with the sword. After lingering for a moment, Elizabeth hopelessly laughed, and then placed the long sword to one side.
She shook her head with a helpless smile. She told herself, “What am I thinking? I can’t kill myself here even if I wanted to suicide. This is my son’s territory. If I die here, destruction will unfold. I can’t die here, and I certainly can’t die here and now. If I die, my son will be in agony, and that agony will follow him for all his life. I can’t kill myself, and I can’t die to contemptible people. I can’t make my son suffer no matter when. I can sacrifice everything for my son even the chance to decide my own fate.
I must live. I must live even if my future will be very boring. I want to see my son’s face. I’ll never get sick of seeing his face. I still want to be by his side even if that nuisance of an elf is with him. I want to watch him from behind. I may not have the chance to again, though. I, therefore, must see my son one last time before I leave. I want to see him one last time, touch him one last time, and kiss the cheeks I’ve always loved and still love. I’ll be satisfied with just one last time.”
Elizabeth looked forward to her son coming back. She hoped he’d come back as soon as possible. If Castell found her first, she wouldn’t even get to see him one last time. If she didn’t get to see her son, she would only be able to return to the inside of her cage with her old memories and pain.
“Nobody can destroy that cage. The cage I built and locked myself in can’t be destroyed. Over centuries, it’s become a gigantic city, that huge prison. But nevertheless, this is my fate. Fate won’t allow a prisoner to escape his prison. There’s no need for a warden, as all escapees would obediently come back on their own accord just as in my case,” Elizabeth told herself.
Elizabeth’s ears twitched. The sound of the wind outside suddenly changed. It wasn’t the sound of the wind. It was as fast as a storm.
“No, it isn’t the sound of raindrops. It isn’t raining outside, unless it’s raining inches away from the ground and coming my way. Something that moves that fast could only be an animal.” Elizabeth analysed.