From Now On, I Can Smile (Part 6)
I arrived at the derelict house. The White Deer King ran too fast, causing me to feel sick. I went to the side to throw up for a while before looking up at the rundown house. The house didn’t qualify as a house. It reminded me of temporary dorms set up on construction sites. Actually, this one was worse. This one was essentially rocks piled on top of each other and held together with mud. There wasn’t even a piece of cloth to keep the rain out for the flat ceiling. If it rained, it was unlikely you could take shelter inside. It wasn’t a house. It was barely better than the house Inard put together in the desert. However, I saw Elizabeth, who wore a surprised expression, there.
Befuddled, Elizabeth asked, “Son… Wait… Son… Why did you come from the Imperial Palace? Why? Shouldn’t you have come back from this direction?”
I nodded: “Yes. You’re right about that, but we may have missed each other. I never thought you’d be waiting for me here, either… Sorry, Mom, sorry. I made you wait long. How are you supposed to live here…? Come back to the Imperial Palace with me.”
Elizabeth didn’t reject me. Instead, she gently grabbed my hand and hopelessly smiled: “Maybe I’m not suited to being a mother. I did my best to construct a small house to wait for your return. I wanted to be the first to see you return, only for me to completely fail. I truly am not worthy of being a mom.”
“No, that’s not true, Mom. I am very touched that you were willing to wait for me here. You’re my Mom. Don’t say sort of stuff again.”
I firmly held Mommy Elizabeth’s hand. She nodded with a smile, and then affectionately stroked my face. Her gaze was filled with boundless gentleness and satisfaction. In a soft voice, she said, “Son, you look fine now. Mommy can finally feel reassured. Mommy can’t sleep whenever Mommy thinks about your condition as a consequence of protecting Mommy. Mommy was very worried something would happen to you. Mommy was very worried that you couldn’t be saved, but you’re now here and looking so healthy, so Mommy is very, very satisfied and happy. Mommy is so glad you’re here with Mommy, Son.”
Once she finished, Elizabeth put me into her gentle embrace. I gently hugged her back. I felt her warmth. I had lots I wanted to say to her, lots and lots, from my adventure to Inard. I just didn’t know where to start. At the very least, I only asked I could hug Elizabeth then. I just wanted to give her a good hug.
Elizabeth gave me gentle strokes as though she was frowning, because she felt sorry for me, since my skin had become scales: “It’s all right. It’s all right, Son. It hurts, doesn’t it? It must hurt, right?”
Mom apologetically touched my face and scales. I vigorously shook my head. I replied, “It’s fine. It doesn’t hurt whatsoever. Plus, thanks to these scales, blades won’t be able to hurt me henceforward. Not even magic can harm me.”
“I see. I’m glad, then. I’m glad, then.” Mommy Elizabeth revealed a bright smile and hugged me tightly in her embrace once again. She stroked my head with relief and consolation. In a shaky voice, she said, “I’m so glad; I’m so glad. Son, Mommy can’t always protect you from your side in the future, so you’ll have to protect yourself. You must be wary of those around you. Mommy is glad that you have people who love you around you and people who are willing to protect you. You’ll have lots and lots of people coming to you in the future. They’ll come to you with all sorts of requests. They all have all sorts of ambitions. Some may even try to usurp your rule. Lots of loyal soldiers will die, but you’ll also have people who work sincerely. Distinguishing between them is something everyone must go through. Those who can do a good job distinguishing them will become wise rulers.”
Elizabeth then cupped my face and went on in her soft voice, “Mommy knows you want to be a fair and just King, but Mommy must tell you that being fair and kind will always put you on the weak side. If you want to control fairness and kindness, you may have to go through countless adversities. Not even Mommy wants to let you continue down that path, but you’re my son…”
Elizabeth paused. She then hoarsely choked over my shoulder. She was unable to continue speaking due to her tears torturing her. I kept silent and just tightly hugged her. Elizabeth released her arms around me to wipe her tears. She then took in a deep breath so that she could continue speaking. She hugged me again and continued on my shoulder: “You’re my most cherished treasure. Mommy won’t stop you from walking the path you wish to walk, but Mommy should stay by your side to protect you. Unfortunately, Mommy can’t do that… Mommy can’t continue staying here. Mommy is very happy to confirm you’re okay. Mommy will think of you from Hilles City. You must take care of yourself for Mommy’s sake. If it’s still possible, come see Mommy more often.”
Elizabeth smiled helplessly. She then touched my cheek. Her hand was warm. She slowly ran her hand across my face with firm strokes. It was as though she was trying to remember every inch of my face, yet as though she was feeling despair and anguish, as she didn’t want to let go. She then sincerely, yet sadly, said, “It can’t be helped. It can’t be helped, Son. Mommy has to go back. Rosvenor Empire needs me; Hilles City needs me, too. Mommy wants to stay by your side, but Mommy can’t… It’s impossible… Mommy has to go back; else, there’s no way Rosvenor can operate.”
The smile Elizabeth looked at me with contained so much helplessness and sorrow. I went to speak, but my mind drew blanks. I was planning to inform her of the good news that I could live, and then live together with her. I suddenly realised, though, that she didn’t say she’d be living with me forever when she came up.
As the Empress of the Rosvenor , humanity needed Elizabeth; therefore, she couldn’t stay in the North forever. My body was now impervious to blades and magic, but I couldn’t get her to stay.
I should’ve known at the start. Elizabeth couldn’t stay by my side forever. She had to return; I didn’t want to let her go, though. I seriously didn’t. It was so hard for me to survive the ordeal, yet I had to bid my mom goodbye. She visited the North to see the birth of her grandchild, but what about next time? She couldn’t leave Hilles City citing, “I want to see my grandchild” next time. She had no reason to visit again. She’d never be able to visit again, as a matter of fact.
Henceforward, only I could go visit Elizabeth. Did I have the time for that? Would I be able to find time between work in the North, my wives and children to take Daisy to Hilles City for a vacation? I’d have time for a vacation, but I’d only have enough time to go to Troy City. I didn’t have enough time to go to Hilles City.
Once Elizabeth returned, the two of us would be separated by another layer of identities. I’d be the King of the North, while Elizabeth would be the Empress of humanity. Logically, we’d have to avoid meeting in private. If we were separated, not only would it be hard for us to meet, but our mother-son relationship would also go stale. That was why she’s so upset and despondent.
Elizabeth knew it was her fate, but she couldn’t fight it. I didn’t know if she gave up due to what happened in the past. Either way, she had accepted it despite it hurting her more than anything.
Elizabeth had never been as strong and great as her exterior suggested. Deep down, she was still a teenage girl who was crying tears of despair inside the forest. She was still the young girl in the cold, misty forest desiring somebody’s warmth. She eventually identified as the Empress and had a military under her command. Still, when she was alone back then, she was a young girl who hugged her knees and wept. She had always been that sort of woman. Always. She had always been a girl who needed someone to protect her.
I reached out to hug Elizabeth tightly in my embrace. She froze for a moment when I hugged her, and then she began to tremble intensely. The tears she had held in came out. Solemnly, I stated, “Mom, you don’t have to leave. You don’t have to leave me. I’ll protect you, Mom. I told you, I’ll destroy your cage. I’ll give you the freedom you want. You’re my mom, so you should be by my side. I’ll protect you. In the past it was my father. This time, please let me stay by your side forever. Please, let me stay by your side forever… Mommy Elizabeth… I… I really love you…”