The Road Home (Part 1)
Granted the privilege of transporting me, the White Deer King had her nose up in the sky again, especially toward Dragon Mom. Lucia was slightly upset. With a hopeless smile, I said, “Don’t worry about me, Lucia. Head on back first. I’ll be back after some recuperation.”
Lucia tugged on my cloak and cautiously asked, “But I don’t want to stay in a palace without you… Your Highness, can I bring the girls to Duargana? I want to see Mom and Dad, too.”
I looked over to Mommy Vyvyan as a means of asking. She rubbed Lucia’s small head and smiled: “That’d be nice. Duargana is also Lucia’s homeland, so it’s a nice idea to let her visit her parents. That will give the girls’ grandparents a chance see their granddaughters. It’d be too unfair on Echte, otherwise.”
As soon as Vyvyan said that, Elizabeth immediately said to Nier, “Okay, then, Nier, you return to Hilles City for now. Daisy should undergo her baptism, too, now.”
Nier hesitantly looked at me. I nodded: “That’ll be good. I’ll be worried about leaving you alone in the Imperial Palace. With Mommy Elizabeth with you, I’ll feel more assured. Oh, right, Ying, Xia, you two should return to the Imperial Palace first.”
Ying and Xia nodded. The two seemed eager to return. I speculated Xia wanted to return because she wanted to cook, though. Xia really enjoyed working as a chef.
Reassured, Nier nodded: “All right, Your Majesty. I will head back, and then bring Daisy over.”
Elizabeth nodded: “All right.”
Our group arrived outside the forest. Irina followed behind us and had her head down in silence the entire time. Camille silently gave her daughter a light hug around her shoulders. I occasionally looked back, but I soon stopped, as I didn’t dare to look her way. I couldn’t bear to continue looking at her. Irina had just gotten pregnant, which was something she should’ve been jovial about, yet she was so poignant that she was on the verge of crying. We knew we couldn’t be together. Still, reality was harsh.
I sighed and stopped turning around. Dragon Mom, who was walking beside me, touched my hand. Quietly, she said, “It’s all right, Son. That is enough. You don’t need to feel guilty anymore. Your life isn’t here. Mommy doesn’t want you to remain here forever, either. You should be at the Imperial Palace, not here.”
I let out a gentle sigh: “I understand that. But nevertheless, I feel as though I’ve let Irina down and the child when I look at her. The child will be born without a father. I can’t acknowledge him even in the future if he was to stand before me. From your perspectives, he’s the future of the dragon race but to me, he’s just a kid.”
Dragon Mom smiled: “… Some people are born with responsibilities. Son, you’re so kind as always. Don’t worry about things here, leave it to Mommy. The elves have Vyvyan, while humans have Elizabeth, so leave this place to me.”
“I’m entrusting it all to you, then, Mom.”
Dragon Mom revealed a consoled smile after hearing me called her “Mom”.
We could see the lawn outside. We turned around, but I was the only speaker, as the others didn’t have a good opinion of the dragons. After mincing the inside of my jaw, I said, “We’re off, then. A fair number of things have happened recently, so I guess we’re acquainted.”
Camille nodded: “Uhm, I must apologise for what transpired. The entire world has been turned on its head in less than a month. I am very sorry about the misfortune you suffered. I apologise for what I did and for what my dragon kin did.”
I shook my head: “It doesn’t matter now. It’s all in the past now. Plus, it’s not your fault. If Mommy Sylvanas isn’t angry, I don’t have any complaints.”
“Uhm, see you next time, then.”
Maybe we wouldn’t meet again, but we still said that phrase.
I shifted my gaze to Irina. It wasn’t so bad speaking to Camille, as I had put the past behind me… kind of. Irina, on the other hand, I just couldn’t ignore.
Irina’s shoulders trembled subtly, but I couldn’t leave the White Deer King to embrace her. All I could do was apologetically look at her. She didn’t want to raise her chin. I knew her face was smothered in tears.
Nier and Lucia were worried. I forced myself to take in a deep breath: “I’m leaving, then, Irina. Look after yourself and the child. Make sure to take care of yourself. You must make sure to be a good mother when the child is born. Raise him well. He is your son, after all.”
Irina responded with a small nod. Nonetheless, she refused to raise her head. We fell into an awkward silence. We didn’t converse. I just looked at her shaking shoulders, but didn’t speak. A short moment afterwards, Dragon Mom patted me on my thigh to indicate that I could leave. I tugged the reins in my hands then looked ahead, where Irina was nowhere in sight. I sighed and softly said, “See you again, then, Irina.”
I didn’t say farewell, but it was farewell for good. I wasn’t going to the Northwest again. Irina wouldn’t come to the Imperial Palace, and I wouldn’t acknowledge our child, either. He was never to be allowed in the palace even if he was a Prince. I guess that was sad in its own right.
After I turned around, Nier and Lucia felt relieved to see that I didn’t show any yearning or didn’t bring Irina along. They giggled as I moved around. Irina never spoke the entire way or chase after me. We trained our sight forward and headed toward the lawn. We went further and further away from the dragon’s lands. I didn’t turn back around, and Irina didn’t speak. It was as if we were strangers just as when I first arrived there. I didn’t bring anything. I take that back, I took a big batch of gold, but that was all.
Camille touched her daughter’s shoulder and quietly said, “They’ve left.”
Irina jolted. She then slowly raised her head. Her tears coursed down her face as if she was unleashing a storm onto the rotten leaves. She looked in the direction they left. She fused her fingers into steely clamps. The pain was so much to bear that she bit down on her bottom lip until it bled.
Camille pitifully caressed her daughter and softly acknowledged, “He’s gone.” As she trembled, Irina softly muttered, “I know, I know… He’s gone… He won’t… He won’t be coming back again…”