Soldiers’ Assembly Grounds
We were packed and ready to head out at sunset. The horse carriage Her Majesty organised for us was already waiting downstairs. I wanted to bring Angelina along, but she didn’t intend to follow us. I straightened up and gently rubbed Leah’s head. I had just fixed up Leah’s tie. Veirya looped her arm around mine while she was at it. Leah then copied Veirya and looped her arm around my other arm. I looked at the two with a helpless smile: “I’ve lost only one foot; I can still move. You don’t need to act as though some formidable enemy came, do you…? Is it even a good idea to see Queen Sisi looking, like this?”
“Didn’t we do the same thing last time? Papa, if you don’t like this, tell Mama Veirya to let go first, then! It’s fine for a daughter to have her arm around her papa’s, isn’t it?! Sophia also said the same thing. Mama Veirya and Papa don’t have a relationship, either. Therefore, if Leah likes, Leah can get in between!”
“What did that woman teach you?!”
I couldn’t let Leah meet Sophia again. It was my fault for being stupid, too. If I let Leah hang around with a group of mature succubi in that field of work, they’d influence her sooner or later!! Who knows what else Leah would learn from them!! Geez, Leah already knew Veirya and I weren’t in a relationship, and Sophia told Leah she could get in between us!
Veirya, bewildered, asked me, “Get in between us? Is she. Trying to say something? Isn’t. Leah. Always in our hearts?”
“Hng, hng! By the sounds of it, Mama Veirya still doesn’t understand, huh?!!” Leah looked at me with a smug expression then grabbed her fingers and smugly counted, “Mm, one, two, three, four, five, in five more years, Leah will have grown up. Once Leah has grown up, Leah can legitimately be together with Papa, right? What’s it called again? Love! That’s the word! Leah understands it! Love! Leah loves Papa!”
“Love…” Veirya muttered the word before I could say anything. She looked at me in silence for a moment.
Feeling awkward, I wanted to comment, but Anna led the officer downstairs to us. The officer politely smiled: “Hello, Mr. Lin, Lord Veirya. It is almost time for you to meet Her Majesty. I hope you are ready to leave. Please do not make things hard for us.”
“Her Majesty specified a time now?” I asked.
He smiled in response: “Of course. You are now Her Majesty’s favourite person in the imperial capital. She has been looking forward to meeting you. She even specifically prepared makeup and clothing. You are now Her Majesty’s favourite vassal, a fact everyone in the imperial palace knows.”
I felt an odd sense of nobility and somewhat proud. After all, I hadn’t done anything, yet the proud Queen paid so much attention to me. There’s no man out there who wouldn’t feel proud about such an accomplishment, would there? Despite the feeling, my rationality told me Queen Sisi’s fondness for me wasn’t good news. I’d dare say she liked the chapel and military a lot in the past, as well…
“Uhm…” responded Veirya.
What surprised me was that Veirya randomly pursed her lips; she looked as though she wasn’t too happy. Is Veirya jealous, I wondered. No way; no way. Veirya wasn’t a woman who’d get jealous. She shouldn’t have had enough variety of emotions to feel jealous. I assumed she was nervous, as Queen Sisi did mention wanting to recruit me. I couldn’t read Queen Sisi’s mind. I couldn’t recall doing anything noteworthy. Why was Queen Sisi so fixated on me, I questioned.
If the entire imperial capital was aware of my existence and presence, I would say that this group came faster than bees that smelt honey. I was probably going to have to deal with a horde of people who wanted to gain something from me as Her Majesty’s favourite vassal at the banquet. I wouldn’t give them squat, though. I was returning to the North soon, after all.
I didn’t plan to enjoy Queen Sisi’s favour and gifts. If I stayed with her, she’d probably quickly grow sick of me. Perhaps she was the type who grew more and more interested in that which she couldn’t get her hands on.
We got into the carriage. Leah swiftly took the seat next to me then smugly looked at Veirya, who sat opposite me. In spite of sitting opposite to me, Veirya didn’t look at me. She didn’t bring a weapon for the trip; only Anna brought a weapon, because she was in charge of our safety. If Veirya brought a weapon, Queen Sisi would have misgivings about her.
When we set out I noticed there was something different about the streets. The usual bustling crowd at the hour wasn’t there. The majority of the population on the street were soldiers and carriages travelling back and forth. The soldiers had sealed off the nearby streets, presumably for Her Majesty’s safety.
Our carriage didn’t stop once. It swiftly turned and went along the road lit up by the setting sun toward the legendary plaza. Veirya peered outside. She grabbed a light hold of Leah’s hand then looked back outside. Suddenly, she said, “This place. Was where I set out from.”
Unable to keep up, I asked, “What?”
Anna nostalgically nodded: “Yeah, we set out from here at the beginning. Back then, we never imagined Her Majesty would wage an all-out war against the demons. This was the soldiers’ gathering zone, where Her Majesty inspected the teams. She then personally came every single time soldiers were about to set out for a job far away.”
Veirya sincerely responded, “I can still remember. When it was time for war. Her Majesty stood in front of everyone. I truly feel. She. Is a very brave Queen. Her Majesty was very fond of baths back then. She had several baths. Every day. However. There was that one time. Her Majesty wore armour I wore before. Stood before everyone and said. That as long as the castle stood. She would not remove the armour.”
With a soft laughed, Anna added, “Yeah. While Her Majesty was young at the time, she was able to lead the entire army thanks to that courage of hers. However, the war has ended now. The plaza is now used as grounds for banquets. That might be a good thing, though.”
Veirya didn’t deny it; instead, she gently nodded. The two of them had put the past behind them.
Veirya looked to me, but I didn’t react. I just gazed at the setting sun outside and spaced out in silence. I didn’t even pay attention to their conversation, for the reason that I suddenly realised why Queen Sisi chose the plaza for the banquet.
The plaza’s purpose never changed. It had always been and still was prepared for a military gathering at any moment… Actually, it was prepared for a brutal war.
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