The evening party was held in her majesty’s favourite palace, and this time, the attendees were those invited by her. It was on a much grander scale than last time. In the distance, the palace was glimmering with golden lights, while the fires brightened up the palace as if it were daytime. Horse carriages were gathered at the door of the palace. It looks like she not only invited major retainers, but also influential figures of this society.
I entered directly via the back door. We needed to make some preparations in the preparation room before the opening dance. Nier didn’t dress differently. She wore her military uniform and equipped her long sword as per usual. She had to wait outside in a bit. When I entered the preparation room, her majesty was already there. But, she gave me a big surprise this time.
Mom didn’t wear her usual military uniform. She wore an extravagant long skirt instead. Her white dress was stunning like a wedding dress. The jewellery hanging above swayed with each movement she made. Her usual black hair she didn’t care for yet dazzled everyone was done up into a bun, and set in place with a hairpin. It was the first time she wore make-up. Her beauty was enough to take people’s breath away to begin with, but now, she could sweep them off their feet too. The empress looked at me shyly, smiled and said: “Son, how do I look?”
Don’t blame me for not saying much. You’ll be left speechless when you’re stunned like me as well.
The empress pursed her lips into a smile, then walked over and held my hand. Her gauze gloves gently teased every inch of my hands. She smiled and said: “I’m really not used to dressing like this. The jewellery and ornaments are heavy. Military clothing is much more comfortable. But, it’s your victory party tonight, so I naturally need to pretty up for the occasion. Nier, what do you think?”
“Very beautiful, your majesty. However, I think that military clothing suits you better.”
“Hahaha, absolutely, I agree. I’ve only worn this sort of clothing twice. Once was on my wedding, and then now. I may have to wear it a third time if my son gets married.”
The empress reminisced over the long skirt she had on, then looked at me and asked with a smile: “Son, do you have a dance partner for tonight’s ball? I can’t dance the opening dance with you today.”
I was stupefied… What?! What?! What?! Aren’t I supposed to dance the opening dance with the empress, and then disappear to one side and enjoy the food?! Why? Why do I need a dance partner?!
“Ah… It looks like you don’t quite understand how balls work, but that’s only normal…” The empress smiled and continued: “I’ll dance the opening dance with you again then. Since you don’t have a girl you like, dancing with me is your best option. But, son, who’s going to help you with your cape?”
“I’ll have Nier help me.”
I remember being told that whoever helps with our cape is considered a favoured retainer. I don’t have any intent of patronising Nier, but I feel like our relationship has eased up a fair bit lately. The number of insults Nier throws my way has drastically decreased. She’s quieter now, but that’s better than her “please kill yourself” request she made at every opportunity.
Our relationship has become less tense since killing that group of thugs.
I asked Nier to help me. It’s more accurate to say that it’s proof of our friendship, than to say that I dote on her. Further, I don’t care if people happen to think that I dote on her. Nier is a Valkyrie and the empress’s bodyguard. There’s nothing wrong with me doting on the empress’s bodyguard as her son. Moreover, the empress would never believe I had plans to revolt.
“As you command.”
Nier nodded and calmly undid her sword hanging on her belt. She didn’t look like she hated it or was happy. It was just another job to her I suppose. Castell looked at me with delight and then said: “Your majesty, everything is ready. You should prepare to take the stage with his majesty.”
The empress nodded and put her veil on. She then reached her arm out and wrapped it around my arm. She’s my mom, but when I smelt the elegant fragrance on her, my heart rate sped up. I cursed my unexperienced self, and then got dragged into the dance hall like a puppet by the empress.
Ear-destroying claps were heard as I entered. On both sides were countless nobles, influential figures and girls dressed extravagantly. The empress had her veil on as she waved to the people. I don’t think many people have seen her majesty dressed like this. They looked at the empress with disbelief, which finally explained to me why she didn’t want to dance the opening dance with me. And that’s because she’ll forever be the centre of attention for as long as she’s with me, particularly because this party was held for me.
But it doesn’t matter. I’m fine as long as mom is by my side. I’m not used to being in the spotlight anyway. I enjoy the life behind the scenes better. Nier stood behind me and held my cape up in silence. Although her military uniform didn’t really fit with what we were wearing, the empress likes military clothing, so I should respect that as her son.
And thus, the ball commenced. After her majesty finished speaking, I held mom’s hand as we danced. I clumsily tried to dance in beat with her. I never thought her footwork was so good. I didn’t know that a mom who was good at killing and conquering was also good at dancing and ended up happily dancing whatever last time. Since mom dressed differently this time, she naturally put on her best performance.
Mom smiled at me to spoil me as she adjusted her footwork to match my clumsy steps. She didn’t get mad or complain. She just looked at me lovingly, held my hand tightly and moved in circles with me slowly.
The ball officially kicked off after our opening dance. This time however, I wasn’t as fortunate. Not only were there lots of people this time, but I was also the main star of the night. People approached me with flattering smiles even while I was eating to introduce themself in order to get me to pay attention to them. Sorry, but I can’t…
I don’t want to be involved with politics. I want to ensure there’s a power-balance in the future, not get involved with your matters. I’ve only got a month here. Who knows what sort of shit you people could pull in that month. I’m fine as long as I get to eat and play. I won’t show up if there’s no major matter. That said, I’m the one that saved the people of Castor this time. I was the one that signed the agreement. I felt great when I signed it. I felt a sense of pleasure in being able to determine another’s fate.
I looked the smiles of the people in front of me and felt a bit happy. It was the first time in my life I’d been flattered. It feels pretty good. I won’t listen to them, but who wouldn’t be happy to receive praise.
I smiled as I turned around. I saw the mother of the king of Castor walk up to me and raise her glass of wine. I picked mine up and raised mine with a smile as I looked at her. You don’t have to thank me. Honest. I just made a tiny contribution. Nothing much.
“You are the hero of the empire.”
I smiled as I rubbed my head and said: “No, no.”
“Do you feel like you’ve attained glory now?”
“A little, since I saved Castor after all.”
She chuckled coldly, then placed her glass down, looked and me and in a low tone said: “What a joke. How did you save us? Is your idea of saving us making us sign that humiliating agreement? Do you think you are a judge? Did we have any other choice but to agree to your terms?! You are the hero of empire. Your so-called save has put a burden onto the shoulders of all of Castor’s people. The power you wield really is infinite and cannot be opposed. Not only have you brought pain onto my people, you are enjoying their pain as you stand atop them! You call it negotiation, but in reality, it is just oppression!”
Her veins were showing since she was enraged. She can’t touch me here, let alone slap me. She can’t even splash a glass of wine in my face. She paused and then angrily stomped off after flapping her sleeve. I was left there in a daze as if I was in a dream, and at the same, like somebody poured a bucket of cold water on me.
I was happy. I was happy.
I was happy that I forced another country to sign an unfair agreement.
The reason I was happy wasn’t because I saved Castor’s people from a war, but because it was the first time I forced someone to sign an agreement where the terms imparted on them were unfair. Looking at their expressions made me excited… It… It was the first time I wasn’t nervous or scared about signing an agreement. I was like a kid who got his first wand and was excited to turn to transform everything around him.
I was using my power… I wasn’t like this! I would’ve been happy, but not because I signed the agreement. I’d already forgotten my reason for collecting those coins while I stood in the large hall…