Standing behind Luna, I placed my hand on her shoulder and apologised quietly, “Sorry, Luna.”
Luna bent over and closed her brother’s eyes. She watched the Shadow Squad throw the corpses into the ditch to prepare to burn them with a tinge of sadness. She then responded, “It is alright, Your Highness. My brother deserved it. It is not your fault.”
“I’m really sorry… Luna. He was your last family member…”
“No. I no longer considered them family when they pointed their weapons at you, Your Highness.” Luna turned around. She stroked my cheek with her hand and smiled helplessly. She continued, “Your Highness, you are my only one from now. So you must take responsibility… If you abandon me, I… I will cry…”
I smiled helplessly and replied, “Don’t cry then. Luna, let me discuss it with mom. You should stay here in the elven imperial capital. We will give you a decent house and a proper job. You don’t have to return to humanity…”
She quickly looked up and in a somewhat angry voice exclaimed, “Did you not promise you would not abandon me?! Why are trying to get rid of me already?! I want to stay by your side! I want to be your personal servant!”
“But… I think that you’ll be happier with your fellows…”
“That is what you think is happiness! I do not think that it is happiness!” Luna looked at me and loudly rebuffed, “I do not want to stay here unless you are staying too, Your Highness. I have nothing left but you, Your Highness. I just want to stay by your side, Your Highness! That is the only way I can be happy! If you want me to be happy, then please keep me by your side!”
I looked at her resolute gaze and sighed. I stroked her head and then said, “It’s going to get tough in the future, you know? You have to look after two people, which will soon be three people, four people.”
“That is not a problem. I do not feel that it is harsh or a chore to stay by your side, so please keep me by your side!”
“Alright… Thank you, Luna…”
I gave Luna a gentle hug.
Luna shifted around in my arms, snuggling into my chest.
We heard a cough from behind, so we turned around to see Freya looking at us with a frown.
She said, “We are just about to head out now, and yet you are not ready, Your Highness, onii-sama? Her Highness… Her Highness… has already prepared new horses.”
I don’t know why Freya was frightened when she mentioned mom and stuttered. I don’t know what exactly happened when they spoke in private. But… She didn’t dare to call me “His Majesty, onii-sama”, and gave mom all the respect she had. What exactly happened between the two of them…?
I nodded and replied, “Freya, let’s stick with the same thing as before. You take Luna. And then we’ll rush to that castle as fast as we can.”
“Wait a moment, onii-sama. Perhaps I have not yet told you about the characteristics of the castle. Preparation will yield faster results. If we go there blindly, not only may we fail to save Miss Nier, we may even end up losing our lives. Of course, if you intend to raise your hands in surrender and give them the evidence, then never mind me.”
Freya looked at me and in a tone that sounded like disappointment continued, “Regardless of what your decision is, I shall not object, even if it is handing over the evidence. I am just an adviser, the final decision lies with you. So, please make your choice. Exchanging the evidence for Miss Nier’s safety is the safest plan. If you choose to refuse to negotiate and forcefully launch an attack on the castle, then we need to come up with a strategy…”
I looked at her and without any hesitation replied, “I want to attack the castle. I won’t let Nier’s safety be in another’s grasp. I want Nier’s safety to be guaranteed in my grasp! I want to personally rescue Nier, not exchange her safety! They harmed my Nier, and they think they can get away Scot-free?”
“Very well then. Let me describe the church’s castle to you then.” Freya didn’t show any changes. She didn’t sound or look happy or disappointed.
She picked up a small wooden stick and drew a circle on the ground. She then drew a small house at the centre, and said, “This is the church’s castle. It was built with the goal of being able to defend for a good length of time if it were to be attacked one day. So they selected a great location. It is built on an island in the middle of the lake. They usually rely on transporting goods and people back-and-forth via boats. If their visitor held ill-will toward them, they would retract their pontoon, thereby leaving people with no means of attacking their castle, even if they were close by in the vicinity.”
After she had ended her explanation, she looked at me and said, “If you wish to attack the castle, you will only have the most limited options. One of those options is to set up cannons by the shore and fire at the castle, blowing it up to bring it down. Of course, I definitely do not suggest this strategy because the castle is very sturdy, plus if you hurt Miss Nier, then it would be getting your priorities the wrong way around. If we want to sneak into the castle, we must fulfil two conditions: one; have a boat and two; not be discovered.”
I looked at Freya’s small drawing and deliberated it.
Freya went on, “I have only been there once, as the church’s slave. Mm, it was not a pretty memory, so I will not talk about it. I only know this much. As for the details of our operation, that will depend on the circumstances. So, onii-sama, will you choose to attack the castle or infiltrate it?”
“I don’t think it’ll be easy to infiltrate. With such a large body of water, how can we not be discovered? Further, even if we do manage to reach the castle, we don’t know how to open the doors to the castle…”
“So I guess we are attacking the castle then. Since the church intended to defend the castle, I assume that they will have units located in the vicinity. I am not sure if it is formal force or not, but if we get attacked by mercenaries, it will be a bloody battle, nonetheless. Do you think it is a good idea to fight a war like this on your own home ground? Further, even if we hold evidence against them, that will not get the people to submit to us. The people are interested in their benefits and profits. They do not care about trafficking elves, privately trafficking salt or revolts.”
Freya tossed a few things which looked like oranges to me and said, “This is what we found on the tax official’s corpse. It looks like they really did use fruits to bring them in. And there happens to be a cross on these pieces of gold, which goes to prove that all of this was the work of the church.”
“So, we have effective evidence against the church with which we could threaten them, but we can’t use it without prudence?”
“Mm… Methods that are too extreme are no good. We need to chip away at an organisation with such deep roots. It would be rash for us to go and get into a direct fight with them… However, onii-sama, we do not have much time left.”
Freya stood up and continued, “If you wish to save Miss Nier, we will make it if we are quick. It is just as I said. We should play by ear as the circumstances we encounter dictate. Let us be on our way, onii-sama.”
“Uhm, you’re right.” I stood up and continued, “No matter what their reasons are, the fact is that they laid their hands on Nier. I want to destroy the church no matter what it takes, even if that means I have to kill a group of citizens. I will never forgive them. Never.”
“That’s fantastic then, onii-sama.”
Freya chuckled softly, and with a bewitching look said, “Our goals are completely aligned this time, huh?”
*Remember how Troy is addressed as “majesty” by humanity, and “highness” by elves? Remember how Vyvyan warned Castell against addressing him as “majesty”? Well, the same thing happened with Freya. Originally, she was calling him “Your majesty, onii-sama”, but after talking to Vyvyan, it’s obvious Vyvyan warned her to address him as “Your highness, onii-sama”. But I’ve used “onii-sama” up until now, never expecting to have to deal with this situation, and there’s no equivalent alternative for “onii-sama”. So, included the extra prefix in this chapter for the first time the subject was brought up, and dropped it for the remainder. But going forward, I’m just going to stick to “Onii-sama”, because it’s a pain to write “your majesty, onii-sama”, and I personally think it sounds weird in English. If you disagree, please tell me so, and I will include the prefix of “your majesty” or “your highness”.