Lucia was right.
‘If human crops can’t grow, we just need to plant elven crops. If we must grow elven crops, then that means elves will be needed to manage the crops. They are the only ones who can exchange it for humanity’s food for a similar price. In this way, we can empower the farmers to earn the money they require…’
‘But what crops do the elves have…? To be honest, I’ve never seen elven plants… The only one I remember is elven berries which were like raisins and apples. There were also the odd hard-tangerines the merchants sold last time.’
‘Oh, there was also that sour berry I was given to help me sober up from the wine. But humans have seeds for that berry too except that they use it to add a sour flavour. It feels like a substitute for lemons. Whatever the case, I don’t think that this sort of crop alone is enough. I want to grow tobacco and cotton.’
It’d be best if we could grow tobacco, cocoa, and coffee beans. Not that we have to have those crops, but definitely those types of crops.
‘Tea won’t do. Humanity is growing tea leaves already, while the elven tea probably won’t suit humans. Not to mention that I’m still not willing to consider it tea. I prefer to call it tree-leaves water.’
‘As someone from the East, I will not allow that crude tree leaf stuff to be called tea!’
Vyvyan gently placed her hand on my head. She held a tool made from goose-feathers in her slender fingers which she used to gently pick my ears. She smiled and said, “Planting…? Truthfully, Mommy isn’t too knowledgeable on the topic.”
“The type that you can sell and is a necessity… I think I’ll target drinks or tobacco… Cotton could work, too.”
I was lying with my head rested on Mom’s thigh. I was staring at the flower embroidery on Mom’s clothing near her lower abdomen, in a daze.
Elves are a level above when it comes to weaving. Vyvyan’s clothing has always been a little more extravagant than Elizabeth’s. Of course, perhaps it was because the human empress didn’t care about her clothing, and therefore always dressed plainly.
“Cotton? Elves have always extracted a white flower that grows on a tree to make clothes. That type of tree needs to be grown for a very long time before it produces. If you want to sell these, you might have to wait for a very long time. If you want something else, we elves do produce satin.”
“The material used for your pyjamas.”
‘Ah, so they call it satin and not silk here.’
Vyvyan continued fiddling with my ear as she continued with her explanation, “However, that isn’t extracted from plants, but an insect… If you want to raise them, you need more than a field. You need a multi-functional textile distribution place.”
“Is there anything else, then…?”
I still wasn’t discouraged. I have faith that the elves have a trade-able crop that I can grow. Even if they don’t, I trust that there are many other choices, even if it’s not a crop that would be a golden product. If nothing else, we can go with berries that are worth money, too.
“Hmm…” Mom looked around with her eyes.
She smiled and replied, “There are dyes, then. If it must be something to do with clothing, then the thing we elves are most proud of is our dye. Dyes from both humanity and elves are extracted from plants. However, our elven dyes aren’t colours, but could be better described as a type of mana. The mana in it will disappear in water, due to the difference in mana concentration. But since humanity’s side doesn’t have mana, the colour of clothing which was dyed using mana will never fade. Most importantly, this type of mana is more eye-catching than normal dyes, since a dead form of beauty can’t compare to one that is alive.”
“That will work!”
‘Dyes will work! No wonder I felt that the colours of Vyvyan’s clothes were brighter than Elizabeth’s. Turns out it was because the dye for her clothes wasn’t a dye, but mana. Vyvyan was right. If humans can maintain the colour longer due to a lack of mana here, then that means rich ladies will definitely fight for this dye.’
Vyvyan stroked my head and I calmed down.
Mom stuck the goose-feather inside my ear and picked it as she elaborated, “Of course, if you want to do that then you can’t rely on just humans alone to purify this dye. Elves must be the ones to purify it to be able to bring out the mana. As such, if you want to do that, you must sell your raw materials over to us.”
‘That’s not such a good idea, is it?’ I’ve never learnt high-level economics, but I am aware of this. ‘By that, I mean that we can’t make enough money to cover the cost if we rely on selling raw materials. We can only make money by processing materials and producing them. Only third-world countries, countries that are just getting off the ground and lack finances would sell raw materials.’
I’d probably only be earning spare change selling these dyes. I would still have to ask Vyvyan to help us out as my mother. If planting in this field earned people money that they could purchase food with, and yet not reach a surplus, then this city won’t ever be able to develop.
“Mom… the farmers won’t make money if we did that… Can’t you ask elves to come here? If elves were here too, we could successfully plant the crop and process it here before selling it off.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible, Son.”
Mom shook her head with a helpless smile and explained, “Elves are not a race that likes to migrate, Son. You should have noticed it by now, too. Elves only like to stay within their own forest, not to mention their opposition towards interacting with other races, due to the importance they place on bloodlines. Only by doing so can they ensure the purity of bloodlines. Mommy cannot use Mommy’s own power to force the elves and humans to cohabitate, because Mommy knows that it is something elves definitely cannot accept.”
“Is there really no way…? I mean, Her Majesty and my father gave birth to me, didn’t they?”
“I gave birth to you!” Vyvyan harshly cut me off, and I zipped my mouth.
Vyvyan wasn’t willing to accept this reality, no matter what. Vyvyan calmed herself down and then continued, “There are very few elves who like humans. It was only Onii-sama who was strongly curious. If Onii-sama were still alive, then perhaps, humans and elves would be a little closer.”
“However, as it stands at present, the corpses of the soldiers from the war ten years ago have yet to turn cold, and their vengeance is still left unfulfilled. The elves who can do business with humans are already showing the utmost level of tolerance.”
“Asking elves to come here is definitely impossible. Furthermore, elves killed their fair share of humans, too. Do you think humans could treat elves kindly? Son, humans have never treated us equally.”
“Look, they’re trafficking us elves. They kidnapped us elves. We are just goods to them. That is why elves won’t forgive humans. Elves and humans are only maintaining the most basic form of peace because of your existence.”
Vyvyan sighed and then stroked my head in a tender way. She continued in a soft voice, “Son, if humans can’t treat elves with dignity, elves will never get along with humans. Son, you are also an elf. You must remember this. Do not test the ugliness and darkness of humans with the dignity of elves. If possible, do not let elves and humans be together. If the two races meet, violence could occur.”
I silently looked at the embroidery on Mom’s clothes.
Mom didn’t say any more. She just gently stroked my head while humming a soothing melody. She waited for me to fall asleep on her thigh like I was a child.
My feelings were all tangled up. The biggest communication obstacle between the two races is the resentment elves hold for humans, and the contempt humans have for elves. The bloody war from ten years ago further triggers their violent sentiments for each other.
Honestly, as opposed to saying that the two races have a long history of hatred, it might be more accurate to say that I’m the biggest obstacle between them, preventing them from communicating with one another.
I almost managed to make the two races go all out in a life-and-death fight a decade ago, but I was now very sad. I’m an elf and a human. The resentment between the two races was more like a knot in my heart. I had no means of helping either side or attacking either side. The one in agony from the fighting of the two races was I alone.
A moment later, I grabbed Mom’s hand and said, “Mom… I want… I want for elves and humans to get along harmoniously.”
Mom’s hand froze up. She revealed a bitter smile and said in a soft voice, “Son… what you just said… what you said, just now, was the exact same thing as your father, my brother…”
*His reference to the East about tea is basically Southeast Asia, or China in his case where tea is a big thing. Hence, tea ceremonies.
**That was my best attempt at separating silk, from silk. In Chinese, you have multiple ways for referring to them, but in English, not so. I know there are some subtle differences, but we will just have to make do unless you have a better suggestion