A Mother’s Heart
Even if they’re meant to be travelling incognito, the King and Queen of the country couldn’t just be left unattended, so there were a platoon of Royal Army soldiers residing in town disguised as ordinary citizens for the duration of Edward and Alicia’s visit.
Their role is to protect the lives of the royal family, as well as to flexibly respond to whatever situation arose. For example, a situation where a group of kidnappers from a neighbouring state needed to be kept in custody.
“Then by your leave, Your Majesty, we shall escort the six Imperials who attempted to kidnap the Kingdom’s people to the Office of National Defense in the Capital.”
“Indeed. They are Imperials, remember, so be on your guard.”
“Yes, Your Majesty!”
The deputy captain of the troops that accompanied the monarchs salutes Edward and boards a carriage borrowed from the city’s guards.
Aside from the deputy captain and the driver, the large escort carriage contained five soldiers as well as the Imperial kidnappers, including Rudolph.
After seeing off the dragon-drawn carriage, Edward turned to look at the two girls beside him. Lumiliana had a bitter expression on her face, whilst Philia’s looked downcast.
“…Truly, I’m utterly disgusted with my own lack of ability. To think that my brother would act this quickly…”
Of course, she means that in a bad way. Just like in any business, even if one isn’t directly responsible, it’s easy to feel embarrassment for the trouble caused by the people above you.
“Your Majesty King Edward, Your Highness Queen Alicia. For all the trouble I’ve caused you, I cannot apologize enough…!”
With a trembling voice, Philia lowered her head, Lumiliana following suit.
A state’s monarch at this time was said to rule by divine right, ordained by the Goddess, so it’s unthinkable for the younger sister of the Emperor to bow and scrape like this. Even if it’s to the King of a neighbouring state.
“Raise your head, Princess Philia. At this time, although an unfortunate incident has occurred, those children remain happy and healthy. If anything, this underhanded scheming by the Empire may work to our advantage. Is that not the case, ‘comrade’…?”
At Edward’s words, Philia raised her head silently. Despite there being so many people nearby, most of them aren’t aware of the true intentions behind the words that the King just said so casually.
“I’m still worried about my sister’s daughters. It’s not just about being injured, today would have been really hard on them… But I don’t know if I’ll even get the opportunity to apologize to them.”
Those young girls were attacked by six large men. Since they were so closely connected to the royal family, Philia can’t consider herself blameless.
But, as much as Philia would like to meet with the two and apologize to them, she’s hesitant because that family probably doesn’t want to see her face at all.
“That’s why… The only thing I can do is to try and keep my sisters out of the Empire’s reach. So that they never have to suffer another tragedy at my family’s hands.”
She may never be able to meet the older sister she loves so much ever again. But, if she can in some way help her from a distance, that would be enough for her.
The reason she had come here was to lend weight to just how serious the threat from the Emperor was, but she will never set foot in this frontier town again.
“I suppose I owe you an apology as well?”
“What do you mean, Your Highness?”
“Well, Lumiliana, weren’t you hoping to meet with my sister if things went well?”
Lumiliana was flustered at the sudden shift in the conversation.
“N-no! Compared to my desire to serve the Your Highness, it’s nothing…!”
She tried to deny it, but it had been on her mind. As someone who gained that title of hers at such a young age, she couldn’t pretend that as a fellow warrior she wasn’t deeply interested in the swordswoman who brought down a dragon king.
“M-More importantly, Your Highness! It is still two weeks until we can rely on the hospitality of Count Aigner and Earl Vaude, if we seek to stay in the Kingdom until then, we’ll have to arrange a place to stay.”
Count Aigner is a lord in the southern part of the Empire and the Earl of Vaude holds his fief in the northernmost part of the Kingdom, they are both collaborators with Philia.
Although originally there used to be many skirmishes along this border, they ceased when Count Aigner was absorbed into Philia’s faction, so now the two provinces served as a route for her to move between the two nations easily despite the tensions.
“Hmm… If that’s the case, why not stay at my castle? Earl Vaude is scheduled to visit a week from now, coincidentally.”
“…Thank you for your gracious hospitality, Your Majesty.”
Being so kind to a member of the Imperial family that seemed to be intent on causing problems for his Kingdom… Philia bowed deeply before that magnanimous King.
After crushing Rudolph, Shirley carried Kyle who had eventually fainted on her back and took him back with her alongside Sophie and Tio.
She had wanted to bring him to his own home, but Shirley didn’t know where he lived and she didn’t want to bring him back to her own place because she needed to have an important talk there very soon.
In the end, she decided to bring him to the guild and inform the people present about the kidnapping at the same time, although she can’t help but feel she’s selling him short.
After swearing to properly thank him someday, they had returned home and Shirley began to tell her daughters everything.
“This is the story about how you both came to be.”
As the fiancée of the future Emperor, why did she escape into the wilderness even though she was pregnant? To explain all of that, Shirley had to first tell them about her own circumstances.
White hair and different coloured eyes, features despised by the Imperial aristocracy. Born into a high ranking noble family with them, Shirley was treated as worse than filth.
The prince who had once saved her from a life of torment then slept with her younger sister and had Shirley condemned and tortured.
After escaping from jail, Sophie and Tio were born in an abandoned hut in the woods, then afterwards she made her way across the border into the Kingdom.
Answering their questions along the way, Shirley told the two of them everything they wanted to know without any lies or sugar-coating.
“So, what that man said was true then? That we’re daughters of the Emperor.”
“And those people who were so cruel to mama… They’re our relatives?”
It must be hard to take in all at once. Not just a horrid father, but even the rest of their family had abused her so awfully, from their grandparents to their aunt. They knew that their mother had struggled to bring them up on her own, but they didn’t even know anything about what she had truly suffered through.
Today was the first time she’s ever had to see her daughters so upset, but Shirley didn’t think of hiding anything about her history from them now.
She had thought about maybe skipping some of the rougher details. But, in the end, she wanted to be as sincere as possible as a mother, so she left nothing out.
“What is it?”
“…Hasn’t it been painful?”
Tio asked her that question with a trembling voice. She didn’t quite understand what her daughter meant.
“We never thought that we shared blood with such cruel people… But even then, mama still raised us, and――――”
“It wasn’t painful at all.”
Understanding what she was going to say, Shirley stopped Sophie before she could. Tio was probably thinking the same thing, as the two of them silently looked at her.
There is a thing known as inheritance of the blood. Sometimes it takes the form of honour, sometimes it takes the form of malice, but it’s like a curse that has no basis in magic, guiding people as if by instinct despite their own personal values.
Did you really want to raise daughters that share the blood of a man you so desperately wanted to kill…? Shirley, who hadn’t said it when telling the story before, finally told them her true feelings from ten years ago.
“Sophie, Tio… Back then, if I had taken on that entire country alone, I would have died.”
In the end, that was the path the foolish girl who had once so blindly believed in true love was supposed to have followed. Even if she was in the right, her enemy was the heir to an entire country. It was obvious that if she had taken her revenge, she wouldn’t have survived the retaliation that followed.
“Even though I knew that I had accepted it, so when I found out I was pregnant I saw it as a nuisance.”
A pregnancy interrupting her murderous vendetta… Since they were the children of Albert who she hated so much, she thought of those two children in her belly in the same way, devoting herself to training without caring what happened to the lives growing inside of her.
“But it was strange, with each passing day I began to think more and more about the two of you. What kind of hair you might have? What will the colour of your eyes be? Thoughts that had nothing to do with vengeance at all.”
Thinking back, it must have been her maternal instincts exceeding even her bitter hatred of the man they had inherited blood from. A mother’s love is truly unconditional, if it wasn’t, then why had she chosen to put herself at risk by giving birth instead of simply ending the pregnancy herself?
“Until you two were born, I didn’t care about my own life at all. So long as I got my revenge, what happened to me after that didn’t matter. But, once I held you both in my arms, I was afraid for the first time.”
“Yes… I was afraid that my own selfish acts would rob you of your future. It was a more frightening feeling than anything I had ever felt in my life.”
She still remembers the warmth she felt when she held the two of them tight for the first time… And the despair she felt when she thought about what would happen to them if she continued down her path.
When she realized that, she left the Empire with the two of them and became an adventurer after being taken in by Canary.
“I was desperate at first. I brought you up just following my instincts, never thinking about anything or anyone else at all. One day, when wondering why I was even alive in the first place, I even thought about leaving the two of you in Martha’s care and finding my own place to die.”
However, before that dark end, she realized something at last.
“But, you girls were there. Through the good times and the bad, seeing you two grow up every day became my reason to live.”
If she could see the two of them live happily, then maybe life was worth living after all. It was such a harsh story, about Shirley who had begun to consider if it might not be better for the two of them if she disappeared, then little by little, the desire to see them blossom into adults told her to ‘live on’.
It’s a little frustrating to admit, but recalling this story reminded her of what Canary had spoken about. Just raising them shouldn’t be her only goal, she should strive to find meaning in her own life so that she can always be there for them. It was for that reason that Shirley ‘wanted to live’.
“Even though there were some hard days, it was the happiest ten years of my life. So despite everything, I’m truly happy being your mother… What about the two of you? Do you still want to stay with me?”
“With mum… Of course, I’m still happy living with you…!”
“Yes… Me too, I want to be with mama…!”
Facing their mother who had just poured her heart out with such a gentle voice and a calm smile, the twins finally felt all the pent-up anxiety they had listening to the story burst into tears of relief.
The year which was stained by her grudge and the ten years they had spent together afterwards, at last, the whole family truly understood each other’s feelings.
“Then that’s enough for me.”
Shirley spread out her arms and drew Sophie and Tio into an embrace. Just for tonight, she won’t play the part of the dignified mother, she’ll lay bare her true feelings.
Usually, she’d feel a bit shameful acting like this, but right now she’s the happiest person in the world. Shirley held her crying daughters tightly to her.
“You don’t know it yet, but you two saved me as well.”
The problem hasn’t disappeared, the Empire likely won’t give up. But, if its the wish of her daughters to continue spending their lives together as a happy family, then as a mother it’s her duty to make it happen.
She didn’t say so at the time because the girls were already anxious enough, but the Demonic White Sword, who had just demonstrated her frightening resolve to protect her children, now pointed her blade at the very head of the Empire itself.
No Playboy today since
I’m too lazy I didn’t have time, sorry.