Chapter 365.2

“I’ll go, Mother.”

“Be careful, Your Majesty.”

Nicholas gazed at his mother, her color fading, and offered a reassuring smile.

“You need not worry about me. I’ve been discreet, ensuring that news of my absence from the kingdom doesn’t leak.”

Nicholas marveled at the miracle of being able to venture far from his mother without concern. Grateful for this newfound freedom, he vowed to repay those who made it possible.

In my youth, I failed to grasp my mother’s constant admonitions. She doubted my ability to care for myself when I was already grown.

Liza reflected wistfully on the past. Raised by a single, uneducated, and impoverished mother, she once felt ashamed of her origins, believing they were not fitting for Anika. She admitted to her own immaturity and selfishness.

However, in her middle age, as she revisited memories, Liza recognized the wisdom and strength of her mother despite lacking formal education.

“I’ve never shared this before,” she confessed. “The reason I journeyed to the Holy City and returned was because of my mother. It was her desire, believing that it was a parent’s responsibility to nurture their children properly. She told me, ‘You were the joy of my life, and you should do the same for your son.’ I made mistakes with my mother, but I couldn’t go against her wishes.”

Liza gently took Nicholas’s hand and admitted, “I didn’t return to the kingdom on good terms, and I haven’t been the loving mother you deserved.”

Haunted by guilt and a strained relationship with her own mother, Liza resisted the repeated invitations from Sang-je’s knights to return. Her reluctance wasn’t a sign of indifference toward her son but rather a self-imposed punishment she felt by staying in the kingdom.

In the world’s eyes, she stood out among Anikas for her genuine care for her children. The walls around her heart began to crumble when she sensed Nicholas’s sincere efforts, witnessing his desperate attempts to be with her during her moments of frailty.

“King, forgive me if I’ve wounded your heart. I’ve made many mistakes, but the greatest thing I ever did was bring you into this world.”

“Mother, please don’t say that. I’ve never harbored resentment towards you.”

Surrounded by onlookers, emotions swelled as they witnessed the heartfelt embrace between mother and son.

“As you journey to the Kingdom of Hashi, or perhaps it’s just my old age talking, consider passing through the Kingdom of Delano,” Liza suggested.

Nicholas pondered his route, curious about her recommendation. “Is there a specific reason for that?”

“Because… in my advancing years, I’ve come to realize that much of what I believed as a child wasn’t entirely true. I wouldn’t have gained this insight if I hadn’t spent so long in the kingdom.” Liza chose her words carefully, wary of speaking directly, fearing potential repercussions for critiquing God’s representative.
“Rest assured, Mother, I’ll heed your advice, and I’ll return safe and sound.”

“I have no doubt you’ll handle it splendidly, and once you’re married, there’s nothing more I could wish for.”

Nicholas forced a bitter smile. His mother’s persistent reminders about marriage seemed to have intensified since his journey to the Holy City. It appeared that the well-meaning advice would persist even upon his return.

* * *

Eugene patiently waited in the study after Kasser departed, indicating that he would meet with the Fire King first. About an hour later, a servant knocked on the door, signaling Eugene to enter the parlor connecting to the king’s office. The two men seated on the couch rose as she stepped in, their expressions revealing a peculiar atmosphere. The victor bore a resemblance to Kasser, while the defeated one mirrored Riner’s features.

“After a prolonged absence, greetings, Your Majesty,” Eugene offered.

“It’s an honor to see you again, Anika Jin,” the man responded, his tone carrying a sense of sorrow or regret. “Congratulations on the impending motherhood.”

However, his expression contradicted his words. Eugene found it hard to believe that Riner was openly expressing his sorrow. It suggested his discouragement regarding her pregnancy and, more notably, a lack of concern for her marital status with the king.

It seemed as though he never had a chance. After all, it was said that Anika can only bear one child for the king in her lifetime.

While not entirely accurate, it held truth that an Anika could only give birth to one royal child with a Praz. The exact origin of the tradition limiting the number of kings to six remained uncertain, but it had never been exceeded.

Something on the table caught Eugene’s attention, and she focused on the barrel of oil, expressing her gratitude to Riner.

“I truly appreciate the effort you took to bring your own barrel of oil all this way,” she acknowledged.

“Well, a promise is a promise, and there are numerous things I’d like to discuss with you,” Riner mused, appearing thoughtful. “Are you planning to enlighten me about your ability to tame Hwansus?”

Eugene swallowed nervously. Had Riner not suspected the significance of the oil canister he had transported to the kingdom, knowing that Sang-je was actively seeking it?

The Fire King’s intense fixation on larks bordered on paranoia. Eugene pondered how he might react if he discovered Sang-je’s true identity.



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