Her abundant black hair that reaches her knees shines with a faint hue of the red fire that burns from a candlestick on the wall. It’s been tied up at the back of her head with a crystal blue ornate hairpin, flowing down her shoulders and back like a black waterfall.
Her unchangeable human adult female figure dons a white silken unlined kimono with blue stripes and embroidered in silver and golden threads with images of sacred beasts such as a dragon, a turtle, and a phoenix. It is also generously adorned with gems.
People often refer to a woman’s beauty as a work of art, but there is no artist that can try to capture Ryoukichi’s beauty into a painting and end up breaking their brush in frustration for not having enough ability to do so.
「Everyone, please allow me to thank you for accepting my sudden invitation. My name is Ryoukichi, and I am the lady of this Dragon Palace. You must be tired after such a long trip. Please, take a seat.」
Following her invitation, we reach the round table where we are to sit.
As I sit on my chair, I look at Vaje and notice her looking rather upset at not knowing how to react to being in the presence of such a preeminent Ancient Dragon, and her tender attitude.
I wonder what Vaje and Liu Yu may think of me, whose attitude doesn’t change in front of Ryoukichi.
「I am Dran. I am extremely honored to be here in front of the renowned Ryoukichi. My countryman appearance might come off as rude, but I ask you to please bear with me.
And this is Vaje, one of the Crimson Dragons who lives in the Mores Mountains. I have taken the liberty of extending your invitation to her as well. I beg you please overlook this trespassing.」
「To see a Crimson Dragon… nay, even a brethren of the Fire Dragons taking a step into this palace is a rare sight indeed. There is no need to fret about it, you both are welcome here.
Liu Yu, take a seat too. I will prepare some tea.」
Just by taking a sip from the yellowish tea prepared by Ryoukichi herself, my whole body feels deeply refreshed, as if any toxins in my body were cleansed — not that there were any, to begin with. This is certainly a drink from ancient times.
「Dran, I’ve heard many things about you from Liu Yu. Of your many deeds and things that have happened to you. So is it true that only your soul is what remains of your dragon existence?」
「Hmm, that is correct. What I’ve told Liu Yu is that I am a dragon who has reincarnated into a human being. I now live a human life.」
Seeing my attitude towards Ryoukichi, Vaje gave me a look as if complaining, but I hope she can have a better opinion of me eventually. As the conversation with the smiling Ryoukichi went on, I could hear the ring of a bell produced by one of the court ladies who were standing outside the room.
「Oh, it seems that the preparations are over. We will have a small welcome party in a different room. Please go there. The court ladies will escort you. Liu Yu, please go ahead.」
「Please make yourself at home, Vaje. Do you have a moment, Dran?」
「Certainly. Vaje, can I ask you to go ahead without me?」
「Um, sure. I’ll go ahead.」
As soon as Liu Yu and Vaje are gone, I can see the lady of this palace get down from her chair, and with her knees and hands on the floor, she bows her head.
No one living in this palace could ever imagine, let alone witness, the Water Dragon Empress herself getting on all fours and bowing her head like this.
「Please forgive my many trespassings, O most venerable dragon lord.」
「Hmm. Have you realized my true lineage to such detail? Don’t worry about such things as trespassings, please raise your head. You are the legitimate lady of this palace, and I am nothing but a dragon who has reincarnated into a humble farm boy.」
I said this with a wry smile as I took Ryoukichi’s hand and helped her back up and back to her chair.
Ryoukichi’s calm demeanor disappears, and she becomes as tense as how Vaje was not too long ago.
「When did you realize I was, well, “me”? I haven’t told Liu Yu about my previous existence’s name, all I did was change my form in front of her.」
「I hadn’t noticed until I had you right before my eyes. I thought you to be one of those people I’ve heard so much from Liu Yu, I thought it was but a childish story… But seeing the radiance of your soul, I can clearly remember the days your power surged so vividly, and it made me realize.
About you, who reigns supreme over all of us dragons.」
「I see. But I am a human now. I may have assumed dragon form in front of Vaje and Liu Yu, but I have no intention of returning to my life as an Ancient Dragon God. Thank you for your consideration.」
「I shall not do anything against your intentions.」
「But please don’t act like I’m your superior like you just have, at least not in front of those two or the rest of them, even. Just call me Dran, okay?」
Ryoukichi’s voice comes out as a mumble, completely perplexed.
「Ah, I see… If that is what you wish, then I shall do so.」
「Thank you. I shall now go meet those two and talk with them for a while. By the way, Ryoukichi… is Liu Yu your daughter?」
「… So you’ve noticed, huh?」
「The skin around her eyes and her demeanor resemble yours. It is said that she was born from within the lineage and into servitude, but if the outside world were to learn that she shares blood with the Empress herself, it could only spell needless quarreling. You’re trying to prevent that, right?」
Ryoukichi smiled worriedly, probably thinking that trying to hide that from me would have been pointless either way. It was such a charming smile that even though I have little interest in matters of the human body like love affairs or lusts of the flesh, it had me completely captivated.
「That is correct. Please don’t laugh at this foolish woman’s shallow wit. Liu Yu is my and my late husband’s only daughter. I have trained her in general handiwork as well as martial arts, but I may have been very indulgent with her while trying to be both a mother and a father to her. Even if she is my daughter, she needs to abide by the law when going to the outside world. If people from the outside world learned that she is my daughter, she might even get special treatment. She has grown knowing nothing about evil intentions. So she could also be at risk of being abused or taken advantage of. I have warned her against certain situations to that end.」
「Hmm, what a motherly spirit.」
「Yes. Lord Dran, if possible, would you be able to show my Liu Yu how the outside world is?
Normally, I wouldn’t ask for such an extraordinary audience with someone of your status, let alone without following the proper etiquette. But please, if you find it in your heart, could you sympathize with this mother’s heart?」
As I get up from my chair, I once again take Ryoukichi’s hand so as to stop her from getting on her knees again and look at her eyes, which look like black agates.
「If that’s okay with you, I will gladly take care of her. But I’m not too familiar with this world myself. It’s been a little over sixteen years since I’ve been reborn as a human, but I have hardly wandered outside my hometown. But still, if it’s okay with you…」
「Thank you very much. If she’s under your protection, she can go to the outside world without having to worry about a thing.」
As she said that, Ryoukichi’s face brightened up with a beautiful smile. After finishing our talk about how Ryoukichi would entrust me with her daughter, Ryoukichi and I left the room and go into the corridor so we could go to the separate room where Liu Yu and Vaje were waiting.
「Nowadays, I have little chance to talk with other dragon kings, and there are fewer partners I can talk with about the old days. I’ve become quite lonely.」
「Hmm, it was already like that back when I was a dragon. There might be even fewer now…
There may be young dragons like Vaje, Liu Yu, and the dragonians… Has the power of the ancient dragons really declined that much? It does feel lonely…Liu Yu looks like a pure-breed dragon, what about her father?」
「Yes, my late husband was part of a species of Ancient Dragon, a Bluewave Dragon. He lost his life in battle with a highly-ranked sea demon, leaving Liu Yu’s egg inside me. 」
「I see, I’m sorry to hear that. But I think now I understand why she has grown so emotionally attached to me. She must think of me as a brother or a father. No wonder she was surprised that I have this childish form.」
「She sees you as a fatherly figure? I suppose you could say that. There are only mermaids and court ladies around us here. Even when there are men here, they’re either military officials or civil officers who merely take the role of a retainer, whereas with you, Lord Dran, Liu Yu seems to feel fresh around you.」
She had lost her father before birth, and having no other father figure around, she seems to have taken to me. I see! If I continue to behave like this as much as possible, Liu Yu will be delighted!
As I reach the end of the corridor together with Ryoukichi, the court ladies who came to greet us are lined up against the walls to each side of a great door. The door, made with shavings of the World Tree that takes its roots at the bottom of the ocean, opens itself, inviting us inside.
The room at the other side seems to be intended for close guests, as it is not too big, and the round table at the center that seems to be suitable for four or five people is surrounded by luxurious furniture. Liu Yu and Vaje are already sitting there.
Vaje lets out a sigh of relief as she sees my face, and Liu Yu’s mouth became less stiff when she noticed that both her mother and I had entered the room.
「Well then, I have indeed kept you waiting. Vaje, Dran, I have prepared some exquisite delicacies from the sea. These are hardly seen outside this Dragon Palace. Please enjoy them to your heart’s content.」
After that, the meal carries on with a conversation between Ryoukichi and me as its center, and soon after, we share a cup of tea. Then after dinner is over, a carriage arrives to lead us out of the palace.
It would have been nice to be able to stay at the palace for a night or two, but since it is such a comfortable-looking place, I might have ended up staying for far longer than intended, so Vaje and I head for the harbor with the Great Turtle that brought us here earlier. Ryoukichi and Liu Yu came to see us off and handed us a small box filled to the brim with treasures of gold and silver as a souvenir.
Thanks for the chapter
Thanks for the chapter.
What I’ve told Liu Yu is that I am a dragon who has reincarnated into a human being.<-when?