If you’re reading The Careful Empress (용의주도 황비), you know that our main character, Mir, is a reincarnated dragon. (There may be some debate the idea that it’s reincarnation, but either way it’s a dragon in a human body and she starts a new life).
Dragons play a unique roles in this story as we find out that Mir is not only a dragon, but was formerly the last of her kind. The Empress tells us so by calling Mir the last dragon several times, often with a modifier (“last white dragon”), as well as with the opening conversation between Mir and the Knight that slays her. We additionally see a brief flash of another dragon being killed that does not look like Mir. Following that, we see a memorial monument to Mir’s former self that the Knight clearly visits with some frequency.
All this to say that dragons are an important part of the ongoing story. Of course, even without the hinting we could have guessed that dragons are going to be important since the author could have chosen anyone or anything to reincarnate while writing (a god, another person, etc.).
Why then, is there only one?
There isn’t though, at least that’s my theory.
First, let’s discuss what distinguishes Mir as a dragon. There are two things that seem to distinguish her as a dragon right of the bat post-reincarnation. The first is her linguistic choices, whereby she constantly distinguishes herself by calling others “humans” or when making commentary about her “human” body. Examples:
The second, it seems, is her eyes:
Anytime we see her with distinguishing features, her eyes stand out as the irises appear to be snake-like slits rather than round.
Now, with the particular art style of the creator(s), all the characters have pretty solidly colored eyes with only a handful featuring irises (most of which appear white). Example:
Mir’s friend and servant:
Mir’s sword instructor:
And so on with many side characters featuring similar designs:
Except for one other. Who? The Emperor, Azar:
Just like Mir, we see his eyes several times and each time that his iris is present, we see how sharp they are, just like Mir’s own, examples:
I can’t help but believe that this is because Azar is also a dragon in a human body. It would explain fairly well some of the other issues we see with Azar’s character too, such as his obsession with Mir (potentially the only other dragon trapped in a human form if Azar is one too) and his distinct lack of concern for humans.
We even see him speaking in a similar way to Mir by saying that “All humans die in the end…”
Additionally, the two tend to speak in possessives. Granted most people do, as in ‘this is mine’ or that is ‘yours’, but Mir and Azar are different as their possessive nature seems to be confused with affection or love.
For example, Mir is very possessive of the Knight and her father, though she doesn not call them mother or father or seem to “love” them in the same way one might expect a daughter to do. Does she care for them? Of course. She even says she loves them. However, she calls her mother “Knight” and continuously refers to her by the title well into adulthood even though we know and she knows that her mother’s name is Yurian.
She is angered when her parents are taken away/killed, but we don’t see the same familial anger we see in other series with similar openings of familicide. It’s pretty par for the course here to see anger, but she lacks any emotional damage or hurt from the incident. What I mean is, days after her family’s death or perhaps even less than that, we see Mir happily playing with the assassins assigned to her. She’s giggling loud enough to be heard down the hall, and her mood is only ruined by the Emperor’s reappearance. It is highly suspect that a person would be ready to play so shortly after the death of their family before there eyes, particularly in a fictional series of this genre if there wasn’t some reason behind it. This difference also stands out to me as Mir doesn’t have any nightmares, another thing usually expected in a series like this. So, to me, it stands to reason that she’s more so seeing her family as a possession that was taken away, one she treasured and hopes to avenge, but did not love or feel about the same way a human might.
To give a comparison, we can look to Lady Yulian, Mir’s mother, who shows a great range of emotion before her death. You can see fear in Lady Yulian as she begs for forgiveness and time. You can see an internal conflict between her duty/a promise to the Emperor and her love/protective nature over her daughter.
The Emperor too is possessive, even claiming Mir to be one of his possessions, which makes Mir upset. Dragons, it seems, are the possessors not the possessions.
Which brings us back to the obsession, a factor I believe helps prove my theory. Azar is really cold towards humans, yet is working to win the favor of Mir. I want to revise myself and write that rather than a distinct lack of care for humans, as I stated before, he seems more so annoyed by them. That is supported by members of the cast saying he kills people for acts as little as coughing at the dinner table or disagreeing with him. Aided too by his threatening stance toward Kayan during Mir’s birthday banquet. Azar does not like humans, though he puts up with some like the Empress. But the further one reads into the series, his main concern in the care for the Empress or the granny he employs to learn about child care are all in an effort to better his favor with Mir and achieve his goal of some prophecy.
While we still don’t know what the prophecy is, it is a safe bet that it has something to do with dragons and it is very likely that Azar, like Mir, is one of them.
If we look at name meanings, this too could play into Azar and Mir’s relationship and potentially connect to their status as dragons (if my theory here on Azar is correct):
“Azar Name Meaning Iranian: from a personal name based on Persian azer ‘fire’, also denoting the ninth month of Persian solar year. Ethnic name for an Azeri. The Azeri people (so named from Persian azer ‘fire’, because they were originally fire worshipers) are Shiite Muslims who mostly live in Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea to the north of Iran. (ancestry.com)”
“Mir Name Meaning. Muslim (common in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India): from a title of Persian origin, a short form of Arabic Amir ‘prince’, ‘commander’. Polish: from a short form of any of various Old Polish personal names containing the element mir ‘peace’, ‘quiet’, ‘esteem’, for example Miroslaw or Jaromir. (ancestry.com)”