Ceasefire and Negotiation
“Ah, ah, Lord? Is that how you pronounce it? Sorry, but I have only just started learning your language and learnt very little,” said the man with a small comb over – small because he was mostly bold.
I didn’t share their sense of aesthetics. I didn’t think his hairstyle looked good. I didn’t expect a powerbroker of his status to be so polite. He gave me the impression that he was somebody who looked beyond the present, not some narrow-minded young man.
I nodded. I chose to sit cross-legged for some of the eyes on me weren’t too friendly, but I just couldn’t get my body in their sitting position. I guess my joints denied me that much mobility. When I met Sisi, I was forced into a helpless situation but not on the new continent; I wasn’t their prisoner, so they weren’t going to get me to play by their books.
“That is all I can say. We will now need a translator. This is my trusted friend who is also fluent in your language.”
An even younger individual came over to us on his knees and bowed.
I regarded the interpretation then expressed, “I am honoured and grateful to meet you, Sir Shisiang. I am not here as an enemy but an envoy to pass Queen Sisi’s wish for peace.”
The translator translated what I said, though I didn’t know if he translated correctly or not. Translation is important. It tends to be easier to bribe a translator than an opposition. As the source of information, the opposition has no way of verifying its authenticity, which meant that faithfulness in translation was the deciding factor.
After listening to the translation, Sir Shishiang laughed: “Peace? Is that how it’s pronounced? So, you came here for peace talks? How does your nation plan to cease the war?’
“Sorry, Sir Shisiang. Although you have an imposing appearance and are venerated, I do not think you are capable of ending this war.”
Negotiations are relative. I couldn’t negotiate with an ordinary general; it’d be pointless. I approached them as Queen Sisi’s representative to call a ceasefire. Therefore, I needed to speak with somebody who had the authority do stop it. That person would be their ruler, not a fief lord or general.
Sir Shishiang politely smiled as he picked up his sharp chopsticks and split open the fish in front. “It seems that you do not understand how things work here too well. See, we are different to your empire. We are not ruled by a powerful or nepotic imperial family. It is the vassal states that act as the imperial family’s guardians. Our monarch can only order us if we vassal states agree. In other words, if you wish for a ceasefire, then I think you need to talk to us.”
I didn’t doubt him. Even though I was uninformed of their modus operandi, I was surprised to hear that the imperial family held no authority and merely acted as a symbol. “In that case, Sir Shishiang, can I safely assume that you are saying I must negotiate with all of the vassal states to have peace talks?”
“In principle, you are correct.” Condescendingly, Sir Shishiang added, “In reality, though, you only need to negotiate with me as the others will support with my decision.”
As I was aware that young people had the propensity to be conceited, I needed to see what he was up to. He implied that he was the most powerful vassal state, hinting that I only had to provide him with benefits he could accept in private and we’d have peace. I didn’t mind who I discussed it with. Most importantly, I couldn’t give too much. At the end of the day, the land was Sisi’s, not mine.
People might never have realised. Or rather, the people laughing downstairs with women smothered in makeup were oblivious to the meeting that concerned the fate of the continent and their future was taking place.
“Before we begin negotiations, I need to make one point clear. Our explorers did come here, but they did not come here on orders from Queen Sisi. They merely came to explore new lands. We can write of your executions as them offending you. Therefore, we will not pursue the matter. Having said that, you instigating this war, which makes it your transgression. Pardon my bluntness, but you must bear all of the responsibility resulting from this war.”
That was my bottom line. I needed to make it pristine clear before we proceeded. Although taking responsibility for a war appeared to be a just reason, in reality, it was an imperative stance. If we didn’t bear the responsibility, we wouldn’t need to pay money or offer land. Meanwhile, they had to bear with all of their losses in addition to positioning themselves as the loser, thereby putting us on higher grounds.”
Shishiang furrowed his brows: “I cannot determine the authenticity of your claim there. They came to our place, destroyed our sacred temple, killed our monks, swindled land and operated illegally. They crossed the line. We cannot tolerate that behaviour. We do not know if your esteemed nation deliberately did it to create an excuse for war, so I do not agree that we have to shoulder the consequences of the war. You invaded our lands first to begin with.”
“I cannot accept it, either. Just as how you feel, Queen Sisi’s rule on the South has not been prominent. You, yourself, proved it to yourselves. The businessmen in the South even wanted to surrender to you. As such, Queen Sisi cannot stop what they try to do. I repeat: they acted on their own volition; it was not our nation’s will. Our military has never invaded your lands ever since this conflict began. Your military, on the other hand, acted on your will to invade our lands but were defeated. As you can clearly see, you asked for it.”
It was my bottom line, and it determined who had the initiative in the upcoming negotiation, so there was no way I’d give it away or alter my demand. Shishiang understood the tactic. Both of us refused to back down a single step, resulting in a deadlock.
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