The people downstairs at the tavern were asleep, but the atmosphere outside was notably tense unlike last night – courtesy of the mutiny last night. The soldiers patrolling the streets with flags were tense, and the anxiety was apparent. I was quite worried when I saw the long sabres at their waists, to be honest, for I had yet to put my finger on their goal.
“Did something happen in the city?” I hesitated to ask but asked anyway.
Attired in armour, Shishiang explained, “Something very serious happened. We had an irreconcilable clash at the last conference. We now have solid evidence that some lords have gathered rioters, aiming to storm the palace and force her Majesty to alter her decision for they want to fight a war. Her Majesty is also very worried that it will happen, so we need to speak to you.”
“Yeah? So, you plan to fight this internal war, as well?”
“If we have to, then we will do so. Even if we united to fight, we would not win. We cannot risk our entire nation in this situation. That is why we hope to have your help. They have six lords, while we only have three. Our forces also took a blow in the last battle.”
“Understood. I shall accept on behalf of Queen Sisi, then. Before that, however, we need to discuss our ceasefire. If we cannot stop the war, we will not provide reinforcements.”
“I came to see you about that. You can discuss your terms and conditions with Her Majesty; however, in my personal opinion, I would like to implore you to not make outrageous demands. We may be weak, but we do have the courage to object. I believe that all of our people are willing to bleed dry if that is necessary.”
Even though I nodded, it didn’t intimidate me as I knew rage without power was meaningless. They would bleed for nothing. One man’s personal plea wouldn’t soften me up. With that said, my goal was never to occupy their place. The time wasn’t ripe for that. Occupying their place during their time of hardship wasn’t the best choice. They wouldn’t submit if we did so. In fact, if they then tried to go and do something behind us, we’d have even tougher puzzles to solve. Sisi wanted to control them, not to occupy their land. Asking Sisi to control a population completely unlike her own was practically asking for the impossible.
All Sisi needed to do was control the nation, make money and obtain resources from them. Then, she had to provide them with the freedom and security they wanted so that they wouldn’t defy her. Controlling people through business was always less troublesome than via conquering with force. Sisi didn’t need more land; she needed more resources.
Security around the palace was much tighter and, therefore, safer. All that there was in the big and vacant room we were led to was a small platform at the end of the room. All I could see on the other side of the curtain adorned with flowers and birds was a pair of army boots. I judged her to be eager for a fight, as well. Alas, she knew we weren’t pushovers after her defeat, therefore wanting to maintain peace.
While Shishiang genuflected, I stood there and looked gazed toward the curtain. No, I never had any intention of saluting her. I didn’t even know if she could see me. The three of us, therefore, maintained an awkward silence despite the urgency of the situation.
Shishiang sent me an eye signal, but I didn’t notice it.
“I’m here as Queen Sisi’s representatives. I couldn’t care less how you treated your Queen,” I firmly believed.
Queen Sisi is the Queen back home. Neither of them was above the other. If I saluted their Queen, I was basically implying that Sisi bowed to her. We won. Why does a victor bow? I’d follow necessary formalities and practice etiquette, but Queen behind a curtain wants me to talk to her on my knees? I hope she wasn’t sleeping behind there. I was magnanimous enough to not leave.
“It seems that our guest is not informed of our formalities here.” The boy, who I had an issue with, calmly emerged from behind the curtain with a disdainful smile. “Sir, you should speak to our Queen on our knees, not on your feet. She is God’s representative. Ordinary beings are not qualified to look at her on equal standing.”
“Oh, I see. I’m also here to represent to Queen Sisi. Her Majesty could not visit due to health reasons. Still, I am her representative. Her Majesty is also an incarnation of God. Do gods bow to gods now? I came here for peace talks and to plan the next steps, not to offer my servitude. I won’t have a good impression of a monarch who hinds behind a curtain. If we are going to have a discussion, we need to speak face to face, or I can leave right now.”
“Insolence!” The boy aggressively drew his sabre at his waist.
Leah, who was at my rear, instantly transformed into her adult form, several tentacles prepared behind me to retaliate in a heartbeat. Her sudden transformation shocked the boy, almost leading to him swinging down due to a weak arm. Shishiang also stood up and drew his blade, while I remained unflinching.
We all stood in silence until the curtain was brushed open. Sitting cross-legged on her throne, chin between two fingers and corner of her lips slightly curved up, she locked her obsidian eyes with mine. I didn’t avert my line of sight from her. Her vassals were white as a sheet, especially Shishiang, who swiftly turned his head away.
“All right, then. In that case, I shall also see you. Should we begin business now, then?”
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