Heads of State Summit
For Shirley, needs must where the devil drives, so she came to ask the devil herself.
“Using transition magic to return to the Empire? What’s more, you wish to speak to the Emperor himself? So it has come to this, that Shirley wishes to challenge them directly? Ohh, what should I do~?”
Two weeks after everything had happened, Canary had returned to the frontier town from the Kingdom’s capital and now stood before her with a smile so smug that Shirley wanted to hit her, thinking to herself at the same time ‘I wish I never had to rely on this woman’.
She wants to believe in her daughters’ idea. It’s not clear if it will change anything at all, but right now she wants to let them know that her daughters wished to stay here.
What those girls want as people… Or, what they want as people of the Kingdom. Even if the Empire doesn’t change course at all, maybe doing this would earn their plight support in the Kingdom.
In addition, if you add that political support to Canary’s mighty financial influence, it’s possible that they might be able to keep living here without being interfered with.
But, it isn’t the be all end all. In the worst case scenario, she can simply remove the threat through force.
She wanted to rely on Canary at first though since it’s the best opportunity for keeping their peaceful every day lives intact. She was already planning her next move, expecting Canary to reject her, but the answer she received surprised her.
“Well, so be it, I shall grant your wish.”
“……….What do you mean? Are you feeling alright?”
“What exactly do you think of me?”
Having Canary so readily accept her request, Shirley felt an ominous feeling in her gut. The only thing she could think of is that Canary had eaten something strange.
“Well, in truth, there is profit to be made for me as well.”
“Huhu, well, the truth is…”
Canary began to tell the story.
Two days after Rudolph and his men were arrested the Imperial notables, including Philia, started to devise a rapid diplomatic response since their own soldiers were caught committing a crime in a neighbouring state, but Albert did something wholly unnecessary.
He sent a direct communique using a magical tool. Usually, you would expect an incident like this to be followed by apologies and assurances of appropriate punishments after the guilty are repatriated, indeed Edward was wondering what kind of excuses Albert would have when he opened the letter sent to him directly, but the contents were absolutely unbelievable.
It has become evident that Canary, a representative of the Adventurers Guild, absconded to the Kingdom with the two Imperial princesses. In addition to doing harm to those loyal subjects of the Empire who only acted lawfully to escort the princesses home, it is absolutely an outrageous breach of mutual trust that the Kingdom still seeks to hold the princesses at its mercy. We hereby demand the immediate return of the two princesses, Rudolph and all of his accompanying knights.
Canary confirmed it using tracing magic that Albert had indeed been the one who sent the ultimatum, seemingly so sure in his version of the events.
Edward, far from frightened or enraged, could only feel completely bemused by the contents of the letter, considering he was expecting at least an attempt at making an excuse.
Really, he should have sent a letter like this demanding the princesses back before deciding to send men over the border.
However, even putting aside the kidnapping, Albert has completely disregarded all diplomatic proprieties by sending this message, including the obligations of going through the proper diplomatic channels and sending an officially sanctioned diplomat to treat on his behalf.
Without even a hint of apology, he suggests that the criminals who were caught red-handed were innocent and even has the gall to make demands on top of that.
“To pick a fight with the Kingdom… You’re even more childish than I remember.”
It seems that sitting on the Imperial throne has done nothing to help that. Since the first continental conference that they both had attended as rulers, Edward had cultivated an image in his head of Albert as a man who cannot escape his childish delusions of omnipotence.
“So be it, but I will not send soldiers to die in some petty and ridiculous war.”
The Black Lion King responded immediately. Pushing the timetable forward immediately, he communicated to the Imperial family through Philia that he was ready to discuss extradition and in just ten days had organized a summit between the leaders of the two nations.
“…Quite tardy, no?”
“Indeed… We’re supposed to be starting soon.”
There are no vassal or puppet states on the continent. Therefore any discussions held between two heads of state is explicitly meant to be between equals, hence the custom that discussions like these take place in a temporary meeting room built on the border.
The designated place where the talks were to be held was covered by a large tent similar in shape to the ones used by nomadic tribes and whilst Edward and his entourage of diplomats and officers had already arrived some time ago, the cardinal asked to oversee the meeting was still waiting on the Imperial party before he could open proceedings.
Despite a tacit agreement to arrive at least fifteen minutes before the beginning of the meeting, Albert only arrived a few seconds before the scheduled time.
“For what reason do you request an Emperor come to a place like this? You mentioned handing over the princesses, but can’t you just have your men hand them over to mine?”
And that’s the first thing he said. Excepting Edward and Canary, the delegates from the Kingdom raised their eyebrows in pure shock at the audacity, whilst some of the Imperials including Philia could only look at their feet, their faces bright red with shame.
Edward couldn’t help but feel pity for the long suffering ministers standing ashamed in the back and the Imperial citizens suffering under tyrannical taxes back in their country, having an Emperor that lacks any common sense as a public figure.
(No… In a way… I suppose I do have to feel pity for an Emperor who has become such an unwitting puppet.)
After hearing what he had done from Philia, Edward looked pitifully at Albert, knowing full well just what had caused the Emperor to act so irrationally.
“…I’m pleased to see you well, Albert-dono. Although I would like nothing more than to catch up considering how long it has been, there are more pressing matters. Let us move on to the main point straight away.”
“I agree. Well then, where are my daughters, Sophilea and Tionissia?”
Albert turned his head left and right, looking around the room for them.
“…The names of these girls that you claim to be princesses, do you not recall that their names are Sophie and Tio?”
“That is the name that their birth mother gave them. An Imperial princess should have names befitting their regal bearing. If anything, they should thank me for improving on those old names.”
If the person who had named them was in the room herself, she would have lost herself to rage then and there. Edward, however, wanted to move the conversation along and replied without even raising an eyebrow.
“Indeed, I understand your position. However, responding to that demand is not the obligation of the Kingdom, therefore those girls in question are not present. Instead, your servant and his six knights are here instead.”
“What is the meaning of this!? Do you mean to tell me that the Kingdom does not intend to return the Imperial princesses!?”
“I only claimed that we would discuss the matter of extradition.”
Even if there is a connection by blood, legally speaking Shirley and her daughters are citizens of the Kingdom. Edward intends to stand staunchly by this fact, whilst Albert is having none of it.
“I am this country’s ruler. How will the subjects view a king who sells his citizens to another country?”
“Since when has the Kingdom been a country of such base kidnappers, refusing to return the princesses knowing full well they were abducted by that witch!”
She kept her mouth shut, but Philia cursed him in her heart. Even if the person himself honestly believes what he’s saying and only wishes to retrieve his daughters, this level of impudence on the international stage is too shameful to bear.
“I fully understand that the Empire faces a crisis of succession due to the condition of the current Empress. However, the Imperial family cut all ties with Shirley when the children were in her womb and until now you have not made a single move to recognize them as your own? If mother and daughter are such persona-non-grata in the eyes of the Empire, then I see no reason why they should be returned as such. This is in accordance with international law as ordained by the Theocracy, who oversee all such matters. Likewise, if the Empire does not intend to pass judgement on the men who committed crimes in our nation, then we have no obligation to return them. Do you not agree that this is just?”
The Goddess is not just worshipped in the Kingdom but by the vast majority of people across the continent, including Albert who can’t help but be daunted when the name of the Theocracy that oversees all international mediation is invoked.
And although he doesn’t want to admit it, despite still believing in his heart that he made the right decision in breaking his engagement with that woman, it was a mistake to have completely cut her off from the Imperial family just like Edward had said.
No matter how much he demands their return, if the Kingdom holds steadfast in their decision to protect Sophie and Tio as citizens of their nation, there’s not much good his claims can do.
(But… In other words, they’re just viewed as common citizens. I may have failed this time, but I will certainly take them without fail next time, even if it means threatening war…!)
No matter what he says, as a king, Edward cannot put his desire to protect two people over the lives of millions.
Ignoring his own faults entirely, Albert recalled the weakness of the man across from the table from him, the one thing he hated the most.
The Black Lion King opposite him, despite having a mighty army, detested war. Albert couldn’t understand such a notion at all, even though it was borne of political common sense.
Food, money and lives. War consumes all. Whilst Albert merely sees gold and soldiers as pawns for him to do with as he pleases, Edward favours victories through diplomacy over the force of arms.
So, comparing the policies of the two leaders in the room, pressuring the king by suggesting an armed conflict may tip his hand. The Emperor who can only operate on such crude wisdom smiled menacingly at the Black Lion.
“Truly, if we become stuck on such a difference of opinion, it may be hard to avoid a conflict.”
But, as if anticipating exactly what Albert was going to say, Edward stole the words right out of his mouth.
“However, if possible I would like to seek an alternative to such a costly and pointless war… Well then, what shall we do?”
“At the risk of seeming impertinent, I would like to make a suggestion.”
It was Philia who raised her hand. Still shocked at being read so easily by Edward, Albert looked dubiously at his sister before giving her permission to speak.
“I understand the laws of the Kingdom. However, it is my dearest wish to see His Imperial Majesty united with the two girls who share his noble blood and to see them return to the Empire, to be recognized as heirs to the throne. Therefore, although it is an antiquated format, I propose a Duel Ordained by the Goddess.”
The duel is used as a proxy battle between nation states, overseen by a cardinal from the Theocracy.
In ancient times, two countries wishing to settle their differences without resorting to full-scale war would each select a champion to compete in a martial bout, with the victor’s country receiving whatever it was they sought to gain in a potential war, be it land, treaties or people.
However, in modern times it has been seen as an anachronism, due to the many problems in leaving the future complex international relations and treaties up to the gamble of a swordfight.
(Will that be enough, Your Majesty? Canary-sama as well.)
This was the scheme that the three of them had orchestrated. If things had continued going the way they were, the Emperor would inevitably declare a foolhardy war between their two nations, leading to untold bloodshed on both sides.
So, if the Kingdom emerges successful in this duel, then they can appeal to the Theocracy to intervene on their behalf and prevent an invasion. Albert gritted his teeth. Even if it’s a law considered obsolete by many, it is still technically a legally observed practice, any breach of the winner’s conditions by the loser would result in a major international backlash.
That said, even if there’s the risk of defeat in this battle, you could say that he’s risking the exact same thing by going to war, except with even higher stakes.
(In addition… If this goes to plan, the Empire should lose all legitimate claims they have to take my sisters-in-law back.)
In any case, the true crux of the plan relies on that person also winning the bout in the very presence of the Emperor himself. After Albert agrees, everything should be set in motion, but…
“How about it, Albert-dono? Is there any issue with Princess Philia’s proposal? Although it’s far from a perfect solution, surely you agree that such a compromise is better than a war? If I’m not mistaken, is it not also true that the Empire is currently on very poor terms with the Land of Demons as well?”
Albert bit his lip in anger. To suffering the humiliation of having to travel all the way here under what he saw as false pretences, then having the situation complete reverse on him, he wanted to shout and scream at the top of his lungs.
His pride as an Emperor was wounded, seeing his sister agree so easily with the Black Lion King. As Albert desperately thought of a way to regain the initiative, Canary who had been completely silent until now suddenly burst into laughter.
“Kuhahahaha! Why torment the poor thing so, Edward? It’s very bad taste to pick on the slow child in the class, is it not?”
“S-slow child…? You can’t possibly be talking about me…!?”
That indignation burst forth into fury. Blood began to flow straight to Albert’s face, his skin turned red and sweat began to pour.
Albert had always lived a spoiled life. Even if he’d quarrelled with his younger sister Philia in recent years, Albert still had many people who supported him, so it’s only natural that he was always treated with respect.
Therefore, this was the first time in his life that anyone had ever spoken to him like that.
“To think that he’d crumble so quickly after entering with such bravado, what a farce of an Emperor you truly are! Well, it only makes sense he would hesitate so, he clearly has no one he can call on to even lick the boots of one of the Kingdom’s warriors, let alone the adventurers that are the pride and joy of the Guild. It must be infuriating, no~? To know that no matter who the Empire sends, they are but ants compared to the might of adventurers.”
“Y-You knave!! You dare insult my country so brazenly!!”
Albert flew into a rage and shouted at the witch, with many of the Imperial knights who had accompanied the entourage sharing his fury, including Lumiliana who looked livid.
Of course, they would be angry, having their pride as knights mocked like that.
“Well, it’s only natural, no? It truly is such an unfortunate fate to serve such an Emperor… I have been listening quietly this whole time and I have to say that you truly are a uniquely selfish and disgusting thing.”
“Quite right. You are disgusting. That feeling only mounts when I’m subjected to your vile words like this.”
Canary kept hurling abuse at that head of state. Since she doesn’t technically belong to any country, the taboos by the customs of diplomatic properness are completely irrelevant to her so she can act as she wishes, the witch who stands untouchable atop the economic world.
“Any warrior from a country ruled by such a conceited child, I doubt they would be able to lift a finger against a mighty soldier of the Kingdom or any intrepid adventurer who crossed their path. Do you understand now, or shall I repeat it again for you?”
“…So be it! If you think you can look down on me like this, then I’ll accept! A Duel Ordained by the Goddess to bring my daughters and Rudolph back home, as well as to restore the honour of the noble Imperial knights!”
Albert who has given in to his rage accepted Philia’s proposal.
In that way, the curtain raised on the bet that would decide Sophie and Tio’s future.
“So, do you have any last words?”
“MYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!? St-Stop that! Stop using my head to sharpen your sword! It won’t be a joke if you cut my brain!!”
In the courtyard of the frontier town’s adventurer guild, Shirley scraped her sword back and forth on top of Canary’s skull, who has been buried up to her neck in the ground. Shirley raised her sword menacingly, but before she could swing it down and cut through the brain, the semi-immortal’s weakness, the demon witch screamed out in terror.
“I understood your story. I also understand that it was the best compromise the Kingdom could hope to achieve diplomatically, as it can both secure the Kingdom’s borders from an invasion as well as prevent the Empire from causing any more problems because of my daughters. In addition, Canary attended to force the Imperial side into agreeing by wounding their pride comparing them to adventurers.”
“Oooh, you truly are an incisive one, no? Let me give you a compliment.”
But, Shirley’s sword gleamed in the reflection of those red and blue eyes.
“Don’t you think you should have asked me first? Didn’t King Edward say you would be in town to help take care of things?”
“Well, before the talks I did actually return quite a number of times to run some errands?”
“Then why didn’t you say anything? You knew I couldn’t attend because I had to look after Sophie and Tio in case the Empire tried anything again?”
“Hmm, well I told Edward not to fret so much about it since I promised I’d tell you when I got back… But circumstances unfortunately intervened, so I suppose it’s become a report after the facts. You’ll be truly shocked when you hear what happened, you know?”
“What is it? Did something else happen at the talks?”
“Listen to this, the guild’s chief pâtissière has developed a new type of confectionary without my knowing about it. So, I prioritized the critically serious mission of taste testi…”
CRACK! The loud sound of something hard breaking apart echoed through that blue spring sky.
“Well, it’s fine. No, fine is a bit much… I suppose there’s been progress. Honestly, in the end, I didn’t have much choice but to rely on the power of a state to stop another one, so I’ll have to uphold my end.”
Whoever it is that she faces is irrelevant… All she has to do is win.
The fiery spirit of the Demonic White Sword burned hotter than ever, then as if she saw an image of the unknown warrior the Empire would send to oppose her floating through the air in front of her, she slashed a leaf picked up by the wind into innumerable pieces with sword strokes breaking the speed of sound.
Sorry this was late.