87. Negotiation (5)
King Paulie looked over the chaotic scene in the capital’s streets from his balcony: a massive block of ice that he had never seen before. The glacier piercing the sky looked like a small mountain top. The fact that it was not a natural landmark, but something man-made made him both awed and uncomfortable. An Archbishop of the Holy Kingdom, Holffmann, was the perpetrator of this disorder.
It was already fearful that a figure like an Archbishop had managed to infiltrate the kingdom without any alarm, but the fact that he had destroyed a portion of the capital made him furious. All the doors to the capital were sealed due to the Holffmann incident. It led to a commotion when all foreigners had to be searched once more. The citizens were trembling with uncertainty, while the nobles were enraged.
“It’s Holffmann! It was none other than Holffmann, known for his neutrality, that invaded our Kingdom of Aylans!”
“And to attack the capital…! This kind of disaster has no precedent since the formation of the Kingdom of Aylans!”
“How much do they look down on us to commit such an act! It wasn’t enough that they broke the Continental Law, but an Archbishop attacked us this time? And alone!? Just what was his objective?! Did he perhaps think that he could sweep up the capital by himself…!?”
“It couldn’t be! He must have had another goal! Yes. For example… Assassination… or something like that.”
“Assassination? Did you say Assassination…!? Does that mean Holffmann was targeting his majesty?”
“Crazy! To try to assassinate His Highness!”
“So they committed another act to break the Continental Law? They are no longer a theocratic nation that serves God! They are merely devils dyed with fanatical greed! I knew that those people weren’t in their right minds, but for them to be this mad!”
As all kinds of speculations were thrown around, they landed on the conclusion that Holffmann, by the will of the Pope, had infiltrated the capital of the Kingdom of Aylans with the intention of assassinating King Paulie. Also, it was the opinion of the nobles that Tom, an Apostle of the Demon Lord, had discovered him and dealt with him. In reality, Holffmann had targeted Tom, but as it was a covert operation, even within the Holy Kingdom, the Kingdom of Aylans had no way to uncover this truth.
King Paulie sighed, recalling the words that the nobles had told him. They shouted as their faces turned red with veins protruding on their heads.
“Did you say a diplomatic tie with Demons?”
“An alliance…? Fine! We’ll accept it if it’s a temporary alliance! If the Holy Kingdom looks down on us to this degree, we’ll ensure our response gives them nightmares! If we ally with the Demons, we should be able to have enough military power to go as far as invading the Holy Kingdom, as Count Shabel said!”
“Holffmann is dead! Now is the time! We should attack the Holy Kingdom to show them our might!”
To the proud nobles, it was infuriating to believe that their motherland was being looked down on. It appeared as though all the insults that they had endured from Salem had come to their boiling point and exploded all at once through this incident. Even the nobles that resisted the alliance ended up agreeing to it in the end. In reality, it was true that they were emotional due to all the evil acts committed by the Holy Kingdom, but there was another reason.
‘…They must be afraid of the Demon Kingdom.’
The being that killed the ‘Angel’ Holffmann, known as the world’s most powerful, exceeding the limits of humanity, resided in the Kingdom of the Demons. To regard him as their enemy was like inviting disaster to their doorstep.
King Paulie brushed his chin and looked a bit hesitant.
‘This treaty, we have to make sure to guarantee it. It also has to be something that the other likes… But also with conditions that aren’t detrimental to us.’
In truth, it was King Paulie that had proposed the alliance, but through the Holffmann incident, his thoughts began to change. It was dangerous to keep an ally that couldn’t be controlled. It wasn’t possible to know what the allied party would do during the duration of their alliance. This treaty had to be met with the most equal of terms.
‘The Demons, are they really trustworthy people? It might be more dangerous to put our trust in mere demons.’
He had asked Akareal, just in case, but…
“It is something to be decided by Your Majesty. However… in my personal opinion, it should be okay” was her positive opinion. She tended to have a better insight into people than he did. It might have been a conclusion she had drawn after her personal meeting with that person called ‘Tom’.
King Paulie turned his head. One of the Magic Knights spoke with his head lowered,
“The representative of the Demon Kingdom will arrive soon.”
“Is that so…?”
“Also… They have companions with them. As they are carrying weapons, I wanted to ask if I should restrain them…”
The Magic Knight was in a cold sweat. He looked hesitant to the point that it looked like he was struggling to maintain his calm demeanor.
King Paulie looked at him strangely.
“Is it their security? Isn’t it fine if it was just their security force?”
“H-however, they just look so strange…”
“Isn’t the Demon Kingdom itself a gathering of rather unique individuals? Let them through. There will be no such acts to break courtesy, such as restraining a representative’s bodyguard. As these are sensitive times, allow them into the palace.”
Rather than replying, the Magic Knight simply lowered his head.
King Paulie changed locations and sat upon the throne in the palace. All he had to do now was to wait for Tom, the representative of the Demons, to arrive.
All the nobles stiffened their necks, still believing that the Demon Kingdom was a ‘savage nation’. They retained their stubborn world view and viewed Demons as something akin to ‘beasts’.
“Your Majesty! You have chosen well.”
“Yes. Through our deliberation, we need to guarantee the conditions to be advantageous to us!”
“Yes! Wasn’t there an incident with Holffmann this time around? Of course, they stopped Holffmann for us, but wasn’t what happened to the capital due to their actions? A portion of this precious land has been destroyed! If we use that, we should be able to gain an advantageous condition or two!”
“Ooo! That is an excellent idea! Regardless of how justified it was, we cannot allow another nation to disrupt our capital…! Your majesty! You must use that well!”
It looked as though they were planning on treating the Demon Kingdom as a vassal state. It was difficult to forgive the partial destruction of a city by an invited guest, regardless of the circumstances. Said nation could be sensitive to such incidents during diplomatic negotiations, making it a good excuse to bait them in—what a foolish line of thought.
‘…They still haven’t grasped the situation. If we combine what Count Shabel had said with our understanding of the current incident, they should have been able to make out that the Demon Kingdom is extremely dangerous.’
Considering the army that Count Shabel spoke of and the military prowess displayed in killing Holffmann this time around, they were enemies that the Kingdom of Aylans would have a difficult time opposing. However, it was the perspective of King Paulie to gain at least some beneficial clauses. As the nobles suggested, it might just be possible to fulfill his wish using this incident well.
‘…Yes, what if we manage to obtain one or two clauses to our benefit, for example….?’
King Paulie desired to obtain an army that could obliterate the grand army of the Holy Kingdom. If he managed to accomplish this desire, not only would the Holy Kingdom be less feared, but he could also be ambitious enough to be someone worthy of being recorded in the history books. As a sovereign sitting on the throne, there was no one in his position that didn’t desire to be remembered as a Hero throughout history.
‘…Excessive desire leads to trouble. What use is there for such shameless ambitions at my age? It is fine to spend day after day with my wife, looking after my subjects…!’
King Paulie looked at the speech prepared three days ago. It included a non-aggression pact for the duration of the alliance. Demons would not invade the Kingdom of Aylans and harm its citizens, and they would deploy their military in case the Kingdom of Aylans was in danger.
There were several other clauses as well, but these were the basic framework with which an alliance between the two nations could be formed. From this point, he would meet with the representative and discuss the additional clauses.
‘Good. The alliance, in any case, is only temporary.’
The alliance was set to end until the war with the Holy Empire. Afterward, they would only retain a simple non-aggression pact.
It was when King Paulie fell into thought.
“T-the representative of the Demon Kingdom has arrived!”
The rumblings within the palace silenced upon the shout of the knight. The Magic Knights organized themselves into a line, held their swords pointed toward the roof, and straightened their backs. The nobles behind them turned toward the palace door with curiosity-laden eyes.
As the knights could not show weakness toward another kingdom, the nobles were all the more curious regarding the being that killed the monster, Holffmann.
The palace door opened, and the sounds of people shushing each other could be heard. The vassals underneath King Paulie gathered within the palace grew stiff from surprise.
Red hot iron, releasing his white breath that looked like a soul, set his heavy foot into the palace. Ice crystals formed wherever his foot landed and radiated freezing white frost. White air spilled out of his body as the being wrapped in holy white armor with amber-colored eyes stepped in. Upon his back was a fluttering, formless cape of Holy Power and a white snake tail wrapped around his body while slithering around.
“What… is that…?”
The nobles’ eyes grew wide as saucers. His entire body was wrapped in white armor, and he wore a unique bestial helmet. There was also the unbelievably pure Holy Power pouring out from his body…!
The nobles stared at him, frozen in place, as they turned their gazes toward the ones following him—Knights in white armor. They accompanied their master in perfectly synchronous steps in an orderly line without any mistake. Each step was overflowing with dignity and grace that could almost be called holy.
The nobles staring at them dumbfoundedly muttered amongst each other.
King Paulie shut his mouth upon hearing one of the noble’s words. He was also a magician, one of the most knowledgeable magicians within the Kingdom of Magic, Aylans, in fact. Nevertheless, all the undead he had seen so far were rotting corpses made up of Magic Power.
The Undead, the fallen dead, were raging monsters that resented the living. However, ones termed as such were moving before his eyes with ‘Holy Power’. Their pure white skeletons were cloaked in white armor as they radiated Holy Power in every direction. This holy, and even scared, aura spread throughout the palace and could be felt, not only by the Magic Knightsm, but the ordinary knights and nobles as well.
King Paulie reflexively muttered to himself, “…Angel?”
King Paulie shut his mouth. If existences known as Angels were real, they would be like the beings before his eyes. He observed the apostle before him with the mindset of a Magician.
‘…The form of this Holy Power, it is all too pure and clear. Enough to say that he’s an angel…! But…’ He was more interested in the faint chill that was radiating from his body. ‘…Is this chill from Angel Holffmann…? How did that power…?’
In Paulie’s eyes, the image of the being before him turned from ‘an angel’ to ‘a monster’. It was truly a monster, and the following undead knights definitely possessed a might befitting him.
“…You are the Devil of Lania.”
King Paulie recalled the being that had toppled Lania. He then remembered the rumors following the incident. The being that led an immortal army to kill the corrupted. The monster that decorated the church of Lania with the crucifixion of thousands…! He was definitely a being that the Kingdom of Aylans could not handle.
King Paulie lowered his dumbfounded gaze toward the speech prepared in his hands.
“We, the Kingdom of Aylans, are prepared to counter the Holy Kingdom through a temporary alliance with the Demon Kingdom…?”
A temporary alliance? What would happen once the ‘temporary’ period ended? If, and only if, the Demons managed to gain an excuse for war, what would be the fate of the Kingdom of Aylans…?
‘…It’ll be a great disaster! Our Kingdom of Magic, Aylans, might be erased off the map!’
King Paulie closed his eyes. He erased the words ‘temporary’ from the speech with trembling hands, his back oozing cold sweat. As the ink was smeared beneath his finger, the word [temporary] grew faint until it could no longer be seen.
‘…An alliance? Just an alliance is not enough!’
King Paulie pressed his pen down, and a number appeared before another word. He looked at it and swallowed drily. If the other party agreed to this alliance and did not break it, the Kingdom of Aylans would be a nation protected by the most dangerous being on this continent. They would become a country that no longer had to fear the Holy Kingdom that was the current center of power!
‘…Fine.’ King Paulie looked at his speech again.
“A 100 years of alliance.”
This was the alliance that the Kingdom of Aylans and the Demon Kingdom would undergo.
— Ω —