“A Prince dressed as an attendant.”
“Seems interesting enough to make a deal.”
Empress Frédérique spoke cynically. I placed the magic tool in my pocket and showed my respects.
“I greet the sun that has descended to the ground and your Eminence.”
My hair was scattered from taking off the eye patch and I had cold sweats from the pressure I received from this sword master, but she was right.
What we were about to do right now was not a chat but a deal.
It would be bad if my demeanor changed.
Furthermore, my current appearance was closest to my real appearance.
Jung Yeseo was just a commoner in this world’s terms after all.
“Fine, I got it.”
The Empress suddenly mumbled in a discontent tone.
I felt my suffocation stop and my body became lighter. I raised my head in shock.
The air was extremely clear and refreshing once the pressure was gone.
Cardinal Boutier looked at me and smiled.
“Shouldn’t you start on equal standing to make a deal?”
‘I see. She must have used her soul that is connected with the Empress to remove the pressure.’
I quietly chuckled and showed my thanks. The Empress pushed an empty chair with her boot.
“Thank you very much, your Majesty.”
I would have been extremely anxious seeing her act like this if this was my first meeting with her, but I now knew that this was her way of showing goodwill.
Christelle and the Imperial Prince looked at me as soon as I sat down.
I naturally started to smile while looking at the two of them.
The two main characters played significant roles in my being able to come here during my confinement.
A large table full of food for a feast that looked like it could easily seat thirty people, the tall ceiling with the blinding chandeliers, and the four luxuriously dressed individuals…
I was definitely dressed the worst out of everybody here but at least I was not alone.
I took two deep breaths before starting to speak.
“First of all, I want to thank you for your grace that is as vast as the waters of the rivers and the seas, your Majesty. However, I never thought that you were not aware of what I was doing.”
I meant it.
Although she might have missed the minute details, I never even hoped that the Empress would be in the dark about the entire thing.
She chuckled at my comment. She seemed to be telling me to keep going.
“The Pair de Riester are scared of you but are able to act freely. Your Majesty must be letting them act freely knowing what they are doing and having the confidence that you would be able to confine them whenever you wish. I am sure it is the same with me.”
“I guess you did some studying lately.”
She poured some wine into her empty cup as she commented.
She looked quite relaxed offering the Cardinal some wine as well. Of course, it was to be expected.
“So, get to the point.”
“……I would like to request the release of Sir Johann Geens and asylum for him and his son in Riester.”
I looked directly at her as I said that. Thankfully my voice did not shake.
“The latter is unexpected.”
The Empress slightly scowled for the first time. That was enough for me.
I slowly started to reveal the information I had organized in my mind.
“As you know already, Sir Geens is not an Archbishop but a Cardinal-level Holy Knight, your Majesty. His Divine Power is weaker than her Eminence’s but I personally watched him use the stigmata.”
The faces of the people around me stiffened for a moment. I calmly added on.
“Your Majesty, I believe that you have thoughts on handing him over to the Vatican and applying political pressure. However, turning Sir Geens into an asset of the Riester Empire will definitely result in receiving equivalent assistance. It might even be an even greater return.”
My heart hurt at the fact that I needed to treat a person like a tool in order to save him.
“The Vatican is currently minimizing the transfer of personnel.”
This was something I heard from Sir Geens in the Yvelines Summer Palace.
‘Gathering together is necessary right now because of the Pope’s absence. I presume that another instructor will not be dispatched.’
He explained that another Holy Knight would not be coming.
“However, his Royal Highness and young lady Sarnez will need an instructor for a while even after being appointed as Holy Knights. Both of them are extremely skilled in handling ether but they have not finished their lessons on developing their plates and the demeanors they should have as Holy Knights.”
The Empress looked at her companion to see if this was true. The Cardinal silently nodded.
I took a sip of water from the cup Christelle pushed toward me and continued to speak.
“The Vatican does not have much goodwill toward Riester, so they will probably send another Archbishop or Bishop level Holy Knight even if they were to send someone to replace Sir Geens. They will blame it on their lack of manpower.”
“They probably will.”
“Your Majesty, if you leave Sir Geens as an asset for Riester, your Majesty would be able to have a Cardinal level Holy Knight as the instructor for the two of them without having to make a complaint to the Vatican.”
“You should know that his trying to kill you falls under attempted murder of the Imperial family.”
The Empress’ tone became a bit sharper.
Her gaze seemed to be asking if I was really trying to convince her with just that. Of course I was not.
It would be absurd to forgive such a grave sin because they were lacking an instructor.
“That’s not all, your Majesty. I heard that a single sword master is capable of taking on thousands of soldiers. I’ve been informed that Archmages are capable of the same. Cardinal level Holy Knights are pretty similar, although there is a difference based on the level of Divine Power.”
“Your Majesty is a wise sovereign so I believe that you have a keen interest in increasing the strength and defenses of the Empire. Although this is not a time of war, gaining the strength of a Cardinal like Sir Geens is definitely a profound gain for the Empire.”
She looked at me with a piercing gaze before one side of her lips slightly curled up.
“You talk like you are a person of Riester.”
This was something I had heard from the Imperial Prince as well. I smiled bitterly.
“If it is both political influence on the Vatican and the force of a Cardinal, it definitely would be interesting to weigh things on a scale. The Empire has not had any Holy Knights until now.”
“However, that man is a mercenary. Do you know what that means?”
I could not answer immediately. The Empress gently swirled her blood-colored glass and continued to speak.
“The only information Aurélie knew about Johann Geens was that he was a mercenary before he awakened as a Holy Knight and has a child. The Empress of the Empire and a Cardinal did not know about his origins or his history since becoming a Holy Knight. How do you think something like that is possible?”
I was at a loss for words. I had no idea that she had so little information about him.
Her cherry-colored eyes were filled with anger, dejection and understanding as they sunk low.
Her eyes were basically the color of the wine she was drinking.
“The people who used Geens as a mercenary protected him.”
“The fact that they can use a mercenary with such abilities means that they are plotting something they cannot openly talk about in public. A person who knows the secret becomes a part of the secret. Do you know what I am trying to say?”
I subconsciously gulped.
Basically, the people who hired Sir Geens until now had actively hidden a Holy Knight’s identity in order to protect their own identities.
They would only be safe if he was not exposed and nobody found out.
The Venetiaan Royal Family was included in the people who hired Sir Geens.
Since it was a gathering of people with such influence, it would not have been difficult to hinder the Empress of an Empire on the opposite side of the continent from gathering information.
“Your Majesty is saying that you cannot trust Sir Geens.”
“That’s right. He attempted an assassination once and he is a high-ranking mercenary whose history is a blur.”
She answered almost in a sigh and took a sip of wine.
“I believe that you can use that in reverse.”
I calmly got my brain to work.
“That means that Sir Geens knows quite a lot of secrets about the high-ranking individuals of the Holy Kingdom and the Vatican. Of course your Majesty probably cannot gather too much information as he is most likely under multiple Promises of Ether, but he should be able to indirectly assist you.”
“Are you telling me to consider it as having a spy?”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
I quickly explained. I would not be able to get anywhere if I showed hesitation in my answer.
“In return for not punishing him for his crime, have him make a Promise of Ether to use his life to serve the Empire. You would be able to gain at least a minimum level of trust through that. If you can also protect his son by granting him asylum in the Empire, I am certain that you will be able to get true loyalty from him.”
“Yes, his son.”
She scowled and tilted her head.
“That’s been annoying me since earlier. I heard that he’s a ten years old little kid. Is he in the Vatican?”
‘He’s only ten years old?’ My heart felt as if it was suffocating.
Christelle reached her arm over the Imperial Prince’s leg to pat the back of my hand.
I could finally breathe again.
“He is in the Holy Kingdom’s…… prison.”
The silent Cardinal asked with a puzzled look on her face.
I did my best to not add any emotions into my words.
“Prince Consort Werner used that child as a hostage to threaten Sir Geens. The child is a patient who suffers a lot if he does not get his daily medicine but he is imprisoned and they are not giving him his medicine.”
The Empress’ voice became significantly lower. There was a glimpse of murderous intent visible in her red eyes.
“The Prince Consort didn’t hire him with money.”
The Cardinal whispered. Her face showed despair and sympathy.
“Haaaa. That was your reason.”
The Empress completely pulled off her cravat and threw it to the side.
She had a look that made it seem as if she was in pain or in a complicated situation as she observed me.
“What the hell is the problem with that Prince Consort?”
I was curious about that as well. I silently stood there with an awkward look on my face before she started to speak again.
“I did not give it much thought when the Imperial Prince first mentioned naturalizing you. But now it is extremely tempting. I could let out all of this frustration and declare war if you were one of my subjects.”
My eyes opened wide. The middle-aged woman continued to speak without stopping.
“I felt that the Prince Consort was as ruthless as a demonic beast last spring. Anybody who brainwashes thirteen year old children and uses them as assassins cannot be normal. I sent a letter to Quen Christanne expressing my regrets but I did not receive a response. I have no idea if the Queen even read the letter herself. According to my spies she is currently suffering from insanity.”
Queen Christanne’s insanity. This was completely new information.
I even forgot to blink as I looked at the Empress.
“But if he threatened someone he could move with money with something like that, that is not even a demonic beast. He is basically a devil that the Almighty God has sent down to test us.”
She proclaimed. I took some deep breaths.
It would do me no good to be swept up in my emotions right now as well.
The Empress seemed to be even angrier while thinking about her son, Imperial Prince Cédric’s youth.
I might be able to use her hot temper to my advantage.
‘It happened when that child was very young. Maybe one year old? His ether depletion was quite severe since he was born.’
The story that the Cardinal shared with me during the Annual Prayer Meeting echoed in my ears.
The Imperial Prince was very sick since he was an infant. I turned my head and looked at him.
I made eye contact with his orange eyes immediately.
I knew that I needed to be cold and calculating right now but it was hard to do so with the person right in front of me.
Selling the situation of someone who was still suffering from ether depletion weighed heavily on me.
He slowly moved his lips at that moment.
‘It does not matter.’
His gaze did not shake at all. My mouth opened on its own.
“Your Majesty. I wish to help a child and his father.”
I turned away from him and proclaimed with resolution.
The Empress’ gaze immediately met mine.
“Please allow me to meet crown princess Elise. I have come up with a way to get the sick child out of prison. Only the Almighty God knows whether that plan can be completed properly, but I ask for your permission to at least suggest it to her.”
“Your Majesty would get a Cardinal level Holy Knight as a part of the Empire’s strength and an instructor while taking in a high-ranking mercenary of a foreign kingdom as a spy and allow a child who is suffering without knowing why to be saved and reunited with his father.”
The Empress clicked her tongue.
She also let out some deep sighs and brushed back her hair.
I closed my mouth because I had no idea what that could mean.
A few minutes of silence that felt like a few hours passed by.
The Empress responded and Christelle gasped while covering her mouth with both hands.
However, you always had to listen to the full statement of a Riester.
“However, I have a condition.”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
“You will not be able to meet the crown princess or her envoy on your own.”
That was what I wanted anyway.
I happily nodded my head as I wanted to avoid being alone with her as much as possible.
The Empress did not stop there.
“In addition, I need some sort of insurance as well. If the crown princess does not agree to your request or does not manage to smuggle Geens’ son out of there, your plan will go up in smoke.”
“……That is correct, your Majesty. Please tell me.”
There was a small moment of silence before she answered.
“I want you to be the two of their priest partner. Get rid of that temporary tag and make it official.”
Mama bear be looking out for her son.