Zero no Tsukaima:Volume15 Chapter7
Chapter 7: Henrietta's Diplomatic Plan
As the royal escort was about to arrive above the grounds of Gallia's capital, Lutece, Henrietta stared in front of her with dignity. Across her the Captain of the Tristain Musketeers Agnès double checked the handgun carried on her waist.
"What is it? My captain"
"No...., I find it hard to remain at ease" Agnès said without attempting cover up her surrender to her feelings. Despite so, Henrietta's expression was as calm as ever.
Outside the windows of the sedan chair hanging under a dragon's belly, they could see the formation of Gallian dragon riders flying in parallel. Armed more heavily than usual, though by name their task is to be an escort, in actual they are putting Henrietta's royal transport under close watch.
"But your majesty...., rather than calling our current situation 'rash', I believe 'temerity' would fit better, visiting a country we just had a battle with a few days ago." Agnès said while sighing.
"Oh? Those people my army fought a few days ago were 'Gallian Rebels'. Besides, Romalia may have raised a crusade, my country remains at peace with Gallia. Therefore, officially there was never a conflict between my country and Gallia to begin with" Henrietta replied, her expressions continuing to remain as calm as ever. However....., her slightly trembling hands did not go unnoticed by Agnès. She may be keeping a good act, but in reality she must be very distressed.
"The Water Spirit Ondine Knights and the so-called Saint of Aquilleia Miss Françoise are the headlines of the Romalian army, if Gallia condemned us for it, how do you plan to respond?"
"I'll simply tell them 'They belong to the Romalian army', it's not like this had never happened before. As for Louise, that right, I'll say she is a Romalia nun fighting under the name of God for Romalia. Mmn, no matter what reason it is, it'll work out"
Agnès looked discontent, and shook her head.
With no other company, Henrietta brought only Agnès with her. It could almost be said as charging barehanded into "enemy territory" Gallia.
Romalia's sudden announcement of a "Crusade" has caused quite a bit of a stir in Tristain. Almost all aristocrats and lords bore a grieving frown on their forehead.
Except for the over religious believers, Crusade is a synonym for nightmare. All nobles in the country will be gathered, young teens will be collected into armies, and the treasury will be emptied for a war. Plus...., even if they appeared victorious at the end, the only prize they get is an undeveloped desert and honor, hardly enough to cover the losses in the war. Most important of all, the chances of losing is considerably higher than the chances of winning. Many times in history have smaller countries sought their own destruction from the failure of crusades. If one had to trace the origin of Halkeginia, it was also born from the rebellion of exhausted marquises.
Too many people. Compared to an unseen plot of land, their lives in front of them were much more important.
Since Henrietta's return to her own country, she had sworn to end this crusade and shut herself in her office thereafter to build a diplomatic plan towards Gallia.
A week later, after completion, Henrietta gathered all important nobles and told them "I will negotiate directly with the Gallian King himself"
Of course, Tristain's nobles, including Mazarin, even her own mother Queen Marion rejected the idea of Henrietta heading towards Gallia. The reasons for so are more than obvious. The head of a country heading towards a rather hostile country to "negotiate", never had an adventure so daring ever occurred since the long establishment of Halkenia. It is no wonder Agnès is feeling uneasy.
Henrietta even went as far as suggesting stepping down from the throne if they continued to refuse. Only then did the nobles agree.
"Your highness....., can you promise me one thing?"
"What is it"
"I understand that you feel responsible for the cause of this 'Crusade', but....., your majesty's life does not hold only the future of one person. If anything terrible happened to your majesty, our country will turn into chaos. Moreover, the possibility for this to happen isn't exactly low either"
"After defeating Gallia, Romalia will build their own army to recover the Holy lands. If we refuse to offer support, I will be forced to step down. Which means, either way our country can't escape the future of becoming chaotic. Heh, maybe things could turn even worse....., I'm sure you know how past armies set forth to recover the Holy lands have put the entire Halkeginia into grieving"
Agnès could not make a good counter. Just the fact of stepping down from the throne is already too large a matter.
"Without me, the country can still work normally. Whether it's Prime Minister Mazarin, my mother, or the rest of the lords, the structure is still intact. On the other hand....., if anything as close as a large scaled war happened between us and the elves, the entire Halkeginia will crumble soon afterwards" Henrietta gripped her hands even tighter.
"With my own life...., if that's already enough to place a bet, it is certainly, very inexpensive indeed."
"Looks like you have successfully refuted me" Agnès replied as if losing interest. Suddenly sensing something, Henrietta turned apologetic "Oh, sorry. About bringing you into this as well."
"That's alright. Since I volunteered for the army I was ready for anything. As the captain of your majesty's personal guards, compared to the safety of Halkenia, I am more concerned about your highness's safety."
"Ah, but I did not plan to come here just to lose my bet. I also made my own preperations. To King Joseph, this suggestion is just as exquisite" Henrietta directly pointed out, hugging her briefcase full of documents. Within the briefcase, the contents of the dipolmatic plans were almost under disagreement by all valued lords.
"Impossible" So the lords said. On the contrary, there was one single person who voted in approval.
That was Prime Minster Cardinal Mazarin. Kneeling in front of Henrietta, who had spent days without sleep planning every detail "I'm very glad to witness the growth of your majesty" was all he said.
Soon after the Palace Versailles, famous for its vast empty area, appeared in front of them, the dragon riders who have been accompanying Henrietta's sedan chair from the borders onwards landed in the courtyard forming a circle.
The sedan chair Henrietta was riding in slowly landed in the middle of the circle. Guards who have been awaiting her arrival immediately rushed forward to open her door.
The simplicity of Henrietta's welcome shocked Agnès. There was no guards of honor, nor any sign of a band. Gallia is still considered as a influential empire of Halkeginia, despite being at war, there are still standards for welcoming a Queen.
Agnès finally had a good feel of what a country with half of its people rebelling looks like. After surveying their welcome, Henrietta began to observe the Palace itself with no visible expression on her face.
There, she stopped, turning still like a statue.
"What's wrong, your highness?" Agnes also turned to where Henrietta was looking at, and could not help but gulp. Across the courtyard is what should be originally Joseph's castle, the remains of Grand Troyes. The blue, beautiful palace had collasped into a wreck.
"There were rumors of a rebel...., was that the cause of it" Agnes asked. The knights around them were just as unreadable, but with much experience in battle, Agnes could easily see what they were thinking - terror.
"....Looks good for a negotiation"
Under pressure from the chaos within, the morale of the small amount of knights plunging, if Gallia is under so much trouble already, then the chances of agreeing to Henrietta's plans most certainly are higher.
A female wearing headbands appeared from the surrounding knights. Dressed in full black clothing, they emit some sort of suspicious aura. "Welcome to the Kingdom of Gallia. We heartily welcome Queen Henrietta's arrival."
The woman took a deep bow. Facing the head of country, yet not taking any attempt to remove their cloaks, Henrietta did not feel the need to return a bow, ignoring them as thin air.
"This way please. My master has been waiting" Not worried at all, the woman began walking. With no choice, Henrietta followed. Although displeased by the rude treatment, recalling the memory of Joseph's attitude at the international meeting helped Henrietta think otherwise.
The woman's voice sounded familiar to Agnes, who slightly frowned. Where exactly did they meet before? After some extensive searching through her memories, she finally remembered.
"I seem to have met you and your partners before" The woman turned her head around, smiling omniously towards Agnes.
"At Albion, no?" Agnes responded under her breath. Henrietta looked at Agnes from the corner of her eye.
"....She is the female who have assaulted Miss Françoise a few times. I fear the giant armoured golems were also led by her..."
This time, Henrietta gave a stern look.
"For your information, those are called Golomontas" The woman said without care.
The Queen and her Captain were brought to the dining room of the Guest Hall. Sitting at the other end of the dining table was Joseph, waiting alone.
Without guards nor maids, the dining hall looked empty and loney. There were not much food prepared on the desk either.
The woman wearing the headband......, like a shadow, Myoznitnirn stood motionless behind Joseph.
Agnes pulled the out the chair facing Joseph, allowing Henrietta to sit down on it. As if replacing a greeting, Joseph yawned loudly.
"Morning, Queen Henrietta"
"Good day, King Joseph"
Across the long dining table, the two powers faced each other. With that the greetings ended, and so begins the negiotiation.
Although today's visit has been notified to Gallia, yet not a single diplomat, advisor, nor clerk was present. It was just a simple, cold talk.
Agnes took out the documents from Henrietta's briefcase and walked beautifully to Joseph's side, placing the documents down in front of him with respect.
Joseph casually held up the documents and flipped through it page by page. With no apparant change in expression after finish reading, supporting his head with his elbow, he turned towards Henrietta again.
"What an amazing suggestion. On behalf of Halkenia, announcing new status of one Halkeginia King. All countries must follow his orders..... except for Romalia."
"Mhm. To me, the Pope of Romalia is only here because he gives a symbol of 'authority'"
"This says that there will be other supporters, is that true?"
"It is. Only under one condition, to sever all ties with elves. Just that. Why did you ally yourself with elves, King Joseph, all you wish for is the entire Halkeginia to be under your command, isn't it? I plan to fulfill your wish"
"This is quite a staggering suggestion. But will Germania agree?"
"Germania's king was a filthy king to begin with. He even dare call himself king, this is the symbol of his low self-esteem. Those kind of dirty peasants will not dare go against Tristain and Gallia's combined will."
"This is very surprising indeed, Queen Henrietta. I originally thought you were going to ally with Romalia to invade my country, but here you are instead offering alliance with our country! You are a brilliant politician! I really wronged you!"
"Thank you for your exaggerated praise. Instead of elves, it would be me who will be honoring you with the throne of Halkenia"
A smile appeared on Joseph's face. "What is your goal?"
Henrietta instantly displayed a charming expression and replied firmly "If the ties between Gallia and elves are severed, the 'Crusade' will therefore end. Compared to a war involving every single person on this world, I'd rather ally myself with the 'incompetent King'"
"I will be in direct conflict with Romalia, this is fighting fire with fire?"
"Even in the same hell, I'd want to choose the good side"
Joseph nodded his head in pleasure. "Now this is what politics is about. Alright. Well then, I have my own request"
"what would it me"
"be my wife"
Henrietta couldn't help but widen her eyes. "Oh my, you are actually serious."
Henrietta bit her lips. For the first time in their meeting hatred could be seen in her eyes. Henrietta nodded her head. "I agree"
"Your Highness!" Agnes who was silent all along cried out. Henrietta held her back with her hand, then nodded again.
"It would be my pleasure to do so" Henrietta's body was in complete rejection.
Agnes understood that when Henrietta said "she would do anything to stop this crusade", she meant it.
Joseph seemed to look at Henrietta happily, eventually bursting into laughters. Joseph's laughters echoed through the entire dining hall.
"Hahaahahahhaah! Don't take it seriously! I'm not very forgiving. I would never sleep with a woman who doesn't like me"
Henrietta's blushed from her self brought shame. Joseph stood up and walked towards Henrietta. With his big hands, he held Henrietta's chin.
Just about to draw her sword out, Agnes suddenly felt the statue behind her hold down her hands stealthly.
"You sly fox" Joseph said teasingly. "Do you plan to cut off my head at night"
Henrietta used her best bluffing voice and replied "You, you have seen through me!"
Joseph's smile slowly became fixed on his face. "I like it. I like it more and more. I can't believe I took you as just another little girl! This is going to be the best joke ever! You are absolutely comparable to the ancient warlords! Plus you are brave and smart. You will become a good Queen, Queen Henrietta"
Joseph returned to his seat. With a snap of his fingers, the status released Agnes's wrists. Agnes coughed painfully.
With a quick glance at Agnes, Henrietta continued "....then, please hurry and send out notices. With the support of Tristain, Albion and Germania behind you, Romalia will lose their will as well"
Yet, Joseph did not reply.
Joseph scratched his head as if finding it hard to speak "But. Very sadly, I have no intention to go with this suggestion"
"This there something missing? Isn't it not enough to have the world?"
"If I were an ambitious man....., I would go with your plan without hesitation. But, that is not all. Not all" Joseph shook his head. Using a gangster's tone, he firmly said "I do not want this world"
"What do you mean?" Henrietta felt an ominous aura seep into her mind, rapidly filling her up. For some reason, she was reminded those terrifing stories she read when she was small.
"Oh, there is no need to be ashamed of your 'misconception'. No one would have complaints against your suggestions. Even myself can't think up of better 'plans'. This is outstanding work. But..., you are heading in the wrong direction. I'm afraid even god himself could not have expected this."
"What are you suggesting?"
"You mentioned before - 'even in the same hell, you'd want to choose the good side'"
"I simply want to see that hell"
"You must be joking"
"By no means. I simply just want to witness hell. I want to see the unbearable, the never seen before, the hell corrupting my mind"
Henrietta felt weak all over. Agnes nervously supported the almost falling Henrietta. This makes less and less sense. Originally she thought Joseph was an ambitious man trying to get the whole world, seeing his actions of assaulting "void" and now allying with elves, even going as far as attacking Romalia with a so called "rebellion".
But the man in front of her eyes is denying all of it.
Not only saying "that's not all", he went on and said that he "simply want to see that hell" this kind of senseless lines.
But....., he is serious about what he says. The solemn expression of Joseph saying all this, seemed kind of sad.
"Therefore, I decided to create a small version of hell with the 'crusade'. It's also the only reason why you are so active. Since you are here already, why don't you visit some of Gallia, Queen Henrietta"
Meanwhile, at Carcassonne.....
As mentioned the night before, the Saito at day was as if a different person from last night, as if the things never happened last night, Saito went on to have a conversation at the dining hall with a completely natural face
"Hey, Tabitha, morning"
Tabitha responded with a nod, all while her eyes fixed on her book. Afterwards Saito joined the Water Spirit Ondine Knights and began their usual talks.
Louise was together with Tiffania eating bread. Looking both of them Tabitha couldn't help but slightly sigh, the guilty feelings towards Louise conflicting with the unexpectedly warm, sweet ones lingering in her heart. Did the things really happen last night?
Yet.... the warm touch still lingering on her neck confirmed its genuinity, the places touched by Saito's lips burning ever so hot.
Tabitha bit her lips and casually flipped another page of the book.
Since when, Kirche had already sat down next to her. Instantly Kirche realised something was off with her best friend. After resisting and finally succumbing to her urge, she whispered in Tabitha's ears "You, it's time for a confession, what happened?"
Tabitha shook her head. "....Nothing"
About the events of succeeding the throne,..... or the things that occured last night, none of them could be mentioned to Kirche.
"You know that there are no secrets between us, right?"
Tabitha decided to ignore problems of their friendship for the time being, then stood up, indicating she hopes Kirche will leave this matter for now.
Carcassonne's view was bathed in the warm morning sunlight. Tabitha suddenly found the true meaning of finding the "warmth" of the sun, her body given a new supply of happiness.
A feeling was persistantly nagging her, nagging her how the night is so much to look forward to. This unbearable anxious wait surpasses even coronation, surpasses all desire to seek revenge....
Next to a flowerbed at the side of the road, Tabitha stopped her footsteps.
A handful of sky blue coloured irises were blossoming furiously. Remembering her dull room, Tabitha couldn't help but reach out and pick a few. Seeing flowers of the same colour as her own hair, Tabitha felt herself grow red.
At night, when her door was knocked on....
Tabitha gave the already asleep Silpheed one more spell of tranquility, allowing it to enter an even deeper slumber. Silpheed's breathing became even heavier.
Anxious all over, Tabitha hurriedly opened the door. Dressed the same as last night, Saito suddenly hugged her. Letting it go, Tabitha buried her head into Saito's chest.
Without saying anything else, Saito lifted Tabitha's chin and planted a kiss.
Tabitha closed her eyes, allowing the other to do whatever he wishes. Since last night, she had realised that it feels very comfortable.
Saito lightly carried Tabitha and put her into bed.
Tabitha's face surfaced an very uncommon colour - faint red. Her cute small chest also puffed up and down out of anxious and excitement.
Discovering that the desk was decorated with a blue iris inside a winebottle, Saito smiled.
"Flower picking? Now this is unusual"
"....It's because this room, doesn't have much in it."
"That's better" Saito took the flower out from the winebottle and placed it into Tabitha's hair. Like a hairband, the iris fits perfectly into Tabitha's hair.
Saito took off the shy Tabitha's glasses.
"You look prettier without it."
"can't see anything."
"Don't you shut your eyes when you're shy?" Saito pressed his lips against hers, lasting for quite a moment before leaving.
"I have to go, there's not much time, it's alright, there's nothing to worry about." Just as sudden as his entry, Saito took his leave.
The left behind Tabitha could only stare at his silhouette.
When the door was knocked on again, full of expectations, Tabitha opened her door wide just to find Julio behind it, her facial expressions immediately fading.
"That really fits you, Princess Charlotte."
Tabitha covered her head. After plucking the beautifully placed flower, she carefully returned it to its winebottle.
Julio changed to his solemn expression and bowed.
"I am here to recieve you, although I believe you have already heard of it from Saito."
That was how Saito put it last night, that the messenger from Romalia will arrive soon....., forgetting all "suspicions" Tabitha earnestly followed the orders of the other, nodding her head in agreement.
Her first romance, has dulled her assessment abilities.
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