Chapter 228, Her Majesty the Empress
Left with no other choice, I used a wind spell to clean the air, a light source spell to light up the room, and Sancta Boundary to lock Pochi up.
“…Something doesn’t feel right, sir!”
Pochi shouted like a prisoner in a cage.
“It’s not like we have any other choice, you know.
Just deal with it until Her Majesty leaves.”
“And what’re you gonna give me for the trouble, sir”
“…Three days of Tropical Fruit Sunsmile Deluxe and unlimited sugar intake.”
“Add unlimited salt intake and fine meals priced at least a hundred Gold.”
For reference, it’s a ten-thousand Gold to enter the Magic University.
Her demands are so damn extravagant…!
Well, Polco will be paying me so much more for this month onward anyway, so three days wouldn’t hurt.
And even if it’s in ancient times, we’ve made our way to the Familiar Chalice’s final round.
That ought to get us some sort of reward.
“All right, deal.”
“The Boundary is so comfortable, sir~~!”
Pochi celebrated and happily sat down, while I turned around to face the Empress.
“Have you completed your task”
“Apologies for the wait, Your Majesty.”
Yet something still seems lacking…”
The Empress narrowed her eyes and swept her sights toward a nearby bench.
Right, it’s probably not a good idea to make her keep standing.
Holding back my sigh, I removed my mantle and draped it over the bench.
The Empress said nothing, only raising a corner of her mouth slightly as she gracefully sat down.
Even the way she sits is much more elegant than most of the other women out there.
She IS an Empress, after all.
Her long life is completely different from someone like Irene.
She seems to have all the skills to perfectly present herself… and that’s exactly the type of woman I can’t deal with.
“Hmm… Now, at ease.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Prompted by the Empress, I relaxed my posture and folded my hands behind my back.
“Oh Caring for a child at your age A difficult task, is it not”
Oh, right, now she can see Leon.
Is this going to be all right
Well, should be fine – Polco didn’t seem to be bothered about this, either.
If the Empress knew Leon’s face, we probably wouldn’t have been sent to the Familiar Chalice in the first place.
“Yes, Your Majesty.
But he is a sensible child, which does help to reduce my load a fair amount.”
“Hmm… If you find yourself irritated by the child’s cry, you could simply stuff his mouth with cotton.”
No, that’s not how it works.
Ugh, she’s saying ridiculous stuff just because she’s never had it done to herself-
“Such is how I was raised, at the very least.”
At least I got a little glimpse into her life, I guess.
I’ll have to say something about this, even if she takes it as a rebuttal.
“I… don’t think I should do that, Your Majesty.
It’s important to consider the child’s needs.”
“Talking back now, are we If you prefer your life to be short, I can very well end it now, hmm”
There’s no need to panic – just have to stay on track.
Match the Empress’ pace, and I should make it out of this in one piece.
With that in mind, I slowly shook my head.
“That was not my intention, Your Majesty.”
“Hmm, of course you deny it.
Most of anyone would, especially my husband’s bootlickers, always saving
…Yeah, of course she’d see through it, what with me working for both the Adams and Fulbright households.
Still, despite knowing that much, the Empress is sure to have her reasons not to take action now.
“…But I digress.
Your name is Poer, correct Are you willing to serve me”
Straight to the point, but exactly as I predicted.
She’s trying to recruit me.
Even if she’s not a fighter, the Empress must have been able to tell how strong Pochi was in the semi-final round.
And if one wants to add a Familiar’s strength to their ranks, they would have to persuade its Master.
In fact, I’ve read in some books that every year, participants of the Familiar Chalice do get scouted by various places of employment.
But now, it’s the Empress herself who has come directly to me… How can I get out of this
“That would be a great honor, Your Majesty, but I am an adventurer, and I love my freedom as much as any adventurer does.”
For now, let’s just give her an inoffensive answer… Man, now that’s the perfect poker face I’d expect from an Empress.
I can’t tell what she’s thinking at all.
All the emotion she showed before could have been just an act, too.
“Do you not understand your position relative to mine You realize that your short life can be lost with a single word of my command, yes”
That was a warning… right
We aren’t particularly scared of it, but this does translate to a threat to our right to even exist within this Nation.
We can run, but once the wanted posters are posted, we won’t have access to any shop, lodgings, and even the Adventurers’ Guild.
Though in my case, most of that can be circumvented with illusion spells.
The Empress doesn’t know that I can do that, either.
Besides, there’s always the option of moving to another Nation.
Better not give in to the threat now.
All the Empress is doing now is limiting her options.
I’d say it’s better to stand my ground here.
“Despite my appearance, I have lived quite a long life.
“I am quite used to saying things to save myself, believe it or not.”
Damn, another scary look.
She’s totally viewing me as her enemy now.
After all, I pretty much declared to her that I’m on the Holy Emperor’s side, confirming the Empress’ suspicion.
“…Yet here you are, insistent on spouting nonsense.
Are you trying to make me laugh”
“The world would be a much better place if it was filled with laughter, I say.”
“Is that your idea of humor, young man”
Good God, she’s scary.
But this is good – stirring up some hostility here is sure to play out in the long run.
The fact that I’m being recruited means that the Empress Faction needs more power – or that their available strength is declining, even.
Moreover, it’s the Empress herself doing it.
It’s reasonable to assume that she either can’t rely on someone else, or the people she could rely on have left.
If the Faction’s situation is bad, it’d be easier for us to read their next move.
“Not at all…”
“Because I sincerely think so.”
I smiled the best I could, while also dispersing some of my arcane energy over the whole room.
If this works, then the Empress must be feeling quite pressured by the aura right about now.
She’s facing down and biting her lower lip, enduring it.
As soon as she said that, I disengaged my aura.
As messed up as she is, looks like she’s still a normal Empress.
By the time she looked up, she had already put on a calm face.
No emotions shown, her expression and words firm as ever.
“Heh, heh heh…”
Suddenly, she started laughing uncontrollably, despite being in the public eye.
Needless to say, both Pochi and I were taken by surprise.
A few seconds later, she stopped.
It felt quite eerie, hearing the room go silent in an instant.
Not feeling like waiting for something to happen, I started talking to her.
She then proceeded to speak back, with the same poker face as when she had walked in,
“You… are right, young man.”
“If only laughter could bring peace to the world… That would be most wonderful.”
There she goes again, saying things she doesn’t actually think.
“It has been long since I last laughed this much.
I must express my gratitude to God for this blessed encounter.”
…Oh, so that’s where she’s actually coming from.
“The discussion has been most enjoyable.
Perhaps it would not hurt to visit more people once in a while.”
The Empress then stood up and walked quietly to the door.
Then, as she opened the door herself, she whispered to me,
“Do your best on the final round.”
I responded with a bow and watched her walk away, until she made a turn in the corridor and went out of sight.
Then I went to slam the door shut.
Pochi, still confused and stuck inside the Sancta Boundary, asked me,
“Why was she laughing so hard, sir”
“Uh, well, she thought the whole thing was a joke.
Whatever I was trying to do, it didn’t land quite properly, I guess.”
“Huh Huh What do you mean, sir”
“So when she asked me if I’d work for her, you thought she really meant it, right”
“Well, I declined the invitation… and was kinda passive-aggressive about it, you see.”
“Things were going fine up to that point.
But then she didn’t take my taunt seriously, thinking I was just joking around.
That’s why she laughed.”
“But why would she laugh right then and there, sir”
“Whether or not she laughed isn’t the problem – it’s her backpedaling her invitation as a joke of her own.
That wasn’t gonna convince anyone.”
Pochi clapped her paws, seeming to have understood my point now.
“I see! So in the grand scheme of things, there was no invitation, and she was just here to talk.
Is that it, sir”
“Which means I failed my attempt at taunting her, AND she managed to get some info about us.
It looked like she didn’t do anything, but she made sure she got what she wanted.
She’s tougher than I thought, that woman.”
Pochi sighed, albeit in a somewhat impressed tone.
I did the same.
She’s definitely fit to be the Empress of a whole Nation… we can’t deal with her by ordinary means, that’s for sure.