Chapter 17: The Calling (1/5)

A tired Elric collapsed onto his bed. A break at last! What a day it had been—not only had he had to fend off the noblewomen at every attempt, but that Hughesin had been utterly unbearable! The man had practically been glued to his shadow the entire day and thanks to the agreement between Saludy and Kebrilio, Elric had no choice but to grit his teeth and endure.

In another corner of the capital, two men were locked enthusiastically in conversation. Emperor Hecaris III and Archmagister Kebrilio.

It was hardly noon in the imperial palace when the archmagister arrived. Here today to prepare for an invitation to the Banquet be extended to his ‘niece’, Kebrilio thought it proper that he asked the ones in charge for a personal invitation rather than do so himself. 

The matter was done quickly and without troubles with the master of ceremonies being the one to personally deliver the invitation into Kebrilio’s hand.

He was just about to leave when a retainer of the court came running out from within the palace. By the emperor’s order, the retainer spoke, Kebrilio was to see the emperor at once.

Rather confused by the missive, Kebrilio thought it best to follow the retainer into the palace and into a garden with a nice pond where the young emperor Hecaris III was heavily focused on pruning a beautiful rosebush. Beside the emperor was a tremendous marble table.

With the emperor being so invested in choosing which rose to prune and trim, Kebrilio decided it was best to stand aside in silence and wait for the emperor to be finished first.

The seconds trickled by as the emperor continued his work. Kebrilio understood little about the art of flower arrangement and such, but he could see that the emperor had for some reason chosen several roses of varying shapes and sizes rather than ones that were alike. Under the emperor’s hands, these roses were arranged and fashioned into a stunning arrangement despite an utter disregard for symmetry, order, or reason.

Placing the bundle of roses in one hand, the emperor closed his eyes and began to chant. His fingertips shined softly with a faint-blue light like wisps of colored smoke in the daylight. Accumulating in size, the wisps gained enough substance to eventually turn into a mist that would obscur the rose from sight.

When the mist dissipated, so too were the ordinary roses from before. In their place was a frozen block of ice with the flowers suspended beautifully inside.

Admiring his handiwork, the emperor smiled. “Kebrilio, my loyal subject,” he turned round to face the archmagister. “Do these flowers not look enchanting? I started the day quite early today to pick out the ones with the most dew remaining still. They’d not look nearly as beautiful without them.”

Praise and flattery flowed forth from Kebrilio’s mouth at the act. The emperor wouldn’t call him here deep into the palace for the sole sake of marveling this little feat of flower magic, but he’d have to wait for the emperor to be the one to approach the matter.

Kebrilio wouldn’t have to wait long. The emperor placed his magical marvel onto the marble table and turned to face Kebrilio properly. “Reports tell me that Duke Hughesin arrived at your estate shortly after first light. Are you two not adversaries? I fail to see a reason for a social visit.”

It came as little surprise to Kebrilio that the emperor knew. How could he not? Though the emperor often liked to play the role of a mediocre and lackadaisical ruler, the man was anything but that in actuality. The eyes and ears he had all over Waldsk made it difficult for any rumor to escape the emperor’s own ears—especially when one major political figure visited the estate of their political opponent. One didn’t even need informants to hear about it.

So Kebrilio told the emperor everything. The ‘secret’ was nothing more but a huge misunderstanding and an even greater source of laughter for everyone privy to it. He saw no reason to hide something as amusing as this from him. If anything, the archmagister was hoping that the emperor would be of assistance. As humorous as the situation was, Kebrilio worried sometimes that Hughesin would attempt to keep Elric too close to him. The emperor would most certainly be of great aid in such cases. 

Kebrilio also saw it prudent to tell the emperor the story now just in case the latter decided to stand behind Hughesin. The two were birds of a feather and would surely stand together if Kebrilio didn’t divulge the full story now. 

No matter the case, Elric had to make two appearances at the banquet. Once as a member of the Sovereignian party and a second time as the young lady Fantasia. Neither would be possible without the cooperation of the emperor.

When asking for a favor, especially one from the emperor, proper decorum dictated that one must be serious in their asking. But every time Kebrilio thought to open his mouth to explain, he couldn’t help but smirk when a funny detail resurfaced back into his mind. The medicine Myron gave him earlier had already worn off a while ago when he was forced to listen to Hughesin’s mother and her company. 

Now, Kebrilio could hold it in no longer and his laughter echoed in the halls loudly and without restraint.

His laughter, of course, confused the emperor. His retainers told him what they knew, but the emperor was woefully still in the dark about the entire story and the details within. Fortunately, the man was a patient one and watched as the archmagister peal with laughter and bang his hand onto the marble tabletop without pause.

Kebrilio’s laughter went on longer than the emperor thought it would. Such lung capacity had never been seen before from him, Hecaris III thought. And how loud the laughter was even after laughing for so long! He had time to even call for a servant to bring two chairs over for Kebrilio to sit down on when he was finished laughing. 

And finished laughing Kebrilio did, after some time. Catching his breath, the man sat down onto his seat and enthusiastically told the story of Elric to a captivated Hecaris III. The servants around the garden retreated the place tactfully, a story between the archmagister and emperor was one not fit for people of their station to listen to.

It took plenty of laughter still, to retell the story, but Kebrilio managed to tell it all to the emperor eventually. In turn, the emperor began to bark with laughter. He was more familiar with Hughesin than Kebrilio was given their personal history. Hecaris III even knew what Hughesin was like as a child and what kind of person he was now. He was one of the few people including Somiret and Hughesin’s mother who knew what Hughesin desired most in life. But compared to Saludy, whose intellect was as vast as her social circles, the emperor had only a few measures to deal with Elric. 

Kebrilio wasn’t worried about that, however.

Once Kebrilio finished with his tale, the emperor leaned forward on his elbows, his fingers laced together, “Do you mean to tell me that not a single person was able to see that Elric is a male?”

The archmagister didn’t laugh, but a smile did appear back on his lips. “Your Majesty,” He shook his head, “perhaps you saw little of Elric’s disguise. Not a single masculine feature can be seen in it, he is perfectly dressed as a woman and well-suited for it. Moreover, Hughesin is not a man easily tempted by the ordinary woman, his present actions are telling enough of Elric’s womanly disguise.”

“Never in any of my grand delusions would I have fashioned such a tale, but no matter, I would be happy enough to witness it with mine own eyes.” Laughed Hecaris III.

“Pardon my impertinence, Your Majesty, but your humble servant asks for Your Majesty’s patience. I fear for Elric’s unmasking the more people that know and ask to see him. Please wait for the Banquet five days from now, Hughesin will be sure to bring Elric with him. I am confident Your Majesty will be pleased with the spectacle.” Kebrilio urged.

“There is another reason for my visit today, Your Majesty. Elric will need to appear at the Banquet in both his male and female identity. At that time, your humble servant hopes that Your Majesty will prepare two connected rooms for him to change into the appropriate dressing.”

The emperor nodded. This was a rather simple request for him to accede to and would most certainly make the Banquet far more lively. He couldn’t wait for the day to come already.

Pleased with the emperor’s nod, Kebrilio rose from his genuflection to salute the emperor and then leave. It was time for him to relegate this new information back to the Sovereignians.

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