The answer to the duke's question was simple.
"It's simple. I would just stutter and fumble around like the ceremony department head did and wait until Your Highness gives an option to retreat and go along with that."
The ceremony department head did not make the wrong choice. Rather, it should be said that he answered correctly. At the moment, even if he was flustered and thought he would lose his head if he made a mistake, he was only chosen as a representative in the war of nerves anyway, so Duke Asteria would have fully understood the situation and let it go.
The duke laughed out loud as if he hadn't expected my answer. "Kuhahaha! I see. The ceremony department head's response was not wrong. I like you better now for that response.”
Of course, it was unknown whether the ceremony department head was trembling while aiming for that opportunity or was actually trembling with fear of the Duke Asteria. Somehow the latter was a little more convincing.
"It's an honor." I bowed lightly at the duke's praise.
Duke Asteria looked at me interestedly as I followed behind him and asked me in a passing tone, "Then suppose I'm trying to kill you. How would you respond under the circumstances just now?"
The question wasn't light at all despite the tone being light.
"Is the way you want to kill me a political death? Or is it actual death?”
From a politician's point of view, the two deaths were not much different, but I was not a politician. Political life had no value to me.
The duke, who knew the intentions of my question at once, looked regretful. "You really have no greed."
I smiled and shook my head. "It's just a different direction of greed. I'm greedy, too." I thought people greedier than I would be rare.
The duke laughed cheerfully at my words. "Ahahahaha, is that so? If you said so, I’m sure it’s true. Well, let's make it a real death because political death doesn't seem to pose any threat to you."
I considered the duke's question seriously. No matter how much I thought about it, I couldn't think of a situation in which my life would be in danger. I think I could run away unless my father came. But of course, I deduced the answer that the duke wanted.
"When Your Highness the Duke brought up glaring at Guild Director Glont, I would have said I didn’t know what you were talking about to the end."
If positive and negative responses both were a landmine, no response was the best. However, if a man as powerful as Duke Asteria sincerely tried to kill an innocent person, the only method was to run away.
He laughed at my answer. "Then I'll ask you if you think I made up the story.”
As I expected, the duke began to be nitpicky.
"If that's the case, there are only three options for me."
"Oh, there’s three things?" He looked at me with an interested smile.
I folded my fingers one by one and recited the options. "The first option is to run away. If someone like Your Highness the Duke is after my neck, then frankly, it is best to run away."
"I see, but I'm a very persistent person.”
"Then there's a good chance I will fail to run away. The next option is to move your target from me to Guild Director Glont."
To be exact, it is to blame Guild Director Glont for the ‘glaring’ situation before. Then the justification for taking my head would immediately disappear.
"Oh, aren't you afraid of future trouble from Glont?"
"Even if I was afraid of Guild Director Glont’s retribution, would I rather have Your Highness, the Duke's retribution?"
"But I'm just an old man who's close to his end, while Glont is still vigorous and healthy and has a huge influence in the imperial army." He smiled playfully.
I reciprocated the same way. "Your Highness does not seem like someone who is nearing his end at all. Still, saving my life right now seems better than thinking about the future.”
The duke nodded and affirmed my answer. "That's true. You have to live today to avenge tomorrow. So what's the last way?"
His anticipating eyes made me smile with a feeling of burden.
"The last way is to drag in Duke Arthemius. In terms of power, he is one of the few people who can match Your Highness, and the situation just before was just mere testing the waters by the prime minister. So, he should have to take responsibility.”
Duke Asteria nodded very satisfactorily.
In fact, in addition to the three ways that I mentioned, there were many ways such as causing internal conflict, pulling in external enemies, and assassination, but they were not things that should come out of the mouth of a civil servant.
"What would Your Highness do?" I asked back.
Duke Asteria laughed cheerfully. "Ahahaha, in my position, I have to be cautious even when telling jokes." Then he answered with a voice full of reminiscing. "So let me tell you about my daughter's actions in a similar situation, instead of my answer. My daughter's choice was to cause a war. She dragged in foreign enemies.”
"Wow, she was a very fiery person.”
I didn't know there was a person who had thoughts exactly as I did. However, he previously said her life was in danger, but I could not imagine a situation in which Duke Asteria’s daughter’s life could be in danger. To be able to threaten the life of a duke’s daughter, one would have to be at least an emperor for it to be possible. As the duke was the greatest political rival of the former emperor, the Blood Emperor, perhaps, his daughter was targeted.
"Kkeul-kkeul-kkeul, yes, she had a weak body, but a strong mind." He smiled bitterly and approached the hall where the convention was held.
A knight and servant who were guarding the hall came out and approached the duke and me when they noticed us.
"Excuse me, are you His Highness, Duke Heinz von Asterium Asteria and the guide, Den von Mark?”
"Yes, that’s correct," I answered the servant's question instead
The servant gently greeted the duke and went into the hall through a small door. Then as the knight outside opened the door, the servant inside shouted.
"His Highness, Duke Heinz von Asterium Asteria arrives!”
The Duke of Asteria entered the hall with a dignified gait, and I also naturally followed the Duke's footsteps.
When Hestia and the other Crows entered the palace, the head servant and the head maid welcomed them.
"We really appreciate your visit to the palace."
Hestia glanced around and smiled at the servants’ greeting. "Thank you for your hospitality."
Unlike Hestia's greetings, there were only the two, one head servant and one head maid, at the entrance, even without a common guard.
She was a VIP amongst VIPs who should have been welcomed with a welcoming event, and it wouldn’t have been strange for them to hold a banquet with a parade.
As Hestia noticed this point, the eyes of the head maid and head servant were full of embarrassment. It was a completely different reaction from Bloody, who they knew to be understanding and cool.
The head maid started to explain, "About the insufficient welcome, as we explained in advance...”
"Of course, I know the situation." Hestia cut her off with a gentle smile. "But apart from that, we have to think about the relationship between us and the empire.”
The Crow Tribe was an equal ally of the empire. Even if there were any circumstances in the empire, it could be considered an insult to receive a delegation of only two. No matter how much they asked for understanding in advance, as the head, she could not just move forward without so much as an apology. Only when each other’s positions were firmly established from the beginning could future friction be prevented.
"We apologize. It's all our fault." The head servant bowed his head and apologized, while Hestia accepted the apology with a smile and a light nod.
The head servant apologizing was more meaningful than the emperor showing an expression of regret. Although it was informal, the head servant was no less an external spokesman for the emperor.
Hestia understood the meaning of the head servant’s apology and so walked forward and asked, "I heard an audience with His Majesty, the Emperor has been prepared. Please show me the way." She spoke with a plain expression indicating that she was not below the emperor of the empire.
The head servant, aware of this, took the lead to guide her to the inner palace.
The Crows followed the head servant and head maid.
The head servant who was guiding them stopped in front of a white line guarded by knights and servants, and said, "From here is the sword line, and we are strictly prohibited from entering with any weapons. I apologize, but we will hold on to your weapons for you."
The Crows did not move at the request of the head servant.
"Take off all weapons and leave them to the head servant temporarily."
Only when Hestia's order was given did they remove the weapons from their bodies and entrust it to the head servant. Their weapons were made of heavy adamantium and so the knights received them instead of the servants.
The knights who received the weapon almost lost control due to the weight of the weapon but barely managed to hold on.
"We will keep and treat your precious armaments with the utmost care until you leave the palace."
Despite the greetings of the head servant, the Crows didn’t say anything in response and stood expressionlessly.
"How many people can I bring for the audience?" asked Hestia.
The head servant answered immediately, "If possible, we would like only one representative, but if it is not possible, please choose up to two aides."
Hestia called her aides without hesitation. "Head Elder, Foreign Minister. Please follow me."
“We receive your orders.”
“We receive your orders.”
When Weger and the foreign minister answered, Hestia looked at her eldest brother, Gallahad, standing silently.
"The captain of the guard can take the rest of the men to the accommodations provided by the imperial family and relax."
"We receive your orders."
Hestia burst into laughter on the inside as she watched Gallahad salute her. He must truly be scared of his father’s iron fist for this troublemaker to be so calm and listen to her orders.
As she thought about wanting to show this sight of her brother to her other siblings, she spoke to the head servant with a cold expression, "Please guide us."
"Yes. You can guide them to their accommodations."
After ordering the head maid to guide the Crows to their accommodations, the head servant went across the sword line and headed to the reception room where the emperor was waiting. When he arrived in front of the knight guarding the reception room door, the servants opened the door straight away without knocking or making any noise.
The head servant stepped aside without entering through the open door.
Hestia smiled gently. "Thank you for the guidance."
"No, I just did what I had to do."
Inside the reception room were the emperor, the captain of the Imperial Guard Division, and Glont, the director of the Adventurers’ Guild, sitting in front of a large table.
Hestia walked proudly in towards them.
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