The Cobra, Hydra, and Basilisk were all in their beastly forms, which meant that he had no faces to go by to figure out what they were thinking. The latter two had changed their sizes so that they were now the same size as him, too, but the power that they held could hardly be hidden.
Even now, as they stood at the center of the continent where he was supposed to feel safe, the way that the very area around them was vibrating almost fearfully made it seem as if they were stressing the Will of the World by just standing there. He didn't remember anything after attacking himself, and he hadn't had the time to ask the system to show him the recording. Hence, he had no idea just how difficult the task he had forced them to undertake must have been, so frankly, he really hoped that one of them would speak so that he would at least have something to go by.
The uncomfortable silence dragged on, and even though the pressure that he was feeling kept growing with each second, he did not give in. He knew that this was an almost unconscious effect of reaching the ultimate peak of power, but because he was no stranger to how hypnotizing it could be, it was easy to ignore it and wait with a smile on his face.
Finally, it was Alistair who began screaming at him after transforming into a reptilian.
"Enough of this! You…you dolt! We should be clapping you in chains and taking you to our headquarters to repay all the resources we had to spend to save your ungrateful arse! Argh! I knew we should have…"
Just a single word from the being that stood in the middle of the three was enough to shut Alistair up.
So the assassins weren't joking when they said that the other two were kids when compared to you…
During the eventful conversation that he had had with Husare during which he had hatched the plan that had just played out, he had found out that of the three Saints that represented the three Cobras of the TriCobra sect, only one was a true Cobra who was a descendant of the original founding members of this illustrious organization. Apparently, this was a being who ruled over the sect with an iron fist, and the other two were just Saints who had risen to that level recently. On the mainland, it was rumored that the Cobra could defeat them both easily if it ever came to it, but because he was so old that he was nearing the end of his lifespan, he seldom showed his power and allowed many to believe that he was actually the weakest of the three.
"Lay out your plan, and the reasons due to which you chose to act as a conduit to call upon us. I will know if you lie, so I advise that you present the absolute truth."
The first time he had spoken to Alistair, Daneel had thought that he had seen the pinnacle of the art of making one fear someone just by speaking to them.
However… he saw now that he had been absurdly wrong. When the Cobra spoke, there was not a single vibration of power in his tone, but somehow, as soon as Daneel heard the words, he felt a natural impulsion to obey and do anything and everything that was asked of him.
It even went deeper than that. It had given birth to a seed of fear in his mind that tried to convince him that he would die instantly if he even thought about defying this being, but without even saying anything, the system shut it down before it could affect him in any way.
[No Dimensional Magic or Elementary Magic has been detected. It is possible that the effect is merely due to being in command for a long time.]
Hearing this, Daneel had to fight hard not to let any emotion show on his face. Indeed, the Cobra had been at the head of his sect for thousands of years, so after seeing the natural aura of command that one could develop after so much experience… Daneel was both impressed, and excited.
He was impressed because he had made the right call to follow this plan, as he could tell now that the Cobra would judge him fairly.
And he was excited because he couldn't wait to reach the same level.
The system had already told him when he woke up that the plan had succeeded, so Daneel had no problem with following the Cobra's commands. Taking a deep breath, he began to speak.
"I'll keep it short. I have three reasons:
1. The prophecy. Like all prophecies, the one that Alistair heard was vague, but from all the help that you've given me so far, I could tell that you valued it a lot. My survival is tied to that of Angaria, so I'm pretty sure that I am the Golden Dragon… and if I went over to the Church, it is almost guaranteed that it would be a major blow for you in many ways.
2. Husare told me that the TriCobra sect is an extremely practical organization that takes decisions based on precise calculations. What I was proposing to the Church would mean that you had spent all the resources so far for nothing… so I gambled on the possibility that you would decide to spend even more to save me, rather than leave me in their hands. I also intended to not let you have enough time to make the decision… which is why I only allowed Husare, and in turn, you to find out about what I was doing after the meeting with the Saint from the Church had begun.
3. I also found out that you sent with three assassins with the authorization to teach me the spell to become a conduit, if they found an opportunity to do so. From that very action, I deduced that you saw the possibility where I might be abducted by the Church. In that case… why not make it happen myself, so that I can take away the card on their side that I fear the most? And in the process, if a major part of the last wave dies, wouldn't it actually mean that I would ensure my victory? I knew that from the losses they had incurred so far, the possibility of a Saint interfering was all too real. If I continued ignoring it, I knew that my home would be doomed. Hence… I took a risk, and I don't think you can deny that it paid off."
"You cocky bastard! I'll cut your head off, and then we can talk about things being paid off! You…"
"Oh, enough of this farce, Alistair. From everything you've said, I can tell that you must have seen a fourth reason, too, but you didn't state it because you must have felt that it might make us angry. Go on. Say it."
The slightest hint of smugness had entered Daneel's tone during the end of his speech, and that had led to Alistair almost jumping forward to do exactly what she had said. However, when the Hydra who had changed into the form of an old man with a long beard that was split into nine long strands spoke, she controlled herself and seethed with fury while still cursing him under her breath.
"The fourth reason… is that you stood to profit from damaging the Saint."
As soon as he said this, the Cobra and the Hydra shared a look.
An instant later, the Cobra, too, took the form of a human. Daneel didn't know whether they were doing so because this was the dominant form of the species on his continent, or whether the same could be said about the Mainland, too. Either way, as the leader of the TriCobra sect who was now a dashing, clean-shaven man wearing a golden crown in the shape of the open head of a Cobra turned to him, he waited to see whether he had been right.
The answer to this question came in the form of both of them raising their hands… and clapping.
The Hydra even smiled, but the Cobra maintained the neutral look on his face. After seeing them applaud him, Alistair looked as if she had swallowed a bug, but just like the two of them, he, too, ignored her.
"It is not often that we see someone scheme against us… and if not for that fourth reason, we might even have been cross with you. However, it is true that there has been a long-standing contract to destabilize the Church. They've grown really arrogant, of late, so there are many forces that wish to bring them down a peg. St. Hisos was always a weak link… impulsive and prideful, he never allows anything bad to appear on his record. At the moment, he came here thinking that we were embroiled in a battle with a different sect… but what he didn't know was that that battle ended long ago, and we were simply making it seem as if it was still going on to hide or movements. It is as if the Heavens aligned to let us help you… but it is more accurate to say that you aligned most of them. I had my eye on you ever since Alistair told me about your continent… and I see that my decision to value your future was not incorrect. Your cunning mind and natural potential both indicate that the boast you made to the Church might indeed have a lot of truth behind it…but I will reserve final judgment until this war is over. You might think that you've won it… but by acting now, we have drawn the wrath of the Church on ourselves. We will be able to do nothing else to help you, so the last battle has to be handled by you, alone. I'll be watching and waiting to see what you accomplish. Paragons… Let us depart."
And just like that, the Cobra disappeared. The Hydra left, next, after looking at him with interest in his eyes, and after that, Alistair left last. In her eyes, the smoldering embers of the rage that had filled her just now was still present, and Daneel knew very well that they were definitely not because He Scheme had made them step into the battle to help him even though they had had no intention of doing so.
A wave of weakness washed over him a moment later, as it had been no easy task to sacrifice himself to call those three beings over. He hesitated for a moment, wondering whether he should keep it away… but then, after the system showed him the image of half the third wave withering away into nothingness, he decided to let the waves of darkness take over after giving one last command to the system.
"Send me to my queens… and initiate the final preparations."
The last thing he heard was a soft sigh from Eloise as he fell into her arms, and with the sweetness of her embrace bringing a smile to his face, he drifted away into the blissful sea of dreams.