Royal knights always reported three times when meeting the ambassadors of another country. It was when they passed through the gate, crossed the threshold of the palace, and finally when they entered the hall.
The royal family was always ready to meet the delegation in accordance to the report as it gave them time to calm their minds. This was the second report, so there was still some time before the Andras delegation would arrive.
Kurt III nodded from where he sat on his throne. As soon as the royal knight stepped back, the air in the room became heated.
"They finally came, those barbarians from the Andras…!"
"I'm curious about what they are going to say."
"Sending two sword masters, did they not have the guts to come alone?"
There was a sense of solidarity based on hostile feelings. It was even more so when the opponents were their centuries-long enemies. The magicians, who were whispering in hostile voices, were dressed in court robes of red, blue, yellow, and white. The robes were divided into four colours and were proof of which magic tower they belonged to. They were the 132 Superior magicians who had been summoned recently. The current generation's youngest Superior,
Theodore Miller, was also waiting for the delegation's arrival with the rest of the Red Tower magicians.
''Isn't the atmosphere tougher than I expected?' Theo thought as he looked around.
It was different from when they gathered in the auditorium. This space was narrower than at that time, and the gathered magicians were hostile toward the Andras delegation. So, the mana in the surroundings was like a raging storm. It was obvious that the enormous pressure would overwhelm the delegation once they entered the hall.
No, maybe that was the reason why all the magicians had convened.
"…Is this a war of nerves?"
"You saw it correctly." Theo whispered to Vince who replied in agreement. "It is childish but effective. The pressure will be enormous if all these magicians are gathered."
"Won't the Andras delegation think of it as a weakness?"
"It is common. The Andras Empire also creates a sense of oppression by using a collection of elite knights. Furthermore, it is rare for the Meltor Kingdom to do this with anyone besides the Andras Empire."
This was an exceptional case in many ways. Theodore accepted the explanation and turned back to the front again.
It was hard to find a precedent where 132 senior magicians as well as dozens of high ranking officials and nobles were gathered. In particular, two tower masters were standing in the vicinity of the throne, ensuring that the king was thoroughly protected.
At that moment, the third report rang out from outside the door.
"Your Majesty, the Andras delegation is seeking an audience with you!"
"I'll allow it." As soon as Kurt III answered, the room fell into a cold and intimidating silence.
The eyes of over 200 people were concentrated on the doors of the audience hall, and they soon spread open. Beyond that, there was a sight which surprised Theodore.
Rattle, rattle, rattle.
There was steel and more steel. Shining metal armour reflected the light pouring from the chandelier. The Andras delegation were dressed head and toe in armour, with no skin showing at all. The steel corps entered through the door with orderly steps.
Then as if it had been waiting, a shock wave of mana struck them.
The Andras delegation experienced the extremely unusual pressure with their heavy armour.
Ironically, it was more annoying due to their heavy armour. The pressure pushing on their heads and shoulders became stronger with every step, as moans emerged from the mouths of the knights who could no longer endure it.
There were only five steps left to the center of the audience room when the pressure reached a level which the delegation could no longer continue walking under. Even the elite knights couldn't advance one more step due to the pressure!
In that fearful space, two men walked out.
It was amazing. They wore more splendid armour and walked through the mana storm.
There was a knight a few heads taller than the others and another knight with black hair flowing under his helmet. By the time these two knights reached the center of the room, the pressure of the fierce mana had already faded away.
Finally, the two knights stopped once they saw the king. Then they took their helmets off and went down on one knee.
"The great Andras' 7th Sword, Lloyd Pollan, greets the sun of Meltor."
"The great Andras' 4th Sword, Pan Helliones, greets the sun of Meltor."
The empire's 7th Sword, Lloyd Pollan, and the empire's 4th Sword, Pan Helliones… These two men overpowered the atmosphere with their short introduction and rose to their feet. Just like how the Tower Masters received the reverence of Meltor, the same was true for the Seven Swords of Andras as the rights given to them was just below that of the Emperor's.
Kurt III eyed the sword masters before speaking, "It has been a long time, Sir Helliones."
"Yes, Your Majesty. This is the first time since the last agreement."
"We have known each other for a long time. What do you think about getting rid of the futile formalities?"
The knight with yellowish skin and black hair smiled like he was pleased. "Pan Helliones will follow Your Majesty's will."
"Then I will be blunt." On the other hand, there was no hint of laughter on Kurt III's face.
The king's dignity couldn't be overlooked by the sword masters, despite having no aura or magic power. As the ambassadors gulped involuntarily, the king of Meltor asked in a loud voice, "Are you hoping for an extension of the truce? Or do you once again wish for war?"
It was extremely straight-forward behaviour.
The ambassadors, who were covered in steel, and the magicians, who were pretending to be invisible, were perplexed. Usually, there would be a series of procedures, but Kurt III had shattered the traditional customs with a few words.
The two sword masters couldn't hide their confused expressions either, but they quickly regained their composure.
"You are still bold. If so, I will speak bluntly like Your Majesty wishes," Pan Helliones said with shining eyes. "I'll ask first. The story of the hero who saved the high elf that emerged from Meltor half a year ago, is it true?"
"Why do you care about that?"
"We were told by His Majesty to confirm the authenticity of the story. This Pan Helliones is one of the Seven Swords, so I have to do as the Emperor wills."
"Don't make me laugh. You have increased your eloquence during the time in which I haven't seen you," Kurt III retorted in a cynical tone. "You want to discuss the truce after confirming the relationship between Meltor and Elvenheim. Am I wrong?"
"..." The two sword masters remained silent. However, only an idiot wouldn't realize that the silence meant affirmation.
Kurt III displayed a scornful expression at their silence before opening his mouth to speak again. Since they said that it was a mission for the Emperor's knights, then he wouldn't turn away from the thrown bait.
"Well, good. Let's not quibble over your intentions. How do you plan to check the authenticity of the story? Will you send an envoy to Elvenheim to ask?" Kurt III prompted.
"…A knight of Andras doesn't trust words. It is the same for the testimony of the elves."
The big sword master knocked on his belt like he had been waiting for this. The heavy gauntlet made a sharp sound as it collided with the sheath of his weapon.
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"There is only one law in the empire which is to prove the strength! If we see the hero fight, we will know the truth. Your Majesty, please let this Pan Helliones see the young man!"
"Ridiculous!" Kurt III rejected the request. "What if you use the pretext of the duel to kill him?! Even if he is a hero, he is only 20 years old. Isn't that shameful as a sword master?"
Kurt III's rejection was like the roar of a beast.
Lloyd looked up at Kurt III with admiration. As expected of Andras' enemy, the Meltor king. His dignity was at a similar level to that of the Emperor. He wasn't an enemy who could be threatened or manipulated. Having been on the front lines for decades, Pan Helliones had been well aware of this for a long time.
Therefore, he prepared his own compromise. "Your Majesty, I have no intention of doing such a thing. If I do that, we will gain Elvenheim's hostility, and the Andras Empire doesn't want such a thing. I am just trying to make a useful suggestion."
"…Don't just end your talk with empty words."
"Of course. Rebecca!"
As soon as the call was made, a knight walked over to the two sword masters. The person's build was much smaller than the others, and the reason was immediately revealed. Kurt III's eyebrows raised the moment the knight took off the helmet.
Golden hair poured down like gold dust.
"4th Sword Pan Helliones's disciple, Rebecca, greets Meltor's sun."
Her face was beautiful, but compared to the daughters of nobles, she gave off a distant feeling. There were cuts on her skin and few decorations. It was evidence that she was extremely indifferent to her own appearance. Perhaps that was why she gave off a rather manly look.
The two swords hanging from her waist proved she wasn't just an ornament. Indeed, she seemed like the embodiment of a steel knight.
"…They weren't just empty words."
The power of aura gave strength regardless of gender, but the stereotypes about the abilities of men and women couldn't be completely eliminated. However, the sharp air around her was enough to strip away those stereotypes.
Theodore used the eyes of a warrior to see her essence.
'She's a senior aura user, and she is of a similar age to me.'
An eerie chill went down his spine at the assumption that she would be an enemy. He didn't feel like there was no chance of winning, but she was dangerous. When looking at his peers, was she equal to Sylvia?
A genius aura user who had become a master's disciple at a young age. However, unlike Sylvia, whose emotions were immature, the eyes of the female knight showed that she already knew the realities of a knight.
Simultaneously, a strange sense of discomfort irritated him. 'Where have I seen that face…?'
Theodore Miller was certain; he had never seen this woman before. Nevertheless, the knight called Rebecca gave off a familiar feeling. Maybe he had met her relative before. However, he didn't have any more time to think about it.
"Let me ask you again, Your Majesty." Pan Helliones, the 4th Sword of the Andras Empire, suddenly turned his eyes toward Theodore. "Sword and magic… Why don't we let the youngsters of the two countries dance together?"