“And Merhdad said politics was boring.” Cassim grinned like a fox, white and sharp. “Just gangs tussling over turf in fancy clothes.”
Well. He wasn’t really wrong. “I’m going to kill your friend,” Kougyoku challenged him, spine straight as steel. “Don’t you care?”
“Princess, if you can kill Merhdad, he deserves to die. And Balbadd will be better off without him.” His smile shifted; darkened. “But he knows turf wars too. He’ll have a way out.”
Ka Kobun bristled. “You mean he won’t even show up?”
Thick dark brows rose. “With Sinbad the Dungeon Conqueror ready to grab him if he bolts? He’ll show. After that….” Fingers waved near his dagger. “Then things are going to get interesting.”
Kougyoku held her pose with the grace of years of training, even if the word interesting made her pulse pick up speed. Her elder brothers didn’t like it when things got interesting. Interesting meant something not in the plan, and since the plan was to get everyone into the Empire as peacefully as possible, that meant things had gone wrong.
Then again, if Merhdad did do something interesting, and she still swatted him, it’d impress the other nations even more. It was worth the risk. “Let’s go.”
The red carpet was soft under her feet as they flew down into the plaza. Like what she’d always imagined walking on a cloud would be like, before she’d learned Vinea’s Full Equip and soared up to touch them herself.
They look so soft and fluffy! But get inside them, and they’re nothing but mist and ice.
Chill as the ambassadors, bright spots of white and gold and color against the sandstone-yellow walls. She could see at least six nations from here, all waiting to see her deal out Imperial justice. Heliohapt’s white, gold, and black; the red-edged white toga of Reim, Artemyra’s scandalous pink and white-feathered collar, the more soberly dressed men of Actia and Partevia overshadowed by a mustached man with the blue horned headband of Imuchakk, who might have had to duck just to get through the arch of the palace gates. All of them seemed alert, polite, and just subtly grumpy at the early hour. Which made them far more pleasant to look at than the bejeweled Balbadd nobles who’d been roped in as witnesses; their faces were straight-up sour, but the quick glances toward the royal crown on the balcony overlooking the plaza had enough fear to tell Kougyoku they’d stay put.
Ah. And speaking of the crown – tradition or not, no one would mind if she just took a peek, right? There was Sabhmad, holding the viceroy’s staff, and beside him-
Kougyoku barely registered the raised eyebrows and outright fear of those watching her Empire’s carpet land by the flowing fountain in the midst of the plaza. That… can’t be Abhmad under the crown. Can it?
“Repellent little pig, isn’t he?” Bouncing on soft fabric, Judar grinned. “Don’t worry, hag. You’re not marrying him. Not if I have to slaughter everyone here.”