Instantaneously, music stopped, eyes widened, tension rose, and apprehension filled the air. The water alliance king's hand trembled while he struggled to not let his face distort.
What was this?
This was insult. Naked, unrestrained insult meant to shame him before his house. In his more than one thousand years of life, Ernst von Gradl had never suffered such a slight. And even if he were thick-skinned, this would still be hard to bear.
"You are going too far!"
A voice boomed from Krann's left. Turning toward its origin, he saw a paragon spirit man that seemed to be in his mid-twenties. Boasting a seventh step Semi-Saint cultivation base and adorning unique princely attire, his status wasn't hard to guess.
He was the more than four hundred years old alliance crown prince.
"Excuse me? Who might you be?"
But Krann didn't seem to recognize him. As the crown prince's outburst still echoed within the room, his eyes showed confusion.
Assuming Krann was trying to disrespect him, the crown prince exploded. Although he wasn't born from the queen, he still was a great throne's heir. Who dared disparage him so?
"Not content of insulting our state within five minutes of your arrival, you don't even know the proper limitations and relentlessly keep pushing our bottom line! Do you think this is the Holy Flame Empire?"
The words rang true in many of the von Gradl kinsmen who felt the Holy Flame Empire's delegation showed no sense of propriety.
However, both the queen, Augusta, and the first princess, Lena frowned.
"Oh? That is to say, we're the guilty party and the second prince did nothing wrong?"
Krann calmly asked, following Konrad's guidance.
And immediately, the king, the queen, and the first princess understood the ploy.
But before the crown prince could finish his words, Ernst waved his hand, causing a large wave of holy force to lock the crown prince's body and prevent him from speaking further.
"Naturally not. My water kingdom alliance is at fault for allowing treacherous officials to mislead a royal prince. Your grace spoke true. I should help my son showcase his repentant heart."
Ernst interrupted with an ugly, forced smile, to the crown prince's great dismay. Krann sighed, if he could trigger that cow dung some more, then they could get an excuse for another public round of face-slapping.
Hearing the water alliance king's prompt admission of guilt, the delegation members all sneered. Their mocking faces fueling the royals' discontent. Music soon resumed, but tension remained palpable.
Alongside their fellow delegates, Konrad and Krann took their assigned seats that stood close to the king's. With those few words, Krann had managed to pull most of the crowd's attention away from Konrad.
However, Augusta and Lena's eyes remained locked on him. Considering the third princess' report, they felt that while he'd not said anything, he must have had a hand in Krann's words and was looking for an opportunity to suppress them further.
Instead of a bride securing delegation, this group looked like a foreign oppressor eager to wrest benefits from the weaker state. They could absolutely not give them the opportunity!
Eight lovely female dancers soon came in, their performance easing the tension that filled the air. Friendly talks finally resumed. However, the royals kept the pleasantries among themselves, not mingling with the delegates.
"Your grace, what do you think of our country's dancers?"
The water alliance king asked Krann while maintaining his fake smile.
"Not bad. Later on, your majesty should have them give us private dances."
The water alliance king thus realized that he should avoid getting Krann's attention at all cost.
Afterward, rows of maidservants carried the dishes in. Though the dishes were similar, each table already possessed its assigned plates. As his maidservant filled his table with the dishes, Konrad's eyes flashed with amusement.
The palace maids then excused themselves, leaving the gathered royals and delegates to enjoy their meals.
"Everyone, to our dear delegates and the prosperous relationship between our two countries!"
The water alliance king proclaimed with a new wine glass raised. But from the corner of his eye, he glanced toward Konrad. Thinking of the poison he'd prepared especially for him, his heart beamed with joy.
This was a colorless, odorless, and tasteless Saint-level poison that took nine days to act. Once ingested, it would take the nine days to silently lodge itself in the cultivator's organs then flare up in a single outburst.
All internal organs would implode, thus ending the target's life. Both Konrad's dishes and wine had been infested with the poison.
Although he wouldn't be there to witness its outburst, thinking of Konrad's impending demise, the water alliance king couldn't help but inwardly jubilate.
But while, Krann included, all raised their wine cups to meet the king's toast, Konrad didn't touch his. And his lips curled into a smile.
With his Holy Stolas Physique, no Saint-level poison could escape his senses. Not only could they not evade his detection, but they couldn't harm him in the slightest. At best, they would act as nourishment.
And seeing how intently he stared at the wine and plates before him, the water alliance king couldn't prevent a foreboding feeling from rising within his chest.
Again, all eyes fell upon Konrad.
"Delegation protector, is something the matter?"
Augusta asked with a growing sense of apprehension, using Konrad's registered title.
"Oh, I was just thinking of the second prince suffering alone while we all feast. This situation fills my heart with dismay. After all, his repentance is clear to all. I wish to offer him my plate and wine so that although he can't be here with us, he can share in our celebration."
Instantaneously, a wave of confusion spread through the gathered royals while Augusta's and Lena's eyes were filled with doubt. And when they turned toward Ernst and saw the soaring fright within his gaze, enlightenment replaced their doubts.
Their eyes widened in shock.
"No…he wouldn't dare. Not here. Not now. He can't be that foolish!"
Augusta tried to reassure herself. However, the more she looked at Ernst, the more she felt herself unable to refute the reality.
"Protector, your solicitude goes straight to our heart. However, there is no need for that. I can have dishes delivered to the p…"
"No, I insist.
This is our Holy Flame Empire's gift. I hope your majesty won't interfere with our show of goodwill."
Konrad cut, and the pressure within his words made it clear that denial was intolerable.
Now, even a pig could see that the dishes were problematic. At the very least, Konrad's were. Otherwise, why would he push to have them sent to the prince who knelt by his order?
Perplexed eyes fell on the water alliance king who could barely contain his ugly grimace. The realization that his treachery had been exposed struck him hard, and with cold sweat, he staggered.
However, he then recalled that this was a slow-acting poison. Therefore, even if the second prince consumed it, there would be time for countermeasures. At the very least, this banquet wouldn't turn into a funeral.
With that thought propping him, his vigor was renewed, and determination shone within his eyes.
"Very well, as the delegation protector wishes! Please have the dishes delivered to the second prince."
When he heard those words, Konrad's smile grew brighter.