A maidservant rushed in to pick Konrad's silver plate. Lifting it, she bowed toward him, bowed toward the king, then prepared to take her leave.
"Wait. May his majesty dispatch one guard to make sure the girl doesn't embezzle or tamper with the food. I will also do the same."
Now, there was no longer any need for pretense, and Ernst failed to fake smiles.
"As you wish."
He then had a royal eunuch escort the girl, while Konrad dispatched a delegation member to do the same. Even if she wasn't well-versed in politics, the maidservant could feel the crushing weight of the plate she held. And the knowledge that she might be bringing poisoned food to a royal made her arms tremble.
If anything happened to the second prince, even if the king didn't immediately blame her, how could he not vent his anger on a later date? Without background, peerless beauty, or strength, a quick death was the best outcome she could hope for.
Still, she could not disobey. Because if she did, she would die on the spot. Droplets of tears filled her eyes as she turned heels and left the banquet hall. Again, a deathly silence dropped on the scene. And this time, music didn't dare resume.
The royals clasped their thighs in anxiety while Krann, the tenth elder and the remaining delegates didn't conceal their seething wrath.
Clearly, if the test proved conclusive, blood would flow.
"What have you done?"
Augusta asked Ernst through a mental message.
He categorically denied. Of course, his words failed to put her at ease. Still, she believed her husband wouldn't be retarded enough to not use a slow-acting poison. At least, they should be able to pass this hurdle.
Lena, the first princess, also thought the same. However, as they stared at Konrad's bright smiling face, and how leisurely he petted his cobra, they couldn't repress their apprehension.
Time passed in a tortuously slow manner, with seconds feeling like hours. Following an oppressive thirty minutes of quiet, the delegate returned alongside the eunuch and maidservant.
The maidservant dropped onto her knees and profusely kowtowed.
"Your majesty, please spare me!"
That those were her first words upon return, took the water alliance king aback, but before he could inquire on why he should spare her, the trembling eunuch also fell on his knees.
Only the delegate stood still, his eyes shining with unconstrained rage.
He roared, and the eunuch, whose forehead was already full of sweat, also kowtowed.
"Your majesty…the second prince…the second prince is dead. By the time he finished the wine, blood erupted from all his orifices, and he perished on the spot. There was nothing we could do!"
As those words echoed, the water alliance king staggered and fell back on his throne. Simultaneously, the entire room went into an uproar.
"How…how could it be?"
"His majesty really dared poison Holy Flame Dignitaries to death during the banquet?"
"How could he possibly be this muddled?"
"What is the meaning of this?"
But as the whispers carried on, Krann slammed his hand onto the table facing him.
Then rose from his seat to turn a menacing glower toward the water alliance king.
"You have three seconds to give us a reasonable answer! Otherwise, I must change the monarch!"
He roared while brandishing Olrich's imperial token which he'd received from Konrad. Vast holy force erupted from it, and although the energy signature was that of a peak-stage True Origin Saint, the density already surpassed that of the average Fate Wrestling Saint.
The token's shape matched with the power rippling from it made its origin evident. No one had expected that the Holy Flame Emperor would bestow a token carrying such a substantial amount of his Holy Force onto that adopted human son of his.
And when faced with its dreadful might, Ernst floundered within his seat with sweat trickling down his forehead.
"Fool! Utter, complete fool! How could you be this muddled?! You've paid the price of a son's life to ruin the country!"
Augusta roared in a mental message that wreaked havoc within Ernst's mind. Her words shredded him from inside.
"I didn't…I really didn't…this wasn't supposed to happen…not like this!"
Ernst thoughts were in disarray, his heart rate went off the rails, and as he suffered the stroke of a lifetime, his body shook, and he spat blood.
Ernst could not have imagined that as soon as the plate and wine were dropped on his table, Konrad used his Stolas powers to change the poison's properties, and turn it from slow-acting to instantaneous. Of course, the second prince had no hope of survival.
The delegation members all rose in indignation and led by the tenth elder, summoned their energy weapons, ready to spill von Gradl blood.
"Three seconds are up. The water alliance king went mad and attempted to murder the Holy Flame Empire's delegates. With the authority bestowed upon me by his imperial majesty, I shall take his life!"
Krann aimed the token at the floundering Ernst and gathered its holy force for a fatal strike.
Lena and Augusta realized that if this blow passed, not only was Ernst's life forfeit, but they could no longer escape the charge. This matter would forever be known as "the king's failed assassination attempt of a foreign dignitary."
They had to stop it at all cost!
Both turned into light beams to reappear before Krann, barring his path.
"This is a misunderstanding. His majesty is obviously not involved in the protector's assassination attempt. Otherwise, how could he so leisurely send the plate to his son?
Clearly, this is Great Void's ploy to destroy our two countries good relationship and prevent a joint assault.
Please think twice!"
Augusta proclaimed for all to hear, her words filling Ernst with enlightenment.
"Right! Right! I have nothing to do with this. This must be Great Void's attempt at framing me and breaking our alliance! Please restrain your anger!"
He exclaimed. But at that time, Konrad stood up, vanished, and reappeared by Krann's side.
"Whether this is a foreign plot or not, doesn't matter.
Whether you intended for this to happen or not, doesn't matter.
The only thing we know for sure is that you served Holy Flame Dignitaries lethal poison, and almost caused a guest's demise.
For this, you must pay. If not with your life then…"
Konrad's purple eyes swept the three royals before him, and a dreadful pressure coming from his Supreme Overlord Physique oppressed them where they stood.
"…with your country."
Feeling the suffocating pressure emanating from him and the domineering words that left no room for compromise, Augusta firmly believed that if they couldn't offer satisfying compensation, a blood bath was inevitable.
"Must you be so overbearing? At the end of the day, I'm still your future crown princess. Is this how the Holy Flame Empire conducts diplomacy?"
Lena questioned, the unwillingness to bend clear within her eyes.
"Diplomacy is a tool used between equals. When your force can threaten mine, we negotiate.
But when with a palm we can suppress you, we command!
That, princess, is diplomacy."
The Divine Primal Physique's pressure erupted alongside the Supreme Overlord's. Forcing the three royals who faced the brunt of the two forces to recoil in fright.
Knowing that the situation couldn't be salvaged through honeyed words, Augusta was forced to make a decision she knew would doom the Water Kingdom Alliance throughout eternity.
"If you want to live, give them the fifteen states' army tokens and the key to our treasury."
She urged Ernst through another mental message.