This chapter is updated by Novels.pl
*tok* *tok* *tok*
"Come on in, Princess."
Similar to before, Vahn didn't rise from his seated position to answer the door. He did, however, rise to his feet as Sandora entered into the room, lowered her head, and asserted, "It is a great honor to stand in the presence of the Sage Dragon Emperor. I hope my belated arrival has not offended you. As important as this meeting is, I did not want to present myself in less than perfect form…"
Looking at Sandora from the top of her fiery head to her pure and perfect feet, the first thought that crossed Vahn's mind was, ("She's even shorter than expected…")
"Considering I neither announced my arrival nor my intention to visit, I would argue that I'm rather fortunate to be given time out of your busy schedule. Though I understand your reasons, there is really no need for you to hold me in such…high esteem…"
Though his original intent was to ease tensions, Vahn's words seemed to have the opposite effect as Sandora raised her head and, very seriously, stated, "You're wrong. As the Leader of the Aldrnari Empire, the Community occupying the 1002nd Gate, your status far exceeds my own. On principle, it should have been my responsibility to venture to the East and pay my respects. The fact you are here at all honors my Community beyond all possible words of gratitude…"
Punctuating her words, Sandora attempted to bow in a manner similar to a servant. The moment she looked down, however, she found Vahn squatting down and staring up at her, a wry smile on his face as he said, "You're way too serious for an eleven-year-old…"
Not expecting Vahn to appear so close to her, Sandora's body became statuesque as she stared down at him with an unreadable expression on her face. It was only when Vahn waved his hand in front of her that she came back to her senses, stepping back as she said, "I can assure you, my age has nothing to do with it. As the Leader of Salamandra and Crown Princess of the Salamandra Royal Family, I have a duty to act in accordance with my status. Countless people rely on me to lead them through hardship and many more look to me as an example for them to follow. Please do not look down on me for my age…I am not a child…"
"So it would seem…"
Rising to his feet, Vahn compelled Sandora to take another step back to the rather drastic height difference between them. In truth, he was around the same height as her brother, but, due to the overwhelming difference in status and authority, Vahn gave off a larger-than-life impression. For a brief moment, Sandora was even gripped by the notion that the ceiling 5m above was too low for Vahn to walk around comfortably…
Liberated from her reverie the moment Vahn turned his back to her, Sandora was briefly at a loss. She didn't know if she should fall into step behind him or if he was wordlessly dismissing her from the room. As a result, she ended up standing stock still until Vahn turned around, a far more casual smile on his face as he asked, "Would you like to join me for tea? I believe there are a few important matters for us to discuss…"
As there was only a single matter of importance in Sandora's mind, a faint blush colored her cheeks as she instinctually folded her hands over her lap and replied, "It would be my ple-…it would be my greatest honor."
While Vahn was in the midst of his 'marriage interview' with Sandora, a young boy garbed almost entirely in pure white had a rare expression of frustration on his face. At his side, an equally young girl garbed in predominately black garments asked, "What should we do, Highness? At this rate, it is only a matter of time before our plot is uncovered. Should we pull back and plan a new strategy…?"
Exhaling a contemptuous sigh, the young boy known as Highness remarked, "If that fool's words are to be believed, we only have a few years before the Sage Dragon Emperor's influence spans the entire Little Garden. If my theory is correct, his ability to ascertain information is directly associated with his territory. By the time he expands his influence through the North and South, it will already be too late to act."
Paling in response to Highness's words, the young girl, better known as Rin, asked, "Can you not use your Another Cosmology against him? What about the Void Star…?"
Squinting his brilliant golden eyes, Highness gave Rin one of the nastier looks he had ever shown on his face. This caused the young girl's body to tense until Highness's expression promptly eased into an apologetic look as he explained, "Things are no longer that simple…that man was unaffected by Indra's lightning and managed to return even after being forcibly expelled from a Game Board. If we try and face him without a better understanding of his powers, the only thing we will accomplish is exposing our hands and placing a target on our backs…"
Though he was about to say he didn't want to lose anyone, Highness allowed his words to trail off as a sudden influx of hot and cold air permeated the storage room where he and Rin were having their discussion. Shortly thereafter, a tall and lean man with an appearance reminiscent of a Count stepped out of the void, his right eye gleaming with a fiery red light while his left exuded a biting chill that threatened to freeze any and all who found themselves in his line of sight.
Smiling in response to Highness's aggressive issuance of his name, Maxwell swept aside the pale-brown bangs covering his left eye as he mused, "Oh? Does my presence cause you some form of discomfort, my esteemed Leader…?"
Undaunted by the child-like duo's silence, Maxwell's smile grew as he explained, "Orders from the top. Regardless of the dangers involved, we are to press forward. As you so accurately pointed out, this may very well be the last chance we have to take action in the North. If we fail here, there is no way of knowing how many centuries it would take to try again."
Speaking up as the Strategist of their little terrorist cell, Rin's expression hardened as she said, "Even if our plans are setback a thousand years, it would still be better than opposing an existence like the Sage Dragon Emperor without a plan. Had you done your duty and gained information on the Sage Dragon's Hearth prior to their ascent as a 4-Digit Community, the Salamandra Community may not have reached out to him. What happened?"
Squinting his eyes, a clearly unamused expression marred Maxwell's otherwise handsome face as he answered, "I have submitted my reports without obfuscating even the most minute of details. I tried gaining access to the Sage Dragon's Hearth and their affiliate Communities hundreds of times over the past three months. With the exception of Communities that existed prior to the founding of the Sage Dragon's Hearth, each and every one of their properties is virtually impenetrable. If you don't believe me, just as the tens of thousands of Communities that failed to gather so much as a single thread of information that wasn't personally propagated by the Sage Dragon Emperor. Every single thing we know about that man is something he 'allowed' us to know."
Though she couldn't help adopting a pout in response to Maxwell's words, Rin didn't try to refute him. She had also attempted to infiltrate the Sage Dragon's Hearth, but, the moment she stepped into their reception room, she got the distinct feeling that someone or something had seen through every aspect of her being. Her intuition was derived from one of her most powerful Gifts, so, before she could further jeopardize their mission, she departed the Sage Dragon's Hearth without looking back.
Speaking in Rin's stead, Highness stated, "Telling us to act is meaningless without providing the means to achieve our objective. With our current forces, even stalling the Sage Dragon Emperor would be impossible. If death is the only outcome we can expect, I would rather pit my life against those old goats hiding away in their castles than a Pure Blooded Dragon whose power has already exceeded the standard of the Outer Gates."
As the agent that had been tasked with watching over Highness and ensuring the latter's group didn't betray them, Maxwell was the furthest thing from amused when he heard the white-haired youth's treacherous words.
In an effort to prevent things from getting out of hand, Rin inserted herself between Highness and Maxwell, hands raised as she said, "Now, now, no need to get excited. It's not like we're refusing to do our job. Highness is just concerned we lack the means to complete it. For now, why don't you go back and petition for reinforcements? Fighting amongst ourselves when the Sage Dragon Emperor is barely a stone's throw away accomplishes neither of our goals."
Though he didn't tear his eyes away from Highness, Maxwell would be lying if he said he didn't see the logic in Rin's words. He also wasn't particularly enthused by the notion of fighting against Vahn, so, after a prolonged and tense period of silence, he begrudgingly nodded his head and answered, "Very well. I will pass on your words to the Elders. For now, you should focus on completing the first phase of the mission. Without the key, it won't matter how much support the Elders send."
Without waiting for the duo's response, Maxwell created a rift in the void using a simple wave of his hand. One half of the room was filled with extreme heat while the other was spontaneously covered in a layer of permafrost. In spite of this, neither Highness nor Rin showed any signs of discomfort as they watched Maxwell disappear between the boundaries of hot and cold…
"I really hate that guy…"
Though she had been extremely nervous at first, hours ended up passing in the blink of an eye as Sandora gradually came to realize that Vahn wasn't some unapproachable Dragon God that existed far beyond her reach. His status and authority didn't seem to have any meaningful influence on his character. Rather, based on what Vahn had told her about his time in a place called the Nasuverse, it was pretty obvious he had absolutely no desire to rule. He merely shouldered the burden so that other, more tyrannical individuals couldn't seize power.
By the time Sandora started to feel as though she may be neglecting her duties, seven hours had passed. During those seven hours, she had somehow found herself sitting mere centimeters away from Vahn as he introduced her to a number of anime he thought she would enjoy. A few of them did seem pretty interesting, but, due to her shrinking proximity with Vahn, Sandora wasn't focused on the screen. Instead, her thoughts were plagued by concerns regarding her aroma and whether or not Vahn would be offended by the scent of her shampoo…
Noticing Sandora's gaze fixating on him for a prolonged period of time, Vahn ceased pretending he didn't notice, asking, "Is there something you would like to say?" as he paused the anime neither of them had been paying attention to.
"It may be imprudent of me…but I would like to hear your answer. There are those among us that view a union with the Aldrnari Empire as nothing more than a means to an end but I see it as an opportunity to strengthen the ties between the North and the East. While that may sound a little insincere, I just…I wanted you to know that I don't view our potential union as a means of restoring Salamandra's past glory. It is something I decided for myself. Something I yearn for from the very depths of my soul…"
Placing her hand on her chest, Sandora was startled by just how quickly her heart was beating. In spite of this, her expression remained a perfect mask of calm. She wanted Vahn to know just how serious she was, so, even though she wanted nothing more than to bury her face into a pillow and scream at the top of her lungs, she matched his gaze without so much as a single sign of hesitation in her own…
(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'This loli is hella serious…','Vahn: Exists, His Enemies: How the hell are we supposed to accomplish anything with this literal cheat walking around!?','Time to exercise that grip strength xD…')
Liked it? Take a second to support Novels on Patreon!