The past few days had been so hectic that I had almost forgotten how lying on my bed felt like.
I wasn’t sure how many nights had passed since the start of the royal festival, but exhaustion immediately caught up on me the moment I sat on the edge of my bed.
A weary sigh escaped my lips. My responsibilities as a princess kept me busy, but what drained me the most were the summons without notice from the royal court. Katulad na lamang kanina.
Balak ko sanang maglibot sa city pero mayroon nang royal attendant na nag-aabang sa labas ng kuwarto ko. He said I had been summoned by the royal court. Again.
I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes. Only the sovereign could order an immediate court meeting, but it could also be granted to nobles if at least three clans called for it. This time, the clans of Dvorach, Estrei, and Sereka requested for one.
Upon arriving at the royal court, I saw the ten representatives from the noble clans sitting around the huge oak table, but what caught my attention was the presence of the queen from the dais.
I immediately bowed in front of her and sat on the chair in front of the dais. Trojan said the queen was only here as an observer, and the discussion would still be led by the nobles who called for it.
“Your Highness,” Dmitri Estrei greeted.
I returned the gesture with a small nod. “What is this all about?”
Kamilia, who was sitting right across him, coldly gazed at me. “I see that you are enjoying the festival, Your Highness, but the discussions and concerns about the royal parley shall not be delayed any longer,” she said.
“I agree,” Orell seconded. “The fate of our kingdom is at stake, and this shall be handled thoroughly.”
I was quite impressed at their audacity toward two royal members, but then again, their influence over the administrative and military forces was a force to be reckoned with.
“You need not to worry about that.”
Visible displeasure crossed the nobles’ faces upon Zaria’s unexpected entrance in the royal court, with Roesia and Baldric tailing behind her.
Orell Kuzlav scoffed at her. “I believe this has nothing to do with you, princess.”
I chuckled at his remark. “Don’t you think it’s a bit ironic? The parley has nothing to do with the nobles as it is a royal affair, yet your clans seem to be more concerned about it.”
The royal court fell silent after my retort, and Zaria looked at me in horror. She said I should be careful in dealing with the nobles, but their conceit and temerity, especially toward Zaria, got on my nerves.
“Now, now,” Laci said, breaking the tensed silence. “Let us get back to business since everyone involved is already here—”
Almost everyone stopped short after sensing an intense presence in the room. My gaze immediately drifted to mother who was sitting still on the dais, as if she did not just use Intimidation.
Mother shifted her gaze to Troian. “Proceed,” she ordered.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Even without using her charmer ability, everyone yielded to her command. She was frightening, alright, but it was also comforting to know that she’s part of the royal family.
The nobles were telling the same narrative during the discussion. They wanted me to attend alone and leave Zaria in the kingdom since she was a liability.
Her participation had been approved during the previous discussion, but the final decision would be in the hands of the state council who were watching silently from the side.
The state council is a group of thirteen bureaucrat officials who are in charge of deliberating state affairs and serve as advisers to the king. Troian served as the chief state councilor, as well as the chief royal adviser of the king.
Zaria said Troian was loyal to the throne, but more than half of the council were allies of the nobles, so every affair that could tip the balance between the royal house and noble houses would always be unpleasant and could only be finalized after several court meetings.
And the royal parley was a sensitive topic since the nobles’ influence would be significantly impacted if not one, but two royal princesses managed to attend that, since the royal house would become much more powerful in the eyes of the people.
“But she’s a royal princess too,” Alexei raged back at Orell after the latter stated the cons of Zaria’s attendance. “The royal parley is a congregation of the succeeding sovereigns of the vampyr kingdoms, and Zaria is part of the Stryzyga bloodline.”
“But lady Zaria does not have a claim to the throne,” Kamilia countered as she coldly gazed at both Zaria and mother. “She’s a schlab, after all.”
“Lady Kamilia is right,” added Florian. “The Stryzyga bloodline has already chosen princess Vyrka as the rightful heir to the throne. There’s no need for lady Zaria to participate.”
Napatingin ako kay Zaria. She stayed silent during the heated discussion, and the nobles might be thinking she was already losing confidence, but knowing her, she must have been concocting a plan that would force them to accept her participation. Still, I did not like the way they talk about her.
I met Troian’s gaze, and he immediately nodded.
“Her Highness Vyrka would like to speak.”
His announcement surprised everyone, and their eyes all went in my direction.
“Few weeks ago, my participation had been questioned since I did not possess the regal bearing nor the wisdom of a royal blood. I admit I still have a long way to be prim and proper, but I think I have already earned the right to be called a princess. Am I right?”
Almost everyone agreed and nodded their heads.
“I have also inherited the Stryzyga’s bloodline power after fully awakening, so you need not to worry about the future of the throne. However, as someone who just got into Vrivarya, I am still lacking when it comes to political knowledge and affairs. Zaria has been here since the beginning, and from what I have witnessed from the previous court meetings, she has the capabilities to be my political adviser during the royal parley. Wouldn’t that be more than enough reason to include her? Or are you more concerned about her being powerless in a meeting where political wisdom matters most?”
As if on cue, Zaria stood up, a faint smile crossing her lips. This must be the timing she was waiting for.
“Vyrka still needs assistance, and I can offer my political wisdom. Slovar and Remis have been pressuring us since Vyrka’s arrival, and they will surely take my absence as Vrivarya yielding into their coercion. I’m sure the king won’t like that.”
I almost smirked in amusement when the royal court was suddenly filled with murmurs and hushed voices. Zaria mentioning the king was a smart move, considering that he was someone who valued strength and image more than politics. If the other kingdoms would take her absence as a way of Vrivarya backing down against their indirect threats, the king’s image would be ruined. And the one who would face father’s wrath would be the state council.
Agad na napatingin ang ilan kay Roesia. As someone who had served the king for centuries, they knew she would not tolerate any kind of insolence toward him.
Zaria and I exchanged looks, and I felt relieved that someone like her was on my side.
“Lady Zaria’s participation seems to have more advantages,” said Dmitri after staying silent during the whole discussion, which was quite odd since the Estrei clan was one of the three noble houses who called this court meeting. His lips curved upward as he stroked his long white beard. “She’s shrewd and cunning, too. Now, I feel at ease about sending both of them for the royal parley.”
His statement earned mixed reactions from the other noble representatives. The Estrei clan had been neutral since father took the throne, so his decision to support Zaria drew suspicions from both sides.
“I recommend her participation,” he formally announced.
Alexei and Alastor Revali followed suit. Even Laci endorsed Zaria’s attendance.
Three noble houses had shown their support, and the remaining two were visibly dismayed. The state council started deliberating the final decision after hearing our opinions, but what influenced them the most must have been the unexpected stand of the two neutral clans.
After several minutes, Troian wrote a missive on a state scroll and gave it to the queen.
“The state council has finalized the royal parley matters, Your Majesty,” he said while handing the scroll to her.
She gave him a small nod and received the scroll.
Everyone watched in silence as she carefully opened the written missive. “The state council recommends the participation of princess Zaria and princess Vyrka in the upcoming royal parley.”
A wide grin appeared on Zaria’s face as she found mine. Finally, the discussion about the royal parley was over, and it was all in our favor.
The state council and noble representatives started leaving after the announcement. Akala ko ay makakaalis na rin ako dahil gusto ko nang ituloy ang paglilibot sa city pero agad akong pinigilan nina Zaria at Troian.
“Your Highness,” called Troian. “I’m afraid we still have some matters to discuss.”
“What?” I sighed a little too loud. “There are still more?”
“Yes, Your Highness. The world summit will take place a month after the royal parley, and we need to brief you about it.”
Apparently, the world summit is another assembly where almost all phyla of beings discuss worldly matters. It happens every twenty years and this time, it will nearly coincide with the royal parley that only occurs every half a century.
“So, who are the participants in this summit?” tanong ko.
“For the past century, the humans, magi, skinwalkers, mountain-dwellers, waterfolks, and undead have sent representatives of their respective phyla to the summit,” Troian responded.
Huh. I had almost encountered every race that was mentioned except for the mountain-dwellers and magi.
“Wait, each phylum has several species, right?”
The undead had vampires, ghouls, craquehhe, zombies, and other reanimated creatures. Would they also be present in the summit?
“Do we send a representative per species? And can Zaria attend this one with me, too?”
“Unfortunately, Your Highness, princess Zaria cannot as only one can represent their respective phylum.”
Zaria joined the conversation. “The undead have always been represented by the royal bloods of the vampiric kingdoms, and this time, the Stryzyga will act and speak on behalf of the undead.”
An audible gasp escaped my mouth. “And I will be that representative?”
They both nodded in response, much to my horror. This world summit seemed larger and much more relevant compared to the royal parley, and I couldn’t believe I had to attend it alone.
“That is why we need to do well in the royal parley,” added Zaria. “The situation among the vampiric kingdoms must have reached the ears of the other beings. They will be watching and waiting for the result of the parley as it would have a significant impact on each species, especially if it would escalate into a full-blown war.”
I felt the immense pressure weighing on my shoulders. The burden of being the representative in the royal parley was heavy enough, but this world summit felt like several boulders was thrown toward me and I had to carry them without complaint.
“Do not worry, I will help you in every way that I can,” whispered Zaria, and I was honestly grateful for her existence. She made me feel secured even if the people around us saw her as a weakling.
After the short briefing about the world summit, we were finally allowed to leave the royal court while mother stayed with Troian.
I let out a long and deep sigh of relief after stepping out of the court. “I feel drained.”
Zaria snickered, and she seemed more spirited than earlier. “But aren’t you glad? I will be coming with you.”
Napangiti naman ako sa sinabi niya. “I am.”
“I can’t wait to break the news to Olga. I am sure she’ll be delighted to accompany me.”
It had been a while since I saw her this happy, and it put me in a good mood, too. She deserved this opportunity, and I was glad she would be able to showcase her political wisdom and tactical prowess in the upcoming royal parley.
And speaking of Olga…
“Ah. We forgot to ask Roesia about their training,” I commented after we arrived at the left wing of the castle.
“Surely, they are fine,” she said. “They did well during the coliseum tournament, too.”
“Oh, right. Olga is a monster.”
We weren’t able to attend the finals yesterday, but the reports stated that Olga won the tournament after defeating Sigrid.
I did not have any doubts about Sigrid’s abilities. The three might not agree, but Sigrid was my strongest retainer, and I knew she could defeat anyone who dared challenge her. However, Olga was not only a powerful combatant, but also a wise tactician.
It might not be obvious to others, but Sigrid would sometimes let her instincts and emotions control her instead of the other way around. I think she was a stronger combatant than Olga, but the latter was a much better strategist.
“She’d be delighted to hear that from you,” Zaria beamed.
“Oh, I’d rather not. You know how my retainers get jealous if I praise someone other than them.” Natawa si Zaria sa sinabi ko. “I’m sure they would understand.”
I almost rolled my eyes. “You should have seen them being resentful toward Sherriff, and he’s just a grim.”
Zaria laughed at my remark, and I was about to tell her more, but we stopped short after hearing a warning siren blaring across the kingdom.
Royal knights, assassins, and mages stationed at the palace started moving. The peaceful feeling we enjoyed after the arduous court meeting only lasted for a very short time.
“Halt,” I ordered upon seeing a royal knight running on the hallway. “What is happening outside? Tell us.”
The royal knight knelt in front of us and nodded. “The borders of Vrivarya have been trespassed by unidentified outsiders, Your Highness. The Minister of Defense ordered immediate capture of the trespassers.”
And before we could react, another warning siren blared as the cloudless sky turned deep grey.
“Synders!” a tracker yelled from the courtyard.
“Synders? That means it’s the kingdom of Remis’ doing,” Zaria murmured.
Her words from before suddenly echoed inside my head. “It’s incredibly rare to bear two children within half a millennium, let alone a year. It’s also considered inauspicious. A bad omen that can raze the kingdom to the ground.”
With the violation of the ancient laws about intrusion one kingdom’s territory, it would only be a matter of time before this altercation escalate into a full-scale war.