Chapter 25: Balance of Power
Ever since anyone could remember, the balance of power between Highland and Vidfamne has always been in favor of the duchy.
Through willpower, determination, and her amazing beauty. Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne elevated her duchy to a high standing on the continent.
Highland, could only keep waging its tail in hopes of forming a blood tie with Duchess Rania someday.
But as the saying goes, ‘A tail will not wag forever’.
“Your highness I must ask you to reconsider your decision. I admit that Vidfamne carries most of the blame for our current strain in relations, but if you will allow us time to ratify the situation, I ensure that I will do everything in my power to do so.”
Edwin was expecting that reply. Highland had just proved it had a military and economic might to equal if not surpass the empires. Duchess Rania could not afford to have them leave the alliance.
“You make it sound like I am demanding you give birth to a daughter. Highland is fully away that you are not a daughter making magic tool and their others who are waiting in line for one of your daughters - we dare not jump ahead of them.”
In the past, the union between Highland and Vidfamne was arranged and agreed upon by 4 kings before Edwin’s father, but the marriages between the families always fell through for one reason or another on the part of the Vidfamne.
This created a lot of friction between the kingdom and duchy as the Highland royal family accused the duchess of not honoring the arrangement of marriage in exchange for the kingdom being part of the military alliance that had sworn to protect the duchy.
But the duchess always played it off as being out of her control, “Regrettably, my daughter has chosen to marry another, but I could not have foreseen such an event happening; rather than dwell on the past shall we not look towards the future. I am fully committed to the joining of my family to yours, or do you intend to withdraw from our arrangement?”
It was clear to see from the way she would often reply to Edwin’s family's accusations, that Highland wasn’t highly valued by the duchess - going as far as asking if they wished to cancel the arrangement.
In front of such a response, his family would simply bite its pride and ask the duchess to offer another bride to which she would often reply something like this.
“Ara Ara … I am not a daughter making magic tool you know, and their others who are waiting in line for one of my daughters you know, you will have to wait a bit you know,”
She was regretting those words at this very moment.
Her beautiful smile became a wry one.
“It was not my intent to make it seem that way, I was only trying to find a common ground for us to stand on.”
“Ah…My apologies, I read too much into it.”
“There is no need to apologies on this matter. Furthermore, please rest assured. My resolve to form a union with Highland is my highest priority”
In other words, she was implying that the royal family of Highland was still the one that had the right to a union with her next daughter, but that mattered little to Edwin.
He had concluded that forming unions was a double-edged sword that was too risky. His fiancés ended their engagement with him and set in motion a series of events that led to a coup in his kingdom.
Right now, the royal family was strong, but he saw no merit in forming a union with the nations in east or north; especially since he was looking across the waters to the west and south.
“I thank you for your kind words, but along with leaving the alliance, the Highland royal family formally withdraws from the arrangement to form a union between our two houses.”
The duchess wry smile was gone, and she now had a serious expression on her face. Never had anyone ever withdrawn from a prospective marriage with one of her daughters, but she had no time to feel insulted or rejected.
She realized that this was Edwin declaring a formal end to connections between the two nobility and nations.
The borders between the two were closed. Therefore, the economic and trade connection between them was closed.
Edwin was leaving the Vidfamne alliance, therefore any possible military connection would be cut.
And finally by withdrawing from the arranged union between the two families would cut any connection between the two nations.
“Is Highland abandoning Vidfamne?”
It was Shelley who asked this question with a serious expression on her face like the duchess.
Edwin wanted to reply to her words, but Eve spoke first.
“Abandon? Is Vidfamne in any position to say such a thing? Wasn’t your Lady Euphemia the one who abandoned her obligation to Highland without so much as an explanation or notice? You have some nerve to say that to our faces.”
Eve’s angry response shook Shelley. Eve, who from the very beginning, was angry at how Lady Euphemia treated Edwin, couldn’t hold back when she heard Shelley’s accusation.
“What you have said is true. Our current situation is not the fault of Highland but Vidfamne. Had we honored past arrangements we wouldn’t be in this current predicament?” Duchess Rania spoke with a heavy tone. “However, I truly believe that there is much to be gained from allying our two families. King Edwin Von William Highland, would you please reconsider your withdrawal?” she asked with a bright smile.
Edwin didn't even give it a second thought. He was going to reject it when.
[ da da da da daaa - dadida, da da da da daaa -dadida, da da da da daaa - dadida, da da da da daaa - dadida ]
He heard a sweet lullaby in his mind.
[Where is that coming from?] He had a puzzled look on his face as he thought. He turned to look at Eve and Hitomi, but they had no concerned expressions on their faces.
“Edwin-sama, is something wrong? Eve asked as she saw his worried expression.
“No… I'm fine.” He said before turning back to face Duchess Rania, who still had a bright smile on her face.”
[What is going on here?]
[It’s a temptation lullaby] a voice spoke.
[Eh!? Queen Madeline, is that you?]
[How!? You are still in Highland, aren’t you?]
[Distance doesn’t play a factor with my ability to read your mind now that we have a contract.]
[Don’t say thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!!]
[To think you have these kind thoughts about me when you are far away.]
[Please stop talking]
[Hi Hi Hi] she laughed
“Edwin-sama is something wrong.” Eve cried out again when she saw his worried expression get worse
“It nothing Eve. I am perfectly fine. You need not worry.”
“If you say so.”
[Madeline, you said something about temptation lullaby.]
[Changing the topic, are we? Well, whatever. It’s a special skill Duchess Rania possesses. It makes men more willing to agree or do her bidding.]
[This is why I advised you not to take any man with you when you met her. You would be surrounded by guys urging you to reconsider your decisions.]
[That’s scary. Wait, then why am I unaffected?]
[Our contract grants you my protection against mind magic and mind skills. Something on this level will not work on you.]
[No problem ecchi-kun]
[Don’t give me that nickname…!]
“King Edwin. Are you alright?” this time, it was Duchess Rania who asked with a smile on her face.
“Yes, I am. Sorry for making you wait.”
“No need to apologize. This is an important decision you have to make. To continue the union and alliance would…”
“I am sorry, but I see no reason to continue either one. Highland will leave the alliance, and the royal family withdraws from the union of our two households.”
His response was a complete surprise to her. Duchess Rania had never met a man who could resist her temptation lullaby. It’s not to say that there weren’t many who couldn't resist the skill, but because she rarely used the skill in the first place, she never encountered someone who could resist it before.
[Can he resist my temptation lullaby? Well, I guess I should have expected that from someone who could kill a noble vampire in one strike. The problem is what to do next.]
Her mind was racing to find a solution. Her worst-case situation was happening before her very eyes. It was obvious that once Edwin leaves, she will most likely never get an opportunity to see him again.
[Tch… this is bad… what can I say to change his mind?]
“Mother!?” A voice ran out in the audience room. It came from the only door into the room. Both Edwin and the Duchess turned their heads to see who was standing there.
They were so focused on their discussion that they didn’t hear her come in, nor did they realize Shelley was on edge as she observed both Eve and Hitomi glaring with bloodshot eyes at the speaker and the two companions who stood behind her.
The speaker was none other than Edwin’s former fiancé, Lady Euphemia.