"Do not invite a man to your home if you are not prepared to receive him." ~ Master Magrut
Delicious varieties of food and wine were... not possible in such a scenario. The so-called banquet Auguslo threw for Viscount Krilos only had large pieces of roasted meat, honeyed bread, a large pot of potato and cow-innard stew, smoked fish, baked apples, vegetable salad, and a bowl of grapes and blueberries. In terms of food culture, Grindia's nobles were far behind Lorist's previous world.
To be honest, nobody really cared about the banquet. Even Auguslo only toasted once or twice out of custom. With his first toast he expressed his wish that Andinaq and the Union could coexist in eternal peace. His second wished the envoy, Krilos, and his family good health. That was all. Auguslo just stared at the viscount, hoping he had brought good news.
The envoy didn't seem in a rush though. He enjoyed the food with elegance and grace. He praised the roast meat and even asked Auguslo to call the chef over. The white-haired old man behind him just stood quietly, holding his small red wooden case. Time passed in this odd tension. When the envoy finally had his fill, the nobles were speaking in hushed chatters with one another and adjusting in their seats. They stared at the group anxiously. Though Auguslo appeared calm, anticipation flitted back and forth across his eyes when he looked at Krilos.
The viscount received the white handkerchief a maidservant brought with an elegant motion and wiped his mouth before getting rid of the oils on his hands. He rose slowly, thanked Auguso for the meal, and expressed his hopes that he would pay a visit to Morante. Auguslo denied, remorsing his lacking treatment. They were still on the frontlines, after all, so he could not provide the luxury due such an occasion. He thanked the envoy for his invitation and hoped he could head to the imperial capital as well so the king could play host too.
Lorist stifled a yawn at the laborious banter. Auguslo didn't want to keep this ging either, so he voiced the main question of the entire event.
"Lord Krilos, you were sent as an envoy. Has the Union made a decision regarding our offer? Will you sign the peace treaty?"
"Well..." Krilos stood silent for a few moments before he glanced at his white-haired servant. The old man nodded slightly, so the viscount put his elegant smile back on, "Naturally. I have come here to represent the Union. We wish for you to join us in Morante for some more talks."
Auguslo waved his hands cheerfully, "Lord Krilos, you've made the invitation already, which I already explained I cannot fulfill right now. The empire is finally unified again and there is still much that needs to be done before I can be absent for even a single day. The years of war have ravaged our lands and my people. That is why I wish to conclude our talks swiftly so I may return to the capital and begin the restoration work. I am sincerely grateful for the invitation, but I cannot leave now."
Krilos nodded without comment.
"Let us discuss terms, then."
The white-haired servant stepped forward and opened the red case. He removed from it a greyi-white beastskin which he handed to Krilos.
"Your Majesty, the Union has some disagreements with the terms. Here are our suggestions. I hope you will lend us an ear."
"Naturally," Auguslo nodded.
Disagreements were normal. In fact, he would be fraught with suspicion should the Union accept all his terms without some demand for negotiation. He reclined in his chair comfortably and sipped some wine.
"Pray tell, what are your disagreements? I'll gladly lend an ear."
"Firstly, the Union objects to your senseless invasion and infringement of our sovereign territory," Krilos announced loudly.
Auguslo's smile didn't fade, this was par for the course. It was only to be expected that the Union would have objections. Even some of the nobles present let out a few stifled snickers.
"As the largest superpower on Grindia, the Union will not tolerate invaders. Though the Kingdom of Andinaq has sued for peace, the high council believes being forced to sign by way of threat is a slight and insult to the Union's nobles and subjects. We will not accept a forced treaty! Even the Krissen Empire couldn't force us to bend the knee, even when we were much weaker than it, your kingdom has even less ability to do so now that we are more powerful than even the empire was at its zenith. We warn Your Majesty, Andinaq Auguslo, that you are not the empire. Your self-centered military actions have led to the destruction of several kingdoms and duchies we recognize and guarantee. Your arrogance and ambition has thrown the continent into war, destroyed millions of lives, and set the continent back decades, if not centuries.
"The Union is neither the Redlis Kingdom nor the Madras Duchy, and not a target on which you can impose your will! While we love peace, we aren't afraid of war. Your million-strong army will not make us hesitate to defend ourselves and our values. If we must bleed you dry for a century or two as we did the empire before you, we will gladly do so!
"An unjust war will never win victory for its perpetrator. Signwa will protect the nobles and people of the Union. No matter what your response, the Union will give you a chance for peace. We hereby give you our demands and with it that chance for peace. Each and every demand will be satisfied or blood will flow like rivers and dam up to form oceans!
"First, Andinaq will retreat from and return the occupied territories of Bodolger, Kanbona, Anderwoff, and the northwestern area. Second, Andinaq must immediately withdraw the army standing on the Union's borders. You will dismantle your army and report, in detail, what forces you had. Third, Andinaq will release all captives and their families and compensate and apologize to those harmed. Fourth, Andinaq will punish it's nobles for the atrocities they committed in Union territory and against its nobility and peasantry, especially the Duke of The Northlands, Norton Lorist, and his men, who have eterminated one of the Union's dear and treasured guilds. Andinaq will hand his entire house over to the Union to be tried and executed according to our laws."
Auguslo's face burned, his golden cup crushed. The wine within sprayed over his robes and the floor. He noticed none of it he stared at Krilos. The nobles were in a massive commotion. Viscount Krilos wasn't there to sign a peace treaty; he was there to declare war! Many stared at the viscount suspiciously. Their army was on the Union's borders, not the other way round. The kingdom wasn't defeated and forced to sign a treaty.
Krilos didn't bother with the change in atmosphere. He simply continued reading.
"Fifth, Andinaq will cede the two southwestern provinces and Majik to the Union as compensation for this unprovoked attack. Sixth, Andinaq's king, Auguslo I, will head to Morante, apologise to the Union for this affront, and personally sign the peace treaty we deem appropriate. Seventh, Andinaq will open all trade routes and cooperate to carry out all trade activities in their territory. As for tax--"
"Enough!" roared Auguslo, kicking the table.
"So, you're here to declare war? Don't forget we have a force double your size! I need only speak and your lands will be ravaged!"
The veins on the king's face pulsed. He had done everything possible to provide a path to peace bit his opponents were blind! This was not a peace treaty, these were terms for his surrender! The tent was in chaos. Most of the nobles clamored for Auguslo to give the order to march on Morante. Some even called for Krilos's hanging. Lorist didn't comment. He was more concerned with the source of the Union's arrogance.
Krilos still wore his elegant smile as if the curses and cries didn't faze him at all.
"Your Majesty will not start an all out war. You will not only accept this treaty, you will also come to Morante to apologize."
"Hahahaha!" laughed Auguslo. He glared at the viscount. "On what basis?! Why would I accept such insulting and insane demands?! If you want war, I will give you war! You are right about one thing, though. I will go to Morante, but not to apologise, to burn it to the ground!"
"You are delusional, king. You will do as we command," said Krilos with his ever-annoying smile. He gazed at Auguslo as an elder would a stupid child.
"Hehe... Hahaha!" Auguslo's voice became rough and sharp. He had tried so hard to plan this out and promised his vassals that, as long as the army could be brought to their borders, the Union would agree to peace and that the empire could be brought back to its former glory. All his dreams were shattered in an instant. Not only was this an insult, it was no different from an actual slap to his face. His effort to prepare the 5-kilometer-long path of peace only to have it swatted aside would be recorded in history and spread all over. Their kingdom would become a laughingstock!
"Lord Krilos," said Auguslo with sudden tranquility, "You are an envoy. Though you are from an enemy nation, worry not, I won't harm you. However, the blademasters and guards you brought along will feed my dogs tonight. You will be stripped and covered in honey and feathers and sent back to the Union on horse. We will meet again soon. I hope there will still be some feathers left on you when I come to Morante."
"Hehe, Your Majesty, unfortunately, you will do no such thing, nor will you hurt my guards. They have to escort you to Morante, after all," retorted Krilos as he drew his ceremonial sword.
"Haha, Lord Krilos, are threatening me with that?" Auguslo cracked a chortle. A gold rank dares draw his sword in front of a blademaster? Are you trying to get yourself killed? While Auguslo was only a rank 1 blademaster, dealing with a gold-ranked swordsman was something he could do without breaking a sweat.
"Ah, no, Your Majesty. Don't misunderstand. A puny little gold-ranked swordsman like me can't threaten Your Majesty, neither am do I wish to." Krilos handed the sword to the white-haired servant beside him.
"I ought to introduce this master beside me. He is not my attendant. He is Master Magrut. You may find this name foreign, because most know him by his sobriquet: the windstorm swordsaint."
Krilos turned to smile at Auguslo. "It can't be more honorable to be personally escorted to Morante by a swordsaint."