The meeting, which had started out on an uncomfortable note, finished abruptly. The agreement for the four kingdoms had already been written, so all that was needed was their signatures.
Originally, meetings were not expected to conclude quickly. It was a standard practice to reach lengthy conversations in order to clarify the contents of the agreement with one another. The longest meeting in history was said to have lasted over a month. Today on the other hand, Hessenguard established the record for the shortest meeting in continental history. The entire signing process took less than thirty minutes.
The victorious Hessenguard flatly rejected all attempts at reconciliation and demanded that the agreement they had proposed be signed without objection. It was worth tasting the superiority of the victor against the kings of the defeated countries, but as soon as the signing was over, the two archdukes left the meeting without further ado after reminding them of the due dates of their war compensations.
The archdukes’ attitude made the kings feel more miserable than being ridiculed. It was the first time in their life they were treated as such a nuisance. The kings of Haband and Aether, who had expected to receive even the slightest sympathy from the two archdukes as parents, couldn’t lift their heads in embarrassment, while the kings of Kelon and Nandes took comfort in the fact that they were less embarrassed than they were.
The four kingdoms had to pay ninety-nine years’ worth of war reparations, as well as return all the cultural assets and artworks they had taken from the previous conquest of Hessenguard.
The room was silent with shame and regret.
* * *
“It’s finally over!”
Erna, who had teleported to the Grand Castle, lifted her arms as if she was relieved to enter her familiar room and collapsed on the bed.
It took a really long time from the war to the signing of today’s agreement, she thought. All that was left now was to keep a careful eye on the kingdoms to ensure they wouldn’t do anything foolish again while collecting compensations. The lords of the territories newly incorporated into Hessenguard were very satisfied with much lighter taxes and autonomy on some items than in the days when the four kingdoms ruled, so the possibility of rebellion was low.
Kalion, who had entered the room after her, smiled bitterly at Erna as she collapsed on her bed. Over the past month, he and Erna, as well as everyone in the Grand Castle, have been working hard to draw up an agreement. Even Vanessa, who took absence for her body’s recuperation, returned to the castle. Though their feelings of resentment toward her had not yet disappeared, Kalion and Erna needed her more than anyone else.
The contract had been discussed and planned for a full month, so further coordination was not necessary. As a result, everyone seemed disinterested to banter and ready to simply sign. And frankly, they didn’t want the kings of Haband and Aether to attempt to appease them somehow.
Once they returned to Hessenguard, the wizards and knights expressed their relief and said they would finally be able to relax. Agreed, thought Kalion. His lips curled into a smile. After the meeting, he decided to take a long rest. For the past year or so, the two of them haven’t been able to take a proper break.
Kalion recalled the cozy villa near the lake he had often gone to in the past when he was not on good terms with Erna. It was a place he could spend time alone in complete silence as the nearest residence was over several hills, and he had been meaning to go with her since a long time ago.
Before the meeting took place, he had ordered the villa to be tidied up. He figured they’d finish a few loose ends and leave perhaps in the next week or so.
The thought of a vacation excited Kalion, and the smile on his face reached his eyes. Because of so much work, he hasn’t had a good time with Erna these days. Of course, since they shared the same room and slept in the same bed, there was always an opportunity to enjoy the moments at midnight. However, Erna had complained for days, drawing keen attention from everyone in the Grand Castle, as well as Orpé and Vanessa. Though they were all too polite to say it out loud, their eyes were telling him the same thing: “You’re going to stop, are you?”
Thus, Kalion continued to practice abstinence. Some would say he had gotten better now, but the truth was that he was the most heartbroken when Erna was exhausted and slept for a long time. As a result, his abstinence reached nearly a month’s duration.
That’s all over now, he thought, contentedly.