As William approached the tent, he knew his guess was right. Though there were a handful of diplomats and guards, none were from Ostana, Liaoyang, or Eclea. He rode forward at a measured pace, dismounting his oversized gevai-bred horse at a distance of thirty feet from the tent, walking the last of the distance. He then loosely tied his horses reins to a pole next to the tent.
“Greetings, Lord Rutten.” One of the older diplomats stepped forward, bowing slightly.
“Greetings, elder.” William bowed respectfully in return. “I have not had the pleasure of learning any of your names.”
After polite introductions, the elder spoke again. “You appear just as described… and the staff as well. Though, we were expecting you to bring others with you.”
“Do not worry, I have sufficient authority to discuss peace possibilities, and can communicate with others in a timely manner as necessary. On my end, I was rather expecting more…” William looked over the group, “diversity.”
The elder sighed, “The others decided to be… cautious. Human interactions with demons have been…”
“Terrible? War, war, and more war? First, I would like to clarify something. We are not all demons. We have a name for our people- gevai. Of course, with the Demon King’s repeated appearance, you have not had much chance to see us as anything other than demons. I hope you are willing to try to understand we aren’t all like him.”
“Of course we will try. Otherwise, we would not be here. If you can show us you sincerely desire peace, we may be able to convince others to join in the talks.”
William would have preferred if they had just showed up from the beginning, but he couldn’t get angry at those present for what others did not do. It just meant the whole process would take longer. “Of course. I might start by pointing out that the humans have nothing to gain from attacking us,” William held up a hand, “Of course I understand that we have long gone to war, and a preemptive strike can have certain advantages… but it is clear that is not the case in this war. If it was truly a preemptive strike we would not have had time to build our forces. Perhaps the goal of the war is to weaken our forces, but here you have no advantage of terrain or supply lines. Quite frankly, it would have been more wise to stay in defensive positions… Quite frankly, humans had nothing to gain from these attacks. What provoked the humans to action, besides old enmity?”
The elder turned to those beside him, speaking in the language of Ustil, “Should we tell him?”
“It is unclear. We have no confirmation that the plans have come to fruition.”
A third spoke up, “Indeed. We also do not know if this is the right opportunity.”
William managed to avoid the grin trying to enter his face. They assumed he didn’t speak the language of Ustil… and he didn’t plan to mention it just yet.
“There also is the issue in Eclea. Ostana seems clean, and though Liaoyang had some reports, the divinations indicate nothing.”
“Yes. We cannot know this lord’s true intentions just yet. The abridged version should be sufficient for now.”
The main diplomat nodded, then turned to face William, continuing in Ostanan. “The war was pressed for by various factions and leaders among the various countries. They swept up the hearts of the populace, and nobody thought of the consequences to our countries. Now then, we should discuss the conditions for peace…”
William wanted to say that all they had to do was remove all the human forces, and there wouldn’t be a war. Of course, now that the war had started it wasn’t that simple even if he wanted it to be. Still, it could be done. He just had to convince the diplomats why it was in their best interests. Though they seemed sympathetic to the idea of peace, they would also need a way to convince the populace of the decision- and convince the other countries to agree. It was unfortunate that people dying for no gain wouldn’t be good enough, but William had discussed methods with Lorelei. He just needed to be able to stop the war with the humans without revealing too much of his later plans… just in case they thought of them as an opportunity.
Marek was surprised to wake up. He had been completely confident in his ability to destroy the Demon King fragment, and even his ability to shield himself from the aftermath. He even had the willpower to survive even with the overuse of his abilities, though he hadn’t been certain of how viable that actually was. Somehow, his soul hadn’t collapsed just yet. Even so, that hadn’t been his main concern when he lost consciousness.
Quite frankly, there should have been a massive explosion, and then he would be a helpless gevai in the middle of human territory. Though it would have taken them some time, even a child with a knife could have killed him while he was unconscious. Based on the feeling of his body, it had been several days.
He slowly opened his heavy eyes, to find himself inside. Ah, it would be a cell then. He wondered if they took the care to reinforce it against gevai… but it soon became obvious they hadn’t. He saw mana flitting about, his ki flowed as freely as possible, given the state of his soul, and the chains holding him down were light. As he surveyed his wrists, he realized the chains were nonexistent. His hands were clearly not covered in disguising magic anymore, so there was no possibility that he was mistaken for a human.
Looking around, he was definitely in a cell. The torchlight outside his cell lit it up enough that he could make out the details. As prison cells went, it was not the worst. It was almost clean, and he found that he even had a straw mat he was lying on. However, things were still quite strange. He was covered in bandages and simple clothing, but in a corner of the room was a pile. It was his old clothes- or what remained of them anyway. Magical enchantments could only do so much, and soul-explosions were not easy on nearby materials. Certainly, unlike the full Demon King there would not be a large lake, but Marek also didn’t expect that the building he had been in was in particularly good condition.
Marek stood up shakily and walked over to the bars. It was then that he realized that the door wasn’t locked, just shut. Peeking his head out into the hallway, he noticed that there were no guards… or other prisoners. Just torches placed in regular intervals until the stairs. Perhaps it was some kind of trap… though he couldn’t expect what there was to gain. What would they do, kill him? If they wanted him dead, they just had to leave him there to die. At the very least, they should have avoided bandaging him up.
Marek supposed that maybe he had died. Maybe this was an afterlife of some sort. He wasn’t sure if those existed, with reincarnation being in the mix, but he supposed that could be the case. If that was so, it was different than everyone said. Most importantly, it wasn’t hell or anything like it… unless hell came with merely mediocre living conditions and food. He wasn’t sure why it was this way, but Marek had the feeling that he was still alive, but not why.