Chapter 26:

Cavalry at the Door

The Songstress of Avalon

"I'm going to give you one chance to withdraw your petition to the king."

Prince Lorenzo del Fiore looked to be considering my offer seriously. He sat back in his chair, his eyes languidly moving from the envelope on his oaken desk to me. His reassured demeanor could easily be attributed to the fact that we were in his office, familiar territory for him - additionally, he was flanked by the imposing Trajan Araya and the less intimidating but equally competent Gilbert Gloom.

"You are oh so kind, hero. But if you had any confidence in yourself, and in your case, you wouldn't have come here to plead with me," the prince drawled.

"That has nothing to do with it," I answered calmly. "It's because you're Tommo's brother. If you weren't, I wouldn't be giving you this courtesy."

A pensive looked flickered through Trajan's features at the mention of Tommaso's name. It must have broken the man's heart to see Tommo's younger brother, who looked so similar to him, act completely contrary to the way Tommo lived during his short life.

Maybe you'll set him straight one day, Trajan, but he might have to lose everything first.

"I have a secret weapon," I admitted without hesitation. "If I use it tomorrow, you'll definitely regret not taking this courtesy."

"Ho? I'll regret it, will I?" the prince glowered at me. He looked as though he wanted to say something else, but Gilbert Gloom shot him a look, and now it was his legal advisor's turn to mince words with me. Naturally, it came in the form of a legal exposition.

"The petition is to compel the illegal alien taking refugee in your embassy to surrender herself to the proper authorities. Rightfully, they would arrest her, but it's not possible in this case without violating the sanctity of another kingdom's embassy. Do you see? It really has very little to do with the prince here. He is merely a victim of a crime, who wishes to see justice done."

Prince Lorenzo seemed satisfied with Gilbert Gloom's explanation, and so Gilbert Gloom himself was also satisfied.

"The petition is written on behalf of Prince Lorenzo, one of the prince-electors who have absolute power when it comes to choosing the king. I'm telling you that if you continue with this farce, you might not find yourself a prince-elector for much longer," I warned.

"You're threatening my position?" I could tell that Prince Lorenzo was upset by the way he shot up in his seat, almost though he was about to pounce at me. Gloom's hand on his shoulder seemed to convince him not to lash out.

"All this for a girl?" he scoffed. "It seems as though you and I aren't so different after all, ambassador. Now, I have to prepare for tomorrow's hearing with the king... escort the ambassador out, Trajan."

Trajan stepped out from behind the desk, and we both walked to the the other end of the spacious office - when I exited, I had expected him to close the door behind me but instead he followed me into the hallway. He shut the door, so as to cut off the prying ears of Prince Lorenzo and Gilbert Gloom.

"That secret weapon you mentioned," he began, "that's not just a bluff, is it?"

"Of course not," I shook my head. "I want to avoid using it if I can, but... well, I have to protect Arisa no matter what."

"Well damn, Ayato," Trajan began to ruffle his already messy hair. The usually composed man was clearly rattled, and eventually let out an exasperated sigh. "I'll try to convince him, but it won't be easy, you know? I never thought I'd say this, but I guess I'll see you in court tomorrow."

A petition to the king.

In this world, which so closely resembled feudal society, the power of the king could even transcend legislature. If there was something you wanted to do that the laws of the land would not permit, then you could always petition the king. If he agreed to make an exception, then what did it matter what the law said?

The king himself was rarely present for these petitions, however, and most of them were handled by one of his representatives. However, Prince Lorenzo was a prince-elector. Therefore, if he had a petition or a grievance, the king couldn't simply ignore it.

In other words, not only would King Gennaro be present tomorrow but he would almost certainly be more sympathetic to Prince Lorenzo than to me.

If King Gennaro personally gave the green-light, then not even the special status of an embassy could protect Arisa. Prince Lorenzo's goons would be allowed to enter with impunity. It would mean hell for the political relationship between Amafli and Avispa, of course, but it wasn't as though either side were eager to go to war - and, after what I did to his son, I doubted King Karslake was all that interested in helping me.

In fact, arranging that engagement between Prince Ayling and Arisa probably was his way of trying to help.

"That's why our only chance is to call into question Lorenzo's status as a prince-elector," I said to Marissa, Arisa and Lull when I returned to the embassy.

"Basically, if Lorenzo isn't a prince-elector anymore, then the king isn't going to give a hoot about what he has to say," Marissa seemed to be following my reasoning.

"But Ayato," Lull interjected. "Lorenzo is a legitimate prince-elector. Tommo was the previous one, right? And since he... since he died without issue, Lorenzo succeeded the office as his next of kin. It's all there in the succession laws."

I looked over at Arisa to see if she realised yet, but she had her face buried in one of Misane's tomes - a book of magic spells that apparently only she could read. If her previous displays of power were anything to go by, then that'd be more than enough to handle the goons.

Trajan Araya and the former holy knight Gilbert Gloom were a different story, however.

"What if," I suggested, "there was somebody who had a better claim to the title of prince-elector than Lorenzo?

"If such a person exists, then why haven't they come forward?" Lull asked. "It's not like Tommo had any other siblings, and he didn't have any children either. If he did, he would have told us during our adventuring days..."

As though on cue, the doorbell rang.

Marissa stood up to answer, but I stopped her by holding onto her wrist. I then looked over to Arisa and called her name, but she was too absorbed in her book of magic spells. It was only after I said her name a second time that she looked up at me.



"I want you to answer the door."

The puzzled look on her face seemed to be asking "why?" but she ultimately decided not to express that confusion in words. She closed the tome and set it down beside her before drifting into the hallway, where she was no longer visible to us sitting in the reception room. A mere second after we heard the creaking of the embassy double doors, a loud gasp could b heard emanating from Arisa's lips.

"You...!" her voice floated into the reception room.

I stared at the baffled faces of Marissa and Lull; the latter even jumped out of his seat and poked his head out into the hallway. He returned almost immediately after, but seeing the guest's face seemed to do little to elucidate matters for him.

"Who is that person?" he asked me, settling back down into his chair.

"That, my friends," I said, "is our secret weapon. Come to the petition hearing tomorrow, and you'll get to see an amazing sight - Prince Lorenzo del Fiore trembling in his boots!"

Steward McOy