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For a moment, it was as if the entire continent stood still.There were all kinds of reactions, with the most p.r.o.nounced being from those who had been under the effects of the Queen’s spell till now.All of these tens of thousands of individuals looked around with puzzled expressions on their faces, as these past few days were all hazy in their memory.They tried to recall exactly what had happened, but all they remembered was that an emissary had come, and after he had laid out the advantages of joining Arafell, they had gotten a strong feeling from somewhere that this was the best thing that they could do.Along with that, they remembered a deep admiration for the Queen, which actually still lingered in many.Yet, it was nowhere as strong as it had been before.As for those who had become temporarily enthralled after coming here out of curiosity, they were shocked, as they couldn’t believe that someone who was as unreachable as the Queen had hugged the King of Lanthanor.Even common people could dream. And in these individuals, many had dreamed of being with the Queen, even though they knew that it was impossible.The human heart worked in mysterious ways. It still gave them hope, and it had been ready to go forth and make the individual become part of her kingdom which it would take as the same result, as they could be close to the one in their heart.However, now, seeing this image of the Queen showing affection for someone else, anger actually erupted, and the eyes of many turned red.Thankfully, this was a minority, but it was still very interesting to see the result of what would happen if Enthrallment was disrupted in this method. At least, that was what Daneel would have remarked if he had been able to focus on anything else except for the woman who was hugging him so tightly that their bodies had almost become one.He could feel her pressing onto him more than any woman had ever embraced him, even counting Eloise and Xuan. It was as if she was afraid that he would disappear if she eased up.Thankfully… She seemed to know right away what exactly had happened.The embrace didn’t even last for two seconds. As she pulled away, Daneel, who was so close to her, could see the tears in her eyes, and the sincerity in her emotions. And in that moment when it had still been up in the air whether what she was seeing was real, he had also felt just how deep and true her love for the Emperor was.Since he had come up with this plan, he had felt hesitant about going forward with it, as it would mean that he would be manipulating the emotions of the Queen. Now, that feeling of his only got exacerbated as he noticed these things, and after she pulled away, he even had to pause for a moment and gather his bearings before he went forward with the rest of the plan which would make sure that he wouldn’t get in even more trouble.With her hugging him and the deployment of the trinkets, he knew that the first objective of breaking away many from the Enthrallment spell had already been achieved. Yet, there was also the very important secondary objective that had only sprung up because he had chosen this plan.
Heroes all over the continent would definitely be watching, and they would clearly be able to see the Queen initiating the hug. If they even got the smallest suspicion that she might unite with Daneel… He didn’t even want to think about what they would do.So, that possibility had to be instantly crushed before it could take shape.The Queen looked like she would need a little more time in order to come to terms with what had happened, as right now, in her eyes, pain and longing were clearly displayed while she looked at Daneel as if she were looking at someone who had stabbed in the heart after she had trusted them.That look made him feel very uneasy, but he put that feeling aside and went ahead.Instantly, he made a shocked expression appear on his face, as if he was the one who was most surprised about what had happened.As he looked at the Queen, he saw that she was also wondering just what he was doing. She didn’t look like she had completely recovered yet, as those emotions from before were still present.Finally, after staring at her like this for a few seconds and making sure that the attention of everyone was on him, Daneel stood up straight and said, “I-I apologize, Queen Arafell! Your beauty was just so… Enchanting that I couldn’t resist but hold your hand and pull you into a hug. This is a great breach of honor, and I sincerely apologize. To defend myself, I can only say that even lifeless rocks which are graced by your presence will want to grow legs and run after you as they will want to see more of the woman who can only be called… Heavenly. I am but a mere mortal, and even though what I did was inexcusable, I believe that anyone here can vouch for the fact that they would also have been similarly enthralled by your presence.”As these words echoed over the gathering, a hush fell over the people who almost looked like they had been ready to jump forward and tear apart this man that had dared to ruin the sanct.i.ty of the Queen.Even the Army had looked as if it was ready to march forth and go to war, and the Giants had become frozen on the spot, staring at the podium where everything had just happened.In the crowd, the Grand Court Mage was keeping a close eye on the Giants, as the king had told him that if a suspicion of his was true, then breaking the Enthrallment spell on the people might have some effect on these beings, too.This would prove that the Queen had enslaved this entire species using the spell, for which there were many clues such as that no Giants are allowed to leave the kingdom unsupervised.Receiving a message from the king, though, he still continued to keep an eye on them, but he went forward to do his other duty.Walking to someone who had also been temporarily enthralled, he said, “Hey, can he really be blamed? Even I would want to do the same thing if I were standing on the podium…””But didn’t she hug him?””Pfft! You must be joking! That’s not possible, I saw it all with my own eyes! The King hugged her! Just think about it, and you’ll understand how implausible it is for our amazing Queen to hug anyone! d.a.m.n, I wish I was in his place…”This made an expression of thought appeared on that person, and seeing that he had succeeded, Kellor moved on to another one, and another one, and another one.In five other spots, the five sovereigns were also engaging in the same act, making discussions begin that the king really could not be blamed for his actions.As for the Queen, she was still staring at him as if she had been frozen in time since the moment she had realized that he was not really the Emperor.”I’m sorry for what I did, but we can speak about this at length later on. Right now, the Heroes are watching, and I need you to do a few things so that they don’t suspect the both of us. At the moment, don’t you think that the present situation might cause some doubts to arise that all is not as it seems on the surface?” These words finally made the Queen move, and as she did, she adopted an icy cold expression.If Daneel did not have the memories of the Emperor, he might have wondered what this expression meant, but because he did, he knew that this was the same expression that always came on Arafell’s face whenever she was putting aside all emotions and going forward with a task that needed decisions to be made with cold, hard reasoning. As the Queen spoke, she made the discussions in the crowd pause.”King of Lanthanor, you have besmirched a lady’s honor, and you owe a debt to this kingdom. Do you agree?”Hearing this, Daneel was startled for a bit, as he could only marvel at her ability to still want to use this opportunity and make the best out of it instead of allowing her emotions to run rampant.He could only nod, as she was right.”Good. In good time, I will collect it. But, for now, I believe it is time that we adjourn this gathering, and allow all these people to enjoy all the luxuries that have been prepared for them. Unless, you have something to add?”To this, Daneel said, “I have nothing to say except that the Kingdom of Arafell truly is one of the best places to live in in this continent. However, if anyone wants to see how the other options are, too, then please do come to the Alliance’s Gathering that will be taking place tomorrow.”He had no option but to add this shameless plug, as he wanted to ensure that he would follow through on his victory instead of dilly-dallying in these final steps.Hearing this, with a humph, the Queen said, “The gathering hereby ends, but all of you are free to stay for as long as you like. Our food stores have been prepared in order to let you feast for two or three days straight, so even if you want to skip this other gathering which will surely be boring, then you are welcome to do so and stay right here. I’ll also be coming by tomorrow to check whether all of the guests are being treated well, and then, if have any personal questions, you can go ahead and ask me. Until then, farewell.”This instantly made Daneel understand that this had been the second part of a plan – to make all of these people stay back and not attend his gathering so that he wouldn’t even have a chance to make them join the alliance. With the added chance of meeting the Queen, staying back would definitely be a very enticing option for many.Once again, he had to admit that if he hadn’t come up with this plan, then she might very well have won.Shooting him a look that he couldn’t decipher, the Queen teleported away, and Daneel did so too before sending a message right away.”Right now, because I made it appear like so, it is unclear whether you started the hug or I did. It all happened too fast, so even though a few might have noticed this, most will still believe that I was the one who did it because of my words, but it is not so easy to fool the Big Four. If they feel even for a moment that the two of us might unite, they will crush both of us. To prevent that, I need you to leak the information that you had a discrete lover whom I was able to find out about, and imitate in order to throw you off. After that, my plan was to use that opportunity of shock to advertise my own gathering and let everyone know that they can attend it, too. This way, it will all be alright.””Okay.”Receiving a single, stern word of response, Daneel sighed, because he didn’t know what else he had expected.Just like a cheat who preyed on women’s weaknesses, he had used her feelings for the Emperor. It really didn’t matter whether she deserved it, or that she had used underhanded methods– this was despicable, but he had still had to choose it as he had no other option.In fact, if Daneel was the same person who had taken the throne before, his idealistic viewpoint might even have prevented him from choosing this easiest option and lead him to look for something harder that might have carried much more risk.Well, so, at least the silver lining existed that he had truly grown, and in the right direction, as this feeling that it was wrong was what he felt was most important. Without it, there would be no difference between him and a cruel despot who was ready to do anything for victory.A few moments later, Daneel received a message.”It’s done. They will receive it, and if there are any problems, I will know and I’ll let you know. Right now, come to the spot east of my Palace.”First, Daneel felt happy as this meant that this matter was completely settled. His plan had worked beautifully, but even though that was the case, he felt a bit of tension as it was now time to face the music.Taking a deep breath, he arrived at the spot to find the Queen already standing there.Even before she said anything, he said, “I truly am sorry that I used your feelings in that way. I…”It was the middle of the day, and they were standing right at the spot where the paradise-like image that had been shown during her address was laid out in front of them.In many ways, it was a truly beautiful moment, but suddenly, Daneel saw the Queen’s back tremble.She was standing with it turned to him, and she hadn’t turned around even though he had arrived.Yet, as he saw this and realized that she was crying, he instantly ran forward even though he didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do.He expected her to scold him, berate him and call him all sorts of things, or even attack him, in which case he was prepared with a lot of defensive trinkets.However, what she actually did startled him so much that for once, the King of Lanthanor became well and truly speechless.The moment he came in front of her, she reached forward…and hugged him again, and said two words which did not fit in the situation at all, which was the reason behind Daneel wondering whether he had gone mad.”Thank you.”As soon as those words left her lips, she started to sob onto his shoulder, while he could only stare into the air, completely flabbergasted and with an expression of one who was clueless regarding whether he was in a weird dream of sorts, or reality.
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