I didn’t respond to the Emperor’s words and just observed him for a moment.
That the Emperor remained composed despite the turn of events showed that his title wasn’t for show.
Still, he was only a secondary concern of mine. So, instead of answering him, I focused my attention on everyone else.
It looked like Xinxin had positioned the groups accordingly when she brought everyone back. Erik and the other people from the Heaven-Seizing Dragon Sect were behind us while the demons, Nero, Moros, Eris, and Eve, were off to the side. As for the Emperor and his people, Xinxin had placed them across from us.
From an outside perspective, it would have looked like a stand-off, with the demons as a third party. That was especially true considering the looming and withered husk of Yggdrasil behind the Imperial troops.
Of course, that wasn’t happening any time soon considering the disoriented state most of the people were in.
The Emperor, realizing that I had no intention of answering him, raised an eyebrow and then shifted his gaze to Xinxin. When he did, his eyes widened a bit, flitting between me and my disciple.
Somehow, I had the sense that he was getting a misunderstanding… but it didn’t matter enough to correct him.
At that time, Aria stepped behind me. Titania followed after her, though she seemed to do so more out of self-restraint than concern like Aria had.
Emperor Elio noticed and looked like he wanted to say something. Before he could though, Erik stepped forward. The Heavenly King brushed off his robes and said, “It appears that everyone returned in short order without harm.” He turned to Xinxin and bowed. “Thank you for your grace, Heaven-Seizer.”
Xinxin nodded back. “It was nothing.”
A brief interaction, but enough to change the subject and make a small power play.
I had to admit that my disciple’s secretary… or rather, the manager of the sect, seemed to be fairly competent in politics.
The Emperor noticed that and shifted his attention to Erik instead.
Erik met the Emperor’s gaze and said, “Now then, should we prepare for the summit?”
Emperor Elio nodded. “Yes. It would best to get that underway before any other unexpected developments occur. However, that person…”
After saying that, the Emperor shifted his gaze to me again, as if puzzled.
Xinxin stepped between us and said, “There is no problem with his presence. If need be, he is in a position to stand in my place, so there is no concern.”
Emperor Elio blinked and said, “That was not what I was concerned about… but very well. I will defer to your judgment, Heaven-Seizer.” After that, he shifted his gaze to the distance and said, “However… should we wait for the Demon Lord to arrive before we begin? Or-“
At that time, a young female voice cut in. “No worries.” Eve walked over, followed closely by Nero, and then the two archfiends Moros and Eris. “Since it’s become like this, I can stand in for my father.”
Erik glanced over and then paused before saying, “Yes. I suppose that can work.”
Emperor Elio blinked and then turned to Eve. “You… have the authority to speak on behalf of the demons?”
Eva rolled her eyes. “You kidnapped me after the inheritance ceremony and didn’t know that I already obtained the title?”
“That…” The Emperor’s composure cracked at that and then he placed his hand on his forehead. “That’s right. What a tangled mess this has become.”
Erik clapped his hands and said, “Well then. As that has been settled, I will prepare the stage for the discussion.” He turned to look at Titania and said, “Miss Titania, would you lend me your support?”
Titania blinked. “Me?”
Erik nodded. “While I do not anticipate another event like before, it would be best to be careful and move with your cooperation.”
Titania frowned and glanced towards Xinxin.
Seeing that, Titania walked towards Erik and sighed. “I do not know of how much help I will be… but so be it.”
Erik nodded and said, “That is all that I ask.” With that said, the two wandered off, heading back to the rest of the sect members.
When they left, Eve stretched and pulled out a book from a fold of darkness. With a yawn, she waved it at the Emperor and said, “I’ll go and take a break then. Tell my brother to get me when it’s time to talk.” That said, she quickly walked off to the side and into the forest.
“W-Wait! Eve!” Nero ran off after her, but it seemed that Eve was prepared and quickly dashed off.
Moros bowed his head and said, “My apologies.”
Eris bowed as well and said, “We bid our leave. Emperor, Heaven-Seizer, Grandmaster.”
I furrowed my brow at that title, but before I could say anything, the two archfiends ran off as well.
That left me, the Emperor, Aria, and Xinxin.
The Emperor frowned and then glanced backwards to his troops. After, he made a brief hand signal. With that, the group of armored men began to disperse, moving off to the side and setting up camp.
When that was done, the Emperor relaxed and then shook his head. Glancing at Xinxin, he said, “Apologies for the mess. It appears that everything has become more tangled than expected.”
Xinxin nodded. “That’s to be expected from being involved with that woman.”
Emperor Elio laughed and then looked to me. “I apologize for any rudeness that I might have shown you, as well as showing hospitality towards your impersonator.”
Elio nodded and then said, “Now… I’m afraid that I have to apologize for another bit of rudeness.” He glanced to Xinxin and said, “There was something I wished to discuss with the Heaven-Seizer in private.”
Xinxin frowned and looked to me. “Sifu?”
A faint pulse in the distance. A tug at something inside of me.
I frowned and then said, “…Fine. There’s something I need to do as well.”
A resonance. Something calling from deep within Yggdrasil.
Xinxin looked a bit concerned, but on seeing my expression, she nodded. “As you say, Sifu.”
I glanced back at Aria. “Stay with Xinxin. I-“
“No.” Aria shook her head and quickly moved to my side. “I won’t let you go alone.”
I frowned and then shifted my attention to Xinxin.
Her gaze was unreadable, but I had the sense that she didn’t quite approve of Aria’s actions. Still, she sighed and gave a faint nod of her head.
The Emperor noticed, but was at least tactful enough to not ask.
I turned my attention back at Aria only to met with her adamant gaze.
Seeing that, I sighed and started walking towards Yggdrasil.
Aria smiled and quickly walked to my side.
…Just what was it with these obstinate women who didn’t care for their own safety?