Chapter 44: Secret Diplomacy
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Relentlessly, the stormy wind from outside was banging against the windows inside of Amaragi's office. 


Maren was sitting close to one of these windows, eyeing the pitch black clouds outside with a mixed expression. 


"Looks like it won't cease anytime soon."


Amaragi hummed once as she was still sitting close to her desk, her eyes groggily flying over a few parchments that were still left. 


For some reason, it almost felt as though the suppressive atmosphere from outside was suffocating her from within… 


Taking a deep breath, Amaragi exhaled slowly as she placed a hand to her forehead, closing her eyes momentarily in the hopes that she could regain her senses. Thus, she tried to somehow deviate her own mind. 


"... heh… why, I don't think it sounds that bad, does it…? I can think of a lot of things we could do together in that time…


Maren almost immediately jerked together slightly, his eyes facing the ground as his hands nervously pawed at the base of his seat. 


Just as Amaragi opened her eyes again, she suddenly found that it hadn't grown any better at all. An immediate sense of dizziness accompanied her as she took in her surroundings again, only growing more pronounced by the second. Her throat was beginning to dry, albeit she swore she had just taken a cup of water only a few moments prior…


And why was it suddenly so warm…? 


Words registered in her head, or rather, Maren's voice, but she could increasingly not make out anymore what he was saying as the sounds became more and more dull. 


A wave of panic was overcoming her, and just as she tried to stand up from her seat, she lost the last grip upon her senses as it became too much for her to bear-


Maren swirled his head around the moment he heard a loud thud upon the ground, and no second later was he already beside Amaragi's body where she had collapsed beside her desk. With widened eyes, his heart was hammering against his chest as he laid her body upon his lap, just so that it was laying straight, and her head was facing him upward. 


He placed the palm of his hand against her forehead, her heavy and uneven breathing throwing wave after wave of horror into his mind, but the moment he could feel the sheer heat upon her skin, his alarmed and desperate voice sounded through the door and echoed through the entire hallway system of the palace. 


Causing any and all servants to immediately stop what they were doing. 



As droplets of rain already began to fall from the sky, a lone pair of steps sounded upon the cobbled streets of the capital. 


"Nngh…! Heavens, am I glad when this is over…" 


At the sideways, a worker was tirelessly pushing up a wooden cart that was filled with leftovers of debris, alongside with his colleagues, who were visibly exhausted to their bones as they were working together to gather up any remaining pieces along the way. 


"And then what, if I may ask? To continue ruining yourself on the next day until your dying breath?" 


With confused and partly startled hums, the group of workers hesitantly turned around towards the source of the voice. 


Meanwhile, not far away, another set of workers was carrying large bags of flour to the next bakery, seemingly ignoring what they had just heard as they didn't think it concerned them. 


"And you? Do you think any of that work will sustain you and your family if you can barely pay for the bread that you yourself are helping to make?" 


Slowly but surely, even these workers suddenly stopped dead in their tracks, eyeing one another for a moment in uncertainty at the loud and strong voice that was directed towards them. 


And just like that, like a series of reactions, even other surrounding workers began to turn their heads towards the loud source of the voice that was cutting through the harsh winds. 


Standing upon the middle of the street, a thin man cloaked in black, leathery attire, along with a hat of the same material and color, as well as a black piece of cloth that was covering half of his face, was eyeing each and every worker that was now starting to pay him attention. 


"Stop for one single moment, and ask yourself… do you not think that you truly deserve better?" 


His voice was deep, alluring in a way, as he raised both of his hands to reinforce his words. Murmurs were beginning to sound among the workers, small and hushed, until the strange person took a step forward and upon a nearby, wooden crate. 


"Do you really want to be exploited any longer? Do you really want to be taken advantage of?" 


The murmurs began to increase, and amidst a few workers, nods of approval suddenly joined the reactions. 


"I say, there can only be one solution to this! Lay down your work!" 


With each word, a cheer of approval began to sound amidst the crowd, the worker from before dropping his cart in defiance, while the others dropped the bags of flour they were carrying. Louder and louder it became, until it grew into one chorus of protest that was continuously unified and reinforced through each worker beginning to take part in it, spreading like a fire. 


"Shake off your yoke!" 


And the man knew all too well to pour only more oil into it. 


With increasing loudness, it was not long until even more workers joined the crowd, but it was also not long until the first guards and soldiers started to become aware of the scene. Rushing towards it with authoritative presence, they were quick to spot the strange man upon the wooden crate who was firing on the protest with each word that he shouted. 


"A demagogue! Subdue him!" 


Turning his head around, the agent counted the sheer number of soldiers rushing forward in the intent to seize him. But the mob was already enraged, and thus, he deemed his job to be sufficiently done. 


"The time has come! Show your oppressors the strength of your will!" 


Arming themselves with pitchforks, torches, anything they could find, the mass moved against the approaching units of Imperial guards, effectively giving the demagogue more than enough time to slip away. 


And thus, the damage was done. 



"... hm… no, I am certain that the life of her majesty will not be in any danger. All of the symptoms relate to the only poison that I can think of to be responsible, and we possess all the necessary ingredients for a cure. But it astounds me, I did not think it would spread even into the palace itself…"


The medic finished her observation with a few final notes, her eyes clearly concerned. And even though Maren's heart felt just a little bit of relief after hearing her positive outcome, his mind was still completely sharp and alarmed. 


"Spread…? How do you mean?" 


His words seemed to tear her out of her thoughts before her eyes widened slightly in surprise. 


"Apologize, milord, we have only recently received a large influx of citizens who seem to be afflicted with the exact same symptoms of poisoning as her majesty. It is due to this that we have temporarily asked the officials to close down the well upon the marketplace so that we may inspect it for the root of the cause. Of course, the antidote for her majesty has the utmost importance and will be delivered immediately."


With that, the medic rose from her seat next to the bed where Amaragi was currently resting, her breathing still heavy and her mind unconscious. But just when she was about to leave and exit the door, a small gasp escaped her when she nearly collided with another, agitated figure. 


Upon realizing who it was, the medic immediately bowed once in apology before she hastily retreated and took her leave. 


"Magi, we have a… what… what happened…!?" 


Namagi immediately all but rushed to her sister's bedside, her eyes rapidly filling with horror and concern upon witnessing Amaragi's state. 


"Calm yourself, she will be alright, the medic will return soon with an antidote. She has been poisoned, the water in her cup was responsible." even as he himself tried to remain calm, just as he tried to calm Namagi, Maren's hands were tightly clenched together, and his own heart was still beating furiously in his chest. 


A fresh wave of horror and helplessness befalling him whenever he looked at the obvious pain Amaragi was in, even while she was unconscious. 


"No, this… this can't be happening now…! There have been several sightings of demagogues in town, and they have riled up multiple workers upon the streets to take arms!"


Hearing this, Maren shifted his head towards one of the windows, looking outside to hear for the distant commotion that was taking place down below, despite the still looming threat of a storm. 


"We must take action and try to scatter them, in combined crowds, they will feel empowered enough to stand against the guards. With Magi's help, this would have been a lot easier, her command would have surely caused many of them to stand down, but we'll have to do it without her. This riot is disrupting our entire production chain!"


With an immediate nod, Maren signalled for Namagi to lead the way, but the moment she rushed towards the door and he followed-


-he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks when a hand gripped one of his wrists. 


"... don't… don't l-leave…"


Swirling around with bated breath, his eyes immediately filled with hope the moment he heard Amaragi's weak and frail whisper. Her hand was seemingly gripping his wrist with every ounce of strength that was left in her body, trying to hold on to him, with her head even turned towards him… 


… but upon closer inspection, her eyes were still closed, and in truth, she was still unconscious. And yet, despite that, there was still so much raw and unbridled fear upon her face… 


Witnessing this, Namagi eyed the scene, biting her own lip, before she made her next decision in the blink of an eye. 


"... no matter, stay with her, I can handle this as well! Just promise me not to set a single. step. outside. Understood?" 


And with that, she didn't wait for a reply before she stormed out of the chamber, her hurried steps echoing outside upon the hallways before they faded away. 


Thus, leaving Maren to look back at Amaragi's sleeping face, the grip of her fingers upon his wrist starting to weaken before he renewed it by taking her hands into his own. 


"Please… hold on just a little bit longer…" 





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