LTBE - Chapter 444.1: Cold Confrontation (1)
The capital of the Austine Empire, Siaus, was located in the empire’s northern territory.
Snow had finally started falling after a dry spell that lasted several months. This would have been good news for most regions since it moistened the dried soil and facilitated the growth of crops in the coming year. However, for major cities like Siaus, snowfall only caused traffic disruption.
It was a huge nuisance, especially during this festive period.
Festivals were important in the medieval era. It was one of the few things that brought joy to the populace’s monotonous life, especially given the lack of entertainment avenues. Otherwise, the people would have no way to vent their pent-up stress.
It was common for most countries to set a day aside as a public holiday, and it would usually be between the autumn harvest and spring.
For the Saint Mesit Theocracy, where practically everyone was a believer of Goddess Sia, it would be New Year’s Day. On New Year’s, the people would gather together and pray.
For the Country of Scholars, it would be the birthday of the God of Wisdom. The Scholar Guilds would come together to hold a demonstration symposium, showcasing the results of their recent achievements.
For the Austine Empire, it was the founding day of their empire. Its founding day was designated to be that of the Second Epoch’s Ancient Austine Empire.
Even to this day, the Ancient Austine Empire was an unforgettable dream to those of the current Austine Empire. It represented the pinnacle of the prosperity of human civilization, a height that had been reached by no one else. Even when everything had already changed, the Austine Empire continued to pride itself as the successor of that glorious legacy.
Given so, it wasn’t hard to understand why they paid utmost importance to the founding day of the Ancient Austine Empire, a festival that had thousands of years of history behind it.
Nobles from all over the Austine Empire would travel from far and wide to the capital in order to affirm their loyalty to the ancient clan, which had ruled humankind for thousands of years. A lavish banquet would be held in the royal palace, and the arriving flood of guests would jam up even the widest streets.
Lionhearted men crossed blades in the dueling ring whereas elegant ladies who were dressed in long flowing gowns twirled around the ballroom. Joyous melodies and vibrant dances filled the streets. Fireworks would whiz nonstop.
All of these symbolized the grandeur of the greatest human empire.
In the confines of the majestic imperial palace, a black-haired lady dressed in fineries stood alone by the side of a banquet hall, her amethyst eyes reflecting the extravagance before her. Her delicate features were enveloped in coldness, but she remained the center of attention in this gathering of lofty youths.
Young noblemen seated around a table raised their wine glasses and toasted to each other, but they couldn’t resist the urge to sneak glances in her direction. Valiant duelists crossed swords with each other, but be it victory or defeat, their eyes would be drawn toward her as soon as the battle came to an end.
They hoped to see even the slightest stir on her impassive face.
It was just that this year would prove no different than the previous. The lady commanding everyone’s gaze was still as cold and lofty as ever. She was like a beautiful glacier flower that left those who dared to approach with frostbite.
She was Lilian Ackermann, the imperial princess of the Austine Empire.
As much as she was known for her fatal charm, her terrifying capabilities also struck fear into those who dared stand as her adversary. She was not one to be made light of, be it as a transcendent, in the political arena, or as a descendant of the imperial bloodline. There was no need for her to fawn over anyone or put up a pretense, for even the powerful dukes of the Austine Empire dared not disrespect her.
She had always been an enigmatic individual, having never shown any interest in anyone or anything. It was nigh impossible to fathom her thoughts, which made her even more frightening to deal with. Despite having attended numerous social events, there hadn’t been a single person who shared a dance with her.
It was not without reason that Lilian was deemed to be the child who bore the greatest similarity to her father, Emperor Lukas. Both of them appeared to be lacking in human sentiments. But unlike her father, there was a special quality to Lilian that drew others in despite the danger.
Meanwhile, Lilian herself wasn’t paying any heed to her surroundings—she had grown far too accustomed to be affected by mere gazes. She was too busy thinking about the recent string of events.
The prosperous Austine Empire was currently mired in an internal conflict.
Emperor Lukas’ three children and their respective factions were at each other’s throats, seeking to destroy each other in the political arena. Those defeated would become meat on a chopping board, whereas the winners would walk away with it all.
This was a drawn-out battle that put the contenders’ intelligence, strength, influence, patience, and many other attributes to the test. Lilian had been the one with the best cards in the past few years, putting her closest to victory, but recent developments had left her a little concerned.
One was her defeat in the Challenger Cup. It had cost her a valuable trump card.
The other was the alliance between her two older brothers, Lucius Ackermann and Aubrey Ackermann. Even if this cooperation was only temporary, it was still a troubling development.
The tragedy that befell Tark Stronghold on the eastern border and the Saint Mesit Theocracy’s internal war should have been important events that all countries were keeping a close eye on. However, amidst all that mess, Lilian caught wind of a piece of news that triggered her sense of danger—the mobilization of the Seze Duke’s army.
The Seze Duke was one of the most powerful nobles in the Austine Empire. He hadn’t shown favor toward any of the successors, but the mobilization of his military had been kept secret from the nobles in Lilian’s faction. This was a red flag for her.
More importantly, one of the two armies that were currently in the Elric Fiefdom was the Ascarts’.
When coincidences are lined up after one another, they aren’t just coincidences anymore.
That was what Lilian had learned from her experiences over the years, and it didn’t seem like she was wrong about this premonition.
“His Majesty wishes to see me?” asked Lilian.
“Yes, Your Highness Lilian. Please head to the audience room as soon as possible,” the steward replied.
After the steward humbly backed off, having relayed the imperial edict, Lilian eyed the depths of the royal palace with narrowed eyes.
There was nothing unusual about the princes and the princess meeting the emperor on Founding Day, but Emperor Lukas had always summoned all of them at once. Meeting his sons and daughter one by one was simply too troublesome for someone who valued efficiency.
Yet, Lilian was being summoned to the audience room alone.
Based on her understanding of Emperor Lukas, this individual audience was unlikely to signify preferential treatment. That man didn’t have enough emotions in him to care about kinship or bother with trivialities. There could only be one reason why he was doing this.
This was a trial for her. Whether she could clear this trial or not would determine her future.
In the bustling banquet hall, Lilian glanced at her two older brothers in the distance before slowly making her way into the depths of the royal palace.
Lilian Ackermann slowly walked along a quiet corridor with nary an expression on her face. There were guards standing upright on both sides of the corridor, reminiscent of armored statues, but her eyes hardly registered them at all. Her head was too busy trying to think of as many scenarios and countermeasures as possible.
It would be foolish to make light of Emperor Lukas, a man who had maintained a tight grasp over the empire for many years. Given the circumstances, Lilian couldn’t afford to err before him.
She soon arrived before a set of towering doors carved with the Ackermann’s Twinheaded Eagle insignia. The rubies embedded in the eagle’s eyes glimmered brightly. The stewards reported Lilian’s arrival, and the doors opened shortly after.
Seated on the highest throne within was the dignified ruler of the great Austine Empire, Lukas Ackermann.