339 hostage

"I'm ......?

 Anne couldn't hide her confusion. Of course not. Just when I thought I could finally leave, I'm told to stay. I'm barely able to keep my expression in check.
 But no one in the empire can overrule a direct order from the emperor. Even an imperial princess. In other words, it seems that the Emperor himself has come all this way for that purpose.
 If he had been of a lower rank, he could have written a letter or something to that effect, but that would not have been good enough for an imperial princess. Or maybe he just wanted to tell his daughter in person.

 The emperor said in a solemn voice.

"Hmm. That is one of the conditions of this peace.

 In other words, Anne will remain a hostage of the kingdom. Anne seemed to be satisfied with that. I don't know how she feels about it deep down.

"May I?

 I opened my mouth to give her a helping hand. I opened my mouth to offer my help. The thin face leaned back a little, as if to discourage me, but the emperor blocked it with his hand.

"Good. Tell me.
"With all due respect, then. Why did you agree to this as a condition? I don't know why I should leave Master Annemarie in the kingdom, I'm not very educated.

 The Emperor's eyes narrowed at my words. This is where Anne and I resemble each other. ....... I'm not sure what to say.

I'm not going to say anything about it in public, but it's not my fault. I cannot say this in public, but I am aware of it. On top of that, this plan has nothing to do with you (the Kingdom) betraying us. Because to the casual observer, things will remain the same. At most, it will be a skirmish.

 The emperor broke off at that point. He paused for a moment to make sure there were no rebuttals and to see if I understood. Seeing that no one was saying anything, the Emperor continued.

But if we betray you, you will lose the land where the settlers are. Of course, that may happen even if you don't actively betray us. If one of them survives, it will happen. But we don't want that.
"I see. I understand.

 I feel that he is a little too high-ranking as a hostage for that purpose, but I am sure that there is no one else to offer him in secret. If you're going to get someone from your vassal, you can't not tell them what's going on.

"And so, Eizo.

 This time, the Marquis opened his mouth. I'm beginning to see how this is going to play out, and I'm beginning to understand why I'm being asked to sit in on this. It will be useless to resist. ....... If nothing else, the reason makes sense to me.

I thought about where the safest place in the kingdom would be to take care of Her Imperial Highness.
"I'm sure it's at home.

 I answered immediately. I can tell you that for sure. There are wolves, bears, and boars roaming around, and the house is enchanted to keep people away.
 I feel like I'm being taken advantage of, but only a few people know where it is, and it's impossible for them to know unless they're considered to have a certain level of ability, so I'm just saying that I've already cleared a certain amount of conditions when I came here in the first place.

"Hmm. Can you do it?

 If I said no, it was obvious that Anne would be tossed around like a boil. I know I'm being naive, even though we were almost enemies, but I've already decided my answer.

"I understand. I'll take care of it.
"I see. I can help you to a certain extent, so if you have any problems, let me know.
"No, if you will protect us, we will do it on our own without any help.

 I firmly refused the Marquis' offer. I don't want to be tied down in the name of aid. I don't want to be tied down in the name of aid. If the empire intends to use Anne as a string, I'll cut it off somewhere along the line.
 I made up my mind inwardly while somehow passing the Emperor's smirking gaze.