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Morgan still looking like Phobos rapped the table sharply, thrice, drawing all attention to her. “That’s enough with the pleasantries,” she said. “Time to get down to business.”

I narrowed my eyes slightly. My understanding of the Aspect of Radiance and the shadow clone technique was much greater than six months ago. Also, the sensitivity of my soul sense had taken great strides forward. Now that I knew what to look for, and had the means to detect it, I could spot the slight discrepancies between the fake and the original.

Morgan’s clone technique wasn’t something as direct as a means to impersonate another. From the slight soul fluctuations that encased her form, it appeared that the technique was interwoven with an illusion. One only a Demigod could cast. I didn’t know what the exact purpose of the illusion was, but if asked to guess, I would say that it made the beholder view her as one of their near and dear ones.

A great psychological tactic that, forcing your opponents to raise their hands against the ones they had sworn to protect. I for one found her impersonation of Phobos profoundly discomfiting. Especially as the deception was so realistic, accurately copying all her mannerisms as well as the throaty sound of her voice.

The Wind Wolf was the first to speak. Leaning back in his chair, his long fingers interlaced in front of his chest, “Winter’s over,” he said, sweeping his piercing green eyes over the gathering. “And the Bay of Kings will soon be navigable again. We’ll have a war on our hands, in a month. Maybe two if we’re lucky. Isabella and I will be in charge of supervising the war efforts.”

I nodded internally. Wind and water, these were the two most effective elements in a naval battlefield. Seeing that we had no intention of letting more Shogunate troops land on Regiis soil, having the two of them in charge was the best choice.

The Wind Wolf reached up and adjusted his glasses, making them flash a solid orange as they reflected the fiery light of the Sunlight Soldier’s soul anchor. “While that’s going on, we can’t have any sort of internal unrest adding to the chaos.” Turning to the Unbounded Demigod, he asked, “What’s the situation with Koschei, that ornery old thing?”

“Restless,” replied the old man gravely. “The Catacombs have been extremely active since he awoke. Practically seething with the undead. It’s to the point that we have had to restrict the delver teams ranked lower than silver from entering them.”

I knew of this situation. The first couple of months after Koschei’s rebellion and subsequent swift suppression were fine. People were optimistic about the undead unrest subsiding. But now, after half a year without any income, the adventurers who could leave had left, while those who remained were either of an appropriately high level… or had taken to sneaking through the official blockade, gambling their lives for a shot at the increased harvest promised by the activated state of the Dungeon. Of course, there were the Gold and Platinum ranked delver squads who had swarmed there from all across the Empire, and even beyond, drawn by the scent of money like sharks to blood.

“I don’t know what advantage the Shogunate promised him, but Koschei seems determined to side with them despite the large amount of mana he loses each time he struggles against the seal we imprisoned him in. I need to be there at all times to monitor him. It wouldn’t do to have him rampaging through the countryside while we are fighting a war, now would it?”

The atmosphere grew a bit grim. They had already tied up one of our Demigods even before the war began in earnest. And what was worse, they had achieved it without resorting to the deployment of a Demigod of their own.

While it was true that Demigods couldn't directly participate in a war without inviting similar escalation of conflict from the opposite side, that didn’t mean that they were useless during a war. Quite the contrary. In most massed conflicts of national scale, one of the most important factors was the weather. A storm at sea, for example, could alter the entire paradigm of a battle. And it was the Demigods who were in charge of the weather.

Not all Demigods were equal just because they shared the same rank. In fact, the difference between a new Demigod and an established one could be as vast as the difference between a mortal and a mage. The Treaty of Demigods was so successful, not only because it thwarted mutual destruction, but also due to the fact that it was fair. Insofar as the fact that it made allowances for the differences in the relative power of the Demigods of two nations.

The more powerful nation would have the stronger Demigods, and therefore, the weather would be on their side. The battlefield in their favour. So, the situation where these transcendent beings had to sit around, twiddling their thumbs and watching helplessly as their nation’s armies were defeated, never occurred. It prevented them from refusing to accept the results of a war and petulantly flipping the table after all things were said and done, rendering the war and all lives lost during the fighting of it utterly futile.

This provision had been added to the Treaty of Demigods over five hundred years ago after exactly such an event between the Grecian and the Roman forces. Rome won the war, but the Greek Demigods had refused to accept the results, threatening violent retaliation if the Romans tried to annex their nation. An international conference had ensued and after the then leader of the Greek Demigods had fought three Roman Demigods to a standstill, the treaty had been amended and another one, one suing for peace between Greece and Rome, had been signed. Otherwise, instead of the seven nations taking up the Continent today, we might have had six.

“Well,” said Morgan, breaking the charged silence. “Then it’s quite fortunate that we managed to get the other nations to take part in the Swayamvar. I seriously doubt they will try to take advantage of us during our conflict with the Shogunate. Not when their best and brightest are visiting our nation to participate in a contest for our Princess’ hand in marriage.”

She smiled confidently. “Not that they would have anyway. After all, with our policy of non-alignment, they can rest assured that we won’t conspire with their neighbours against them. But if the Shogunate were to take our place, they would forever have to sleep on a bed of thorns, wondering when the knife would find its way into their backs.”

While what she said was very logical, there was something that she wasn’t mentioning. The reason for the other nations agreeing to take part in the Swayamvar wasn’t any policy of ours, or if it was, it wasn’t the main reason.

The main reason, was that when the Black Widow wanted something to happen in the Continent, it did.

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