Hilda was miffed when she heard Philine’s curt tone of voice.
“What are you doing, acting so high and mighty, even though you’re just a decoration of a princess? If we’re finished with this conversation, I’m leaving――”
“Sit down, Hilda.”
“Like I said, I’m――”
Her words were strict and commanding.
Hilda, who tried to get up from her seat, couldn’t help but sit back down.
The expression on her face looked like she was slightly feeling pressured.
“I understand what you are trying to say, and you’re right. Compensation is certainly necessary.”
“……. Yeah, so if you can’t provide me with anything, then I’ll just pretend this conversation never――”
“Who do you think you are talking to right now?”
The aura around Philine changed.
The girl who was usually so timid and preferred to lay low was now keeping Hilda in check with a dignified and cool-headed tone of voice.
“Even if my position is just in name only, I am still the Imperial Princess. Did you really think you could get away with speaking to me like that?”
“…… Hah! You’re taking advantage of your authority now? Are you trying to force me to submit to you? Sure, let’s see you try.”
“Of course, there’s no way I could punish you just for your tone of voice. However, what about that time you tried to drug the Imperial Princess?”
Hilda was rendered speechless when Philine calmly posed the question.
Philine was referring to the time that she tried to strangle me.
I told Philine about how she was acting all strange back then as well.
Plus, Hilda had said something that day that had a deeper meaning to it.
However, it seemed like Philine was going to play that card now, huh.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Playing dumb, huh. Although, it’s true that there was no evidence left behind at all.”
“However, if I reveal this to the public, I wonder how the magical technology department will deal with you?”
“…… Are you threatening me?”
Hilda’s connection to the magical technology department ran deep.
However, it wasn’t like she was considered an irreplaceable presence within the department or anything.
Surely, they’d have doubts as to whether or not they should continue working with a bureaucrat with a poor background.
However, as far as Hilda was concerned, it didn’t seem to bother her at all.
“There’s no point trying to threaten me. Something like that’s not gonna make me give in. If I use my support system against you, I could throw you under――”
“No, Hilda. That’s not it. That’s not what I was trying to get at.”
A smile returned to Philine’s face.
The tone that she had maintained up until now – one that was reminiscent of Dorothea’s – burst like a bubble.
Hilda wore a skeptical look on her face.
“That method of negotiation just now is exactly how my mother likes to handle things. She twists peoples’ arms and makes enemies out of them. It’s terrible, don’t you think? I won’t do it like that.”
“There’s something that I saw before. There was a group of children that picked on one of the smallest girls, so I went to go and give them a warning. Can you guess what those kids replied with?”
“…… Who knows?”
“They said they were just imitating Her Majesty Dorothea……. I was rendered speechless.”
The meritocracy within the Empire was a double-edged sword.
As long as you had strengths and abilities, you could live comfortably, but for the weak, there was no saving grace.
Of course, it wasn’t like the Empire didn’t have ways to provide salvation for them, but compared to the newly democratized Bauer, the Empire’s measures were much weaker.
“We’ve gone too far with the idea of the survival of the fittest. It must be corrected.”
“……. I understand what you’re trying to get at. But in that case, what are you going to do about it? I don’t plan on doing anything until there’s something in it for me.”
“I will appoint you as my knight. For somebody like you, who’s always chasing after higher positions and honor, don’t you think it would be worthwhile for you if you became the Imperial Princess’ personal knight?”
To be honest, I underestimated Philine.
I was astonished at how she managed to get this far.
In the beginning, Philine looked like she had everything that could pull Hilda in.
However, although she was taking the initiative in the conversation, if she ended up submitting to Hilda, the effectiveness would’ve dropped by at least fifty percent.
Therefore, Philine started acting confrontational, and by creating a threatening atmosphere in the room, she managed to get their negotiations back on track.
It was a technique that put even Claire-sama’s tactics to shame.
“…… Did you really think I’d be satisfied with just that?”
“Rather, are there any disadvantages for you if you cooperated with me? While it’s true that you’re deeply involved in the magical technology department, and you’ve got a good position there, that might not always be the case. I was just putting on an act earlier, but they could technically let you go at any time.”
“Would the same not apply if I worked with you, Princess?”
“No. You and I would become accomplices. I won’t betray you, and you won’t betray me.”
Hilda stared cautiously at Philine.
Most likely, she was calculating the risks and benefits in her head.
“Hey, Hilda. I think it’s about time we put all of our cards on the table. I’ve already stated my intentions. You can drop the act too.”
Hilda’s eyes widened.
Philine said act.
She was probably trying to reconcile with Hilda after she showed her true self and used a rough voice with the Imperial Princess.
Philine was saying that she’d pretend her rudeness had never happened.
Philine flashed a smile at Hilda.
“There’s not a lot that I can give you. However, I need your help no matter what. When it comes to the first steps to changing the Empire, there’s nobody that comes to my mind before you, Hilda.”
Philine asked Hilda for her cooperation once again.
It might’ve seemed like they just went around in a circle, but the circumstances this time around were different.
Hilda stayed silent for a while, but eventually,
“…… Haha……. Ahahaha……”
Her shoulders started shaking as she laughed.
“Ahahaha! I give up…… I surrender, Princess. You really do have Her Majesty Dorothea’s blood flowing within you, truly.”
Hilda smiled with tears forming in the corner of her eyes.
Seeing her like this made it seem like she had just been released from the clutches of possession by an evil spirit.
“I don’t really like it when I get compared to my mother, though.”
“Ahh, I apologize. You’re right. You’re not like your mother at all. If it were Her Majesty, she’d force me to obey her, but you didn’t handle it like that. Plus, I personally think it makes you more likable.”
“Why is that?”
“If the person that’s insisting on implementing policies towards conciliation uses forceful means to get their demands, that would be hugely self-contradictory, wouldn’t it?”
Hilda seemed to appreciate Philine’s consistency.
“Now then, Princess, please keep this in mind. The world of politics and foreign affairs is not a place where you can expect everything to go your way. Even if there are times where you are forced to bend your views, you must do whatever it takes to achieve your goals.”
“It’s fine if you stay as you are, Princess. You should leave the dirty work to your subordinates.”
“Princess, you are the figurehead. No one wants to follow a figurehead that’s been playing in the mud. You must continue being a wonderful figurehead that anybody would be willing to dirty their hands for. In that sense, your job is just as difficult as the people that handle those dirty tasks.”
Being that kind of figurehead meant that no matter how difficult things got, it was imperative that she kept her hands clean at all times.
Hilda emphasized the fact sternly.
“Claire, Rei, thank you for keeping silent. If either of you stepped in to help the princess out part way through, I would’ve gotten up and left immediately.”
“Considering what Philine-sama wants to accomplish, you wanted to see if she could somehow manage to persuade you first.”
“Yes, that’s right. Your judgment is correct, and that’s further proof that Philine-sama has such strong allies by her side.”
Hilda nodded like she was satisfied.
“So then, Hilda, will you cooperate with me?”
“Why not…… is what I’d like to say, but unfortunately, it’s not going to be that easy. There are a few conditions.”
“Please state them.”
“If I am to take your side, Princess, we’ll need something that can persuade the magical technology department as well. That’s what we want.”
“We’ll need resources that can make the department mobilize,” Hilda said.
“But unfortunately, I’m not really familiar with any magical techniques like that.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that. However, I can think of just the thing for this.”
“And what would that be?”
Hilda’s response to Philine’s question was unexpected.
“I would like you all to help solve the riddle of the Forbidden Box ―― an artifact that was left behind by former chief researcher of the Empire, Tred Magik.”