Hei Lian didn't understand the philosophy of Regiis. She admired their equal treatment of women, of course, but everything else confused her greatly. How could a society function that way and not collapse on itself?
The Tier 1 light mage leading the way for her stopped her footsteps at the beginning of a corridor. Turning to her, she addressed Hei Lian without arrogance or servility, "Wait here. I'll check whether the Chief is free."
For a brief instant, Hei Lian had the urge to bind the mage in her shadows, render her utterly helpless and revel in her fear. Repressing her urges, she smiled and nodded instead. The woman turned around smartly and walked away, leaving her alone in the hallway.
Walking up to the window, Hei Lian looked up at the steadily darkening skies. The day was at an end.
It had been a busy day. She had to shuttle back and forth between the Heavenly Wolf Mercenaries and the Regiis contingent to work out the problems they had been facing in settling the mercenaries to both their satisfaction.
Thankfully, grandma hadn't brought any cultivators higher than the Dao Domain stage so she had no trouble at all getting the wolves to listen to her. No. The trouble she had was with the Regiis officers.
Back home, everything was quite simple. The strong ruled and the weak served. The logic was irrefutable, really. When your life could be ended by the one in front of you in an instant, you obeyed.
She brought her hand up in front of her face. A jet-black flame lit up in the centre of the pallid palm.
Take that Tier 1 light mage for example. Hei Lian could immobilize her with ease. With the pitiful amount of mana she had in her mindscape, she wouldn't be able to break free. Then she'd just be a puppet for her to control, a frantic mind trapped in the prison of her flesh. And that was if she wanted to control her. She could just as easily roast her from inside her body. After all, no light could reach within a body and where there was shadow, there would be fire – hellfire.
Hei Lian didn't understand. Why wouldn't you kneel to someone who could do that to you? How did all these weaklings dare to raise their heads and look their betters in the eye.
She ached to teach them a lesson. A lesson in subordination they would never forget but she was fettered here. Not by chains of iron and steel, nor by a magical bond like the one her father had shackled her with. No. Her fetters were metaphorical but no less solid for all that.
Clenching her fist, she extinguished the abyssal flame.
Protocol, they called it here. Rules. Regulations.
She understood the need for such things. Specially among people of equal strength. There had to be some sort of standard in place so those with similar levels of cultivation could get along and cooperate without having to fight each other for dominance first. That was what the concept of Face was for. That was the reason for the existence of their honour code.
If you give me face, I shall give you face in return. If you don't, our enmity will be irreconcilable.
Contrary to what the people of Regiis thought, giving face wasn't a show of submission. It was a show of respect. One which would be reciprocated. They weren't animals that would misconstrue every concession as a sign of weakness and reach out for a yard after taking an inch.
For all her so called cunning, the Duchess was as culturally illiterate as the rest of her countrymen, probably considering herself too exalted to bother studying up on the lifestyle of Huaxia. After all, who needed to know how barbarians thought, right?
Unfortunately, the Duchess had been lucky. If Veer Felidae had spared young Lupin's life, he would have given the Sun Wolf face, thereby indebting him. After that, the Sun Wolf would be obligated to pay something or owe him a favour of a value equivalent to the life of his son.
The image of a tattered, leather-bound book flashed past in Hei Lian's mind.
The Duchess had no idea of just how valuable that favour would be, or she wouldn't have risked giving one of her opponents such an advantage.
Oh well, it had all worked out the best possible way for her and she had been set free from under the thrall of her father.
So, yes, Hei Lian understood the need for protocol and regulations. What she didn't understand was the need for these protocols to curb the powers of the strong and empower the weak.
The Regiis Empire preached a laughable concept like equality in the eyes of the law when the ones these laws governed weren't equal. Was the value of the life of a Tier 3 mage the same as the value of the life of a Tier 1 when the former was a hundred times rarer than the latter? If the law was something like 'If a Tier 3 mage kills a hundred Tier 1 mages, they will be sentenced to the death penalty' Hei Lian could get behind it. As it stood? No.
But she was on Regiis soil, so it was Regiis law she would be governed by. In life, one was often involuntary. At least, she was no longer her father's puppet. And it was all thanks to the bumbling of one fool. The thought of her scaredy cat was enough to turn her frown upside down.
She hoped that Epione Felidae would be able to succeed where grandma had failed. She had wanted to go public with her marital status but had been hesitating until she could be sure that she would be able to bear an Heir. Anyone with half-a-brain could guess that she had to be married to someone otherwise she would have turned Feral by now, and anyone with a full brain could figure out who exactly was her husband. But the longer she postponed her declaration, the more hope she gave the young men of the factions in the Heavenly Wolf Mercenaries that they might just get chosen to be her beau and therefore, the next leader of the clan.
Delaying the declaration had bought her the time she had needed to get the females of the Heavenly Wolf Mercenaries on her side. Now, even if she went ahead and made her decision to become the first ever Matriarch of the clan public, they wouldn't be able to topple her as she had the support of over half the clan, let alone, her grandma.
She had decided to do it the next day, right before the Expedition set forth.
Her marriage to Steven would be a symbol of the cooperation between the Heavenly Wolf Mercenaries and Regiis due to his connection to the Felidae clan. It would be good for morale.
She didn't know why he had been moping around recently, but she was sure that making their marriage official would cheer him right up.
"Lady Hei Lian, the Chief is in her office, ready to greet you." The sound of the mage's voice interrupted her ponder.
Stepping back from the window, she nodded at the mage and walked down the corridor and entered the door at the end.
After her form had vanished completely, the Tier 1 mage collapsed against the wall breathing hard and clutching her shirt above her heart. It took a long time for her heartbeat to return to normal. When she pushed off the wall, her clothes separated from the mortar with a wet 'schlick'. She decided then and there that she would never again volunteer to attend to the terrifying Heiress of the wolves.
The woman carried death in her eyes.
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