Vignette:Into the Lion's Den

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Into the Lion's Den
Imperial Palace, Songhari, Empire of Kodeshia
September 29th, 1854

he delegation of foreigners looked alien to everyone in the room, with their blonde hair, bleached skin, and bland attire. None of them could tell if they were diplomats or peasants. To Meng, this was about as awkward of an introduction as it could get.

“Rise for her Imperial Majesty!” In a split second, almost everybody in the room bowed to greet her. The foreigners continued standing upright, befuddled at the sudden change. He caught one of the delegation’s members quietly yet hastily whispering to his bemused comrades before proceeding to quickly bow. A smack to his back by an older foreigner, followed by a stare that could cut down trees made him stand back upright.

“Wir beugen uns vor unserem Kaiser, nicht vor ihrem.” The older one spoke.

“Herr Reimold-” The younger one tried to speak, but was only met with more glares from his group.

“Ruhig, Schweinekopf.” That seemed to shut him up.

As if the situation couldn’t get any more awkward, the sound of heavy footsteps came from in front of him. The sweat beading at his forehead and the stifled cringing in his brain made the state of affairs much more unbearable.

“Why are they not bowing?” The empress looked on, confused.

A maid answered her. “They’re barba- foreigners, your majesty. They have yet to pick up on our etiquette and traditions.”

“They’ll learn someday.” A faint sigh from the empress broke the silence before everyone returned to their positions. “What brings you to my palace, esteemed guests?”

The young diplomat spoke in halting yet comprehensible Guoyu. “We have arrived to bring you gifts,” he spoke, carefully considering each sound that came out of his mouth. “And to discuss the border between our protectorates in the north and your… sublime empire.”

As if on cue, more foreigners burst into the room, hauling stacks of books and heaps of amenities, along with a very peculiar dog. Somewhere in the back, a eunuch squealed at the sight of its tail wiggling around. In front of him, the historian couldn’t stop staring at the books with star-filled eyes, his pen resting by the wayside instead of on his book.

“These are your gifts, your majesty.” The young foreigner’s hands were trembling.

“I give my thanks to your Emperor for his generosity and accept your offerings with gratitude.” She flicked her hand as if to summon someone.

One by one, the gifts were hauled out of the throne room by a retinue of servants. The dog, however, sat quietly on the empress's lap.

“So, you came here to discuss?” spoke the empress with a curt smile on her face.

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