Ceres let go of me and sat up, settling into a seat on my lap. “There are a lot of advantages to marrying the First Princess. Much more than marrying Princess Venus in fact.”
She forged ahead without giving me a chance to protest, enumerating the points on her fingers:
“First of all, she is adopted so she doesn’t come with that gaudy but useless title of Emperor. It won’t tie you down like a millstone around your neck all your life.
“Secondly, didn’t you say that she was an accomplished linguist? There you go. An interpreter in your permanent, unpaid employ. You want to travel the world, right? You need an interpreter for that. And one just delivered herself to your doorstep.
“Not only that, her status means that she is the perfect Ambassador to send to other nations. Marry her, play your cards right and you can travel the world on Imperial coin. Perfect.
“Thirdly, connections. The Pavone clan, the Emperor and the Empress… they are just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t forget that the Emperor won the Swayamvar. That means he had a six-person team with him at the end. All six of them should be in very high-ranking posts in civil and military domains. By marrying Madame Perma-glare you get access to all those connections as well as the families behind them.
“Don’t forget that you are here on behalf of the South-Eastern Kingdom and the Felidae clan. Think of their benefits a bit before sympathizing with a petulant spinster. You can do that after you marry her.
“Fourth, you need to impress upon the academic circle of the Capital how great your magic actually is. Do you know why the aristocrats are constantly doubting you? It’s because they have tried external casting. All the Tamers employed by the Families and the research institutes have experimented with the technique and found it interesting, but nothing too extraordinary.
“I probed everyone present during the Council meeting for their attitude towards you and your magic. I found that they were more impressed by that trick you pulled of with the mind crystal and Amplification runes. They have no idea how powerful and versatile external casting is without a mindscape. They have drawn conclusions based on their own fiddling and put you down as a pretender. According to them, external casting just makes a Tamer more mana-efficient than before without affecting the power of their magic. A far cry from what you can do.
“If you trounce the Princess, widely considered to be the best Tier 3 duellist in the Empire, then you will generate a great deal of interest in your magic. That means that they will approach you for your knowledge. This gives you political capital for negotiation. You can use it to have them allot resources and manpower into helping sister Phobos with her research project.”
After rattling all that off, she finally stopped to draw breath, leaving me gaping at her dumbly. What could I say? Even in my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have figured out all the facets of this matter.
Taking a deep breath, she continued, “And one last thing. The specialness of Princess Artemis herself. Do you think that a normal woman with a talent as strong as hers could stay unwed and still avoid turning Feral?”
Actually, that was something I had taken note of and asked the Princess about. She had revealed that her catchphrase wasn’t just semantics; it was literal. She was actually married to her sword. She had the sword crafted from her own feathers and through some technique, linked her soul to it like a Tamer would link two people. The reason she could avoid turning Feral was because, by meditating daily upon her sword, she could shift Vita’s divine will into it.
I had been really excited about this as it seemed a possible way to help Phobos’ mother if it could be replicated, but she had tossed a wet blanket over my enthusiasm by saying that she was oathbound to not reveal the technique. But now that I thought about it, even if she didn’t explicitly tell us about the technique, with my soul sense and with a bond to her, I could probably derive something just by repeated observation.
“She must have a technique that lets her do this,” finished Ceres. “If you marry her, we can get our hands on it and it would be a huge help for our research. So husband, marry her. The advantages outweigh the drawbacks, by far.”
Sporting a sour look on her face as if she had chewed a lemon, she muttered under her breath, “I can’t believe I’m trying to convince him to take another wife and split his attention further.”
Bursting out laughing, I grabbed her waist and raised her off me. Standing up and spinning her around, I set her down on the couch. Taking a step back, I knelt on the ground and bowed deeply towards her, my forehead touching her knees. “O Goddess, this lowly one begs thee to bestow thine wisdom upon him.”
Giggling, Ceres leaned down and ruffled my curls with her dainty hand. In a pompous tone of voice, she said, “Rise, worthy mortal. Thine prayers have been heard. To reward thine devotion, this Goddess shall deign to descend to the mortal plane as thine bride. Follow this Goddess’ words in all matters and all will be well.”
I grabbed her hands and rose to a half-kneeling posture. “It shall be as you command.”
Her eyes glinting with mischief, she said, “For your first task, you shall compensate me for dumping me in a tedious meeting for hours while you flirted with another woman. Carry me to the bathroom, bathe me and give me one of those massages sister Deimos always praises… Serve me well and I might reward you for your efforts.”
Standing up with a laugh, I swept her up into my arms and walked towards the bathroom.
“With pleasure, o Goddess mine. With pleasure.”