Hi guys, I’m back with Volume 15. This is the longest volume yet with over 30,000 words. So, let’s dive right in.
After that farcical episode at the air docks, we were escorted forthwith to our accommodations in the Wind Sector. As the Emperor had an audience once every week to discuss official business, and we had arrived a day earlier than scheduled, it turned out that we had three whole days to spend however we wished as long as we went through the formalities of submitting our invitation to the Palace Reception.
Our escort – a tall, wiry man with inordinately thin eyebrows and heavy glasses – assured us that he’d go through the red tape for us and offered to introduce a guide who would give us a condensed tour of the Capital. Taking him up on his offer, I asked, “Why are you giving us such favoured treatment? I doubt that everyone with an invite gets to skip the bureaucracies.”
Pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, he replied, “Not everyone is a Vassal of the Empire. It’s the first time in the history of the Empire that this title has existed. We are all trying to figure out what the appropriate behaviour should be.”
“Like goading them into a duel?” I asked with a thin smile.
“Ahem, I do not claim to understand why Young Lord Reinhart would hold such animosity towards you, but I assure you that it isn’t the norm. We at the Capital are very appreciative of the young and talented like you and your wives.”
Shaking my head, I waved his platitudes away and changed the topic. “Can you tell me what Reinhart meant when he was talking about farmers dying in the fires? When we were flying above the fields, we observed the farmers voluntarily setting their crops on fire. I was quite affected by their sacrifice and would like to know more about this.”
“Just like the Shogunate has informers in Regiis, we too have our spies in the territory occupied by them. Around three days ago, we received news that many fields had been set afire and in some of them, the farmers had perished when the fires ran out of control and lit their houses.
“At first, we were worried that the Shogunate would crack down hard on the dissenters but contrary to our expectations, the Traitor began comforting the farmers and offering food and shelter to the bereaved. She also issued two pieces of news, publicizing them widely.
“First, that the farmers who had set the fields on fire had been incited by supporters of Regiis – receiving a large amount of gold as compensation. She urged the farmers who were thinking of following their examples to think twice about taking such drastic steps, as it was they and their children who would starve when the crops failed, while the inciters of the movement sat beside warm fireplaces in front of tables laden with food. She managed to provide quite a bit of solid evidence, so I am inclined to take her words as the truth.
“Second, she publicized the fact that the Cloud Whale had travelled over their lands on the same day the first fields had been lit. Its route had even coincided with one of the farms.”
I sighed. The Duchess was a slippery customer like always. This way she was able to turn the farmers against their brethren. What was supposed to be a noble sacrifice was now tainted by the stench of gold. Now, the farmers would have very little motivation to continue down the same path.
Worse, if they started making associations between the two pieces of news, they would be reaching all sorts of unfavourable conclusions about Regiis. They could even think that the farmers who had died were people who hadn’t agreed to the burning of the crops and had been ‘persuaded’ to not stand in the way. I was sure rumours to this effect were flying about right now.
Also, now, I finally knew why I had been accused of starting the fires… despite the Duchess’ statement not being explicit, placing those two bits of news side by side made assumptions extremely easy to make.
Which was a bit unfortunate. If she had claimed outright that we were the ones who had set the fires, Isabella could have accused her of libel and pressured the Shogunate to make concessions. It would give her a valid excuse to work around the Treaty of Demigods.
Oh well, I didn’t expect less from the vaunted Traitor. Discrete and calculative. My expression turned grim. If the deaths of the farmers could truly be laid at her feet, I would do my utmost to see that justice was served.
Seeing the escort out, I shut the door of the hotel suite and returned to the living room where Phobos was sitting on the couch filing her toenails. She shot a glance at me when I flopped down into a comfy settee before returning to her task. “So, the old fox is still up to her tricks,” she stated.
“She is.” I agreed.
Leaning back, she raised her foot and wiggled her toes. Satisfied with the shape of the nails, she put her foot down and set the file aside. Wearing her slippers, she turned to me. “Let’s not talk about her. There’s nothing we can do from here and there are a lot of people who want to see her fail – both in Regiis and the Shogunate. She will have her hands full even without us adding to the chaos.”
When I nodded in agreement, she continued. “Did you think of what to do in these three days we have to ourselves?”
“Well, the escort said that he’ll introduce a guide. We could tour the Capital. I’ve been told that there are a lot of places worth seeing.”
Phobos leaned back in her seat. “That seems like a plan. I thought about what you told me on the ship… I’ve been too wound up these days. Now, whenever I sit down to think, it seems like there’s cotton stuffed in my brains. I need to just relax and not think about magic…”
“What?” I raised my brow suggestively. “What we did wasn’t relaxing enough for you?”
“Husband!” she exclaimed as she blushed furiously and chucked the nail file at me. “You promised you wouldn’t bring that up outside!”
Snatching it out of the air, I chuckled. “Cool it, girl. You could take someone’s eye out with this.” Nodding my head in acceptance, I said, “Good. We’ll enjoy ourselves to the full for these three days without thinking about magic… a small break does sound nice.”
Tossing the file onto the table, I considered for a moment before asking, “How much money do we have?”
Suddenly, you could hear a pin drop in the room.
Awkwardly, Phobos looked at me. “Money?”
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P.S.: somehow ending the chapter with the word money and then plugging for patreon seems weird. lol.