The Duke Seeks an Audience with the King
Seeing the countryside town outside the carriage window, the atmosphere hanging around felt somewhat more stylish compared to its rural surroundings.
Duke Ferguson’s carriage moved slowly through the dense crowds while he looked out at the rooftops of the buildings lined up in the Fracker hot spring town.
“Hoh…….so this is why Count Nauman boasts about his territory as being the highest earning.”
Everything looked like an ordinary countryside town at first, but there were a number of shops lining main street which itself had a large number of people passing through.
It looked like there weren’t many people who actually lived here as many of the people here were equipped for travelling.
Those people who were here to visit the town were most likely the ones swarming main street, moving around the carriage while lightly dressed. It felt like a lot of them were there to do some window shopping, sightseeing, or looking for somewhere to have lunch. It was what you’d expect from a very popular hot spring town.
The Duke was impressed……..but he also had his doubts.
“……..given the economic scale here, it looks pretty obvious that Count Nauman has been underreporting his taxes………”
“Dan, working right now……….?”
As the Duke’s mind unintentionally drifted to his work, the Duchess brought her workaholic husband back to the more pressing matter. Yes, what matters today isn’t another person’s tax evasion, it’s the cancellation of their daughter’s engagement.
This irregular couple’s carriage continued forward, being lead by their escort, and entered the area of town for upper class visitors where high-class baths are lined up.
Having enjoyed the outdoor open-air bath, the King began drying his hair as a chamberlain came to inform him of a visitor.
“Duke Ferguson and his wife have arrived from the capitol. Since they heard Your Majesty had come to enjoy the hot springs, they wanted to meet with you.”
“I see. Since I am just about to get out, guide them to the living room.”
The King finished changing his clothes and entered the parlor of his suite, where his old friends the Duke and Duchess were waiting for him after their long trip. The King coolly responded to the two quickly rising and giving him a bow, taking a seat on the sofa and motioning for the husband and wife to take a seat.
“You don’t visit that often Duke. Now now, this is just a temporary lodging away from the Royal Palace. I haven’t seen many people since coming here, so feel free to relax a little.”
“Hahah, excuse me.”
“Hmm. I’m still enjoying the hot springs, so I’m hesitant…………argh, you. The Duke will be telling me the situation in the capitol now, and since this’ll probably get complicated, don’t let anyone else interfere until we’re finished.”
The King told his chamberlain to bring in some tea and drank up the well-refined iced tea that was the specialty of these hot springs. The Duke and his wife finally took a seat sitting across from him, and enjoyed some of the iced tea before their discussion.
Giving them a single bow, the chamberlain then left the room, closing the door behind him.
“Hey Robert, WHAT ARE YOU LETTING THAT STUPID BRAT DO!?”
The Duke began throttling the neck of the highest power in the country.
“Wait wait, calm down a little Dan!”
“That’s right Dan! Whatever the circumstances might be, strangling His Majesty when someone might walk by is no good!”
The Duchess Iseria, is it fine to not reliably step forward?
The words of his old friend’s wife made the King feel all the more anxious although that was slightly besides the point from what was currently happening.
Heeding the words of his King and wife, the Duke begrudgingly released his grip off his boss’s neck.
“Sorry, thanks to someone’s stupid son I’ve had a lot of anxiety pile up lately. I slightly apologize.”¹
“You, you strangle a King, yet are only slightly…….”
The King retook his spot on the couch while fixing his collar.
“Tell me the situation……..I mean, I already read the quick report you sent me. No, that stupid son is……..I’m truly sorry about all of this.”
“Really…….the type of incompetence where you don’t know your right from your left yet still do something this absolutely ridiculous could only have come from the type of idiot son who appears once in a lifetime!”
“Oi you………..I probably shouldn’t point this out myself, but you’re saying all that in front of your King and the father of that stupid Prince……..”
“It can’t be helped since it’s the truth after all!”
After irritatedly making a rough breath from his nose at the constant abuse being flung his way from his childhood friend, the King finally made a wry smile and brought his cup to his lips.
Indeed, the King and Duke of now had the same relationship that Elliott and George have. Well, they weren’t (supposedly) a couple of stupid lords.
They played together from time to time before they had even reached the age of ten, and they took classes together. After all this time their relationship as best friends continued even to now.
There is such a relationship between the parents……the engagement between Elliott and Rachel should have been ideal as there would also have been no dynamic change in political standing……..unless the other party awoke to ‘true love’ and selfishly broke off the engagement.
“However, about that matter………”
“First you’ll get on your hands and knees to properly apologize to the two of us and our daughter, and then we’ll think of something.”
“I don’t care about your annoying grudges. I’m more worried about how public Elliott is making this whole affair. The societal world is probably trembling.”
Turning her gaze on the King, Iseria’s brow creased slightly as she made a bitter smile.
“Among the girls who have reached a marriageable age ∼ the lower class nobles are all seeing this as their one chance, and their excitement is boiling over. Not only has the engagement been destroyed, but apparently the replacement is the adopted daughter of a baron who was born from a previous marriage.”
Rachel and Elliott were definitely the top of the top of their generation amongst the noble families. Meanwhile Elliott was lavishly spending money on Margaret Poisson, the daughter of a Baron who was the lowest both socially and financially. And when the lowest are able to successfully push aside those on the top……..there’s a card game called ‘Revolution’ that has a similar ending.²
The other nobles not involved with this will look on and think about possibly performing their own giant killings……….it’s natural for them to dream so. This Margaret is capable of doing it. So why wouldn’t they be able to do it themselves?
The standard ways mean that it isn’t unusual for a person’s child or grandchild to not move up in the ranks, so they would be very excited to learn about a one-shot reversal to elevate their own daughters up. Right about now both parents and children should be making their paltry efforts to enter into Elliott’s view.
“I suppose so. And then the tendency for other high-grade people would be………”
The husband and wife duo took over for what the King wanted to say.
“It’s just as you think. The Prince’s stupidity goes far beyond what we were expecting leading to the complete destruction of the next-generation’s order, and people who were already upset are now on the verge of panicking.”
Iseria’s words were quite hard.
“Your Highness doesn’t seem to be fully aware of how much this overflowing trash heap is stinking up the place……..Robert, you must live a long time and skip the next generation of inheritance because as soon as that idiot comes into power, we’ll have a huge population outflow while some of the higher lords will inevitably revolt.”
And in the end, Dan had no intention of restraining his abuse.
The real problem, the Duke’s words were certainly exaggerated, but they were true enough that it was impossible to laugh at.
The higher noble houses would obviously have some desire to replace Rachel with their own daughter instead. If the realization of this possibility were originally there for medium-class and smaller nobles as well, then they may act without thinking instead of taking realistic, carefully planned calculations.
And the results.
The lords would inevitably conclude that the merits of having their daughter be wed to the future King would heavily outweigh the demerits of society being thrown into chaos. Elliott had made his plans in secret, so the background situation is still muddled…….but he enacted his plan in front of a large group of people without any explanation, and the societal world has already become quite messy. If he had controlled the mouth of the Royal Palace, then the airheaded Prince could have had an official already working on restructuring order from the very beginning……..instead because Elliott showed his greed this early in the game while his predecessor is still active, he’s more likely to just be crushed before even having a chance to take the throne. If you’re a nobleman with a basic ability to weigh gains and losses, then they’ll know there’s no reason to start a war.
But since this is a matter of houses, there will be many including the lower houses who will try to curry Elliott’s favor with just the sex appeal of their daughters…………well, that’s the moral of the Duke’s story.
It all seemed plausible when his friend laid it out there like that, but the King ended up making a cynical smile.
“Dan, there is a hole in your theory.”
The King pointed at his childhood friend’s face.
“You’re saying to bet on the next generation………….but there’s no guarantee that Elliott’s children will be decent either.”
“Ah, you’re right. They would be Your Majesty’s grandchildren after all.”
Towards the King’s own self-inflicting damage, the Duke plainly nodded.
“By the way. How is Rachel doing really? It sounds like she was rather happy in the secret letter I received.”
The King asked while pulling out an envelope from a mailbox sitting on a nearby nightstand, and the Duke had a sour look on his face.
“Yes, it’s a parent’s selfishness to pull her out of a jail cell even if she is enjoying herself. That’s what I was expecting…….but she’s done so much in her preparations that it scares me.”
“Really? Like what?”
The Duke pointed at the envelope in the King’s hand.
“That letter, I didn’t send it.”
The Duke slowly nodded his head when the King checked to make sure he didn’t mishear. And so the Duke began to slowly spin a tale in an easy-to-understand way.
“A dark organization under Rachel’s rule had already investigated the overflowing trash heap’s conspiracy without my knowledge,
When the problem became clear, she had a large amount of supplies brought down to the royal palace’s dungeon in advance,
After her imprisonment she managed to maintain contact with her agents and have them carry out any future policies,
I also have no idea how she was able to get ahold of Your Majesty’s schedule and nail down exactly where you’d be and when,
Secretly sent instructions to a locally acquired agent to deliver the letter,
Figured out you’d move yourself here when you found out you couldn’t yet return to the city,
and also already arranged to have me sent here to clarify the situation.”
The King silently listened until here, but the Duke quickly added something on as if it had slipped his mind until now.
“By the way, I learned that this dark organization existed the night Rachel was thrown in prison, after they revealed themselves to me.”
Saying that much, the Duke took a sip of tea to moisten his dried out throat.
“I also don’t know how many members there are in her organization. With Rachel’s attendant and her maids I have a count of at least three, but let alone the people inside my own house, it’s impossible for me to even imagine the ones living in the city. Honestly, I think Rachel has more subordinates than our Ducal house has vassals.”
The Duke finished talking, and the King pressed his hand to his head.
“Hey……if it’s like this, wouldn’t it be better to have Rachel executed?”
“As a public official I want to agree, but as a parent I’m absolutely against it. As a person involved in this administration however, I cannot accept putting national security in danger like that.”
The Duke noticed the disrespect in the King’s tone and stared directly back into his eyes.
“……..Robert, think carefully. If you do it, what about the organization whose presence we cannot confirm and whose ability is completely up in the air? After Rachel is gone, what will happen if those guys go underground and plan their retaliation?”
“……..the royal palace is known to bring in quite the large amount of supplies.”
The King turned his mailbox upside down and dumped out all the remaining letters onto the table. Most of them seemed to be urgent reports from courts or other government officials.
“That excellence is quite enviable. Compared to Rachel’s subordinates, the ones inside the royal palace are no longer…….reporting on Elliott’s reckless action and asking what they should do. That’s all they write about.”
“Rather than calling Rachel’s subordinates excellent, wouldn’t you say this is just too much for a simple courtier to handle?”
“Maybe so……..but along with that each of my departments are falling apart and sending me the same stuff………I’m going to have to perform an administrative reform when I get home.”
“Something like that should be done in advance, then this matter’d already be finished. We have to quickly put a stop to that stupid Prince……of course, I’m not saying we should hang him. I’m just saying that would probably be for the best!”
While the Duke’s voice was rising up, the King was conversely silent while staring out the window.
“……..Well, whatever. We can slowly discuss that………Dan, for now unpack your luggage and stretch your wings in the inn. The private open-air baths here are spacious and comfortable.”
As his old friend tried to suddenly brush off the discussion, the Duke gave him a reproachful look in lieu of a witty rebuttal.
“You should go for a swim.”
“You don’t swim in a hot spring, I’m not like a certain uncouth fellow.”
“Disagreements aside, think about the weight of my position, His Highness.”
The King suddenly started to look very tired sinking down into the seat of the couch.
“That idiot Elliott’s made a complicated problem……..Dan, isn’t this a situation without a clear answer? While I think, the situation continues to change.”
“……..and if Rachel were to become determined?”
“I don’t think it’ll come to that.”
The King started laughing at the speechless Duke.
“How to say it……..Rachel’s preparations will be fine. She’s probably already considered me not helping.”
As he expected, Rachel intended to barricade herself in for as long as possible with little thought about the His Majesty.
“So if we just stay here and think carefully enough, we’ll figure out what type of ending she wants.”
The King seemed to be acting fainthearted……….but he was quite casual listening to the Duke’s cynical response.
“Incidentally Dan, it’s a good thing that your daughter’s subordinates shipped you off to these hot springs………have you already made reservations at this inn?”
“Huh? …………No, I don’t know what place is best since I’ve never been here before, so I figured I’d look for a room after our meeting.”
The King slowly put his cup back down on the table.
“When we first arrived at this hot spring town, the chamberlain spoke with the lord for lodgings……….a reservation was made at a, ‘high class inn for those with the highest status,’ and when we got here, the place was almost empty. As a precaution we did make a reservation for another room though, it’s yours.”
The three of them all fell silent.
After a little while, the Duke began to grumble.
“So then, Rachel hated the idea of being married to the idiot Prince.”
“Isn’t that because of how she grew up so twisted?”
The Duke picked up one of the King’s reports off the table.
“If you listen to what those guys said……..it seems that her activities didn’t begin in earnest until her engagement to that fool became certain……..”
“………Maybe if married life didn’t work out, she decided she’d take the throne herself.”
“Perhaps…….ugh, she should have just refused instead of being forced to become queen………if so then Rachel’s insanity would have been contained to just a noble house.”
“I think that’s bad enough. By the way, are you implying I forced her?”
“It was your worthless idea, and as it is you’re forgetting who drove us into this trash can.”
“That, you really are a number one bastard.”
The Duke then threw the report he was holding onto the table and looked up at the ceiling.
“……..Or, if only Rachel had sunk that Idiot Prince’s plans instead of just watching on.”
“You, if you had called Father a number one bastard………usually, even a toddler would be finished at this point and be facing the death penalty.”
The Duke listlessly waved his hand.
“I know, it was just a joke……..around twenty percent of it.”
“If it’s eighty percent then I’d say you were being pretty serious.”
Inbetween the silence that had finally fallen between the Duke and the King, a cheerful voice rose.
“Sorry I’m late…….oh Iseria, long time no see!”
The Queen, who wore a matching bathrobe to her husband, came into the parlor late. She exchanged greetings with the Duke and his wife who rose to greet her before sitting down on the couch next to the King.
“No, I’m really sorry.”
“You’re late, what happened?”
The Queen answered her husband’s question rather indifferently.
“Wouldn’t it be rude to not swim in such a large bath? I set a goal of twenty laps, but by the time I was finished, it was already late.”
A couple too similar to each other, the Duke and Duchess thought to themselves.
After the Queen had been filled in to the story up until now, she gave an immediate response before the Duke could even close his mouth.
“Rachel will be the next queen. This will not change!”
“However, this just isn’t possible anymore. Rachel’s against it herself……..”
“Then Duke, let me switch the question.”
The Queen sat up.
“Without Rachel, do you think the country can run with that as King?”
A simple question that makes a sound argument, the Duke and King completely shut up. The Duchess meanwhile was politely staring off towards the day after tomorrow.
“…….It seems that there are no objections then. With that being the case, we’ll have to surmise Rachel’s demands even at the risk of pissing her off……..at the very least we must find a way to keep Rachel’s trust in the royal family as we try to convince her.”
“You’re, that’s unreasonable…….”
The King tried to argue with her, but the Queen cut him off.
“It’s unreasonable, but we have to do it. ‘You pass away in five years, and destruction will come to the kingdom,’ can you honestly laugh at this hypothetical?”
Hearing the Queen’s words, the King and Duke’s thought-process left them holding their heads……..
“………Hey, isn’t our goal far off? How about we go take a bath?”
“It’s not easy to think about…….for now I should probably go check in.”
“Iseria, this inn has a weight loss beauty spa you simply must try!”
“My how nice!”
In the name of hot springs, the four raised their hips and escaped reality.
1. The italics are just here to show that he’s putting a lot of emphasis on these words.
2. Another name for this card game could be Millionaire, President, or Capitalism. It has a bunch of different names, and quite a few variations to its rules.