Imperial Idle Talk
The Earlgrey Dukedom lies at the heart of the empire. Shirley’s birthplace is one of the largest cities in the empire and bears a magnificent cityscape lined with stone buildings. …..although it doesn’t hold any fond memories for her.
Genan was of course the one in charge of running this city. As the head of a noble family that has played a central role in the empire since its founding, he has grown to become a pompous aristocrat who values pedigree above all else while looking down on those of common birth. With that being said, he does a good job of controlling dissatisfaction and has achieved a stable reign.
While many aristocrats act as if they were gods, only the Earlgrey family understood that their money, food, and clothing all came from those lowly commoners.
The Earlgreys were also the only family that was exempt from the heavy taxes Emperor Albert imposed. It is for this reason that many imperial citizens have come to regard the duchy as an oasis centered in hell and have flocked to the city in droves from the surrounding territories.
“Hmm…….a foolish lot.”
Genan turned his nose up out the window towards the stream of refugees pouring into the Earlgrey duchy as if this move would somehow miraculously save them.
No matter how good the governing is on paper, Genan is a child of man, for better or worse. And as a child of man, deceit and desire filled his heart.
There was a knock on the door as he indulged in idle thought. After giving his visitor permission to enter, a cruel-looking butler who had served him over many years walked into the room.
“Pardon, Master. I regret to inform you that one of our civil servants accidentally spilled water on our city ledger. We are urgently rewriting the document now…….”
“No matter. There is no reason for haste, nor is it a grave matter. Let the servant off without punishment.”
“How generous of you Master. He will be extremely grateful for your generous spirit. …….then, excuse me.”
Genan had to stop himself from laughing after his butler had left.
His city ledgers had to be rewritten often because some clumsy official had accidently ruined the book by dumping water on it. It was their way of covering up the massive amount of fraud and tax evasion they performed on a regular basis.
“Balance is the most important thing in this world.”
Good and evil. Truth and fiction. In reality Duke Earlgrey acts the good lord on the surface, but beneath that respectable veneer is a man who has reached the point where it is becoming difficult to hide his criminal activities even under an imperial law that puts nobles above all else.
In an empire ensorcelled by chaos, Genan saw himself as the most successful family head in the history of the Earlgrey family. Since the time of the late emperor he had been lining his own pockets while going completely unnoticed by the tax collectors sent by the government. Things have only become easier since then to the point where he was capable of almost openly cheating the system.
(All you need do is lay on the flattery to that foolish, infantile emperor, and this is the result…….having Alice marry into the imperial family truly was a godsend for our us.)
It is hard to argue that Albert isn’t an imbecilic emperor. Even if the man himself thinks he will be a historic emperor unlike anyone has ever seen before, all he has ever done for the nation since he was crowned was cater to Alice’s desires by instituting heavy taxes on the populace and putting pressure on his people. On top of that, in cross-national talks he couldn’t keep his trap shut, and his constant boasting completely soured international relations.
When the castle was destroyed that pitifully stupid emperor couldn’t make any plans to rebuild himself, and he instead clang to the aristocrats backing him in the hopes they would completely handle the reconstruction themselves. He should have been taught how to properly run a country when he was younger, but all his vassals including Genan recognized how he had become a tremendous idiot after he became attracted to Alice.
(Although that’s why he’s so easy to manipulate.)
The only fly in the ointment is how rash he can be, but he never doubts someone he likes from the bottom of his heart. In addition he is faithful to his desires along with being stupid and ignorant. He’ll hear what you have to say immediately so long as you continue to stoke his ego.
Albert might be the emperor, but he had become a perfect puppet for the imperial aristocracy. The man doesn’t see it himself…….and that’s exactly how the nobles wanted it.
(This country belongs to the nobles. Did the White Haired Demon and the emperors of the past truly think they could do whatever they want and change that fact?)
The imperial nobles were proud of how they had long dominated this vast land. As the nation grew, they eventually came to see the emperor as nothing more than a figurehead who merely produced guidelines for how it was a noble should act.
But then 300 years ago a revolutionary with white hair rose up, and with the help of that Canary, they managed to give power and freedom to the imperial family and the commoners while the nobles lost much of their vested interests. Nobles had struggled ever since in an effort to slowly take back their power, but just as it seemed like they would regain their former glory, the previous emperor Legrand and his empress Elizabeth clamped down on those efforts.
(But that White Haired Demon and the late emperor and empress are already people of the past. No one is left to stand in our way……or that’s how it is supposed to be……..!)
Genan’s knuckles turned white from his grip on the window sill, and his face distorted into a hideous expression.
The nobles backing Albert do so in name only when in actuality they are wisely manipulating Albert from the shadows. Among those nobles it was Genan, the empress Alice’s father who stood above the rest as the de facto ruler of the empire. It is no exaggeration to say that he stands as the most powerful man in the country, above even the emperor, and those days of old where nobles ruled the empire had returned.
However, Albert did something completely unexpected. There were numerous times in the past where he had gone off and made his own regrettable decisions, but each time those nobles around him had managed to pick up the pieces and minimize the negative effects. Genan had gotten a small migraine when Albert pissed off the kingdom during the early days of his rule, but since this meant that his newfound status as a puppet would go unnoticed to the larger world, it could have been considered as somewhat of a win.
(But that doesn’t mean he could do whatever he wanted to the kingdom……!)
Moving at a time when the nobles like Genan had returned to their territories, almost as if he knew they would try and stop him, the emperor mobilized the court magician to try and kidnap Sophie and Tio, his blood-related daughters who were living in the kingdom. Despite the kingdom having a powerful army, King Edward abhors war, yet even he could not remain silent about this situation. The two nations were a hair’s breath away from breaking out into open conflict.
After losing the Duel Ordained by the Goddess, the empire was forced to become silent on the matter. But then the castle itself collapsed due to some mysterious paranormal phenomenon. Rumors were abound in the empire about how Canary’s magic must be responsible, but nobody knew for certain.
(And the end result is that meddlesome lot……!)
Genan’s face twisted even further in disgust as he looked down upon the men and women in blue uniforms currently patrolling his city.
The loss in the Duel Ordained by the Goddess forced the empire to sign a treaty of non-interference with the kingdom, but perhaps motivated by Albert’s actions, the former knight captain Gran Wolff invaded the kingdom on his own earlier this summer to try and once again kidnap Sophie and Tio.
He failed miserably, and as a result, Gran was sentenced to death while the empire had to give up its southern territory as compensation for breaking the treaty.
The consequence for all of this was the formation of a special security force known as the police. It was an organization built by Philia, the leader of an anti-emperor faction to replace the former order of knights that had to be disbanded because of the grave actions of its leader. The commoners hold Philia in high regard, so they readily accepted these “fair” police officers, but for the aristocrats, this police force has been nothing but a hindrance. They seriously follow the law and are bold enough to arrest even nobles who they feel have violated it.
It would be one thing if they were only cracking down on murder and plundering which a noble could usually get away with by throwing around their authority, but now the power of an aristocrat is being heavily limited by having the purchasing of slaves and dangerous narcotics be a punishable offense just because international law deems that wrong. So far only those nobles backed by the royal family itself have managed to continue on unscathed.
(How many nobles have already been arrested with their family lines crushed….. And over half of the territory their families governed have been scooped up by those damnable aristocrats serving under Princess Philia…….!)
Philia is hostile to Albert which makes her a political enemy for Genan as well. It was difficult to hate her because she was just a seventeen year old girl, and as a member of the royal family who is becoming more popular with the populace, her power grew with each passing day.
She is a princess who has inherited the will of her late father. If she is left as she is, the authority of the imperial aristocracy will surely be lost.
(Something must be done soon…… Otherwise the Earlgrey house will suffer even more damage at their hands…….!)
Genan could feel himself running out of patience when a high-pitched noise like a vase shattering came from a room some distance away. That direction was Alice’s room. What could have happened……isn’t something that needed to be asked. He could tell without even seeing her that Alice had most likely gotten frustrated and thrown something against her wall.
“My poor Alice……! She’s hurting, suffering, and so pitiful…….!”
Alice had been prone to fits like this ever since that horrible incident had left her arms and legs covered in huge, unsightly scars. Her mood had been foul this entire time as no amount of make-up was able to cover up her wounds, and they were always there in her view.
To make matters worse, Albert, Alice’s husband who should be here comforting her, has grown estranged from her ever since the incident. After Genan had grown suspicious and investigated, he found that the emperor was making more plans to bring Sophie and Tio back to the empire while welcoming back that abominable girl Shirley as his concubine.
That was what bothered Genan and Elena the most. Not even Genan, who had worked closely with Albert for many years now would have ever guessed that he would put so much work and so little thought into bringing back his former fiancée and their daughters.
“Don’t screw with me……! She should’ve gone off somewhere I never would have had to deal with her again……!”
Genan and Elena both hated Shirley. No, even hate was much too tepid for how they felt. They could never stand to have Shirley become the emperor’s concubine as that would mean she would hold a position higher than theirs, even if it was just on the surface. Not to mention that if Albert were to welcome in a new woman so soon after the incident with Alice, it would be just as if he had forsaken her.
That’s not even the worst of it. What if Albert’s plan works, and with Shirley’s introduction, Sophie and Tio became princesses?
So long as Alice is unable to have any children, that would mean one of them would be next in line for the throne. That would make Alice’s position even worse.
“…….how did that vulgar girl deceive His Majesty when she’s away in the kingdom!? ……unless, she used that incident with Gran Wolff to seduce him with her face and obscene body………! Kuu……! Do you take that much pleasure in wounding Alice!?”
It’s almost an illness how Genan seems to blame everything that’s happened on Shirley.
“……why did that girl give birth to twins in the first place!? Because of that the Earlgrey family is…….!”
It would’ve been bad enough if Shirley had only one kid. With them being twins however if one of them takes the throne, what will the other one do?
Genan’s whole body shook as he thought about all the problems currently surrounding the Earlgrey family. If things really develop the way he imagines it will then he will have to hang his head in humiliation for the rest of his life.
“I need to somehow reel in His Majesty……. No, would it be more efficient to pluck the sprouting buds before that?”
Genan’s face was completely devoid of emotion as he thought of his two blood-related grandchildren and whispered his intentions aloud. In his eyes however was a clear, swirling malice.
The residence of Marquis Legnard located in the easternmost edge of the empire. Unable to stay in the enemy-filled center of the empire, Philia had moved into the home of a vassal her parents had fully trusted in order to continue working on her plans to defeat Albert and the nobles backing her brother.
“Princess, we just received a report on Count Guinea. Investigations have revealed him to have manufactured several dangerous illegal drugs and profited off their sale. The count has already been arrested and is currently awaiting trial inside a cell.”
“Thank you Lumiliana. Could you set the report there?”
Philia allowed herself a small sigh as she responded to her red-haired knight Lumiliana who came in to their borrowed room with her own tired smile.
“With this, quite a few nobles have been arrested in the past three months. Is this all thanks to the talented people you gathered for the new peacekeeping group?”
“It wasn’t me who gathered them. Each member of our police force was sent here from other nations and guilds.”
Philia was willing to chip away at her own empire, giving up land to the other surrounding nations in order to save her people from the oppression and heavy taxes they had been suffering through, and there were more than a few foreign dignitaries such as Edward and Canary who were willing to support her. Rather, they were quite numerous at this point.
That was why they lent Philia an army of talented individuals and how she set up her police force. They were here to squeeze out the stagnating pus infecting the empire, but these police officers did not pledge any kind of allegiance to Philia. Each member was still loyal to their original lords, and they gave little to no care for imperial law. They were simply looking to weaken the powers of the aristocracy, and by connection, the power of the empire itself. That is what would be in the best interests for their true masters.
“But, it is fortuitous that we were able to gather such a group of talented investigators and spies like this. If we have our police re-examine and investigate past cases, we may finally be able to learn the truth concerning that incident.”
“Incident? What do you mean by……”
Lumiliana’s astonishment was clear on her face after Philia leaned over and whispered something into her friend’s ear.