TN: Sorry for the wait, here you go…
AN: Last chapter ended at the year’s end, but let’s rewind the time one and a half months back.
It happened a little while after the Amidonia Merger had concluded. That morning, I was woken up by the loud BANG of the door being slammed shut, and as I stirred with my head still half-asleep, my forehad touched something soft that went fyoing. At the same time,
I heard a weird moan. … something’s not right. As my head started to wake up, I began to notice the position I was in. Firstly, my head was being clamped tight. It seems like I someone was hugging me, and because of that, my forehead was being pressed into that person’s chest. Which means the soft feeling was …
Flustered, I used my strength to release myself from the person’s hold. What came into my eyes when I did was the face of Roroa who was cozily sleeping (slightly drooling, but let’s forget I saw that).
(Eh, what? This is, why is Roroa sleeping next to me!?)
The room … was the Government Office at the Capital, Parnam. I didn’t get the wrong bed, so how come Roroa was sharing a bed with me? Clothes … yes, they’re still on. Rather, the two of us weren’t wearing sleepwear, but still in our casual garb. Eh … what happened yesterday? I frantically racked my brains and tried to remember.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
The frosty voice came from overhead. I turned to the side, creaking like a robot lacking oil in its joints, and saw Liscia standing there, smiling with the aura of a Hannya. Behind her stood Aisha, for some reason with tears in her eyes.
“… morning Liscia, Aisha”
“Don’t you good morning me!”
As Liscia said that she pulled the blanket that was over me away. Roroa curled herself into a fetal position from the cold but didn’t seem like she was going to wake up. I wish you’d please explain what’s going on already.
“We’re the ones who’d like an explanation! I was wondering what happened when Aisha came into my room crying, and she said ‘I went to wake His Highness up and found him sleeping with Roroa!’ you know!”
“Why are you laying your hands on Roroa before Princess or me! I can’t accept this!”
Aisha yelled with teared-up eyes. Please, I beg of you, don’t yell something like that so loud. Everyone working at the castle’s going to hear it and are going to gossip about shuraba and stuff! Selina’s going to spread it because she thinks it’s going to be amusing!
“Calm down Aisha. Both Roroa and I are wearing clothes, right. I’m sure it’s nothing like what you two are imagining … I think”
“And why can’t you say for sure!?”
“Well, I can’t really remember what happened when I fell asleep … or even why the two of us are sleeping on the same bed in our casuals”
“… why don’t you try remembering what happened last night?”
I tried remembering the sequence of things that happened last night like Liscia said. If I’m not mistaken, I was having a meeting late into the night with Roroa and Colbert and government officials from both countries in order to make adjustments on the taxation scheme (Amidonia had less people than the Kingdom, so each person seemed to have been taxed higher) to finish off the Amidonia merger. The meeting was a continuation from the day before, and was pretty much settled. It’s the kind of thing that goes on and on with breaks in between. In the end, the goal was somewhat reached after the date had rolled over, about three AM this morning.
Then Colbert and the officials disbanded, and I went to the goverment office and dived into my bed there in the clothes I was in. I dived into a deep sleep right away. So, about the current situation … Roroa might have passed up going back to her room and just slept here. Then I shook Roroa, who was still sleeping deeply, in the shoulder.
“Oy, Roroa. Get up”
“Mmmm … whut? Darling … I’m still sleepy”
Rubbing the sleep off her eyes, Roroa sat herself up.
“Don’t whut me. Why are you sleeping here, Roroa?”
“Loosen up, will ye. I was sleepy last night after the meeting. Dinnae have the strength to go back to my room, let myself in to Darling’s bed”
Roroa said so with a huge yawn, she then got up off the bed on wobbly legs. Her eyes were still half-open.
“Crivens. I’m still sleepy. I’ll get back to my room and sleep~!”
“Hold on! Sheesh … Aisha, can you please take her back to her room”
Liscia couldn’t just let her off on her own and asked the dazed Aisha to go with her.
“Yes! Understood, Princess”
“And didn’t I tell you to stop calling me Princess already?”
“U, understood, Pri … Liscia”
Ah, looks like Liscia’s been telling Aisha to call her by name instead of ‘Princess’ since she’s become the second queen consort and their positions have turned closer. Though, she still gets it wrong sometimes. She left the goverment office propping up the sleepy, wobbly Roroa. After watching the two go, I timidly turned to face Liscia.
“Um … so that’s what happened, can you let me off this time?”
Said Liscia as she sat down hard on the bed.
“This happened because there’s a bed here, should I break it?”
“But where should I sleep then?”
“You had a room built for yourself right? Or do you want to sleep in our beds? Take turns for each day?”
“Nah, I’ll pass. Looks like I wouldn’t get any sleep that way …”
“Marx has been hounding us to ‘please produce an heir!’ though?”
“Uuuh … Give me some time. I still have stuff to think about”
“Stuff to think about?”
I picked myself up off the bed and grandly stretched.
“I barely managed to get the Kingdom administered, and since our power increased because of the Amidonia merger, it doesn’t look we’ll be having foreign enemies soon. Well, the Demon King Territory is a whole nother thing, though”
“And then as for me … I can finally justify my becoming King to myself”
“I wish you’d just call it determined instead”
“Determination … well, I suppose I am resolved”
“I don’t really get the difference … but whatever”
“There’s nothing in the way ahead of me, therefore …”
Brimming with confidence, I puffed my chest and said,
“I’m going to quit holding back Liscia!”
As I spouted the line like the baddie of a certain manga, Liscia looked at me with cold eyes.
“You were holding back?”
“Of course I was! I’ve been choosing policies that are least likely to cause an uprising, and even during the fighting, I tried to make do with what I had, didn’t I?”
“Were you now?”
Hm … well, I did go overboard with the Royal Broadcast and all, but I was careful to never do anything that shook society’s core like suddenly declaring ‘Slavery is now illegal!’ or developing new weaponry.
“But from now on, I’ll have you let me do things the way I like it”
“Well, sure, but … what does that have to do with not touching us?”
Ugh, she noticed. I thought I could shift the topic. Let me put this out there, I don’t have anything against doing that stuff with Liscia and the other girls, in fact, I want to go be all lovey-dovey with them. This situation is actually leaving me half-dead in several ways … . But before that, there are things I must do. This is all for their sakes, too.
“… w, well, you’ll understand soon enough”
“You sure you’re not just trying to talk your way out of this?”
Liscia tried to look into my face, but I turned myself away at full strength.
◇ ◇ ◇
“There’s not enough personnel”
I said as the five of us: Liscia, Aisha, Juna, Roroa, and myself, were having breakfast sitting around the kotatsu.
The location is the room I had built in the castle since Hakuya kept telling me to ‘get your own room already’. Actually, I’ve thought about the room for a long time to use to store Musashiboy-kun in, but since I was at it, I might as well make it a grand one. There’s also the living expenses (salary) that I never found any use for so I used them for a grand renovation mostly out of personal interest.
What magnificence. Two small six-tatami sized rooms that I was provided with, made accessible by way of internal doors, had turned into something just like a Japanese apartment room. One of the rooms were furnished with carpet flooring, and a workbench was placed on it. Now the owner of this room can completely immerse himself in his hobbies of making clothing and dolls like Musashiboy-kun here.
Then the room that will act as space for everyday living had completely been transformed into a Japanese-style room via the sophisticated tastes of the artisan (me). Upon hearing that the Nine Headed Dragon Isles had tatami, I had several sheets ordered and laid them down in this room. Also, at the very center of the room there is a circle-shaped recessed section whereupon lay a round table with bedcovers laid between the feet and the table surface. The middle of the recessed section was further sunken and placed with heating equipment a certain personage had especially developed.
What magnificence. The artisan (me) had reproduced the thing called a ‘kotatsu’. The cavity where feet are supposed to go in was installed with an iron grill, ingeniously allowing the feet to go inside without touching the warmth-producing apparatus. A wondrous space that is warm in winter and well ventilated by removing the covers in the summer. A wondrous space that is the product of the artisan’s (my) fascinations.
… well, I managed to have the room built that way, but Liscia and my other fiancées found it incredibly to their liking (particularly the kotatsu), and completely made it their hang-out place. After the Amidonia merger, Hakuya banned the use of the common dining room saying, ‘please understand, this is to maintain your dignity’ and so my future wives and I had been having breakfast and dinner here most of the time (lunch is usually at the government office).
Today as well, the five of us, Liscia, Aisha, Juna, Roroa, and myself, were sitting around the kotatsu having breakfast. The menu was bread, fried ham, soup, and salad, simple stuff. The troupe contained nobody who liked to be overly extravagant with food (former commoner me, Liscia and Juna from the military, where supplies are one’s lifeline, forest-dwelling Aisha, and ‘if you have spare food expenses put it in the budget’ Roroa), and because of that, the menu was largely the same as the common dining room.
Just looking at this scene we may seem like an ordinary household. In the beginning, Juna was reserved, saying ‘I’m not yet an official consort, is it really alright for me to be here?’ but as Liscia said ‘the offer is still on the table, so it’s alright, no?’ it was decided that she will join us. Well, the more the merrier, after all.
“Big sis Aisha, can ye pass the jam~”
“Fhure fere hou fo (sure, here you go, with a face stuffed with bread)”
“Hold on, Roroa. You’ve got potage on your cheeks” *wipe wipe*
“mmm, thanks big sis Liscia”
“Lady Aisha, would you like another serving of potage?”
“gulp, p, please, miss Selina”
“W, we got, HAVE, we have more bread as well”
“There’s no need to be so stiff, Carla”
“M, my apologies, Lady Juna”
Correction, the one difference is, there was a buffet stand like in a grade school lunchroom at the corner of the room, and over there stood Selina, Carla, and some other maids in waiting, clearly out of place with the rest of the room.
“Anyway, are you guys listening to me?”
“Aye. Heard ye, heard ye”
“You sure aren’t sounding like it”
“We’re listening. Ye said ye wanted more people, aye?”
Hearing Roroa say as much, Liscia knitted her eyebrows.
“You still want more? I thought we’ve got quite~ the selection of personnel here”
“The more personnel you have the better. However, that’s not the kind of personnel I was talking about”
“By that you mean?”
“Mmm … this may be a bad way of putting it, but if we were to rank people into ranks S, A, B, C, D, and E, what I want right now is B and C-ranked people. By the numbers”
“Sorry. You lost me there”
I put my hand on Roroa as she bit into her bread.
“Take Roroa. She’s a prodigy with her business sense. She can manage and generate large sums of money, and turn them into even larger profits. As far as personnel goes, I would have her ranked S. But Roroa couldn’t possibly turn a whole country around by herself, can she? She would need underlings, bureaucrats to work for her, and further, ‘people who can do arithmetics’ working under those bureaucrats. What we’re currently lacking are those ‘people who can do arithmetics'”
This world has a low rate of literacy, and only merchants, aside from nobles and knights, can do arithmetics. In other words, ‘people who could read and write’, and ‘people who could do arithmetics’ are this world’s B and C ranked people, and there are not enough of them in this country.
“Then how about hiring traders who are going out of business from losses or people like them who are about to become slaves for some reason or another?”
Liscia gave a suggestion, but I shook my head.
“I already decided to do that, but it was no use. Anyone with even a modicum of talent are immediately protected by nobles and knights. Well … I suppose I’m to blame for that as well”
“What do you mean?”
“Because I changed the way things are evaluated”
What were called nobles and knights in this country were, in simple terms, ‘people who own territory’. Military officers who own land are knights, civil officials who own land are nobles. Thus there were no distinctions like ‘counts’ and ‘barons’ between them, anyone who owns great tracts of land were addressed with the appelation of ‘duke’.
There are nobles, the “bureaucratic nobles”, who go out to work in the state capital or a provincial capital as bureaucrats, leaving the management of their lands to a steward, and there are the “territorial nobles”, who devote their strength to managing their own lands. Among my retainers, Hakuya and Marx would be bureaucratic nobles, and the Lord of Altomura, Wyst would be a territorial noble. Their power relations also come in various kinds, if there were bureaucratic nobles like Hakuya who are strong in politics, then there were also rural bureaucratic nobles who work in the towns of strong territorial nobles.
In contrast, knights are affiliated with the military, and for that, they leave management of their territories to magistrates. Of course, this is by no means set in stone, as there are retired knights who became Nobles like Wyst, and there are also knights who send their children out to the military and have themselves conduct territory management.
Now the rising and relieving of status of knights or nobles (or in other words, the granting and retracting of territory), was heretofore, in the case of knights, revolved on investing those who had accumulated military deeds and rose up in rank within the military, and divesting those who did bad work, disobeyed orders, or commited a strategic failure — which means that it was never questioned whether they managed their territories well or badly. The responsibility for bad management of territory fell on the stewards, and by firing them the knight himself is relieved of responsibility (though if the situation persists, the knight does receive punishment).
In the case of nobles, bureaucratic nobles rise in status when they worked in the capital or a territorial capital and made a name for themselves. Those who don’t have the strength of will to enter national politics are turned over to a territorial noble if they were supported by a certain amount of land, and normally work there as territorial bureaucrats. It was more beneficial to have them work that way. Also, those who have no deed to their name and are satisfied with their current territory mostly stay as territorial nobles. However, territorial nobles are required to take responsibility in the case of a management failure, while bureaucratic nobles are treated the same as knights.
And just in what way did I turn that way of evaluation around?
“Adding to the current way of evaluation, I gave weight to their abilities in managing their lands”
In simple terms, in addition to the current method of evaluation, I made it so that ‘governing territory well grants you more’, and ‘governing territory badly renders it forfeit’. I dispatched the Black Cats as inspectors, announcing that nobles and knights who govern territory well will get a boon in land, and nobles and knights who govern badly will have their territories reduced or seized.
What happened as a result is that the nobles and knights who had been leaving all responsibility to their stewards now turn their eyes back on their territories in a panic. Those with competent or just ordinary stewards had no problems, but those with incompetent ones were deeply affected. Some resigned from the bureaucracy and returned to their territories to establish good governance themselves. However the vast majority of knights, who do not have the capability for ruling, and the bureaucrats who had opportunities to make a name for themselves frantically searched for capable stewards and capable people to work under them.
“Milady grandmother mentioned that it was utter confusion. For some time the knights prowled the streets mumbling ‘personnel~ personnel~’ like some kind of demon”
“… yes. I, also think I overdid it, actually”
The vigor at which the nobles and knights sought personnel overtook my expectations, anyone, even commoners, who could read and write or do arithmetics were approached like sages and extended every courtesy (because punishments are due if they were to be taken and made to work by force). When they found out that there were people who could read and write and do arithmetic among the slaves (excepting slaves of crime), prostitutes, and even those who live in the slums, they went so far as to pay for their ways out of bondage and poverty.
If even those who only could read and write and do arithmetic were met with such treatment, the talented ones were so much more. ‘I want to have them as my steward!’ ‘But they don’t have sufficient station for it!’ ‘I know, let’s take them into our family to force their stations up!’. As a result of, or perhaps it’s thanks to these acts, there were commoners and slaves who achieved impressive rises in status. I told Empress Maria to take it slow, but did I just turn our class system over on its head?
The slave dealers who saw this as an opportunity taught their slaves to read and write and taught them arithmetics, thus restoring the balance between supply and demand and cooling the situation down somewhat. Because of that, however, the country is now like an empty soda can in terms of talented personnel. I suppose this is a good thing, though, because the people are leading better lives thanks to this …
“But then you’re having a crisis of talented people, right?”
Said Liscia, giving me the stink-eye. Yes ma’am. You’re right ma’am.
“Hiring outstanding talent like Aisha or Juna or Roroa is easier for countries who could concentrate wealth and power. However, it’s extremely difficult to gather capable people from the streets en masse. Furthermore, those nobles and knights hovering over them will definitely resist”
“What should we do then?”
“To get talented people from abroad … and do ‘that'”
Liscia tilted her head, and I gave her a wide grin.