The empress placed her teacup down, watched the tea inside swish around gently and remarked, “It sounds noisy outside.”
“Yes. It looks like His Majesty has begun to move.” Castell picked up the teapot but didn’t pour the empress any more tea.
The empress went to look outside. However, the frosty windows covered her view. She was unaware of what was happening outside.
Castell smiled as he watched the empress. He then asked, “Your Majesty, shall we go and take a look?”
The empress looked outside. Actually, she was just looking at the frosty windows. There was both anticipation and concern in her eyes, but she didn’t answer Castell, and he didn’t press her for an answer.
Having served the empress for so many years, his experience told him that when the empress doesn’t answer, she’s most likely thinking. It was best not to disturb her while she was thinking.
After a long period of thinking, the empress chuckled softly, grasped her tea-cup and said, “Don’t worry about it. There’s no need to go. This is his palace. We’re all guests. I won’t interfere with my son’s business. I’ll leave this all to him. If he fails, I’ll carry him back to the royal capital and let him continue being my son in peace.”
The empress chuckled and then jeered at herself, “I feel like I’m becoming more and more self-contradictory. On one hand, I hope my son succeeds. But on the other hand, I don’t want him to succeed. I’m becoming stranger and stranger.”
“No. You are just becoming more and more like a mother.”
“Really? I’m very happy if that’s the case.” The empress chuckled and hid her face behind her teacup.
It looked like she had a faint smile and was blushing under the sunlight.
Castell looked at the empress before him with a smile.
The empress’s smile and blush looked like the wings of an angel underneath the bright and warm sun. The empress always looked so bright whenever her son was mentioned.
I walked to the water-fountain by the entrance and looked at the girls sobbing and trembling below.
They all looked helplessly thin and fragile. They didn’t look clean either. All of them wore rough-cloth clothing with a fair number of them wearing clothes that had been patched up. They hugged each other tightly, seeking their last shred of courage from one another’s warmth and bodies.
They looked up. Their teary eyes were also full of despair, torment and hatred.
I looked at the guard captain and asked, “Is that all of them?”
The guard captain nodded and replied, “All the girls from families with girls have been brought here. Healthy and fit young men have also been taken to the army camp.”
I looked at him and questioned him, “Did you guys get rough with them?”
The guard captain hesitated for a moment and then replied, “Some families refused to hand their family members over and attacked us with weapons. We, therefore, retaliated and knocked a few people down. However, we did not kill anyone. We made sure to explain to them that we wanted their family members and we did not snatch their family members.”
“Good.” I nodded and then turned to look at the group of young girls below. I cleared my throat gently.
The guard captain beside me pointed his gun up to the sky and fired a shot. He then shouted, “Before you is the Prince of the Rosvenor Empire, Prince Troy Galadriel Rosvenor! He is now going to speak. All of you shut up and listen closely. I will open fire if anyone moves or cries! Understood?!”
“I want to go home!! I want to go home!! My father and mother are at home as well as my three-year old brother! I want to go home! I want to go home!” A girl cried loudly and suddenly stood up and ran to the door.
The guards around quickly stopped her, brought her back and tossed her into the group.
Freya, who was standing at the side, grabbed a gun and walked up to her. She pointed the muzzle at her forehead and calmly said, “Think it over carefully, Miss. If I open fire now, your parents and your brother won’t get to see you again. If you obediently comply, you will be able to see them again. If you continue to resist His Majesty’s orders, nobody will get to see you. Weigh the pros and cons for yourself, miss.”
The girl with the muzzle at her head let our sobs of despair.
Freya smashed her in her face with the gun without any hesitation and said, “You were warned. No crying. No shouting. Listen to what His Majesty has to say.”
The girls down below all went dead silent. Not one of them dared to speak, and all the sobbing came to a halt.
I watched Freya slowly walk back.
I cleared my throat gently and then began, “Ladies, I am Prince Troy Galadriel Rosvenor. I believe that you all understand that it is perfectly reasonable for you to repay a debt owed. You are also aware that your parents owe tax fees. According to your debts, you would have to not eat or drink for fifty years to pay your debts off. Sorry, but I don’t have that much patience. And so I’ve thought of using you as a way to repay the debts. I did say ‘if you come here, I will annul your debts.’ Do you all acknowledge this?”
“… We do.”
“Good. Come into the palace then. Luna, you lead the way.”
“Understood.” Luna smiled as she bowed.
The young girls quivered as they stood up and held each other’s hands, due to fear. They followed Luna into the palace. I stayed standing where I was as I watched the girls leave. The girl that took a heavy hit from Freya was covering her nose. She wanted to cry but didn’t dare to. I walked over and handed my handkerchief to her.
“Wipe your face. I don’t want your nose-blood to get on my palace floors.” I turned around to leave and went back to Freya’s side.
Freya nodded and said, “Not bad. Your Majesty, we have basically now neutralised their debts.”
“I don’t really want for them to be neutralised like this.”
“You want to be fair and just, so you cannot just erase their debts without requiring anything of them. What will become of us if we erase their debts? We too require money for our own developments. We cannot give the people the impression that it is okay to not pay taxes to you, just act pitiful and they will not have to pay taxes. We must let them know the consequences of not paying their taxes.”
Just as Freya was about to continue, a messenger came up before me and quietly said, “Your Majesty, the elven queen, Vyvyan, and Miss Lucia have arrived.”
“Take them to my room for now. I still have some business to finish up with here.” I kind of want to complain incessantly.
I still had these girls here to sort out.
‘Why is it that Lucia sees me with other girls every time she comes back? Am I jinxed? And it isn’t just one Nier this time. It was a group of girls this time… If Lucia found out I captured and brought this group of young girls into the palace, I’m afraid I would have to go searching for her again.’
The messenger left. I looked at Freya and smiled helplessly as I said, “It looks like we need to hurry up and wrap this up. I haven’t seen Lucia in a long time. I honestly miss her, a little.”
“You have always been lovey-dovey with Miss Nier, so I thought you had already forgotten about Miss Lucia.” Freya giggled gently. She then suddenly hugged my arm and kissed me on my cheek. I was shocked. My two legs went weak, and I almost dropped to my knees.
‘Hey, Miss! Don’t do this! Lucky Nier and Lucia aren’t here. If we got caught, I’d cop another scolding… Nier will go even wilder at night!’
“Hehe, playing with fire like this is so fun. Miss Lucia and Miss Nier will not blame me anyway.” Freya smiled and released me. She then adjusted her expression and said, “Onii-sama, I suggest you adjust your expression. Otherwise, you will not be able to intimidate them in a bit.”
“We have no choice, Your Majesty. We can choose not to pursue the debt, but we cannot erase their debts out of pity. You are a just king, not a benevolent king. They will only feel at ease paying their taxes once we let them know the consequences of not paying their taxes. There has never been any family that went bankrupt because of taxes. Onii-sama, you are saving them, not harming them.”