“Miss, it’s time for dinner,” Shiroi said. She was in a pure white dress that was simple and plain. It had no frills, no dirt, no wrinkles, or anything else that disturbed its simplistic purity. It matched the color of her feathers exactly. Her blue eyes were more pronounced when surrounded by the all-encompassing white. She was standing in front of a door holding a silver tray with a few covered dishes on it.
“It’s open.” A small voice was speaking from the inside. Shiroi placed the tray on the ground, opened the door, and then picked up the tray again. She walked in, placed the tray on an oak table with one large leg in the middle, and then closed the door she just entered.
In Ruby’s room there was a large bed, three oak tables, a large oak dresser, a window, four candle-torches, and three chairs. One hard chair was placed at the table used for eating, and another one was at the table used for studying. The third chair was a soft chair. It was large, covered in leather, and filled with cotton. Ruby, in a purple dress, was reclining in it with a book in hand. The chair was to the right of the window, and on the wall to the right of the chair was a large bookcase filled with books of all sizes. The left side of the room had the dresser, the bed, and the dining table. The right side had the studying table and the bookcase. The third table, a small one with a mirror on it, was in the left corner, between the bed and the far wall.
Strewn across the carpeted white floor were clothes, books, and paper. Shiroi sighed as she started cleaning the mess. The light from the candle-torches cast Shiroi’s shadow across the walls as she moved around. Ruby didn’t move from her spot until Shiroi was done.
“I’m not hungry,” Ruby said.
“Tonight’s dinner is lamb,” Shiroi said while ignoring Ruby.
“Lamb? Is that so?”
“Yes. Madam has forgiven you.”
Ruby closed the book, got up from the chair, and walked over to the dining table. She sat in a chair as Shiroi uncovered the meal.
“Finally! So I can leave the room again! I’ve been so bored day after day. And the food has been horrible.”
“Yes, but Madam said that you’re no longer permitted to leave the grounds. At all.”
“What? Till when?”
“Um, that is…”
Ruby looked up at the stuttering girl. Shiroi didn’t look like she was joking. Nor was she allowed to, even though Ruby treated her like a friend instead of a servant. Her personal servant had the privilege of speaking with her, Madam Jane decided, but that still did not mean Shiroi was allowed to say anything unimportant. Ruby knew that Shiroi had to convey her mother’s words exactly.
“Was she serious?”
“She… she restricted you from leaving the house. She’s given permission to the guards to forcibly keep you from leaving, as long as they don’t break or seriously bruise you.”
“Seriously bruise? So a light or medium bruise is okay? She’s given permission for others to touch me, just to keep me from leaving?”
“Please Miss, don’t test her again. Finish eating, please. I need to return the dishes. Let me tend to you in the meantime.”
Ruby, her anger fading away while despair took its place, slowly ate the food. Its exquisite taste went unnoticed by the troubled girl. As she ate, Shiroi moved to the back of Ruby’s chair. She undid the back of Ruby’s dress, revealing her back. Shiroi took a small metal can out from a pocket in her dress. She opened it and took a handful of balm. She spent the next few minutes applying it to Ruby’s back. The orange, yellow, and blue bruises that covered her back were a testament to the extreme nature that belied her beautiful mother’s face.
“As long as it will eventually heal without spot,” was the motto of Jane Lucrene Melonscone’s discipline.
“Are you alright?” Aoi asked the fallen king. While walking in the hallway towards the throne room, King Fidel fell while at Aoi’s side. He put both hands on the ground and pushed himself back up as Aoi helped him. “Your crown.”
“I’m fine. Thank you, Aoi.” Fidel supported himself upon Aoi while he walked.
They kept walking as the candle-torches lit the way. The stone walls and blue flooring eventually led to the back of the throne room, where the royal chairs were placed. Before anyone could see, Fidel took his arm off Aoi. The entire room was filled with aristocrats and politicians. Fidel walked proudly for the very few steps he had to take to get to his throne. Aoi sat at his side, in the chair reserved for the non-existent queen. No one in the audience paid any attention to her; the past months had established Aoi as a supporting figure to Fidel. They no longer regarded her as something foreign. Much worse, she was treated as if she didn’t exist, which Aoi didn’t mind. Eventually, days, weeks, and months could go by without anyone noticing if Aoi was present or not.
There was one person who did mind though, and who twisted her pretty face in disgust every time she looked at Aoi. Jane Melonscone stood in the gallery above.
“How pretentious of her!” Jane said every time she attended a meeting. Every time she did, the wary marquises and earls surrounding her would pull away. They tried to ignore the woman that seemed to be on fire as they paid attention to the reports given to the king.
“Crime, hunger, and sickness have lowered just a little bit since last month, Sire. Though none are back down to where they were a year ago.”
“The expansion of Earl Bergamot’s fields has yielded an increase in our food stores. As a result, food prices had dropped.”
“The city planning commission has begun its work of expanding the city boundaries. The walls have already been extended west.”
“Irrigation is still an issue. We have enough water for now, but soon the city’s limit will be reached.”
“Civil disputes have continued to arise, and many are calling for the king to be the arbiter.”
The officials came in quick order to deliver their reports, bringing up many of the day-to-day issues that are faced when running a city. Soon after the city officials finished their reports, the country officials delivered theirs. City officials talked strictly about the happenings in the city of Rising, the largest city in the nation of Rising. Country officials briefly spoke on the issues of the various smaller cities in the land, about foreign relations, the general populous, expansion projects and issues, military affairs, technological advancements, taxes, and how content the people were.
“Continue constant patrols. Pay extra patrollers with food in amounts equivalent to money. As a result, food prices should keep stable. I didn’t hear a report on prices.” The king spoke with authority, disguising the internal pains he was feeling.
“Er, yes, Sire,” a small official said, unnoticed by anyone until now. His name was Dintin, and he was a strange looking creature known as a tanrac. A tanrac was a type of raccoon person. They had furry bodies, white fur around their eyes, short and pointy ears, tiny hands, and a striped tail. They stood three feet tall on average.
“Dintin, the report?” Fidel asked as Dintin kept rifling through a large binder full of papers.
“Just one moment.” Dintin spoke quickly, a tanrac trait. His tiny hands were moving very quickly through a large bundle of papers that seemed too large to have been kept in the binder. He finally pulled out a single sheet, and read from it.
“Dintin, royal accountant, reports to King Fidel. Currently prices are still slightly higher than optimal. From my calculations,” he said while pulling out an abacus, “distributing bread as military pay instead of further depressing the price of grain should help slightly. That’s all.”
Dintin quickly rushed off after giving his report. The chuckles from the various other officials and the outright laughter from the gallery above were all the motivation Dintin needed to get out quickly.
“He should really become the court jester. That would be more entertaining.” Jane was conversing happily with Duke Tourney, one of the few people who would willingly approach her. The duke simply nodded and smiled at her jest.
“For the rest,” Fidel said, “the policies that we have already implemented seem to be working. Agriculture, I’ll approve an irrigation plan upon its drafting. Please provide me with at least four separate options. I’ll make the final adjustments. Now then, is there anything else to report?”
“Civil disputes.” Diren spoke up while appearing at the king’s side.
“Yes, disputes. I will designate three arbiters to them.”
“That’s what I’d prefer, but that is the problem. The report is that the parties involved are refusing to have an arbiter other than you,” Diren said respectfully.
“I see. Fine, so I shall. But there has to be some order. Paper, yes paper would be great.”
“Anyone who wishes for the king to be arbiter shall write their problems. Detailed, precise, and accurate descriptions of the problems. Both parties must write a detailed request. I’ll review them personally. Warn everyone that they will probably have to wait days, weeks, even months for their requests to be answered. Those that need resolution quickly must go to the judges we have already.”
The room buzzed with the thought of King Fidel moderating civil disputes. Fidel had never been an arbiter for the people before. His father rarely had, and his grandfather outright refused to. Fidel wasn’t making history; he was setting a precedent.
With the major matters settled, the minor matters came and went quickly. After a short while, the meeting was dismissed. Soon, Fidel and Aoi were again making their way slowly through the hallway. They headed towards Fidel’s room.
“Aren’t you overdoing it?” Aoi asked.
“It’s fine,” Fidel replied.
“Are you sure you can handle the extra work that’s going to come with your decisions?”
“It’s fine. It has been far more painful doing nothing day after day. At least, now, I’ll have a more active role in my people’s lives.”
“But what about your life?”
“Really, it’s fine. I want to be remembered for my actions.”