The trip from the royal capital northward was very interesting because while the royal capital in the south was on a large plain with relatively moderate weather conditions. It certainly was very cold in winter, but nowhere near as cold as it was in the north. Further, the snow in the north is a big nuisance. You couldn’t miss the snow slowly piling up more and more as well as the temperature dipping more and more as you went from the royal capital to the north. That said, north of the royal capital is where the elven border is. The four seasons in the elven lands are like spring, so once you reach a certain point and if you continue northward, then the temperature will rise slightly.
Due to the army being around, we couldn’t go fast, but at the same time, they were the reasons we had plenty of food. It was different camping in the wild at night as well. Mom couldn’t deal with being in the horse-carriage the entire time as I thought. Hence, as soon as we reached the part where there were no people on the roads, she switched to a horse.
It goes without saying that she kept her face-veil on. The empress will be fine if she loses her veil, and so will the Valkyries. But everybody else will be without their heads. Wearing a face-veil didn’t slow the empress down though. She was elated. She’d do little sprint-spurts every now and then on her horse and then come back. I could tell that she was very happy to get that opportunity.
Castell sat down beside me and helped himself to a dried piece of meat without standing on ceremony. He then drank a few mouthfuls of grape wine and with a smile said: “You will arrive at your domain tomorrow, your majesty. Gosh, this is a tiring trip. It looks like I am old now.”
I shook my head while smiling and asked: “Castell, you’re only five or six years older than me, aren’t you? What do you mean you’re old? I mean, look at Alice. She’s much older and isn’t she riding on her horse cheerfully?”
Alice who was seated next to another fire turned her head around. She revealed a friendly smile and said: “Your majesty, I cannot pretend I did not hear that.”
I was frightened by her and my whole body very much felt my fear, so I quickly apologised. Mom laughed out loud and then wrapped her arm around Alice again and continued drinking. Castell pursed his lips into a smile and continued: “It looks like it is not just her majesty who is excited. You seem very excited too, your majesty.”
“It is my domain after all.”
“However, your majesty, I must remind you that your domain cannot be considered rich. It would be more correct to say it is barren. Of course, that is not her majesty’s fault. Her majesty noted that the food-production volume there was acceptable. But when I looked into it, I discovered that the food-production volume reported was false. And as it sits on the border, it does not show any indication of prosperity. As such, you will have to work hard.”
Castell shook his head. He tossed a block of wood into the fire and added, “But I do not think her majesty sent you here just to live leisurely and hunt like nobles. I surmise that she sent you here intending for you to work properly as well. Should you be able to solve this and grow this domain to prosper, then I believe her majesty will pleased and comforted.”
I nodded. I don’t think she gave me this domain for me to party away merrily. If she wants me to become a qualified emperor, then she needs to see my management skills. Unfortunately, I’m an engineering student. I’ve never taken lessons on economics or management. But according to what Freya stated, making the most of human resources is a skill a king must have.
I should forego my do-it-myself approach I’ve employed in the past. I need to find capable individuals to work for me. I’m now a member of the royal family, the next emperor in line, yet I continue to think like a commoner as I previously did. There will be people who will be strong for me even if I’m not, so I don’t need to personally attend to everything now.
“I can understand if it’s not prospering, but why is food-production lacking? Could it be that the land is extremely barren?”
Castell shook his head and then nodded. He replied: “I am not sure about that. I am not a specialist at assessing the land, nor have I worked in agriculture. However, I do not think that this piece of land is barren. It looks very fertile because there is an elven forest there as well as a running river, which functions as a perfect irrigation system. Logically speaking, there should be no shortage of food there, but in reality…. Mm, I shall stop there. You should be the one to handle this matter. I cannot tell you anymore.”
Castell wore a mysterious smile and then continued, “Your majesty, once you arrive there, I think you should deal with this matter. The people are very easy to handle. They are ignorant. They do not need any literacy, poems or music. They just need hot water, women and food. But they do not even have food right now. If that continues, the people will be unhappy.”
“The three things you mentioned are basically the same as what Freya mentioned. I understand now. I will investigate the matter. Thank you, Castell.” I stood up and then indicated I was returning to my tent. Castell stood up to bow and wish me goodnight before leaving.
When I returned to my own tent, Luna had already set the floor-beds. A soft layer of wool was laid on top of the thick mat, and on top of that was a thick blanket.
As Luna looked at me, she asked me with a smile: “Your majesty, will we arrive tomorrow?”
“Yes.” I nodded and added, “I’m still somewhat excited since it will be my world once I get there.”
“Except it does not look like your world is too peaceful.” Freya poked her head out from the side with a smile on her face. She then made an open hand gesture and continued, “I apologise for eavesdropping on your conversation, onii-sama. It looks like your first test has come quite early. Castell is right. If we do not resolve this matter, I do not think that we will win the support of the people. Needless to say, if you do not care, then neither do I.”
“Of course I want everyone to obey me. I still need to get them to work for me.”
“In that case, onii-sama, we will have lots of work to do.” Freya looked at me and then stroked her chin like she entered deep thought. She then asked: “Onii-sama, have you heard of a phrase that says, ‘face the grudges of others with a smile’?”
“Repay evil with gratitude and kindness?”
“Ah… why do you speak so with such poetic eloquence……? I feel like you just said something I do not understand… Whatever the case, that is what it means. I presume that the current residents there are very unhappy with you, one, because you suddenly came and announced that you are going to rule it with a weak foundation, and two, would be getting the people to work for your large-scale constructions. Most importantly, all the benefits the corrupt officials had previously will now go to you, hence why you will face much resentment.”
“Yeah… I’m sad about it too since it’s not what I did. It seems that getting married and living my newly-wed life there peacefully will be very difficult. Freya, why do I feel that the people will drive me away if I’m hated by people……. If I were to share my food supply with them and keep taxes low, would that help a little?”
Needless to say, I was just kidding about that. I wouldn’t be that miserable.
“Labour and taxes are bound to make the people dissatisfied. However, it is a necessity.” Freya shrugged indifferently and continued, “The resentment of the people is meaningless. But as you want to rule, you will need them to get them to serve you on their own accord. Your statement ‘repay evil with gratitude and kindness’ is actually wrong. We cannot continue to just fulfil the desires of the people to please them. We must use our fairness and justice to give them no way of resenting us. Onii-sama, if one is strong, be also merciful, so that one’s neighbours may respect one rather than fear one. We are not a benevolent ruler nor are we a tyrant. You are to become a fair and just hero!”