Tlanslation: Svyatoslav Albireo
— Happy Birthday!
The Emperor took a chubby package of red paper, strewn with silver stars, from the gold tray served by the footman and gave it to the Personal Existence Poisoner
He leered with suspicion at His Majesty without getting up from his chair, turned his gift in his hands and threw it on the floor, unpacked.
It was an ordinary thing for the footman, so he picked up the package and gave it with a bow to the sovereign.
— Ah, what a man! — he admired. — Flint! Why do I work with some vile slush, while people like you just pour scorn on me?
The Poisoner winced but still didn’t utter a word.
— No, you just look at what’s there. You will like it, I’m sure, — the Emperor exhorted him with a paternal affection, but contemptuous silence was still the only response he received.
— So, well. I wrap it — I open it. Look!
He unleashed a magnificent bow, which took him an hour to tie, and ruthlessly tore a beautiful wrapper.
Papers and brochures fell down on a golden tray.
— Here, — His Majesty fished out from the folded stack a poster and turned out, showing to the birthday guy.
— What? – croaked the Poisoner. — Election? No, this is too much! There is a limit of abuse I can tolerate…
— But I’m serious!
— Really? And am I the main opposition candidate?
— Yes! The voters slated you. Billion of the signatures, can you imagine? How could I ignore the people’s will?
The Poisoner winced again. He knew, in the Empire could find even ten billion fools and sold out ones, who were ready to sign any petition convenient to Emperor. But it is at least better than if his candidacy was offered by the Emperor himself.
— And you will just retire in case of defeat and give me the throne?
— I promise! — solemnly proclaimed the Emperor and pressed a button disguised as a large emerald on one of his rings.
The invisible orchestra roared, inviting the invisible choir to join in the fun. Hundreds of voices rang out the hymn, which began with congratulations on his birthday and ended with the heap of pretentious wishes to the future savior of the fatherland from tyranny. The Poisoner was listening with the face of a person, who was struggling with nausea, for only one reason — the solidarity with the working class, which would have to clean up after him. He had to abstain from the comments in that noise.
— Well, how was it? Do you like it?
— I do not like it, — growled the Poisoner. — But I have to try.
With all his aversion to the tyrant, he was forced to admit he always keeps his promises. At least, the promises made to his best enemy. And even if this offer come from a man who is completely confident in the victory, it would be foolish to neglect it.
— When will be the election?
— A month later, exactly on our tenth anniversary, — shined the Emperor, inspired by the consent.
— Ten years … — whispered the Poisoner. – A-asshole!
— A-asshole, — repeated Poisoner, examining the table with the results of the voting.
He was a sober-minded man and did not expect any miracles from the venture, but if he knew in advance how it will affect the opposition … The opponents of the authorities were found in abundance. He was even able to refuse publicly to the election fund provided by the government and to the campaign for donations only. Some of them, however, came from the State through nominees, but he had to close his eyes to this. Any hint of cooperation with the authorities would only exacerbate the situation.
The opposition, which wasn’t unanimous before, split. Some saw the election as their last chance to remove the Emperor peacefully, others said a person who lived ten years in the palace, can not be regarded as an independent candidate, and others supported other candidates, and another ones began to spawn conspiracy theories and unite with the supporters. Theories were not much less than their supporters, and the confusion reigning in the minds was unbearable. As a result, the Emperor’s disciplined electorate voted in whole, but hardly half of the Poisoner’s supporters participated in the elections. The rout was complete.
— Do not beat yourself up, — said the Emperor sympathetically. — You could not reject such opportunity. And even if you get yourself an ulcer, it is better to get it because of a failed attempt than of a missed opportunity …
— But why did you call for the election exactly on my birthday? Is it some kind of a refined sadism?
— Firstly, I would like to make a gift for a decade of our work together, because I can’t expect that from you. And secondly, it was for a coup, which you planned exactly on my birthday five years ago.
— Five years have you been waiting for the chance to pay back? Wow!
He turned to Emperor, who was lounging on the couch with a huge mug of tea and a book.
— You should marry, Your Vindictive Majesty. Now, you spend all unspent ardor on me. You should harass Empress peacefully, as it should do for a family man. You should have a mother-in-law, children, and other relatives. Then you will not have need in anypranks anymore.
— This is exactly what I must not do, — the Emperor shook his head. — A fair amount of opposition is silent, precisely because I am not young and I have no heir. They’re going to wait for my death and preparing to capture the power. At least, so they say. While I am single and childless, they will not do any action. Moreover, the heirs — it’s so much fuss. What if they will be muddle? Or if they will be unable to govern? If I have one heir – there is a high risk he will be inappropriate. If I have a lot — they will start fighting. And to understand, if he is good one or not, you will need to wait for a long time. Another thing — you.
— I didn’t waste these ten years with you for nothing, you know, discussing each one more or less important decision and, even more, its consequences. You perfectly know how the state machine works. Just imagine you would be saddled it ten years ago — without connections, experience, and reputation, without knowing what is right, and what is wrong. How long would you have sat on the throne? What kind of mess would you have made?
— Do you think is it worth ten years of humiliation?
— It is worth twenty. Of course, it is worth. The sheer desire for power is not enough. One must be able to properly dispose it. And now, when you know how to use it, it does not matter how you will get it — by inheritance, by law or by force. In any case, you can do it and will not mess things up. By the way, — the Emperor pretended he just now caught himself. — I congratulate you on the tenth anniversary of our collaboration. Hold it!
His Majesty gave him a heavy box. The Poisoner wanted to throw if back just out of habit, but after a little doubting decided not to repeat himself, and, with the face of disgust, tore the wrapper. Opening the lid, he cried out and threw the box away, as if he found there a tangle of snakes. The golden crown, which fell out of the box rolled on the floor, clattering the parquet by rubies and diamonds and stopped exactly at the Emperor’s boots. He picked it up, cursorily examined it in search of the damage and said with a smile:
— I see. But I’m not asking you to wear it today. It will be waiting for you at the Treasury, in your personal safe. Take it, if you seize of power.
He smiled slyly.
— Yes, I do not give you a choice, again.