06. External Enemy

Back to — Short stories serie about the Emperor

Aleksander Taver
Tlanslation: Svyatoslav Albireo

— Well, how many times are you going to do that, Your Excellency? — said the Emperor reproachfully. — When will you learn to keep in a tight rein your pro-imperial opposition? Next time, when you hear all this chatter about the union — just knit talkers with their sympathizers and send them to me! You are always fond of building the infrastructure, or any trade there, and completely ignore the feelings of the masses.
— I am sorry, Your Majesty, — Prince Leo, now the former ruler of the Beyond Lands, replied dryly. His voice didn’t have a hint of the guilt he mentioned.
In contrast to the interlocutor, he was a true aristocrat, a descendant of the deposed imperial dynasties.  He  had everything — a thoroughbred proud profile, a perfect posture, an eagle sight, a noble gray, and honed manners. His Excellency behaved with great dignity as befits a man who had just signed the pact of surrender on a well-deserved honorable conditions.
— And you should be sorry! — vibrant and vividly gesticulating Emperor looked like a loud barker next to him. – Can you imagine how much the arrangement of the border cost me? All of these protective buildings, posts and bases, which are needless now due to the fact they are in the depth of the Empire’s territories … and that war! Do you know how much solutions power cost today? No, you can not even imagine! Here!
His Majesty grabbed a pile of documents from the table and shoved them to the Prince for examination, but then changed his mind and exasperatedly threw the papers back.
— What’s it to you, you resisted heroically, then you surrendered with dignity and temporarily switched to the state-owned bread, but I have a hole in the budget, the nation troubled by the war and another region with the guerrillas, which I must somehow calm down.
— Well, you could just not invade then, — responded the Prince with some disappointment. – if you do not like  — do not fight.
— How could I not invade? — said His Majesty, throwing up his hands, — if you had there another pro-imperial uprising, and I had a support of all the people? Yours would smash everything for a couple of years, and then the rest people will ask to take the ruins under the imperial wing. And if I deny the brotherly people — my own citizens will not understand! No, I prefer to start earlier, when there is something to capture. Add to this the fact, everytime you put me in an awkward position with your capitulations …
— Why so? — His Excellency was offended.
— Because I can’t execute you, and you, while you are still alive, inevitably inspire all revenge-seekers by the very fact of your existence!
— Should I have been killed on the battlefield?
He half-turned to the Emperor, and pretended he only now noticed how ruined was his elegant uniform. On the sleeve, on the collar and on the back, in a couple of places he had shot holes. The special forces, which took him with a battle, brilliantly coped with the task: the capture of the bloodstained, brandishing the family sword prince was broadcasted on every channel, and some harmless scratches made it especially dramatic. They shot him so gently, that within a week it all healed up, and they decided not to mend his uniform and not to change it for saving the heroic image.

The Emperor even choked with indignation, and for some time all he could do was only desperately shaking his head:
— No, no … — he finally croaked. — Do not you dare! Who will rule the only remaining sovereign state, which you have to build? And what am I supposed to do with all these guards? And with the labor organization of custom officers, stupefied from idleness, will you deal with them?
— Repress them. It won’t be the first time you are doing it.
— And I will, if necessary! — His Majesty cried passionately. — However, you forget how important your role is. Humanity can not be united completely. It is vital to have an external enemy. We need an object of hatred and cheap import, threatening local markets. What we need is the progress, fueled by arms race, and the place where the people disgrunted by the regime can escape comfortably. Without all this, the Empire will be soured of laziness and then grabbed into itself. No, would you please return to your ecological niche!
— I do not want, — said the Prince petulantly. — How many times? All my life I work like a damned. one after one I created three Beyondedged Principalities from scratch, but I had never been on holiday. I want to relax, to travel … You know, I’ve never seen the Empire, except of your palace, which I am carried to sign the surrender, and prisons, in which I am placed  after it. There is no time to stare during the prison breaks, you know,.
—  Assign a sensible successor, finally, and depart from the business …
— Here! I wanted to talk to you about it, as well. Because of you, I have lost two wives … I mean, certainly three, including the current one. And that’s not counting the mistresses!
— How is it? — The emperor was taken aback. — As far as I know, they are all alive and well.
— Yes, but not in my domain. The wives every time refuse to leave the Empire to build on undeveloped territories of another state with semi-criminal rabble and possessed imperial dissidents. They say, they can not leave their former subjects, suffering under the heel of the Empire, and they willing to share their suffering till the end. I am getting reports; they suffer there in a big way, and the former subjects are not far behind. — aristocratic traits of His Excellency distorted in the bitter grimace for a moment. He angrily banged his stick on the marble floor, but then again, pulled himself together and went on, more calmly. — The heirs are not eager, as well. They, you see, feel good living in the Empire on the remains of my riches.
— Is that all? — the Emperor laughed. — You, my dear, go ahead with peace of mind, build the Power. Once the decent palace will be ready — let me know. I’ll immediately accuse them all to work on your special services and deport them. I bet you can decide which of them you want to see as the legitimate princess. Maybe you are interested in the polygamy, huh? – the Emperor winked at him slyly. — You decide. Your country — your laws. Find a suitable successor among the offspring, and as soon as you teach him, you can retire in safe. In the end, I can not overpower you forever. After the fourth surrender the nation can start to suspect something.

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