“Natsuki, my long lost love…” The teasing voice floating through the house belongs to Prince Kai. “Why must you torment me by asking me to meet you in the house of the man who has stolen you away?”
“I’m standing right here, your highness.” Jericho is trying to refrain from laughing.
Kai pulls a face and then dramatically calls out. “… while he watches my agony?”
Jericho rolls his eyes. Kai is incourigable but it’s a price he’ll pay for having the crown prince willing to come and talk to them about pressing matters. Like why the other Dukes have yet to mobilize. And whether Dogwood should call on Vesper for aid.
“Kai …” Natsuki snorts softly as she shakes her head at the man, dropping a curtsey that’s fit for a Crown Prince. “If you were to ask him, he might be willing to share me…” her lavendar coloured eyes meet Jericho’s, he can see the amusement there, for sure.
It’s Kai’s incorrigibility that makes him perfect for this. But Jericho’s right, this is a price they have to pay.
“Thank you for gracing our house with your presence, your Highness. Might I offer you a drink before we get started?”
She gestures to the lounge room. They’ll be a little informal about this.
“Would he?” Kai looks to Jericho who moves into the lounge room.
“I don’t know your highness, I’d need something to occupy my time if I did and I doubt any of the royal household wants to help me do that.”
“Oh I wouldn’t be too sure, Baronet. My cousins have heard THINGS about you…”
Kai’s teasing about that too right?
Either way he lets the joke drop and sits down. “I wouldn’t dream of missing it, Fairest Natsuki. And I’d love a little bit of something to drink. Now. What is so important that you both felt the need to have me come here so you could charm me?”
“That assumes I would share //you//, leannan.” Natsu smiles and laughs as Kai mentions his cousins. “And what have you been filling your cousins heads //with//, might I ask?” The part-elf heads to the sideboard and prepares drinks for them all.
“I should be hurt, Kai, that you think I need something from you.” she murmurs, handing him a drink and then Jericho, before taking a seat on the arm of the chair that Jericho chooses.
“We want to discuss the CS, the demons waging war on our borders and why the other Dukes and nobles seem so sanguine about all this?”
“Me? Not a thing, Fairest Natsuki.” Kai smiles. “But YOU! Oh you would not believe the interest your Baronet generates for having tamed //you//.”
That is probably less a joke than anything else. Still a joke but that has to be true to some extent. “Fortunately he’s lowborn so…”
Jericho snorts. He’s Corporate Nobility thank you very much. Titled and Chartered.
“But yes, Your Highness. Why is it only the Western Dukedom has raised it’s armies thus far?”
Kai sighs. “Politics. Duke Saltzpyre is likely to raise his forces within the week but the Duchess of the South and the Duke of the East are both… what’s the polite word? Dithering. Holding things up in the small council, it being the spring and the seeding time, they’re not eager to levy half their farmers.”
There’s probably truth to Kai’s words. Natsuki knows that. That the part-elf has signed a contract with the Baronet is the talk of the town – sort of.
“Don’t be running my intended down, Kai…” Natsu winks as she threads her fingers through Jerichos. “My intended is the most noble of men I know. Well, perhaps excluding you.” But he is her Prionsa.
“Likely? What’s the delay in the North? The Duke must be under as much pressure as we are.” Natsu says, glancing at Jericho. Of all of them Thaddeus knows the stakes.
“I don’t suppose they see the threat, do they? We’ve been wearing the brunt of the attacks now for a year or more. Keeping the wolves from their door.” Where had that saying came from?
“And how do they feel about the CS … presence? Trying to stop people as they enter Dogwood?”
“Run him down? Before we can have a climactic duel for your hand? Never.” Kai smiles. This is why he gets along so well with Natsuki.
Jericho lets out a sigh and shakes his head, trying to keep from laughing.
“They’re more concerned with their farming output at the moment yes. It’s not that they don’t see the threat but they’re convinced that they can get the North and the West to bear the brunt of it.”
Kai smiles slightly. “Most people, fortunately, are against that. There is a vocal minority that favors closer relations with the CS but that’s been true for years. At the moment, no one in power wants them meddling, so that’s good news. Of course that’s not the same thing as people really knowing how to deal with them.”
“Oooh, a duel! Yes, we must organise that.” Natsu //loves// Kai. He’s the brother she never had. Or is he?
“Of course they want the North and the West to bear the brunt of this.” the part-elf frowns and looks at Jericho. “There’s a cost to that though, isn’t there leannan? And I believe there’s provisions in our laws for it. Duchess Brandt could call a meeting of the council and demand a stipend from the East and the South to offset the costs we’re going to bear.”
It’s an inelegant solution but hitting the other duchy’s in the hip pocket might cause them to mobilise.
“And what are your thoughts, Kai, on all of that? We see the CS trying to infringe on our borders nearly daily now. They’ll move on Dogwood if they think we’re going to slip.”
“Yes.” Jericho nods. The Actuaries had gone over the legal code of the kingdom in great detail and come up with several… exploitable points.
“In the event of a declared military emergency, any duchies not contributing directly to the defense of the realm supply funds and other aid commenserate with the soldiery they are not providing. That would be a small council vote, but it would go split two-two. The crown would make the final call as to whether to delcare an emergency.”
“I see…” Kai strokes his chin, smiling as Natsuki seems to embrace a duel for her love. “I don’t disagree with you about the CS but we cannot fight both them AND the demons. Which they know. And they’re counting on.”
“Might not be so difficult.” Jericho ventures. “If Vesper were providing aid.”
“And, I believe that you have the Crowns chair on the small council, don’t you Kai?” Natsu squeezes Jericho hand and runs her fingers over the back of it. She’s not suggesting anything, not at all. If Kai is asked, he can say he came to the decision all on his own.
“We know we can’t wage a two wars at once and we don’t want to. But we don’t want the CS to take control here.” Natsu has some very personal reasons for this, Kai knows that. “Vesper might be open to an … alliance, though. Has that been considered, at all?”
“I do. When my father doesn’t want it. Which he never does. Says it’s good for me. Also says small council meetings are boring. He’s right about one of those things…”
At the second question Kai makes a face. “Even if they were a formal alliance would have to be negotiated which would take time.”
“What about asking for their aid without a formal alliance? Vesper isn’t stupid. They know the threat as much as we do.” Jericho presses.
Kai shakes his head. “It’s a good idea Baronet but it’s politically impossible at the moment. Something would have to convince the duchies in a big way that dogwood is seriously at risk and right now they simply don’t believe that.”
“The council meetings are good for you, Kai. I’ve told you this since we were children.” Natsu smirks. “Boring as they may be. You are going to wear the Crown one day. This is all preparation for it.” She’s made her point though about the casting vote.
“How much bigger does it have to get?” The part-elf shakes her head and looks at Jericho. “Short of letting demons rampaged in the town square, that is…” beat “Would you be willing to talk to people in Vesper, anyway, Kai? Develop … informal … associations that might prove useful, later?”
“I most certainly would but any formal request would have to pass a small council vote and without a real emergecny to ram down their throats I’m afraid it’s simply not going to.”
Kai is very good at reading the temperature of the room. If he says it won’t pass, it won’t pass. What kind of emergecny would it take? Apparently a very present one.
“Whom would you have me meet?”
“Kailastia.” Jericho mutters, but doesn’t say anything too loudly.
“I said informally, Kai.” Natsu looks her normal composed self. It’s so hard to read her, usually. Jericho can, it’s possible Kai can as well – he’s known her long enough after all.
“Jericho’s correct. I could arrange a meeting with Kailastia. It would be a chance one, when you and Jericho escort me to Vesper to see about about dispute on my mine.”
“The Crown //is//, after all, looking to purchase a part share in it. But the other shareholders want to know who they’re dealing with.”
She’s thought about this, it seems.
“Ah I see. Just a business venture. I don’t know…” Kai looks at Jericho teasinigly again. “Is your Baronet going to tolerate me in his business?”
“Depends on how far in you’re in. Otherwise I might demand an introduction to those cousins.” This is why Kai gets along well with Jericho. He can give as good as he takes with good humor.
“Oh you should be careful what you wish for.” Kai laughs. “I assure you that your elven beloved is nothing compared to Royals in some ways.”
“No pleasant ways I presume.” Jericho smirks.
“Well no, I don’t thinks so but that’s not nice to say in polite company.”
“And what are you?”
“Impolite company, of course.”
Natsu’s brows rise as the men banter, rolling her eyes but smiling a bit. “Excuse me, //gentlemen//, I’m sitting //right// here.” beat “And Kai, I am nothing like your Royal cousins.” Oh, isn’t she?
“As to impolite company, it’s why I love you, Kai. Now, what do you say to my proposal?”
She’ll take Jericho to task, later, about wanting introductions to cousins. She has far better prospects for him, if that’s what he wants.
Jericho doesn’t but he might be curious that Natsuki DID have better prospects. Or indeed any prospects at all.
Kai smiles indulgently to Natsuki. “Of course, My Dearest, Fairest, Most Delicate Natsuki. I will be ever so incredibly honored to engage in ‘business’ with you.”
Jericho just leans forward and places his hand on his brow. “Where on earth did you meet this man, Banphrionsa?” As if he weren’t the prince. And sitting right there.
“‘Business’ hmmm.” Natsu sighs. “In the nursery, Prionsa. He used to dip my pigtails in ink.” Another phrase that they use that has been lost to the passage of time.
It’s strange who the mongrel granddaughter of a disgraced Dogwood Knight was playmates with the heir to the Crown.
Settling herself in Jericho’s lap, Natsu looks at Kai “Now, tell me the latest gossip from court.”
“Oh well, where to start. Do you have alcohol? You might want it when we’re done…” Kai leans back, utterly in his element and begins to talk.
Jericho settles in. He’s comfortable. And they could be here a while. Court gossip is extensive.