“First they drop fire and lightning, then they drop the corpses.”
I raise the telescope and study the airship which has been circling us for two weeks. The Dawn is like a good little shepherd dog. It's not unreasonable to assume that the Alliance ordered them to follow us wherever we go. It must be very annoying for the crew that we stayed put and didn't move an inch.
It's time for Oswin's shift to end and, indeed, his son appears on deck. He walks over to his father's observation spot. They talk and Oswin leaves his post after a quick exchange. Zane takes his father's position at the large mounted telescope which acts as an observation station for the Dawn.
Assuming that his father was watching me, I lean onto my office's balcony. With one finger, I tug at the neckline of my bathrobe and allow my breasts to spill out a little further. In a robotic motion, Zane quickly swivels the large telescope somewhere else.
“You are just evil!”
Kiara's voice spoils the fun and I lower the telescope. “It's not my fault that he is so innocent. Teasing him is fun. And just imagine what he is thinking now of his father. He just took the post from his old man and the telescope's sight was pointed directly at my boobs. I am not sure of their relationship, but that must make some dents into the old man's image. The captain always seems so uptight.”
Kiara steps next to me. “You are trying subvert them, playing son against father. That's the very definition of evil. But I don't think that it will work. The two of them seem to be close.”
“You are just spoiling the fun. Is there something you need?” I ask.
Kiara flattens her ears against her head. “Nothing special. I am just here to give you the regular update. The people are doing fine and the work is progressing smoothly. We finally have a few professional guards who can take care of conflicts. A growing population means that we get a lot more crime. It's too much to handle everything ourselves. We also got teachers and materials for the children and those who are willing to learn. You may be interested in the fact that a certain scholar requested to work for us.”
I turn my attention to my aide. “Edmund? At least I think that it is his name. Why isn't he at his faculty?”
“As I understood it, he and some of his supporters took the blame for the death of their co-workers. That came with a serious loss in status. The third scholar managed to kick them out of the faculty. That's the guy who you... dealt with. Now they are all seeking new employment,” Kiara explains.
“I see. He seemed like an airhead, but he knew his field of expertise. And all his scholars were mages, so they will be fine teachers. At least for the basics. Don't waste time and hire them. The usual contract and oath. We can't have them run back to another country,” I smile.
“I understand. How are your students doing?” she asks.
Their performance is within my expectations, but they are just kids. It's up to them how much use they make of my guidance. “Fine, but it'll take at least a year until we can expect anything from them. Have you sent the offer to teach magic and science to everyone who wants to learn?”
“The offer is out, but we didn't get many replies. The ones who didn't outright decline us are just minor nobility. I never expected people in high positions to send us their offspring right away.” Kiara wriggles her ears.
I didn't know that Kiara's ears are so flexible. “It's okay. Give it some time.” It was asking too much to get a whole bunch of high profile hostages.
“I have also taken the liberty to hire some people for your personal household,” The beastwoman informs me without a hint of guilt.
“My personal what?” I ask.
“Maids, attendees who manage your timetable, people who take care of the things which you neglect. I have seen your personal quarters. Ever since you started spending a lot more time inside your secret workshop, your personal rooms are looking like a pigpen.” Kiara doesn't even blink as she hands me her judgement. “Don't worry. All of the newcomers were taken from the unemployed family members who accompanied the workers to Illum.”
I sigh deeply. “Okay. Fine. Good job, I guess. What about the Alliance?”
“Dorver is handling most of your interaction with them. We've hammered out a treaty which is acceptable to us. They get to send us students who can learn from you and, in exchange, we can continue to operate as a company within their borders. It goes without question that their students will most likely be spies. If not assassins,” Kiara answers with a dry voice.
“I'll be on my guard. The idea of the contract doesn't sound so bad. Any other news?” I ask.
Kiara informs me of what's going on in the world. The Empire is conscripting troops to compensate for the loss of Orwen. The Alliance is doing the same. So far, neither nation decided to attack, but they are clearly preparing to turn their cold war into something hot.
The Murians are having trouble with a group of people who call themselves the Resistance. They are actively freeing slaves who aren't supposed to exist inside the Sociocrathy. Their movement employs everything which is at their disposal: terror, blackmail, assassination, flyers to rouse the masses. The Sociocrathy is trying to keep it silent, but it's clear that they are dealing with more than a handful of disorganised idiots. The fact that the Resistance is now also operating within the Empire is proof of that.
The Mirai attacked several towns and villages along the Empire's northern coast. There doesn't seem to be a point to their unusually aggressive actions. They don't seem to have a military goal and are rather seeking to spread death, destruction, fear and terror. More mysterious, except for the Mirai and the Empire, nobody seems to know why they are doing it.
I grunt. “Anything about the assassin?”
“The Alliance said that they didn't find a single clue. We know nothing.” Kiara pulls out a sheet of paper and hands it to me. “But we got an invitation from the human kingdom. They want us to be present at their prince's birthday party. We are also invited to the next World Assembly. I suggest that we visit both.”
I grimace. The World Assembly is a well known event which is sponsored by several nations. It's a chance for everyone to meet on neutral grounds. I can understand why we should visit it. It would be a chance to meet the leaders of other nations aside from the alliance. But the other one...
“Decline the birthday party. It sounds like nothing more than another opportunity for our mysterious assassin. I suspect that the nobles of the Alliance just want to force me into some kind of marriage. There is no doubt that they will try everything within their power.”
The beastwoman raises an eyebrow. “Would that be so bad? If you take someone who is weaker than you, you can provide an heir for your estate and lessen their motivation to act against you.”
The telescope in my hands cracks and crumbles as my hand closes around it. I turn to face Kiara. “I won't do such a thing! Illum is mine and mine alone! Everyone else can go and bite the dust for all I care. I won't be a part of their wars and puny intrigues!”
Kiara looks a little shocked, but she doesn't back away. Instead, she tries to ignore my outburst. “That- That's okay. No reason to freak out. I just thought that you might want someone at your side. I couldn't help but notice that you keep everyone at an arm's distance. It can't be healthy to be always on your own. Do- do you like women instead of men? Such things happen.”
I blink slowly and try to process the meaning of her words. “If I bed someone, then I'll do so because I want to. Not because I need an heir, or to fulfil anyone's expectations.”
“Okay. Sorry to have stepped onto your sore spot. I should have known better and won't mention it again. Are we okay?”
“It's okay. Just don't mention it again.” I turn my attention back to the airship and smile. Zane is watching us, so I wave to make sure that he knows that we know. Then I play with my loose robe, which quickly results in him looking somewhere else. It's too bad that, without the telescope, I can't see his expression. “Maybe I should visit this party and crash it. Just to make sure that they understand my opinion of them.”
I enter the community room which serves as our party's meeting place. Fae and Tristen are here, but Brian is absent. He is probably instructing the new guards.
Tristen looks up from his documents. “You look a little pale, Kiara. Did something happen?”
“Kind of. I stepped onto a landmine and Joyce almost blew up in my face.” I drop myself into the couch. The room has four of them. There is also a large table with several chairs. Otherwise, the room is empty.
Fae doesn't even look up. “Let me guess. You mentioned sex, a boyfriend, or sharing power over Illum.”
“I did, in a way. All of those. She was about to bite my head off. The tattoo on her shoulder glowed so bright that I could see it beneath the bathrobe. I almost wet myself.” I take one of the cushions and cover my face with it.
Tristen's voice sounds worried. “It's clear that she has mental baggage, but that's no reason to unleash her fury on us. What did she say about the invitations?”
I groan. “She'll go to the birthday party, but only to crush them!”
“I hope she meant that as a figure of speech,” Fae comments. “And you should know better than to step into her comfort zone. If her story is even partly true, then she went through hell. Have you ever seen a slave? I mean, a real one? One who is addicted to the collar? The Alliance isn't perfect, but at least we've banned slave collars.”
Tristen grunts. “It makes me wonder why she is keeping her collar, if it's really hers.”
I chuckle and grope my own assets, squeezing my nipples through my clothes. “Though, you guys have to admit, the thing is kinky! It even has chains for the nipples.”
Fae coughs. “Maybe you should ask Joyce to repair it. Then we can put it on you.”
***Empire, Northern Coast***
The captain approaches me and kneels down. “My sovereign! The city is burning, as you willed it.”
Our airships are still firing. Bolts of lightning and balls of fire fall like rain onto yet another city. We used the storm clouds to camouflage our fleet. The people down there never knew what hit them until we started raining destruction down on them. With each flash of lightning, the silhouette of one of our ships becomes visible for just a moment.
Dark, evil shapes which we designed to instil fear in our enemies. It's the end of the world for the villagers down there. The fact that I end them like this is a blessing.
A few brave ones are trying to coordinate the few mages who are left, but my generals are focusing on each area which shows even a little bit of resistance. Then it is pounded with attack magic until there aren’t even bodies left to be raised.
I turn my attention away from the flames beneath us. The captain's skin is so pale that it is almost white. The green fire in his pupils marks him as one of our better creations. An undead who kept his mind when he was revived. He also has a regeneration ability which stops his decay. It takes a lot of time to create one like him.
I realize that he doesn't intend to speak further and click my tongue. “I can see that. Do you want to tell me something which I can't see for myself?”
“We Mirai don't take pride in adding to the ranks of the dead. Everyone will join us sooner or later.” He hesitates, trying not to offend me. “Sovereign, the city's defenders have fallen some time ago. We are firing on civilians.” The captain keeps his eyes focused on my boots.
I clench my teeth and try to ignore the captain's insubordination. He is trying to appeal to my morals. Well, it can't be helped with a sentient one like him. “I know. Thank you for reminding me that we are wasting our time. Drop some of the mindless ones onto the city and set course for the next target.”
“How long do we intend to continue this?” the captain asks.
Ever so slowly, I turn back and lean onto the flagship's balustrade. The Zenith is three hundred metres in length. It and her three sister ships are the pride of our fleet. We are accompanied by a hundred and forty ghost frigates, each is sixty metres in length. Add to that the troop transports and support vessels, and this is a fleet to behold. Too bad that most of the fleet is hidden inside the storm front.
This fleet is just a part of our numbers. We can't spare more if we don't want to expose our island.
“We will continue to let the empire suffer. They will bleed until my rage is satisfied. They took from me, and so I'll take from them. Their cities will burn until the Emperor decides to send his own blood to the front-lines. Only then, we'll engage his fleet. There is no point in fighting them openly if all we can kill are worthless minions. I want to hurt him the same way he did me.”
And if he doesn’t come I’ll build a wall of corpses with his people. We’ll pile them so high that they never again dare to touch the Mirai.