"Sister, are you feeling better? It must have been horrible for you after what happened with duke Kunarar and duke Maluruz."
"Yes it was really heart-rending. Poor duke Kunarar died because of me."
Jana looked at her brother John with a sad and pained expression.
"It's all my fault. It feels as if I had poisoned him myself. It's scary that I didn't suspect anything. What if something like this happens again?"
'She blames herself! My poor innocent sister.'
John couldn't take it anymore and hugged his trembling sister.
"Don't worry. It isn't your fault. We all know that and don't worry about other marriage proposals. Father and I will wait till you are ready for it."
Slowly she calmed down.
"Thank you, brother."
'You try to conceal your sadness with a forced smile, sister, but that won't deceive me. I know everything about you after all. I guess I should spend some time with you so you don't feel lonely.'
"We haven't spent much time together recently. Do you want to join me for some tea?"
"Yes that would be lovely."
They walked through the castle to the palace gardens where maids have already prepared a table with two chairs with tea and snacks for the two royals. Several maids stood in attendance in case Jana or John would want anything. They sat down and drank some tea without talking about anything till Jana broke the silence.
"So what have you been doing as of late?"
"Since the family of duke Maluruz fell into ruin many noble families tried to appeal to father and me asking what will happen to the dukedom of Maluruz. They are really greedy and it is obvious that they want the title of a duke and the landed property for themselves. It's a good thing that father had forbidden them to speak to you after what you have been through."
He looked at his sister.
"I'm sorry, we should probably speak about something else."
"No, it's okay. It's very important what happens to the Maluruz dukedom after all. I just hope that the next duke of Maluruz will be popular with the people. It's a good thing when the people love and trust their leaders."
"Yea, there are not many noble families that are loved by the masses. There is the family of Kunarar, of course. His younger brother Max Kunarar will probably become the next duke, but he is at the moment on the demon continent with our army. Then there is of course our family, but aside from that there are not many noble families that are revered by the people. If there is anyone the people worship it would be their hero Luna, but most noble families couldn't compete with her if it comes to popularity."
A smile formed on his face thinking about Luna. Jana did her best not to smile.
"It will probably also affect you since father will urge you to marry someone from the new ducal family because you have snubbed all girls from the Kunarar family already."
"I will never marry someone against my will!"
'Now, will you fall for it, dear brother?'
Suddenly his mood changed drastically. He seemed excited and couldn't keep his calm.
"What did you say before?!"
"About you marrying..."
"No! Before that!"
"That the new duke should be popular with the people?"
'He fell for it, hehe.'
"What do you mean, brother?"
"I will ask father to make Luna the new duke of Maluruz. Think of it, it's a brilliant plan. If she comes back victorious from the demon continent it would be a deserved honour and the people worship her so nobody could disagree."
'Furthermore I can keep her from harm if she has to manage a dukedom in Namar and then her position is high enough to marry me. I'm so brilliant. That is the best plan ever.'
"Huh? I didn't think of that possibility. Do you think father will agree to that?"
"Of course! I will do everything in my power to make it happen. Sorry sis, but I have to speak with father immediately."
He stood up and ran away.
'My plan is advancing smoothly. Luna's reaction will be hilarious, but it's her own fault for leaving me alone in a boring castle.'
A few days later rumours began to circulate about the succession ot the Maluruz dukedom. The rumour has been spread that the hero Luna would become the new duchess, while other rumours reported about greedy nobles that tried to take the dukedom away from the hero Luna Rubra or that the king hadn't decided yet while the prince led a faction in favour of Luna succeeding duke Maluruz. This rumours were especially vivid in the dukedom Maluruz itself, since they lived under a corrupt and abhorrent duke and yearned for a shinning light like a hero as their duchess. The king of course wasn't amused by this developement. His son had stormed into his office to convince him to give the dukedom to general Rubra as reward if the ongoing military campaign was succesful. He argued that the people would love her as a duchess and would praise their king for such a wise decision. He saw through those arguments. His useless son wanted to keep her away from the war and marry he, but this could be easily avoided by instating a ducal proxy if general Rubra was needed on the battlefield. The real problem were the other noble houses. Awarding titles was the best method to secure fealty of the noble houses and therefore stability. It was a difficult decision so he decided to postpone the decision and ordered his son to speak with nobody about their conversation.
But rumour spread regardlessly. Has John disregarded his instruction and spoken with someone about this? Or has he even spread the rumours deliberately to force him to make this decision? He knew John had the idea during a conversation with Jana but he had told his daughter to not speak about this for the time being and she would never betray him or act against his orders.
'It seems I have no real choice. The population would be infuriated if I choose someone else as duke. I could suppress all protests of course but we are at war and I need all soldiers available.'
It wasn't really a problem to ennoble the human hero Luna Rubra and award her with a dukedom but the methods of his son really suprised and even starled him.
'Unbelievable that he would act against me so boldly. Does he has the ability and calm to be a king? Wouldn't he be just a puppet in general Rubra's hands. Maybe I should consider making Jana my heir to the throne. It would be unusual since I have an older son but a female heir to the throne is not unheard of. I will have to think about it.'
Author note: Are you bored by he side story? The fiction needs it for later developments, at least if I follow my general plan for the story.