Exile's Road

Chapter Twenty Three

The palace was bustling with activity, nobles and soldiers hurrying about as the elation of victory settled in. It had only been a few days since the army of Xiang had fled, and scouts had just reported in that they had crossed the border back into their kingdom. It appeared the war was finally over.

"Well, yes and no," Commander Hudson noted as his Queen made just that comment, all of them waiting in one of the more comfortable meeting rooms.

Queen Gwen sighed dramatically. "Could I just have ONE day to celebrate in peace?" she asked, sitting back with a pout on her face.

Hudson laughed warmly at his queen and friend. "You knew the job was tough when you took it," the soldier smiled.

Richard laughed, the older man pouring drinks for them all. "When can we expect Jantha to arrive?" he asked curiously.

"She's on her way, along with Midori of course," Gwen noted, smiling. She looked over at Hudson, "You're talking about out plans to fortify our border with Xiang, in case they counter attack or Edo reaches us?"

"Indeed," Hudson agreed. "We also need to prepare for refugees," he noted.

"Isn't that a bit..." Richard searched for the right words.

"Quick to assume Xiang will fall?" Gwen provided. "The fall season is nearly over, and I expect Edo will not be able to advance once the weather turns."

"True, but Xiang will have limited ability to dig in, as well," Hudson shrugged. "I think we should at least prepare."

"He has a point," Richard conceded.

Gwen nodded reluctantly. "We're already planning to move military forces to the border," she noted, "we'll work that into our planning as well."

Hudson accepted his drink from Richard, then watched as he carried another over to Gwen. All three of them were drinking beer, which would probably horrify some of the nobles.

"Hmm. I'll always be glad you switched from wine to beer," Richard said with a happy sigh. "Where did you...?" he gestured with his mug.

"Jantha, actually. She started drinking it after going to the Drunken Bard," Gwen explained with some amusement.

There was a knock on the meeting chamber's door and the guard outside announced "The Dutchess Jantha and bodyguard Midori, to see the Queen."

"Speak of the devil," Hudson chuckled.

"I'm not THAT bad," Jantha smiled warmly as they entered, her bodyguard close behind.

Midori raised a eyebrow, but didn't say anything.

"Oh, thank you very much," Jantha complained, having seen that.

Gwen, Richard and Hudson all kept straight faces, mostly. "Thank you for coming," Gwen smiled, getting up to hug her.

"I'm always glad to help," she replied as Jantha hugged her back.

"Midori," Hudson politely greeted her as the nobles chatted.

"Commander," Midori nodded back, then greeted Richard as well.

"Ma'am," Richard nodded, still not entirely sure how to treat Midori now that they knew she was a former noble. Admittedly from a kingdom now fallen and a title she apparently had renounced, but still...

Midori, interestingly, looked amused at the reaction. "So, what bad news is coming now?" she wondered mildly.

"Why does it have to be BAD news?" Jantha asked jokingly.

"It usually is?" Midori shrugged.

"Now, now," Gwen laughed, "I will admit I am here to ask the two of you a favor, but I believe both of you will be interested."

"Oh, really?" Jantha asked thoughtfully.

Hudson cleared his throat, "As you are both aware, the Queen has decided to maintain the army we organized to hold off the army of Xiang, at least as many members who wish to continue on."

"I expect a great many would agree to stay on," Midori noted thoughtfully, "they have a very strong morale."

"Yes, it does," Gwen said, "the problem is, we need a leader. One who is respected by society, yet admired by the soldiers, but whom is also loyal to me."

It took Jantha a moment to get it, then she pointed at herself, "Me?"

Richard nodded, "I think you are a good choice for this."

"I don't!" Jantha shook her head.

"Why not?" Gwen asked gently.

"I agree that I'm loyal, and generally I haven't made a fool of myself with the soldiers," Jantha conceded, "but I'm in no way qualified."

"WE have a suggestion for that too... Miss Midori," Hudson nodded to her.

"You want me as her second in command?" Midori asked thoughtfully. She nodded, "It's not a bad idea, though I have concerns."

Jantha made a annoyed sound, "Midori, your staying here will NOT put us in danger."

Gwen hid a smile, noting the two women had been apparently arguing about this. "You're talking about your being royalty in Edo?" she asked politely.

Midori made a face, "You know, I guess?"

"WE did look into your background," Hudson said, "I apologize, if that was rude."

Midori smiled wryly, "No, I suppose I should have expected it." She looked over at Jantha as she said grimly, "They want me dead, my lady. And I fear we may see the assassins guild again, this time coming for me."

"After how many you killed?" Jantha scoffed, "I doubt THAT."

"She has a point," Hudson calmly noted, "I expect the guild, at least, will no longer send anyone after you."

"A point," Midori conceded, "but the Shogun of Edo will not rest easily until I am gone. Just my being here will increase the chances he will invade."

"And that changes things how?" Richard shrugged. "Even if you left Edo would come for us eventually. At least if you're here, we might have a better chance of staving them off."

"He's right you know," Jantha put her hand on Midori's arm.

Midori smiled at her, then turned to face the others. "All right," she conceded, "so, I'm to be serving as Jantha's second in command? Does that mean I get a rank other than as her bodyguard?"

"I think a generalship wouldn't be unreasonable," Gwen agreed. "Hudson, I'm thinking Minister of defense for you, with Jantha your subordinate."

"Which I was doing anyway," Hudson shrugged and drank some beer.

"Yes, but now you have a shiny title," Richard noted.

"And what of the Countess Hazan?" Midori wondered.

"I'll be offering her a seat at the council too," Gwen nodded, "as a respesentative of her Gentlewoman's Guild. It should make for lively meetings."

"Can you work with her?" Hudson asked Jantha curiously.

"I will be fine," Jantha waved off their past fighting.

"And if not I'll keep them seperated," Midori suggested and Richard laughed softly.

To be continued...

Note: Sorry for short update. Been hot as hell & my computer does NOT like it.