William sat in his office doing paperwork. It wasn’t a king’s job to do, but he was still working on finding people who belonged in each position. In the meantime, it had to be done right. Besides, he couldn’t kill economic issues.
Though… William did have a number of ideas of how to fix some things. Better dams to hold back flooding rivers, spreading some of the best farming practices, and public education. The last one was most complicated to implement, especially with some of the lords… but the latter was Lila’s business anyway. She was passionate about that and would get it done- even if it took dozens of years to get going.
William had ideas for all sorts of technical improvements that could be made, but not enough detailed knowledge to quickly implement them. Still, every time one came up he would write it down- then send it to Lorelei to be sorted in order of what was most important and most feasible. The future of innovation, however, relied on Lila’s work in education. Even if William and Lorelei were free to spend all their time researching, there was only so much they could do with just two.
A knock made William look up from his papers. The voice of his steward spoke, “My king, your brother is here.”
“Send him in.”
The awkward silence that followed was made even deeper by the lack of a clock or any other sound to indicate the passing of time. Stefan stood, staring at William- who stared right back.
Finally, Stefan took a deep breath. “Why… did you let our parents die? Why didn’t you do anything?”
“I did everything I could.”
“You knew they had been captured, but then you just led another assault on a castle!” Stefan’s voice was starting to increase in volume, “You didn’t even try to save them!”
William frowned, “What was I supposed to do? Withdraw my army?”
“You should have done whatever was necessary to save them!” Stefan shouted until his voice cracked, pointing his one good arm at William accusingly.
William closed his eyes to calm himself, intentionally holding himself back from using ki. Then he opened his eyes slowly, “Perhaps it is my fault. Perhaps I should have had more people guarding them, or forbidden them from moving about on their own. However, by the time they were captured it was already far too late. Nothing would have had any chance to save them.”
Stefan shook his head. Sparkling glints of moisture could be seen on his face. “It’s like I don’t even know you anymore. You talk about them like they were just pawns to use and throw away! You don’t even act like you care!” Stefan turned and stormed out of the office.
William looked at the door for a few minutes before tears finally appeared. Perhaps he really was a different person. He wouldn’t even cry in front of his own brother. William did nothing but sit and wait until Stefan was well away from the castle. He didn’t know when they would next meet- if ever. “Goodbye… brother. Farewell.”
William sat back to back with Lorelei, looking out at the lands around the castle. There wasn’t even a cultivated garden to look at. William thought they could definitely use more of those. “Why do people even have family?”
“Because people cannot grow up without protection… and cannot function well while lonely.”
“Do people ever function well?”
“I’ll let you know if I see it.”
William knew there was still a chance of reconciling with his brother. However, that didn’t mean it felt that way. His parents… were gone for good. It wasn’t the same as any time before. On Earth, his parents had died of old age. In his second life, he died first and was far removed in time from his parent’s deaths. In Liaoyang, his parents weren’t a real part of his life. Though he’d reincarnated, he still had a special bond with his latest parents. Perhaps they weren’t any closer than good friends- but truly good friends once again felt like family. “Could I have done anything?”
Lorelei’s shoulders shrugged against his back. “You could have had an army with your parents at all times. Then, perhaps they would be safe- or maybe they would catch a plague or be bitten by poisonous snakes… or maybe they resent the restriction and you for it.” Lorelei shook her head, “Eventually, everyone will die and be gone.”
“You’re not allowed to die.”
“Sorry, but you don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t do.” Lorelei squeezed William’s hand, “But don’t worry, I don’t plan for it to be anytime soon. There are so many things I don’t know yet, I can’t just stop before I’m done.”
William nodded, “Good.” After a few minutes of staring up at the sky, he sighed, “I should probably get back to work.”
Lorelei held onto his hand, preventing him from standing up. “Nope.”
“Nope? There are important things to do.”
Lorelei shook her head, “Not more important than this. If it needs to have a stated purpose… this time is now devoted to keeping you from ripping off people’s heads.”
“I’ve never ripped of anyone’s head.”
“Good for you.” Lorelei shrugged, “But they way things are going, you might. Any damages that are caused by tardiness here will more than be made up for by the avoidance of a catastrophic incident.”
“At some point, someone will come find me here. It’s not exactly hidden.”
“Good point.” Lorelei nodded and licked her lips, “We should go somewhere where nobody will dare to interrupt us.”
“Oh? Did you have somewhere particular in mind?”
“The bedroom should be fine. You can go back to stupid things involving papers later today… or tomorrow maybe.”
“Well… “ William grinned, “I suppose if it’s for the sake of the people in the end, I can afford a bit of relaxation.” William stood up and stretched, “Now we just have to avoid anyone interrupting us on the way…”