Chapter 6 Devil of Forethought
Previously: Teruya finished inspecting the Imperial Railway and the Royal Railway and begins drawing up conclusions that he can present to Queen Julia.
Teruya returned from his field research expedition and, once he felt sufficiently prepared, presented himself before the Queen.
This was their first meeting since he had departed a week ago.
“Thank you for your efforts, sir Teruya. Did you find a way forward?”
“Yes, I did,” responded Teruya with vigour. “I did come up with something, but…”
“The idea needs lots of funding and huge amounts of labour. Not to mention a very detailed plan given the scope of the venture.”
“Could you elaborate?”
Julia faced Teruya with an earnest gaze so he took a deep breath to calm himself and began to explain his proposal.
“I want to expand the railway system throughout the whole kingdom.”
“Pardon?” asked Julia, taken aback by Teruya’s words, “What did you say?”
“We need to make a railway system that spans the whole kingdom.”
“But why? The kingdom is in chaos because of the railway. Will expanding it all over not just cause more disorder?”
“Quite the opposite actually. The chaos exists because the rail network is not spread enough.”
“Why is that?” asked the Queen.
“This chaos is caused by the fact that goods produced within the kingdom can’t compete with the cheap goods coming from the Empire into the royal capital.”
“That is so. It follows then that a railway placed throughout the kingdom would land us in an even larger predicament.”
“No, quite the opposite actually. You need to keep in mind that the products of the Empire and that of the kingdom do not differ by much. In practice, the empire’s goods may be cheaper but the kingdom’s goods are of better quality.”
“Then why do they not sell?”
“The problem lies in the transportation cost. The empire can get their products to markets cheaply by using the railway, but the kingdom has to spend significant sums on using carriages and ships.”
“Carriages aside, ships do not seem to be that costly.”
“Perhaps, but they are still slow and limited by where the river goes. A railway isn’t restricted by the course of rivers allowing for transport over long distances. That makes it both more reliable and cheaper.”
“But how can we compete against the Empire? They started their own independent railway company, you know? Even certain aristocrats from the mainland and kingdoms took a shot at competing with the Imperial Railway and failed. …And in fact, the Royal Railway we developed continues to operate at a loss.”
“As I see it, the Imperial Railway is simply not good enough. It may have just been completed, but it is riddled with flaws. If we successfully implement my idea, we could easily give it a bloody nose.”
“…Would that save the kingdom?”
“In the end, yes. There would be a lot of pain in the interim, though.”
“But it WILL save the kingdom?”
“It can even make it flourish again,” replied Teruya with confidence.
“In that case, we are in your care.”
Julia bowed her head as she said that.
“Are you sure?”
“For better or worse, no one around me can come up with any solution. I am in desperate need of help. Your help.”
“…I understand. I will draw up a detailed plan and then we can decide how to proceed.”
“I humbly ask you do so.”
Julia bowed her head again.
Thirty minutes later, Elizabeth came to Teruya’s room.
“By Her Majesty’s orders, I am at your service, sir Teruya.”
“Have you heard about what we’re going to do?”
“I have. We will undertake a huge railway project that, in turn, will save the kingdom.”
Elizabeth looked at Teruya with suspicion. Understandable suspicion. After all, he was proposing to expand throughout the country the very same railway that was currently destroying it. Let alone sparing the enemy trouble, it was akin to gifting them their goal gift-wrapped.
“And that will require proper research and investigation to see if the project is realistic and can achieve its goals.”
There was obvious dissatisfaction in her voice. She was here only because the Queen had ordered her to come. To Teruya, that was a reasonable attitude.
“And I was told I will be of help.”
“That is correct.”
There was absolutely no trust in Elizabeth’s eyes. That too was a natural reaction. Teruya was a person of suspect origins entrusted with the fate of her kingdom. It would be strange if she just obeyed like that.
“Are you confident of the outcome?”
“I cannot say for sure. There still are many uncertainties.”
“This is a gamble then?”
“But the probability of success is high.”
Elizabeth’s gaze was sharp, penetrating.
“The nobles of the kingdom may bet on the Princess’s faith in you, but the current problem is something that even we, frustrating as it is to admit, have been unable to solve. You say you can fix it, but understand that the Princess is clutching at any straw of help she can find. Knowing this, being aware you cannot assure success, do you still wish to go on and take that gamble?”
“Are you just toying with the Princess?!”
Elizabeth’s words turned as sharp as her stare.
“I have no such intentions,” answered Teruya meekly. “I’m merely showcasing what I can do to help the kingdom. It is up to the Queen to decide whether or not to proceed with my plans.”
“In that case, if the plan was to be carried out, will the results be good?”
“Again, I cannot guarantee that. Only God knows for certain whether the future will bring success or failure.”
“…Let me rephrase my question then. Will you do your utmost for that goal?
“Of course!” affirmed Teruya strongly.
“…I understand. I will put my faith in you. However, I will not forgive you if you end up disappointing the Princess.”
With this, Elizabeth’s anger dissipated.
“In that case, please lend us your help.”
“Certainly. But first I need you to tell me everything that you know. So please sit down on the chair and answer some questions for me.”
A few hours later, Elizabeth would sincerely regret agreeing to this request.
She sat down as she was asked to and started to offer answers, but the questions kept coming relentlessly. Endless inquiries about the political system, the economy, the geography, the industry, the technology, and other aspects of not only the Kingdom and the Empire, but even the surrounding nations of Ephal, Zhou, Axum, and Maratha. Some of Teruya’s questions involved puzzling terms or words that Elizabeth didn’t know. Whenever she couldn’t offer an answer, he would write the question down and save it for later. Illustrations and letters of Teruya’s country, characters that she didn’t recognise, quickly multiplied to cover sheet after sheet of paper.
“The Kingdom of Lutetia is part of the Empire, right?”
“Yes, it is under the Empire’s rule.”
“Is it possible for the Kingdom to issue its own unique currency?”
“No, only Empire has the right of issue. Their idea is to prevent anything that could lead to the Kingdom’s independence.”
“Is that so?”
Teruya pondered that for a while and came back with another question.
“Can we issue money orders1?”
“Yes, it is possible. Money changers are authorized to handle their circulation.”
Teruya added a bunch of new characters to his notes and, when he was done, proceeded to ask more questions.
“Miss Elizabeth, do people in this world tend to save money?”
“They do as much as they can in case of a war or a drought happens.”
“How do they go about it?”
“Normally, you would exchange coins for jewelry or silverware.”
“Is there a place where money is loaned instead?”
“Money changers do offer loans. However, they tend to not loan out large sums as that puts the business itself at risk.”
Teruya added more notes to the growing pile.
Few hours of this later, Elizabeth hesitatingly interrupted the proceedings.
“Uhm, sir Teruya…” she started.
“Yes?” asked Teruya without really looking away from his ever-growing mountain of notes.
“You are planning a railway, right?”
“Why ask so much about the politics and economy of our neighbours?”
“The railway is a large-scale project, and because of that, it is highly influenced by politics and economy. Conversely, the railway also affects politics and economy. Out of all large-scale infrastructure undertakings, railways, in particular, require a massive initial investment. We need a way to raise the funds. State-of-the-art engineering techniques must be comprehended as railways are the embodiment of cutting-edge technology. Also…”
“In short,” said Elizabeth, interrupting Teruya’s rant before he managed to get started properly, “everything is needed for the railway.”
Despite the interruption, the boy answered with fire in his voice. Truly, his passion for railways was like an endless abyss. After this short tangent, Elizabeth continued to answer every question thrown at her trying to match his zeal.
The ordeal only ended when the sun disappeared behind the horizon.
“That’s it for today.”
“Uhm, was I of any help?”
Elizabeth was exhausted and felt like there was no air left in her lungs.
“You were very helpful indeed. Thank you very much.”
When she heard those words, Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief and slumped onto the desk. She had been forcing herself to stay alert despite the fatigue, but now that the work was done her strength left her along with all the tension.
‘Ah, what a shameful sight,’ she thought, but her body wouldn’t move anyway. It seemed that regardless of whether this was mental or physical fatigue, her body’s capabilities would be impaired. And now that she had shown such a slovenly behaviour in public, she could not become a bride either. Somewhere in a corner of her battered body and mind a hazy thought emerged that Teruya should take responsibility.
“Ah… I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time, but there are also these memos to deal with.”
Without giving her any time to process his words, Teruya handed Elizabeth dozens of notes.
“I have put together a collection of questions that need answers and data that I want. Please prepare the required information by the time I come back from tomorrow’s inspection by cooperating with people I know and people I don’t. Thank you very much in advance.”
Teruya wrote these questions down in the Reignian characters that he had memorised since his arrival. It was not thanks to the translation magic since it only gave him the ability to understand speech, not the ability to read and write. Despite this, Teruya was able to do both now. And some common beginner mistakes with his grammar aside, his writing was legible. There were even detailed instructions that used certain technical terms.
‘He’s a devil,’ thought Elizabeth after looking through the instructions that Teruya had given her.
Before her was the Devil himself and he was trying to destroy her with tasks before proceeding to ruin the kingdom.