“Obviously, we aren’t suggesting an open border policy. Merely, we were wondering if increased trade would be possible between our nations. You’ve refused any and all ships and planes, private or otherwise. It just seems a bit lopsided, Your Majesty. Especially with your own ships harbored in our ports and planes landing at our airports. Not to mention the various guests within our border on the cultural exchange programs. Why not let us refuel in your harbors and airports? No need for mass migration policies.”
“With all respect, Ambassador, that is not what we are worried about. Our ecosystem is different from the rest of the planet, and while we have an immune system able to handle your world. I believe your people would be irrevocably altered by ours. We want to avoid major incidents.”
Empress Desdemona sat calmly, pristinely, and straight-backed in the chair at the head of the table as she sat by the American ambassador. She smiled only slightly, faintly, politely. Black sclera, red eyes, chalk-white skin and hair, The Empress resembled her mother a great deal, the traces of her father mostly in her bearing rather than appearance. She wore a long white dress, black silk trim and lace, with a slash of red here and there. She stood out from the other officials in the room decked in suits, pantsuits, and very rarely a skirt and hose.
Empress Desdemona looked over at her assistant, dressed in a Dark Blue Velvet dress and pointed hat, also out of place. She was curling her nose, turning a sickly green. She was worried that might happen. Her assistants were often unprepared for actually dealing with the leaders of the people they visited. They were often completely deluded with their ancient tales and stories of love and sex.
She loved those stories too, and she longed to make them reality once again, just as her subjects did. But the truth was that men were not all good, not all pure. And the saddest truth of all was that men were often lead by the foulest of them.
She turned her attention back to the American delegation, trying to remember what they had just said. They talked of trade, fairness, equality. She knew they sought only to spread their spies in her lands and wished to take away the one advantage her people had in their corner, magic. She had already caught Israeli, Albanian, Chinese, and even American spies attempting to sneak in the country. The thought of allowing ships and planes within her borders caused her no end of strife.
Which made her plans of allowing tourists and immigrants so much more difficult.
“Thank you for your insight Ambassador. But I need to tend to other matters. It was a pleasure to speak to you as always.”
The Ambassador, a tall bald man with skin tight on his skull and eyes deep in his head smiled with too-white teeth and offered to see her again the same time tomorrow. She agreed, if only because she knew she needed to entertain them long enough not to make enemies of them.
She stayed behind as the American officials left the room and the embassy. Tomorrow they’d come back with the same arguments, bigger veiled threats, bigger veiled bribes, and perhaps even a Senator or two. They weren’t used to dealing with a leader directly she imagined. She was scheduled to meet with President Trump sometime next month, but he was busy placating an enormous pressure for his country to entangle itself in the blossoming WW3.
When she was sure the human had left the building, she allowed a sigh to escape her lips.
Almost immediately her assistant summoned the waste basket to her side with a flick of her wrist and vomited inside of it. The Empress had expected this. New assistants almost always wretched their first day.
Her assistant was a Dark Mage, almost 40 years old. Mamono didn’t age like humans, and so she was still in the springtime of her youth. Her mother hadn’t requested children until she was near 140. Even though it had been some centuries, many had forgotten a very important fact.
That not all men were good men.
Candice, the Dark Mage, summoned a towel to wipe the vomit from her bottom lip. She looked slightly embarrassed to have wretched in front of her Empress, and bowed.
“I-I am so sorry, Your Majesty! I just couldn’t hold back any longer! The mana was SO foul!”
“Yes. It was. I’m glad you were able to sit through the whole meeting. If its any consolation, most of my new assistants have to dismiss themselves as soon as the representatives walk in.”
Candice got up and sat back in her seat, a distraught look on her face.
“Your Majesty, I- I’m so sorry, I thought I could meet someone in your service, but that Spirit scent was so-so-”
“Revolting. Yes I know. I’m sorry Candice, but you’ll have to deal with worse than them in time.”
“There are worse?! Their mana smelled like rotten milk and felt like dirty banana peels!”
“Yes, there are much worse.” The Empress stood up, stretching her long legs. How often had she had this conversation? She didn’t tire of it, honestly. If anything she was saddened that she had to give it at all. “I’m sorry, but… we Mamono are unique compared to humans, even ones like you who can appear completely human, save your beauty. We can sense mana, the lifeforce of all living things. They can’t, so they don’t know that every good and every bad deed marks them. I feel their society would be so much better if they could.
As a result, the ones with evil spirit energy, the ones who like to cause others’ pain, who delight in ruining others’ reputations and love spilling blood. They can trick and deceive their people very easily. Its sad, but, they rule most of these nations we have to negotiate with.”
“Do we have to? Can’t we just ask the normal men to work with us? The ones whose mana doesn’t smell like rotting fish, eggs, and milk all at once?”
“It doesn’t work that way. Its also the reason the FUK still has to rely on the cultural exchange programs and mail order husband services. Which… have worked well, if slowly.”
“Why do they even allow that, Your Majesty? They seemed rather perturbed by it when they were here.”
Empress Desdemona nodded her head.
“I’m afraid the particulars are state secrets, Candice. But we’ve exchanged a number of magical artifacts to various countries for our position. Even then, its tenuous. Could you be a dear and get me some tea? Our next appointment is in thirty minutes.”
Candice nodded and dismissed herself. She was a lovely creature, Desdemona noted. She was tall with blue eyes and tanned skin over a toned body that contrasted well with her dark blue dress and witch’s hat. She didn’t think she’d last the week. Someone like her was bound to find a husband and request leave to go back to the Motherland and enjoy her nuptials.
It had happened five time already.
She didn’t blame them. It was arduous work, unlike what any Mamono expected or wanted. She herself would have quit if her people’s lives didn’t depend on it. What she wouldn’t give to just finally have the happily ever after her mother had always said was in sight. But she’d been wrong. Even if you removed malice and hate, you couldn’t remove suffering.
Candice came back with a nice hot jasmine tea and Desdemona thanked her as she took it.
The rest of the day went as she expected, various officials and their entourages came to the embassy negotiating trades, deals, asking for more than she could give, and implying that their might be consequences in the future. The American leaders were so unlike the population it caused her to worry. It wasn’t the case for the Chinese, Russians, or Koreans. Sure they were fouler than their populations on average, but it was not so compared to the Americans.
She was brought out of her thoughts by the old woman whose mana smelled of roadkill and urine.
“Empress Desdemona, I’ll be frank. We’re going to be cutting the cultural exchange program unless you can provide a better incentive or open your own borders to the program. We can’t see a benefit to allow your people free reign in our lands when you keep your own lands under lock and key. It sends a very clear message of distrust. I just don’t think the United States can afford to be so generous with a people of…. unknown loyalties.”
“My loyalties are to my people. I was under the impression that the crystals we provided would allow us to operate our cultural centers with autonomy.”
“Yes, we did negotiate that before. But we were under the impression that that was an exclusive offer. With the knowledge that you’ve been providing Russia with the same energy sources, we wonder if we were, and pardon my expression ‘selling our land for beads.’ Its just a matter of equality.”
Desdemona bit her tongue. She was growing to hate that word.
“If the crystals are out of power already, I can provide recharge services for continued stay in the United States. Yours is a beautiful country I’d not want to deprive my people the privilege of visiting.”
“Well, begging your forgiveness, Your Majesty but you had said that the energy of those crystals would last 1000 years. Its been less than two.”
So they had drained them. For what, she wondered? Testing new weapons? It was all that made sense to her. If America wished, they could power their entire nation with just a handful. That’s what Korea had done. But she had a feeling she was naïve giving that much power away. She hadn’t realized at the time that this world had such a knack for death and destruction.
“Yes, it should have. Unless you were draining and exceedingly large amount of energy quickly and repeatedly, It should regenerate faster than it was being used.”
The American said nothing, it wasn’t a question, and so they did not answer. The Empress sighed and motioned for Candice to leave. She seemed immensely grateful, and walked rather quickly out the back past the doors.
“I apologize, but I can’t allow anyone other than citizens and their spouses into the Free Umbral Kingdoms at this time.”
She could see another official, a dark-skinned man with a large nose and a mole on his neck furrow his brow.
“Then we can’t promise enfettered access to our country either. Negotiation is give and take. So far their ain’t a lot of givin’ on your end.”
The Empress raised her hand. In a placating manner
“I did not finish. While I cannot allow access to the country at this time, I can allow it in the future. Within the year, in fact. December 25th, 2021, I’ll be opening up the Free Umbral Kingdoms’ coastlines and airports to our closest allies. There are a number of caveats of course, and restrictions. Our lands are still a dangerous place. But Tourism will be allowed in all major cities and I would be honored to host an American embassy sometime in early 2022.
“And of course I’d still refill your crystals for you, as a show of good faith. At least once.”
That seemed to put a smile on their faces. She knew this was a gamble. Opening the Free Umbral Kingdoms would make them vulnerable in ways they weren’t ready to face. But she needed to provide her people with husbands, and American men were high-quality despite their rotten leadership.
“Well then, I’m glad to hear that. We’ll send a few of those crystals to the embassy then, and you can fill them up with uh, magic, or whatever it is and we’ll let the president know he can expect to visit the FUK within his term.”
Pleasantries were exchanged, hands shaken and the officials left. The Empress waited a few more minutes before taking leave herself, to head back to her office. A week later she was not surprised that Candice put in her two week notice.