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Kertonyono City, Kingdom of Kertonyono, 12 Saddha 1928

Diah Permatasari Retnosekarwati bulged open her eyes on a bright pon day, looking at her surroundings before peeping out only to be greeted by the lucious warmth of the sunlight peeking into her windows. She had been revising for a test which may make or break her future, as she would be taking the All-Kertonyono State High School Entrance Exam. Barely aged 15, Diah has spent the last years of her time in middle school revising for such an important occasion, sometimes even sleeping deep into the morning if her school is holding try outs the next day. She knows she is extremely lucky; unlike her mother who wasn’t allowed to reach high school due to societal norms back then, or even her grandmother who was only taught how to read and write, it is to no one’s surprise that every single one of her teachers are male. Diah hopes she could be the first person in her family to attain a college education just like her male peers and bridge the widening gender-inequality gap present in the country. Emperor Mulawarman VI finally abolished the age restrictions for women to attain their education nationally only in 1998, and Kertonyono happened to be one of the last places where such restrictions were firmly put into place.

Diah reached for the restroom, grabbed her towel, and proceeded to groom herself before heading to school to take her exam. She hopes she could be one of the lucky few that will be accepted into the Kertonyono State High School No. 3, though Diah knows that competition would be extremely fierce, with its reputation and name already firmly established among the academic community of Kertonyono. She shrugged it off and entered the bath, singing some of Kertosono’s best known pop songs of the 1990s. Once finished, she dressed in her pon uniform and headed downstairs for breakfast where her parents were already sitting by the table, watching the television. Diah was immediately caught by the TV’s overall red theme and glare and decided to tune into what was going on. News of Emperor Mulawarman VII’s death, the grandson of Emperor Mulawarman VI, had just been broadcasted live towards the public, resulting in the vast majority of scheduled events and occasions for the coming week to be cancelled as per state regulations.

The situation was tense. The once-concentrated Diah was now confused and full of questions. Her mother could be seen weeping for the deceased emperor, remarking that she had great hopes for the young emperor who was only crowned in 1923 WK (2016 AD) to die a premature death. Her father had other things to say, smirking at the news and commenting on how “it was time” for the rest of Kertosono to get a say in who the emperor is, and not be content with another “puppet” from the rival and neighboring Kingdom of Ngawi. His wife was not pleased.

“Why are you so stiff? Someone just died and you are smearing at him for something he didn’t do, and are pushing your political agenda into something really personal for a lot of people.”

“Do you understand why our kingdom is still lagging far behind than the others? It’s because the head of state of our nation is some random dude from a historically rival kingdom who knows more about how to die of stomach ulcers than the issues facing our own kingdom!”

“Well then, why don’t you go say that right in front of their faces if you’re so adamant about it? You are a college-educated man. Even I know that the emperor is only a figurehead, and the real work is done by his Prime Minister and our own king. You should have known that. You are just bitter about the fact that our king isn’t emperor, which, in the case that he is, would just boost our ego for 3 seconds and have literally no impact on our lives.”

“The fact that he’s only a figurehead means that the emperor should go!”

“You are once again inconsistent. You claim the emperor is the responsible for our kingdom’s woes, yet you claim he does nothing. Please, calm yourself down and think, think!”

Diah who heard the heated exchange right in front of her eyes was mesmerized. She never thought a woman could talk like that to her own husband. Even if her mother is using the highest register and form of the Kertic language, she was taught that was highly frowned upon in school. Times are changing fast, and societal norms are starting to favor those in a historically weaker spot.

Her parents calmed down shortly after that and asked Diah about her upcoming exam. She just got a notification in her school group chat that the entrance exams would be postponed until 20 Saddha in lieu of the emperor’s death, and all school and other side activities would be cancelled. Diah was somewhat relieved that she didn’t have to take her exam today, yet was still anxious. She decided to spend the rest of the morning watching the coverage of the emperor’s sudden death with her parents. She slowed down her eating to concentrate on the news. Shortly after the live coverage of the emperor’s body being laid to rest at the Kraton, the Kertic State Television announced that the heir apparent, Aditya, would assume the role of emperor starting today. The three were baffled: they didn’t know the emperor even had a son. Princess Mangkubumi’s name had become well-known at the national level for her charitable acts and deeds towards a diverse set of issues ranging from poverty alleviation to cancer eradication. Even Diah’s father thought that Mangkubumi would be the next and first Empress of Kertosono, while Prince Aditya is practically unheard of. They all are eager to see what their new head of state would look like, especially Diah and her mother as they have never heard or seen the second child of the former emperor.

The KTV announced the royal name of Prince Aditya while panning a shot over him paying his final respects to his late father. In unison, Diah and her mother immediately exclaimed: “My God he’s extremely hot!” at their new emperor, and both glued their eyes onto him. Her father, visibly annoyed, left the table and proceeded to smoke a few cigarettes at the back terrace of their home.

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Kertonyono Royal Courts, Kertonyono, 13 Saddha 1928 

A disgruntled Sultan Abikusno Wangsasailendra kept walking back and forth the green royal courts of his kraton, pondering at the fountain located in the center of that red-bricked court. Hours ago, the courts were full of invitees for the three-day ngaosan for the late Sri Sultan Mulawarman VII. This universal Kertic tradition was being held across the nation as a sign of respect and grief of the Kertic people towards their late sultan. While most of the attendees weeped, Sultan Abikusno did not. Kertonyono and Ngawi weren't the best of friends and allies, and their respective spheres of influence inherited from the pre-1901 unification treaties are still alive and well-seen throughout the country.

In fact, when Mulawarman VII passed away right on the 11th of Saddha, he let out one of his biggest grins, knowing that the Kertic people would be reluctant to accept Mulawarman's eldest daughter as their new empress. He thought that now was the time to bring up the "Ngawi-question" into fruition. It was pretty simple in practice: gather all the political entities currently not aligned with Ngawi and demand a full constitutional amendment to change the century-old tradition. Sultan Abikusno immediately reached out to the regent of Wonomulyo to the south of the Kertonyono heartlands and to the regent of Wriginanom to the east. He thought of contacting the King of Sragen too, one of three kingdoms within Kertosono which is neutral towards the two and is consequently less talked about in the grand scheme of Kertic politics, though eventually he decided to wait for the bandwagon to coalesce.

All his careful planning and ambitious ideas went into a great freefall after learning about Aditya, Mulawarman's younger son. He knew well that due to laws of the Kingdom of Ngawi, no member under the age of 16 shall be known to anyone except to the royalty themselves, and for the first 16 years, they could not disclose their royal status, their parents, or residence, and resort to made-up names and accounts to cover their story. Abikusno, in the midst of his joy and celebration, forgot that fundamental rule, and celebrated too early. With many news agencies and independent reports stating that the new sultan would be popular among the peoples of Ngawi and its sphere of influence, Abikusno's hope of forming a coalition against Ngawi has seemingly been smacked and destroyed right in front of his dear eyes in a fraction of a second. He became disgusted at the idea that from now on, all the currencies circulating in his beloved kingdom would bear the face of somone a quarter of his own age, and what is even worse - someone from Ngawi!

He returned to his chambers and began to think new ways of administering the current situation. Surely, a 15 year old monarch knows nothing about ruling a vast and diverse kingdom.... right? He thought to himself while beginning to write correspondence letters to the other states allied with Kertonyono or within neutral grounds to ensure that his coalition still survives. Surely, we can force a teen to bow down to half the country!

 

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Kertosono Royal Gardens, Randublatung, Kingdom of Ngawi, 15 Saddha 1928

"But is there a more specific reason they hate me?"

------------

The gardens of the royal rulers of the Kingdom of Ngawi, since bygone eras, have always been shaped and maintained by wurld-class botanists and landscape artists, with some past emperors even hiring a full team consisting of hundreds of landscapers and workers from such far-away places most Kerts at the time knew only from watered down fairy tales and legends passed down from generation to generation. A piece of heaven snatched straight out of the afterlife is the official narrative given by the kraton and its central encore, although a taste for natural beauty can also be attributed to the lush and expansive personal gardens. It is said that kings and rulers would visit such gardens with their families and especially their heirs to remind themselves of all the rewards God would bestow upon them for ruling with a just fist and a loving heart in the afterlife, even though one or two bad apples might still make it onto the highest chair in the land. Once only permitted for the kings of Ngawi along with its vassals and allies, since the formation of Kertosono in 1901 CE it has been open to all the rulers and leaders of the various political entities that make up the country.

Being elected to the highest post in the government by the people of Kertosono seven times has had its toll on the prime minister. Mahamantri Sulistyono Raharjo has been acquainted well with the royal gardens, frequenting the greeneries whenever the emperor requests accompaniment or stately advice, or if he just feels the whim to visit them himself. He knows all the paths and all its branches by heart, every bench, every table, and interestingly every sprinkler in the watering systems. He knows all the favorite paths and treks of most of the rulers of the political entities once they set foot in the gardens, becoming a personal pride of how he himself is one of the most senior leaders in the country not coming from royalty in the history of Kertosono.

Today was a different story. While the business of entering the gardens accompanied the Mahamantri’s staff was almost an ordinary routine, its circumstances were not. Upon entering, the Mahamantri gazed at the new crown jewel of the garden of Kertosono sitting in the center of the gardens. Even though the crown jewel was a quarter his own age, he still bowed down while approaching him, showing his utmost respect and humility in the face of the emperor, even though the young Adityawarman asked him not to exaggerate oneself, as clearly the Mahamantri was a respected elder in the wider Kertic society. Although the prime minister is constitutionally independent from the monarchy and in practice should not have to lower oneself in the face of the emperor, the tata krama of Kertic society still mandates a sense of humility and respect between the emperor and the prime minister. The two froze, seemingly not knowing how to proceed from such an encounter, though eventually the Mahamantri asked permission to sit beside the juvenile emperor. He presently began to introduce himself using the krama andhap style of the Kertic language, the humblest theoretical register and style in the language.

”Salutations and greetings, your highness Emperor Adityawarman the third of the Empire of Kertosono and the Kingdom of Ngawi. I humbly present myself upon you as an elected servant of the Kertic people named Sulistyono Raharjo from the Land of Jeruk. I have received the kraton’s formal invitation to address the new emperor personally and give a full overview of current affairs, both domestically and internationally.”

“I do appreciate and thank you, Mr. prime minister, for personally coming to the Kertic royal gardens to set the path-“

The young emperor’s speech was slow, somewhat stuttered, and bumpy. He stopped at the word path as he did not know how to continue the sentence in the krama inggil style of the Kertic language, and began to blush.

“Your highness, if you have trouble communicating in the high registers, I would certainly not mind if you’d use the low register with me.”

“What will the people think when they know I addressed you in such a manner? There are no reporters or journalists here, right? Or you know, cameras or wiretapping devices here?” said in a rudimentary form of the krama inggil style.

“Your highness, these gardens are heavily guarded by the best in our country. Intelligence agencies, police forces, even the military has been deployed to secure our meeting today. No one will hear us.”

“If you say so, thank you for such assurance, please allow me to not speak in the high registers. You do not have to use the high high register with me since you are older, and much more respected than I am, and please do commence with whatever you wish to inform me.”

“Thank you, your highness, but I am afraid I will have to stick to the style I am currently using right now. It has been a long-time tradition of ours to do this to our rulers, but now ;et us begin our short briefing for today. If you’d like, we can stroll along the gardens so you could get acquainted with it.”

The young emperor nodded, got up with the Mahamantri, and proceeded to walk around the gardens.

“I must inform you that Kertosono is in a very good place right now. Our semiconductor industries are booming along with increased investments in our free trade zones, mostly by our neighbors. In terms of social justice, universal healthcare and education is still being done, though in most cities and urban centers, this regime has completely taken over the previous one. I am also glad to inform you that I have received several notifications of interest from other foreign nations, mainly located in Europa and Argis, about opening an embassy in Kertosono and vice versa, which may increase our image and name abroad and bring back beneficial deals to our beloved country.”

“Thank you for your brief, Mr. prime minister, what about internal affairs between states then?”

“Thank you for your question, your highness. I am afraid that this is where things start to get a bit sour. In the best way possible, a rift has emerged in the country upon your father’s sudden death, with some in favor and the others against the primogeniture laws of the 1901 constitution.

“Wait a minute, does that mean, some people do not want me as emperor, or hate me even?”

“Your majesty, you are thinking way too far. Every ruler surely has some people supporting them and against them.”

“If I may know, which parts do not like me?”

“Thank you for your question your majesty, but I’m afraid this question might further ruin your self-image and worth, but since you asked, it is my duty to respond the truth and deliver what the Kertic peoples have to say. The peoples of the western coast and especially their rulers, your majesty.”

"But is there a more specific reason they hate me?"

“Thank you for your question your majesty, I must reiterate once more that it is not your majesty that is being hated on, it is your majesty’s position as Emperor of Kertosono. I am pretty sure your majesty knows that all Kertic emperors since our unification in 1901 have all been kings of Ngawi? Traditionally, our Kertic peoples have been split into numerous states and various regional powers, and it so happens that the last three powers in the region with their own vassals and allied states were your majesty’s kingdom, the Kingdom of Kertonyono in the west with its vassals and allies, and the Kingdom of Sragen in the north with its vassals and allies. It is natural that they dislike the premise that the post of emperor goes to the king of Ngawi, but history is indeed written by the victors.”

“I guess so, but still, Mr. prime minister, I am scared. I am scared for my life, I am scared for my family, and I am scared I would be forever known as the one that split Kertosono in half.”

“Your majesty still has a long way to go. Your majesty is only fifteen, and I am almost seventy seven. Your majesty’s thoughts are slowly killing your majesty. I understand fully that this is an extremely tough and difficult time for your majesty, and for that I assure you there is nothing to be scared.”

The young emperor looked into the eyes of Mahamantri Sulistyono Raharjo, and felt a sense of tranquility and inner peace, as if he was someone one could trust with all their heart...

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Translation:
To: His royal highness, the King of Kertonyono

From: His highness, the Regent of Wonomulyo

This has been a very great honor for me to be in correspondent with you. From your previous letter, I myself have been monitoring the situation very closely, and have thought several things in common with your highness. The western alliance lead by your highness respectfully and commanded from the Kingdom of Kertonyono should do something in the forseeable future to make sure that at least our voices and aspirations are heard. I also fully agree that the current state of affairs is very biased towards us, and a worst-case scenario of Kertosono being split among the three kingdoms which dominate internal affairs seems more likely.

We need to meet in secret with other allied heads our alliance as soon as possible to discuss the future actions we will take as an alliance. We must take advantage of this very peculiar and delicate time to pressure Ngawi and their allies to once again regard as as equals. For now, I will try and contact the other smaller leaders of our allies, so your highness can focus on planning such covert meetings.

Let us hope Allah helps us along the way.

17 Saddha 1928

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