“And then you’ll come back and give us a proper explanation,” Yoru said.
“Sure, why not.”
“I thought you said it would take thirty years or more-” Creepy Junior said, displaying once again his father’s flair for unwelcome commentary.
“It’s complicated,” I repeated loudly, “but the point is, the false Hatboy’s reign of terror is over.”
“Whose?” Yoru frowned. “You mean the King?”
“What … I, yes, I mean the King,” I snapped. “Who did you think I was talking about?”
“If what I’m hearing is correct,” Yoru said, “the presence or absence of an actual person on this throne is immaterial to the enduring fact of the reign of terror itself.”
“It, um, well,” I frowned. “I suppose so.”
“So what,” Yoru pursued relentlessly, “did you actually do?”
“Without the evil Hatboy returning periodically to tweak his regulations and policies,” I said, “the reign of terror will … will…”
“Will…?” Yoru prompted.
“-will continue without a megalomaniacal but generally well-meaning guiding hand possessed of a certain amount of consistency and intelligence, with a clear view of historical trends, and ultimately degenerate into military despotism under the inept guidance of the latest crop of mildly retarded Xixian nobility?” Yoru hypothesized.
“Well, if you want to be totally negative about it.”
“It doesn’t exactly have the swashbuckling romanticism of Sir Garçon de Chapeau’s previous forays into history,” Yoru pointed out, “does it?”
“They can’t all be winners.”
Someone on the far side of the throne room doors began to knock, with the hesitant quality of someone hoping they could claim to have knocked, while not actually risking being overheard by a rampaging psychopath – or, alternatively, by the immense cobbler riding him. Yoru, Torquis, Creepy Junior and I all turned to look.
“The backup has arrived,” I remarked.