The Empress was serene, calm behind the dazzling white court makeup. “My personal staff had been wearying to me for some time,” she said. “Rather than answering the hundreds of smaller slights that had accumulated, I opted to sweep them clean. They were well-compensated for their service.”

“I see, my Empress,” said Inspector Xan. “What about the bonus?”

“Bonus?” Shien Khou Vu said, airily.

“I have heard it from several people employed in jobs that were not turned over–seamstresses, washerwomen, a gardener–that your personal staff had recieved a large bonus several months ago. If you were dissatisfied, as you say you were, why did my Empress see fit to reward them?”

The Empress glowered. “I had hoped that it would prove to incentivize them,” she said. “I was wrong.”

“I see,” said Xan. “A thirty percent bonus is a most generous incentive for such purposes, my Empress. I am told that you insisted on the number and had the calculations delivered personally that you might check them.”

“One can never be too thorugh,” said the Empress.

“Curious, then, that the Imperial records speak only of a twenty percent bonus,” said Xan. “Curiouser still is the Imperial Accountant. She speaks highly of my Empress’s head for numbers and figures, yet notes that my Empress has seen fit to call on her advice more in the past six weeks than in the entire five years of her previous reign.”

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