"The beach, like the balcony, has become such a cliché in modern writing. It is so ubiquitous it is easy to forget it all began with the scandalous Duke Kenmays and his love of partially unveiled female figures." ~ excerpt from a lecture by Nico Kendra on modern literary trends at the Nico Academy.
Sunlight danced on the azure waters. Fine white sand glimmered golden on the beach. Platinum Beach lived up to its reputation.
The near hundred nobles and their families present were having fun on the beach and playing along in the water. This was a fresh experience for Duke Fisablen and the three dukes from the plains, it was a fresh experience. They had never played on a beach before. They'd seen the sea, sure, but this was their first time soaking in its water. The bravest among them even tasted its salty riches before spitting it out to a chorus of laughter.
Many clean silks cast patches of shade across the beach. Washrooms and changing rooms dotted the gentle curve of the bay every hundred meters or so. At the peak of the arch several pavilion-like canopies hosted nobles resting out of the sun. Lorist lay sprawled over a footless rattan rocking chair under one such canopy. He dabbled in various delicacies; fruits, nuts, juices and wines. As he lazed — a king of the world he saw — the cool, moist breeze obediently wafting in over the waves, servants danced around him like fairies, refilling the plates and trays silently.
He was joined by Kenmays, filling his stomach with a bottle of fruit wine. The duke clasped a palmful of sand, which he lt flow between his fingers.
"People used to think the sand his gold," he said.
"I can imagine," Lorist replied, his gaze still lazily wandering over the figures dancing in the waves.
"They tried to refine gold, to no avail. Complete idiots, don't you think?
"True, they weren't wrong. Platinum Beach is a gold mine, they just had no idea how to mine it. This spot, right here, is the most enchanting sight in the entire Cursed Coast. It's not a mine you empty of its riches, it's a mine you let others come and fill for you. I've invested nearly two million gold Fordes to get it to where it is now. Any suggestion on how I could improve it further?"
Lorist leaned back in his rocker until his headrest pressed against the sand beneath and closed his eyes.
"There is nothing to improve with the accommodations. The castles, palaces and mansions are perfect. The food has great quality too, but it lacks character. This is the same food you can get in the capital, or with some effort and money, even in The Northlands. Your food should be as unique as this beach. A fish dish that can be made only with what grows and lives here naturally will add to the experience and, if it is good enough, might become a draw in its own right.
"It's also a hassle to get to the beach. Make it easier for nobles to get from their accommodations down to the sea. A mode of transport that will also allow them to enjoy the sites along the way. Replace your dingy carriage with open ones. If you have to, give them a silk cloth canopy. Covered walkways that lead to the beach will also be good. Maybe decorated with grapevine canopies? Souvenir shops would be good as well. Let people take something from here with them to keep reminding them of it and make them want to come back.
"You also only cater to the lords. Most, like me, bring their families along, do something to entertain them as well. On top of that, the lords have fiefs to govern, they don't have a lot of time on their hands, but their families do. Take me as an example. I hardly even have to time to see my family, much less disappear with them for a month or two. Sylvia, however… They can come here for several months every year."
Lorist pointed at his large household as he spoke. They were dancing on the edge of the water and playing in the sand. Even his three-year-old son, Anderbael, was joining in. Dilianna watched on as her seven-year-old Waldbeck lead his half-brother around to catch crabs and play with things they spot along the way. Her gaze lingered on the pair for a few moments before it turned to Lorist's other concubines piningly.
"You don't have anything here to make things entertaining and enjoyable for them. Build playgrounds for the children, or slides and other rides in the beach's shallow areas. I heard from some of the locals that certain sea creatures like dolphins are numerous a little further out to sea and often play with fishermen and swimmers. You could organise trips out to go see them or even raise a few here. You should also build a jetty and a hand railing into the deeper waters."
"Why would I build that?"
"Are you stupid? Did you not notice many of the people here play in the shallows but never go into the sea? Most of them come from inland, many haven't seen the ocean like this before. The open blue awes them and scares them at the same time. Many can't swim but don't want to learn. If you make a jetty they can experience the feeling of the open sea around them without being in the water. And the hand railing will give people the confidence to go deeper into the sea without needing to swim; they can just hold on to the railing."
Kenmays's face reddened. He had thought he'd thought of everything, but Lorist easily pointed out a dozen things he'd missed.
"I'll work on it immediately. Anything else?"
Lorist motioned at the maidservants with his eyes. "Isn't their clothing a little odd?"
"Huh? I don't think so. It's standard servant clothing. Is it not sexy enough?"
"Oh? Are you interested? You don't have to hold back. I can have curtains put up quickly."
"Screw you!" Lorist grabbed a strawberry and flung it at Kenmays's head, "I'm not a dog in heat like you! This is serious business talk. Yes they're wearing standard uniforms, but it's inappropriate for the setting. The guests wear only shorts or undergarments. Some of the kids are even naked. The whole atmosphere is one of relaxation and unrestrained play and enjoyment. The servants destroy that atmosphere with their formal clothes."
"You're right," Kenmays agreed, wiping the strawberry juice off his nose, "We're not hosting a formal occasion like a ball. We can have them walk around naked. I'm sure it'll draw even more people—"
"Fool! Are you trying to start another Paradise Gathering? I literally just told you to stop catering to the men only! Just let them dress more casually so they help create the relaxing, playful atmosphere you're going for here. They could even be a part of the attraction."
"But... but how can I make the maidservants into attractions?" Kenmays said in deep thought, "Maybe let them wear clothes made of only thin veils? I remember the servant at Princess Carey's Paradise Gathering used to dress like that..."
"Give me a beastskin and a pencil!" Lorist barked, his patience running thin with his perverse companion.
He sketched a few simple designs; one-pieces, bikinis, half-n-halfs and so on. Kenmays's eyes lit up as he saw the designs take shape.
"Wonderful! I never thought covering up could be more sexy than revealing! I never new you had a talent for clothing design! You learn something new every day..."
"I'll have the tailors rush these out as quickly as possible."
Lorist didn't know how to react.
"...Make a few with the same kind of cloth for the maidservants. As for the nobles' wives, they are more conservative, so just use silk to make the last one-piece design that only exposes their calves and arms so it'll be easier to play in the water. Best make the embroidery and patterns different too."
Kenmays snatched the beastskin and rushed off. He stumbled to a halt halfway out of the pavilion.
"What should I call these?" he asked, looking over his shoulder.
"Kenmays bathing suits."
I'll let him take credit for this. I don't have the energy to deal with the commotion this'll cause. He already has a reputation as a scandal and a flirt, it makes sense he'd come up with something like this...
Grindia's first bikinis made their appearance the next morning. It cause quite the commotion among the nobles. The lords couldn't help but stare lustfully at the bashful, semi-covered maidservants. If not for their families' presence, they'd have turned the entire beach into a Paradise Gathering. Lorist struggled to hold his laughter as he watched the scene unfold. He didn't fail to enjoy the alluring figures now unveiled on the beach either.
'This,' he concluded, 'was the way to spend a summer.'
He had several duels with his laughter on the way back to his castle when he saw a number of lords walking around awkwardly, bruised and beaten. He had hidden his admiration well so he didn't suffer at his wife's hands as much as those nobles. He did not come away unscathed, however. Sylvia stuck to him like wet clothing, she didn't even let the maidservants serve him.
His lovers finally mustered their courage on the second day to wear the new suits. They weren't bold enough for the bikinis, though, they settled for one-pieces. They were not the only ones. Most of the other nobles' wives were also wearing the bathing suits. The most daring chose suits that revealed arms and even, almost scandalously, thighs.
That's what a beach should look like! Lorist shouted silently. His wife and concubines had tortured him the previous night. His vitality was non-existent today, so the scene he currently witnessed was a welcome recharge.
"Your Grace, Your Grace! Wake up!"
"His Majesty is about to arrive. Duke Kenmays wishes you join him for the reception."
"Huh? I thought His Majesty said he didn't have time for such frivolity?" Lorist crawled up and rubbed his face.
He secretly gazed amorously at the ill-covered servant. Her face, which she did her best to hide, was as red as strawberries.
"Lead the way."
The two dukes awaited the king's arrival in the palace garden. Dukes Fisablen, Shazin, Felim, Forund, Handra, and Shabaj accompanied them along with two dozen marquises and counts. Lorist hadn't dressed formally like the rest. The weather was just too hot, he had no intention of sweating on his vacation. He just threw on some dry shorts, wrapped a towel around his shoulders, and stood with two sandals on his feet. His attire drew countless awkward stares.
His grandfather-in-law, who stood next to him, couldn't stop gaping at him secretly.
"What are you looking at?" Lorist asked.
"Don't you think this is a little too impolite? He's our king. You have to show him at least some respect."
"It's not like I asked him to come. I came here to enjoy myself, not to stand in the sun and wait for him. Don't come here if you want to talk about the kingdom's affairs! Sheesh, can't you guys let me enjoy my vacation in peace?"
The old man couldn't help but laugh.
"For once, you make sense. I cannot argue."
The duke was still trying to recover his composure when the trotting of horses echoed into the garden. Auguslo strode in atop his horse accompanied by Kenmays and his guards.
He stopped his approach halfway and stared at Lorist.
"Locke, what's going on?"
"We're here to enjoy our vacation, Your Majesty. What else would you wear on the beach? We will return to the beach after receiving you anyway, so we might as well spare our clothes."
Auguslo's words faded into laughter as he tried to reply. He dismounted and gave Lorist a hug. He tossed his cloak aside and stripped to his underpants.
"What are you doing, Your Majesty?!" everyone shouted, their jaws paving the ground.
"Locke's right. It's only natural to wear less when you are on vacation. Duke Kenmays, bring me some slippers and a towel," chirped Auguslo.
"Immediately, Your Majesty."
The other nobles didn't hold back either. Soon clothes littered the garden and things started looking like a Paradise Gathering after all.
"Come, Brother Locke, show me around. I haven't had a chance to visit yet despite this place's fame."
Auguslo acted really familiar with Lorist, like they were real brothers. The other lords gazed at the pair enviously.
What was that saying again? When someone is being polite, they have a favor to ask. I wonder what in the world Auguslo is planning this time, Lorist sighed.