Common people live under the rule of sovereigns – but these emperors, queens, and other aristocrats only possess authority as long as they rule justly. Since a century ago, each is bodily possessed by a heavenly spirit that acts as a secondary conscience, compelling them (sometimes against their will) to do good for their people. Although these monarchs live better off than most people, none live in extravagance, which the supernal spirits they share their bodies with prohibits.
As a result of their enforced virtuousness, the aristocracy supports the expenditure (or investment) of amassed royal wealth on improving agriculture, paying for civic construction projects like roads, markets and canals, and improving medical access and quality of care to common citizens. The rationale that most have realized over time is that, in principle and in practice, a citizenry that is healthy and able to do their jobs without obstruction is a prosperous one, whose taxes continue to pay for more improvements.
One branch of the government that has reduced is the military. In actuality it has been repurposed: rather than armies patrolling to defend now uncontested borders, its tacticians have been retrained into diplomats, its engineers shifted toward civic projects, and its soldiers towards supplementing local constables. Despite some rocky starts since the transition, things are mostly peaceful for the average civilian.
The once place where the military remains strong in its monster-hunting corps. Periodically farmers and others in remote villages may be attacked by multi-headed beasts; there appears to be a correlation with them having more heads and being bigger and stronger. Superstition holds that they manifest more frequently in areas where the aristocracy schemes to have their heaven spirits exorcised from themselves so they may be free to govern as human beings of free will and not as a ruling class held hostage; this rumor has not yet been proven.
(I do not own the images in the above collage, and all copyrights belong to their respective owners.)
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