Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 128

"I don't understand why he insists on mingling with that man. Doesn't he know how bad a reputation he has? He's not just the owner of a fish plant! He's actually the boss of Blacksnake! Doesn't the mayor worry that he shouldn't be involved in any trouble concerning that man?" commented Welikro.

His sister came over and gave him a knock on the head. "As expected of my foolish brother. You couldn't even see through such a simple matter. Even though Mayor Robert has a Title of baron, it's not hereditary. He knows that it can't be passed down to the next generation. Even though his son is a dignitarian, I heard he's just some failure of a playboy.

"It's obvious that the baron knows that his son is long gone, so he placed his hopes on his grandson instead. He doesn't want his grandson to be a normal person in the future, so he paid a huge price to become mayor and wants to use his post to earn back some of his money and gather some wealth for his descendants' future.

"So, he doesn't really care about Bidlir Blanche himself, but rather, his money. That's the real reason he tried to rope the man in. As for what Bidlir's other identity is, that has nothing to do with the mayor. He could simply claim that he's been duped if it really comes to that.

"Bidlir Blanche is not exactly parading his position in Blacksnake around. The local patrol force isn't able to find any proof of his association with the gang anyway, so the accusations are rumours at best. They're not surefire evidence. As long as no crime can be directly pinned to him, then he's considered a lawful citizen who pays his taxes and operates a proper fish-processing plant. There's nothing bad about the mayor hanging around him."

Welikro looked at his sister with shock. "How do you know so much about this? You even know about the mayor's grandson..."

Welikro's sister shook her head and sighed. "You just weren't paying attention. Didn't the mayor boast about how smart his grandson is when he was drunk at the old tavern once, and say how he was placing his hopes on him? Just think about how he became mayor in the first place. It becomes obvious if you associate it together."

Claude was quite surprised himself. He had thought that Welikro's sister was only a large brute, but he didn't expect her mind to be so sharp and complex. She was able to deduce all that based on the drunk ramblings she heard once.

"I find it rather curious though..." Claude tried his best to pick his words carefully. "Mayor Robert is no idiot. He knows that if he brings up the proposals to expropriate and donate, his last proposal to associate with Bidlir Blanche definitely won't fly. Why did he do so in the first place then? Does the inconclusive meeting benefit him in some way?"

Kubrik said with dissatisfaction, "It's not like we don't agree to his two former proposals, but the amount he requested was far too much. The garrison clan has 224 men and we only need to spend around 224 crowns for it. The weapons and equipment will be provided by the prefectural capital so we don't have to bear those costs. All that remains is the maintenance of the encampment, the food and medicines and other miscellaneous supplies, which won't cost more than 50 crowns. If we include the salary of the members, we'd only need around 300 crowns at most.

"The biggest costs to form the clan lies with the compensation to the families and the military equipment. After those are taken care of, there's not much else to worry about. Yet, that dogshit mayor actually wants us to gather 1200 crowns! Does he think we're idiots who don't know how to count?

"Also, it'll only take less than 2000 crowns to maintain a garrison clan each year. A member of the force is only paid a thale each month, so a unit of 200 plus will only cost less than 500 crowns to pay per year. Some additional expenses would only bring that cost to around 800 crowns. Yet, he argued that we haven't factored in training costs and said that two thousand crowns is far from enough each year. What a load of bull.

"His idea really is decent and he even wanted us veterans to make such a request to the prefectural capital ourselves and let the town hall implement it after it gets passed. He's trying to pass the blame and responsibility down to us while he alone controls the finances and spending. We won't even know how much he stuffs in his own pockets! Ptooey, he can dream on! He really thinks that we're idiots..."

"Sigh, Father, you all were tricked," Welikro's sister said, "Mayor Robert brought up the two proposals to agitate you so that it'd be easier for him to segue into his third to let Bidlir sponsor the garrison clan.

"Since the meeting ended with you guys raging out, the fault lies on you veterans. As the mayor, he has done his best to come up with three different proposals, yet you didn't agree to a single one of them, so it would appear that you don't want to follow the order to form a garrison clan at all."

"But... But his proposals are all ridiculous!" Kubrik's expression was a little blank.

Welikro's sister shook her head. "Actually, the expropriation and donation plans are rather sound to those in the prefectural capital. You mentioned that forming a garrison clan would only require 300 crowns, but that's actually far from enough. You only considered the needs of the soldiers themselves, but it didn't occur to you that the formation process would cost money too. The encampments also have to be fortified and maintained and the horses and employees will also have to be paid for too.

"I recall that you said the prefectural capital made that order on the grounds of defending the town from pirates. No matter whether those pirates really exist, since the order was given, the defence fortifications have to be taken into account as well. A few sentry towers will have to be built and they'd have to be fitted with cannons. Who would man them would also have to be considered, so 1200 crowns isn't ridiculous at all.

"Additionally, the cost of two thousand crowns to maintain a garrison clan might sound on the high side, but it isn't unreasonable. The prefectural capital said that they would provide the equipment needed for the formation of the garrison clan, but nobody said they'd continue to supply them indefinitely. I think it's a one-time thing. In the future, the garrison clan will have to pay for the gear themselves. Mayor Robert was right too in that the training of new recruits would cost a lot. Having 2000 crowns per year isn't a lot at all."

"Were we wrong to object to it then?" asked Kubrik with frustration.

"You weren't wrong to object because you believed that Mayor Robert is taking advantage of this opportunity to fill his pockets. You were only used by him. If you only give it some thought, you'd understand that the council members in the prefectural capital aren't fools. If the mayor really came up with a ridiculous amount, he'd definitely earn their suspicion. The mayor isn't someone to make that kind of mistake. You were at fault because you didn't see that coming. All you actually had to do was to ask to be given the rights to manage those funds."

"That's right... I'll contact the rest immediately and bring this up at the town hall tomorrow. We'll gather whatever amount of money the mayor requests, but we'll make sure we have supervision over its use to prevent him from pocketing them." Kubrik got up and sped away.

"Umm, Uncle Kubrik..." Claude had wanted to call out to him, but given how busy the man was with dealing with the matter of the garrison, there's no way he'd have the time to go to the military encampment to find out more about his father. There wouldn't be a point to ask. Just as he was about to leave, he saw Welikro's sister sigh.

"What's wrong?" Claude asked.

Welikro's sister gave it some thought and said, "I suspect that my father and the others are too late. Mayor Robert definitely sent a messenger to the prefectural capital to inform them about the results of the meeting. Given that expropriation and donation takes too huge a toll on the people, the council there might not agree to them.

"So, most likely, the plan with Bidlir Blanche as the sponsor might really come through. Those people there don't know who Bidlir is after all, and they might even see the donation by the fish-processing plant owner as an act worthy of praise."

"But Bidlir Blanche is only a peasant. He's not a retired veteran. On what basis can he be made a bandsman?" argued Welikro with dissatisfaction.

His sister gave him another knock on the head. "It's all your fault for not studying. There's actually precedent for this. During the second war between our kingdom and Nasri, there was a captive revolt in the prefecture of Alfies. Thousands of Nasri captives beat the guards to death and robbed guns and ammunition before escaping into Mokanin Mountain Range. From time to time, they would form raiding parties to raid towns or passing convoys.

"Back then, our kingdom was in a stalemate with Nasri and our rear was really empty. The soldiers at the frontlines couldn't be moved back and couldn't deal with the rogue elements within the kingdom's territory. So, a rich merchant in Alfies, Krunzt Charlie used his personal funds to hire hunters around the Mokanin Mountain Range and formed a garrison clan for the town. He had the rogue soldiers encircled and spent only a month to force those soldiers to surrender by choking them of supplies.

"After the war, Stellin IX gave Krunzt Charlie the Title of baron and officialized the garrison he formed. The council in the prefectural capital might use this precedent to agree to let Bidlir Blanche to sponsor the garrison clan's formation and warn our father and the retired soldiers to not interfere."

Claude believed what Welikro's sister said to be rather sensible, but it had nothing to do with him. Since he couldn't find anything out about his father there, he had no choice but to go back and to think of another way, so he took his leave.

Welikro's sister called out to him, "Lil' Claude, I know why you came, but you came to the wrong person. My father can't help you. You're the key to solving your conundrum. Just think of what your position is and you'll know who you can seek out for help."

My position? What position do I hold? Claude scratched his head in confusion and only recalled that he was the supervisor of Normanley Wood after he saw Jemmy. Normanley Wood was Baroness Maria's personal property and he should write her a letter for help. At the very least, he would find out the real reason his father and the others were detained with the pretense of threatening national security.

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