Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 3
The Red-bricked Mansion
To Claude, Morssen's complaints about his grandfather were meaningless. Nobody should expect a farmer who lived the 26 years of his life without stepping 50 kilometers away from Whitestag Town to have any sort of common knowledge.
A poor farmer who couldn't even get stable meals and lived in poverty would never think about things like titles, sobriquets, official positions and other ethereal luxuries irrelevant to him. To him, the only form of wealth were things like bread and houses.
Before that, the most amount of money Claude's grandfather Habis had ever seen were the few silver coins in the tavern owner's hands. The highest official he had ever talked to was the tax collection officer and butler of the baron of Whitestag Town, and he would even have to suffer whips from time to time when talking to him.
So, he had already mustered all the courage he had to ask for the ansion from the prince. He even readied himself to be beaten. To the young Habis, the Hogg-style building was the largest and most beautiful red-bricked house he had ever seen. When he was younger, he would look at the high-up noble young masters and ladies enter the mansion from afar in their luxurious carriages, even hearing their laughter and cheerful voices.
The young Habis believed that the red-bricked mansion was none other than the heaven his parents kept telling him about, where food was not lacking and he didn't have to fear the coming of the cold winter. When he grew up, he had wanted to work as a servant at that mansion, but it was too bad that the baron had never hired and servants from the town.
Prince Karjad's agreement to Habis's request was one of the most pleasant things he had ever heard. He was so moved that he fainted on the spot.
The prince went through with his promise and immediately ordered his troops to leave the most luxurious building in town, bringing away only some weapons and documents from it. Even the wealth of the poor baron had been left for Habis.
Habis paced about his house in a dreamlike state. The fabulous silverware, candle holders, crystal-like wine glass and lamps, gold-plated door handles, wall oil paintings, golden sculptures, goose-feather curtains, sheepskin rugs and the chest on the table that was filled with gold and silver coins... All of them would belong to him alone.
Prince Karjad stayed at Whitestag Town for only three days before hurriedly leaving with his forces on his quest to restore the kingdom. Habis didn't join him because of his abdominal injury as well as his unwillingness to leave the red-bricked house he had just obtained. He wasn't willing to leave it in the care of others either.
"If your grandfather had better foresight, instead of being a watchdog for his house, he would've followed Prince Karjad to one battle after another and might have earned our household a noble manor and a title and we might not have to remain in a small town like this."
During his tales, Morssen always neglected to mention whether his father would be able to survive the civil war of the kingdom that would last for three years. Most of the soldiers from the firearms brigade, all 484 men as well as the 28 new recruits from Whitestag Town, had been completely wiped out throughout the civil war. By the time the prince ascended to the throne, there were fewer than 11 of them remaining. But by then, those survivors had already been given noble titles, with the lowest ranked even granted a baronetcy and a manor.
When those survivors returned home to Whitestag Town to visit their friends and families, they shocked the three southwestern prefectures. People only remembered the glory and wealth they obtained but completely forgot about the bones of the dead piled up on the battlefield and their family members' tears.
Morssen was just like that. People who haven't experienced what it was like on the battlefield only knew how to talk about it superficially like they were the experts of war. But they knew nothing about how cruel it truly was. He thought that his father was an incompetent coward that was satisfied with the small amount of wealth before him and wasted the opportune chance destiny had graced him with, causing the Ferd household to be unable to grow beyond Whitestag Town.
In some sense, Claude considered his grandfather to be an honest farmer and a good person. When word of him being awarded with the most beautiful mansion in town spread all over, almost everyone in Whitestag Town came over to visit him and praise him to high heavens. Before he even understood what was going on, he was lauded to be the first hero of Whitestag who had barged into the mansion and killed hundreds of fierce enemies.
As his parents had passed away early, Habis welcomed the visits of these friends and neighbors. He always threw a nice banquet to welcome them. Just like he had imagined in the past, the red-bricked mansion was filled with joy, fine wine and smoked meat.
And so, Habis's wealth decreased to half at a speed which the naked eye could pick up on. His silverware and crystal wine glasses disappeared one after another. When Habis decided to survey his house again, he realized that even the sheepskin rug in his room was gone and the paintings were taken off the walls. Not even the golden frame was left behind. As for the goose-feather curtains that hung by many of his windows, more than half of them had been cut away. Some of his gold-plated door handles and copper locks were also gone, leaving behind gaping black holes.
It was then when Habis realized that the guests he so warmly welcomed had taken left along with some valuables in his house.
The red-bricked mansion was truly too large for a lone farmer like him. Apart from the topmost attic, there were four rooms on the first and second floors and each one of them had its own washroom and toilet. The ground floor on the other hand had two large halls, one used for dining, two kitchens, three storehouses, four servant rooms and one toilet.
To Habis, cleaning that large mansion was a huge burden. He wouldn't be able to sweep the whole house clean even after taking two to three days. However, the mansion deteriorated rather quickly if not cared for. It has only been a year or so since he received it and it already looked rather worn down, with the corners of the walls full of moss and some windows covered with vines. The paint on the wooden roof tiles also wore off and water could leak through sooner or later.
After experiencing the sudden shrinkage of his wealth, Habis, who had learned his lesson from his loss, began to ponder. He didn't want to hire a servant to help with the cleaning in fears that his money would be used up even further. After much consideration, he decided to find himself a wife who could watch the house with him. So, he focused his attention on the only daughter of the miller, Mollie Miller.
Being wooed by the first hero of Whitestag who had recently gotten rich, the chubby and full-breasted-and-bottomed Mollie easily took the bait. The 19-year-old girl was in a phase when her romantic fantasies soared to the high skies and saw Habis as her knight of shining armor.
The miller, Carmendor Miller, was one of the few who didn't regard Habis that highly. He believed that the farmer had just gotten rich because of a lucky streak. Carmendor was looking for a successor to his mill that could provide a worry-free life for his beloved only daughter.
So, the miller refused Habis's offer to take his daughter as a bride. He said that Habis was neither an honest nor a brave person. If he were really the first hero of Whitestag, he would've joined Karjad's forces and fought it out on the battlefield instead of staying behind to guard his red-bricked mansion.
Additionally, Habis was getting a lot of negative flak as of late, with the others starting to call him stingy and petty. The miller was afraid that should his daughter be wedded over, she would be toiling away like a servant to clean the house and live her days in hardship.
That was a father's love and concern for his daughter. However, when Carmendor returned to his mill, he found his daughter and Habis naked beside the grinder and knew that it was far too late. The dough that had entered the oven was baked into bread. As unwilling as he was, he had no choice to wish his daughter well now that she's found her true love. Otherwise, his whole family would become the laughingstock of the town.
The miller's daughter, Mollie Miller, was thus wedded under the blessings of a priest from the moon shrine and became the mistress of the red-bricked house. The miller soon discovered that his worries had become reality. His daughter was clothed in servant attire and cleaning the mansion all day long.
"You can't go on like this. No matter how much money you have, you'll run out if you don't have any sort of income. Also, you still don't have any children and your family expenses will only grow when they come. You must find a job to earn your keep so that you can make a living in the future," advised the miller to his son-in-law.
After some thought, Habis said, "Should I go buy some land to cultivate?"
The miller gave him an odd look. "Do you think you can still raise the hoe at this point?"
Habis felt really embarrassed. His recent days spent in pleasure and indulgence had rendered him no longer fit for the tough life as a farmer.
"Well, I suppose I can help you out at your place," suggested Habis to his father-in-law.
"There's no need. I can still work fine for now, at least for ten years or longer," the miller said angrily, "Use your hollow, wooden brain, dimwit. There's gold before you, so pick it up! Think about your red mansion. Haven't you thought about it at all?"
"Mansion? What about it?" said Habis alertly.
"Worry not, I don't have eyes for it," the miller hurriedly explained, "Don't look so anxious. What I meant was there are too many rooms in the mansion and it's a little too huge for you and Mollie. Haven't you ever thought of using those rooms to earn a living?"
"Using the rooms? How would I do that?" asked Habis, confused.
The miller sighed. His son-in-law's brain spun rather slowly. He didn't bother and revealed his thoughts straightforwardly, "What I meant, Habis, is for you to turn your mansion into a high-class inn. Think about it. This mansion used to belong to Baron Rodeman and it's rather well-known. The people who came and went from this place were all famous people and many others are quite curious about this mansion.
"If you renovate the rooms and make this mansion into a high-class inn, I'm sure there will be lots of customers who will want to experience how a baron's daily life is like. You'll be able to make money easily for your family then. Each customer coming into the inn will be like living bags of money. Even when you're old and no longer able to move as well, you can leave the inn to your children and grandchildren. It's a business that can be passed down over the course of centuries."
Habis was convinced. His father-in-law had described a really promising and lucrative path for him, especially when he said, "Trust me, Habis. You won't regret it. I'm sure that a century later, your descendants will be proud of you."
And so, Habis took the miller's advice and renovated his red-bricked mansion into a high-class inn.