Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 4
Habis and Morssen
People always did things they thought would lead to good outcomes. Not a single person would ever consider what they should do if what they did led to an undesirable result.
And apparently, neither would Habis and his miller father-in-law. Actually, the miller's idea wasn't a bad one and he had suggested it with good intentions in mind. In fact, renovating the mansion into a high-class inn was a rather decent idea he had thought up for Habis. However, both of them forgot one important thing: social environment and the economy either made or break businesses.
The civil war within Aueras had lasted for more than two years already and Prince Karjad's forces started to gain the advantage. As the three southwestern prefectures were the main base of the prince's forces, they provided a nonstop supply of weapons, food, logistics and reserve soldiers. Under such circumstances, the heavy burden of producing supplies for military consumption fell on those three prefectures, and Whitestag Town was no exception.
Due to the civil war, business within the kingdom was stale and the prince hated the corrupt nobles and officials. Eliminating needless waste and spending to restore the kingdom's glory became his central dogma for his war. All the territory he conquered wouldn't see the appearance of nobles and officials like the days of old.
Even the officials who were in charge of transporting supplies to the frontlines volunteered to stay in tents rather than inns, not to mention spending extra to visit Habis's new luxury inn.
So, the mansion Habis had spent so much on renovating became a dead zone after the first three days when the townsfolk came to see what was going on out of curiosity. The tagline of living the life the extravagant nobles enjoyed became meaningless. Under such circumstances, Habis was no longer able to keep the inn running after four arduous months. He didn't have a choice but to fire the servants, maidservants and chefs he hired and changed the inn into a middle-class establishment to entertain travellers and peddlers to be able to barely make a living.
Another half a year later, news of Prince Karjad's victory spread to Whitestag Town. What followed was the prince's ascension to the throne as Stellin IX. The complete overhaul of the kingdom's societal, economical, administrative and militaristic structures saw to the recovery of vitality of the three southwestern prefectures from the wreckage of war. As travelers passing through Whitestag Town increased in number, Ferd's business finally started to look much better.
By then, Mollie had gotten pregnant. Ten months after that, she birthed a healthy boy whom Habis named Morssen. The Ferd household finally had a successor.
Those were the most blissful years of Habis's life. He had a decent vocation that could be passed throughout the generations, a virtuous wife and an adorable son. The life he led now was one of comfort that the farmer back then could never have imagined having.
When Morssen was four, Mollie got pregnant again, much to Habis's delight. What he didn't expect was that she was carrying twins. During delivery, she bled heavily and despite Habis's earnest prayers and donations to all gods of the three shrines in town, Mollie closed her eyes for good in the end. Even the newborn children weren't saved. It was a death that resulted in the loss of three lives.
That incident gave Habis a fatal blow, causing him to resort to alcohol to numb his pain for the rest of his life. He ended up drunk and bumbling for the most part and couldn't be bothered with managing the inn. He didn't listen to anyone's advice or consolation and only knew how to feed alcohol into his mouth.
The similarly grieving miller then took Morssen in to raise him. No longer having any ties or anchors, Habis turned into a complete alcoholic. It didn't take long for the inn to close down after the business plummeted.
That was the reason Morssen had zero respect for his father at all. By the time he could remember things well, his mother was gone and his father had become an alcoholic that was more often drunk than sober. Sometimes, he would freak out and smash everything in the house he could get his hands on while calling out to his wife's name, leaving a terrifying impression in the young Morssen's mind.
Fortunately, his grandfather, the miller, didn't forget about him and took him in to live with him. That was how he left that terrifying red-bricked mansion.
By the time Morssen was twelve, the education reforms pushed by Stellin IX allowed commoner children to attend the newly built national schools. So, his grandfather sent him to the capital of the prefecture, Baromiss, to study in the first national elementary boarding school.
By then, Habis lived as if he had forgotten that he had a son. He didn't bother to check in with Morssen at all and the eight years he spent studying in the capital of the prefecture was financially supported by none other than the miller. That only deepened Morssen's hate for his father.
When Morssen was studying in the second grade of middle school when he was 18, his father, Habis, passed away after falling into a sewage waterway one day while drunk drowned in water levels less than half a meter in depth. That news relieved Morssen, who felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted off his shoulders.
Habis left nothing but that red-bricked mansion after his death and even incurred more than ten silver thales of debt to the bars in town. That sum was settled by the miller, who had both his daughter and son-in-law leave the world before him.
Morssen only took three days of leave to rush back to Whitestag Town so that he could help his grandfather with the funeral of his dead father. Without giving the mansion so much as a look, he rushed back to school to resume his studies.
Two years later, Morssen graduated from middle school and tried to look for a job at the prefecture capital. However, he received a letter from the miller to return to town.
Morssen went back to Whitestag Town and discovered that his grandfather was bedridden with a serious disease.
The miller had wanted to leave everything he had to Morssen and believed that his grandson could be a fitting miller just like him.
All the while he lied in bed, he told Morssen about the tale of Habis and the red-bricked mansion and said that there were many in town that envied Habis's good fortune.
Morssen asked his grandfather, "Do you hate my father?"
The miller laughed. "I've never hated him, child. The reason Habis became an alcoholic was because the shock from losing his dear wife was too much for him to bear. So, he'd rather escape reality by numbing himself with alcohol. I guess in this twisted sense, I didn't wed my daughter to him wrongly. Mollie had a husband that loved her dearly."
After a period of silence, the miller continued, "Perhaps his drowning has been a sort of relief for us and those who sympathize with him. We can only pray that your father and mother met in the heavenly halls of the moon god. I'm sure they'll lead a pleasant life there..."
Two months later, the miller passed away. Just as everyone thought that Morssen would take over the mill, he did something out of everyone's expectations. He sold the mill and invested all his money into renovating and fixing up the old, run-down red-bricked mansion.
Morssen wasn't simply trying to inherit his father's career and restart the inn. He completely overhauled the mansion's interior without altering the outer facade of the building.
He had the floors between the top to bottom of the leftmost room demolished and built a stairway through it before sealing that part of the building off from the other rooms, making an independent little four-story section of the building into his living quarters.
As for the attic and the other suites, Morssen didn't touch the suites which had a kitchen, a washroom and a toilet each. He then had pipes installed to supply fresh water to the building and made sure that the rooms were renovated to look clean and tidy. That way, he got six apartments and three separate attics.
As for the ground floor, Morssen asked for the main door to be taken down and replaced the red bricks with glass panes. Apart from a small section that was a stairwell that connected to the first floor, the other parts of the ground floor were renovated into two large and one small shop lots.
When the renovations were complete, Morssen rented out the rooms and shops of the building. That was a move that greatly shook Whitestag Town. Nobody dared to think that there would come a day when Morssen would completely renovate the most-famous red building in town into a shop-residence complex.
By then, Prince Karjad had ascended to the throne as Stellin IX for 21 years. Aueras continued to grow stronger by the day, especially with their overwhelming victory over their enemy, Nasri, as well as the extermination and annexation of the territory of Berkeley. The Kingdom of Aueras had become a superpower on Freia that nobody else could afford to ignore. It was the hegemon of the eastern area.
Trade prospered within the kingdom and its subjects lived bountiful and stable lives. The crafting and mining industries were at their peak and signs of opulence were omnipresent. As for Whitestag Town, which stood at the intersection between the various route within the three southwestern prefectures, it grew much merrier with droves of merchants and travelers passing through it.
Morssen's rooms and shops were rented out in almost an instant. It was apparent that Morssen was much more adept at his father and grandfather in that regard. Each step he took was stable and made after pragmatic considerations. Renovating the red-bricked mansion and renting part of it out not only provided him with stable income, it also ensured that his living expenses were covered for. He also avoided the trouble of having to hire staff and manage the business which an inn would require.
Two decades later, Morssen still seemed proud whenever he told others about the decision he made. He said that should he have taken over the mill or worked as the manager of an inn, he wouldn't be able to raise his social status in any way. So, when he no longer had to worry about making a decent living he ventured into the realm of public service.
While the townsfolk were still envying Morssen for never having to worry about his livelihood, he was aiming to obtain the position of Whitestag Town's chief administrator. Being one of the first batches of students to graduate from the national school within the three southwestern prefectures, even a commoner like him was able to smoothly apply for that position.
When Stellin IX was reforming the societal castes of the kingdom, the most important thing he did was the introduction of the Bill of Rights for the Four Castes. The people would be divided into four social classes, namely, nobles, nationals, commoners and outcasts.
Educated as he was, Morssen could see things that most uneducated couldn't. While most of the townsfolk was satisfied with their status as commoners and thankful for the king's loosening of labor restrictions for commoners, Morssen had his eyes on becoming a national citizen. He wanted to ride the wind that was the Bill of Rights for the Four Castes to raise his social status and become a kingdom official to obtain more political power.