Black Iron’s Glory

Chapter 4

Habis and Morssen

People always do things they think will bring about fortune. But no one ever considers what to do if things go wrong.

Habis and his father-in-law were no exception. Their idea wasn’t bad per se, they’d forgotten, however, that the environment in which a business is founded is just as important for the business’ success than the business itself.

The civil war had been going on for two years. The southwestern prefectures were the core of the prince’s base and supplied most of his weaponry and supplies, not to mention his manpower. The burden dried the prefectures of their wealth.

No one could afford the luxury of going somewhere just to stay at a fancy inn. Business overall was in a slump. The prince had also cleaned out most of the nobility and government and he slashed excess expenditure.

Even his officials had to stay in tents rather than inns as they travelled. Habis’s luxury inn was completely out of the question.

His mansion didn’t see a soul after the first three days of curious stoppers-by. Just four months later, he had to let his staff go and turn his jewel into a run of the mill, though slightly fancy, inn. Despite his best efforts, he barely made a living.

The war ended six months later, and the prince ascended to the throne not long after. His complete overhaul of the kingdom’s social, economic, administrative, and military institutions brought about the prefecture’s recovery and Habis finally gained some breathing room as his business picked up.

By this time, Mollie was pregnant and Morssen was born ten months later.

These were the most blissful years of Habis’s life. He had a decent vocation he could leave to his descendents, a virtuous wife, and an adorable son. Despite being far from as lavish as that first year, his life was still far better than he had ever dared to dream before the war.

Mollie was pregnant again when Morssen was four. When the day of birth came, however, it turned out she had twins. She couldn’t handle the load, however, and, despite Habis making excessive donations to all three shrines in the town, she died not long after the second child was removed. The children could not survive without their mother, however, and died a few days later.

Habis never recovered. He turned to the bottle and spent his remaining years in a drunken stupor. He stopped caring about the inn and shoved all his friends out of his life.

His father-in-law, though stricken with grief, took Morssen in and raised him himself. The inn closed down a few months later.

Morssen thought nothing of his father. All his memories of the old man involved empty bottles and bruised cheeks from street fights. Before he went to live with his grandfather, he had seen his father smash up the house as if searching for his deceased wife, shouting her name and cursing the heavens. It terrified the young boy.

Luckily his grandfather soon took him away from that red-bricked hell.

In his twelfth year, the king’s education reforms finally went into action and peasants were allowed to attend public schools. His grandfather sent him to the prefectural capital, Baromiss, to study in the first national elementary boarding school.

Habis had completely forgotten he even had a son by that time. Morssen did not see him once in his eight years in the school. His studies were also funded by his grandfather, his father didn’t contribute a single coin. Morssen never forgave his father for that.

His father passed away while he was his second year of middle school. The old man fell into a sewer and drowned, too drunk to keep his footing in the shallow water. Morssen, quite the contrary to being aggrieved at his father’s death, was relieved.

His father left him nothing but the mansion, other than ten silver thales of debt with the town’s bars. His grandfather settled the debt.

Morssen only took three days of leave to return to the town to help his grandfather with the funeral. He returned to the city without even visiting the mansion.

Morssen graduated from middle school two years later and tried to get a job in the city. He was still in the middle of his search when he got a letter from his grandfather to come home.

Morssen obediently returned to find his grandfather bedridden with disease.

The old man wanted to leave everything to Morssen. He trusted his grandson would make a good miller.

He told Morssen his father’s life story as he lay in bed.

“Do you hate my father?” Morssen asked.

“I never hated him. Habis became a drunk because the shock of losing his wife was too much. In a twisted sense, this shows I didn’t let my daughter marry the wrong man. He loved her very much, at least.”

“…Maybe his drowning is a sort of relief for us. We can only pray your father and mother met in the moon goddess’s halls. I’m sure they’ll have a pleasant afterlife…”

His grandfather passed away two months later. Everyone thought Morssen would take over the mill, but he sold it instead and invested everything in his father’s mansion.

Morssen wasn’t simply trying to inherit his father’s career and restart the inn. He changed everything about the building.

He practically tore down the whole building. He tore down a part of the second floor’s floor and built a stairway, sealed off that part of the building, and turned it into an en-suite apartment.

Morssen left the rest of the building as is though he installed a piping system and spruced up the aging furniture. He split the attic into three parts, for a total of six apartments and three attics.

He broke out the wall with the main door and replaced it with a class-work lattice. The part of the first floor that still had a roof was turned into two small shop lots.

He rented out the rooms and shops as soon as the renovations were complete. No one knew what was going through his head.

The renovations were completed in the 21st year of Stellin IX’s reign. Aueras grew stronger years on year, especially with their overwhelming victory over their enemy, Nasri, and the annexation of Berkeley. With it, Aueras became the continent’s lone superpower.

Trade prospered within the kingdom and its subjects lived bountiful and stable lives. The crafting and mining industries peaked and opulent displays were ubiquitous. As for Whitestag Town, which stood at the intersection of all the big trade routes between the three prefectures, it became a big town, a hive of merchants and travellers.

The entire mansion was booked within a day. The young man was far more adept at business than his father and grandfather. He was pragmatic and open-minded. His setup gave him a stable income and ensured he would never end up in his father’s position. Most importantly, and he was very proud of this fact, it did so without taking up his day. It gave him the freedom to pursue public service, which would let him climb the social ladder, without having to worry about his income.

The news of his renovation was still criss-crossing the town when Morssen turned his sights on the town’s chief administrator position. Being one of the first batches of students to graduate from the new schools, even being a peasant did not make his approval process difficult.

A key part of Stellin IX’s reforms was his reform to the caste system, the foundation of which was the Rights of the Four Castes, a law outlines the new caste system and the rights and limitations of each caste. The old caste system was thrown out and replaced with a new four-tier system. From highest to lowest, the four social classes were nobility, dignitry, peasantry, and villainy; their members called nobles, dignitarians, peasants, and villains, respectively.

Educated as he was, Morssen could see things that most couldn’t. While most of the townsfolk were satisfied with their status as peasants and thankful for the king’s loosening of labour restrictions, Morssen had his eyes on becoming a dignitarian. He wanted to ride the wind of the Rights of the Four Castes and become a dignitarian to obtain more political power.

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