“What choice do we have when we’re out of money? Plus, when charity goes on long enough, people will start to take it as a birthright. It’s about that time when people are just starting to relish themselves in the charity, so we should buckle up now. Continue to operate the schools free of charge and try to minimise healthcare and hospital expenses. Also, the food banks are to operate within each district as it always has, but make sure you do a proper survey—only allow those who truly lack the ability to make money. Anything else?”
Now that he had decided to put on a masquerade of greed, he needed to first demonstrate a departure from his carefree administration.
Cordnell was somewhat taken aback by Isaac’s relentless cutting of the funds, but it wasn’t a bad thing.
“Um… Are you going to leave the syndicate bosses as they are?”
“Why, are you bothered by them?”
“T, that’s not it. It just seems pointless to still operate in districts when the entire city has become a single fief…”
“There won’t be any changes. Tell the bosses to manage it as they see fit. And isn’t Smartass managing the whole thing anyway?”
The reason why Syndicate bosses willingly paid their fees was because Soland had risen above them as the godfather.
Dinozo had retired and handed over his district to Soland long ago. Milena had also become a devout follower of Isaac, but she had earlier mistook Soland as being favoured by Isaac due to him frequently being called to meetings, so she had lowered her head to Soland some time ago.
“But the disparity between the central district and other districts is too large. Those who are seeking to migrate to the central…”
Isaac frowned and cut Cordnell off mid-sentence.
“Wait a minute, migrate? What bullshit is this?”
“The citizens, I mean, your subjects living in other districts wish to migrate to Ceta District…”
“I thought I talked about that in the beginning. There won’t be any changes.”
“What? But you just can’t limit their freedom of movement.”
Isaac glared at Cordnell, irritated by his objection.
“Tsk! I’m the owner of this land. If they don’t like it, tell them to fuck off.”
Cordnell had no argument in him. Lords had authority equal to a king’s within their lands. Allowing freedom to move was an effective policy only if the Lord wished to prevent emigration from their lands.
Other lords would have pondered long searching for a way to keep their people on their lands, as emigration weakened their lands. But such a thing didn’t matter for Isaac.
He wasn’t the kind to care if he had any subjects in the first place. Which is why it was the subjects who had to make a choice: stay and tolerate the tyranny or leave.
“In fact, get as many of my subjects to emigrate. This place isn’t suitable to raise upright children anyway.”
“… Yes. We’ll give it a try.”
Though Cordnell was dumbfounded by Isaac’s order to kick out as many citizens as possible, he quickly realised that New Port City benefited more from it.
When he estimated the possible revenue from building more warehouses and collecting tariffs from storage, the revenue was much, much greater than from collecting taxes from subjects living in the same area.
“What else is there?”
“When will you disband the mercenaries corps?”
“Why would I disband them?”
“All they do for work is eat, sleep and make a ruckus in the name of training. And I swear, they are absolute gluttons when it comes to food! I don’t understand why they are staying here when they don’t even get paid.”
“Aren’t any of them leaving? I don’t remember mandating service to me after training in the contract.”
“There were many leaving at the start, but they’ve recently latched onto a possibility that they’ll become a professional army, so none of them have left recently.”
“Professional army? What kind of bullshit is that?”
Isaac acted unfamiliar to the subject, and Cordnell cocked his head in intrigue.
“Since you were officially titled land, you may need soldiers to protect it no matter how small…”
“Why would I operate a military when the Police Force is more than enough?”
Cordnell’s eyes gleamed ravenously.
“So you mean you have no thoughts on operating a professional army?”
“I thought you said we don’t have money?”
“That is a great decision! Then I shall disband the mercenaries immediately.”
Managing the mercenaries had been a painful experience for Cordnell, who had realized just how costly a military organization could be regardless of its size. He couldn’t hide his joy when Isaac stated his refusal to maintain an army, almost jumping with joy.
“How many members are still in the band?”
“300, that’s quite a lot. Who is their leader?”
“I’m not sure. I’ve only looked at the documents…”
“Since we were the ones who made this, it’s a shame to disband them completely, but it’s a hassle to leave them like this too… How about this, we will cancel the policies and benefits provided by the city from now. Tell them not to cling onto any false hopes, because I’m not maintaining a professional army. Those who don’t like it can leave, and those who still wish to stay will need to fend for themselves. The city will… provide a building for the mercenaries to use.”
Cordnell pondered for a moment and then nodded at Isaac’s order.
“It doesn’t seem like much of a loss for us. In the case of emergencies, we can use them as military force. Their building can be used as a basic military training facility for the subjects of this city.”
“Is that enough?”
Cordnell quietly calculated in his head but came back with a grim shake of his head. Though these policies have been helpful, they didn’t contribute enough to be the solution.
“So I need to think of a way to make money again?”
“Do you have any ingenious ideas again? Try coming up with one that can work with a minimal investment.”
“I wonder… I’ll need to give it some thought. Send a message to Smartass; tell him to be ready to clean up the Lichtens when I make the order.”
Isaac couldn’t stay idle while he waited for the Director of Surveillance to contact him.
He needed to acquire many more funds if he didn’t want to suffer through the growing pains of absorbing the Lichtens.
Isaac had ordered a special fabric that imitated plastic as closely as possible. He used the fabric to create a giant ball with an inner pocket marked with a cross shaped path that allowed free movement within the ball. As the ball’s first user, Julia ran frantically inside the ball like a hamster on a wheel. Reisha and Kunette would lightly tap the ball to the side, pushing Julia about and playing with her. Isaac watched the scene and asked.
“How about it, do you think it’ll sell?”
“I think it’ll be popular, but I doubt it’ll be of much use.”
“Do you think it’s too expensive to manufacture?”
“It costs too much to make something that large and also to make this type of fabric transparent. No ordinary household could even fathom buying one.”
“Guess it’s a given since we don’t have plastic or vinyl here. I guess this is a fail.”
“But I’m sure that if you think of a way to use this, we will be able to get a return on our investment.”
“Deploy them near the lake and rent them out. I’m sure it’ll be popular, since walking on water isn’t quite the everyday experience.”
“Oh! That’s not a bad idea?”
“So, how are the mercenaries doing?”
“It seemed most were disappointed by your decision and deserted, but surprisingly, a hundred members have stayed and taken up residence within the building.”
“A hundred? Even when I took back all the benefits and shut down their dream of becoming a professional soldier? Not a single one complaining?”
“I was surprised too, so I personally visited them. It seems the ones left are truly dedicated to living as mercenaries. They say they are more than happy with the building they were provided and do not wish for any more. They even said that they had to train more and divided themselves into rotations of work and training in the process of becoming self-sufficient. I was so impressed that I told them the city would at least maintain the building for them.”
“But still, a hundred… That’s more than I thought.”
“It’s nothing. If anything, come up with a monetization model to make some money.”
Cordnell began estimating the price of rent, lease durations, advertisements, and so on as ordered.
Isaac’s new product, which had been inspired by the sight of Julia tripping and scratching her knee, ended up a half-failure. Only Julia, Kunette, and Reisha were happy from this outcome since they got a new toy.
“Ah! It’s Rivelia unniii!”
Julia increased her speed by galloping on all fours inside the ball and smashed into Kunette. Julia rolled in the opposite direction, while Reisha fell on her back and laughed. A small smile formed on Rivelia’s face as well.
Kunette seemed mad at suddenly falling over and began bullying Rizzly. Julia energetically approached Rivelia, who in turn rolled her away gently.
“What is it?”
“Sir Pount demanded Laila’s return.”
“Some word he’s using, she ain’t some object you know. But who is Pount again?”
“… He’s the Mission Support Agent assigned to the Wolfgang Family.”
“Ah, I remember. But why’s he acting up now?”
“It’s because of inheritance issues.”
“Inheritance? What problem is there when the brat still lives?”
Isaac shot a glimpse at Laila, who was watching Julia from the side with a worried look.
“It’s not Wolfgang Family but the vassal families that serve them.”
Subservient to the Wolfgang Family were a viscount and two baron families. These three families were loyal subjects who demonstrated utmost support in the previous war. And they resisted the Lichtens until the end, meeting their ends in the final battle.
“But they must have at least protected one child to be their heir, right?”
The path to becoming a noble within the Empire was simultaneously simple and difficult. They had to graduate from a school or professional training facility and be employed by the state. Though they could start off as a commoner, they would be given a noble title when they were promoted beyond a knightly status and began managing a small department of their own.
From there, they were given a title befitting their work. Which was why strictly speaking, there were many that were treated as nobles and benefited from holding titles of Baron, Viscount, Count, Marquis, and Duke.
However these were titles attached only to the work—once their tenure was over, the title was but a hollow name with no benefits or honour. Which is why all nobles dreamed of being given a fief and establishing a noble family of their own, intensifying the competition.
But the bar was set too high. Even after working in their given field and retiring, only a select few who had been regarded highly were given fiefs. Most nobles simply received a lump sum reward upon their retirement, collected a regular pension, and clung onto their honour for the rest of their lives as one-off nobles.
That was why the possibility of managing a fief was so attractive in comparison. Calling the territories ruled by counts and those higher-ranked vast was an understatement and managing this land was too difficult for a single family alone.
Managing countless cities and villages and their complaints and laws, general administration, roads, public order, and resource management required capable candidates—and of course, the work put in to recruit these people. So what the Great Nobles came up with was feudalism.
They would give away a portion of their land to a vassal serving them. It wasn’t given away completely—more like it was rented out to them.
For the Great Nobles, it meant significantly less problems they needed to consider and streamlined recruitment of loyal vassals and subjects. The vassals too gained from this, as they could continue as inherited nobles and continue their family line, even if they were restricted by a number of conditions.