Book 2, Chapter 30

Tax

“Most of our guards have perished,” the mayor exclaimed with a pained expression on his face, “As for those who have not… I see that many have joined you. There isn’t anyone else here who would dare put up any resistance.”

“I would hope so,” Richard said as he waved his hand in front of him. “We may come from a different plane, but we aren’t some demons who seek to destroy and slaughter. Do not be fooled by your puny god of valour, we have our own god backing us, and he is far more powerful! Flowsand!”

Flowsand moved forward upon hearing her name, flipping open the Book of Time as she cast a blessing on the old mayor. The man panicked as everyone saw a blinding flash fall upon him, but that light gave off a warm glow. Despite carrying with it the vicissitudes of time, it held a strong aura of life and death, clearly displaying the power of a true god, not something dark and evil.

Blessings were an elementary divine spell, but at their core they were unlike any other. They were bright and potent for their level, their effects simply mind-blowing. Seeing one in front of their very eyes, the townspeople went into an uproar.

Richard took advantage of the situation, loudly proclaiming, “We are here upon the true god’s directions, to spread his glory! Joven shall henceforth be my territory, and I, Richard Archeron, shall be your leader. All property that once belonged to Sir Kojo or Baron Forza is now under my charge.”

The announcement brought great relief to the villagers. Wars between aristocrats were normal, but most of them had lived in Joven for generations and only a few had migrated from elsewhere. Life went on regardless of who the ruler was, the only change being the amount of tax they paid.

However, the past few skirmishes from Richard’s army had caused great casualties. Many soldiers had died at their hands, and the families of the dead militia despised him right now. Such hatred could not be quelled easily, but that was something Richard was well aware of. He was not going to ease their resentment of him, instead ruling with the power of fear.

The mayor asked a crucial question, “Lord Richard, are you planning to take over this territory permanently?”

Richard glared at the mayor and loudly proclaimed, “Indeed. However, I am required at another battlefield right now, and I will be leaving soon. You shall make your decision by then, but I hope you will not let me down when I return. For now, though, pay me all the tax that you owe Kojo.”

The mayor frowned, about to reason that it wasn’t time yet to hand over their taxes. However, a loud protest suddenly rang out from the townspeople behind him.

“You demons from another plane, get out of our world!” a young teenager shrieked, brandishing a dagger he’d carefully concealed as he made a mad dash for Richard.

“Son, come back!” a middle-aged warrior rushed after him. The man was tan, his muscular physique indicating that he was full of strength and vigour. However, he was too slow to stop the teen.

“For the God of Valour!” the boy shouted, rushing towards Richard.

However, he seemed to lose all control of his body mid-charge, falling to the ground. The boy twitched a few times, but soon stopped moving completely. A tiny wound appeared on the portion of his back behind his heart, and blood started seeping out. His clothes were dyed red.

Waterflower remained in place, seemingly never having moved. It was unknown when the Shepherd of Eternal Rest had been unsheathed, but a drop of fresh blood dripped off the tip of the blade. However, its sharp edge still seemed newly polished, without a trace of the attack remaining.

“SON! I WILL AVENGE YOU!” The warrior charged forth as well, his eyes bloodshot as he bared his sizeable fists at Richard. However, the young lady seemed to move slightly once more, another drop of blood appearing on her blade.

The man managed to take two more steps, before falling head first at the mayor’s feet. His blood rapidly soaked the old man’s shoes.

Richard barely seemed to notice the two casualties, speaking coldly to the mayor, “Do you see this? I never issue empty threats, and there is a limit to my patience and respect. I’m just following aristocratic tradition.

“Now, if you still wish to resist my rule, then you are my enemies. That is, you are forcing me to become a demon. Demons do not need followers.”

“I understand, my Lord. Please give me some time, I will hand over the taxes we were supposed to pay the next season.” The mayor had spoken with a pained expression of resignation on his face, and he slowly retreated to his humble residence.

Richard’s tax from Joven was a hundred gold coins, two full hides from slain beasts, as well as two boxes of books. That was all the literature available in the town, used in place of 300 coins. The mayor believed the books to be worth a tiny fraction of the amount Richard had waived for them, however, something that gave him some consolation.

Thirty defected soldiers followed behind Richard as he left. During the entire time they were here, these thirty had been the target of even more attention than Richard himself. Almost all the soldiers were close to or at least knew someone from Joven. After all, the land was only so large and the leaders had formed intricate bonds.

The defectors had blood on their hands, but they didn’t have any option but to continue fighting for Richard. Unlike those who dared stand against him, they did not have the will to fight the mage. They had seen the trolls and raptors, and knew that resistance would be futile.

……

It wasn’t until noon the next day that the Baron’s reinforcements arrived. There were several hundred of them, their scale far exceeding Menta’s army, but there were only three novice knights and a handful of veterans past level 5 amongst their ranks. Even if they had strength in numbers, Menta’s smaller army was actually better than them in terms of capability. That was why they had barely managed to cover twenty kilometres in a day.

The Baron had sent half his army over. Logically speaking they should have been led by a titled knight, but with Kojo missing and Menta and Hubert confirmed dead, the other two titled knights had suddenly fallen gravely ill as well. Forza was already fifty years old, and at level 8 he would only be more powerful cannon fodder in the army. It was unlikely that he would lead the troops personally. Thus, these three novices who had often offended people had been pushed into leadership.

The army only made its way into the town once their scouts confirmed multiple times that the invaders had left. They’d come with a renewed ambition to take over, and the knights were outraged when they learnt what Richard had done. They felt like the mayor and townsfolk and colluded with the invaders, using torture, arrests, and threats of violence to have them pay twice what they’d given Richard to prove their loyalty to the Baron. And unlike Richard, it went without saying that they wouldn’t accept books and waive the taxes owed. If they didn’t have powerful family or friends to back them up, the wealthier citizens had everything taken from them.

At the same time, all the adventurers who had stayed on in Joven had been arrested. The dozen of them were marked as accomplices of Richard, and they would serve as the army’s accomplishment on this deployment. There was some fighting and death in the process, but the sheer size of the army managed to detain most of them, bar a few who managed to get away.

The adventurers were of unknown origin to the three knights, and since they weren’t citizens their deaths did not matter. They would be the best display of the army’s might. Who was to say that they weren’t the invaders’ guides?

As for Joven, it was a fief with its lord gone. Kojo’s family had been taken away by the invaders as well, and finding a suitable heir from his bloodline would be a long and arduous process. The Baron himself could find some reasons to take the land over. This left the town without a master, with anyone able to come and pillage it without repercussion. The lion’s share of these ‘taxes’ would go to these knights and their subordinates, with the remainder heading to the Baron.

Having been heavily plundered, the citizens of Joven wondered how they would pass the cold, hard winter. Their main income was from adventurers, the military, tourists, and merchants. After this storm, no adventurers would dare to come to this barony any time soon. However, that was of no concern to the knights. Why would they care about the lives of people not under their charge? That was Kojo’s responsibility.

Things were exactly as Richard had envisioned them.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA