Chapter 152: To The Florence Principality (2)

It is a universal law that where money gathers, so do people.

However, this does not necessarily entail that said people are diligent, honest, hard-working men. If public order is not maintained where money is involved, it inescapably lends itself to a festering ground of those who try to profit through violence.

As the new Northern region were still the fresh remnants of the old Republic, the kingdom could not rashly jump into the North’s affairs and so were yet to be in a state of full control. Beyond assuming protection of the newly extended border, the ex-Republic territory had been left nearly untouched – and in such a place was where less than insignificant coins began to circulate.

It was perfect as a gathering ground for bandits and mercenaries alike.

They formed their own protection rackets and contacted budding new merchant guilds to demand tributary payments under the pretext of protecting them. As they did so, they began to group into larger factions and waged their own shadowy war against one another in this coastal city.

In essence, those who wielded violence to disturb the peace began to sprout all over the coast. Not a day would pass by without a body being discovered in a back alley. Those who exploited the honest and righteous with their use of violence began to flourish.

No one felt the need for public order to their bones as the residents of the port cities did. It was time for the state to stamp its foot down and do what it was meant to do: keep the public peace.

Queen Leila smiled as she read the letters of correspondence sent by the port merchants.

“It appears we have finally arrived at this point.”

“Were they the ones to reach out for help first?”

Queen Leila nodded at Milton’s query.

“Whether they be monarchists or republicans, all humans need this mold we call the state for society to function. And here, we have those who have opened their eyes to this fact.”

“Then I suppose we can proceed with the next stage of our plans.”

“Indeed we can. Are you prepared?”

“Of course.”

The married couple smiled at each other.

The next day, an enormous number of soldiers boarded Robin’s ships and set off for the Northern region.

***

The Black Spider Brigade.

This was the name of a violent criminal organization that had recently come to dominate a coastal town.

Though they had now turned to crime, this organization was originally a mercenary brigade that made their living on the battlefield. As such, they numbered over 500 men and were much stronger than the run-of-the-mill back-alley hooligans.

Grind, the boss of the Black Spider Brigade, sent out his subordinates and quickly took over this district. Though there were several clashes with other ex-mercenaries who had similar intentions, these competitors were eventually eliminated and it was nothing but rainbows from there on out. Boasting over 500 members, the Black Spider Brigade soon became the most powerful organization in this port city.

While the state would normally crackdown on such groups before they flourished, the kingdom was yet reluctant to intrusively intervene in the ex-Republican territory. And so Grind could act as he pleased – the absolute power to do as he liked with no one to rein him in, accompanied by an ever-growing hoard of money that came along with it.

“Kukuku… at long last, my own golden days have arrived.”

Grind relished in what he imagined life was like for the nobles – no, what life was like for the king – as he sat in his own luxurious room, drinking a pricey set of alcohol.

“Now then, should I call over a lass and treat myself?”

It was at that precise moment…

BANG!

“Big boss, we’ve got a real problem on our hands!”

One of his men suddenly came knocking at his door.

“What? What is it?”

“It’s a raid. The bottom floor has gone tits up already!”

“What? Are there groups left in this city that dare stand up to us?!”

His informant entered with a face that had turned deathly pale.

“It’s… it’s not a city group.”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“They’re knights. The knights have come.”

“…excuse me? What do you…?”

CRACK!

Right on cue, the door smashed open and one man carefreely waltzed in.

“Are you that mongrel they call Grind?”

“Wh-… and who may you be?”

“Me? I go by the name of Rick Storie. And I am a Viscount to boot, mind you.”

“A noble? Th-that means nothing on this extraterritorial soil.”

Rick merely swung his arm in a circle as he loosened up.

“Extraterritorial soil? And who decided that?”

“That’s…”

Of course, such a decree had never been made. This air had been created because the residents initially refused to cooperate with the kingdom, and Queen Leila chose not to react to this defiance with a show of strength. But who in their right mind would actually instate something as counterintuitive as a lawless domain within their own nation?

Rick whipped out a single sheet of paper and began to read it aloud in front of Grind.

“Grind, leader of the Black Spider Brigade: for the proven grave crimes of murder, abduction, duress, involuntary imprisonment, extortion, formation of an illegal organization, illegal trafficking, arson- wait, there’s more? Anyway, you’re a seriously bad guy so you’re under arrest.”

“Do-don’t make me laugh!”

Grind shouted as he snatched a sword hanging on his wall, drew it, and rushed at Rick.

Rick merely smiled icily as he watched Grind.

“Very good. Now you’re playing the part of the villain.”

***

In the end, Grind was beaten within an inch of his life by Rick. Though he had once been a war-hardened leader of a mercenary company, Rick was now an Expert – and one that had received the personal tutelage of Duke Palan.

Rick pummeled Grind with his bare hands without ever even drawing his weapon. That allowed him to pummel Grind for longer – and revel in beating this good-for-nothing that much more. The result of that was…

“You didn’t kill him, did you?”

Tommy said incredulously as he watched a barely breathing Grind be dragged down from the upper floor.

“Oh, of course not. We’ve been expressly requested to refrain from killing him, haven’t we?”

“You knew that, and you still left him in that state?”

“This bastard’s a particularly bad one, so I couldn’t help but swell up with the jolly desire to give him a beating.”

“… Forget it. At least he’s alive at any rate.”

Tommy sighed and ordered the other soldiers to restrain Grind and his men.

Once the entirety of the Black Spider Brigade was restrained, Tommy ordered his soldiers once more.

“Let the citizens know at once that this matter will be resolved with a publicly held trial.”

“Understood, sir.”

***

The judgment of the Black Spider Brigade was indeed proceeded through a public trial.

In reality, the process was too informal to even be called a public trial – but that was fine in this case. Nobles by their nature had the authority to pass judgment on commoners if there was a reasonable justification. Though this was by no means considered to be a good policy – what with the sizable number of nobles who abused this power – it was useful for this particular affair

“Those bastards confiscated all my belongings as payment for a debt.”

“I too have been wronged. They demanded me to pay them a fee, and when I declined they ransacked my entire store.”

“These horrible men indiscriminately beat and killed my husband for no reason at all. Please punish them, I implore you!”

There was an overwhelming number of victims at the hands of the Black Spider Brigade. As soon as Tommy climbed atop a platform and announced that those with testimonies and other words to say were to come forward, tens of people – with hundreds more behind them – came out to vent their anger and tears.

Their anger soon billowed into rage; and before long, that rage manifested into pure hatred and abhorrence.

“Off with their heads! Off with their heads! Off with their heads!”

The miscreants of the Black Spider Brigade, who had ruled the coastal people through violence and fear all this time, now themselves trembled with fear. The united voice with which the people roared for their heads verged on lunacy. In fact, the atmosphere was such that if Tommy were to spare them, it felt as if a revolt could very well happen.

Of course, Tommy had no intentions of doing that.

“I shall now pass my judgment. The members of the Black Spider Brigade and their leader, Grind, have committed such a heavy sin against the citizens of this city that it cannot be washed clean. Accounting for this fact, I, Viscount Tommy Croix, under the authority bestowed by Her Highness Leila von Lester, will now pass judgment. I sentence all members to death.”

The moment his judgment was declared…

“HURRAAAAAAH!!”

“URAAH!!!”

The venue exploded with cheer. Their anger, which had been growing and ticking like a timebomb, had thankfully been satiated.

It was then when a select few among the people began a rather peculiar cheer.

“Hurrah for Viscount Tommy Croix!!”

“Long live Her Highness the Queen!!”

“Long Live His Highness the Grand Duke Forrest!”

They were, in fact, plants: prepared in advance to take advantage of this atmosphere and nudge the people’s sentiment towards the royal family. There was no better time for Queen Leila to seed these decoys than when evil was being punished and justice was upheld.

And the result of the decoys’ instigation was…

“Long live Her Highness the Queen!”

“Long live His Highness the Grand Duke!”

It worked wonders in drawing a positive response from the public.

***

Upon taking control of public sentiment in the Northwest, Queen Leila hastily made her move.

She instated a localized administrative office in the name of keeping the public peace and quickly dispatched officials of the Crown. On top of that, she ordered the mass recruitment of individuals who could work in public offices from the coastal districts themselves.

The port district, with their sudden boom in commercial trade, produced a mountain of work for the public services to do – from planning the construction of larger residential and business districts to ensuring the proper reporting of income for taxation purposes.

The officers concentrated their full energy into the port cities, and the result of it was that the public order was restored, jobs were created, and there was little room for ill will towards the kingdom to arise.

In this manner, the coastal port cities of the North grew day by day.

***

“All according to plan.”

Queen Leila was smiling as she read a report, sitting at a tea table under dazzling sunlight. Her beloved husband, and Sophia who was now also family, sat opposite her.

“I suppose you mean the North’s running as planned, yes?” Milton asked.

Queen Leila took a sip of her tea before answering.

“Indeed. It has been smooth sailing – for the most part.”

The hearts of the Northern coast were earned through concentrating effort and resources in developing these areas. Subsequently, the iron ores and weaponry produced by the Northern region were now beginning to be traded interstate, and the kingdom built its presence as a real market competitor in the Northern continent.

While those living inland in the Northern region still held strong disdain for the monarchy, voices critiquing past Republic rule conversely began to appear among the inhabitants of the Western coastal areas.

It was only expected – in the Republic era, the coast was an area that was stricken with poverty and misery; and now with the support of the kingdom, they had developed blindingly fast.

Meanwhile, the inland areas watched the fast development of the port cities and began to denounce them as traitors. It was only a given that the people of the coast did not acknowledge this to an end.

Rather, they too firmly contended: in any event, what had the Republic done for them?

While the inlands boasted greater numbers to reinforce their sentiment, the people of the port cities had the sway in terms of economic power.

Ultimately, the two differing opinions of the North led to the forming of a divide.

And with that, the worst-case scenario that Queen Leila had imagined – that was, one in which the Northern Region rebelled against the Kingdom and raised arms in its entirety had been avoided.

When they first formed a report on public sentiment towards the Crown in the North, they thought there was a substantial possibility of a riot or revolt occurring. Without Milton’s pre-emptive warnings, there very well might have been an incident before Leila could make her move.

While pondering how to tackle this issue, Milton’s suggestions inspired her plans that went on to successfully create the positive public sentiment there was today – though that was admittedly still only one part of the North.

All that needed to be done was for this positive sentiment to be grown little by little.

‘And that’s where I come in.’

Queen Leila finally felt as if she could catch a breath, at least for the meantime.

It was then when Queen Leila received a single document, which she frowned as she read.  Noticing her all-too-familiar expression, Milton asked the reason for it right away.

“Is something the matter?”

“……”

“Leila? Is there a problem?”

Queen Leila sighed.

“Milton, you need to be off somewhere for a bit.”

“Pardon? What’s the matter?”

Still far into his happy-go-lucky honeymoon mode, Milton frowned.

“Is there nothing you can do about it? Is it something I myself need to go to take care of, dear? What could it possibly be?”

Surely, surely not – was another war looming?

Queen Leila cleared Milton’s anxiety.

“Something has happened to Princess Violet. Please go to the Florence Principality at once.”

“I’m sorry? What has happened to her?”

Queen Leila sighed once again.

“Word is that she may be wedded.”

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