Claude rode Jemmy around town and soon found that the keepers from the prefectural capital had captured nine people in total, including Borkal’s father, the famous merchant, Rublier Bodeman. If Claude remembered correctly, they were the guests his father invited to a banquet at their home and they were also the ones that tried to found a new route to sail to Nubissia and the investors of the trading fleet that had yet to return.
It was almost certain that something happened to the trading fleet given their late return. His father and the others were definitely inseparable from the incident. However, Claude wasn’t aware whether the fleet was held up by the kingdom’s navy or something else happened to them. He didn’t understand why his father would be accused of threatening national security.
The trading fleet was merely sailing to the colonies in Nubissia to do some business. The most they would be charged for was tax evasion, so how did the label of endangering national safety come about? Did the trading fleet cause a huge commotion at the colonies in Nubissia? Is that why Father and the others were arrested because of their involvement?
This might be the closest guess to the truth yet… Claude knew that if things really developed to that point, there wasn’t much he could do to rescue his father. His priority now was to first get information about his father and understand his situation. Only then could he find someone who could help.
At the rear entrance of the old tavern, Pjard shook his head and told Claude, “I’m afraid I can’t help. All I know is that the keepers captured many people this time around. However, you can go see Kubrik. I heard the town’s going to form a garrison per the orders from the prefecture capital. Mayor Robert drafted Kubrik and the others into it.”
Pjard was talking about Welikro’s father, Kubrik, who happened to be the number-one hunter in town and the president of the hunter’s association. The hunter’s association was a lax organization that focused on providing services for its members. Most hunters in town were registered with them and the association would organize some hunts for them.
As many hunters were used to hunting individually, and given the limited hunting areas around town, there were less and less people applying with the association. Welikro mentioned that his father would often complain after getting drunk in a tavern that there could be less than ten hunters in the whole of Whitestag as the youths were no longer interested in that line of work. It might even be hard to find a hunter who would be willing to go to Swamp Kemda or the deeper mountains to hunt some wild beasts there.
Regardless, the hunters were the best candidates to be recruited into the garrison. Firstly, most of them were dignitarians and retired soldiers. They would easily form a combat-ready force.
Secondly, the kingdom set strict and detailed regulations that stated that retired soldiers would be preferred for commanding positions while other youths with a clean record would be recruited into the force. Like joining the military, garrison members would earn enough dignity to become dignitarian after fifteen years of service. The kingdom forbade garrison members to be recruited from the villainy and any such instances would definitely go punished.
That was the reason the garrison couldn’t avoid involving the hunter’s association. Otherwise, Baron Robert, the mayor, could simply rally up the thugs of Blacksnake he was backing to form a garrison force without the town having to spend a single penny. However, the consequences of doing so wasn’t something the baron could afford to bear. His whole life would be ruined if it was ever reported.
Claude hurriedly traveled to Welikro’s house, which was located near the foot of the hills west of town. The boy was at home and was in the middle of cleaning up two hares with some firewood piled up beside him. He looked to be preparing some smoked hare.
Seeing Claude ride towards him so hastily, he felt rather surprised. He had just gotten home from hunting the two hares at the hills during the morning and didn’t know what happened in town. He thought that Claude was in a rush to meet him.
“Has your father returned?” asked Claude the moment he opened his mouth.
“My father?” Welikro shook his head. “I don’t know. Sis, is dad at home?
“I left for the hills early in the morning. My father was still sleeping then and I’m not sure if he’s at home or not. Why are you here to see him?” asked Welikro.
“Well, I…” Just as Claude was going to explain himself to Welikro, he saw his elder sister poke her head out of the window on the second floor.
“Oh, it’s lil’ Claude. My dad was summoned by the mayor in the morning and hasn’t returned. I think he’s probably dead drunk after having lunch in town. Maybe you should come tonight when he’s a little sobered up. By the way, Claude, is it true that your father was arrested?” she asked curiously with her hands holding tight on the window sill.
Claude nodded bitterly. Bad rumors always did spread faster than most others. Apart from Welikro, who left early in the morning, even his sister got wind of the matter.
“Why’s your father arrested?” asked Welikro, shocked.
Claude shook his head. “They arrested him allegedly because he threatened national security. I’m not too sure about the real reason, but my father wasn’t the only one who was arrested. Boa’s father included, nine people in total were arrested on the same charges.”
Though Welikro looked rough and burly, he had a sharp mind. “You mean to say that this has something to do with the trading fleet?”
Welikro had long heard about who the investors for th trading fleet that hadn’t returned were. He instantly connected the dots.
“That’s what I think too, but I’m not sure what happened to the fleet that it even involved my father and the others.” Claude was really troubled. The part of this world he was most frustrated about was the limited flow of information. He missed the mobile phones in his previous world which allowed him to access the world’s knowledge with a few taps of his fingers.
“Are you here to ask my father about that?” Welikro instantly worked out why Claude was there. “But how could he help?”
“I heard the town’s going to form a garrison, but I’m not sure why. But I know they’ll definitely seek the hunter’s association out to form the force. Didn’t Mayor Robert summon your father to him? This must be what he’s there to discuss.
“If they really form a garrison force, then your father will be able to enter and leave the encampment as he pleases. My father and the others are kept there, so I wanted to ask your father whether he saw any of them to ask them about the current situation. I want to see whether my father knows the reason he’s arrested.”
“Alright, I’ll ask about this for you when my father returns,” Welikro agreed swiftly, “Do you want to wait for him to return here? Let’s have some smoked hare for lunch.”
“No need, I have to get back,” Claude said as he mounted the horse, “My home’s in complete chaos since the morning and my mother’s feeling unwell and is resting in bed because of this matter. I’ll have to look after my siblings and cook something for them to eat during lunch. Wero, if you’re free this afternoon, go to town to ask around to confirm whether this has anything to do with the trading fleet. Perhaps you might even find out the true reason my father and the rest were apprehended.”
“Alright, I’ll ask around for you,” said Welikro as he nodded.
Claude squeezed his legs and Jemmy broke into a trot. “I’ll come again at night, so I’ll be counting on you.”
When he returned home, he unsaddled Jemmy and fed it food and water. After all that, he went to the kitchen and made some noodles. When he was done cooking them, he brought a bowl to his mother.
She lay in her bed the whole time Claude briefed her about what he found out. The moment she heard that nine people were arrested, she sat up alertly. Claude consoled her and told her that it was better that more people were involved than a few. If only Morssen got arrested, they probably wouldn’t be able to easily uncover the truth of the matter. However, now that there were others who were arrested, their families would surely be trying to find out more about the situation, which was definitely easier than having only one household doing all the investigating.
Claude planned to go to visit the families from which someone was arrested during the afternoon to ask them about what they knew, but his mother began to worry that it would be considered an illegal gathering. Given that Morssen was apprehended on the grounds of threatening national security, would Claude get dragged in as well if he met up with the family members of the arrested?
Claude didn’t know how to react. His mother had never gone to school and only knew how to read and do accounts, as was taught to her by her family in her youth with the goal of making her a capable housewife, so she didn’t know anything about the kingdom’s laws. Claude on the other hand was taught some basic law understanding during one semester in middle school and knew what could and couldn’t be done.
He patiently explained to his mother that it wasn’t illegal to do so and managed to convince her. They were only meeting up, which was a reasonable and expected reaction, so he wouldn’t be embroiled in his father’s case because of that.
However, Claude spent a whole afternoon visiting the other eight households only to end up disappointed. The others were as clueless as Claude and didn’t know why their family members were arrested with such serious charges.
Borkal’s family was still fine and his mother wrote a few letters to some of her acquaintances to send help for her husband. Other families were in utter chaos, with the members of two fighting among each other for inheritance. The wife of one of the arrested that was 20 years his junior even eloped with all the riches with a servant of the house.
Claude finally understood how everything would collapse after the main support was out of the picture. He didn’t find out anything new after his trip. He had no choice but to go home to cook dinner for his mother and siblings before riding to Welikro’s house on Jemmy.
Arbeit on the other hand didn’t return home the whole time. During dinner, Madam Ferd sighed during dinner and said that he was probably still outside, working hard to find out about their father.
Claude merely rolled his eyes at that statement. He didn’t bother to break the truth to her. It was better for her to have hope in the fool than to despair completely. After his father’s capture, his mother wouldn’t be able to take any more shocks.
But when Claude arrived at Welikro’s home, Kubrik immediately lashed out when asked about the garrison force. Of course, he wasn’t reprimanding Claude, but complaining about Baron Robert, the mayor, instead.
Kubrik said that when he was called to the town hall, he was told by Robert that orders from the prefectural capital came for Whitestag to form a garrison force of 224 men to prevent pirate attacks.
It was truly a joke; Whitestag was located at the innermost part of Sharkmouth Bay, and there was a long and narrow waterway of about five kilometers in distance that ships had to traverse before reaching it. Even the stupidest of pirates wouldn’t sail their ships into Lake Balinga. If the waterway was blocked, they would be trapped and be unable to escape.
That was why Kubrik believed that the order for a garrison to be formed was merely an excuse. They were in fact getting ready for a battle. After all, the relationship between Aueras and the other five eastern anti-Aueras nations were getting tenser by the moment. A few small skirmishes had already occurred. News of that could be seen in Whitestag Dawn, mostly covering the objections the kingdom had against the anti-Aueras alliance and the warnings the alliance gave the kingdom. It was common knowledge that the clouds of the storm to come were already building up in the skies of the eastern part of Freia.
Forming the garrison force itself wasn’t really a problem, since it wouldn’t be the first to be sent to the frontlines. Usually, local garrison forces were only in charge of logistics and defense, taking care of captives, and so on. They weren’t main forces to be used in battle.
In fact, it was a rather good side job for retired soldiers like Kubrik.
However, when the mayor made his proposal to form the garrison force, almost everyone called there were enraged. Kubrik exploded on the spot and went on a tirade and announced that he would report the mayor to the authorities, causing them to part on sour terms.