Confusion and Change
If Sir Fux and Mayor Robert knew that the cooperation plan was actually the navy completely buying out the entire sector developed by Normanley Real Estate, who knew whether they’d spit blood in rage. The naval officers had long met with Rodan and they were even acquaintances who knew each other from the royal capital.
The chief officer in charge of setting up the naval base was quite satisfied with the development of the sector by the company. That saved the navy much time and effort. The sectors would be ready for the newly arrived naval officers and their families to live in and the conditions were far better than they had initially expected. Nothing else had to be said. Even though the construction effort was only beginning, the chief officer banked 200 thousand crowns into the account Rodan provided immediately.
That sum was only the first of many to come. When the sector was completely developed, the company would earn a profit of 80 thousand crowns. To the royal navy, spending only around 300 thousand crowns for a whole living sector developed with complete infrastructure was more than worth it. That price for housing was a third cheaper than those at the only other naval base in the kingdom, Port Neru, yet the facilities were far better in comparison. The deal was too good to ignore.
To Rodan and the other investors of Normanley Real Estate, they managed to sell all the property off before they were even built. The payment total of 280 thousand crowns destabilized some of them. Naturally, nobody was going to fuss over the 20-thousand-crown discount they gave the navy. It was a necessary networking cost after all.
The total investment in the project amounted to only around 20 thousand crowns. Coupled with the 18 thousand crowns loaned from the bank with the land of the slums as collateral, the whole project was probably worth 30 thousand crowns at most. Yet, they earned 280 thousand crowns from it. How many times was that the original amount? All the shareholders’ eyes glittered with gold.
“Well then, we’ll keep 100 thousand crowns as the company’s capital. The construction of other buildings, the digging operations for the sewage system, and the street planning and building will draw their funds from that amount. At the same time, pay off all the loans we made with the national bank. It’d be better for us if we’re unburdened and we won’t have to pay them interest pointlessly anyway. The other 100 thousand will be split between shareholders as profit. As for the final 80 thousand crowns, we’ll only receive that soonest half a year later, so let’s hold off on figuring how to spend it until we receive it. What do you think?”
Claude’s plan to use the 200 thousand crowns they received was unanimously agreed upon by the shareholders. Within such a small time, everyone’s investment was multiplied by ten. Nothing but smiles could be seen on their faces.
“We’re not going to just disband the company after we finish this sector. Rodan, you can take that chief officer in charge of the base’s formation, that viscount whose name I forgot, around town. Perhaps he might even want to pay us to develop the western sector of the slums. If that really won’t work, we can do a joint development with the navy and ask for only half of the profits.”
Claude’s idea clicked in Rodan’s mind. He slapped his thigh and said, “That’s right, it’d be the same no matter who does it! I’ll go ask around and try to include the western sector in our plans as best I can.”
Unlike Claude and the others who were skipping with joy from their great haul, Bidlir Blanche felt that he was the most unlucky person in Whitestag. He had lost all his territory, not just Blacksnake’s territory at the slums, but also the area the fourth band was posted to guard. All of it had been taken over by the navy and became military grounds. The navy was now guarding the area and Bidlir had to be checked every time he wanted to go home.
It was a catastrophe. Bidlir felt like an abandoned orphan who had nobody to rely on. Even as Sir Fux and Mayor Robert expressed their sympathies for his losses, they were powerless to help. One of them was a politician and the other was a minor bureaucrat. Neither of them could do much against the royal navy.
Bidlir made a huge loss from the compensation for the appropriation of land. He had many immovable properties at the slums such as the fish-processing plant at the lake embankment, the headquarters of Blacksnake, and half of the property on the old street. All of them had been appropriated by the royal navy and the price of the compensation was based on how much they were worth on the 15th day of the 5th month because the moment the plan to develop Whitestag was announced, the real estate prices in town tripled.
The most hateful part about the appropriation for Bidlir was the loss of his underground gambling den which he had spent much money to renovate. He had thought that it would provide him with a steady and near limitless stream of income, yet he had no choice but to give up on it now. Even as the gambling den was compensated for the price of the old warehouse on top of it that acted as cover, he didn’t dare to mention the existence of such a large underground structure.
The reason for that was simple: gambling dens or casinos were forbidden by the kingdom. If the navy found the underground den, Bidlir Blanche wasn’t sure he would be able to keep himself alive. The most he could do was feign ignorant. Fortunately, the old warehouse was officially owned under the name of a crippled father of one of his subordinates. As long as he didn’t say a word, nobody would know for sure that the true mastermind behind the den was in fact Bandsman Blanche.
As for his gang, it was completely gone. The moment the navy sent the troops on the ships in Balinga on shore, they sealed off the entire slum area. Following their takeover of the fourth band’s jurisdiction, they began conscripting soldiers from the slums, targeting intentionally unemployed folk like thugs and gangsters. That was an effective method to replenish their number and take care of local safety issues at the same time.
Bidlir Blanche could only watch from the entrance of the slums the ferocious soldiers of the ground forces barging into one building after another and dragging the men out from within to a spot to be checked. Those with jobs were separated and their employers had to verify their employment status. Those without proper or permanent employment as well as the ship hands for the fishers were forcefully conscripted into the navy as the lowest-ranked soldiers.
Around a thousand men, roughly a third of Blacksnake’s members, were taken away just like that. They didn’t have proper jobs and a few fugitive murderers tried to resist. It was soon reciprocated with drawn blades and lined gun formations. Wounds were made and blood was spilled all across the main street. After that, they were dragged away to be decapitated. Soon, around eight bloody heads were hung up high at the old street. Those who weren’t willing to be conscripted at first soon shut up and the noisy crowd got much more orderly.
Bidlir recalled that he handed a second lieutenant of the navy a pack of smoke leaves and smoked together with him to get familiar. He wanted to know what the fates of the unwilling conscripts would be and ask whether they would soon be assigned to the warships of the navy.
The second lieutenant casually said that those forced conscripts would be organized into laborer units and take care of the development of the naval base for three months. During that time, experienced naval officers would pick out suitable new recruits to be given basic military training. Only after that would they be fit to serve on ships.
“What about those who aren’t picked for recruitment? Will they be let home?” Bidlir recalled asking that exact question back then. He believed that his goons would definitely slack off and be deemed unsuitable.
But the second lieutenant quickly scattered Bidlir’s dreams of reforming Blacksnake. He breathed out a large puff of smoke and turned to Bidlir, looking straight into his eyes. “Believe me, Mister Bandsman, the blades and whips of the royal navy will make sure that every one of them fit the bill. They will become orderly and disciplined naval soldiers.”
Just like that, Bidlir lost his territory and minions. His property was appropriated for the construction of the naval base and he became the paragon of a patriot who gave everything for the nation. Apart from the compensation paid to his bank account and his 40 or so Blacksnake thugs he took into the fourth band, Bidlir had nothing else. He even lost his house and had no choice but to live in the encampment.
Perhaps feeling sorry for his fate, Sir Fux and Mayor Robert reached out to the chief officer of the naval base, Viscount Wenisk, and managed to get the navy to hold a grand award ceremony. Bidlir Blanche was given an order of merit for his contributions and hailed as an exemplary patriot. Even though he lost everything, his identity got a clean slate. But he wasn’t sure whether the price paid was worth what he got.
The biggest news in town during the 6th month was the controversy concerning Mayor Robert. The auditors from the finance department in the royal capital discovered that the records of the town hall across the past two years were a complete mess following Mayor Robert’s takeover. The accounts began to blur and appear flawed, with more than ten withdrawals of varying amounts made for dubious purposes. The invoices included didn’t match up with what the accounts stated. Even though the account was technically balanced, there were obvious signs of tampering.
The auditors from the finance department were really prolific in their work. While they appeared to be not up to much, they were actually ravenously uncovering one lead after another. Soon, Mayor Robert’s collusion with the staff of the treasury for the fake accounts was discovered and reported, causing enforcers from the royal capital to come to town to arrest the mayor and relieve him of his position.
Robert gave his best effort following the announcement of what was planned in Whitestag in an attempt to brighten his future path. He cooperated flawlessly with the appropriation of property, construction efforts, as well as the transition of the town hall to personnel from the royal capital.
In the months following the sacking of the chief secretary, chief treasurer, and chief constable of town, he was running a one-man show in the town hall. Given that he was the sole arbiter in the runnings of the town, it was almost inevitable that he commit some atrocious acts during that term. He treated the treasury as his personal vault and embezzled funds as he pleased.
Only after the announcement from the royal capital did he start to panic and hurry to cover up his tracks. But given the amount of time that had passed, he forgot where most of his spending went to, so he could only make up for it in the accounts according to the total figure. If the prefectural capital was still in charge of Whitestag, Robert might’ve been able to barely make it through his predicament. All he had to do was to bribe the auditors from the prefectural capital and treat them to some meals.
Yet, the auditors that came this time around were sent from the royal capital. The only benefit they wanted was promotions that came with doing their jobs properly and solving cases like these. Robert’s tricks were completely useless against them. The fact that many were eyeing Robert’s position in Whitestag, a city soon to be under royal capital jurisdiction, didn’t help matters either.
Claude didn’t feel much upon hearing about Robert’s arrest. Tomas and the former treasurer on the other hand were basked in sublime jubilation and they celebrated by drinking to the high heavens.