Of course, there were disadvantages that came with feudalism, but they were minimal compared to its advantages. But the one major disadvantage and critical weakness of this system was that if the head family, who parceled out the lands, lost their right as a Lord, all other families that swore fealty to them would also lose their rights and titles as Lords because their possessions were loans.
Which was why a war between two head families was rare, but if it did happen the vassals needed to divert all their resources into the war effort. Because defeat meant losing everything they’d built.
A total war on both sides. Winner took all, and the loser fell to the abyss.
That was what the war between Wolfgang and Lichten was.
“Regrettably, all of them had died in battle because of a certain someone.”
“But the situation complicated itself because Wolfgang won instead.”
Rivelia’s passive aggressive tone got no reaction from Isaac, who nodded. Members of the main family had the right to inherit and manage the possessions and properties of the family. If those in line to succession were to die, the family looked towards its next successor, but if no suitable candidate were to show, a fight for succession was inevitable.
The prize of succession was irresistible to the branch families; if they came out on top, they would continue their family line not as a branch but the head family.
“Branch families popping out of the woodworks with their greedy shenanigans aren’t my concerns, so tell them not to annoy me.”
Rivelia cocked her head at Isaac’s answer, until she realised Isaac had misunderstood and corrected him.
“Let me repeat that everyone has died because of someone.”
“Are you telling me all the successors of the head and branch families are dead?”
“Yes. Because of someone, entire family lines have been erased.”
Isaac frowned at Rivelia’s dripping sarcasm and spoke.
“What are you hinting at?”
“I’m asking why you’re just beating around the bush like that. Tell me clearly who caused all that.”
Rivelia glimpsed at Laila and Julia and made sure they were too far to hear her voice before she answered.
“… I apologize. I’ll say it again. It was you, Lord Isaac.”
Isaac smiled sweetly listening to Rivelia’s direct tone.
“See how easy it is when you come out straight? I almost mistook your implication that it was caused by someone other than me when you kept mentioning a ‘certain someone.’”
“… I’ll make sure to do so from now on.”
“Good. Remember so. But I must say, even the vassals of Wolfgang were diligent. They attended the war—both main and branch families, huh. It really is a shame to lose their successors like this.
Isaac muttered, and Rivelia nodded in assent. It was even more tragic because they knew of this fact.
“So excluding Wolfgang’s territory itself, who is managing the lands of the vassals?”
“That’s the reason why Sir Pount requested Laila’s return. The in-laws are using the widowed wives as an excuse to expand their territories.”
“Aren’t they quick on their feet.”
It had to have been heartbreaking for the wives to lose both their husbands and sons, but it was an excellent opportunity for their families. If they manage to convince the widows to adopt a son or daughter, the in-laws will be able to inherit these lands without the approval of the Wolfgang Family.
Not all families would be tempted by it of course, but the world was always driven more by profit than honour.
And since the Wolfgang Family didn’t have a suitable candidate that could take reign of the fief, the number of people who drooled over their lands increased by the day. Laila’s presence was an absolute necessity in order to solidify her rightful succession and eventual rise as a Lord.
“How are the Lichtens?”
Rivelia’s brows tensed when Isaac asked.
“That place is also a mess, albeit in another way.”
While the Wolfgang’s vassals were in turmoil because they lost their successors to the war, the Lichten’s vassals were overflowing with them.
The Lichtens were a Great Noble family that presided over two viscount families and six baron families, all of which had sworn fealty to them. These families didn’t want to expend their laboriously nurtured might in the war against Wolfgang. Instead, they seized and embezzled the war funds and even sent new recruits in the place of elite core units as military support.
As the war progressed and Lichten’s victory became assured, the main heads of every family attended the last battle in an attempt to gain military honors enough to make a claim for the spoils of war. Until all of them, from heads to elders, died, leading to the current the issue.
Unlike the Wolfgang Family, who struggled to maintain public order with their lack of manpower, Lichtens had an overflowing number of soldiers and knights in reserve. And their long family histories gave almost every possible successor a plausible claim to become the head family.
The ranks of the military command had strengthened their political positions, while the knights denounced such dishonourable acts and scholars of vassal families grunted in displeasure. The fight to succeed the Lichtens was just mudslinging in a swamp.
And as more time passed, rumors that Isaac was refraining from seizing Lichten’s lands because of potential bankruptcy and implosion if he did so became more convincing. So the Lichtens had started to act more boldly.
“I swear, nobody thanks you when you give them time.”
Isaac clicked his tongue. He had been waiting for a suitable opportunity, partly because of Mazelan’s request and also because these idiots would cause a ruckus if they suddenly lost everything in a single night.
Yet these fools who should have been busy burying their treasuries were instead fighting to be the captain of a sinking ship.
“Should I just take it all, it’s so annoying…”
Isaac would suffer from indigestion for some time, but he wouldn’t die. But there was no reason for Isaac to suffer the annoyance.
“There has been ominous rumour abound lately.”
Isaac asked, and Rivelia hesitantly looked at Cordnell before she answered.
“The rumour claim that Cordnell has been abusing the rights of the Lord for himself.”
Cordnell’s eyes bulged out in surprise and shouted.
“I know those are baseless rumours, but this involves the power of the Lord. The rumours say that you have turned the Lord into your puppet and rampantly throw around the Lord’s weight at will, oppressing your colleagues and superiors and even embezzling in plain sight…”
As Rivelia explained, her voice trailed off to that of a whimper, picking up on the awkward mood. Cordnell gulped like a fish in disbelief;he was the most innocent man that one could blame for a crime he didn’t commit.
“Hm. Already engaging in political subterfuge to defame my close aides, is it?”
“No way, what an absurd joke you’re saying.”
Rivelia responded with a silence, while Cordnell refuted it immediately. Isaac pursed his lips like an unsatisfied bully and spoke to Cordnell.
“You’re having it hard lately right?”
Cordnell’s eyes were filled with alarm when Isaac suddenly comforted him.
“What, what are you planning?”
“I’ve been thinking, it wasn’t much of a problem when this was just a city, but I think I need someone to manage my fief during my absence now that I’ve become a Lord.”
“I recommend Kalden! He knows the city’s finances like the back of his hand and is capable, trusted, and respected by both his colleagues and your subjects!”
The chilling tingle that ran up Cordnell’s spine urged him to recommend someone else, but Isaac ignored it and continued to talk.
“That’s why I’ll promote you. Since you’re the next in command after the damsel, you’ll be the 3rd man in charge.”
“How about Mr. Soland? His capabilities are proven as an agent of Central, and he has firm grasps on the workings of the underground of this city, making him a suitable candidate.”
“I’ll be leaving you to manage not just the fief but Central’s tasks too, so work hard. Make sure they pay you back for all the grievances they’ve made you suffer through. You’ll have my utmost support, so be sure to throw my weight as the Director of Security around to the fullest. Got it? Go hard.”
“Why me?! Why? Do you hate me that much!”
Cordnell was practically spitting at Isaac as his eyes bore into Isaac when he noted Cordnell’s new responsibility of handling Central. Rivelia coughed dryly and stepped back while Isaac smiled, satisfied.
“Huh, to think you’d hate being promoted. I think I really have a loyal employee. Hahaha. That’s what it takes to be my left hand. Others are just yes-men simply because they don’t like dealing with me. But your attitude—to come at me demanding a fight to the death—I like it. That personality of yours won’t get you far anywhere else, so I’ll make sure you achieve success under me.”
“Yeah, you bastard! Let’s fight to the death right now!”
Cordnell exploded and threw himself at Isaac only to be held in the air by Rizzly, who had the foresight to be on standby nearby.
Rivelia held her forehead and sighed, while Isaac took out a cigarette and spoke.
“Go do your work now. No. Why would you work on the day you’re getting promoted? Take today off. I’ll pay for everything, so make sure you take the bonus, party hard, and meet some women. You can go shopping if you want as well.”
“It’s me who manages that money in the first place!”
“Even better. Don’t feel bad and spend as much as you want.”
When Isaac appointed Cordnell to be the third man in charge, all the rumours about Cordnell seemingly vanished.
Truth was, the reason why such rumour started was because Cordnell poked his head around everywhere demanding they cough up money. This was the administrative body’s form of retaliation, but they didn’t think Cordnell would be promoted like this.
However, the administrative body was somewhat happy beneath the apologetic feelings behind Cordnell’s promotion, since they could just report everything to Cordnell instead of asking for Isaac.
Isaac too was pleased with dealing with Cordnell alone, who would occasionally challenge Isaac in an adorable manner, instead of the administrative body, who would flinch at anything he did. He applauded himself for such excellent human resource management.
“What is it now? If you’re not happy that I only promoted Cordnell…”
Kalden shook his terrified face even before Isaac finished.
“Mr. Cordnell will do well. I am doing my best to assist him as well.”
“Then why are you here? Shouldn’t you all be going to Cordnell instead?”
Thanks to that, Cordnell’s workload had exploded, but that wasn’t Isaac’s business. Kalden scratched his cheek at Isaac’s question.
“Port City has come with an offer.”
“Port City? Now that you mention it, I’ve forgotten completely about them. I really have softened, forgetting those who tried to one-up me. So what’s the offer?”
“… It’s reunification with New Port City.”
Isaac burst out in laughter at Kalden’s words. Rizzly and Laila approached with keen interest and carefully watched Kalden.
“Yes. Their argument is that since the two cities had been split away in the past, now is the time to join together again.”
“Reunification huh… Such interesting terms.”
“I was surprised too. I didn’t think Port City would make the first offer.”