Because Free Trade Cities received no funding from the Empire, such cities had to operate purely on tax revenue—which was difficult to accomplish without a novel source of income. Port City was one of such Free Trade Cities, listed as one of the ten richest cities in the whole of the Empire
“Now that you mention it, how did they survive until now? Port City shouldn’t have anything that could supply them with money anymore?”
In the past, Port City would have used the tariff revenue from the waterways to run the city, but now that it was impossible, their only source of money was what little elite nobles, who were too traditional and bore ill feelings toward Isaac, spent in the city.
But even those select nobles slowly moved toward New Port City, so it was only a matter of time before Port City collapsed.
“It is amazing they are still standing as of now. They invested most of the revenue from the southern waterway customs duties into the city so the citizens can maintain their standard of living from before you screwed everything up, my Lord.”
“Ahem. What do you mean, ‘screwed up everything?’ You’re making it sound like I made it happen.”
Everyone in the know was aware the once-in-a-lifetime gamble Isaac had won was rigged—they just didn’t have the evidence to prove it. Which was why Kalden was dumbfounded by Isaac’s blatant feigns at innocence.
“Wait. The waterway shouldn’t be city property, so how could they take all the revenue from customs duties? Who was it again? Wasn’t it Zeroman who owned the southern waterway?”
“Yes. And he is the current mayor of Port City.”
“I assume he didn’t take that title because he wanted to.”
“From what I hear, he was somewhat forced into the position and managed to keep the city running with what he had.”
Nobody wanted their quality of life to worsen.
Forced by such citizens, Zeroman had taken the mantle of Mayor and barely managed to keep the city afloat by raising customs duties on the southern waterway. But now, the customs duties on goods traveling through the southern waterways were so high that they now had to worry about a trade imbalance—the final breaking point.
So the novel solution they came up with was reunification with New Port City.
“Foolish. Where did they get the idea that their lives would suddenly become better once we are reunited? And did they think I would just jump on board with their offer in the first place?”
“After some probling, I uncovered the reason why those in Port City are so hung up about the reunification.”
“Yes. It doesn’t involve the ordinary citizens, but most of the landlords in Port City evaded taxes by investing the bulk of their money into New Port City real estate. The money’s been frozen there since.”
“What’s the reason those lots are just standing on the edge of a cliff with their money? Haven’t real estate prices peaked at this point?”
“How much are you going to tax them if Port City property owners decide to sell their properties?”
“The maximum, of course.”
“How is that related to reunification?”
“Tax from property trade between a subject of a fief and an outsider is decided by the Lord ruling the territory the property is inside, but trade between subjects of the same fief are under the Private Property Protection Laws and are set in stone by the central government.”
“Ha, dumbasses. Will they finally come to their senses after starving to the point they’d pay a gold bar for a single loaf of bread? I see that they are still full in their stomachs.”
“Well… Port City has come with an offer as well.”
“Do they even have anything to offer at this point?”
“… It’s the rights to the southern waterways.”
Isaac spat out the puff of smoke when Kalden answered.
This was very intriguing. The waterways were originally supposed to be handed over to Central, but the myriad of incidents afterwards dropped the waterways down their list of their priorities. And now that he had become Director of Security, the whole talk might as well have never happened, which was why it was quickly forgotten. But now, it was just being handed out to him for free.
“Let me ask this. Shouldn’t the person proposing the offer at least show his face, especially when it’s this important? Why hasn’t he shown himself?”
The waterway was private property. So the negotiation shouldn’t be city-to-city but city to individual. But right now, it was between Port City and New Port City, with Zeroman the owner excluded.
A wave of displeasure washed over Kalden’s face as he answered Isaac.
“I’ve looked into it, and it seems Zeroman is pretty much under house arrest.”
“Yes. I believe this entire proposal is being orchestrated by the three other families who had previously lost their rights to the waterways. The three families have spurred the citizens of Port City into supporting this measure too.”
“They’re not only taking his generosity for granted—they’re going to sell it off as well? This is why humans as a race can’t be trusted. Tsk. Disgusting.”
“… What do we do?”
Isaac went deep into thought with his cigarette when Kalden asked. The first thing that came into Isaac’s mind when he heard about reunification was ‘is this a trap?’
Absorbing the Lichtens alone was going to be a struggle, and Isaac was frantically making the room to digest it as it was.
If he were to add in the reunification with Port City, his funds may not survive such an immense expenditure of money in such a short timeframe.
It was unlikely that Port City was oblivious to that fact, given that they dangled the rights to the waterway in front of him. And even if they were in fact oblivious, the bait was too weak.
It may have been a tempting offer In the past when he didn’t have anything. But now, the rights to the southern waterway was worthless. He could take it any time he wanted to do so.
“I see that there are only idiots left in Port City.”
If Isaac wanted to take over Port City, it didn’t have to be now. Now that these idiots—who haven’t the most basic knowledge about negotiation manners—revealed their trump card, Isaac only needed to wait until they declared bankruptcy. After that, Isaac would just pick up the pieces once their wealth had been repossessed.
“I guess they thought we’d jump at the offer if it was the waterway.”
Kalden replied without much reaction other than a shrug. He seemed to have calculated everything in his head already. Isaac looked back suspiciously and asked.
“What the? You’re not on Port City’s side?”
“Why would I be?”
“Why would someone who opposed the idea suggest it to me?”
“Because I’ve taken a hefty bribe myself.”
Kalden’s nonchalant answer made Isaac snicker.
“Good, now that’s an exemplary attitude. I reject their offer at reunification.”
“I have come with a message from the Director of Surveillance.”
Isaac’s eyes gleamed brightly at Rizzly’s report.
“Good, what time suits best?”
“The Director has left you a message saying that it is difficult for her to meet due to a busy schedule. And she is currently in a far-off land.”
“Why would a Director move about so busily like that? Shouldn’t that be left for the underlings while the Director sits in their office and approves whatever documents that arrive?”
Isaac responded, puzzled. Rizzly did his best to maintain a straight face and replied.
“Ahem. Anyhow, the Director has an additional message for you.”
“Yes. That the Director of Surveillance won’t intervene, but she won’t join along either. As long as the issue remains between the human races.”
“That’s a rather nuanced answer.”
Isaac muttered with an unimpressed expression.
He could take the message as being neutral, but it was a warning that Surveillance would intervene at any time if another race were to suffer from it.
Isaac didn’t receive a definite answer. But after some careful thought, believing in a grand alliance was going to be an entirely different issue.
Isaac could put faith in this alliance and cause a scene, only to be backstabbed and without allies to cry foul to.
So in a way, this answer was just right.
Perhaps the relationship was something like this.
I can guess what you’re doing and I won’t stop you, but make sure we’re not caught in the crossfire.
“Tell the Director of Surveillance that I appreciate her cooperation and wish to maintain such a friendly relationship. And also, tell the Director to contact me immediately if there’s anything the Director doesn’t like. So I can fix up the plan before it happens.”
Isaac needed to be happy that he had reestablished a relationship with the Director of Surveillance. But that also meant he needed to abandon his plan of using them as an excuse to act.
So now Isaac needed an excuse that matched the gravity of his actions, but he couldn’t think of a suitable one. Isaac pondered, his cigarette in hand, to think of a target small enough to take on, before he scanned his surroundings.
“It’s quiet. Where is everyone?”
The rooftop was dead silent in contrast to the boisterous aura mere days ago.
“The airball was it? They’re all gone to play with it in the Lake.”
“I guess it’ll be entertaining to play on water. It’ll be great advertising as well. At least they are earning their keep this way. Is the brat gone as well?”
“Yes. I think she needs some rest. She is still but a child after all.”
“I’m surprised she tagged along so cooperatively like that?”
“How could that possibly be. Julia nagged at her for hours, and I gave her the final push on her back to send her off.”
“I wonder if she’ll even rest properly. I could see in plain sight just how hard she was struggling to keep up.”
“If you already know, then why don’t you treat her better. She’s like a tightly taut string, and my heart shakes in fear that it will snap at any moment.”
“Well her snapping will be good in its own way.”
“Don’t be like that…”
Rizzly grunted, bothered by Isaac’s cold logic. Isaac extinguished his cigarette and continued.
“The brat’s got a promising life ahead of her, a life of plenty where she need not worry about money. But she kicked away such a future to try to walk the treacherous road. It’ll be better for an ordinary child’s mind to give up early.”
“She didn’t look like she’d give up any time soon.”
“That’s because that brat’s a protagonist. I swear, these protagonists get all the main character buffs, what with a double experience gain event. Every trial they pass is just a series of level-ups and rewards. I doubt she’ll ever give up.”
Rizzly didn’t exactly understand Isaac’s complaining but he at least understood that the protagonists were amazing.
While Isaac thought about another business scheme to make money, the whole of the Empire was in a ruckus of another once-in-a-lifetime happening of provincial warfare. Many of the smaller nobles came together into a confederation and attacked the Duberon Family, whose strength had sunk to rock bottom in recent history.
It may have been disastrous news for the barely recovering Duberon Family, whose line of succession had been displaced and military forces weakened. But to those chafing under the rule of the Duberons it was an opportunity of a lifetime.
That is how the war started, but contrary to everyone’s expectation, the war ended in Duberon’s victory.
Called as the Three Days War, it was listed in the history books as the shortest war ever fought. The war revealed a revolutionary tactic that would change the military structure of all of the Empire in the future.
“Blitzkrieg. They’re mad.”
No, rather than blitzkrieg, perhaps it was more of maneuver warfare?1Maneuver warfare, or manoeuvre warfare, is a military strategy which attempts to defeat the enemy by incapacitating their decision-making through shock and disruption. Source.
The Duberon family loaded all of their troops and supplies on automobiles and advanced rapidly into the Confederation Territory even before they could establish a front line, driving straight for their headquarters.
As a result, the war ended when all of the Confederation’s heads gathered together to discuss the untold ambush, only to be ambushed themselves and captured. All of this happened so fast that Isaac couldn’t even start the war bets.
“Well, send a congratulatory message for their victory.”
Isaac ordered nonchalantly, but his head was in a mess.
The weaponization of vehicles was a shift in paradigm. From now on, wars would inconceivably change beyond anyone’s expectation.
- 1Maneuver warfare, or manoeuvre warfare, is a military strategy which attempts to defeat the enemy by incapacitating their decision-making through shock and disruption. Source.