Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 162
Confusion and Change
If Sir Fux and Mayor Robert knew the cooperation plan was actually the navy buying out the entire sector, he might just have thrown up a mouthful of blood. The naval officers had long met with Rodan. A couple even knew him from the capital.
The officer in charge of setting the naval base's construction was quite satisfied with the company's efforts in the area. It was all but exactly what they'd been planning to do, on a less luxurious scale, of course. Their work had only just begun, but the navy had no problem paying them a 200-thousand-crown deposit up front.
After everything was done, the navy would have paid them 300 thousand crowns, netting the company 80 thousand in profits. The navy was more than happy to pay since it saved them having to do the labour themselves. They wouldn't have been able to build the same for much cheaper, and this setup freed up their men for more important things. Most importantly, though it wasn't really a fair comparison, the whole project was about the same size as Port Neru, the kingdom's other major port, but it cost them only about a third.
The company's investors were ecstatic. They'd sold off their project before the work had even gotten on its proper way. A couple nearly fainted at the thought of being in possession of so many crowns, even if most of it would end up going to covering costs.
The funds they'd put up so far was just around 30 thousand. And now they'd already made 200 thousand. Again, most of it would still be needed to cover the upcoming costs, but that was still ridiculous.
"We'll keep 100 thousand as the company's capital. The rest of the project will draw from that. We'll pay of the rest of the loans now to minimise our interest. What's left we'll split with the shareholders. Any thoughts?" Claude asked.
No one objected. This was the fastest anyone had made money in Whitestag in all its centuries of existence.
"We shouldn't disband the company once this is finished. Rodan, take the viscount, the man in command of the base, around town. If things go well, we might just sign a couple more contracts with him for the western slums. Try for sole-proprietor contracts, but it's okay if we have to settle for co-development. We'll still make a decent profit."
Rodan slapped his thigh, nearly jumping to his feet.
"Of course! Why didn't I think of this sooner?"
Bidlir and his ilk were not celebrating. He'd lost everything he'd worked on with the Blacksnakes for so many years. On top of that his latest endeavour, the business with the garrison, had come up with nothing as well. All the weapons he could get in town were worth nothing with the damned navy all over the place.
It was a catastrophe. He felt like an abandoned orphan. Even as Sir Fux and Mayor Robert expressed their sympathies for his losses, they were powerless to help. One was a politician and the other a minor bureaucrat. Neither could do much against the navy.
Bidlir had suffered a severe loss. Most of his money had been invested in the slums, mostly in property such as the fish plant. He'd gotten a fair price for them, really, but that had been a fair price before the prices tripled with Normanely Real Estate's meddling.
The most hateful part was the loss of his establishments which had come to make up most of his steady income. He'd not just lost property, but a dozen sources of income as well. He could do nothing but quietly accept it, however. A big crime boss in Whitestag he might be, but he was less than an ant in the grand scheme of things in the kingdom.
He couldn't even use the fact that that particular building had been a gambling den to jack up the price even a little since such establishments were illegal. All he'd get for doing that was prison, if he was lucky. The most he could do was feign ignorant. Fortunately, the old warehouse was officially owned by the crippled father of one of his generals. As long as he kept his mouth shut if the shit hit the shrine bell, none of it would come flying his way.
Speaking of generals, his gang no longer existed. The navy had showed up, sealed the slums, and all but conscripted his entire enterprise out of existence. He supposed he should thank his lucky stars he was already part of the local garrison or they might just have come for him as well.
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 they would become logistics units, labourers, for the navy in town. They would not officially be part of the military in the sense of being soldiers. A couple might be chosen for official enlistment, however, but the majority would just be employed civilian labour.
Bidlir asked about what would happen to those that were not picked for enlistment, hoping he might be able to rebuild his little gang once they were set free.
"They'll all eventually end up enlisted. We can make anyone fit, and we will with this group as well. It might just take a little longer for some of them."
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.
The auditors that came this time, however, were 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. Thomas and the former treasurer on the other hand were basked in sublime jubilation and they celebrated by drinking to the high heavens.