Chapter 239 - Centuries of Strategic Planning (Two)

Kingdom’s Bloodline Masterless Sword, 无主之剑 2022/9/13 16:53:23

Chapter 239: Centuries of Strategic Planning (Two)

Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation

In that moment, Lampard’s words were like a cold, threatening edge of a blade that traveled into the ears of all archdukes.

“A long time ago, Constellation established a qualification examination to stipulate that only certain kinds of people can become either specific government officials, or the king’s arms.

“They used feudal nobility prerogatives, status, and honor to solicit the minor nobility class who were once from humble society, or civilians who could not advance into nobility. They entrusted authority into these impoverished government officials and even allowed them to enter restricted areas that only allowed those of the kingdom’s royal bloodline and their families.

“What’s more terrifying was that in order to achieve such a promotion, many minor nobles, merchants, and even countryside villagers were willing to only be the king’s lackeys and faithful officials”

All four archdukes frowned, carefully thinking over the meaning behind these words.

Lampard’s eyes were cold as iron.

“First, the tax collectors. Merchants and accountants obtained official positions through the qualification training and examinations. They became the king’s loyal professional servants in a leap and collected taxes on his behalf in his immediate subordinate territories, creating inventory and records in Renaissance Palace. Responsible and diligent, they formed systems and conventions: Every tax collector answers to the Chief of Finance and his subordinates. Strictly abiding to the rules, skillful with their calculations, keen and alert, they wouldn’t miss a single coin or conceal a single account.

“Hence, the taxes that go into the king’s hand were higher, more detailed, and increased in amount every single year, and this is in comparison to the nobles and personal vassals he sent to collect taxes, who he had given the task based on the kingdom’s previous standards of loyalty, sensibility, and how close they were to him. You think the affluence of the Jadestar Royal Family was as simple as a tyrant increasing taxes?”

‘Do you know what this means?’ Lampard silently added in his heart. ‘Short-sighted old jack*ss archdukes.’

“What about our Eckstedt?” Lampard changed the topic. With eyes like sharp blades, he shot a glance at the four startled archdukes. “To ensure that there are no damages in interest or change in authority, the archdukes and nobles will only send their own trusted aides and subordinates as tax collectors. Wielding swords and spears, they collected tax payments at the castles and villages through amity and relations with the supreme ruler. They tyrannically abused, bullied and deceived their way into filling their pockets with bribes!

“Every year, if the taxes handed to the supreme ruler by his vassals could reach half of what was intended in the plan, they would have shown how satisfied they were with the king’s rule and how loyal they were.”

Archduke Olsius lowered his head with a solemn expression, not saying a word.

Lampard’s words went on, “In the many cities of Constellation, there’s a position called the police officer. It is also achievable only through examinations and training. The police station is directly under the jurisdiction of a garrison officer, and are specially tasked to oversee the city’s law and order. Clearly distinguished from the city defense team that acts as regular private troops, they were strictly prohibited from interfering with one another.

“And what about us?” The Archduke of Black Sand Region gritted his teeth. His expression was terrifying. “What about Eckstedt, who faced depression in trade and a scarcity in goods over the years? Apart from the ulteriorly motivated, filthy, trashy Camians, half the merchants would rather do business in Constellation than in Eckstedt. Is it really because the southern products are more ample? No!”

Lampard’s gaze was solemn.

“It’s because the merchants all know that at least in Constellation, the business regulations and orders are all well-stated. At the very least, there are professional officials and departments to make appeals at, and police stations and officers to maintain the order of the marketplace in public. At least they don’t have to wrangle with unreasonable troops, make dealings with the big names who have various connections.” Lampard thought of something and clenched his fists tightly.

“Whereas in Eckstedt, a diminutive disciplinary officer managing the patrols can already set up large scale weapons smuggling, kick off merchants who are unpleasant to the eyes through connections and double-crossing—as long as someone higher up closes an eye!”

Archduke Trentida pursed his lips. His soulful eyes had already frozen in one spot, only blinking occasionally.

Lampard sneered. “In the city of Constellation, all government officials in the Town Hall from stenographers to transcribers, authorized signatories to judges; they’re all people who passed the qualification examinations. They have clear job scopes, are familiar with the regulations, pass information from the top down, carry out orders, and only recognize warrant seals.

“In the Bloody Year, everyone from their supreme king to the prince fell to Hell’s River. Their enemies watched covetously, all the nobles were panicking! However, just relying on the Prime Minister and his professional government officials to handle affairs according to regulations, Eternal Star City—which was facing imminent danger—still operated steadily for ten days until the last remaining prince returned to make compromises with the nobles regarding the issue of his coronation!

“And what about us?” Lampard violently beat his chest. “Today, just less than a few hours into the death of the formidable Northland Born King, Dragon Clouds City has been thrown into disorder because of the loss of his prestige. Chaos, rumors, conflicts and contradiction began emerging innumerably, the people are panic-stricken. I believe Lisban even hesitated half a day on whether or not to arrogate authority and utilize the patrols—he’s already too used to asking for instructions from Nuven.

“For hours, I rampaged the city with an army in tow! I’ve taken down the First Gatehouse and am standing here, so near that I can spit saliva on you; and the grand Prime Minister has only just rushed over with the troops in confusion.”

Archduke Roknee’s complexion darkened. He let out a deep breath and his gaze was hesitant.

Lampard paused for a good ten seconds. In such a long amount of time, none of the archdukes said anything. Eventually, Lampard released a grudgingly difficult breath of air. He looked exhausted and pained.

“I know that your territory is far from Constellation, and over the past few years, you have only cared about all your games with Dragon Clouds City, but… But I’ve already talked to this extent, don’t tell me that you still don’t feel it?”

In that moment, Lampard gritted his teeth. His fists were clenched tightly, cold sweat poured as if he was facing an unparalleled, terrifying and ferocious beast.

“Some shocking, unprecedented, and frightening changes are happening quietly behind Constellation—what’s left of the empire and the country that has struggled endlessly with us.”

The archdukes’ faces changed subtly. Lampard was trembling a bit as he continued his chilling words.

“These changes: They’re quiet like surging undercurrents, plain like dripping water that penetrates stone. But please believe that over the past hundreds and thousands of years, even those as strong as the Ancient Empire have never seen such a terrible situation before.”

Lampard only felt his hair stand on end. There was a chilling sensation like that of polar ice in his chest. It struck directly into his heart. “Constellation—our opponents for six hundred years now—is experiencing an unprecedented transformation.”

Under the hesitation of disbelief and earth-shattering shock, the four archdukes glanced at each other in pairs, not knowing whether to advance or retreat.

Nevertheless, Lampard continued his speech, “Through the most direct contact in war, I saw the tip of the iceberg of this terrible transformation.

“Just like the faint vibrations that can be heard from the inside of a pupa on the eve of its evolution; absolutely unremarkable, yet extremely crucial.”

Lampard suddenly raised his head. His eyes were like swords, their sharp glint threatening as they shot straight at the four archdukes.

“Everyone, please open your eyes.” The Archduke of Black Sand Region gritted his teeth, his voice was hoarse and tone resolute. “Where exactly is our greatest threat?”

The archdukes seemed to have not reacted yet. But in that moment, Archduke Lecco’s face was unprecedentedly dark. He slowly raised his head and looked at Lampard.

Weary and fatigued, the old archduke said in a hoarse and unpleasant voice, “Mindis the Third?”

The other three archdukes’ faces changed.

Lampard’s look at the old archduke grew a little gentle, but his gaze became dull.

“Right,” Lampard said softly as he leaned back against his chair, “This is the situation after a hundred and fifty years—the contrast between us and Constellation.”

Archduke Olsius raised his head in surprise. “A hundred and fifty years? Could it be…”

Lampard nodded his head weakly. “Yes,” he confirmed. He said flatly, “What I just told you…” His eyes gushed with wariness and a grave look once again, “All this originated from a hundred and fifty years ago… From that Supreme King of Constellation who was practically ignored by everyone: Mindis the Third.”

The four archdukes cast their glances at Lampard in that second. Their emotions were complicated and they reacted differently. The Archduke of Black Sand Region could not help but sneer as he watched their expressions.

They only heard Chapman Lampard snort coldly with indistinguishable judgment. “You said that he did not do anything significant? Over a hundred years ago, Mindis the Third did not hesitate to offend the Jadestar Family’s offshoots, trusted aides, in-laws, and even the immediate vassals. Strict and precise, he established and separated countless governmental positions and countless departments: the Town Hall, police station, Department of Finance…

“King Mindis granted them with his own authority, stated clear regulations, training and examinations. He would even take loans just to pay others their salaries. It was all so to allow these new government officials to manage the kingdom’s Central Territory, and even all of Constellation.

“A hundred or more years passed. For taxation, efficiency, power, and even to effectively resist the king; even the furthest and most bossy vassal with influence can’t help but to give in to the rules of the game left behind by the ‘Virtuous King’. They acknowledged the king’s government officials, and at the same time began recruiting their own bureaucrats.” Lampard raised his head, the chill of a blade flashed in his eyes.

“Relying on these people, the royal power of Constellation progressively penetrated every corner of the kingdom. Unprecedentedly, from top to bottom, they controlled the entire country.

“You thought it was only luck and talent behind the scenes of the Starlight Brigade? No. This steel carriage consisting of countless professional government officials began with Mindis the Third. For a long time, even through the friction and conflict between Constellation and Eckstedt, during the years when we shook the Western Peninsula, it has been quietly operating, breaking in and settling for over a hundred years. With imperceptible influence, they grew roots and germinated!”

When he heard this, Archduke Roknee of the City of Faraway Prayers bowed his head deeply. His eyes were filled with struggle.

Lampard opened his mouth again and his tone was cold. “Also, you said that King Mindis was weak and incapable, that he compromised with the nobles? You’re not wrong, the High Noble Parliament seems like the setting for major vassals to combine and revolt against the king. But contrary to that, regulations and orders were formed because of this. Whatever matter the Constellation vassals wanted to solve, they had no choice but to abide by this rule. They were forced to return to the chessboard on this ostensible Noble Parliament, back to the beast-taming cage the king created for them!

“The National Conference where all the lowly and unbearably boorish civilians can go to visit the country’s major events? It’s ridiculous to watch, and it has indeed been a joke to the other countries in the world for more than a hundred years. But have you ever thought that, no matter how much it doesn’t live up to its name, the weak and lowly civilians could only choose to side with the royal power during the numerous conferences where the nobles were one party and the king the other. Coming together under the Nine-Pointed Star royal crown and the Staff of Constellation, they resisted the king’s enemies!

“And a hundred years later today, forgive me for reminding you that it was exactly through what King Mindis left behind: the High Noble Parliament and National Conference where you ‘compromise with the nobles’…

“Our southern Kessel the Fifth turned hundreds and thousands of Constellation civilians into his personal, powerful tools against the vassals! In the past five years, he endured practically all the vassals’ aggressive resistance, unquestionably launched a country-wide war and unstoppingly conferred an heir to the royal family! This is his royal power! For Constellation, it’s already the norm!”

Lampard violently struck the table with his fists and, with a face filled with rage, he exclaimed, “If King Nuven stood here and asked you to enlist troops in a month and storm the Great Desert, how many people would do as he said without the slightest hesitation?

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“Similarly, King Nuven pulled out an illegitimate child as his heir and wanted you to vow your loyalty to her henceforth. How many would kneel without any hesitation?”

Olsius and Trentida looked at each other across space. One looked hesitant as he shook his head slightly; the other clenched his jaw, his breathing grew hurried.

“As to what all the people said about King Mindis taking loans to pass the day?” The Archduke of Black Sand Region raised his hand and waved it indifferently. “Do you know what’s more ridiculous?”

Lampard shifted his body forward and gritted his teeth with a cold expression.

“More than a hundred years ago, Mindis the Third, who raised a large group of government officials under his wing, constantly borrowed money, and he seemed to never be bored of it. Then, he gave an order. All the tax collectors gathered in one house, and with the special permission from the royal family as well as the tax revenue of the subsequent year as a guarantee, they wrote evidences of debt for debtors.

“A hundred years later today, that house where countless merchants come and go was expanded many times. Imitating the customs of the Camian city states, they got a name change.” The Archduke of Black Sand Region looked unpleasant. His tone was hesitant, as if he wanted to recount something strange that even he could not understand. “It was called the ‘Royal Family Bank’.”

The few archdukes cast doubtful looks.

Lampard gritted his teeth, shook his head and said, “Five years ago, King Kessel did not raise taxes, neither did he pillage. He merely took a loan from this bank formed by countless merchants, this so-called ‘Royal Family Bank’. He took out a big sum of money, pulled up an innumerable number of troops, and fought a Desert War that caused a huge sum of money. After he came back, he actually even expanded the regular troops!

“For those of us who gets tax raises once there’s a war, can you imagine this? You thought that this war—commenced through loans—only relied on the affluence of the Jadestar Royal Family?”

Silence fell again. Nobody said a word.

‘A war that can be initiated without raising taxes?’

The Eckstedtian archdukes were all vassals with territories comparable to a country. They understood better than anyone else what this actually meant.