Chapter 292: The Boundaries of Governance (One)
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
In the archduchess’ the study room, Saroma’s eyes widened. “What?”
Thales, too, stared dumbly at the teacher who had just said some astonishing words.
‘This… Th- th- this… Are you really here to be a teacher?!’
In such an awkward atmosphere, the archduchess was at a loss for words. She could not say a single word for a long time, and could only look at Thales for help, as was her wont.
In the end, Thales could not bear watching this, and he summoned up all his courage to speak. “Mr. Hicks, this joke is… Saroma and I, we…”
However, the main culprit for this atmosphere, the thin Meryl Hicks, still held his cane as he looked at Saroma with a half-smile.
The next moment, the girl took a deep breath as though she had made up her mind. She then resolutely lowered her head and bent down to pick up ‘Cahill Yarrow’s Poetry Collection’, which had fallen down.
It was as if it was very important to her… and she left the embarrassment to Thales alone. But he was soon rescued from it.
“Yes!” The bespectacled Old Crow turned his head and interrupted Thales brusquely. The old man’s eye behind the monocle blinked gently. He swept his gaze over a speechless Thales, then locked onto Saroma.
“You must like him very much.”
Having just picked up her book and stood up, Saroma was stunned and had to speak, “We are just good friends.”
Thales nodded in agreement.
“Otherwise, without the deliberate protection of the archduchess, the hostage prince from Constellation…” Unexpectedly, Hicks the Old Crow’s banter gradually disappeared. He ignored Saroma and Thales’ clarification and shook his head as he continued speaking, “It’s impossible to stay in Dragon Clouds City of Northland for six whole years among hostile wolves.”
The two students were momentarily stunned.
Hicks’ expression had faded from the initial look of ease and satisfaction. The smile on his lips may remain, but the clouded look in his eyes gradually disappeared.
The cane in his hand was pulled closer to his body. “What do you think, Thales?”
The prince came back to his senses. He suddenly noticed that the old man had not just said those words to tease them about their relationship.
It appeared that… the old man was thinking too much.
By focusing on Hicks’ inquiry, Thales let go of his embarrassment and sighed slowly.
“I cannot deny it.” The young man glanced at the girl with the reddened face and nodded, feeling concerned. “Without Saroma’s protection, the Northlanders would not have been so polite to me. I am very grateful for it.”
Saroma did not say a word. Hicks sighed.
“Then, can I ask a question, Saroma?” The Old Crow addressed her by name without any scruple, just as he did with the prince. “Why are your people, vassals, and subordinates being unkind to Thales? Did the prince do anything unforgivable to them?”
Saroma gave Thales a glance.
“No, Thales did not do anything wrong.” The archduchess shook her head vigorously. “But because he is the Prince of Constellation, the Northlanders have a reason to hate him. This is the enmity between nations.”
The new teacher narrowed his eyes. “Why? Why do Northlanders hate the Prince of Constellation?”
“Eighteen years ago, during Constellation’s ‘Bloody Year’…” Saroma paused for a few seconds. She looked at Thales with great concern and saw that the latter seemed unaffected by the mention of that event. Then she took a deep breath and said, “We, Eckstedt and Constellation, had fought a tragic war.”
Thales looked somberly at the Old Crow, who still smiled, but also gave him an inexplicable sense of seriousness. He suddenly understood what Hicks wanted to talk about.
“The Bloody Year. Of course. This is what Constellation called it,” Hicks said with a deep gaze. He spoke quietly with a lamenting tone, “A war spanning from Year 660 to 661 in the Calendar of Eradication. Ah, the Bloody Year…”
The new teachers’ gaze became stern.
“So, what did the Constellatiates do that made Eckstedt, who initiated the invasion of Constellation, to be filled with hatred for the kingdom they invaded?”
Thales frowned. Saroma hesitated for a second, but with Hicks’ smile, she recalled the contents of the books she read and her past lessons, and answered, “Because of the ‘Fortress Treaty’.
“At the end of the war, the Northlanders were forced to negotiate for peace with Constellation, and even, under the pressure of many parties, signed a peace treaty.
“Except for a woodland northwest of the fortress, fought over even before the war, and some money for compensation, Eckstedt did not get much land and war gains.
“Many people, from archdukes to vassals, and from nobles to soldiers, have won the battle against the Northern Territory. But in the end, they could only return to Northland dejected. They could not accept this reality. So…”
The archduchess mindfully gave Thales another glance. “So they felt that this is the shame that the Constellatiates brought onto them through despicable means.”
As he listened to the discussion between the old and the young, Thales remembered everything that Gilbert told him in the carriage on the eve of the National Conference.
‘”…instead of saying that this is an agreement, it would be more accurate to say that it is a record of humiliation.”‘
“Very good. So this is the answer. This is the source of the enmity between Northlanders and Constellation—the Fortress Treaty, which brought the Northlanders dispropriate results for victory.” When he said this, Hicks aptly put on a puzzled expression. “However, this answer only brings more questions.
“Although you probably did not know about it at the time, Saroma, and Prince Thales was not even born yet,” Hicks said as he touched his cane and exhaled, “but just as I mentioned before, ‘why?’
“Eckstedt had already gained such a huge advantage that the whole Northern Territory and half of the Land of Cliffs were defeated by them. Why is the ‘Fortress Treaty’ signed under such circumstances? Why did Eckstedt just ask for compensation and gave up every piece of land in Constellation that they had laboriously fought for nearly half a year?”
Thales and Saroma both frowned and began to think on the old man’s words. Hicks turned his head and looked at the Prince of Constellation.
“Thales, what is your answer? Would you like to guess?”
Thales raised his eyebrows marginally. A memory of a long time ago appeared in his mind.
It was in that bright classroom, the clacking sounds of keys from a keyboard rising and falling and the sound of pens scratching over notes could still be heard.
‘”Qiren, what is your answer to this question?”‘
In the past six years, such strange yet familiar memories rarely resurfaced, at least, not as often as they did during those thrilling adventures six years ago. But by no means did those memories just fade away into obscurity. They would still reappear, like now.
In his memory was the owner of the vague, indistinct, gentle female voice who always caused Thales to find it hard to control his emotions but could never recall her name, and whose voice had not appeared for a long time.
Under Hicks’ gentle urging, Thales recovered his senses and hurriedly said,
“I think… Because of the joint intervention of many countries, I think, whether it is Hanbol, Mane et Nox on the other side of the sea, or Camus Union on the west side, including a small number of countries, all are reluctant to see an excessively powerful Kingdom of the Great Dragon.”
Even though Thales kept talking, he gazed into the eye behind the lens piece, at the inexplicable meaning and smile in the gaze. His heart skipped a beat, and he unknowingly slowed his speech.
Hicks, seated on a leather chair, laughed. His shoulders vibrated slightly and both his hands shook as he held on to his cane.
His laughter was feeble but cheerful, like a happy old man who was teasing a child. There was not a hint of ghastliness in his voice.
Saroma stared questioningly at the old man.
Finally, Hicks held back his mirth and nodded. “Sorry. I recalled a book I read…”
Thales revealed a confused expression.
“According to ‘War History of the Northern Territory’, the two countries began negotiations despite countries like Camus Union and Hanbol expressing their concerns. However, on the conditions for Eckstedt’s withdrawal, the inner governing circle of Camus found it hard to come to an agreement for the longest time, Hanbol showed that they wanted to respect King Nuven’s decision, and the envoy from Mane et Nox was on the way, but they only sent a messenger crow to show their stance in the matter as a symbolic gesture.
“From the looks of it, either the author of ‘War History of the Northern Territory’ is boasting, making a false testimony for the ‘intel’ he obtained, or he… What do you think?” Hicks looked up with a ruminating gaze at Thales.
The prince frowned again.
‘So, what this means is that, the so-called multinational intervention was actually very weak and insignificant to Eckstedt?
‘There is another reason behind why Eckstedt gave up their prize of war, and even the peace talks between the two countries?
Hicks rolled his eyes a little. “Eckstedt even succeeded in allowing many of the families on Constellation’s land turn their allegiance to the new Northland lords.”
Thales and Saroma were even more confused now and looked at each other before both showed puzzled expressions to the old man.
“But in the end, the Eckstedtians still withdrew and gave up?” Thales asked doubtfully.
“It seemed so.” The Old Crow nodded delicately. “First, Count Mendes in Black Sand Region, then the Gray Family in Defense City, and finally the counts in Dragon Clouds City. When their troops withdrew, the lands of Constellation which still belonged to them in name all had the flags erected on them changed. They refused to pay taxes and be enlisted in the army. They drove away the remaining Eckstedtian nobles and returned to the rule of the previous master. Even the families that were forced to submit to the Northlanders, many of them changed their allegiance again and returned to Constellation.”
Thales pondered deeply.
“Why? Is it because of the ruling of the King of Eternal Rule which has long been deeply rooted in the people’s hearts that the loyalty of the people and nobles cannot be shaken?” Saroma asked curiously.
Hicks rubbed his wrists and whispered, “If that’s the case, why did the loyal nobles surrender to Eckstedt at the very beginning? Strictly speaking, the people in the Northern Territory are Northlanders and they do not lack the courage to fight to their deaths.”
Saroma was speechless for a moment. However, on one side, Thales was immersed in his rumination.
‘Wait a minute… Refused to pay taxes and refused enlistment, chased away the Eckstedtian noble officials who stayed back to take care of state affairs…’
The prince was struck by a thought.
He suddenly remembered that dangerous negotiation six years ago in the Hall of Heroes, where the participants were ready to attack each other. He remembered Chapman Lampard’s expression, and remembered… the thing he truly feared.
“I understand now.”
The Prince of Constellation jerked his head up to see Hicks still smiling. He said solemnly, “The Eckstedt in the past did not have the ability to rule the Northern Territory.”
Saroma looked at him curiously.
Hicks’ gaze changed. In the next second, the old man raised his right hand with a smile, and gestured for him to go on ahead and speak.
Under the gazes of the other two, the encouraged Thales took a deep breath and remembered what he had thought about six years ago.
“Whether it was paying taxes, the judiciary system, military services, or daily affairs, from the upper class to the lower class, from rich to poor, the Constellatiates had gradually grown accustomed to their own way of governance—from the Virtuous King to a gradually more advanced system and rules.
“As for Eckstedt, they could not follow Constellation’s system, neither could they govern the land the Constellatiate way. Not only were the Northlander nobles unfamiliar to it, but there were far too few qualified bureaucrats in the Kingdom of the Great Dragon who could be sent to govern the Northern Territory. They could only rule Constellation with Eckstedt’s old methods.”
The prince frowned. He remembered that not too long ago, young Joseph, and his father who was the head chef, told him about the problems that occurred in their village.
‘”The Northern Territory landlords came to collect taxes from the farmers. This month’s tax could be a chicken or a bag of wheat. In a few months, if your land is harvested or assigned to a new tax collector, you may have to give up a cow or two bags of wheat, depending on the tax collector’s moods and greediness, and on whether the suzerains are kind or harsh.
‘”If you are a craftsman and you managed to earn some money with a good idea you used to conduct a business in the bazaar, when you want to expand your business, you might have to face the covetousness of the suzerains or nobles, because it is their grace that you were even allowed to trade on the bazaar.”‘
Hicks coughed, then chuckled. The Old Crow said plainly, “As far as I know, during the occupation of the Northern Territory, Archduke Lampard, who is now King Chapman, was responsible for managing the rearguard. He once tried to fulfill his responsibilities and rights as a suzerain just like he did in Eckstedt. He tried to impose taxes on residents of the Northern Territory to subsidize expenses while guaranteeing that he would provide with safe living conditions.
“But it was clear that the effects were low. The people did not want to have any dealings with his tax collectors.”
Once he had guessed up to this point, Thales’ eyes lit up.
“Of course, this is due to the land of Constellation being different. The people in the Northern Territory have gradually become accustomed to another way of life and rule, they were not blind and obedient to the brutish northern suzerains who hailed from the Great Dragon, and they would not swear blind loyalty to them either… and this is just the Northern Territory. This refusal to obey would be even more prominent in the Central Territory and the south, because the markets were bigger there and the villages were more complicated. I heard that the craftsmen and businessmen even formed a trade association that have a right to negotiate with the suzerains.”
Thales remembered Lampard’s gaze. With heartfelt feelings and understanding, he said, “In short, Eckstedt, at the time after winning their victory, did not have the ability to rule the Northern Territory with a stable hold.
“And as a correspondence to their lack of ability to rule, once the intruders showed that they could not rule, the people of the Northern Territory of Constellation certainly will not submit to Eckstedtian rule.” The prince remembered the insignificant tax collector who turned back against Constellation, swore allegiance to Black Sand Region, and now worked under Lampard. “Because not only could the latter not give them the life they want, they were also brutally damaging their profits.”
Thales sighed. “So, even if King Nuven’s army actually occupied the Northern Territory, he could not effectively manage it, he could only use violence to coerce it.”
Saroma blinked and, like before, stared at Thales with an amazed look. Hicks the Old Crow shrugged, the creases on his face seemed to have turned darker.
“Based on what we have just discussed: Eckstedt did not turn the land and its people whom they invaded into people who would benefit from their rule, but instead turned them into Eckstedt’s enemies?” said the skinny old man in an airy voice.
Thales nodded and his expression was solemn, “So, if Eckstedt wants to continue to occupy the Northern Territory, it means that it must be stationed there for a long time, using the violence of archdukes to suppress the continuous rebellion and dissatisfaction from the people so that they could quell the growing dissatisfaction of the people over the changes in their lives.”
‘Or…’ Thales was reminded of Lampard’s promise to the archdukes during ‘Dragon’s Blood’ six years ago.
‘Or the archdukes, maybe even the king himself, would be stationed in the Northern Territory to put an end to every possible cause of trouble, and gradually… form a system similar to the existing system in Constellation before assimilating with it… And then, turn it into their own land.’
The prince unknowingly balled up his fists.
‘So, is this what you have learned in the Bloody Year eighteen years ago… Chapman Lampard?’