“One More Step Forward.”
The number of merchants arriving in the town had increased causing establishments such as inns and bars to thrive but it would just be a waste to not exploit the opportunity any more. Besides, the service model offered at the reception was guaranteed to be imitated by others soon. It would be hard to maintain the current situation just with these facilities.
Knowing that, Rion established something new, a goods market. The idea was not really groundbreaking – if the foreign merchants arriving in Camargue could complete trades in the town, then, due to its proximity to the border, their costs would reduce greatly. It was actually strange that nothing like this had existed already.
In fact, it had in the past. But it withered and died due to lack of merchants traveling through the barony.
All the transactions at the newly revived trading post were subject to kingdom’s border tariffs. Collecting those was the duty of the territory’s government and it would, in usual circumstances, lead to increase of the Crown’s total tax take from the barony. But Rion actually lowered the merchant rates to a surprising degree when a normal lord in his place would levy an additional local tax in.
Of course, since the tariffs were in under nominal control of the capital, he required a justification and he used the national calamity for that purpose. Once he reported that as a consequence of the demon attacks the number of merchants visiting Camargue rose greatly and he couldn’t in his good conscience use that fact to enrich himself on the misery of the kingdom’s other lands, no one could overturn his decision.
Rion’s real motivation was to bait even more trade to the city. The tariffs were useless for him as they went, almost in full, to the royal treasury, with very little left behind for Bandeaux.
Given this sort of fiscal environment, choosing to conduct transactions anywhere else would be absurd. The merchants would, from now on, without a doubt do business in the town of Camargue. Even if other places started to mimic their services, that would not be enough to pull the custom away from the town. With that, the profits made by the merchants would be spent on the town’s amusement offering and, in the end, still enrich the barony.
Of course, the tax would still have to rise eventually. But Rion expected to be the lord no longer by that point. And besides, it would be best not to rely on tariffs in the long run. Rion recently started to think that the territory government had to be run like a business, based on the fief’s residents energy, within its means, and depending on local tax only. The income from the merchants would be a stopgap measure until the day that was possible.
「We reached the target number of cows and pigs. We are ready to start breeding them on our own and restart animal husbandry within the barony.」
John was reporting on the progress of measures to achieve that goal.
「Can the present manpower manage as is?」
「At the moment, yes. Also, more people are coming forward to take up the work following other’s example. If our breeding program goes well and the number of livestock increases, the next step would be to let those who acquired necessary skills become independent.
「Right. That’s fine. Next point of the agenda?」
「The fields are finally approaching the harvest time and the tidings aren’t half bad.」
「It seems the agricultural cooperative approach worked out fine.」
Rion had no memory of ordering such a thing be introduced. He started to think that it might have been John’s idea he had tried out on his own but…
「Do you, perhaps, know nothing about it?」
「It all started from the farm work given to the criminals. That project, with time, evolved into a cooperative of sorts.」
「What do you mean by that?」
「They started to manage the entire cultivated area as a group. Originally, each family or sentenced person had worked on their own assigned plot of land only. That led to a difference in harvest from household to household, though. After all, they all had varying levels of skill and experience.」
「….Ah, so that’s it.」
This way of managing the land would cause the best practices and experience to be shared amongst the cooperative members. Sharing of the work burden would lead to an improvement of the production efficiency, and being able to make use of each of the workers’ strong points would help too. Of course, both the useful and non-useful qualities of the involved people would emerge in the process but the bad ones would just get “lost in the crowd” without causing any problems.
「There’s something that troubles me, though. I have recalled the discussions we had during the school days in the cafeteria.」
「Did you now…」
Vincent had still been with them during those days. Those memories were both nostalgic and melancholic.
「I remember telling the guy, that had argued for equal distribution of wealth, that his idea had ignored the value of hard work. Seeing this kind of result now makes me wonder which one of us had been right.」
「We are no longer running mental experiments, John. All approaches have advantages and disadvantages. And it’s the job of those in charge to find the right balance.」
「Yeah, you’re right. We are students no longer.」
The majority of the current administration of Bandeaux was composed of the former Royal Academy alumni. They had a lot of theoretical knowledge but little to no practical experience. For that reason, Rion came to think that them achieving so much was a miracle in itself.
「Let’s keep an eye on things. Even though there has been no trouble so far, once things settle down we might start getting malcontents. After all, people are greedy beings.」
「That sounds like something an old, cynical person would say. But you are correct, of course. The critical part comes now.」
The revival of the territory was progressing surprisingly smoothly. But instead of feeling glad, Rion was anxious. He still remembered the false sense of security the seemingly smooth progress of his plans had brought him before and the experience of not being able to protect Vincent in the end had stolen the word “relief” from his heart.
The next mistake he would make would likely result in his death. Not that he feared death, of course, he just didn’t want his life to end before his plans came to fruition.
Governing was not the only area Rion had poured effort into, he had also worked hard on military affairs.
And this area was something he was trying to get to grips more. Rion, never expecting to lead an army in the past, had not studied the subject in the past. So not only was he inexperienced, he had no knowledge either.
Furthermore, the Clan Heads were much more knowledgeable and experienced in this field. While they did not challenge him on the governance issues, they ignored him completely when it came to the matters of the army.
Rion never considered their superior abilities a reason to leave all matters involved to them. Although he had not abandoned the idea of learning from the clans, there was still the question of what he could do on his own and how to put that idea into practice. Devising new schemes was something Rion took pleasure in after all.
And his partners in that undertaking would not be the locals but the people that had been sent from the slums in the capital to be trained under the guise of new recruits.
The syndicate was now moving towards the full control of the underground society everywhere along the highway from the capital to Bandeaux. Local gangs would not be made to submit just by using money and connections. A show of strength was also necessary.
That was Rion’s goal. And he wasn’t after a half-assed strength, he desired an overwhelming force that would make any ideas of resisting obviously foolish. His personal involvement and intervention would be best for this but the fact he was a landed aristocrat made that solution unavailable. So he had to train substitute forces, which is why gang members were being sent to him.
Rion also kept practicing his riding skills but that was less because he liked that and more due to his stubbornness. He wanted to surprise the locals, the desire to make them slack-jawed from amazement kept spurring him on.
And today was the day to reap the fruit of all those efforts.
Far outside the walls of Camargue, on a plain not far from the national border a group of horsemen gathered. Twenty riders each gathered on the north and south end of the flat ground. The southern group made of clansmen led by Mercury, the northern composed of syndicate members under the command of Rion.
What was about to unfold was a mock cavalry battle. Something Rion planned to evaluate the results of his people’s training and blow the clansmen minds away.
「Alright everyone, let the skirmish commence.」
The bout was refereed by Kiel. That was something the clan head wanted to do himself even if a lack of other suitable candidates was the main reason. He was not only Rion’s swordsmanship teacher, he also recently started to train the syndicate members too. And he had a pretty good idea of what type of military maneuvers Rion was drilling them in.
Suffice to say, he was truly interested in the results of this contest.
At the signal, the horsemen of the Clan Blue rushed forward at once. In contrast, Rion’s group started with a slow trot. The two squads took a completely opposite approach to this contest – the clansmen charging ahead vigorously while Rion was making his people advance slowly in a two file column.
The distance between the two groups shrunk rapidly, even more so because Rion was making his people pick up the pace steadily.
With the two groups on the brink of crashing into each other, riders under Rion split left and right. That made the clansmen disperse trying to match their opponent’s maneuver. In the subsequent clash, several cavalrymen from Rion’s group were bested and fell from their horses.
Not minding that fact, Rion led his half of the squad to advance forward. Roughly half of his opponents gave chase but those at the back of that group had suddenly fallen from their horses.
They were assaulted from the back by the remainder of Rion’s squad. However, those men, in turn, had the other half of the clansmen behind them. At this point, Kiel, observing from the side, thought that Rion was at disadvantage but the young man split his leading detachment into two more groups.
Confused about which of the groups to follow, the clansmen responded with a delay. Exploiting that opening Rion had his two small groups wheel around and hit the opponents at the very back of the chase from both sides.
「Dear me… To think that he really did surpass them…」
Although the match was yet to be decided, the flow of the battle clearly favored the side of Rion. The group of clansmen that gave chase first had their number thinned by that half of syndicate group that was following it from behind. Those that pursued late were thrown into disorder by Rion’s flank charges and also suffered heavy losses.
「It’s over! The match is over!」
Kiel, judging that carrying on further would only result in unnecessary injuries, stopped the match. Hearing that, both group of riders stopped the skirmish, recovered their fallen companions and their mounts, and headed towards him.
「You ended it at the perfect moment.」
Those were Rion’s first words.
「….Was it a mistake by any chance?」
「Perhaps. If you hadn’t ended it right now, we would end up defeated.」
「But the situation was clearly in your favor lord.」
「At that moment, certainly. However, our group lacked the ability to dismount Mercury’s men from their horses. That’s why I executed a sacrifice maneuver.」
No matter how hard Rion’s goons tried, it would take several years for them to catch up to the level of Mercury’s cavalry. If they were to fight one-on-one, the syndicate members would lose ten fights out of ten. That’s why Rion settled on the idea of sacrificing one part of his squad after dividing the whole into two or three.
The sacrificial group would head straight forward and by the time the clansmen stopped and defeated them the other groups would execute flank charges. However, pulling this off was not easy and the attrition on Rion’s side was surprisingly high. Even though it was just a practice battle and neither side was using real swords or spears, the members of Frey Syndicate were still not able to knock their opponents off their horses.
If Mercury had noticed that disparity and avoided a direct assault turning the contest into a skill battle instead, any chances Rion had for a victory would have disappeared.
Kiel had stopped the match before that happened.
「But since things had ended as they did it is still my win. I was able to prove that my method was correct.」
Rion was satisfied knowing that his idea was proved correct in practice. He had tried many different things to bask himself in this feeling. This delight, that something worked out just as he thought it would, might have been the result of his scholarly temperament or a simple craftsman’s pride in one’s work.
The matter did not conclude with just this.
「…We have displayed our own inexperience. Lord, please lead us from now on.」
Not just Mercury, but all clansmen present were bowing their heads before Rion.
「How to use cavalry formations in practice, eh. Well, the era when a battle could be won with one cavalry charge had undoubtedly been on the wane even back then when we had lost the war against the kingdom.」
Kiel explained the meaning of Mercury’s group request. It was true that the Clans of Bandeaux had always hidden their strength. However, at the same time, they had made no progress ever since they had lost to the kingdom. Young locals, like Mercury, that had come to know Rion, had become anxious about that fact.
And now that their match ended in such a result they were convinced that time had come to change their methods of fighting to match the modern times. And they believed that Rion could lead them toward that goal.
「…There’s nothing I can teach you, even if you say you want to be lead by me.」
「That’s why let’s think about the problem together. If we brainstorm ideas as a group, we can come up with better solutions.」
At this moment Mercury felt that Rion, for the first time, extended his hand in their direction.
「Are you guys fine with that?」
「Yes! We will obey Lord Rion’s command!」
On this day, the Honor Guard of Bandeaux had become Rion’s in the truest sense.
It didn’t take long for the feelings of the Clan Blue youths to spread among the youngsters of the other clans sharing the same anxieties.
Some time later, an unexpected person had arrived in Camargue. It was Ain, Rion’s right hand in the Frey Syndicate. Of course there was a better reason behind his departure from the capital than just wanting to see the boss.
It was, at last, the time for the takeover of all the towns they identified as a target. He came to Bandeaux to oversee that invasion.
「I didn’t expect that you would really come here yourself.」
Rion was also surprised by Ain’s visit.
「It’s the first move after all. Failure is not allowed. Others said that I must come myself in order to make sure things are perfect.」
「You’re right. If we stumbled on the first step, everything later would go awry too. So? The matter of you taking the command aside, is the strategy flawless?」
「This is something I wanted to make sure of myself. Is it fine to run things by you?」
Although he came to refine the syndicate’s plans and advance the preparation, Ain couldn’t free himself of the anxiety as the deadline neared. His desire to consult with Rion was the main reason he came to Camargue.
If the boss were to tell him that the plans were sound, he would be able to proceed without worry.
「We will use this place as a base to attack these three towns.」
「Hmm? Aren’t those rather big?」
Rion remembered details about every town along the highway. He had examined them during his first journey to Camargue and later, on the return leg of his travel to the royal ball, he stopped at each settlement and talked to people tasked with infiltrating them.
「They are. I know our initial plan was to start from small towns but we have reconsidered.」
That initial plan was something that Rion devised. But now Ain said that this had been reworked by his subordinates.
「We figured that us successfully capturing a couple of towns might prompt the other organizations to make move against us. If that turns out to be the case, they will be the ones on the attack.」
「I see. If it was close to the capital, you could send more people to reinforce but distances involved make it difficult. And you would not be able to repel such an attack with limited amount of people.」
「Yes. That’s why we thought of this method. Considering that possibility, we will just focus our efforts on one place and take over a large town, once that is ours taking down the small ones becomes easier.」
「I think this plan is fine.」
Relief washed over Ain’s face. However, even he knew that Rion wouldn’t let the strategy be limited to just this.
「But is it doable? And more importantly, you know that barely achieving that is not enough, don’t you. Exhausting your strength on such an attempt would be as bad as dispersing it.」
「Yes. We have also devised a solution for that problem.」
「What is it?」
「We have started by creating traitors amongst their ranks.」
「Do they know about each other?」
「They do not.」
「I see. Yes, that should be fine.」
Rion wouldn’t trust any traitors. People pretending to be insiders only to double-cross their employer were not a rare occurrence. Rion asked to ascertain whether Ain was aware of that danger.
If one arranged for multiple traitors without letting them become aware of each other, it was possible to have each of them observe the rest. That made it possible to figure out whether any of them was playing double agent. Rion was satisfied with Ain’s measures.
「Once the moles were in place, we had them spread a rumor that a certain person has betrayed their group.」
「A false flag?」
「Yes. Targeting a trusted lieutenant of the enemy boss.」
「Did that boss believe it? What was his reaction?」
「Judging by his actions, he bought it, so we decided to make a move. The attempt to sow discord was a full success.」
No leader would trust rumors about a treachery easily. Still, such a thing could not be ignored, so such leader would be certain to attempt looking for more information. That would uncover “evidence” from another traitor. And if that was still doubted, yet another independent source was on hand to confirm the betrayal.
That being the case, regardless of how trusted was the victim before, a feeling of doubt was bound to arise in the leader’s mind. The victim had the leader’s confidence exactly because of how much power that lieutenant commanded and how valuable that made him while he was an ally.
Once the doubt was there it was easy to create an impetus for an internal rift one way or another. For example by telling the boss to dispose of the lieutenant before his treachery turns into something serious while warning the victim that he would be in danger if things remained as they were. It wasn’t hard to fan the anxiety of both sides just like that.
「Good. Still, it will be hard to find a good timing for intervention. If we do it too fast, the enemy will just close ranks. If we are too late that just gives the victor of the power struggle time to fully grasp the reins of the whole organization.」
「Yes. We have thought of that too.」
「We approached that lieutenant and offered him help when the time came.」
「…You’ve really bet all on this, haven’t you.」
If their attempt at contact failed, it might have tipped off the enemy group that it was them that spread the rumors. Once that happened all the plans they prepared would be for naught.
「It’s all to ensure they will fall. Furthermore, helping him lets us comprehensively reduce the strength of the enemy. Even if that guy wins, he won’t have enough resources left to oppose us. He will either submit or we will erase him.」
「What are you going to do if this fails?」
Although Rion already knew the answer, he still asked the question.
「We will pull out. We will delay the whole operation until the time we have increased our strength. It’s not like the enemy would be able to get a foothold in the capital anyway.」
Even if their target knew that the trouble on their turf was stirred by the Frey Syndicate, they would not be able to fight back. Any such attempt would have to take place in the capital where Rion’s people were unlikely to lose. And that, in turn, would open a perfect opportunity to chip at the enemy’s strength.
「Will you now….. Fine. I have no more questions.」
「I can’t think of a better plan. I believe this is well put together.」
「…..T-Thank you very much.」
Until now they had always moved according to Rion’s orders. But this matter, with Rion being absent from the organization, was something they planned on their own. Being praised so much moved Ain deeply causing him to tremble.
Rion felt similar kind of emotions.
「Frankly speaking, I had this patronizing worry about the prospects of the capital. I wasn’t sure all of you would be able to handle your own even when I’m gone.」
「Of course we would. After all, the slums have changed, thanks to and because of you, boss.」
「I was worried, yet you are doing fine. And you are capable of changing the lives of the poor on your own, even if I do nothing.」
「Please don’t say that, boss. Boss Frey will always be our head.」
「…..Yeah. I promised that after all. It’s just…」
Although Rion was on the verge of tears he shoved those emotions aside due to one concern.
「I just thought about it now but isn’t calling ourselves the Frey Syndicate quite a bad thing?」
「I am Baron Frey. If you name the organization the Frey Syndicate or even just call yourselves like that unofficially, won’t people in Camargue and elsewhere think that it’s my syndicate?」
「Well, the group is your syndicate, boss. It would be bad for an aristocrat to be known as the boss of an underground organization, though, right?」
「It would be.」
「What can we do then?」
「We have no choice but to change the name, right?」
「What’s our new name then? It’s boss’ organization, you get to decide.」
「Me? I guess…」
Rion had begun to ponder the problem seriously. Having suddenly been forced to think of something, he was drawing a blank. Maybe if “Syndicate” was bad, making it “Company” would do. But that was pretty much the same thing. But once he became fixated on the concept of an underground society, his train of thought suddenly took a turn.
At that moment, Rion’s finger reached his mouth.
「What will it be, boss?」
It’s a word that Ain didn’t understand, something that was not of this world.
「It means – to oppose.」
「Oh. It sounds cool, doesn’t it?」
「Right? I thought that since we’re looking for a new name, we might as well find something cool. If you have no objections then it’s decided, we are Resist.」
「Yes. Understood. I will pass it on to the organization.」
The name of the Frey Syndicate was changed to Resist. Although Rion didn’t explain the reason, he thought of this moniker due to his desire to oppose the World itself.
However this name would soon gain different connotations. But that story would not be told anytime soon.
 The raw is レジスト(Rejisto).