“These guys have done something bad, right? The law among us zoan is to tie up those who’ve stolen the village’s food and leave them for the wolves on the plains.”
Shyemul explains something dreadful without hesitation.
“No, I mean, as expected, that’s a bit too brutal…”
Upon Souma saying that, Shyemul slightly snorted through her nose with a “Humph.”
“What are you saying. Even that is still lax. These guys deceived you, Soma!”
Instead, Shyemul said it in a manner that made it obvious that she could not suppress her anger towards them.
Certainly there’s some truth to punishing them severely, as Shyemul says.
Even in the manga and novels Souma read, it’s a basic of nation building to enforce defined punishment or reward systems. If he shows a lenient attitude here, it might very likely lead to a big catastrophe further down the road.
However, at the same time, Souma is worried that a purge of the governmental officials who’ve managed the city’s financial affairs would cause even more troubles in the city’s administration.
Accordingly Souma tries to draw some information out of Michena.
“Mrs. Michena, if all the officials are gone, that’ll likely become a problem, right?”
Souma’s motive in asking this is that if Michena affirms this, he’ll be able to demand gratitude from the officials by reducing their punishment. Due to Souma’s way of talking, the officials’ pale faces brightened up.
However, Michena answered following,
“No, not in particular…”
Silence spread on the spot.
Souma, who had become speechless for a short moment within that awkward atmosphere, calmed down and repeated his question once more.
“Umm…there won’t be any problems even if you lack the people that escaped?”
The officials were trying to draw out a statement connecting to their clemency from Michena, who is about to answer Souma’s question.
However, there’s no way for them to use their voices, and they also can’t motion at her due to their hands being bound behind their backs. Thus, the officials frantically appealed to Michena by winking, grimacing and twisting their mouths.
If seen from the side, it was as comical as children amusing themselves with a staring game, but the desperate officials don’t have the margin to look around them.
However, even those moving efforts weren’t understood by Michena. After glancing at the officials as if seeing something ridiculous, she turns around to Souma right away.
“Yes. The actual duties were carried out by us lower-ranking officials. —Ah! We have to be allowed to sign in the account book though.”
At that moment the officials leak muffled voices, but it’s unclear if those voices are owed to anger or despair.
“Umm, just the signatures?”
“Given that His Highness Prince Vulitas hated such governmental affairs, the officials have been writing in it on his behalf.”
“…In other words, you are saying that the feudal lord’s signature is necessary for the account book?”
At this point Souma was almost at his wits’ end.
The current feudal lord is Souma himself. In other words, that means as long as Souma properly carries out his duties, those officials are unnecessary.
But, in reality, it’s not like the officials have only been messing around either. Not only did they check the account book drawn up by the financial affairs staff, they also did important tasks such as negotiating with merchants, who came to purchase the wheat that had been levied as taxes, and with governmental officials visiting from the royal capital.
However, because those negotiations and discussions were mostly carried out by holding drinking parties, they weren’t regarded as anything more than simply eating and drinking by using public funds in the eyes of the lower-ranking officials around Michena. But then again, it’s impossible to clearly declare that as a misunderstanding of the lower ranking officials, since those negotiations and discussions mostly went according to what the other party demanded.
Either way, with this it became impossible to use this as a pretext to lower the penalty for the officials, since the work will still be carried out even if they are gone.
Having finally lost all options to not punish the officials, Souma becomes depressed.
To begin with, the party who has to verify and punish their crimes is Holmea. Even if their illegal deeds are made public, Souma has no right to punish them.
Nevertheless, not only did they try to cover up their crimes, they swore their allegiance to Souma once and escaped almost immediately after making that pledge. In the end, one can’t express it in any other way but “They have brought calamity upon themselves.”
Souma, who was concerned about the best way to punish the officials, first consulted with Marchronis.
“Mr. Marchronis, what do you think would be the best punishment in this case?”
“Let’s see.” Marchronis places a hand on his chin and ponders. “—It’s embezzlement and abscondence. I think it’s proper to confiscate all of their assets on top of decapitating their entire families.”
The officials raised soundless screams due to the Marchronis’ judgment.
As expected, Souma considered decapitating not only the ones concerned but even their entire families as too much and tried to mediate.
“But, isn’t it illogical for me to punish an embezzlement from Holmea?”
“That’s true as well. How about dismissing the decapitation and only confiscating their assets then?”
“Can’t we at least leave them the share of one regular salary?”
“Well, I guess we can leave them that much.”
Once Souma announces his ruling after having obtained Marchronis’ approval, the officials uniformly drop their shoulders with a crestfallen look. Having their assets that were hoarded over the course of many years taken away was regretful, but even so, they had no other choice but to swallow it with bitter tears in their eyes due to the alternative.
But only the Chief of Financial Affairs bawled out unsightly.
“M-Milord! This is…umm…a trap? Yes! It’s a trap! We fell into a trap!”
Souma was surprised due to the unexpected words coming out of the chief’s mouth.
“A trap? Just who led you into a trap?”
Being asked that by Souma, the chief’s eyes swam. Of course being led into a trap was no more than a random makeshift argument. Even so, the eyes of the chief, who let his eyes wander looking for a way to somehow talk his way out of this, fixate on a single point.
“I-…It’s that woman!”
The one the chief glared at while saying so is Michena.
Due to Michena donning a puzzled expression, unable to comprehend why she is being glared at, all those present were utterly stunned while saying “There’s no way for that to be true.” Even so, in order to check just in case, Souma asks her,
“Mrs. Michena, did you set a trap for them?”
Finally realizing that she’s being wrongly accused due to Souma’s question, Michena vehemently shakes her head.
Souma announced to the chief while revealing pity in his voice,
“There you go. —Besides, even if there was a trap, it doesn’t change the fact that you have embezzled taxes.”
After that, Souma confiscated all their assets while leaving them money equivalent to the share of one salary and then ordered the zoan warriors to expel them from the city.
Among the officials sent out, only the Chief of Financial Affairs was stubborn, continuing to curse at Michena
“Damn! You bitch! Even you guys swiped taxes, right!? Why only us…!”
After the chief’s jeers were blocked by the door, Souma was about to ask Michena whether that was the truth, but when he saw her face, he ends up smiling bitterly, judging it unnecessary to do so.
Michena was evidently shocked. Cold sweat is pouring down on her blood-drained face with her widely opened eyes.
With her like that, shouting “I acted illegally” in a loud voice would still have been more effective as deception.
Souma breathed a single, big sigh.
“First of all, who among the remaining people is the one with the highest rank?”
First I have to put a new person in charge to replace the exiled officials.
Souma asked this, but that only caused Michena’s shock to intensify.
The appearance of her eyes wandering around the vicinity looking for someone to help was too suspicious. It looked like she was about to burst into tears. Once Souma asked her again with a raised brow, Michena resolved herself and said,
“Probably…I’m the highest ranking official.”
Because the common officials and above – except for Michena – were banished altogether, she, the sole remaining finance bureaucrat, ended up becoming the highest-ranked official in this city.
Adopting an attitude of putting on airs, Souma cleared his throat with an “Ahem” and said,
“At any rate, I won’t question the fraud when this city belonged to Holmea. But, from now on all illegal acts are prohibited. If I discover anyone embezzling funds, they will be harshly punished.”
I should show a relentless attitude here so that something similar doesn’t happen once again.
Having judged so, Souma told Michena with an expression that seemed to be stiff and slackless.
However, hearing that, Michena became sentimental and tears streamed down across her cheeks with their scattered freckles.
“Are you telling my family to die?”
“In short, you are saying that the lower-ranked officials can’t survive on just their salary?”
Souma said with a tone as if he couldn’t believe it.
He soothes Michena who suddenly began to cry. Now that he had finally and concisely settled what he was informed about, this was next. However, albeit being lower-ranked, Michena is a government official. If put in terms of a modern person, you might define her as a public servant. For her to have such a small salary that she can’t sustain her livelihood was unbelievable for Souma.
“By the way, how much of a salary do you get?”
“It’s four bronze coins per day…”
Michena honestly mentioned the salary she’s receiving even while feeling ashamed.
“W-Wait a moment!”
Souma recalls what he was taught by the peddler Hopkins during his travel when he first arrived at this city.
“Four bronze coins; if I remember correctly, wasn’t that the price for two pieces of bread?”
“Yes, that’s true, but…”
In order to understand how little this is, let’s convert Michena’s salary into Yen, the currency of modern Japan.
To understand the value of a currency it’s valid to surmise it from the prices for staple food that become the basis of people’s lives.
The staple food on this Seldeas Continent is bread.
And the amount of bread consumed by a single person per day is said to range from 500 g to 1 kg. Since the rectangular bread in modern Japan has a weight per loaf of 340 g, it’s necessary to eat around two loaves per day. The price of one loaf of bread ranges from 100 Yen to 200 Yen, so if you convert Michena’s salary into Japanese Yen, it’s no more than 400 Yen per day, going by the highest bread price in Japan.
Of course, there’s a big difference between the food situation in modern Japan and the Seldeas Continent. This means that the calculation doesn’t apply unconditionally, but even so, it’s quite obvious that Michena’s salary is exceedingly low.
Naturally there’s no way for Michena, her aged mother and her four younger siblings to live off only that much.
Accordingly, she did not only work as a member of financial affairs in the feudal lord’s residence, but also had side jobs as an assistant of merchants in keeping their account books and as a letter writer. However, as that wasn’t enough either, she covered her living expenses from the share left over after calculating the taxes.
That in itself is nothing special limited to Michena either. Many of the lower-ranking officials in this era were in a similar situation.
Learning of the poverty of the lower-ranked finance officials for the first time like this, Souma turns a questioning look in Marchronis’ direction. Once he did, Marchronis gave an answer that surprised Souma even more, with an expression as if saying that it’s only natural,
“Isn’t it quite natural for the salary of officials who don’t fight on the battlefield to be quite low?”
“…You don’t say! Government officials are being paid lower wages than soldiers?”
“Indeed. Isn’t it justified to give the soldiers, who fight with their lives on the line, a better treatment?”
However, Souma thought differently about that.
Certainly, it’s reasonable to treat the soldiers well, but that’s surely no reason to neglect the officials either.
It’s the job of the government officials referred to as civil officials to prepare the armors the soldiers wear on the battlefield and the weapons they wield, to gather the provisions they eat and to arrange transportation. Them doing that work is the exact reason why the soldiers can demonstrate their full power.
Also, a foolish general being crushed by the protagonist because they had neglected their supplies was an often-seen development in manga and novels.
Once he considers that, it became obvious that he should better the circumstances that might as well be called inhospitality towards officials.
Souma brooded for a while while having his arms folded and then – after making a decision – confirms first with Marchronis.
“If I remember correctly, you were paid the salary of a battalion commander, right Mr. Marchronis?”
“Yeah. —So, what about it?”
Being asked about his employment conditions at this point, Marchronis is puzzled. However, without answering that, Souma turned around to Michena.
“I have Mr. Marchronis over here work as a commanding officer of the humans.”
Being suddenly told that, Michena didn’t understand Souma’s intention and only thought as far as, Marchronis sure is in a high position.
“Mrs. Michena, since you are going to be the commander of the officials, so-to-speak, you will receive the same salary as a battalion commander. The other current lower-ranking officials will receive a rise in pay as well.”
Both, Marchronis and Michena, opened their eyes wide in surprise due to Souma’s words. Michena’s surprise was especially noticeable. She went even as far as raising her voice into a hysteric “Eeh!?” despite being in front of Souma, the feudal lord.
“I don’t know how much that is, but with that you will be able to live even without embezzling money, right?”
Coming to her senses due to Souma’s question, Michena recalls the allowance paid to battalion leaders. She tried to compare it with her own, current salary, but as she’s unable to put her thoughts in order due to her overwhelming surprise, it feels like her thoughts are just spinning wheels in her mind. Even so, she was aware that it will be an amount of money that could not even be compared to her pay until now.
“If it’s that much, it will be enough. It’s plenty! No, more than plenty!”
Michena breathed roughly through her nose and fervently shook her head up and down.
“B-But, is it fine for me to receive so much…?”
Even Michena is happy about the raise in salary. But, if the salary, which had been at the level of chicken feed until now, suddenly changes into an eye-popping salary, confusion will come first before joy.
Souma admires Michena.
Each time he heard politicians advertising the sensibilities of the common people in elections in modern Japan, he was disgusted wondering just how the politicians are connected to the common folk, but this woman called Michena really carries the feelings of common people.
“Rather, I’d like to leave the financial affairs to someone with the sensibilities of a common person. And, in order to allow you to focus on that, I believe that to be a necessary salary.”
After that Souma tells Marchronis,
“How about a hazard pay for the soldiers each time they set out to maintain public order or for battle, in addition to their current salary? Can I have you agree with such a special pay?”
Secretly unable to calm his heart due to an official, who had been treated lowly so far, suddenly obtaining the same salary as himself, Marchronis slapped his own forehead with the palm of his hand upon Souma’s words.
This boy seems to be thickheaded, but displays sharp discernment at unexpected places. He excuses it like that, but once again the feeling of “I was done in!” wells up in his chest.
“Good grief, I’m no match for you. —Well, if you are so considerate towards me, I won’t complain. I won’t allow the soldiers to raise any complaints either.”
Marchronis said this with a bitter smile, but his expression is somewhat strained.
“But, is it going to be alright to raise the salaries so much?”
It’s not like the financial affairs of Bolnis have that much leeway. There was the concern that suddenly raising the salaries here might lead to a tightening of the city’s finance later on.
“Isn’t it fine? There’s the money we seized some time ago from the officials who had escaped. Besides—”
Souma stuck his tongue out slightly.
“—Based on the salary she’s going to receive, I will have Mrs. Michena work for her dear life.”
Lured by Souma’s remark, Marchronis turned around and found Michena in a state of partial absentmindedness due to the unforeseen salary raise and raise in status.
While frantically stiffing the welling up laughter, Marchronis said,
“I see. —As usual, you have a nasty personality.”