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22 The Declaration



The day after the rain stopped, Border Town became boisterous again. Many villagers gathered in the square, waiting for the speech of Prince Roland amidst heavy discussion.

Roland put up the official notice a day before the speech, saying that anyone who came to the square for this speech could get a dish of oatmeal and half a piece of bread. This amounted to a free lunch for the townspeople. Thus, the audience that showed up was much more than those who watched hanging.

When it approached noon, Roland mounted the elevation stand.

He would be deceiving himself if he said he was not nervous while confronting the sea of people. He mainly dealt with computer monitors before. Even at meetings, he just applauded the speaker from below. Therefore, this was the first time he needed to deal with such a big crowd.

But in order to make the townspeople stay in Border Town, he had to do it. There had to be a general mobilization.

Roland waved his hands and the people became quiet immediately.

This scene had been repeated a lot of times in secret. However, when this formal performance came, his lips still turned dry, "My subjects, good afternoon. This is Roland Wimbledon, the fourth prince of Kingdom of Graycastle. I have gathered you here at this moment to declare an important message."

"The envoy of Longsong Stronghold reached here four days ago for ore delivery. One clear fact is that the collapse of the mine of northern slope was a terrible accident we came across. Till today, the production there has not recovered completely and this accident meant there was only two months' output last quarter. "

"I explained to the envoy this condition and hoped he would distribute enough food to Border Town and we would make up the ores at the end of winter. However, he refused and accepted no negotiation. He refused to distribute more food just like two years ago."

The crowds exclaimed, showing that the food shortage two years ago left a deep impression on them.

"It gets even worse this time. Astrologer of Kingdom of Graycastle informed me that this year's winter would be much longer than before and Months of Demons would probably last for over four months. That is to say, everyone might face two months of food shortage. You lost your companions, brothers or children two years ago. What else are you prepared to lose this time?"

"No! Your Highness, save us, please!" Someone shouted loudly and more screams came next, "Your Highness, we beg you to help us!"

Roland was relieved that he hired a few extras for this occasion. He put up his hands trying to suppress the screams of the crowd. "Of course, I won't leave my subjects behind, not even one. You may not know that the value of wheat and bread Stronghold brings every year is not equivalent to the value of ores they take away. Normally, we just need two months' ores to get half a year's food. I have sold ores to merchants from Willow Town and the freighter they sent would soon get to Border Town. Besides bread, there is also cheese, mulled wine, dried meat. This is enough for everyone during the entire winter!"


There was a burst of cheer in the square.

"However, that means we end our relationship with Longsong Stronghold and they won't take in anymore of our townspeople. We need to pass this winter in Border Town. As most of us can see, there is a substantial city wall being built in the west of Border Town. I want to tell you that you don't need to worry about the threats from demonic beasts. They are not stronger than the beasts from forests. Although huge and strong, they cannot pose threats to the city wall and merely serve as a target."

"Make your choice, my subjects. You have two choices here. One choice is to hide behind the shack of Stronghold and die of hunger. The other one is follow my order and guard Border Town till the end to protect your relatives and children. I promise you that if you hold up until the end of Months of Demons, all those who take part in the building of city wall, will be rewarded 25 silver royals. And anyone who sacrifices his life, his family will get a compensation of five gold royals!"

"Fight for Your Highness!" Following the example of the extras, the audience shouted they would fight to their death. Sensing their high spirits, Roland took the opportunity to distribute lunch. He did not expect all of them to stay in Border Town. He was confident that if just half of them stayed, he could stop the demonic beasts from invading them.

*******************

Petrov didn't know how his Highness Prince Roland maligned him. When he delivered the message to the six nobilities of Stronghold, they all laughed uproariously.

"Do you mean to say that the naive prince intends to throw us off? Even daring to repair the city wall before the coming of winter? Should I praise his courage or ridicule his over-confidence?"

"The bravery of Your Highness is without equal and known to all. However, Prince Roland isn't equipped with this boldness. He is just ignorant!"

"Sure, he doesn't even have any stonecutters. He just piles up those unpolished stones, and add wet mud in between. Be careful they don't all fall down after a certain height."

"Anyhow, it is a good thing. If he escapes to Longsong Stronghold, he has no choice but to submit to us. If he dies in Border Town...we can end this farce early."

"What do you think, Petrov?" The Duke suddenly broke his silence.

Petrov stared blankly for a while and he didn't expect the Duke of Longsong would ask for his opinions. "Uh, I originally planned to carry on the monopoly management. And if the price is 30% cheaper than the market price, it is worthwhile for us. But..." He swiftly organized his thoughts, "His Highness doesn't want Stronghold to specialize in ores management. He would like to sell ores at the price 50% cheaper than market price, which means he plans to increase the output of ores. And once it doubles the output, we could earn more than before. He also intends to produce ironware. It’s popular everywhere and easy to resell. However...these are not the key points."

"What is the key point?"

"If he is able to guard Border Town, that would be nice for Stronghold. We don't need to spend too much effort on fighting against demonic beasts, which could save us a lot of money. Besides, the wide land between Longsong Stronghold and Border Town would belong to us. It would be a good choice to cultivate or migrate, which can relieve the condition of population congestion." Stronghold demonstrated his thoughts one by one. "Besides, Prince Roland won't stay in Border Town forever. Royal Decree on the Selection of Crown Prince just lasts for five years. We are going to obtain a more prosperous Border Town. Longsong Stronghold will be the third largest domain of kingdom with the joining of Border Town. Thus, my advice is..." He peeked at Duke, cautiously saying, "Stronghold needs to send hands to repair the city wall and coordinate to guard Border Town."

"Well done," Duke smiled, "But that's just from a business aspect, analyzing the benefits."

He then straightened up, glancing at all the other participants and his tone became gloomy, "I have come so far today and it is not all about benefits. Why should I deal with a person who is out of my control? You need to obey the rules or you will get punished. It is not that important whether Border Town is prosperous or not. The point is, that is my territory, and no one can interfere, including the prince.