Chapter 747 - City Livin'
"What I want to know, Captain, is when you and our new oppressors will settle the matter of reparations!" the old man sneered.
Wallace Dalton, former Captain of the Rylleh City Guard and now the appointed military adjutant to the Rylleh branch of the Colony, suppressed the urge to spit and continued to grind his chew between his teeth, hoping the repetitive motion of his jaws would help burn off his irritation.
"Citizen Alliornus…" he began.
The old man's eyes blazed with fury.
"THAT'S LORD ALLIORNUS TO YOU, BOY!" he bellowed, spittle flying.
Wallace took a quick step back to dodge the expectorant and giggled internally at the impotent rage of this relic.
"Citizen Alliornus," he repeated with an added emphasis that he relished, "you are certainly aware that within this city, there is no such thing as a lord or lady, are you not?"
His needling produced the desired result as the once wealthy council member swelled up like a toad, jowls swinging as his temper took full hold.
"My family worked to found this city!" he declared with all the pomposity he could muster, "securing the future of their descendants and creating enduring prosperity for all the traitorous residents of this once great place. My authority, my belongings and my wealth have been illegally seized by these interloping insects and I DEMAND that they pay it back!"
Every day with these people. Would their self-interest ever cease? Wallace sighed and fixed the idiot in front of him with a steely glare that deflated the man like a puffed up balloon.
"Let me be as clear as I can possibly be with you, Charitus," he dropped formality and used the once powerful man's first name, "as grateful as the residents of this place are for what your ancestors did, they aren't so grateful that they are prepared to happily suffer under your incompetent and corrupt governance. If I were to hazard a guess, if the Lion Fist of city legend were to come back and see what his house had fallen to, he'd spit in your face."
The ex-lord bl.u.s.tered and tried to speak up but Wallace spoke straight over him.
"The Colony does not care about you, and I want to emphasise this, at all. I would be absolutely shocked to learn if any authority figure within the ant power structure knew your name or had heard of a single complaint you've lodged, which I have filed with them. There is absolutely no chance that they are going to return whatever it was that they took from you."
The man had grown so red in the face during this speech that he almost appeared as if he were going to pop. Wallace watched the colour change with a vague sense of fascination, wondering just how dark a human complexion could possibly turn before they suffered a stroke.
"This is THEFT!" he hollered. "PIRACY and THEFT! Where is the justice?!"
"In my experience, former councillor, there is never any justice when the weak are picked on by the strong. How many times did I send guards to evict those who were unable to pay the high rates you demanded for your loans? Loans that only the truly desperate with nowhere else to turn would dare accept? I can remember many scenes of widows weeping in the street, begging for justice that they would never receive. The Colony has come, and in their eyes you are a pathetic, weak individual with no strength or power to speak of. Why would they deal with you? Can you compel them to sit at a table with you?"
Silence was the only response to that question.
"… as I thought."
Filled with contempt, Wallace leaned to one side and spat a wad of coloured spit on the ground next to the man's shoe.
"Right now, Lord Alliornus, you are the widow in the street, I am you, and what do you know? I hear you wailing and I just don't care. So why don't you shut up, crawl back to what's left of your mansion and diddle one of the maids you can still afford to pay?"
Taking careful measure of Charitus' face, Wallace judged he'd pushed the man close to a major aneurism, but hadn't quite managed to tip him over the line. More's the pity.
"The people won't stand for this," he said stiffly, "the city cannot survive when those insects run roughshod over traditions and disregard our laws. There will be an uprising. I personally guarantee it."
"By the Dungeon, I hope so," Wallace replied flatly. "I'm bored out of my mind and could use a little action. Also, frankly? Anyone in this city who would be willing to go back to your rule is far too stupid for me to want them to continue living here. That is a segment of the population I would gladly see excised. Now, please, get the hell out of my office."
Unwilling to be insulted any further, the enraged scion of a once mighty house turned on his heel and left, striding out and collecting the few lackeys he'd left outside on the way. Turning around, Wallace found his spit bucket and cleaned out the foul taste in his mouth with a rinse of water, levering in a new wedge of chew once he was done.
"Do you have to be so… direct… with them?" came the voice of his secretary, his former lieutenant, Yasmine.
"Yes," he grunted, "what's next?"
She ruffled a few papers on her desk.
"I think you're clear for the rest of the afternoon, surprisingly," she almost looked puzzled by that fact. "Can you imagine being this relaxed during a wave… before?" she asked.
He idly noticed she still had trouble acknowledging the admittedly traumatising invasion that they had suffered through. There wasn't a man, woman or child in the city who could possibly forget the events of that fateful day, with the exception of one child, Thomas Barnes, who somehow managed to sleep through the whole thing. What Yasmine said was true, there really wasn't that much to do. Although he was still nominally in charge of the town guard, they had been reduced to essentially a police force, no longer responsible for defending the city from monstrous incursions. The Colony had taken care of that. He was one of the few people to know of the vast territory that the Colony had claimed, so large that Rylleh had been included within it, and of the measures they had taken to manage the wave, measures which meant that, so far, the citizens of the city had barely noticed a change other than the rising mana levels.
"I really can't," he smiled and shook his head. "You have to give it to the ants, when they go about getting something done, they don't do it by half measures."
At his mention of their new insect overlords, Yasmine flinched slightly, but he pretended not to notice. She was well on the way to recovery from the terror she had felt that day, but was still very uncomfortable around the monsters.
"If my schedule is clear then I may as well mosey over and check in with the envoy," he said. "Take the afternoon off, Yas. Go shopping, or sleep, or whatever the hell you young people do."
She favoured him with a small smile before she snapped out a quick salute, purely out of habit, then turned and left.
"Let's go see what those mad bugs have gone and done now," Wallace muttered as he slung his jacket over his shoulders.