035 The burning capital? (1) p.4

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Depressed by the inevitability of his situation, he started gathering his supplies. From the beginning, Nikola had never been talented in portrait drawing. His forte lay elsewhere, in landscape painting. Since those kinds of works couldn’t be sold to the common folk, he forced himself to practice portrait drawing.

“How long can I keep doing this…”

He asked himself so, and a reply always came without fail.

If his works didn’t sell, he would die. He had no eye for business and his body was weak, and he was clumsy with everything except with his hands, so he had no choice but to continue making a living on the streets. He was forced to put on a composed look and sell portraits to wide-eyed hicks while under the naive illusion that someday, somebody would recognise his talents. He was unable to give up on that faint hope. Therefore, he drank away his fears and misgivings. Cheap alcohol fuelling his drunken stupor, he escaped his cruel reality of shattered dreams.

Thusly, he once again walked to his usual bar.

The bar in question was on the corner of the market street. It didn’t have expensive or even good-quality liquor, but it was affordable for him. Above all else, the barmaid was cheerful. It was the best place to be.

“Welcome...Ah, Mister Nikola.”

Opening the swinging door, he entered the bar. The aforementioned barmaid was full of courtesy, and greeted him warmly. She was a splendid person that never showed any aversion to customers like him who looked like a pauper. He returned it with an awkward smile.

“Ah, Chloe. The usual, if you please.”

“Sure thing. An ale and salted gut, then?”

On the bar’s menu there was a noticeably cheap assortment of food and drink. Although what he had ordered was usually eaten by Sankt Gallenian boors, with his meager earnings he had no other choice.

Taking a seat at the bar, he quickly glanced around the room.

It was awfully empty. It was early in the night, and the bar was by no means popular, but even so it was far too empty. Besides Nikola, the only other customers were a poor bachelor and an old man who practically reeked of the countryside. It should be the time when shop apprentices or day laborers would come in to drink the night away, but even as he slowly ate and drank his way through his meal, no one else entered the bar.

“Mister Nikola, did something happen today?”

The barmaid, Chloe, asked with a lowered voice. She too probably wanted to know why there were considerably fewer customers today.

Unfortunately, Nikola also had no idea.

“Hmm… To be honest, I’m also at a loss. I don’t think anything out of the ordinary happened, though.”

Yes, it had been an entirely uneventful, normal day.
There weren’t any festivals that day, and there hadn’t been a forced city-wide mourning either. It had been quite an ordinary day.

“Those fellows over there, did they hear anything today?”

Even though Nikola had been drinking himself stupid and would always order the cheap stuff, it was not like he spent year after year at the same bar. In the last few days, he had only been able to afford thin porridge and near-expired vegetables. Chloe herself might have a better idea of why the lack of customers.

Chloe pondered with a brooding expression.

“Well...maybe...I can’t say with confidence, but…”

After a brief pause, she began to talk about a strange tale she had heard from the two men.

Recently, some activists in Broussonne had been making a name for themselves. Nikola had seen them many times as well. On every corner, it seemed, they had been loudly protesting the high tax rates and mismanagement by the nobles, as well as demanding social reform to elevate the social standing of commoners. In other words, a grassroots movement.

Usually, the guards cracked down on these protestors, carting them off to the jails for “special treatment.” Of course, they did not go as far as to sell them as slaves. They did not go as far as to use violence or start an uprising. Instead, they were locked away for a few days to let their heads cool off, then released with a warning.

Even so, when caught, the activists were usually badly beaten by the guards. In addition, they would be held in cold cells, with little to eat. Although Nikola thought they would have learned their lesson quickly, they never seemed to quit.

‘We will not succumb to violence! Certainly, we will be beaten and held captive. However, ours is the spirit of liberty! Until our labors come to fruition, we will never bow!’

After being released from jail, the activists yelled as such at the curious onlookers.

Since then, the movement had been growing increasingly radicalized. Rumor had it that last month they had marched in a great column to the noble’s district, accusing them of all sorts of depracities and injustices.

In addition, just a few days ago, the protesters finally showed themselves in the bar.

“Hear me, fellow laborers!”
An unshaven, bloodshot man with an unhealthy pallor had slammed the bar-door open and started proclaiming his agenda.

It had been at around the same time as Nikola’s entrance. Laborers had just finished their jobs for the day, and had been relaxing with drinks in hand. If his aim had been to target the workers, it was the perfect time.

“The day of the breaking of our chains is near! The day we free ourselves from the yoke of these so-called aristocrats is soon to come! The day of wrath and reckoning is here! Take up your pickaxes and hoes, and rise against the tyrants!”

The activist continued on, preaching even more extreme views. In a way, it was the manifesto of a revolt.

Of course, to Nikola, who was born in a fairly large city and moved the royal capital, such an event was unimaginable.

According to Chloe, the faces of the other patrons were at first still subdued. That was to be expected. Even if drunk, something as wild as that would take a while to register. Group drinking was supposed to be relaxing, and never a mob in the making.

However,

“I agree. That’s it, that’s the way!”

One easily-swayed patron stood and nodded their approval to the activist.

The person wore a hood and their appearance could not be easily made out, but from their voice it was clear it had been a woman.

“No true laborer should disagree! This is our path, and we must follow without hesitation!”

All the while, the other customers looked on, dumbfounded.

Faced with such force and intensity, some stood up slowly, joining in.

“Ah, you’re right…”

“After all, it’s the nobility’s fault we’re poor…”

“Without them… we’d really be free?”

The activist, seemingly emboldened by their assent, spoke louder and louder to the oddly dull drunks wandering about.

“That’s exactly it! In ancient times, every man, woman, and child was equal in the eyes of liberty! But now, we are far from that ideal… Why?! Because our rights were stolen by the thieves we call the aristocracy!”

“Stolen…? Damn it, I’ll never forgive them!”

“Exactly! Never let go of that rage! Until today, you were all just sheep following the shepherd's crook! However, now you have gone wild! Resist our overlords, break the fences, and rise up!”

“O, OHHHHH!!!”

From then on, it had only been a chorus of anger. A wild medley unworthy of the term revolution.

Patrons and protesters alike took to the streets that night, drunk on something other than cheap spirits.

“Well, it was something like that.”

“Hah, that seems like quite the tale…”

Nikola laughed it off as he drained his tankard. It was crazy, outrageous, and unlikely even in his wildest dreams. In truth, the story simply didn’t feel real to him. He couldn’t say it was impossible, however.

“Speaking of which, it seems like a few of the other regulars that went out that night have stopped coming to the bar…...I wonder what they’re doing now.”

“I imagine they were dragged off to cells. Give them two, three more days for their liquor to wear off and they will be back for more.”

“You don’t believe me at all, do you, Mister Nikola? It really happened, I’m telling you!”

Said Chloe, pouting with a huff. Faced with such a cute sight, Nikola unintentionally began to smile.

“Now, now, settle down, Chloe… Come on, cheer up.”

“I’m fine! It’s all your fault, meanie! That said, maybe I’d forgive you if you bought another drink?”
“Hahaha, you really do have a head for business.”

Nikola eyed his wallet, cold sweat on his palms and a tipsy flush in his cheeks. Did he really have enough for another drink?

The street artist drunk on mild happiness was pouring his heart and coin out to the barmaid.

He wanted to escape the hell of day-to-day life, but he couldn’t help but want to experience this bliss forever.

All the while mocking himself, Nikola continued to down mug after mug.

Until his fate took a turn for the better, until then he would keep going.

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14 comments

  1. It's an early Christmas gift! You might not realease any more chapters in the near future so I'll take this chance to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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  2. Thank you for the chapter!!!
    Merry Christmas and also a happy new year🎉🎉

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Thanks for the chapter and although it's a bit early, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  5. a long preamble bur something as big as a capital burning must have some groundwork or it will feel cheap

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  6. The French Revolution is starting.

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  7. Nice chapter title, next chapters will rock! Too hyped!

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  8. Vive la Arquell! Vive la Revolution!

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  9. Thanks for the chapter, is nice you could deliver this one so fast. I see how he plans to burn the capital.

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