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A fresh wind


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A fresh wind - 1

Scene 1,
Confederate States of Florentia,
Montcharmin, Confederal Senate
08/07/2023, 15h21

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The front of the Confederal Senate.

With the war over, Hugo Lysandre "Lys" Dellague can finally get his draft constitution approved. Although the plan is still to put the new constitution to the vote in a referendum, the Senate still has to be informed about the plan, whether they agree or not, just to be polite.

Although the entire building is known as the Confederal Senate, it occupies only a small part of it. In fact, the building is also used to house the entire Confederal government.
The Senate occupies just one small room. Richly decorated with tapestries depicting the Florentian War of Independence, it is lit by two tall windows and a luxurious crystal chandelier. Below this chandelier is a long rectangular white marble table, with twelve ebony and velvet armchairs arranged alongside it. The usher, the first to arrive as always, places a summary of the agenda in front of each seat. The summary is surprisingly thick, three or four times thicker than usual. Indeed, as many aspects are managed directly by the States, the Senate has very little left to vote on. The usher, curious, opens one of the summaries and flips through it. His eyes are hollow, as if they had been hammered into his skull, and his thin moustache twitches gently as he whispers the agenda. Just then the Count of San Constantino, Senator of the Duchy of Lasoda, appeared.

"- So, Monsieur Mouffetard, you've got a wandering eye", he asked with a falsely sententious air.

"- No, no, please excuse me, Monsieur de San Constantino.
- It's nothing, Mouffetard. I understand your curiosity. In my case, I'll wait for my colleagues to arrive before reading the content.

The Count of San Constantino is a well-built man with a sympathetic bonhomie.

"- So, Monsieur de San Constantino," asks the usher in an attempt to keep the conversation going, "how's business?
- Just so-so. My slaves were rather agitated because of the revolt in Narizonia. Well... they still are. I don't understand why they don't calm down. It's probably because of this new liberal regime in Narizonia. It's giving them the wrong ideas.
- Oh yes, it's terrible. As soon as you hold out your hand, they eat your arm !
- Exactly ! Today they talk about equality, but what they really want is the end of white civilisation !
- That's terrible," muttered Mouffetard and San Constantino in a single voice.

Then came :
- Louis de Saint-Louis, Count of Saint-Louis, Senator for Rivière-de-Juillet ;
- Louis-Napoléon de Phauve, Count of Phauve, Senator for Nouvelle-Creuse ;
- Louis-Philippe de Houateurmane, Count of Houateurmane, Senator for Nouvelle-Vendée ;
- Désiré de Belleville, Count of Belleville, Senator for Javiosie ;
- François d'Avoin, Count of Avoin, Senator for Yalme ;
- Octave de Rognac, Count of Rognac, Senator for Tyronie ;
- Charles de Cabriès, Duke of Cabriès, Senator for Abalavier ;
- Jean Dupuis, Senator for Coayard ;
- and, of course, Hugo Lysandre 'Lys' Dellague, Senator for Bayave.
The only one missing is the Senator for Narizonie, who has not yet been elected.

As the Senators take their seats, the usher arranges a few bottles of bourbon and trays of delicacies on the table.

"- Gentlemen," began Lys, "I would like to inform you that I will shortly be holding a referendum in which all Florentian citizens, whether slaves or not, men or women, will be able to take part. The subject of this referendum will be the adoption of a new constitution, a constitution which you can consult in the agenda which Monsieur Mouffetard has distributed to you."

All the other Senators frowned and consulted the agenda. Then they all became indignant one after the other, with the exception of Désiré de Belleville and Jean Dupuis.

"- Come on, Dellague, this is insane !
- It's madness !
- Come to your senses !
- Abolition is overrated !
- Women's suffrage, don't even think about it !
- Distributing land to the peasants who work it would be anarchy !
- Abolish the tax privileges of the nobility, what's next !
- Gentlemen, calm down," exclaimed Lys. "If the referendum fails, I guarantee that I'll quit politics for good. After all, this constitution is pure madness, isn't it ? So the people will reject it. You have nothing to fear. Now that you know what I'm up to, gentlemen, let's move on to the next topics.
- Do you really think we're going to let you do this ?" the Duke of Cabriès shouted indignantly. The nobleman rises from his seat. "You're nothing but a populist leech working for criminals. Your politics boil down to bread and circuses. You think you know what the people need because, like them, you smell like a bayou and are as repulsive as a mud-bug. Come, gentlemen, let us not stay another moment in the company of this vermin."

All the Senators, except Désiré de Belleville and Jean Dupuis, followed the Duke of Cabriès towards the exit. Lys got up and managed to catch up with the Duke. He whispers to him :

"- Avoid staying out too late tonight."

The Duke raises his eyebrows disdainfully. Lys replies with an inhumanly broad, Dantean smile. The Duke shivers in spite of himself, and hurries back to the other slavers. The Chancellor rubs his hands together excitedly.

 

Scene 2,
Confederate States of Florentia,
Montcharmin, Confederal Senate
09/07/2023, 0h47

As soon as he left the Senate, the Duke of Cabriès called an emergency meeting of slavers to act against the referendum. They concluded that guards should be posted in front of polling stations to force people to vote against the referendum, but also to prevent slaves from voting. So much for democracy, but we absolutely must protect freedom, the freedom to own a human being. The meeting went on for a long time.

The Senators left the cabaret where they had met. One by one, they set off in their limousines towards their respective States. Only Charles de Cabriès' limousine was late. Too bad, he'll have to wait.

The street is surprisingly deserted. Normally, the streets of the capital are busy until two o'clock in the morning, or even later. Charles de Cabriès leaned against a lamppost. The light coming down on him from above only partially illuminates his deep wrinkles, making him look vaguely like a zebra. The Duke grows impatient.

The sound of a horn startled him. A limousine has stopped and is waiting for him. The number plate is the right one. At last! his limousine had arrived. Charles de Cabriès climbs in, without even saying hello to the driver, and closes the door. Strangely enough, the driver locks the rear doors, and the partition window is activated.

"- Please remove the security. I'd like to get out if necessary.

- I'm sorry, but that might not be possible," replied a familiar voice. Then the driver turned round. Charles shrieks in horror. It's not his driver, it's Lys !

"- Too late. But don't worry, we'll have plenty of time to explain tonight. You can come out of hiding, bro."

One side of the back seat lifts up, revealing a man - Lancelot Dellague, Lys' little brother - hiding inside. He emerges from his hiding place, takes a seat next to the Duke and pulls out a revolver.

"- You move, you die. Simple, isn't it ?
- Lys, you'd better watch the road," remarks Lancelot.

"- But I could drive with my eyes closed. Look !". Lys closes his eyes, driving blindly.

"- Lys, you're swerving.
- "No, I'm not.
- You're on the other track!
- Holy Simoleon !" exclaimed Lys, opening his eyes again as a lorry was speeding towards them. In extremis, he got the car back on track.

"- Now concentrate on the road, for God's sake.
- Chief, yes, Chief !" replies Lys with a mocking expression. He loves it when his little brother shows responsibility. It's so adorable.

"- By the way, Lys, you brought the butcher's apron, right ?
- Uuuuh... I think I may....
- You forgot it ?
- Don't get angry, bro, but I think so.
- Come on ! For God's sake, you are the freacking leader of a freacking country and its freacking mafia, and you will be soon its freacking dictator, and yet you just can't plan a murder properly ? That's layers of stupidity.
- But if we plan every little thing, where's the spontaneity, the passion ?
- F*ck off with the passion ! I'm going to be full of blood, again.
- Don't worry. I'll do it myself.
- And mess up you're precious shirt from Lysia ?
- Sometimes, sacrifices are required, bro.", says Lys with a moralistic tone. It really is the pot calling the kettle black.

"- Talking about sacrifices, I think mine isn't necessar-
- Shut up !", shout the brothers to the Duke.

Tonight, the Duke of Cabriès will be sleeping with the alligators.

 

Scene 3,
Confederate States of Florentia,
Sainte-Yvonne-les-Prairies, Republic of Saint-Isidore (North-East)
15/07/2023, 17h04

Sainte-Yvonne-les-Prairies is a small rural village whose main source of income is cattle rearing, corn and citrus fruit growing. More particularly lemons, which are renowned throughout the state.

The small local bistro is, like many other country bistros in the north of the country, a predominantly wooden building. "Chez Marcel" is painted on the front of the building, above the entrance. To the left of the building is a small stable made of sheet metal, where customers can tie up their horses.

The interior is sparsely decorated. The walls are covered in beige wallpaper with numerous traces of damp. A stuffed bull's head hangs above one of the windows. The bar is located just below the mezzanine. This gives access to a number of hotel rooms. At the back, a radio plays country music. The bistro is almost empty: the locals usually come from 6pm onwards.
Hugo Lysandre 'Lys' Dellague is waiting at the bar, glancing at his watch from time to time. He's waiting for someone, and that someone is late.

That's the moment the door opens. The newcomer is wearing a yellow shirt, a red scarf, black gloves with yellow straps, yellow boots with a spur, a large blue hat decorated with a red ribbon, and blue jeans faded by manual labour, almost entirely protected by white wool-covered chaps. A revolver, a whip, a flask of bourbon and a flask are attached to her belt. Finally, she carries a strap around her waist on which she stores ammunition.

"- I'm sorry, Miss," begins the barman as he finishes cleaning a glass, "but this bistro is off-limits to wom-"

The barman looks up and doesn't finish his sentence.

"- I beg your pardon, Miss Lémone. Please, take a seat. You're welcome", he corrects hastily.

"- Ay'd prefer daht," replied Marguerite Lémone. She takes a seat next to Lys. He turns to her and remarks mischievously.

"- You're 4 minutes late.
- A cowherd never arrives late. Or early, for that matter. Ay arrive when Ay want to, you li'le tenderfoot."

They both burst out laughing. Marguerite Lémone is the owner of a ranch north of Sainte-Yvonne-les-Prairies, where she raises her cows and grows her lemon trees. She is a symbol of the old Saint-Isidore, before capitalism took hold and began turning the prairies into supermarkets. As well as being a cowherd, Marguerite Lémone heads the Agrarian Union of Cowherds. And it is this trade union that serves as a front for the mafia in the north of the country. Some 94% of the cowherds in Saint-Isidore are members. Marguerite takes off her hat and places it on the table, revealing her pretty brown curls. Her short hair, roughly cut (probably by herself), together with her robust appearance and tall stature, give her a bovine air. She exudes more virility than all the men in the room.

"- How are you, Marguerite ?
- Well, Ay'm above da snakes, so every'ing's fine, hah ! Well, some guy 'ried to set fire to ma ranch, thou'h.
- He did ?
- Yeah, he dih. Proba'ly hired by 'he corp'rations. They wan' me ded 'cause Ay'm in their way.
- Knowing you, you probably got off easy.
- Yeah yeah, don' wo'y. Ay caugh' him a' home, so Ay knocked him ouwh with my rahfle buh and said...
- Yippi-ki-yi-yay, mo'erf*cker", completes Lys.

" - Exac'ly ! Hahah.
- I'm glad you were able to handle the situation. But let's get straight to the main topic of discussion.
- Your cons'ituhtion ?
- Yes, my constitution. I know the slavers will be posting guards in front of the polling stations. I need you to stop them from operating in the North.
- Na'izon'a, C'ayard and Saint-Isi'ore?
- Exactly.
- Goh it," she replies with two gun fingers. "And your cons'ituhtion, does i' do any'ing craz' ? Ay mean, it's no' in favour o' big business, is it ?
- No, it's not ! Of course it isn't. That would be knowing me wrong.
- Ay'm glad it doesn'. Ay trust ya.
- Thank you for your time, Marguerite", he said, gently taking the cowherd's hand before placing a gentlemanly kiss on it. Normally, Marguerite would have bitten off the testicles of any man who dared to kiss her hand, but this time she did nothing but blush.

"- See you later, Miss Lémone. I still have to talk to the other bosses."

He stood up and waved at her, before leaving the bistro. Margueritte Lémone sighs.

"- Ay don' know wha," she murmurs to herself, "bu' daht li'le b*stard never ceases to have 'n effect o' me."

Edited by Florentia (see edit history)
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  • 1 month later...

A fresh wind - 2

Scene 4,
Confederate States of Florentia,
Baste, capital city of Rivière-de-Juillet
17/07/2023, 18h09

"- So the Empire can watch over its children, vote YES. Long live the Empire ! Long live Florentia !"

Hugo Lysandre Dellague's voice gives way to a slight crackle, before the radio is switched off. Thus concluded the speech introducing the new constitution, whose adoption will be decided by referendum. The plebiscite will run for seven days, starting tomorrow. The delicate decoration of the small salon contrasts with the silent anger of the nobles, gathered around the radio. The tension is palpable.

"- He dared !" exclaims Count Louis de Saint-Louis at last, breaking the silence. "First the murder of Monsieur de Cabriès, and now he continues with his referendum !

- I warned you he wouldn't back down. He's far too zealous and fanatical to realize the absurdity of his program," adds the Marquis de Manutan, casting a sanctimonious glance at all the nobles. His monocle hardens his already stern gaze. "However, we can still act. If we stick to the plan laid down a few days ago, this accursed plebiscite will fail and the natural order of things will be preserved."

The Marquis now stands and faces the rest of the assembly. A few people nod, then timid applause follows, quickly intensifying. Monsieur de Manutan's natural authority has paid off. The populist threat must be contained, and all means are good.

 

Day 1 - Fear

De Grégroire estate, slave exploitation in the Kingdom of Nouvelle-Vendée
18/07/2023, 6h57

"- Get up, you lazy b#stards !" thunders the head guard as one of his subordinates rings the bell to wake the slaves. The slaves gradually emerge from their barracks, dressed in their eternal rags of poor cotton. "Your benevolent master, Count Grégoire de Grégoire, has asked me to give you a message. Anyone who leaves the estate to vote will be deprived of food for three days. Do you understand ?"

The slaves nod obediently. The boss is about to leave. Suddenly, a slave remarks :

"- Technically, this is a violation of the ‘Charter of Master and Slave’, which the Kingdom of Nouvelle-Vendée is supposed to respect.

 - So what are you going to do ? Are you going to sue us ?" he asks with a contemptuous laugh.

"- Technically, I could."

The chief's face darkens. He approaches the slave, threatening. The chief takes out his truncheon and uses it to stroke the slave's face.

"- Do you really want to play the smart boy with me?

- Go ahead. I've got nothing to lose anyway."

The chief can see the determination in the slave's eyes. He must be barely 15 years old and ten centimetres shorter than the guard. That's not a problem, he has already beaten children. What bothers him is his determination to die a martyr's death. Too bad, the temptation is too strong. After all, you have to show these savages who the dominant race is, don't you? That's what he's always been told.

The first blow hits the slave in the right side. Despite the pain, he doesn't take back his words. Then a slave, probably the rebel's mother, bursts into tears and pleads for her son to be spared. "Anything but him", she said. Very well, then. A lady's wishes are orders, after all. The boss walks over to the mother. Realising the situation, the rebel tries to stop him but is held back by three guards. His cries and tears are useless. The chief reaches the mother and takes advantage of her kneeling position to kick her in the stomach. She sprawls on the floor in pain. One kick follows another. The chef seems exhilarated by the violence. The other slaves, horrified, just watch passively, their attention drawn in spite of themselves by this morbid scene. Finally, the chief stops and orders the guards to release the son. The son rushes to his mother. She is still breathing, but her ribs are probably shattered and her face is disfigured. He bursts into tears. It's all because of him. If only he'd shut up.

"- Will you vote ?" asks the chief, wiping the sweat from his brow. The slave answers a timid "No", barely understandable through his tears. The chief smiles. Order has been preserved.

"- Bless your mother’s heart.”

 

Mauricourt, some small town in the Kingdom of Tyronie
18/07/2023, 16h32

A long queue waits outside the local polling station. The stand is located in the village square, in front of the town hall. In the centre of the square is a statue of some general who distinguished himself among the slavers during the Florentian Civil War. As the date at the foot of the statue indicates, it was erected in 1887 by the local lord, Baron Hilaire de Mauricourt. Due to lack of maintenance, rust is eating away at the metal in many places and a few bird droppings cover the general's head. The voters wait impatiently for their turn. The typical profile of the farmer in deep Florentia can be seen: large felt hats, dirty mended shirts, wide trousers, half-high boots covered in dirt. Some even had cigarillos in their mouths. There are also a few slaves from the local farms and local artisans.

The polling station has been open since 8am and many people are voting, eager to give their opinion on such an important plebiscite. The next voter steps forward. He shows his identity card, which is checked by the first employee, who then writes his name in a booklet. The voter then grabs the envelope and the two papers corresponding to the proposals, before entering the polling booth. The next moment, he emerges with the letter closed and walks towards the ballot box. His arm rises, reaches for the receptacle, and prepares to drop the envelope into it.

"- Wait !" orders a voice from behind the voter. Everyone turns round to see that five soldiers from the Royal Army of Tyronie have arrived. The soldier who spoke appears to be the leader of the small group, as indicated by his slightly different uniform. "Our orders are to ensure that the elections run smoothly.”

Then he walks over to the man who was about to cast his vote.

"- What are you voting, peasant ?

The voter stared at the soldier hesitantly, dazed, not knowing what to do.

"- No !" exclaimes one of the employees of the polling station. "They have no right to force you to reveal your vote.”

Then the impatient corporal snatches the envelope out of the voter's hands, tears it open and reads out the contents :

"’Yes’. So, you're in favour of the new constitution. I'm sorry, sir, but you'll have to leave now.

- Well, I'd like to vote.

- Leave or I'll arrest you for disturbing public order.”

The voter resigns himself and walks away from the polling station. The corporal tears up the 'Yes'. A murmur of discontent runs through the queue.

"- You will now vote 'No'.

- "Excuse-me ?" exclaim the polling station staff and the voters in a single voice.

"- You heard me right.

- But it's against the law !

- I'm the law here. So obey, or else !”

The corporal takes out his sabre and points it at the office staff, then at the voters. One of them instinctively reaches for the grip of his revolver. Thinking that the armed voter is going to murder the corporal, one of the soldiers takes out his pistol and shoots the voter in the hand. The situation quickly escalates. The other voters draw their revolvers, as do the soldiers. The confusion is general. A few moments later, most of the voters had either been knocked unconscious, seriously injured or had surrendered. The soldiers, on the other hand, suffered only one serious injury and two minor ones.

Taking advantage of the calm after the battle, the corporal opens the ballot box and tears open the envelopes. Each 'Yes' vote is shredded, while the 'No' votes are returned to the ballot box. However, the officer can't fail to notice the overwhelming majority of 'Yes' votes - at least 80%, if not more. He turns round and looks at the carnage. A carnage caused by himself. Just five years before he joined the state army, he too was a peasant from a similar village. Would he have been capable of such violence before the army? A feeling of shame and anger runs through the corporal: he feels like a docile puppet in the hands of Tyronie's military junta.

"- Whatever," he thinks, violently chasing away his own thoughts. "I may be a puppet but, at least, if my superiors are happy, I can move up the hierarchy. That's what I've always wanted, right ? Right ?" the officer repeats in his head as if to convince himself.

"- Corporal," one of the soldiers interrupts. "What do we do with the wounded ?

- The yokels of Mauricourt need to understand who's in charge. Hang them."

Edited by Florentia
I'm stupid. (see edit history)
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A fresh wind - 3

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Scene 5,
Confederate States of Florentia,
Somewhere, some place
09/07/2023, 2h58

"- Where am I?" asked the Duke of Cabriès as he opens his eyes. The dim light of a petrol lantern dazzles him. A ringing in his ears is replaced by music from a portable radio. The putrid smell of the swamps of the River Saint-Elme wafts into his nostrils. He finds himself in a dusty little wooden shack full of cobwebs. It's pouring down outside and a few drops are seeping through the roof. In front of him is Hugo Lysandre Dellague, who has taken off his jacket and is wearing latex gloves.

"- Somewhere, some place. All you need to know is that we're far enough away from any form of civilisation so that no one can hear your screams," replies Lys with a perverse smile, enjoying the power he holds over the Duke. The Duke nearly faints again, but Lys splashes water in his face, forcing him to stay awake.

"- If you want money, take it all. Even information. I'd say anything! I'll say anything! But leave me alive. For God's sake, let me-

- SHUT UP !" screams Lys. "Don't you dare invoke the name of the Lord, you who so shamelessly flout his precepts. Jesus preached love, joy and equality for all before the Lord. But you... You and your kind are nothing but a bunch of profiteers. You are sinners disguised as saints.

- But... But... I'll do anything you want. If you let me live, I'll do anything! I'll say anything," begs the Duke. Tears and fear distort his words, making them completely incomprehensible. Lys seems to be thinking. Then his fanatical expression is replaced by a pleasant, sympathetic countenance. He unties the Duke's hands. Then he hands the Duke a handkerchief, a pencil and a sheet of paper.

"- Dry your tears, big boy, and then write down everything you and your little friends have planned.

- Th-th-thank you, Dellague," stammers the Duke, stunned by the Chancellor's sudden friendliness. He frantically notes down everything he knows. His handwriting is a little shaky and sometimes a tear stains the paper. Despite this, we understand what is written. When he has finished, the Duke hands the paper to Lys, who reads it before putting it in his pocket, a thin smile on his lips. The Duke watches his movements carefully, waiting impatiently for the moment when the Chancellor allows his hostage to leave. However, when Lys begins to tie the Duke's hands, he realises that he will not survive.

"- You're going to kill me!

- Yes, and?

- It's a sin! When you've killed me, you'll be as dirty and immoral as I am."

Then Lys chuckles. He picks up an axe lying at the back of the shed. The chuckle turns into hysterical laughter. As Lys turns around, the Duke can see a spark of fanaticism and madness shining in his eyes.

"- I'm not a sinner, I'm a preacher! I watch over my people, helping them to reach paradise, while I punish sinners like you who are too corrupt to know redemption."

The axe blade rubs against the ground with an inconstant metallic noise.

"- Y-y-you lied t-to me !

- Did I ever once promise to let you live? No. I always keep my word and I never lie."

He raises his axe.

"- As a phoenix rises in the sky,
Lys raises the great axe up high!
'For Florentia’, he does declare,
And-
"

The door suddenly opens and Lancelot Dellague rushes through. This stopped Lys in his tracks.

"- Bro, hurry up. I heard we were followed. We've got to get rid of him quickly and get out of here.

- Oh SH*T," exclaims Lys, in a fit of rage, before finishing off the Duke with a bullet to the head. "F*CK. We can NEVER have fun. PISSES me off."

Lancelot loads the body into the car, while Lys sets fire to the shed before taking the wheel. The music on the radio distorts before succumbing to the flames.  Lys starts the car. The two brothers head for the nearest pig farm, where they can dispose of the body. Except for the teeth, the only part not digested by the pigs, which are thrown into the muddy waters of the river.

 

Day 2 - Counter-attack

Montcharmin, Office of the Confederal Chancellor,
19/07/2023, 0h03

Vincent Vicécrou, Minister for War, enters the office. His marshal's uniform is as resplendent as always.

"Chancellor?

- Yes, Minister?

- I bring bad news.

- Let's hear it, Marshal.

Vincent hesitates for a moment before walking over to the desk and dropping in several reports.

"- The slave states have sent their armies to force people to vote against the new constitution. The figures are imprecise, but there were several hundred deaths, perhaps a thousand, in a single day. What's more, the slavers refuse to let their slaves vote.

- Oh, that?

- Did you already know it?

- Yes, I knew that.

- And you let them do it?

- That's right, yes.

- But why?

- Because, by forcing voters to vote, they are making enemies of themselves. So they are the villains of the story, and I can legitimately crush them.

- So you authorise me to send in the Imperial Army?

- Of course. Secure the polling stations and guard every slaveholding. The voters need to feel safe. If you come across any state armies, tell them to piss off. If they confront you, just resist and protect civilians. The peasant needs to see the Imperial Army protecting him from the cruel regional armies."

The Marshal nodded and closed the door.

 

Port-Rouge, capital of the Marquisate of Bayave,
19/07/2023, 9h08

Printing works Pierre&Son is in full swing. The central government has ordered many different posters to promote the referendum, and the small local company has managed to secure the contract for the entire Marquisate. The instructions are clear: "produce as many as you can, enough so that we can put one on every street corner". The government wants Florentians to always have in sight a poster reminding them how much the new regime will benefit them.

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The small company eagerly undertakes the task in the hope of working with the government again in the future. After all, a little propaganda can't hurt, especially if it makes money, can it?

 

TSF Florentie, a nationwide news radio station,
19/07/2023, 17h25

"- ...numerous skirmishes between imperial and state soldiers at polling stations. Several nobles were arrested for disturbing the peace. Right away, here's a statement from the Marquis de Manutan, leader of the slavers since the disappearance of Monsieur le Duc de Cabriès.

- I would have said murder, but that's not the subject of this discussion. I have with me a declaration signed by most of the Florentian aristocracy.

- Not all of it?

- No, unfortunately not. The Javiosian nobility is corrupted by demonism and decadence, as everyone knows, and is firmly opposed to slavery. This declaration states that we no longer recognise the authority of Confederal Chancellor Hugo Dellague. The referendum was not approved by the Confederal Senate and is therefore unconstitutional. We therefore demand that Mr Dellague resign, that he be banned from any government position and that national elections be organised as soon as possible.

- On the legal side of things, do you think that the result of the referendum should be taken into account, despite its illegality?

- Certainly not! People are subject to changeable moods. All it takes is a populist like Dellague to promise them the moon, and they'll be ready to die for him. The Florentian aristocracy has always represented a wise and measured benevolence towards peasants and slaves.

- Benevolence that translates into armed repression?

- I think you're straying from the subject.

- On the contrary. Besides, if the results matter so little, why force people to vote against the constitution?

- These are just unfounded accusations, completely invented by Dellague and his clique of the People's Action.

- That's not what the testimonies of the victims and the hundreds of people who died say.

- You've obviously ambushed me. You've sold out to the central government.”

The Marquis can be heard rising from his chair and storming out of the room. His voice comes through in the background:

"- This is a scandal! You'll be sorry you humiliated me."

The presenter's voice resumes:

"- The station apologises for the behaviour of the Marquis of Manutan.”

Edited by Florentia (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

A fresh wind - 4
 

Day 3 - Crescendo

Mouvant, capital of Abalavier,
20/08/2023, 9h13

Duke Charles-Theophile de Barbaind slowly opens his eyes, awakened by the light of day. His maid has just opened the shutters. She is a Casharie slave whose family has worked for the de Barbaind family for three hundred years. Painfully, the Duke lifts his thin silk blanket and climbs out of bed. A draft of air sends a shiver down his crotch. His pyjama bottoms are damp. His doubts are confirmed when the smell reaches him: he has urinated on himself again during the night. "These prostate problems are really becoming unmanageable," murmurs the Duke, whose age is well over 80. It's already a miracle that he has survived this long. Health problems are common in his family because of consanguinity. Charles-Théophile's father was his uncle, while the Duke's wife, Mme Marie-Louis de Barbaind, is his cousin. Of his five children, the first two were stillborn, while the fourth did not live past the age of 12 due to haemophilia. In the corridor, there are several paintings showing the Dukes of Barbaind through the ages. If you look closely, you can see the physical features intensify over the generations. The nose has widened, the height has shortened and the chin has receded. The result is in front of Charles-Théophile, in his mirror : a fat little man, a flat nose with gigantic nostrils, absolutly no chin, a few scattered tufts of hair that the Duke has not yet decided to shave, skin reminiscent of battlefield trenches, two cheeks that were once elastic but are now sagging like a grandmother's breasts. This is the portrait of a man tired by life.
The Duke is in a hurry; he has an appointment at 10am at the Royal Palace in Mouvant. The King wants to discuss the state of the Royal Abalavian Army. For almost 300 years, the Dukes of Barbaind have led the state army. On arriving outside the palace, the Duke discovers that demonstrators have amassed outside the gates. It's a motley mix: shopkeepers, craftsmen, workers and even a few peasants, who probably originally came to sell their crops. Most are armed with cobblestones, pitchforks, rifles or revolvers. There must be at least a thousand of them, all complaining that they don't have enough bread. The guards were already having trouble containing them. It was then that they spotted and recognised the Duke's car. Several cobblestones were thrown, but no one dared to use their firearms. One well-placed paving stone even managed to break one of the car's windows. Several demonstrators then tried to extract the Duke, but the royal guards blocked their path just in time to allow the convoy to enter the courtyard of the Palace. Once the gates were closed, the Duke rushed out to take refuge inside the Palace. As usual, the entrance hall is as flamboyant as ever. The grandeur and luxury of the place contrasts with the narrow, dirty streets of Mouvant. A slave dressed as a servant leads the Duke into the royal private salon. The salon is typical of the period of Baroque revival that swept through Florentian aristocratic circles in the 1880s and 1890s. In the small room, King Ursule VI of Abalavier is accompanied by his wife, Queen Marine-Antoinette, and a dozen or so courtiers. Ladies and gentlemen are enjoying champagne and petits fours while a musician plays a waltz on a sumptuous grand piano.

"- Charles-Théophile de Barbaind !" exclaimed Ursule as he rose from his gold-embroidered armchair. Ursule is the purest incarnation of Florentian nobility. His family comes directly from the great and powerful line of the Dukes of Montcul, who served the Kingdom of Lysia for a long time before following the King to Florentia because of the revolution. When it comes to Ursule VI, if there's anyone who can unite Abalavier, it's certainly not him. A veritable tyrant to most Florentians, he has tested the conviction of even the most ardent supporters of the monarchy on too many occasions, and only the most zealous absolutists sing his praises both in public and in private. Since his coronation in 1983, oppressive measures and excessive punishments have accumulated. Ursule devotes himself to destroying all opposition and glorifying himself, ruling a luxurious court surrounded by an angry populace.

"- My King", replied the Duke, kneeling before kissing Ursule's hand. The Duke stands up and respectfully greets the others present: in addition to the King and Queen, three ladies and seven lords are present, including five officers of the Royal Army. Like Charles-Théophile, their uniforms are covered in medals. Not only their jackets but also their trousers. In fact, in order to please the officers and therefore the nobles, the Emperor and then the Senate regularly awarded them medals. What's more, as medals are handed down from father to son, dynasties accumulate them, leading to an absurd number that is hardly representative of the officer's real level.

"- My King", resumes the Duke, "The hour is grave. The people are rumbling.
- Come on, Charles-Théophile, a little heckling isn't going to scare you, is it?
- I'm afraid to contradict you, my King, but it's not only a mere rabble. Hordes of hungry plebeians are amassed at the palace gates. They have no more bread !
- Let them eat cake !" exclaims Marine-Antoinette, to the hilarity of all the nobles except the Duke of Barbaind.

"- You don't seem to understand that the situation is serious. The people think you're all one head too tall, including you, my King !
- Come on, my dear, you're taking this too seriously. Age must have made you a coward. Do not worry : I am certain that I will easily find a candidate to replace you.
- P-p-pardon, my King ?
- You heard very well," confirmes Ursule with his usual haughty smile. The Duke kneels down again.

"- Although the situation is serious, it will not prevent me from keeping my cool and defending your reign with bravery."

Ursule pretends to think before replying contemptuously :

"- Rise, Duke, and fight for your King."

The Duke obeys. He motions to the five officers present to follow him to the staff room, also located in the palace. In the corridors, dozens of busts and portraits of Ursule VI seem to follow Charles-Theophile with their eyes, as if the King was constantly watching over him. Abalavier has always been renowned for its classical art. Unfortunately, since the coronation of Ursula VI, the University of Fine Arts in Mouvant has been vomiting out works bearing the effigy of the King for 40 years. Saving the Abalavian monarchy, whose nobility has been completely out of touch with reality for the last 40 years, is proving to be an almost impossible task, and it falls solely on the shoulders of Charles-Théophile de Barbaind, an inbred old man with bladder problems.

 

Mouvant, capital of Abalavavier,
20/08/2023, 14h45,

Until a week ago, Édouard Guangiot was an unremarkable grocer. He is the son of François Guangiot, a grocer who successfully launched his shop in 1993. Despite a keen interest in drawing, Édouard never dared to make a career of it and simply took over his father's shop when his father retired in 2018. Just a week ago, at the age of 32, Édouard would have said that he has a good life: married, about to become a father, owner of a stable business and a small flat. Above all, Édouard was not particularly interested in politics because of his old habit of not looking beyond his nose. However, it was only a week ago that two royal soldiers burst into his shop, accusing Édouard of revolutionary activity. The innocent grocer obviously denied it, but the soldiers insisted, insisted, insisted, too zealous to consider they did a mistake. It was then, after half an hour of stalemate, that one of the soldiers spotted Édouard's wife watching the scene through the doorway. He grabbed her and threatened to shoot her, "like a mutt", if Édouard didn't confess. The grocer, shocked, denied one last time, the last time too many. The soldier lowered the hammer of his revolver. Edouard closed his eyes.

"- Wait !" exclaimed the second soldier, pointing to a sign with the name of the grocery shop. "We're looking for Guangiod with a d, not Guangiot with a t. You can let the lady go. Sorry for the inconvenience, Ma'am, and don't forget : the Royal Army is here to serve you, so if you have the slightest suspicion, contact us," concluded the soldier with a friendly smile that contrasted with the stern expression he had just a few moments ago. And the soldiers left, as if nothing had happened. However, in Edouard's mind, his thoughts had been turned upside down. The grocer had always been aware of the Abalavian army's violent methods, but this didn't particularly affect him. Of course, he thought it was a serious matter, as did almost everyone else, but a mixture of cowardice, indifference and fear had always prevented him from going any further than a "what a horror" when he heard the news of some exaction. But it was also fear, a powerful fear, sudden and unpredictable as a bolt of lightning, that changed his life and, above all, his way of seeing things. If he, an honest shopkeeper, had been traumatised by the Royal Army in this way, then his child would also be at risk of a similar experience. Never! His child will grow up in a wurld without fear.

It is this resolution that, on 20 August 2023, prompts him to demonstrate against tyranny in front of the palace gates. By now, almost 30,000 demonstrators are facing 8,000 soldiers. The tension is intense but, apart from the scuffle around the Duke at around 10am, no one has dared to use violence. Silence reigns. Suddenly, a demonstrator climbs onto a crate and uses his hands as megaphones. He is wearing a black shirt and Edouard, despite the distance, recognises the badge: the man is a member of the Popular Action militia.

"- Ladies and gentlemen," the man begins, "there are those moments in history when a nation must seize its destiny with its own hands, and no longer be content with the life of servitude and starvation that the fat cats offer us. If life is rosy for them, it's not the same for us. So that's what I say to them, to the fat gentlemen". He turns to the palace and shouts: "Instead of hiding, you bunch of misfits, come and fight like real men. We're tired of dying for you. Death to the King! Long live the Emperor and liberty !"

The crowd then repeats "Death to the King! Long live the Emperor and liberty !", drunk on this rallying cry, and the popular roar almost seems to make the ground vibrate.

Inside the Palace, the King, Queen and Abalavian aristocracy are waltzing in the ballroom. A slave arrives, kneels before the King and presents him a silver tray with a ringing telephone on it. The King picks up :

"- My King, the situation has worsened," informs the Duke of Barbaind at the other end of the line, calling from the gates. "There are now tens of thousands of demonstrators. They want you dead !"
"- Shoot.
- What do you mean, shoot?
- Shoot, it's as simple as that. Fire.
- At the crowd ?
- Of course! Defend the palace at all costs. Defend me at all costs."

Charles-Théophile's face darkened. The King hangs up, more concerned about the waltz than the insurrection. The Duke can't help thinking that this is one of the worst ideas the King has ever had, but orders are orders... The soldiers raise their rifles. The incredulity of the demonstrators gives way to general panic and they take refuge behind the barricades. The square in front of the palace was now covered in corpses and future corpses. A deathly silence has set in. The rebellion seems to have been put down for the time being, but for how long? What's more, a terrible feeling of unease has crept into the ranks of the Royal Army, like being congratulated for something immoral. Of course, a few among them are here for the violence, bust most are peasants seeking a stable and well-paid job. Each soldier's doubts are confirmed by the look on his colleagues' faces : they have just slaughtered their brothers and can only shudder at the thought of what they will be asked to do if they continue to obey. For the first time in 40 years, a wind of mutiny is blowing through the Royal Army.

Edited by Florentia
I decided to remove the ai-generated image of the Duke to let people imagine his face. (see edit history)
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  • 3 weeks later...

A fresh wind - 5

Day 4 - Spark

Mouvant, capital of Abalavier,
20/08/2023, 5h29

A moonless night hangs over the capital of the most reactionary Florentian state: the Kingdom of Abalavier. The royal palace slumbers in treacherous tranquillity. Indeed, despite the dense, reassuring blanket of night, despite the peaceful snores emitted by the royal family from their golden cocoons, despite the silence so restful you'd want it to last forever, a threat is lurking. A furtive threat whose muffled footsteps you think you can hear around the bend in a corridor, but which evaporates in the heavy, dull atmosphere of summer nights when you turn around. Then, just as you're convinced you've hallucinated, or carelessly brush aside any doubts by assuming the presence of some house imp, a nerve of beef suddenly crashes down on your skull as night falls on the day. And so the 1st Regiment of the Royal Abalavian Army entered the Royal Palace.

The peaceful sleep of King Ursule VI of Abalavier is suddenly broken by a soldier. Despite his pyjamas and dishevelled hair, his majesty looks almost as regal as usual. Not giving the King time to reprimand him, the soldier explains the situation.

"- Your Majesty, I am Lieutenant Gambard. The Royal Army is mutinying and infiltrating the palace as we speak. But a few soldiers, including me, are still loyal to you. We must flee, my Lord !"

The King's nonchalantly annoyed expression gave way to terror as a thick brute burst through the door, followed by several dozen men. The brute in question, a former farm boy, is called Gaston Beussaimer. He has recently been promoted to Major General not only for his skills, but also for his massive stature, which frightens the hell out of his superiors. Gaston grabs the traitor by the hair and slams his head against a mirror. A few shards of glass lacerate the lieutenant's nose and forehead. He lets out a few tears, not from pain but from fear of the punishment to come. The general orders the traitor and the King to be handcuffed. Despite Ursule's pleading, the soldiers no longer bother to listen to him. As the King is dragged through his palace, he can see with what hatred all the portraits, busts and statues are being destroyed, while the servants who were once slaves are now free.

On leaving the palace, the King could see his family tied up in the middle of the central square, held at gunpoint by several thousand soldiers like dangerous criminals. Ursule was thrown at the feet of his wife, his two children, his son-in-law and his granddaughter. He tried to get up and the dust between the shaken gravel stained his sumptuous suit. His eyes show fear. For the first time in his life, His Majesty Ursule VI d'Abalavier had doubts.

One by one, the facades around the square light up and the inhabitants lean out of their windows. The whole of Mouvant woke up prematurely to see with joy that the King had been arrested. The few sympathisers remained silent or were reduced to silence by the revolutionaries. The soldiers in the square were joined by an ever-growing mass of shopkeepers, peasants, industrialists, workers, intellectuals and slaves. In a rare moment of class solidarity, the Abalavians stood proudly united in their hatred of the monarchy. The crowd gradually rose to a chorus of "For the Emperor and Freedom" as they surrounded the King and his family. This is a military march from the Florentian Civil War, written for the Imperial Army.

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Quote

 

{Original lyrics :}

« - Un goût de liberté caresse nos sèches lèvres
Le pélican guide nos pas
Transportés de fierté, la victoire nous enivre
Telle l’ambroisie, divin repas.

Tremblez ennemis de l’Empire
Rois ivres de la réaction
La tyrannie enfin chavire
La nation est révolution

{Refrain :}
La République* nous appelle
Pour l’Empereur et la liberté
Florentie vivra égalité
Et l’Empire sera éternel
Florentie vivra égalité
Et l’Empire sera éternel

De nos pénibles fers, nous sommes délivrés
Enfin l’honneur est recouvré
Nous braves affranchis, saisissons le fusil
C’est aux Rois à être asservis

Que l’on prie Dieu ou les esprits
Qu’on soit Lysien ou Cashari
Nous sommes tous fiers Florentiens
L’Empire défend ses citoyens

{Refrain}

Sur le fer de nos sabres, nous jurons à nos pères,
À nos épouses, à nos sœurs,
À nos frères, à nos fils, à notre divin Empereur
D'anéantir les oppresseurs.

En tous lieux, dans la nuit profonde
Plongeant l'infâme royauté,
L’Empire donnera au monde
Et la paix et la liberté.

{Refrain} »

 

{Translated lyrics :}

"- A taste of freedom caresses our dry lips
The pelican guides our steps
Proud, thrilled with victory
Like ambrosia, a divine meal.

Tremble enemies of the Empire
Drunken Kings of reaction
Tyranny capsizes at last
The nation is revolution

{Chorus :}
The Republic* calls us
For the Emperor and liberty
Florentia will live equality
And the Empire will be eternal
Florentie will live equality
And the Empire will be eternal

From our painful fetters we are delivered
At last our honour is restored
We, brave freedmen, take up our guns
It’s the King’s turn to be enslaved

Whether we pray to God or to the spirits
Whether Lysian or Cashari
We are all proud Florentians
The Empire defends its citizens

{Chorus}

On the iron of our swords, we swear to our fathers,
To our wives, to our sisters,
To our brothers, to our sons, to our divine Emperor
To destroy the oppressors.

Everywhere, in the deep night
Plunging the infamous royalties,
The Empire will give to the wurld
Peace and liberty.

{Chorus}"

Then, as soon as the singing was over, she appeared. Her slender form is reminiscent of some femme fatale, but her robustness of wood and steel bears witness to an unrivalled firmness. She is the symbol of impartial justice, upright and fair, but above all blind. This tall, disquieting lady is the guillotine. A sliver of moonlight seems to run down the blade until it dies on the tip. Since the beginning of his reign, Ursule VI has always demanded that executions take place in the royal square, so that he could observe them from his balcony. From now on, the tool obeyed its new masters, who shouted "Death to the King !". For more than half an hour, the scaffold on which the guillotine will stand is set up. Every minute was a torture for the royal family. Not because of the few stones thrown at them without actually touching them, nor because of the hatred spewed out by the filthy hordes of demonstrators, nor because of the insensitive determination of the Army, which is now Royal in name only, but because of the feeling that this situation is the sum of all their actions, solely their actions, and that they could have avoided it.

General Beussaimer climbed onto the platform and ordered the King to stand up. The dazed King was slow to obey, so two guards grabbed him by the arms and threw him to the foot of the guillotine. The general took him by the collar and placed his head in the appropriate place. Gaston is astonished by the King's docility.

"- Citizen Ursule d'Abalavier, you are condemned for tyranny. The people demand your head and I, Gaston Beussaimer, am charged with carrying out the wishes of the Abalavians."

The general releases the rope. The blade hisses before cutting the neck. The King is dead. Gaston grabs the head by the hair and holds it out to the crowd as proof of his final deed. The people of Mouvant cheer, filled with joy. Then he throws the head into the crowd. The crowd pounced on it, trampling it under their feet with a bestial, irrational hatred. The General's gaze turned to the Queen.

Barely a few hours after the death of the King of Abalavier and his family, the news had already spread throughout Florentia. The quintessence of Florentian nobility, the only regional monarch thought to be unshakeable, was no more. Like a shockwave, the news caused the peasants to rise up against their local Lords, while the royal soldiers let it happen.

As the moon appears again over the Florentian sky, a few wisps of smoke still rise into the sky and the blue blood that has been spilt is just beginning to dry. The palaces are littered with corpses. The bodies are barely recognisable, trampled, disfigured, shredded, pierced by hundreds of feet, pitchforks, axes and rifles. The few aristocrats who were lucky enough not to be killed are now locked up where only yesterday they locked up their opponents.

(*The chorus of the march talks about a republic ("The republic calls us") because, in Florentia, republic is a word used to describe a good government of the "common good".)

~~~

Montcharmin, capital of Florentia,
20/08/2023, 21h02

Louis-Ambroise d'Asmavie, Emperor Ambroise IV of Florentia, reads with concern the reports that his Chancellor has just brought him in person. The latter is waiting quietly in the doorway of the imperial office. The luxurious decorations - furniture, paintings, trinkets, etc. - are painful reminders of a glorious but bygone era. Louis-Ambroise turns to his Chancellor Hugo 'Lys' Dellague, his eyebrows furrowed.

"- Lys, this is extremely serious !

- What do you mean?" asked Lys disappointedly. Yet he had the feeling that he had done well and a feeling of pride filled him.

"- But come on ! The country is on the brink of civil war.

- It's not a civil war if the people are only on one side.

- Maybe, but that's not the point, Lys! You can't push people to behave like animals. Progress shouldn't come at the price of blood.

- And why not?" retorts Lys, whose tone has become sententious. "Why should people without humanity be treated with humanity?

- I- I...

- You know as well as I do that they deserve only death, like your brother. I saw your face at his funeral. You tried to hide it, but when I see one, I know how to recognise a smile. You rejoiced in his death as I rejoice in their deaths. So instead of berating me like a child - I'm only six years younger than you - work with me. The two of us will govern the nation! I'll be the driving force behind progress, the guide to happiness, and you, only you, you'll be the one to curb my excesses. For the Florentians, you will be a kind of paternal figure, while me, I will be act as a big brother. What do you think about that ? The “Big Brother of all Florentians”. Sounds good, doesn’t it ? You know me, Ambroise, I'm colourful. I have my surges of hope as well as my fatalities, my fanatical rages as well as my bursts of laughter. And you'll be there for me, just as I'll be there for you, together.”

Louis-Ambroise searched in vain for an answer, but the words escaped his mouth. So he walks over to Lys and gives him a friendly handshake.

"- Ambroise ?

- Yes ?

- We'll be making a public announcement tomorrow morning asking people to calm down so the aristocrats can be tried for their crimes. And then we'll restart the referundum.

- Well, that's fine by me. We can wait one evening. Plus, I promised Rosie we'd watch a movie tonight.

- What movie ?

- ‘It Can't Happen Here’. It's about the rise to power of a populist dictator in an imaginary monarchy called 'Louisiana', I think.

- Interesting. Interesting...”

Edited by Florentia (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

A fresh wind - 6

Day 5 - Calm

Belleville, capital of Javiosia,
21/08/2023, 13h32

"- Ask the People of Florentia ! morning edition. Ask the People of Florentia ! morning edition. Breaking news: the referendum is on again, the referendum is on again. Mister ! one Lys the paper.

- All right, then. Here you go.

- Thank you, mister !" exclaims the boy before resuming his newspaper hawking, despite the general indifference of passers-by. What has always fascinated Daiki Hitake, the young man who has just bought a newspaper, is that kids selling newspapers always know how to spot passers-by who are not completely ignoring them. So, the vendor offers a newspaper specifically to this passer-by, and he buys the paper. Perhaps in the way the passer-by tries to avoid looking at the vendor? "Good question," concludes Daiki as he leans against a lamppost before reading the front cover, which reads:

"THE REFERENDUM STARTS ALL OVER AGAIN. The Chancellor and the Emperor have announced the invalidity of the referendum that began five days ago due to interference from the Florentian slave aristocracy. The referendum will therefore take place tomorrow and the day after, from 9am to 7pm. Imperial soldiers will guard each polling station so that every Florentian citizen can express his or her opinion in complete freedom and safety."

"- Great..." grumbles Daiki, particularly impatient at having to wait another three hours in a queue at the entrance to the polling station, in the hot August sun, between a senile old lady who thinks Esonians eat dogs and a sweaty man whose smell could kill an ox. But that won't stop him from voting 'yes' again because, speaking of racist old ladies, Daiki is delighted that, at last, a man is bringing progress to this backward country. So much the worse if that man has a strong hand! Of course he was shocked by the wave of violence that swept through the countryside. However, it's better to have a progressive dictator than a reactionary democrat, isn't it? Of course, Florentians' reactions to the sight of an Esonian are not always negative, but they are almost always embarrassing. On several occasions, manhas fans have even mistaken him for a woman and approached him with a silly grin, saying "Niko niko nii !” Bellevillians seem to be split between those who see Esonians as parasites, and those who see them as flesh-and-blood manha characters. Either way, Daiki is going to have to get used to it, because since the war ended, he has decided not to return to Sademi, his birthplace, but to stay in Belleville. Despite the pollution, crime and concrete, Daiki loves the constant dynamism of the Southern Star. His aunt allows him to stay with her for a few months, until he earns enough money to rent a flat.

As his gaze drifted away from the newspaper, he saw one of the many posters promoting the People's Action, the Chancellor's party. As he approached, Daiki noticed a small inscription at the bottom of the poster: "looking for a poster seller, requires non-provided bike, 213 Baver avenue". Daiki's face breaks into a thin smile: he has finally found a job. The end of the war had left tens of thousands of unemployed young people in the wilderness, including Daiki. Now there was just one obstacle standing between him and his independence: how could he get a bicycle?

 

Belleville, capital of Javiosie,
21/08/2023, 14h59,

The billboard office is on the first floor of a small 5-storey building. The offices have just been bought by Pierre&Fils printers, a company originally from Port-Rouge that has recently made a lot of money thanks to its partnership with the Government. The paint on the "Imprimeurs Pierre&Fils" sign is still fresh.

Daiki approaches the front door, his bike slung over his right shoulder. The bike, gleaming, almost new and painted red, was bought second-hand thanks to a loan taken out with one of the many local banks. The interest is high, very high, but with hard work and determination, no debt is impossible to repay.

Inside is a large reception area, perhaps a little too large since, apart from the two receptionists' desks and five plastic chairs, the room is completely empty.

"- Mr Hitake", says the first receptionist. "You called earlier to apply for the job of... poster boy. Mr Rombt is waiting for you in his office, second door on the right.

Daiki nodded and thanked the lady before heading down the long, dark, windowless corridor, lit only by a wall lamp on the opposite side. At the far end of the corridor, a trap door leads down to the basement. Even from reception, we can feel the gentle, constant vibration of the presses. A knock at the door.

"- Come in," orders a falsely authoritative, slightly high-pitched voice. Daiki enters and closes the door. A chubby but energetic man stands behind a messy desk. The walls are covered with various advertising posters, all produced by Pierre&Fils. “Are you Mr Hitake ?

- Daiki Hitake, yes," confirms the young man, holding up his identity card.

Mr Rombt hands Daiki a cap and a work uniform.

"- Come tomorrow at eight o'clock in the morning, dressed appropriately.

- Thank you, Mr Rombt. See you tomorrow.”

The executive gives a brief nod before dismissing Daiki from his office.

 

Day 6 - The art of politics

Belleville, capital of Javiosie,
22/08/2023, 7h14,

As its name suggests, the Little Esonia district contains the majority of Belleville's Esonian population. Originally, it was a ghetto where the authorities crammed Esonian immigrants. Today, the district is much less insalubrious and most of the old textile factories have been moved further out. Thanks to Belleville’s lack of building restrictions, the architecture is a soft kind of “Esoniseries” (a style born from the mix of Lysian and Esonian architectural styles) and there are many Esonian decorative elements as well as several Shinshi temples, tolerated by the municipality. Daiki's aunt Rini lives with her son Yori on the second floor of a small building. The building is situated at the back of one of the many streams that run through Belleville. Mosquitoes swarm there despite the chemicals thrown up by the textile factories a few kilometres upstream. Daiki opened the shutters and leaned over the empty space to catch a glimpse of the sunlight seeping through the neighbouring buildings. There are no clouds on the horizon: it looks like being a sunny day, and the air might even be less humid than usual.

A bowl of rice and an hour later, Daiki is crossing the Grand Boulevards on his bicycle, with a pot of glue attached to a rope and a dozen posters stuck under his right arm. He stops in front of the Stanislas Yoskativ steam station, linking Belleville to the capital via a network of paddle steamers. It's the perfect place to stick up posters. Daiki puts his bike up against a lamppost and sets about his task. An employee showed him how to do it just 20 minutes ago, but that doesn't stop him from struggling to avoid creasing the poster! That's when a pedestrian passing by pounces on the bicycle and runs off with it. Daiki tries his best to run after him, but it's impossible to catch the thief.

Perhaps he should have gone back to Sademi...
 

Belleville, capital of Javiosie,
22/08/2023, 10h31,

"- Sorry, Auntie, but I don't think lighting an incense will be enough to bring my bike back.

- Daiki ! Don't be so cynical," exclaims Rini, throwing away the match with which the incense has just been lit. "If you don't believe in it, of course it doesn't work.

- If you say so...", murmurs Daiki, staring at his barely consumed and already lukewarm cup of coffee. He would have preferred tea, but when he got home he didn't dare ask his aunt to heat up the water again. After all, his relationship with Rini consists mainly of respectful unspoken words. It's no better with Rini's son Yori, whose interactions with his cousin often result in mutual embarrassment caused by a lack of common interests and the age difference.

"- Have you been to the police station?

- Yes. They brushed me off, saying they have other cases to deal with and they're certainly not going to mobilise the police for another stolen bike. Understandable. On the other hand, if I ever find my bike, I can make a claim. But then again, it's probably already been dismantled by now.

The doorbell rings.

"- Auntie, are you expecting someone?

- Not at this hour...

- I'll get the door."

There are two men on the doorstep. The first, who is five centimetres shorter than Daiki, wears a shabby three-piece suit, but is particularly well groomed. His slicked-back hair and artificially enthusiastic smile are reminiscent of a crooked car dealer. The second is probably over 1.90m tall. His suit is less sophisticated and unkempt, and his stature resembles that of a bouncer or bodyguard. Both men have a magnolia flower attached to their jacket. The left side of the car dealer's jacket is closer to the ground, as if he was carrying a heavy object. Is he armed ?

"- Are you Mr Hitake ? Daiki Hitake ?", asks the car dealer.

"- That's me. What's the matter ?

- Have you heard about the referendum being held again ?

- I have, but... I don't see what you're getting at.

- We know you've just lost your bicycle, which you need to do your job."

Daiki's eyebrows furrow, which the car dealer notices.

"- We have the means to find your vehicle, but first we need a small favour.

- I see... Why should I believe you?

- Trust us, Mr Hitake. Belleville can be dark and dangerous, so it's best to have allies...

- Or else what ?

- You perfectly understood, Mr Hitake.”

Daiki's face darkens. He is less and less daring to hold the car dealer's gaze.

"- What do you want ?

- Ah ! I knew we could count on you. You'd have to vote in favour of the referendum. You'd be in our good graces. In the Chief's good graces !

- What do you mean by "the Chief" ? And how would you check my vote ?

- You don't need to know any more than that. Goodbye, Mr Hitake, and remember to do the right thing."

The car dealer and the bouncer descend the stairs but Daiki, still shocked, remains motionless.

 

Day 7 - The revolution triumphant

Belleville, capital of Javiosie,
23/08/2023, 20h02,

It's been an hour since the polling stations closed. Daiki, Rini and Yori are sitting on their sofa in front of the television, watching the results. When the referendum victory was announced, Rini jumped for joy and kissed Yori on the forehead. As for Daiki, he simply sighs at the all-too-predictable victory. 92% of voters in favour ? Pff. Despite the deafening figure, he was barely surprised.

In the entrance hall of the flat, the bicycle is propped up against a wall. A stranger, also with a magnolia flower attached to his jacket, brought it to Daiki a few hours ago. The young man opens his newspaper, the evening edition of the People of Florentia. In the "miscellaneous" section, he can read:

"A bicycle thief gave himself up to the police, claiming he was sorry for stealing and sinning. The thief had several bruises and broken ribs and was taken to St Mary's Hospital, and will be tried after his recovery."

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

A fresh wind — 7

 

Day 8 - Conclusion of the “Eight Glorious Days”

Thursday, August 24, 2023 marks the end of what is already known as the “Eight Glorious Days”, in reference to the eight days comprising the referendum, the popular revolts against the slave-owning nobility and the freeing of the slaves. Indeed, although the revolts of August 20 had enabled many slaves to escape, the victory of the referendum legitimized their freedom. The remaining slaveholders, mainly smallholders who had not been the primary target of the hordes of angry peasants, attempted to flee to neighboring countries. All over Florentia, a genuine manhunt was launched. We're not even talking about “man”. We're talking about an aristocrat, a landowner, a slaver, and the aristocrat isn't a human being, he's a wart on the splendid face of the Florentian nation, an invasive animal from faraway lands whose only fate is total extinction. The hunt is on. Even women and children are targeted, on the sole pretext that they were born noble and slave owners, just as in other countries those born of a certain culture are targeted.

Over the next few days, more than a hundred thousand people were lynched by a motley mix of soldiers, small farmers and former slaves. The new Florentian regime may claim to be one of love and humanism, but its foundations are made up of blood and hatred, of frantic rushes to the border to leave a country where you've lived all your life, of rude awakenings in the early hours of the morning to be taken who knows whereby men in uniform, mock trials where the outcome has already been decided, humiliating processions during which filthy hordes spit on the prisoners, summary executions in front of a ditch dug beside a country lane, young women who were once pure raped by their former servants. Just as bloodletting was once practised to cure diseases, Florentia is bleeding to cure the evil it has itself created. Popular barbarity has burst like a huge latent cyst, the result of 140 years of suffering and repression. However, the need for a return to calm, in order to organise the elections, forced Hugo L. Dellague to extinguish this joyful inferno. By 1 September, the provisional President had succeeded in calming the people's ardour, and the slavers were either dead or abroad. This would not have been possible without the immense popularity that Dellague had gained by proclaiming the end of the Confederation.

The presidential elections were swift, too swift for some. The disbelievers included mainly liberals and industrialists, who were certainly happy to see the end of slavery and the reign of aristocracy, but were frightened by the savagery of the revolutionaries. Another social category was frightened: the petty bourgeoisie, embodied by shopkeepers, craftsmen, bureaucrats and so on. The latter also owned slaves who were used as domestic servants, but as they were not out of touch with reality (unlike the nobility), they quickly realised the coming storm and got rid of this poisoned gift. Then, this petty bourgeoisie, though racist and reactionary, started advocating progress and populism. The opportunism is obvious, but this swarm of little managers is more useful alive than dead, so the regime passes the sponge and everyone forgets their former comments like a family taboo. The lie is swallowed.

Only two candidates stood for election: Hugo L. Dellague, of course, and a certain industrialist whom most Florentians had never heard of. A member of the Constitutional Union, he promised a moderate programme combining social conservatism and economic liberalism, in line with the party. Unfortunately for them, the opposition had no chance against the colossus of the People's Action. Hugo knows how to captivate an audience. He speaks not to an indefinite mass but to each individual, and his audience is filled with a kind of feverish trance. The Liberal candidate, on the other hand, is too wise, too smooth. And he appears to be the tool of the “capitalists”, a nebulous term used by Florentians to designate a small, indefinite group of atheistic sinners whose only God is money. As with the referendum, the results came as no surprise: 78% for Hugo. L. Dellague and only 22% for the Liberal candidate. Dellague won the election on 7 September 2023.

~~~

Functioning of the new Florentian regime

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The head of state is the diarchy (Emperor and President). Although this position is made up of two different people, it is considered an indivisible entity in terms of its powers. The only difference between the Emperor and the President is that the President is elected by universal suffrage, whereas the Emperor derives his position from his blood.

Legislation is divided into three categories: the People's Tribunate (PT), the Legislative Body (LB) and the Constitutional Senate (CS). The 1st is elected by universal suffrage: each citizen votes for a party. The LB is elected indirectly: each workers' council (one per town/village group) elects a representative, who in turn votes for the LB deputies. Finally, the SC is appointed by the diarchy.

The diarchy writes and proposes laws to the People's Tribunate, which debates them without voting on them. The PT then elects three representatives to present the law to the LB. The LB, after reading the text of the law and listening to the report of the PT representatives, votes on the law without debating it. Finally, the SC must check that the proposed laws comply with the Constitution.

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  • 3 weeks later...

A fresh wind - 8
 

The former slave states, which have now been defeated, are now under the authority of the diarchs. They have been reformed as 'Imperial Units' (since these provinces are merely administrative divisions, right?) and their leaders have been appointed by the diarchs. As for the regional armies, they were integrated into the Imperial Army. With the Marquisate of Bayave already under the control of the People's Action, only three states remain to be subdued: the Republic of Coayard, the Kingdom of Javiosie and the Federal Republic of Saint-Isidore.


Stage 1 : Republic of Coayard

Since the Wild North Revolution, the Republic has been a model of social democracy guided by the Union of Liberty, an officially centre-left party. In reality, the party has always been ideologically very diverse, ranging from the centre-right to the extreme left, united only by their regional republicanism. So, despite its respect for individual freedoms and democratic institutions, the UL was in fact the only credible party in Coayard and there were more political debates in the party offices than in parliament. Unfortunately, its diversity always made the bureaucracy inefficient and the machinery of government slow. Moreover, because of the party's intense factionalism, every policy decision represented a risk of splitting the party, and therefore a risk of victory for the "reactionnaries". Thus, the promise of true democracy slowly turned into an endless succession of barely-started political programmes.

A hundred years of sulphurous debates had shaken the party, but never had it been so shaken as during the "Eight Glorious Years". The more moderate factions of the party, despite the abolition of slavery, opposed the means used, while the syndicalists burned with revolutionary zeal. The Union of Liberty congress on 1 September 2023, a week before the presidential elections, was held to decide which candidate the party would support. The following day, at around five in the morning, after 14 hours of feverish negotiations, the Liberty Union decided to give its support to the Liberal candidate. After all, this Liberal will have to make concessions to govern, won't he? Unfortunately, the unionist faction had agreed only to buy time. At the same time, far-left members of the party went to agitate the working masses of Coeur, Coayard's capital. So on 02 September, at around 7am, tens of thousands of proletarians flooded the party headquarters and forced the UL to give its support to Hugo L. Dellague. The coup was a success.


Stage 2 : Kingdom of Javiosia

As soon as the results of the presidential election were known in Javiosia, tens of thousands of industrialists, bankers, etc. prepared to cross the border to flee what was already being called the "populist plague". Unfortunately, everything had already been planned to subdue the "infidel" states. In Belleville, the capital of Florentian liberalism, several people disappeared on the night of 7 to 8 September, swept away by the night as if they had never existed. Of course, they were always big industrialists or intellectuals who were too 'moderate'. In the space of a few hours, almost two hundred people went from history books to the bayous of the Saint Elme River. The following night, the same thing happened. In just a few days, Belleville had been tamed and the big bosses had surrendered their property and capital to the Empire, either by force or out of fear. As for rebelling, they didn't have the means to do so, so the more adaptable put on sympathetic airs while the bravest were lynched by their workers. The Florentian beacon of liberty, burning since 1804 with a wise and moderate glow, now gleamed with a revolutionary splendour fuelled by the march of the proletarians.


Stage 3 : Federal Republic of Saint-Isidore

As in Coayard, the local republic was born out of the Wild North Revolution. Saint-Isidore had even initiated the movement thanks to the Republican Party, a libertarian party still in power after more than a century. However, the Isidorians quickly distanced themselves from their former partners. Horrified by Narizon authoritarianism and Coayaran progressivism, Saint-Isidore became a capitalist paradise. Today, the state has become the richest in Florentia and there seems to be nothing stopping it. However, this happy façade hides few dark realities. Firstly, the economy is not very diversified: more than half the revenue comes from either coal mining or the banking sector. The rest is divided between cattle rearing, agriculture (maize and citrus fruits) and various services. Secondly, the absence of economic regulation is not only the cause of catastrophic working conditions, but has already led to a speculative bubble in the 1970s. Combined with aggressive urbanisation and a series of fatal accidents in the coal mines, Saint-Isidore is far from the libertarian paradise promoted by the regional government. This tension gave rise to Alternative for Saint-Isidore (ASI), a libertarian but socialist party born of an alliance between the proud cowherds of the prairies and the humble miners of the cities.

At first, the Isidorian government was confused by the populists' victory. While the Republican Party was content to negotiate with Dellague, the mining and financial lobbies forced the government to declare secession: on 20 September 2023, the Federal Republic of Saint-Isidore declared its independence. The ASI's response was swift...


Scene 6,
Adèrnes, capital of Saint-Isidore,
26/09/2023, 8h21

The sun is seeping through the clouds, spewing its light onto the ground and staining the shadows. A young boy named Charles sits on a bench, squinting at the sun. The town centre is strangely quiet despite recent events. Indeed, it seems that the state has just seceded, or something like that that only concerns adults. Occasionally, a car crosses the street, sending sparrows and pigeons flying.

Suddenly, the birds look up. A slight rumble is heard. The gravel on the pavements trembles. The noise grows louder and heavier. A thousand drums seem to beat out the rhythm, disorganised but grandiose. It sounded like dolch percussion being played in canon. That's when the young boy sees them. Around a bend in the street, a long march of strikers appeared. In spite of their blackened faces and coarse features, in spite of their shirts of bad cotton that time has not spared, in spite of their hands that rough work has skinned, in spite of their putrid musk that violates their noses, Charlie sees proud men. Proud to believe and dare in the march of progress, the march of ideas. Daring to fight the ordinary struggle that the habit of servitude has rendered alien. Misery is combined with nobility, the fruit of a deaf and blind determination to change the wurld: this is the price of progress. At the valiant cry of "Boldness !", the fiat lux of the nations, the crowd is engorged with pride and swells its chest, certain of the righteousness of its cause. Those who had been taken for boors, for sons of nothing, suddenly seemed to be carrying the cross of the human race.

Charles leapt from his perch with the elegance and suppleness of a feline before joining the march of utopians. He addresses one of them :

"- Sir, why have you all gathered together ?

- To change the wurld, boy.

- But why do you want to change the wurld? Isn't the wurld a good place ?

- Depends who it's for, boy. Imagine being invited to a party where all the cakes have been baked by you. Would you think it fair if you were forbidden to taste the cake you baked with your own hands ?

- God no ! No, I wouldn't.

- Well, that's how things work at Saint-Isidore. And we're the bakers. For now, because we're about to change the wurld !

- But how, sir ?

- Through revolution! We're going to force the government to be fair."

Charles thanks the worker and returns to his bench, his head full of dreams and perfectly shared cakes.


Scene 7,
Adèrnes, capital of Saint-Isidore,
26/09/2023, 14h46,

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Henri Mercier stares at his vinyl record player with atypical concentration. It had been installed by the previous President, Ursule Montaubant, who loved to listen to rock'n'roll while working. After leaving office following a corruption scandal, Montaubant left the player and his vinyl collection behind. For the first time in his mandate, Mercier took out his predecessor's vinyl records in a desperate attempt to calm down. It was a failure.

"- Mr President ?" asked a man waiting politely in front of the desk. "Your office was open so I let myself in without knocking on the door, but I can leave if I'm disturbing you.

- No, no, stay," Mercier ordered General Dubois without looking away from the vinyl player, whose slightly warped surface made the little needle rise and fall.

"- The city is paralysed. The workers have declared a general strike and are ordering us to give full power to the leaders of the ASI. And my soldiers are refusing to fire on the demonstrators... We have already lost, Mr President.

- Why don't they want to shoot ?

- Many soldiers have relatives among the workers.

- So either we give in immediately and calmly, or we face a mutiny and risk being executed.

- That's right, Mr President.

- So be it. Tell them I'm keeping the vinyl records and the bottles of asmavie* : I'll need them to wipe away my failure."

(*asmavie : word used to designate Florentian whisky, named after the imperial famility)

Edited by Florentia (see edit history)
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  • 1 month later...

A fresh wind - 9

Scene 8,
Montcharmin, capital of Florentia,
06/10/2023, 15h23,

"- I apologise, Sir, for the vulgar language I'm about to use, but what the bloody hell are you doing?!" exclaims Alessandro de San Castellino, knight of San Castellino for several generations but above all a far-left economist and Minister of the Economy.

"- Are you questioning my logic ?

- Indeed, Sir, because it seems highly dubious to me.

- And yet it's very logical : I murdered your pawn with my bishop", explained Hugo "Lys" Dellague, the President of the Republic, as he replayed the movement of his bishop on the chessboard.

"- You're forgetting that you're putting your bishop in danger. Unless... Could it be the technique of the blind samurai ?" asks Alessandro, his eyes narrowing.

"- It's just... the technique of... my technique.

- Or maybe the magnanimous stork technique ? Or maybe the marriage in the rain technique... Or perhaps it's an adaptation of the Ahranian version of the mountain of doom technique.

- It's only my technique...

- Possibly a mixture of the Seylosian gardener's technique and the Orinese commando's technique with a few influences from the Velaherian coup d'état technique...

- That's MY TECHNIQUE," yells Lys, annoyed, as he throws the chessboard through the window. The board lands on the windscreen of a car, blinding the driver and causing the car to slam into a lamppost. The two politicians look out of the window. Alessandro remains indifferent while Lys bursts out laughing.

"- I should throw more things out of the window !

- I wonder why no one has ever studied the aerodynamics of a chessboard, sir.

- Actually, I did. I sent the study to the University of Belleville, but they never answered. I wonder why... By the way, can you call me "Presidente" ? With your Stillian accent, I feel like a Mesothalassan dictator and it's helluva cool.

- I don't know whether I should be insulted by the cliché or shocked because you described as "cool" authoritarian capitalist regimes that are the antithesis of our own.

- Come on !

- I refuse.

- Com'on-com'on-com'on-com'on-com'on-com'on-c-

- Fine. Presidente", Alessandro finally relented, staring at Lysandre with a dark look that hardly changed from his usual expression. Indeed, the minister seems constantly annoyed by everything and everyone, so much so that Lys nicknames him "ol' serious face". Alessandro is one of those cold, unblemished men, like marble statues, who have never killed anyone, not for moral reasons but because other people's blood is unhygienic. Indeed, the economist does not advocate libertarian socialism out of humanism or justice, but because this economic model is the most stable, the most efficient in the long term. That's why this rigid pragmatist collaborates with the fanatical idealist that is Lys. You could almost say that they complement each other, like two pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle. They are the main architects of the new Florentian regime, so everything can only go well, right ?

 

Scene 9,
Mouvant, capital of Abalavier,
01/02/2024, 15h23,

"- Only 90 cents a kilo for onions !" exclaims a middle-aged woman, staring longingly at the boxes containing the tuber in question.

"- Exactly, Ma'am Gribiche !" replied Edouard Guangiot, a grocer from father to son, proud as a peacock.

"- But how is this possible, 'Sieur Guangiot ?

- Well, my good lady, it's very simple. All the town's grocers, including myself, buy our products together in order to reduce purchase prices, and therefore selling prices ! Up there, they call it a 'commercial cooperative', but I call it being intelligent, my good lady !" explains Edouart enthusiastically.

"- A cooperative !" exclaims Mrs Gribiche again, as if Edouart had just uttered an insult. She repeats, in a low voice: "A cooperative ? But isn't that an atheistic practice ?

- Not at all, my good lady. I thought that too, but co-operatives are quite simply the very expression of Jesus' will ! The Holy Bible preaches brotherhood and co-operatives are the best way of achieving this holy goal. Before our dear Lys, we were selfish, profit-oriented, thinking only of buying a new car. Now, thanks to the Guide, we are united ! The cooperative, my good lady, is the natural form of work. I dare add that to oppose cooperatives is to oppose fraternity, and therefore to oppose God and the Holy Scriptures !

Mrs Gribiche, in ecstasy, shook her large hat covered with feathers, so that she looked like a cock courting.

"- I knew nothing of this, 'Sieur Guangiot. I apologise for being rude, I wouldn't object to the Bible. You seem very involved, I thought you weren't interested in politics ?

- I wasn't until those bastards from the former royal guard threatened my family," replies Edouart with a suddenly less cheerful expression. He continues, forcing himself to smile again: "I think it's the duty of every subject of the Emperor to work in the service of his majesty and his domain. So I'm doing my part.

- I do my part too ! Without me, my giddy husband wouldn't be able to feed himself, hihih ! Speaking of family, how is Jeanne doing since giving birth ? Is your baby doing well ?

- He's beautiful, she's beautiful, they're both beautiful. They are the two stars of my life."

Edouart takes out of his wallet a photograph, in which his wife, lying in a bed, holds her baby in her arms.

"- Your belle is as pretty as ever.

- Oh yes, I cherish every day I spend with her. By the way, we've enrolled him at the Oisillons.

- the Oisillons ?

- Yes, a sort of government day nursery for children aged 0 to 6. The educators teach them to read, write and count, as well as important values like friendship, a taste for effort, discipline and so on.

- Oh, I see. It's indeed more prudent to educate them from an early age. After all, the government won't bite them, will it ? Hihih.

- So, Ma'am, are you going to take these onions ?

- Oh yes, I'm chatting, I'm chatting, two kilos please. As well as three celeries, five bell peppers and a bunch of parsley," says Mrs Gribiche, handing the produce to Edouart. Edouart weighs them and Mrs Gribiche pays. The shopkeeper and the customer politely said goodbye.

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A fresh wind - 10

 

Scene 10,
Martinet, a small rural village in the Imperial Unit of Tyronie,
01/02/2024, 8h23,

The sun rises slowly over the small village. Initially illuminating only the tip of the Saint-Martin-ès-Bois church, the rays descend, reaching the roofs of the houses and then the windows. The latter, whose shutters are already open, flood the buildings with lateral light. However, the light doesn't wake the inhabitants, who are all farmers except for a few local "scholars", already up and working. One of the farmers, a young man by the name of Alphonse Haimeud, is cutting logs in half in the garden behind the house. Despite the cool winter morning, the young man is wearing only a shirt, wide brown pants held up by suspenders and the iconic large felt Florentian hat. Finally, his feet are protected by alligator leather boots, beautiful despite the mud, which he made himself from an alligator he killed himself. Alphonse still remembers the look on his parents' faces when he returned with the body of the beast after a whole night's absence. At the time, his father even gave him a punch in the face, before congratulating him a week later on his bravery, "like a man".

"- Al !"

Alphonse is roused from his reverie by his mother's voice. Standing in the back doorway, she hands her son a letter.

"- Here, it's meant for you. From a certain 'Daiki'."

Alphonse raises his eyebrows, surprised and pleased at the same time. He thanks his mother before sitting down on the raised floor in front of the door. Alphonse and Daiki had been in the same regiment during the 2nd Cashari-Florentian War. The two conscripts had struck up a friendship and even formed a small music group to improve the soldiers' morale between assaults. Alphonse had not only been surprised that an Esonian could speak Lysian perfectly, but also that he sang so well despite his accent. After the war, however, neither dared contact the other. Until now! Alphonse tore open the envelope and took out the letter, accompanied by an amulet.

Hello Alphonse,

I'm sorry I haven't taken the time to continue our friendship. I hope you're well. With the letter you'll find a little amulet, or "omamori" (pronounced omamorli in Esonian, you have to roll the "r" like the Ocralians). I've put a string on it so you can wear it around your neck, with your cross. Amulets bring different kinds of luck or protection (happiness, fortune, love...). This one says "health and long life".

My aunt Rini (remember ? she broke her leg) has now recovered so my parents have returned to Sademi. However, I decided to stay in Belleville. Despite the pollution, noise and crime, Belleville is full of opportunities. At least, much more so than the Florentian colonies. I've even managed to find a job as a poster boy. Will you believe me if I tell you that half the posters I put up are propaganda posters? It's like being in Stedoria. If that can convince people of the merits of populism, I suppose it's justified? Anyway.

I thought about you when there was that wave of violence in the countryside during the "huits glorieuses". Anyway... You know what I mean by "countryside", far be it from me to be insulting. I was worried about you. Did you take part in the revolts ? Since you and your family are farmers, it's possible. I also wonder how the collectivisation of land, the organisation of cooperatives, etc. went.

In Belleville, things were pretty hectic during the presidential elections. Several big bosses disappeared in barely a week, and the rest were imprisoned. All the factories were collectivised, including the printing works I work for! I don't know if it works the same way in your cooperative, so I'll explain anyway. Basically, I vote directly for the board of directors, who then run the company. The advantage is that my salary has risen from 2.80 Lys an hour to 5 Lys an hour, which, if you add dividends, gives me almost 2,000 Lys a month! Of course, more skilled workers are still better paid, but the difference is much smaller. Of course, the idea of justice is nice, but I'm especially happy about the pay rise. I'm currently looking for a small flat to be independent: I like my aunt but I'd like to have my privacy, as a matter of principle.

I look forward to hearing from you,
Daiki Hitake

Alphonse's gaze shifts from the letter to the amulet. He ties it around his neck, just below the silver cross given to him by his grandmother.

"- Mum, where's the stationery ?" exclaims the young man, taking his pencil out of his trouser pocket.

 

Scene 11,
Belleville, Florentian megalopolis,
10/02/2024, 01h29,

Daiki Hitake is pedalling at full speed along the paving stones of Belleville's main boulevards. After his day's work, his colleagues invited him to spend the evening in a bistro. They bellowed popular songs that Daiki didn't even know existed, and drank asmavie, the Florentian whisky. The Esonian, in a desperate attempt to reduce the alcohol content of his drink, added ice cubes. This failed. Daiki and his colleagues ended the evening by dancing the swing.

After this drunken evening, the completely uninhibited young man felt like the king of the wurld. As he weaves between the cars, his hairs slicked back because of the speed, Daiki understands why so many people have become addicted to Belleville: the glitter, the alcohol, the neon lights, the music, the cars... Here, all pleasures are both guilty and encouraged. As the street slopes down, he can't help shouting a long "wahoooooo" as he raises his hands and feet. It's only at the last moment that, at a junction, he spots the car coming from the right. The car misses the bike by just a few centimetres, and Daiki can hear the driver shouting "die in hell, you bastard ! The young man, realising his recklessness, slammed on the brakes, fell off his bike, almost getting hit a second, third and fourth time by other cars, before finally reaching the pavement. Having learnt his lesson, he continues on foot, now only interrupted by a beggar or a prostitute. They say that the latter are paid quite a lot. The idea of becoming a prostitute briefly crossed his mind, before he dismissed the thought.

An hour later, Daiki arrives in front of his apartment block. In the entrance hall, as he passed the letterboxes, he noticed an envelope sticking out of his aunt's letterbox. After five minutes of struggling with the lock, the young man finally opens the letterbox and grabs the envelope. It was from Alphonse. A feeling of joy swept through Daiki like the hot flushes of liquid intemperance. The hall lamp flickers. Through the transluicidal glass, the bodies of several moths can be seen. Daiki opens the envelope:

Hi Daiki,

Don't apologise. After all, I could have contacted you too. Let's forget about that.

Thanks for the omamori. I wear it every day, along with my cross. I was pleased to receive it. I also have something to give you: it's a crocodile tooth. I've put it on a string so you can wear it with your own amulet.

I'm glad your situation is improving ! As for me, it's true that there have been a lot of changes. But don't worry, my family is fine and the family farm is still standing. I didn't take part in the revolts, my father wouldn't let me, but he was there. Apparently, it was very violent, too violent according to my father, but in any case these fat rich people deserved nothing more than that. Well done to them. Some of the mansions were burnt down, but most of them are still in good condition and have been reclaimed by the former slaves. What's more, it seems that the Casharis are now making a ton of money from plantations. In Tyronia, the plantations are controlled by the Tyronian Cotton Consortium (TCC) and the Sugar of Tyronie-Abalavier LTD (STA). Last but not least, there's the United Tobacco Company, but you probably already know that one because it's national in scope. These are all giant federations of cooperatives. Despite the increase in wages, the plantations have managed to keep the same prices.

As far as smallholders like my family are concerned, we're certainly not as well off, but the situation has improved all the same. My father is now part of a cooperative that brings together around fifty villages! It works in much the same way as your cooperative, with votes and all. Basically, lots of small landowners have pooled their land into a single company (called Légumes et Céréales de Tyronie (LCT)). This means we can pool all our money and reinvest it in equipment, infrastructure and so on. We're not making as much money as the former slaves, but we've got nothing to complain about! In short, everything's running smoothly. We've even installed a telephone line in the house. Before, in the village, you could only phone from the town hall. Now we have our own number: 0692939293. Don't hesitate to call me, I'm at home every evening from 4pm. Not too late because then I have to go to bed early to feed the pigs at 6 am.

I hope you will find the apart of your dreams.

See you soon,
Al

As he pushed open the door to his flat, Daiki remembered that it wasn't "his" flat, but that of the individual standing in front of him, wearing a disgruntled expression, i.e. his Aunt Rini.

"- Why are you back so late ?!

- I'm a grown-up, Rini, I do what I w- hic !

- And you... You smell of alcohol !!

- You're not my mother !

- Your mother told me: "Rini, look after my son as if he was your own. That's exactly what I'm doing !

Daiki, having put his bike down in the corridor, was about to reply when he was cut off by a sudden urge to vomit. The young man rushed to the toilet and emptied his bowels.

"- It's a disgrace !

- URLRP."

Daiki couldn't talk and puke at the same time, a serious flaw due to an overly polite upbringing.

"- I'll talk to your mother about it.

- RMURLBLHRUUUPL !"

The whimper didn't satisfy Rini. She lets out a "don't wake your cousin and clean up when you've finished" before going to bed.

Edited by Florentia
I'm a moron. (see edit history)
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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

A fresh wind - 11

 

February saw the very first legislative elections under the new regime. The Imperial Parliament is divided into the Legislative Body (LB) and the People's Tribunate (PB). The PB, which is the lower house, functions like most lower houses. Each citizen votes for one party. The LB, the upper house, is elected indirectly. The Empire is divided into tens of thousands of local workers' councils. Each council elects a grand elector, and each grand elector votes for a party. Here are the new Florentian parties, in order of importance :

 

I. People's Action (Action Populaire)

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Principles :
- cooperative ownership economy
- civic nationalism
- spiritualism
- cult of the diarchs (the Emperor and the Guide)
- imperialism
- social progressivism
- restricted federalism

Supported by :
- laborers
- machinists
- peasants
- farmers
- clergymen
- servicemen

The People's Action is the biggest Florentian party. Created in 1896, it has been radicalized under Hugo "Lys" Dellague's leadership. The party stands staunchly against economic liberalism, regarded as atheist, thus bad, since it replaces the adoration of a deity/deities by the adoration of money. The People's Action long term goal is to expand the Empire to spiritually and materially free the workers.

 

II. Florentian Party of Imperial Exaltation (Parti Florentien de l'Exaltation Impériale)

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Principles :
- command economy
- corporatist syndicalism
- spiritualism
- cult of the Emperor
- totalitarianism
- one-party system
- outlawed dissent
- civic nationalism
- imperialism

Supported by :
- bureaucrats
- shopkeepers
- clerks
- clergymen
- officers
- engineers

The PFEI advocates for a more corporatist and centralised version of syndicalism, as well as constant state surveillance, "for the security of the Emperor". Its ideal vision is a totalitarian order led by a single party acting according to the will of the Emperor. The whole society would turn around the monarch. "The Emperor isn't the head of state of Florentia, the Emperor IS Florentia. We Florentians exist only to worship His highness and serve His holy will, and this great task is for us an eternal honour".

 

III. Progressive Party (Parti Progressiste)

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Principles :
- social progressivism
- cooperative ownership economy
- federalism
- spiritualism
- Cashari-Florentian reconciliation

Supported by (among Casharis) :
- laborers
- machinists
- clergymen
- academics

The Progressive Party seeks to reform the Cashari culture and faith to the modern wurld. It staunchly fights for multiculturalism.

 

IV. Party of the Libertarian Revolution (Parti de la Révolution Libertarienne), formerly known as Alternative for Saint-Isidore.

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Principles :
- libertarian socialism
- cooperative ownership economy
- state republicanism
- protection of civil liberties
- federalism

Supported by :
- peasants
- farmers
- laborers
- machinists

The PLR is born from the mix between socialism and Saint-Isidore's historic libertarianism. It seeks to create a federation of republics, genuine beacon of individual freedom and civil rights, under the benevolent and democratic guidance of the Emperor.

 

V. Liberty Union (Union de la Liberté).

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Principles :
- unitarianism
- protection of civil liberties
- state republicanism
- mix of cooperative ownership and command economy
- securalism

Supported by :
- academics
- machinists
- bureaucrats

Formerly a center-right to far-left big tent, it has been recently coup'd by its far-left faction. The LB's political views are very much inspired by the Lysian Revolution of the 1760s : a centralised, secular, nation with heavy state interventionism, except it isn't against the imperial monarchy.

 

VI. Social Action (Action Sociale)

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Principles :
- social conservatism
- agrarian socialism
- spiritualism
- federalism

Supported by (among the Casharis) :
- clergymen
- farmers

The Social Action has been created to protect the Cashari culture and faith against foreign influence, while adapting socialist economics to the communalist way of life of the Casharis.

 

VII. Tribal-Socialist Party of the Revolution (Parti Tribal-Socialiste de la Révolution).

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Principles :
- unitarism
- pan-cashari nationalism
- anti-europan racism
- command economy
- national-bozaanism (i.e. national-bolchevism)
- animist fundamentalism
- esotericism
- cult of Tsula Passereau as Mother of the Revolution

Supported by (among Casharis) :
- bureaucrats
- clerks
- officers
- servicemen

The party is made of the remnants of the supporters of Tsula Passereau's ideas, the deceased leader of the failed Cashari revolution. It believes that the Europan races, which are inferior to the Cashari race, are the source of all the misery of the Cashari people. Thus, the Casharis must unite and rise against foreign occupation and cleanse every Europan from the sacred land of the Cashari Island. Until this goal is achieved, inviduality must be destroyed and every Cashari must obey to the party. When this greater goal will be achieved, the Cashari people will finally know freedom and abondance, and the totalitarian order of the party will be dissolved.

 

After a full month of debate, the results were announced on February 29, 2024.

For the People's Tribunate (300 seats) :
1. People's Action (47%, 141 seats)
2. PFEI (25%, 75 seats)
3. Progressive Party (12%, 36 seats)
4. PLR (8%, 24 seats)
5. Liberty Union (3%, 9 seats)
6. Social Action (3%, 9 seats)
7. TSPR (2%, 6 seats)

For the Legislative Body (200 seats) :
1. People's Action (69%, 148 seats)
2. Progressive Party (15%, 30 seats)
3. PFEI (10%, 20 seats)
4. PLR (3%, 6 seats)
5. Liberty Union (1%, 2 seats)
6. Social Action (1%, 2 seats)
7. TSPR (1%, 2 seats)

The great difference between the two chambers can be explained by their respective methods of election. Indeed, while the PB is elected by all citizens, only citizens considers as "workers" (laborers, machinists, peasants, small farmers, clerks...) elect their local worker council, which elect the members of the LB. Thus, it gives an enormous advantage to the populist parties, especially the People's Action. Especially if we consider that the PB only discusses the laws while said laws are voted only by the LB. This is how Dellague and his People's Action achieved political supremacy and "democratic" legitimacy at the same time.

 

Scene 12,
Montcharmin, imperial capital,
01/03/2024, 10h12,

Usually, the first fine days arrive towards the end of March. However, on this first day of March, the sky is clear and the sun is shining. Despite the coolness of spring mornings, the sun's rays were warming the skin and giving a feeling of gentle heat. It was almost as if the Sun itself was shining brighter to please His Majesty Ambroise IV, the Divine Emperor of the Republic. The Emperor, accompanied by Empress Rosie, Prince Louis-Célestin and President Hugo 'Lys' Dellague, sat in the huge imperial car at the head of the military parade. Just behind them, around twenty Velaherian tanks, captured when the Casharis rebels surrendered, were parading past, repainted in Florentian colours. Then the rest of the Imperial Army.

The crowd is huge and the police are having trouble containing the popular fervour. Occasionally, someone manages to slip through the net. The Emperor warmly shakes his hand and thanks him for his support. The individual is then calmly led back into the crowd by the police. Thousands of copies of the new Florentian flag were waving in the crowd, along with portraits of Lys and Ambroise. You'd almost think the people were being forced, but they weren't. Sure, there's the propaganda, but above all there's the general rise in living standards and the feeling that Florentia is finally free of its shackles. The Emperor and the President, although aware that there is still a long way to go, can't help but smile at the success of their reforms.

At last, after a hundred years of misery, the future looks bright.

 

(OOC : Thank you to those who read this thread until the end ! This is its final post. 
Note for the moderators : I still didn't use my economy boost so I'm using it for this thread.
The IC reasons would be the end of slavery, bringing not only new taxpayers but also new consumers for the internal economy, as well as an increase of Florentian exports (since the country isn't sanctionned anymore) and the introduction of cooperative ownership in most of the economy, which would give higher wages to people and allow them to consume more and fuel the internal economy. I'm hoping maybe a 10% increase based on my GDP on iiwiki, i.e. the GDP right after the war with the Cashari rebels and right before the reforms. I would gladly discuss about it on discord.)

Edited by Florentia
I'm a goofy french ass. (see edit history)
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