Ostria counted 120,000 people, about 1,100 nobles, and 119,000 commoners with 30,000 iniquitous that lived in the slums. Of the 30,000, according to Bjorn, less than 100 were currently infected. With none having the nerve to attempt leaving the area. Less than 0.33% of an unsupervised population showed signs of a disease, and the guards already put the slums on quarantine?
This wasn't the royal capital or Kars. Ostria couldn't afford their level of surveillance equipment. How did the viscount already know? Worse, unlike commoners - senescence aside - the nobility didn't fear 99% of the traditional diseases. Why then did they have such a strong response? Why dispatch templars for a mere slum quarantine?
Indeed, on the scene, Kilian counted three templars hiding amidst the guards.
Either the viscount was the disease's source, or he kept contact with it. Regardless, Olaf was intrinsically linked to this new epidemic. A nobility-made, no, a magus-made epidemic. Although she couldn't see those facts, Lena too felt something amiss and turned to face Kilian.
With a smile, he beckoned, motioning for her to step toward him, and as if drawn by irresistible allure, she did just that. Her goons followed on her tracks. Forcing the too tall Bjorn down, Kilian wrapped his right arm around his neck, and the left around Lena's shoulders—intimately dragging the two away from the guards.
Once they exceeded the range of the Lesser Templars' senses, he hastened the pace, leading them faster away to hide in a shadowy corner.
"They're trying to wipe out the iniquitous." Kilian stated while freeing the two from his grasp. Startled, they recoiled on several steps, and their eyes widened in disbelief.
"Impossible. Even if Viscount Olaf were crazed, he would not just wipe out a fourth of his population. To say nothing of how much the nobility delights in abusing our existence, we're their only source of free labor!" Lena countered, unable to believe the viscount willing to go to such extremities. The gains simply couldn't match the losses!
However, Kilian thought otherwise.
"For 300 years - since the fall of the Technocracy - Arcadia's overall technological level fell into stagnation. Little to no progress has been made." Kilian began. The majority of the discoveries and inventions, allowing the aristocracy to enjoy their current advancement level, stemmed from the "Technocracy." The word initially was a derogatory term used by arcane scholars to scorn the members of the Blind Seer Order, magi only gifted in technomancy.
Initially, they formed the eighth and weakest of the Grand Orders. For thousands of years, they shouldered the derision and invested themselves in the production of tools that'd bring society to brand-new levels. The Dra Reactors that now power the electricity and communication channels of the continent are some of their greatest inventions.
Over time, they welcomed the scorn, took an aloof stance from their peers, and changed their name to the Technocratic Order. The technocrats believed their inventions should benefit and be accessible to all. A thought that never sat well with the ruling powers. Still, due to their irreplaceable value, the succeeding emperors tolerated them.
Alas, they came up with one invention that threw the arcane world into chaos: Anti-Magic Collars, a tool that gave the common man the ability to suppress magi.
By just pressing one button, anyone could have an anti-magic collar fly at and bind itself around a magus' neck, thereby suppressing all their magical abilities. Before that invention, jails for magi carried runes and formations that prevented the use of magic—making runic and ritual masters indispensable to the state.
The technocrats believed the invention would not only reduce the cost of keeping magi imprisoned, but usher an era where the arcane-gifted would learn to control themselves before even the common man.
A terrible mistake.
Within a week, the previous emperor and the Seven Grand Orders dispatched their troops, carrying a blitzkrieg on the technocracy. With the seven grand masters at his side, the previous emperor burned the Technocratic Order to the ground, sparing none whatsoever.
He then posthumously accused them of consorting with fehl daemons and threatening to destroy the world! Arcadia was never again the same.
"But now, things are different," Kilian pursued. "Emperor Niklas von Skoll developed a new research department that managed to drastically reduce the cost of golem creation. Now, all cities afflux with golems. They do not need food, do not complain, and can work 24/7 with the efficiency of 300 men. In the major cities, golems have already replaced the iniquitous as the primary labor force.
Although in less affluent cities such as Ostria, there isn't enough wealth to replace the relatively costly golems with the free iniquitous, the loss of those 30,000, non-tax payers wouldn't have a significant impact on the viscount's net worth," Kilian rationalized, making Bjorn tremble in indignation.
Still, Lena remained unconvinced.
"Fine, they don't need us anymore. But why go through the trouble of infecting us with a new disease when they could slaughter us all within a day? It's not like we have the law protecting us.
Commoners only have rights before commoners, and the iniquitous have no right whatsoever. This operation undoubtedly requires an investment. Why would Olaf spend the time and resources to carry on this project? Just for sport?!" She countered. The words indeed weren't easily digestible.
But as Kilian's eyes swept the slums, and his senses spread to the atrophying afflicted, then fell back on Bjorn, he held no doubt regarding his theory. However, at Lena's current level, the truth would seem far-fetched and require explanation Lukas shouldn't have been able to provide.
"To believe or not to is your choice. But make no mistake, if you spend another day in this place, you're doomed."
Kilian stated, leaped across various buildings, and vanished from the two's sight—giving Lena no time to interject.
"Hateful!" She cursed, spun, and left. Now, only Bjorn remained.
Once he was out of the two's sight, Kilian's speed shot up, and in a flash, he landed beside Jezebel. She'd never left her original spot.
"Welcome back, my little Lothario. I missed you." Jezebel said as soon as Kilian returned.
"You'll have to teach me magic," Kilian stated, not beating around the bush. The sudden request took Jezebel aback, and she turned her amethyst gaze toward Kilian.