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Chapter 15: Palace Coup

Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio

Driven by a taste for excitement and undeterred by the possibility of stirring the pot, Franz paid another visit to a major Conservative figure—Count Korofute, expressing his concern about the current situation.

As individuals all well-informed in their own right, Franz's role in this political conflict was no secret to the government's higher-ups.

However, everyone had their principles, and Franz's heritage ha meant that he was one of their own, at least when it came to facing the bourgeois revolution. Naturally, no one was about to leak any information.

Of course, even if someone had leaked information, it would have been futile. The conflict between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie had grown irreconcilable. What had to be done would be done!

Expecting the nobility to stop oppressing the bourgeoisie? Or expecting the bourgeoisie to give up their struggle for power?

At this time, no one could afford to, nor dared to, give in. A step back didn't mean a world of possibilities now, but a descent into an abyss.

It must be said that there are benefits to being young. Otherwise, Franz would have had to step forward and face the music by now.

Naturally, it was mostly because the Regency Council didn't want to give up their power too soon. They were obliged to shoulder this blame.

Having Franz take the lead and antagonize the bourgeoisie was an option, but it would mean that he would assume an early regency and the Regency Council would become history.

On the other side, Prime Minister Metternich was having a tough time. Representing the interests of the nobility while posturing as a Reformist just didn't look coherent.

The two Austrian factions had always been at each other's throats, and with Franz stirring up yet another pot, now even the Conservatives were playing the reform card.

Usually, serfdom was the issue at hand to criticize the Conservatives for hindering Austria's progress, depriving serfs of personal freedom, and brutally exploiting them.

Now, the nobility began to strike back, comparing the lives of workers and serfs, and suddenly everyone realized there were even worse fates.

As cruel as the nobility could be, they couldn't possibly have the serfs work fifteen or sixteen hours a day, except during the busy farming season—where would they find so much work otherwise?

In this era, lighting wasn't cheap. If capitalists made workers work night shifts, they profited. If nobility made serfs work at night, they'd lose money.

There's no need to mention further, be it the workers or the serfs, life was just as miserable.

However, relatively speaking, the workers of this era suffered even more. Factories were like prisons—once inside, it was tough to get out, and the slightest misstep would result in a brutal beating.

As for wages—whether one could get their hands on them depended entirely on the capitalists' integrity. If they encountered one with an ounce of conscience still intact, they might get something; but if they met a ruthlessly greedy capitalist, they could work for years and still end up owing a debt.

The difficulty of recovering unpaid wages—let's not even talk about this era, even in the 21st century, this issue remains unresolved in many regions.

Happiness is relative, but so too is suffering.

Under the manipulation of the aristocracy, the working class suddenly felt that they were, in fact, the most tormented, and when the government talked about enacting the "Labor Protection Fee," support was naturally forthcoming.

When personal interests were at stake, issues like constitutional reforms, universal suffrage, or the abolition of serfdom could all be indefinitely postponed.

The bourgeoisie weren't easy targets either. When it came to their own interests, they gave no ground. Any sense of patriotic integrity was long gone by this time.

The sandwiched Prime Minister Metternich was now troubled. The once-diplomatic strongman felt powerless when facing internal strife.

Like his earlier attempts to reform the serfdom system, he was still negotiating with representatives of the bourgeoisie, trying to find a compromise that everyone could accept.

"Your Excellency Prime Minister, I would like to know when will the 'Labor Protection Law' finally be enacted?" Count Korofute asked indifferently.

As Prime Minister Metternich's political rival, how could he not seize this opportunity to stir trouble? Even without Franz's implicit hint, he would have taken action. But now, he was even more focused on his goals.

"Count Korofute, drafting any law requires time. We have to carry out actual surveys and then conduct comprehensive analysis. You'll just have to be patient and wait!" Metternich said dismissively.

When dealing with a political foe, he couldn't be bothered with courtesies, as fancy talk wouldn't change them from being enemies anyway.

"Your Excellency Prime Minister, I can wait, but the workers outside can't. You must be aware that every day in Austria, hundreds of workers die due to the capitalists' unrestrained exploitation!

Aren't they self-proclaimed patriots, who hypocritically accuse us of immoral behavior by depriving serfs of their freedom? What are they doing now?

"Are workers not Austrian citizens? You know, most of these workers are the serfs we have released. Liberating them has not only failed to improve their conditions but plunged them into another abyss!

"This new abyss is even more terrifying. It threatens to consume everything and ultimately destroy the entire nation of Austria!" Count Korofute shouted, pointing his finger at Prime Minister Metternich.

This was getting serious. The purpose of liberating the serfs was to improve their lives but the outcome ended up being the exact opposite. Too much evidence showed that their lives had become worse.

Count Korofute's claims struck a heavy blow against Metternich's advocacy for the abolition of serfdom, forcing him to halt his previous efforts until this issue was resolved.

But to address it meant that he must break with the bourgeoisie who supported the abolition of serfdom, even potentially crushing them.

Most of the current Reformists in the country belonged to the bourgeoisie, and this jeopardized his Prime Minister position unless he aligned himself completely with the nobility.

Alright, Prime Minister Metternich himself was a representative of the high nobility and always sided with them, apart from the emancipation movement. He wasn't against compromising with the aristocracy again, but how he aligned himself also mattered.

He couldn't let himself be forced to take sides, as this involved the future power dynamics. Metternich still aspired to be the leader of the aristocracy, not to become an agent propped up by it.

"Alright, Count Korofute. The government will respond to this issue as soon as possible. You may return and wait for the news," Metternich said, frowning.

"I hope so, otherwise our Prime Minister may prove to be a disappointment," Count Korofute said sardonically.

After sending Count Korofute away, Prime Minister Metternich's expression instantly darkened. Being pushed into a corner did not sit well with him at all.

After pondering for a moment, Metternich slammed his fist on the table and muttered to himself, "Just with these petty tricks, they aspire to seize power. It seems Count Korofute has really gotten old!"

As he said this, he sounded as if he was quite young himself, even though Metternich, born in 1773, was also 74 years old.