Chapter 6, Daily Operations - Digging Pits

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

Since becoming the capital of the Habsburg dynasty in the 13th century, Vienna had quickly become the political, economic, and cultural center of the European Continent, as well as one of the most prosperous cities in the world.

It was no different now, and following the end of the anti-French wars, Austria had once again confirmed its status as a great power. The title of "European Gendarme" wasn't exclusive to Russia.

After the formation of the Holy Alliance in 1815, Austria had become the representative of the reactionary forces, the vanguard against capitalism, and also played the role of the European Gendarme.

Unfortunately, this magnificence belied Austria's continuous decline and, by the time of the revolutions of 1848, the Austrian Empire's hegemony in Europe had come to an end.

Walking on the bustling main street, Franz's mood was heavy, and he inadvertently thought of Du Fu's verse, "Behind red doors, meat and wine go to waste, while frozen bodies lie by the roadside!"

On the busy streets of Vienna, occasionally, people in tattered clothes hurried past, their bodies visibly shivering.

If a beggar chanced into the area, police would swiftly come to chase them away or take them.

And this was the busiest street; one could only imagine what a slum might look like.

The little girl selling matches wasn't just a fairy tale—as he walked along, Franz saw too many children peddling cigarettes, newspapers, matches...

Franz didn't blame the capitalists for exploiting child labor; in this age, to have such a job to sustain oneself was already considered quite good.

In a little over a month, Franz had traveled through the main urban areas of Vienna, witnessing the true face of this sundowning empire.

Perhaps, in the next year's Viennese revolutions, what the people really needed wasn't a constitutional government or freedom, but bread to fill their stomachs and clothes to fend off the cold.

Public opinion had fallen into the hands of the bourgeoisie and the Nobility. The so-called revolution had in fact become their tool to struggle for power, with the ordinary people becoming the sacrifices in this battle for rights.

Franz still remembered an article from later times, describing Polish nationalists trying to persuade peasants in a village to revolt. They claimed that once the Austrians were driven out, they would henceforth live happily ever after.

But the peasants replied:

No, respected sir, things won't be that way. You just want to drive away the most benevolent Ruler (referring to the Habsburg Emperor) from this land, only to lead the country to ruin.

My grandfather told me that when the Polish Federation still existed, Lords could beat peasants at their will, and the peasants had nowhere to turn for help...

If you drive the Emperor from this land, each one of you will want to taste the bitter flavor of isolation, and you will make us slaves again, just like in the past!

Historically, the Viennese uprising failed, and the patriots among the bourgeoisie were severely hit, yet the lives of the people genuinely improved.

It is quite ironic that those who were vociferously shouting slogans about overthrowing the exploiting class turned out to be a bunch of capitalists; the Emperor, who was the object of the revolution, actually ended up engaging in revolutionary work.

Thinking of this, Franz knew what he had to do. Uniting the majority to strike at the few was always right in politics.

In Franz's view, any constitutional reform before the completion of compulsory education was utterly nonsensical, and reforms beyond the grasp of the people only resulted in harming both others and oneself.

"Raul, to the Prime Minister's Office!" Franz said calmly.

A transmigrator who didn't stir things up wasn't a true transmigrator—at least that was Franz's motto. He had changed his mind and now planned to make some waves.

An hour later, Franz appeared at the Prime Minister's Office, and because he had not made an appointment in advance, Prime Minister Metternich was not at home.

Franz was not surprised; the Prime Minister's work was always very busy, especially for a powerful minister like Metternich.

Europe was different from the East. Even for a powerful minister like Metternich, his rights were actually limited, and his domination over Austrian politics depended on the King's support.

"Grand Duke, please wait and rest a moment; we have already sent someone to inform the Prime Minister!" the housekeeper said smoothly.

The implication was very clear. I've sent someone to inform the Prime Minister. As for when the Prime Minister will return, that I do not know. Do not take out any grievances on us minor characters.

Franz smiled faintly. He was not one to take his anger out on others. The relationship between the original host and Prime Minister Metternich was rather good, and after having transmigrated, that relationship had remained intact.

In Franz's mind, powerful ministers had always been figures to take advantage of. The Austrian Empire wanted to reform, and they needed a scapegoat. The already infamous Prime Minister Metternich was the best choice.

The more debts, the less pressure, he thought. Metternich wouldn't mind carrying a few more burdens for Austria.

It wasn't until the evening that Metternich finally hurried back. Franz was not angry; after all, he had his meals and drinks; no one dared to neglect him.

"I apologize for making you wait so long! Little Franz, what brings you here today?" Metternich asked affectionately.

Yes, in his eyes, Franz was just a junior. Metternich was an old servant himself, having been a Prime Minister since his grandfather's time and had served up until now.

"Respected Mr. Metternich, please remove the 'little,' I am already 16 years old!"

Franz did not immediately answer the question but rather expressed his slight dissatisfaction.

"Alright, respected Archduke Franz, what brings you here today?" asked Metternich with a chuckle.

"Mr. Metternich, I've come to talk about matters of reform!" Franz said straightforwardly.

"Reform? Franz, why are you interested in this? Or did someone say something to you?" asked Metternich in surprise.

"No one said anything. In the past month, I've been conducting field investigations in Vienna, and I have some questions I'd like to ask your advice on!" Franz replied calmly.

"Oh, what questions? Do tell," Metternich asked, pretending to be interested.

"Mr. Metternich, there is a very high call for constitutional reforms from the outside world, yet the workers I have seen are indifferent, toiling every day just for their daily bread. Do they value work more than dignity?" Franz inquired, feigning ignorance.

"No, Franz! They strive for survival. Without a day's work, they might go hungry. Nothing is important in the face of survival!" Metternich asserted firmly.

"Oh, if that's the case, then why don't our reforms favor them? At the very least, let them have enough bread!" Franz said, pretending to be naive.

"Franz, things are not that simple. Capitalists will not agree to improve workers' conditions!" Metternich shook his head and explained.

"Is that so? That's really too bad!" Franz said, feigning a sigh.