“Riot in the Underground District?” Alex’s eyes widened. I nodded.
“If that happens again… it….” Alex stared into space. He seemed to be recalling the riot. I waited a while. “Aaron would know more about this,” muttered Alex quietly.
“You try dragging him away from the princess.”
Alex chuckled and sighed. “The riot of the Underground District, or more aptly, ‘The Red Riot’, happened during the reign of Viognier the 2nd. That was seventeen years ago. The riot back then was because of the food that the royal family supplied to the Underground District.”
I remembered reading about it in history lessons. Viognier the 2nd had made the free food policy to combat malnutrition and raise the health situation in the Underground District. Instead of taxes, each estate was supposed to send a portion of food to the Underground District so the poor wouldn’t starve. Opposition had risen among the aristocrats because they felt it was hard to know who were actually poor and in need. However, the majority felt that the classification was impossible for those living in the Underground District. So, they abided with the law.
“The problem arose when the people in charge of the food distribution cheated,” continued Alex. “The swapped the fine products from the royals and nobles to low-quality ones. Some merchants were involved too. They didn’t want to waste good products on the people of the Underground District. They thought that it wouldn’t have made a difference to the people.”
“Really?” I thought that the poorest of people could distinguish good from the bad when it came to food.
Alex nodded. “People from the Underground District found out. They were very angry. To them, it felt like the aristocrats were showing off their generosity on the surface while they ate the subpar foods given to them. They couldn’t trust the royals or the aristocrats anymore. So, they rebelled. Some mobs robbed the palace warehouses. The guards managed to stop the riot but they were too violent. They killed so many of the rioters. They did not even spare women and children. It was the first time the guards had seen such a fierce riot so they overreacted. They wouldn’t have actually made it to the palace. The guards should have been more peaceful. The royals found the merchants and charged them a fine. But that wasn’t much of a punishment for the crime they had committed. The Underground District felt betrayed and cheated so they rebelled even more. This riot was even grander in scale because the merchants had been exploiting the lower classes from the neighbouring districts too
I was beginning to get a headache. Alex rolled his eyes at me as he saw me trying hard to concentrate. “You asked me to tell you!”
“I just wanted to know if the present case was enough to incite a riot! I wasn’t asking for a history lesson.”
“You need to know the background to understand if something like that could happen.”
For what? I am just going to live off you. I am not going to run an estate. But I nodded just so he wouldn’t start nagging me again. Alex narrowed his eyes.
“Everyone needs to know the history of it,” he continued. “The royal knights managed to suppress the riots. Many of the poor were killed. Over the next few years, the Underground District barred entry to anyone else. They became their own separate world. Nobody was allowed to enter, those who tried were attacked, especially the nobles. It has only been around ten years that things have quieted down a little.”
“So, you mean to say that things only look quiet on the surface?’
“Of course. Beneath that, something is boiling and ready to explode. Murders keep happening in the Underground District and nobody bats an eye. If the guards suddenly spring into action when nobles start dying, it wouldn’t look good. It would seem like the nobles had treated the people from the Underground District as dispensable. But is that enough to cause a riot? Nobody knows. Who knows what might become a catalyst to set things into motion?”
“So, we wouldn’t know unless we do something?”
Alex frowned and looked at me. “I am just saying that I can’t give you an exact answer. People can be easily influenced by the wrong things.”
He wasn’t wrong. If just one person could yell at the situation being unfavourable towards the poor, the people would rally behind him and form a mob. And a mob wouldn’t need logic to see that catching the killer would help their district too
“Do you think that the murders might reach the nobles?” I asked.
“The nobles are different,” he said. “They aren’t easy to approach. The security is high and they are always surrounded by servants. Prostitutes just receive clients and are alone most of the time so the murderer has a lot of opportunity.”
“Nobles aren’t that different from prostitutes. At least prostitutes are honest about what they do,” I said. “Nobles just do the same thing but act high and holy about it. They don’t invite their servants while relieving their desires, do they? They will mostly be alone in the room with their lover, won’t they?”
Alex covered his face in his hands and groaned.