"How many ships do you intend to buy?" Charade asked.
Since the shipyard at Bullhorn Bay could only produce seven ships a year, they had no choice but to buy more ships to meet their needs. Currently, there were two whaling boats and one three-masted sail-powered warship -- which had Lorist designed -- under construction. Lorist wanted a dedicating whaling and fishing fleet that could provide seafood products for the family. The fleet would consist of around seven whaling ships. The Northlands' coasts had yet to be developed, so the ocean there was still rich with all sorts of resources. It was easily one of the most important locations for the family.
In addition to the whaling and fishing fleet, the family would also require a strong armada to keep the coast safe. There hadn't been any sightings of pirates or other potential threats, but the family dominion had to be reinforced to keep it safe. Lorist planned to test the three-masted warship's range and offensive capabilities once it was completed. He planned to build a further five warships over the following three years. He wanted to use this small fleet to police the coastal area and keep it safe for further development and transportation.
This meant that the shipyard's schedule was already full. The construction of another shipyard at Silowas Island was planned, but it would only be capable of building smaller fishing and transportation vessels. At best it would be able to do maintenance and repair work on the larger family ships. It would only be finished in two years, anyway.
Lorist had obtained six whips during his initial excursion to Silowas Island. Most of the ships had belonged to the youths of the noble families that had occupied Seaview Manor. One of the ships had belonged to Viscount Aslan. All of them had been taken by Lorist as his spoils of battle. The two smaller vessels would be used as ferries from Silowas Island to Jillin Harbor. The four survey ships and two whaling ships would form a small convoy to ship cargo from Silowas Island to Bullhorn Harbor.
Since the development of Silwoas Island required huge amounts of support from the main family dominion, there was a need for a large maritime convoy. Given that the family only had one shipyard, at Bullhorn Harbor, Lorist could only purchase more transportation vessels. Given the prevalence of shipyards at Hidegold Bay near Morante City, they would definitely be able to get some ships there.
"I'm not too sure myself. I'll decide once I've checked out the prices over there," Lorist replied.
"This will definitely be a huge expenditure... The family administors won't be too happy about it!" Charade exclaimed.
As the former chief supervisor of the Norton family, Charade was well aware of the financial situation of the family and the status of its administration. Thanks to the raids and skirmishes conducted by the convoy during their travels, in addition to the complete sweeping of the duke's dominion, the family's finances had once peaked at more than 4 million gold Fordes. It was a staggering figure that could even rival the treasury of a kingdom. It was enough to allow Lorist and his knights to abandon their duties, and bask in hedonistic pleasures, for more than 200 years.
However, Lorist had spent much of that sum on the development of the dominion and the improvement of the family's military strength. The elimination of the magical beast wave, the settling of the vagabonds, and the development of the Felicitas and Salus settlements cost up to 1 million gold Fordes. In addition to that, the development of Blackmud Marsh was estimated to cost the family another million. There was also the shipyard at Bullhorn Bay, the refinery at Bladedge Mountains, the ballista workshop, and the military arms production plant. Together, they easily cost over 500000 gold Fordes.
As for the development of Silowas Island, after some discussion, Lorist approved the plan and allocated up to 800000 gold Fordes to Charade. Lorist's intention to purchase more ships would also cost him quite a lot. One ship would easily cost up to 5000 gold Fordes. The family would be left with only 500000 gold Fordes, 300000 of which would be spent on the military and administration. For that, Charade grew incredibly worried.
"There's no need to worry about our finances," Lorist consoled with a smile. "Right now, the development of the Felicitas and Salus settlement is nearing its end. Based on the estimated amount of tax we will collect this year, the family would be able to pay off our military and administrative costs and still have some left over. The factories that were started not long ago are also starting to turn a profit, with the family gaining a few thousand gold Fordes from that alone in the previous year. It's estimated that the figure will grow up to 20000 gold Fordes this year. It will greatly alleviate the family's burden.
"In terms of investment, the area of Blackmud Marsh near our family dominion is already within our control. What we will have to focus on later is the construction of the levee along the river and the port city, the cost of which has already been accounted for during the planning stages. As for the workshops we have at Bladedge Mountains, the family has already profited quite a bit from them, and they don't cost much to maintain. They only need around 30000 gold Fordes each year for research and development.
"Our investment in the salt merchant committee with the other three families of the Northlands also brings us tens of thousands of gold Fordes annually. The military investments the family made during the recent years also only went into the formation of our own Local Defense Brigade and Navy Marine Brigade. The rest of our forces are fully-equipped already. We only have to pay their salaries. On that front, the military costs of the family will decrease by at least 100000 gold Fordes. I predict that the earnings from the two settlements alone will be enough to cover our military and administrative costs in the future."
"That's impossible," Charade said, shaking his head in disbelief. "Even if we deduct 100000 from the cost, the expenditure on our military and administration costs at least 200000 gold Fordes. The family dominion's income won't even come close."
Lorist laughed out and said, "How is it impossible? The citizens on Silowas Island alone number more than 12000, and they were able to pay 5000 gold Fordes per year during the past few years when the tax rate was 50 percent. Almost every one of them paid half a gold Forde as tax. Now consider the settlements in our dominion which have a combined population of more than 800000. If each person paid a quarter of a gold Forde as tax, it would easily add up to 200000. Not to mention that we will get even more the year after that.
"Also, it's not like we're spending our money without getting anything back. Even though the purchase of ships at Morante City will cost a huge sum, as long as we are able to sell off the furs we've collected over the years from exterminating the magical beasts there, there's no doubt that we'll be able to gain another million gold Fordes in profit. We also have some smoked magical beast jerky and whale meat, both of which are hot-selling products. It won't take long for us to get the money we spent back."
"Oh, why did I forget that we can engage in trade?" Charade said, smacking his forehead with his palm, "Even so, Locke, your release of the captured Local Defense Force troops will cause our hands to be tied when it comes to developing the island. We will definitely require a lot of manpower. Are we really going to recruit vagabonds? What if the Second Highness doesn't agree?"
"He should be happy to let us do so. Glacia herself said that the Second Highness is also troubled by the vagabonds. He has to spend lots of food to keep them fed every month. Since our recruitment of the vagabonds will relieve him of that burden, there's no way he will stop us from doing so. In another two days, Glacia will come over with a proper permit, so don't worry," Lorist said after giving it some thought.
"According to our estimations, if we want to complete the initial development of Silowas Island within two years, it will require more than 30000 able-bodied workers. So far, we have to work on the move of Whitebird Town, the expansion of the port, the construction of the walls and defensive fortifications, the renovations of Seaview Manor, the reconstruction and agricultural development of the seven villages, the construction of the citadel for the Third Local Defense Brigade, and the construction of the levees along the coast will require an immense amount of manpower..." Charade said.
After shaking his head, he continued, "The development of Silowas Island is too big an investment. According to our vagabond recruiting principles, we will have to take in the family members of the laborers as well. Bringing the whole family over will only increase the expenditure of money and food on our part. Locke, you will have to buy enough food during your trip to Morante City as well. Soon, the produce of the island will no longer be able to sustain the people here..."
Lorist thought for a while, before he said, "I forgot to ask Glacia the last time about something. I heard her mention that the harvests of the Andinaq Kingdom are rather good during the past few years. As most of the taxes had been paid in food and other local produce, the Second Highness has a huge amount of it. I will see if I can buy some from him. I'm sure he'll be glad to oblige us. Even with that, we will still require a lot more food, as much as possible."
"Why's that so?" Charade asked.
"It's simple. Right now, the Second Highness is just waiting for the Third Prince to pass away. According to Glacia, it seems that the Third Prince will not live for another three months. The moment he dies, the Second Highness will launch the unification war. If something unforeseen happens, it will greatly destabilize the Andinaq Kingdom. If the war continues for a long time, I'm afraid that it'll be a repeat of the civil war of the Krissen Empire. The kingdom's subjects will be unable to farm in peace. When that happens, our stockpiles can be used to feed the refugees."
"Do you really hold the Second Highness in such low regard? If you ask me, with 300000 soldiers, even if he can't reunite the empire, it should still be enough for him to sweep over half of it. People's opinion of the Second Highness will change and his reputation will soar. There won't be anyone capable of resisting his assault," Charade said.
He couldn't understand why Lorist belittled the Second Highness so much.
"I don't know how to put it into words... It's more like my intuition is telling me that he will not be able to succeed. I'm not too sure why I feel like this myself. Whatever. Let's not talk about these matters anymore. If the Second Highness agrees to let us recruit talent at the imperial capital as well as some vagabond workers, who will you delegate this task to?" Lorist asked.
"There will be a ship arriving from the family dominion soon, and Supervisors Kedan and Hansk will be on board. I plan to have Supervisor Hansk stay on the island to help me out and send Kedan along with Hector to the imperial capital. They will be able to handle it with Glacia and Karitoke's help. As for the recruitment of vagabonds, perhaps I may go to the eastern and southern provinces for a look myself," Charade said.
"Is that so... Then I will have the 500 guards that are on the way report to Jim. They'll take care of your safety. I will travel on the Flying Fish of Dawn with Josk, Els and Dulles, as well as ten guards, to Morante City. The matters on Silowas Island will be left in your charge.
"Also, you should talk with the Second Highness about the food purchase. Grandmaster Sid's eldest son will also be coming over to survey Silowas Island for mineral resources. It's already the 11th month, so don't let him travel too deep into the mountains, lest any dangers befall him. Make sure he stays put throughout the winter, and only allow him to begin surveying with some guards next year after winter."
As Lorist patted on Charade's shoulder, he suddenly recalled something, "Ah, don't forget to write your father a letter. I will bring it to him."
"For what?" Charade asked.
"To order glass, of course. Isn't your father the distributor of glass? If we purchase them in bulk from him and transport them back to the dominion by sea, that would save us lots in shiping costs. You should know that a sheet of green glass that sells for a few coppers in Morante City will cost one large silver in the Northlands. Right now, many of the people within our dominion are still using wood for windows. I've decided that the first thing we will import after the formation of the trading fleet, will be glass," Lorist explained convincingly.
Charade laughed and said, "Alright, I will give the letter to you tonight. When are you leaving?"
"Perhaps in another two days. At any rate, I will still have to wait for the ships to arrive here at Silowas Island first. They will be bringing over 500000 gold Fordes and some sample magical beast furs during this trip. I will take 100000 gold Fordes with me to purchase the ships and other stuff. The rest will be left here for you," Lorist said.
Three days later, the Flying Fish of Dawn spread its sails and headed for the distant south.
On the way there, it encountered many other ships of various sizes, ranging from fishing boats to some smaller merchant vessels.
According to Captain Wilson, the former Krissen Empire didn't prioritise the sea, nor did they form any sort of proper fleet, mainly because the coastlines along the north weren't suited for port construction. Jillin Harbor was already the northernmost port of the empire, and it couldn't support the docking of larger warships or merchant vessels. The coast was just too shallow. It didn't help that the other harbors within the territory of the empire were owned wholly by the dominion lords, who relied on them to increase their own personal wealth.
Lorist recalled Tim, whom he had met a few years back during the northbound journey. He wondered how the man of illegitimate birth, whom he had made into Viscount Tebri, was doing. But Lorist remembered that Charade mentioned that they had managed to get the Peterson Merchant Guild to cooperate with Viscount Tebri before leaving with the convoy, and even helped them build a garrison regiment. Lorist felt that Tim should be doing quite well and realized that he could also ask him about some news on the Peterson Merchant Guild. Lorist would definitely require the assistance of the Peterson Merchant Guild on this excursion of his to Morante City.
"Head to the dominion of Viscount Tebri," Lorist instructed.
A week later, the Flying Fish of Dawn appeared near the coasts of Viscount Tebri's dominion. Dulles and Els had been there a number of times with Charade. They recognized the port of the dominion quickly and even saw the castle in the distance on a hill that flew the flag of the Tebri Family.
Only two small supply boats could be seen at the port. No ships belonging to the Peterson Merchant Guild could be seen. Wilson instructed his crew to approach the port before stopping entirely.
In the distance, the blowing of horns could be heard. After a few moments, a squad of garrison soldiers arrived, led by an old, white-haired knight.
"Ah, it's Old Gemors! We've dealt with him before," cheered Dulles and Els.
Lorist had heard Tim say that Old Gemors was the only surviving knight of the Tebri Family. However, he hadn't personally met the old knight before and only saw him now that he was around 60 years old.
Despite his age, Knight Gemors's vision was still in a good condition. He recognized Dulles and Els right away, and dismounted to give the two a hearty hug, before saluting Lorist formally. But after he heard that Lorist wished to meet Tim, he apologized and said that the viscount and his wife had left with their three children on the Peterson Merchant Guild's convoy for Morante City to spend the winter there.
What? Tim already has three children? thought Lorist with surprise.
Old Knight Gemors expressed his gratitude for Tim's marriage which was arranged by Lorist years prior. The couple got along really well and birthed two sons and one daughter within the span of six years. Currently, the wife of the viscount was pregnant yet again. Because of the successful dealings with the Peterson Merchant guild, Tim earned quite a bit of money as well, and managed to get the Peterson Merchant Guild to buy him a house in Morante City on his behalf.
Because of his wife's fondness of Morante City, the couple basically spent more than half of the year there. They would only return to the viscounty during summer and head out for Morante City again when winter came.
Lorist said, "Then forget it. We were just about to head to Morante City anyway. Give me the address of the viscount. I will pay him a visit once I'm there."
Old Knight Gemors wrote down the address and handed it to Lorist. After noticing the swallowtail flag of the Andinaq Kingdom being flown on the Flying Fish of Dawn, Gemors asked, "Lord Count, are you a noble of the Andinaq Kingdom right now?"
Lorist nodded. Upon seeing the awkward expression on the old knight's face, he asked, "What's wrong?"
"Please forgive my rudeness, Lord Count. It's better if you fly the flag of your own family, or even the Tebri Family's. But it's best if you don't head to Morante City with the flag of the Andinaq Kingdom. The folk there don't really like it when ships of the Andinaq Kingdom enter Hidegold Bay," said Old Knight Gemors.
"Oh..." Lorist mused, before he sunk into deep thought.