On the 17th day of the 11th month, the Flying Fish of Dawn arrived at Hidegold Bay.
The weather was still rather bad. Hidegold Bay was usually a very busy port, but on this day it was relatively empty. Apart from a few transport ships leaving the port hurriedly, only the fishermen dared sail in such weather. They didn't have much of a choice if they wanted to make ends meet.
Masts of varying heights lined the coast of the bay. Ships of all sizes were anchored against the coast. Many of the port's guides cursed the weather, attempting to relieve their frustrations, but when they received a large tip from Howard, the glum and frustrated expression vanished from their faces, replaced by beaming smiles. They quickly guided the ship to a spot where they could anchor.
A problem arose, however, when they tried to anchor. The Flying Fish of Dawn, at about 30 meters, was considered a middle-class ship, despite its narrow design. The spot given to her was about five to six meters deep. This was a fine depth for normal ships of her size, but she had a three-meter-long keel beneath the main body of the ship. She couldn't anchor at the spot she was given. When the tide recedes, she would embed her keel in to ground, and be stranded. The only solution was for the ship to be anchored further away, at a spot normally reserved for larger vessels.
Lorist stroked his chin in thought. It was true that the keel could help stabilize the ship, which meant that she would sail in far windier conditions than others, but Lorist had completely forgotten what a pain it would be to dock the ship.
Perhaps I can shorten the keel by about two meters. It doesn't need to be that long, in anyway. It might even increase the maximum sailing speed of the ship.
Howard tugged on Lorist's shirt, shaking his mind back into reality.
"Milord, look over there," Howard advised.
A few large-class ships could be seen docking in the deeper, emptier part of the port in the distance. The flags the ships flew depicted a wheel.
"We'll stop there then!" Lorist exclaimed joyfully.
"I'm afraid that isn't possible," the guide said, troubled, "That area is reserved for the Peterson Merchant Guild."
"That won't be an issue. We are actually on friendly terms with the Peterson Merchant Guild and can be considered their partners," Lorist said, "Howard, show him the medal given to us by President Peterson."
That medal actually belonged to Charade. Back when he was at the Redlis Kingdom, he introduced Tim to the Peterson Merchant Guild and managed to close a cooperative deal between the two parties. The deal allowed Peterson Merchant Guild to extend their sphere of influence into the southwestern area of the Redlis Kingdom. In exchange, President Peterson gave Charade a medal that could be used to request the guild's aid, or for special treatment and benefits. For example, they could get a 20 percent discount for purchases, and could even buy on credit if they didn't have enough money.
This medal should be more than enough to get docking space there, right? Lorist thought.
As expected, the moment the guide saw the medal, he stopped making a fuss, and even complained to Lorist that he should have brought out the medal earlier. That way, he could have just guided the ship to the Peterson Merchant Guild's docking space right away instead of troubling themselves with figuring out how to dock the Flying Fish of Dawn.
The moment the medal was shown to the harbormaster of the merchant guild's docking space, the Flying Fish of Dawn was given a spot to anchor at. Lorist tipped the guide with one gold Forde. The man couldn't stop showing his teeth afterward.
When the harbormaster suggested that Lorist pay an immediate visit to President Peters, he politely declined.
"I will visit him later in the day," Lorist said.
He would discuss the furs he brought along for sale then. He wanted to head to the Red Grace Inn first.
The two carriages reserved for the transportation of the guild's guests weren't enough, so the harbormaster arranged for another two carriages to join the small convoy. Lorist brought Howard, Josk, Els, Dulles, and another 10 guards, who were carrying two chests filled to the brim with gold Fordes, off the ship and left on the carriages to the Red Grace Inn.
As for Captain Wilson, he brought Old Jack, the other sailors, as well as the shooters of the Carroballista Division with him to a sailor's tavern nearby. They had to arrange for different sailors to be on shift to look after the Flying Fish of Dawn.
The arrival of Lorist and the rest at the Red Grace Inn gave Old Charlando and his wife, Louise, a great surprise.
Charlando knocked Els's head with the large spoon he used to scoop alcohol with, and said, "So you've learned to run away from home, eh? You left nothing but a note and abandoned all your brothers and sisters here... Are you really their boss? And to think that you didn't send so much as a single word during your seven years of absence... Do you know how worried all of us were about you? We didn't know whether you had died on a battlefield or at a dark alley somewhere..."
Els used his arms to fend off most of the hits. Eventually Louise interceded and stopped Charlando. Lorist noticed that Louise had become far more plump over the seven years he hadn't seen her. She had given birth to two sons already. He quickly congratulated them, much to the old man's delight. It seemed that his body was still in prime condition.
Lorist presented the couple with three gifts: three magic wolf pelts, four magic goat and magic deer pelts, and one red-colored bloodfox pelt. Those were the staple products of the Northlands, especially the bloodfox pelt, which was obtained by Els himself from a hunt. Back then, he already said that he wanted to make it into a scarf for old Charlando. Louise was incredibly impressed with the gifts, and, while Charlando said that he didn't really need a bloodfox scarf, he held onto the pelt without any intention of letting it go.
The most obvious change to the inn in the past seven years was the maidservants there. Louise explained that the last maidservant of the previous generation to leave was Molly, who had left three years prior, after marrying. The stingy Old Hope, who was a cobbler and a regular customer of the inn, had passed away. Two years ago when he got drunk on a winter's night, he decided to walk home to save the carriage fare. In the end, he collapsed unconscious in the middle of the snow-covered road. Old Hope was only found the next morning, after having froze to death.
There was also the red-nosed Old Mike who often sang in the inn. He had woken up one day three years ago from an alcohol-induced slumber, and said that he missed his hometown. Everyone thought he was just joking, and poured him two more cups. But, no one could find him the next day. It was believed that he left for his hometown early that morning. Nobody knew where his hometown was, however, and no word had been heard from him since.
The most depressing story was of Old Tom, the retired postman. He had drowned himself in the ocean. Old Tom had always intended to spend his retirement living relaxedly on the money he had saved up over the years, but his three sons and daughter never gave him any peace.His eldest son suffered a huge loss in his business, and kidnapped his business partner in a fit of desperation in hopes of being able to obtain a ransom. After receiving payment, he killed his hostage. As a result, that eldest son was eventually captured and hanged, with his wife and child punished with slavery.
Old Tom spent a huge sum buying the two back, only to have his second son disappear. The latter had incurred a huge debt with some loan sharks thanks to his excessive gambling. As if that wasn't bad enough, his youngest daughter, the most beloved of his children, was caught committing adultery. The angry, cuckolded husband brought the matter before a court, was granted a divorce, and banished her from the household. He didn't return even a single copper coin of the near 1000-gold-Forde dowry.
Old Tom couldn't bear the continuous upheavals and misfortunes. In the end, after drinking a cup of ale at the inn and bidding everyone one final, polite goodbye, he vanished. It was said that he jumped into the ocean while carrying a huge rock. By the time someone noticed and hauled him onto shore, he had already passed on.
As for the three Blackbear brothers, they had obtained a rusty old piece of metal during one of their missions. That piece of metal was later appraised to be a relic of the Magic Civilization, possibly a piece of a cauldron used during those times. They sold it for over a thousand gold Fordes, bought a plot of farmland, got married, and left the mercenary business altogether.
Lorist wolfed down the meal McDuffin had cooked for him and listened to the stories of his old acquaintances. Breathing a long sigh, he lamented the unpredictable nature of the human condition. Despite his lamentations, he felt very relaxed. It was as if he had returned to the days, seven years prior, when he was still just an instructor at the Dawn Academy, the days when he didn't have to worry about the matters of the family.
Lorist booked eight rooms on the third floor of the inn. He finished his meal, washed up, and got a new change of clothes, after which he brought Howard with him to meet President Peterson. Josk and four other guards would be in charge of guarding the two chests filled with gold Fordes in the inn. As for Els, he had gone out to check on his brothers and sisters within the syndicate.
First, Lorist headed to the port and brought a few of the rolled-up furs with him as well as a package filled with preserved magic beast jerky and whale meat, before calling a carriage and heading to the Peterson Merchant Guild's office.
As one of the seven largest merchant guilds in the Forde Trade Union, the guild's headquarters was located in the inner section of Morante City, and occupied a large area that encompassed almost one whole street. President Peterson was also really courteous. He had long been waiting to receive Lorist personally.
After a round of pleasantries, President Peterson invited Lorist into the guest hall for further conversation. After tea was served, Lorist started talking about the aims of his visit. He said that he intended to strike up a deal with the merchant guild and mentioned that he had lots of magic beast furs obtained from the hunting activities in his dominion, and wondered if he could get a good price for them. Additionally, he said that he wanted to order some large-class merchant vessels, as well as purchase a huge amount of food from the merchant guild.
As the Peterson Merchant Guild had built itself up by dealing furs with long distance carriages, they were easily able to get a few fur appraisers. All of them rated the furs Lorist brought with him highly, much to the delight of the president, who asked Lorist how much stock he had and said that he would buy all of them.
Lorist then stretched out five fingers.
President Peterson agreed immediately, saying, "Five thousand pieces? No problem, we'll buy all of them."
Lorist laughed bitterly and said, "President, if I only had 5000 pieces, I wouldn't come all the way here to trouble you. Actually, I have a total of 500000 furs for sale, with most of them being magic bull pelts."
Thunk! The silver cup in President Peterson's hand was dropped onto the table. "You.. What did you say? 500000... magic beast furs?"
Lorist nodded and explained, "My family dominion is incredibly close to the wildlands, and every winter magic beasts there would travel to my dominion to look for food. We've been hunting these beasts for the past couple of years. That's why we were able to stockpile so much furs. We only managed to complete a port on our coast this year, so we've come here to sell off the furs. We want to use the money to buy ships and food."
Upon hearing Lorist's explanation, the president revealed a look of understanding and said, "How about this... If the quality of your magic bull furs are as good as the ones you brought here... Given the market price of 2 gold Fordes and 12 large silvers per piece... I'll pay 3 gold Fordes for each of your furs. You're free to go ask around. I'm sure there isn't anyone else who can offer a better price than I can. The main reason I decided to purchase those furs is because you've brought them in bulk. I can fashion them into leather for all sorts of equipment. Naturally, for the furs of other beasts, I'll purchase them at 1.2 times the market price. Is that alright with you?"
"Alright, you can call the shots, president. It's decided then," Lorist agreed straightforwardly.
President Peterson laughed out heartily, obviously satisfied with Lorist's casual style.
"As for food. Don't worry. I will definitely be able to meet your demand. You can purchase as much as you want. As for ships... I can help you ask around if there are any large merchant vessels for sale. After all, we only have six ships ourselves, two large-class long distance merchant vessels and four middle-class merchant vessels. We mainly use those to transport our own stock, but we don't control any trading route.
"Had it not been for Knight Charade and the deal he struck with Viscount Tebri, we wouldn't even have a proper sea trade route. The business isn't big right now, but it's far more convenient than transporting things by land."
Lorist raised his cup and made a toast even though they were only having tea.
"Then I'll be counting on you, president."
Since Viscount Tebri's dominion was mentioned, Lorist asked the president for Tim's address in Morante City. He planned to drop by for a visit when he had the time.
President Peterson couldn't stress enough how fortunate Tim was to meet Lorist.
"Ever since he managed to strike a deal with our guild, he used our reputation to gain proper certification documents for his title, and ownership over the viscounty, from the First Prince. He is now a proper landed noble."
President Peterson described two embarrassing incidents that happened after Tim officially became a noble. But after a while, the president suddenly quieted down. Lorist asked him why he sighed, to which the president replied,
"It's all because that son of mine... He's always making me worry. I'm so disappointed in him."
"Did he get fat again?" Lorist asked.
President Peterson shook his head and said, "No. It's the opposite of that. My beloved son is now a training freak and spends all his time doing nothing but that. He's already broken through to the One Star Silver rank. He's also incredibly lustful for women. During the past seven years, he got himself 17 wives and already has 23 children..."
Despite his incredible shock, Lorist congratulated the president. Having many descendants was a good thing. It was very unlike the president, who only had one son to put his hopes on. As for his daughters-in-law, Lorist said that the Peterson clan could definitely afford to sustain them. Heck, his son could even afford to have 70 wives if he wanted to.
President Peterson said that what worried him was not that, but the fact that his son had no intention at all to take up the family business. It worried the president greatly. He didn't know who he could entrust the business he built up to. After seeing how Tim, an illegitimate son of a noble, could become a full-fledged landed noble, he lamented his son's lack of ambition even more.
Lorist smiled and consoled President Peterson and said that even if his son wasn't interested in business, he still had many grandchildren to pick from. Given that a Gold ranked swordsman could easily live past his hundreds, President Peterson had at least 50 years ahead of him. With that amount of time, he could easily raise another successor among his grandchildren, so Lorist said that there wasn't a need to focus only on his son.
President Peterson livened up at the comment. It was true! If his son didn't have any interest in the business, he'll just pass him over and train one of his grandchildren! Drunk with joy, he invited Lorist to stay and have dinner with him. No matter how Lorist attempted to refuse the offer, the president still insisted that he stayed. After drinking two more cups of wine, Lorist saw a person scramble before the president.
"Master, it's horrible! The Third Young Master of the Chikdor clan is causing trouble at our port! He's insisting that he wants to take away the ship that this guest of ours left there..."