President Peterson was incredibly furious. That area of the port was set aside for his clan's exclusive use, and Lorist was his guest. If Lorist's ship was really forcefully taken away there, it would definitely destroy the Peterson Merchant Guild's reputation if anyone found out. The mere mention of trying to take away Lorist's ship was an act that tried the guild's patience. What in the world was going on? Did the Chikdor Merchant Guild intend to start a full-on conflict with the Peterson Merchant Guild?
Lorist was also quite surprised. He didn't even know the third young master of the Chikdor Merchant Guild, nor could he recall if he had offended such a person before. Heck, he didn't even have the slightest interaction with the Chikdor Merchant Guild. Why, then, did the third young master want to take away his ship?
When the two arrived at the port, they noticed that they were dealing with a fumbling drunk.
Two groups of people were standing opposite one another. One group was the Peterson Merchant Guild and the sailors and marines of Lorist, including Captain Wilson and the others, and the other was a horrible drunk that screamed something along the lines of the owner of the Flying Fish of Dawn not giving the Chikdor clan any face. He insisted that they would take the ship away to teach the owner a lesson.
Even though many others stood behind the drunk Third Young Master, all of them knew that he was acting rather excessively. They had tried to persuade him to stop, to no avail, and could only stand behind him quietly without actually heeding his order to forcefully take the ship.
"What is going on?" asked President Peterson in a deep voice.
"Master..." the harbormaster greeted as he bowed, "I'm not too sure either. One hour ago, the fleet of the Chikdor Merchant Guild stopped at this area of the port. Initially, I thought they were only going to be here temporarily to borrow some space, so I didn't mind it. This kind of occurrence is actually quite common and we would allow it if it wasn't inconvenient for us. I didn't know that the third young master would barge into Lord Norton's ship. After he was stopped, he ordered his men to take action, and I quickly came forward to stop it, only to end up like this..."
The harbormaster then showed the beaming red palm mark visible on his face.
"Who did that?" asked President Peterson with a low voice.
The harbormaster looked at the third young master, who was having a drunk fit.
The third young master continued to clamor around, refusing to stop causing trouble.
"You actually dared... to offend us... The Chikdor Merchant guild... Are you tired of... living? I... I'm giving you a chance... by taking your ship away... Yet... yet you dare to stop m-m-me... I... I will exterminate... you lot..."
Lorist was enraged as he thought, You're only a young master of a merchant guild, yet you dare to be so audacious? Do you think that you're second to none but the heavens?
Lorist took a few steps forward, and looked at the people standing behind the drunk man.
"I am Count Norton, the owner of this ship," he said, "I don't think that I've had any interaction before with the Chikdor Merchant Guild. So, who can explain to me how House Norton has ever offended your guild? Why is your young master trying to take my ship away?"
An old man dressed like a supervisor stepped forward, out of the crowd, and said, "Apologies, Count Norton. Yesterday morning when your ship overtook our fleet, our young master ordered us to signal you to stop because he wanted to meet up with you. He even had the tune of invitation blown. But you ignored his invitation and continued on your way. That's why our young master is enraged. He thinks you are looking down on him and the Chikdor Merchant Guild... When we arrived, he saw your ship docked here. Coupled with his bad mood after drinking, he began to act up..."
Lorist looked at the old man with a dumbstruck face, and said, "Oh, so you're the merchant fleet that we overtook yesterday? Is your young master sound in the head? We'd already zipped past your fleet and were more than 100 meters in front of you. Would we be able to see or hear your signals from there? Also, given the strong winds, would we have been able to turn back to accept your invitation even if we did receive your signal? So you think you can take my ship because of this small issue? My, isn't the Chikdor Merchant Guild domineering!"
Lorist laughed coldly, and continued, "Hehe, so you want to take my ship? Very well. But are you prepared to pay the price?"
That old supervisor had misheard Lorist's tone and thought that he had been frightened by the reputation of the Chikdor Merchant Guild.
"Lord Count, your ship travels incredibly fast. She would definitely be of great use to the Chikdor Merchant Guild. If you hand that ship to us, you will gain the favor of the Chikdor Merchant Guild..."
Before he finished, Lorist spat out audibly, and said, "Forget your favors. If you want my ship, it's easy. You just have to defeat House Norton. If you can walk over my dead body, I'll give you my ship."
President Peterson stepped in front of Lorist to stop him. He already had a rough grasp of the situation.
"Since your third young master is drunk, then as the owner of this part of the port, I will bring your young master back with me to sober him up. You can leave now. Don't forget to tell your president to come collect his son," said President Peterson.
The president's statement implied that he intended to hold the drunk, trouble-making third young master back so that the president of the Chikdor Merchant Guild could come collect him after making up for the trouble caused. That way, the parties would not be on bad terms with one another. However, if they insisted on bringing their third young master back with them, they would have to fight for it with the Peterson Merchant Guild. The consequence of that conflict would not be something any single person could bear.
President Peterson waved his hand and called out two guards from his back to hoist the drunk third young master into the carriage behind them. Even though the people of the Chikdor Merchant Guild broke into a commotion, none of them stood up to stop the two guards.
The old supervisor bowed towards President Peterson, and said, "Then, we'll have to trouble you, sir, to take care of our third young master. We are incredibly sorry for tonight's incident. I will definitely relay this situation to our president as well. We will excuse ourselves now."
In a few short moments, the crowd at the port dispersed. Lorist was a little stunned at what had just happened and thought, That's not right, if there's anything I learned from reading all those novels, it's that the people of the Chikdor Merchant Guild would definitely stand their ground to support their third young master. They should be ignoring President Peterson, and rushing over to take the young master back. That should've been where I get to show off my skills by beating them all down, right? After the scrubs are taken care of, the boss character would show up, causing the conflict to gain even more traction. This should've ended with me helping the Peterson Merchant Guild defeat their rival, and be the catalyst that reinforces the relationship between House Norton and the Peterson Merchant Guild!
Why were the people of the Chikdor Merchant Guild so rational? Why were they able to leave their young master here just like that to avoid causing a commotion? How ridiculous... They don't even act like one of the seven largest merchant guilds at all... They should've at least left after spouting a few hatred-fueled lines to save themselves some face...
"Locke, there's no more trouble. Let's head back for some more wine," said President Peterson.
"We're still going to drink?"
Lorist really couldn't understand what President Peterson intended to achieve, so he could only cease his wild fantasies and instruct Captain Wilson and the rest to pay attention to the security of the ship, before leaving on the carriage with the president.
"Even though the Chikdor Merchant Guild has the highest number of ships at sea, they will still have to rely on our long distance carriages on land. Otherwise, they won't be able to gather so much resources and supplies that secretively. Tomorrow, President Chikdor will come to meet us and come up with a settlement since this incident was caused by their third young master to begin with. If he wishes to avoid conflict with us, then he'll definitely make it up to us properly," said President Peterson apologetically.
"Then, I'll be counting on you, president. However, I really didn't expect that the third young master of the Chikdor Merchant Guild would be so brainless and reckless. He doesn't look that young to me, yet he behaves like a rowdy child. Perhaps he's intentionally trying to cause conflict between your guild and theirs? Then again, I also think that the excuse I gave for not accepting their invitation to be rather lacking... Nobody would truly believe that," said Lorist.
President Peterson laughed heartily, and said, "Worry not, Brother Locke, this matter is not as complicated as you're trying to make it sound. In fact, I know why the third young master would get so drunk and cause a fit in the first place. Everyone in Morante City knows what President Chikdor is most troubled about. Even though all three of his sons are blessed with rather keen business senses that far exceed my own useless son by leaps and bounds, President Chikdor still hasn't named a proper successor. It has naturally resulted in the three young masters forming their own factions, each trying to get a lead over the others.
"But during the first half of this year, President Chikdor finally came up with a way to resolve this, and gave each of his three sons a huge task. The one who completes the task first would be able to receive proper guidance and inherit the merchant guild. That's also the reason for the third young master's rampant drinking. The deadline for his task was yesterday, but he only managed to make it back today, meaning that he had lost his right to succession by default. That's why he was throwing a drunk fit at our port. The people of their guild didn't even say a word when we wanted to bring him away either."
President Peterson paused in thought before he continued, "Just stay at my home for the night. Don't worry, President Chikdor will personally come over and offer you his apologies. In the meantime, we can discuss when you intend to hand us the furs you stockpiled."
Oh, I almost forgot about that, Lorist thought.
"I've come here to purchase ships precisely for the purpose of transporting these furs. Why don't we meet up at Silowas Island and carry out the trade there? The island is also a dominion of my House."
"Silowas Island?" muttered the president, "I seem to have heard of that place before..."
Lorist elaborated, "Silowas Island belongs to the Andinaq Kingdom and is roughly 100 kilometers away from Jillin Harbor. It is the largest island of the former empire."
"Wait, Brother Locke, isn't your dominion in the Northlands? Since when has Silowas Island become yours?" asked President Peterson.
Lorist then detailed his exploits and experiences to the president briefly.
With a solemn look on his face, President Peterson said, "Wait, then does that mean that House Norton is one of the noble houses of the Andinaq Kingdom? In other words, you're a count of the Andinaq Kingdom?"
"That's right. What's wrong, president? Will there be a problem?" asked Lorist.
President Peterson let out a sigh and said, "It's a rather huge one. I'm sure you've heard that the trade union enforced an embargo on the Andinaq Kingdom, right? It's completely true. It's all because the Andinaq Kingdom bears the legacy of the Krissen Empire, which was the sworn enemy of the trade union for the past 200 years. Even though the empire is already gone, the legacy is still there. The Andinaq Kingdom is considered an enemy to the trade union and is therefore under an embargo. This matter is one that us merchants rally up in solidarity for."
Troubled, Lorist said, "That can't be... I didn't expect that the grudges between the nations ran that deep. Even though there has already been roughly 30 years of peace, and the fact that the empire has already disintegrated, the people of the trade union still hold that grudge? Isn't that a little excessive? Wasn't there a saying about how there are no eternal enemies, only eternal profits? Shouldn't chasing profits be the core of a merchant's being?"
"Excessive?" President Peterson laughed and continued, "You're right. There are no eternal enemies, only eternal profits. Chasing profits is the core of a merchant's being. Actually, the hate for the Andinaq Kingdom is intentionally built up by others. The ones who are actively opposing the Andinaq Kingdom are the Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild, the Mayflower Merchant Guild, and the Wessia Merchant Guild. The Peterson Merchant Guild is only cooperating with them and carrying out our basic obligations.
"However, when it comes to the embargo on the Andinaq Kingdom, we must definitely play our part too. Brother Locke, since you are a noble of the Andinaq Kingdom, then this fur trade will be very inconvenient for us to carry out. If we are found out by others, the Peterson Merchant Guild will quickly be isolated and attacked by the other merchant guilds..."
Lorist laughed and said, "How about this, president... House Norton will not fly the flag of the Andinaq Kingdom and only use the Raging Bear Flag of our own. Nobody would know that we're nobles of the Andinaq Kingdom then. Even if others find out about your deal with us, you still have a bunch of excuses to use. It is common knowledge that there aren't any magic beasts within the Andinaq Kingdom. As for the trade, we can carry it out at Viscount Tebri's dominion. We'll ship our goods to him, and you can fetch it there. That way, you can also say that you bought the furs from Viscount Tebri and have nothing to do with us."
"Alright, that's a sound plan. We'll do just that," said President Peterson with a tone of certainty.
Having dealt with the problems regarding the deal, Lorist breathed a sigh of relief. The sale of 500000 magic beast furs would net them 2 million gold Fordes, and that was enough for the house to invest in development and stockpiles for the next couple of years. It was something that the stability and prosperity of the Norton House was dependent on.
Even though he had closed the deal with President Peterson, he couldn't trouble him with the salt, magic beast jerky and whale meat he brought over. The guild didn't deal with those goods, and they didn't sell for much anyway. Lorist felt that it was better to look for other ways to deal with those items. Even if he couldn't sell them, the dominion would definitely be able to consume them.
After sending a few guards ahead to the Red Grace Inn to notify Josk, he spent an uneventful night at the Peterson Merchant Guild with the others.
At around 10 in the morning the next day, the men of the Chikdor Merchant Guild came over. President Chikdor came personally and greeted President Peterson intimately, as if they got along very well. The sober third young master was also brought over. He stood by his father with a sour face while the latter expressed his thanks to President Peterson for taking care of his drunk son, and for keeping him from causing more trouble for others.
President Peterson was also very courteous and stressed that the seven main merchant guilds of the trade union were like family. It was completely natural for them to watch each other's backs. However, he advised the third young master to take this lesson to heart and not lose hope after a small shortcoming and resort to drinking as an escape, even to the point of causing others trouble. He marked that behavior as uncultured and uncivilized, and said it was not something befitting a candidate for inheritance of a large merchant guild.
After lecturing the third young master of the Chikdor clan, President Peterson introduced Lorist to President Chikdor as the family leader of the House of the Raging Bear from the Northlands, Count Norton.
It was apparent that President Chikdor had never heard of House Norton before, since he had never paid attention to noble houses situated at the far borderlands. What he was interested in, however, was Lorist's oddly-shaped ship. He was shocked to hear that it could travel at 14 knots in strong wind. Even the fastest sail-powered warship of the newest design could only travel at a maximum of 11 knots.
Lorist shrugged and told President Chikdor that his ship was not good for much apart from her speed. Because of the Cursed Coasts of the north, he had to make his ship much narrower. Otherwise, she wouldn't be able to navigate the reefs there. And given the ship's narrowness, it couldn't carry much cargo. It could only be used to transport people.
As for the wind resistance in strong winds, Lorist explained that he had simply added a 3-meter-long keel under the ship so that she wouldn't flip over easily while in transit. It was something a common shipwright would understand after taking only one look at the ship. Additionally, he said that the keel's main usage was to prevent the ship from being damaged by the reef at shallow waters. When the keel hit something, there would still be enough time for the ship to turn back and find another way.
Upon listening to Lorist's explanation, President Chikdor lost interest in the ship. He mainly wanted a fast ship that could carry large amounts of cargo. Just like Lorist had said, his ship was only good for speed and not much else. He wasn't worried that Lorist would make up an explanation to fool him since he could easily send a master shipwright to check out the design of the ship. That way, he would be able to know whether Lorist was telling the truth about the ship.
To express his regret for Lorist's troubles because of his son, President Chikdor brought Lorist a gift. It was an exquisitely decorated wooden box that was roughly 50 centimeters wide. Even though Lorist tried to refuse out of politeness, he still accepted it in the end and opened the box at the insistence of President Peterson.
The moment Lorist opened and looked into the box, he was dumbstruck.
Within it lay a golden, gleaming firearm...