Here's the final bonus chapter of the week by Christopher P. from the USA! Enjoy and see you guys next week!
"Alright, brother. Don't criticize Moribak like that. He only did what he did for the future of the guild's prosperity. Since the incident has already happened, let's think of how we can fix it instead of complaining all day long," said the Serihanem.
He was already rather satisfied that he was appointed the successor of the merchant guild by his father after his competition with his third brother. Normally, he was a serious, straight-laced person who maintained a calm and peaceful personality. However, he felt it was appropriate to display his brotherly love and compassion once in a while.
"Father, uncles, actually, I think that my brother Saibyoeff made quite a bit of sense there. Should we really fight with Count Norton all the way to the bitter end? We will definitely sustain huge losses that might even come to shake our position as the hegemons of the southern seas. After all, even though Silowas Island is large, it is in the northern seas. The merchant guild can't afford to lose the southern seas, so we can't afford to overlook this."
Even though the first young master appeared to be speaking up on behalf of Saibyoeff, it added little to the conversation. Saibyoeff had already clearly illustrated the consequences of continuing to plot to gain the island. Even though chasing profits was the innate instinct of a merchant, should the cost exceed the gains, then he would definitely have to give it good consideration.
President Chikdor began to hesitate as he said, "The reason we set Silowas Island as our target was because our guild thrives on maritime superiority. Given that, having an island as our dominion would be ideal. There are no such suitable islands at the southern seas, neither is there any coastal territory large enough for us to locate our dominion at."
Since the trade union was going to implement a nobility system, with each of the big-seven merchant guilds given the title of duke, they would have to attain a piece of land appropriate to their title. The six other guilds had already determined their targets. Only the Chikdor Merchant Guild's plan to take Silowas Island as their dominion had run into some trouble. Even though getting themselves a duchy was important, losing most of the guild for it was an incredibly bad transaction.
Serihanem cleared his throat, indicating that he was going to speak once more. He was of the same opinion as Saibyoeff and didn't think that the northern strategy to make Silowas Island the guild's domain was a good one. He found that Silowas Island was way too far from Morante City. It took at least 20 days to sail from one to the other. There was no way he would resign himself to stay and rot at a rural island far away. Rural life would make anyone who has experienced the prosperity of Morante City feel dull and uninteresting.
Secondly, that strategy was actually planned by his youngest brother Moribak.
Father is really too biased. Since he has appointed me his successor, why is he still counting on Moribak so much? Not only did he allow him to take charge of the plans for the northern trade routes, he even let him have a hand at the overall strategy of the plan that would determine the future of the whole guild. Just look at what happened. With such a massive fiasco, how can I just sit still without attempting to correct the mistakes of my overly-ambitious brother?
In terms martial of talent, Serihanem couldn't compare with his brother, Saibyoeff, not by a long shot. The latter was already a one-star gold rank. Even the rank 2 blademaster of the guild, Uncle Udi, was full of praise for Saibyoeff. He maintained that there was an incredibly good chance for him to become a rank 1 blademaster before he turned 50, which would further increase the core strength of the guild.
Likewise, Serihanem wasn't as capable as Moribak in terms of calculation and planning. Moribak had demonstrated jaw-dropping talent when he settled the spice trade problem on his previous trip to the Shyarsia kingdom by putting a premature end to the young king who attempted to resist the Chikdor Merchant Guild's monopoly on their spice. Even though this was the first time the Chikdor Merchant Guild had meddled in royal affairs, the matter was still settled perfectly.
Compared to his two brothers, Serihanem appeared rather common. He had been nurtured within the guild from a young age, he could only claim to be a run-of-the-mill merchant who bought low and sold high. In terms of grasping business opportunities, he was better than his two brothers, and that aspect of his was what the merchant guild treasured most. Nothing was more important for the advancement of the guild than profits, and that sole characteristic of Moribak was all he needed to be appointed successor.
However, after Serihanem heard about the nobility system and his father's eventual ascension to duke status, he began to have his own plans. After all, the title and dominion of his father would eventually be handed down to him, so he felt that he should stick his hand into deciding where the dominion would be.
The territory Serihanem had in mind was the Urubaha duchy. The duchy was located to the south of the Forde Trade Union and could be considered to be the starting point for the Golden Coast at the southern seas. At the south of the Falik Plains (where Morante City was located) were the Callisto Hills. The Tedanini mountains, where the dwarven kingdom was located, was further south. At the very southern end of the Tedanini mountains, was the Urubaha duchy.
While the terrain of the duchy was mountainous and near the coast, it was incredibly crude and rural. Its main 'export' was pirates and mercenaries. Half of the pirates that operated at the Solar Seas were the so-called fishing folk of the Urubaha duchy. They were a hodge-podge bunch who didn't care whether a fleet they spotted belonged to a large merchant guild or not. As long as there was an opportunity for profit, they would attack and make off with the precious cargo. Should the merchant guild be the least bit careless, they would suffer huge losses to the raids.
Serihanem had made his decision purely based on his mercantile perspective. Half of the Urubaha duchy was desolate mountains. The other half was coastal beaches. As such, there wasn't much space for farmland. The thing the duchy was known for was its subterranean caverns which were known to all of Grindia as one of the seven most dangerous places on the continent. Legend says that within the caves lie a mysterious underground world, which saw 9 out of 10 explorers to the caverns failing to return alive. However, it didn't deter Serihanem at al. He was a merchant, not an explorer, nor a mercenary. Perhaps, he could even use the mystery surrounding the caverns to profit off some foolish adventurers. As for their safety, they were none of his concern.
The Urubaha duchy was a relatively poor nation. The merchants, however, believed that the reason for its poor economy was poor management, and that it could be improved if the right person was in charge. Serihanem felt he was the perfect fit to do just that. Other factors aside, he already had his eyes on the ancient forests in the duchy which would be ideal for timber production. The current duke wasn't keen on investing in roads, and didn't take advantage of the natural resources the duchy possessed. Given that the duchy was near the Tedanini mountains, trade with the dwarves would net quite a bit of profit too. At the same time, he could have people looking for ore veins; yet another avenue in which to invest. The first young master was quite adept at coming up with ideas to make a profit.
The greatest benefit of making the Urubaha duchy the dominion of the clan was how the guild could use the pirates for their own benefit. Not only would that be able to cut out the costs of wiping out the pirates, they could even be added to the naval forces of the guild. By spending the least resources, the guild would be able to convert the poor fishing folk into sailors for its fleets, and decrease the cost of hiring and training rookies.
Additionally, traveling from the duchy to Morante City would only take three to four days by ship. The ease of transport would also allow the guild to set up their trade headquarters at the beginning of the Golden Coast, allowing the guild even more ease of control of the trade routes at the southern seas.
However, there were also huge obstacles associated with taking the duchy. Firstly, Duke Urubaha was known to be a hugely stubborn person who was also a rank 3 blademaster. Even though he didn't have any hope of breaking through to become a swordsaint, he was still fit as a fiddle in his seventies and wouldn't be easy to deal with. Other than that, he had two elite armies each numbering up to 24 thousand soldiers. Not only were they the main reason the duke was able to form his duchy, they were also his means of making money.
As the Urubaha Duchy was rather poor, it was rather curious how it was able to maintain two huge armies that would cost a lot of money to maintain. In actuality, the two armies are often 'rented' out to others. Whenever one army's rent term is over, it would return and the other army would be rented out. They would rotate their shifts like so to earn the funds to bring in wealth traded with blood for the duchy.
However, Serihanem felt that if the guild was able to conquer the duchy and make it the guild's dominion, the two armies of the duchy would be able to make up for the guild's weak influence on land. He would definitely not rent the two armies out and believed that the soldiers would quickly become loyal to the guild with his new policy.
Also, Duke Urubaha was also a relative of the president of the Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild. This was the most troubling obstacle for Serihanem; not only would taking the Urubaha duchy cause them to be on the bad side of the president of the Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild, the conflict between the two big-seven guilds would most definitely greatly affect the situation of the trade union. That was also why the high officials of the Chikdor Merchant Guild had never even considered taking the territory belonging to the Urubaha duchy as their dominion.
For Serihanem those obstacles wouldn't pose much of a problem. The only difficulty he had was how he would go about convincing the higher-ups of the guild to agree to his idea. He would need at least 10 million gold Fordes to build up the infrastructure of the duchy, that's if he even managed to take it, to improve the living standards to win over the duchy's inhabitants. Even though it would stabilize the guild's control over their dominion, and gradually bring in profits, it's a little too slow for merchants like them who felt that transactions that took too much time wasn't good business.
Serihanem, who understood the merchants well, knew that this was the best chance he had to bring up his idea -- when the higher-ups were troubled by the matters concerning the interception fleets -- and felt confident that his plan had a good chance of being approved. He believed that the cost the guild would incur in their fight against Count Norton was better off invested in the Urubaha duchy. At the very least, the latter had a far greater chance of returns.
It's too bad that Serihanem was just one step late in bringing his plan. Saibyoeff stood up at that moment and said, "I have a suggestion..."
Saibyoeff hung up a large map of the Solar Seas, a map the high officials of the guild were familiar with. It depicted thousands of large and small islands and reefs.
No way... Most of the islands in the Solar Seas can only hold a small village at most! Even the largest islands are mostly mountainous. There's no place that can be made into residential areas... How could those places be fitting as the guild's dominion? thought most of them present.
However, Saibyoeff soon showed them what 'thinking out of the box' meant.
"Look here. The Solar Seas located at the south. There are around 1000 islands there. Even though the largest of the islands are smaller than a common barony, these islands are mostly located at shallow waters. Even the deeper parts are only around 20 meters at most, and the shallower parts are roughly 3 meters. The waters between the islands are so shallow that one can even walk to the next one and only get one's feet wet. When the tides recede, you'll discover that some of these islands are actually connected.
"If we connect these 27 islands with this red line here, if we fill up the shallower parts connecting the islands, we will get a composite island that is even larger than Silowas Island. On top of that, nobody will be able to dispute the legitimacy of our claim to the place. Our guild will be able to strengthen our hold on the Solar Seas gradually by clearing away the pirates one after another, firming our hold on the dominion and establishing our clan's foundation for the next millennium in the process...
The more Saibyoeff went on with his plan, the more Serihanem shook his head in annoyance.
What a useless fellow! He actually dared to suggest ocean reclamation without considering the costs it would involve, as well as the time it would take... Not only that, the military resources we would have to expend to wipe out the pirates hiding among the thousand islands would be enormous. Would father actually approve it? We are merchants. What we should focus on is speedy, efficient, and profitable transactions...
It's over... Even if I bring up making the Urubaha duchy our target, no one would bother with my suggestion anymore... With Saibyoeff's 'ingenious plan' laid before them, it will be even harder for me to convince them of my own plan... sighed Serihanem secretly.
It seemed that he would have to look for another chance to put his plan into motion. He didn't understand what his brother was thinking. Even though he had told Saibyoeff that his plan definitely wouldn't work, Saibyoeff's stubbornness made him bring up the plan anyway.
As expected, Moribak's laughter resounded in the room, interrupting Saibyoeff's presentation halfway through.
Saibyoeff scoffed angrily, "What are you laughing at?!"
Moribak finally got the chance to pay his brother back for the humiliation he received. There was no intimidating him into stopping now.
As he stepped forward gradually, Moribak said, "My beloved elder brother... Your plan is too optimistic. Naturally, it's definitely quite impressive if we are truly able to control the Solar Seas. However, how much manpower and money do you think reclaiming the shallow seas by making those landfills will take? Also, how long do you think we would need to be able to finish setting up the dominion for our guild?"
Saibyoeff was rendered speechless by those queries.
"I haven't figured that out yet, but I'm sure the guild can have someone run the numbers..."
"There's no need for that, I have already made a rough estimate. To fill up the shallow seas and connect the islands together, the guild would have to invest at least two to three million gold Fordes every year as well as use 1000 large vessels to transport the dirt and rocks needed for such huge undertaking. After spending ten whole years, we will only be able to fill up a third of the area you specified."
Seeing Saibyoeff's stupefied look, Moribak continued, "Brother, do you know how much the guild's revenue is? We only make 2 million gold Fordes annually. Deducting the expenses and bonuses we have to pay out, less than 400 thousand or so goes into the treasury. Why did you think the guild refused your request to form another armed fleet? We can't afford to maintain another one. Have you any idea how much it costs us every year to eradicate pirates? 500 thousand gold Fordes, almost as much as the yearly revenue of the northern fleet…"
"I really don't understand how you could come up with such a brainless plan. Filling up the Solar Seas... Only a person like you would even conceive something so ludicrous. Do you think that this is something a merchant guild like us should do? Only an empire can complete a project on that scale, to say nothing of the dozens of years it could take us. Our father is the president of a merchant guild. Even if he gets a title, it's only the title of a duke. It's far from what we need to lay claim over the entire Solar Seas. Do you want our father to become the laughing stock of the whole continent for the next thousand years?
"Why can the other dukes forcefully conquer others' territory and make it their own, but not us? The trade union will be implementing the nobility system in just a few months. By then, the six other guilds would have established their dominions already, and we would have nothing. How do you think our guild will be able to stand on equal footing with the other guilds? Do you think we should tell them that we're filling up the seas and will have our dominion ready in another ten years?
"No matter how much you object to my plan, even you must have to admit that there isn't any other place more suitable for us to establish our dominion than Silowas Island. So what if they're a noble house with a military background? What's the big deal of a rank 3 blademaster? Isn't he human all the same? As long as he is not a swordsaint, we will have many methods available to us to deal with him.
"Even though our guild has suffered huge losses due to carelessness and lack of intel, I believe that we are still able to hold our ground against our enemies. Now that we know enough about Count Norton's background, we will definitely triumph as long as we carefully execute a few thorough plans!"
"You... You don't understand how scary a rank 3 blademaster can be, especially one as young as Count Norton... He even has a good chance of becoming a swordsaint in the future. Your irresponsible actions will doom the whole guild to oblivion!" roared Saibyoeff.
"You're giving up before bothering to try!" Moribak retorted, "If that's the case, all we have to do is to put him to death before he becomes a swordsaint. He is still just a rank 3 blademaster, after all. We can even ask for outside help if necessary. The Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild and the Mayflower Merchant Guild each have a rank 3 blademaster among their ranks, while the Wessia Merchant Guild has two rank 2 blademasters. All we have to do is spend some money to hire them. Any problem that can be solved with money is no problem at all. If four blademasters aren't enough, we'll hire eight. As long as we wipe that count out, his house will slowly begin to crumble. Then we will no longer have anything to worry about."
No longer able to argue against his brother, Saibyoeff rolled up his sleeves angrily and attempted to strike him.
"Stop, Saibyoeff! Stand down!" President Chikdor shouted while giving his second son a harsh glance.
The idea he proposed to fill up the seas was nothing but a big joke. Moribak's arguments had deeply resonated with his own thoughts. Indeed, Silowas Island was the piece of land most easily obtainable. All they had to do was wipe out the blademaster, Count Norton.
"Second Uncle, what do you think?" President Chikdor asked Udi, who was seated beside him.
The Chikdor Merchant Guild was not one that was controlled completely by one family. Initially, they were known as the Sword and Barrel merchant guild, which was originally formed by a group of close friends. Eventually, when one of the ancestors of the Chikdor clan took over, and brought the guild to the ranks of the other largest guilds in the union, the Chikdor clan obtained 70 percent shares of the guild and changed its name to its current one. Also, the position of president could only be inherited by the descendants of the Chikdor clan.
As for the families of the other founders who were part of the guild, the incompetent ones would survive on the dividends of the guild, while the competent ones would eventually serve as the high-ranking officials within the guild. After Blademaster Udi was discovered to be talented at a young age, he was raised with the utmost care and attention. This caused him to become a force that the guild could rely on.
In terms of seniority, even President Chikdor had to refer to him as uncle.
Udi shook his head with a smile, and said, "I boarded the ship Kumori died on and took a look at the traces the battle had left behind. To be honest, I don't think four blademasters will be enough. It's better to hire eight. All of them should also be at least at the second rank. Since we're choosing this route, it's better to not skimp on the costs. As long as the guild exists, we will be able to make the money back."
President Chikdor thumped on the table lightly and announced, "Alright, then the decision to set up the clan's dominion at Silowas Island is confirmed. There will be no more discussion of this. Moribak, send someone to get more information about Count Norton and his house as well as everything we need to know about Silowas Island. If there is another mistake, I will not forgive you again...
"Serihanem, contact the various rank 2 blademasters and see how much they would charge us for this assignment. As long as it is reasonable, accept their offer. They shouldn't be able to criticize us for being stingy when it comes to asking them to risk their lives on a mission like this."
"Yes, father," said Serihanem respectfully as he stood up and bowed.