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Charade looked at Spiel, who was sitting alone quietly on the sofa in the study and couldn't help but wonder if anything went wrong.
Thanks to Howard, who had dragged him over in a hurry at Lorist's instruction, he was rather frustrated. He had quite a lot of matters to deal with as well. He was far too busy with the household's matters. Many things were still piled up on his desk awaiting his attention.
"Well, Supervisor Spiel, you said you instructed the house to stop using imperial gold coins and only bought them with gold Fordes from anyone who wanted to change it without any intent of spending them. So far, we already have up to eight million. This time around, we found that Duke Madras kept a stash of 10 million imperial gold coins with the intent of re-minting them as gold Fordes. It was a shame he perished before his ambitions were realized. I've asked you to come here today because I want to ask whether we can do the same. The exchange rate is far too high," explained Lorist according to what Charade had told him.
"Your Grace, I've seen the reports on the duke's intention to mint gold Fordes and I've also been considering what to do with the imperial gold coins. I wasn't able to come up with a proper proposal, so I didn't bring the matter up. I believe re-minting gold Fordes isn't a good idea," said Charade after some thought.
"Why? Gold Fordes have already become the most-widespread currency in Grindia. Even though the neighboring nations are rather guarded against the Union right now, they also use gold Fordes as their main currency. If we can re-mint imperial gold, we can start spending them right away," said Lorist.
"Your Grace, do you know which merchant guild is in charge of minting gold Fordes?" asked Charade.
He continued when he saw Lorist shake his head.
"Gold Fordes are produced by the largest merchant guild in the Union, the Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild, who are also the leaders of the big-seven. However, they only own 60 percent of the shares. Each of the six over guilds own just 5 percent. The last ten percent is used for covering the Union's administrative costs.
"As the materials and ratio of gold coins are identical, and the fact that all of them have to go through the liquid test, Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild produces them at a loss. In other words, for every 100 gold Fordes produced, 110 gold Fordes' worth of materials must be prepared. If there are any materials left after the coin production, that would be the profits of the guild. They produce 10 million gold Fordes annually on average. The record is 30 million.
"However, given the loss of ten percent for the production, the profits for producing 10 million gold Fordes per year isn't that high, only around eight percent. After deducting labor costs and maintenance costs, only around 300 thousand gold Fordes of profit is earned for every 10 million produced.
"The Union charges others 30 percent of the number of gold Fordes required to be minted, 25 for factions who have a good relationship with them. Your Grace, do you remember the Jigda kingdom? Marquis Lorf Fustat sent a good amount of gold and silver to the Union to be re-minted and Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild charged a commission of 25 percent. Actually, the real charge was only 20 percent, with the other 5 percent entering the marquis's own pockets. The Jigda kingdom had asked the Union to mint 15 million gold Fordes that year."
The Jigda kingdom... Marquis Lorf Fustat... The middle-aged noble who hugged the fairy-like girl during that moonlit night who wore a gold-ranked badge bearing the insignia of a phoenix... A wave of memories rushed to Lorist's mind, causing him to fall into a daze.
Charade stopped speaking considerately and signaled for Howard to bring him a bottle of fruit wine.
After a good while, Lorist snapped out of his daze. Charade was already having his second cup of wine.
"Why do you know so much about this?" said Lorist with a slight roughness in his voice.
"Well, I have a dumb friend who got heartbroken once. His lover left with Marquis Lorf. I checked the marquis's background and learned that his household was far too rich and powerful, so I didn't have any other way to help my friend out. It's one of the things I regret most. At the same time, I also found out about the re-minting service, so I began to research the matter out of interest. In the end, I realized the conspiracy behind the exchange rate of imperial gold coins and had intended to buy some to earn some quick money, but I gave up when I learned that only Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild dealt with the purchase and sale of imperial gold coins."
"Well, aren't you rather incompetent?" laughed Lorist.
Well, it was just a passing though. The marquis was a gold-ranked knight, so a two-star-silver-ranked knight like me would only be looking for trouble if I tried to stop him. As for the delicious piece of meat Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild had, if a small vice chairman of Dawn Academy's enforcement department tried to bite into it, he'd no doubt be squashed to death," countered Charade.
Lorist took the bottle of wine and drunk straight from it.
"To the good times at Dawn Academy."
The two gulped down their alcohol.
Spiel, who was sitting on the sofa, shook his head helplessly. His lord duke didn't care about behaving in a manner befitting his title at all. How could a duke drink like a farmer or a mercenary at a village inn?
After finishing half a bottle, Lorist wiped his mouth with his sleeve.
"I have a question for you. What method does Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild use to mint the coins? How are they able to produce so much each year?" asked he.
Lorist recalled that the various nations used a molding technique that utilized gypsum. First, they would engrave a piece of coin-shaped metal before pressing it between two gypsum pieces. When they hardened and solidified, the capillaries would be carved onto the gypsum plates to allow for liquid metal to flow in. When the metal cooled, the gypsum plates would be broken and the sides of the coin refined before it was tested. However, using this method generated a lot of waste. Taking into account the labor cost and materials, it was far from profitable.
"Your Grace, Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild uses a metal molding technique. They have a secret alloy they use to make the three plates they use for molds. There's the faceplate, middle plate, and base plate. When they're put together, molten metal is injected. The plates are cooled with water before the base and faceplates are removed. The middle plate is struck with a wooden hammer to remove the minted gold Forde. They just have to shave away at the sides of the coin to finish it off. Each set of mold plates can produce 100 gold Fordes at a time, and each minting factory has tens of molds. If it is required, they can even make close to a million gold Fordes a day.
"I visited the guild's minting factories with Academy Head Levins once. The guild doesn't mind visitors of status. Our guide, a guild manager, explained that their coin-minting process was the most advanced in the whole continent. Other nations' minting processes cost 1.5 times the coin's value, whereas the guild's only require 1.1 times. That's the main reason so many nations rely on the Union to mint their coins, and that's also why gold Fordes see so much use across the continent."
Lorist raised his head.
"You're saying there's no need for us mint gold Fordes ourselves since we can just let Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild do it for us?" asked he.
Charade thought for a long while before he shook his head.
"Your Grace, I think it's best if you don't do that. The main reason Duke Madras gathered so many imperial gold coins is probably the fact that he can't ship all of them to the Union due to the lack of a proper route. The exchange rate isn't worth the effort either. The supervisor the duke hired even told me he spent lots of time and money hiring smiths to research how to make the molding plates... to no avail.
"While minting gold Fordes privately sounds easy, it couldn't be harder. While the ingredients used to make gold coins are largely the same, the special characteristics of the molding method and the long-lasting nature of the coins' features make it necessary for any privately minted gold Fordes to look exactly like those minted by the Union. There can't be the slightest difference. It's is the toughest requirement to fulfill when it comes to private minting. Due to the nature of the minting process used by Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild, each and every minted coin looks identical. However, there's no way any private minter can get their hands on the alloyed plates, so they can only rely on gypsum minting.
"Perhaps some coins minted using the gypsum process looks rather similar to gold Fordes, but repeated minting with the same molds will no doubt cause the lines to fade ever so slightly. They will eventually be easily distinguishable. The molds will have to be changed every time, and it would raise the cost. The moment it's discovered, the value of the nation's gold Fordes would be decreased by half even if the coins pass the liquid float test. It's a disaster for whatever nation it happens to.
"Duke Madras only bothered to try because he had no other choice. However, there's no need for House Norton to go that far. It's incredibly easy to ship the gold coins across the seas and we can even get a deal on recommendation by Peterson Merchant Guild. We'll get the 20 percent rate rather than the normal 30. It's far more practical than attempting to mint our own coins. However," said Charade hesitantly.
"Would there be any difficulties?" asked Lorist curiously.
Since it would be more practical to just get Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild to do the minting, why did Charade advise him against it?
"Your Grace, I don't really know our house and The Northlands' standing. Given our close relationship with Peterson Merchant Guild, we can be considered a good business partner. But given our allegiance to the Andinaq kingdom, we're considered a vassal house of the second highness, who's the Union's sworn enemy. That's why I feel sending our imperial gold coins would be risky even if we have a written agreement with Peterson Merchant Guild. All it takes is someone's greed and our coins will be lost.
"The Union right now is no longer the one we knew from our days at Dawn Academy. I realized after the implementation of the aristocracy, the Union's people have fewer lines they're not willing to cross in comparison to nobles of other nations. Our trip to Morante last time is a good example. Additionally, I'm rather suspicious of Peterson Merchant Guild. They still owe us 500 thousand gold Fordes even now. While they're paying us back a portion every year, it's already really disappointing for a merchant guild of their size.
"I already gave instructions that our house is to no longer involve ourselves with them until they pay back their debt. They say the problem lies with the closed trade routes. The War of Glass ended several years ago, and yet even now the relations between the Union and its neighbors have yet to improve at all. I doubt severely whether they are even trying to improve their relations. I don't think sending our coins to the Union is a good idea."
Lorist tapped lightly on his desk with his index finger. Charade made a lot of sense. It was indeed far from advisable to let Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild mint the coins. If something were to happen, they'd have to go to war with the Union. While the Union would regret their greed when they met the Nortons' might, waging a campaign against an enemy that far away would no doubt drain them dry even if they emerged victorious. The one who laughed last would no doubt be the second highness. He would no doubt swallow the Nortons whole the moment he saw his chance.
"I guess it's best to keep the imperial gold coins for now," said Lorist as he stopped his tapping.
"Your Grace, I've been considering this for some time now... Should our house start minting our own currency?" asked Charade.
"Our own currency?" mused Lorist, Howard, and Spiel. They were all flabbergasted by Charade's far-out idea.
"Yes, Your Grace. Our dominion already has a population of over 1.3 million. By the time the dominion relocation is complete, we'll control the whole of The Northlands. The area of the southern and eastern parts of The Northlands will no doubt be able to fit seven more settlements the size of Felicitas. As long as we have enough immigrants, we'll end up with a population of at least three million. It's more than some kingdoms and duchies. It's entirely reasonable to start minting our own currency -- let's call it the Ragebear -- for use in our and our allies' dominions. As long as we set the rule for all trade to be done in Ragebear, we will one day be able to remove the Union's influence in our dominion through their currency."
"Forget it, stop dreaming," Lorist said with a laugh when he saw Charade's drooling face, "It's still not the right time for us to release our own currency. First, the second highness definitely won't allow a currency controlled by a noble house in the kingdom. It's something that'll affect the whole kingdom. Additionally, we don't have any gold mines. We won't be able to sustain the increasing demand for our currency. Maintaining enough supply is an issue that we'll have to deeply pay attention to. Not only that, what molding method are you going to use to mint coins? The gypsum method?"
"No, Your Grace," replied Charade seriously, "It's not that we're going to launch our currency right away, so there's no need to worry about the second highness for now. He'll be busy worrying about how to deal with the four central duchies and the Union in the years to come, and he might even thank us for releasing a currency that'll replace both gold Fordes and the defunct imperial gold coin.
"As for the mines, I've already considered the matter. When our house takes all of The Northlands, Grandmaster Sid will form a foraging team to scour the place for any mineable resources. There's also a small gold mine at the eastern Northlands which House Kenmays controls. Even though it's been mined for quite some time, Grandmaster Sid is rather certain there are still gold veins waiting to be found. There's no way a small gold vein would exist just by itself.
"And even if we don't find any gold mines, we still have horseshoe gold and the gold dust Count Kenmays paid us with we can use to produce more than 20 million coins with the same volume as gold Fordes. That many is already enough to facilitate trade in the areas our house has influence. Even if we do happen to encounter a shortage, we can still purchase gold ore or gold Fordes for material.
"As for the molding method, I hope to use the same alloyed plates Twinhead Merchant Guild uses. I've already consulted with Grandmaster Julian and he expressed interest in researching a similar alloy. With that as material, we can make molds for our own coins and produce Ragebears at a low cost like Twinhead Dragon Merchant Guild."
Upon hearing about the possibility of minting coins at low cost, Spiel stood up.
"Your Grace, I agree with Sir Charade's suggestion. I believe our house should start producing our own currency," said he.
Lorist gave it some thought before he nodded.
"Charade, submit a formal proposal. I'll consider our situation and have a meeting to discuss this soon. Let's end our discussion today."
"Understood, Your Grace."