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Bank, Entitlement and Real Estate

Here's the second chapter of the week!

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As a result of the worldview he had, limited by the culture and time he had lived in, Charade only considered releasing one's own currency as a method to increase the house's influence, much to Lorist's dismay. All nations in Grindia produced currency with the same ratio of metals. Their value was thus not determined by the metals inside, but their weight. The only true difference in the different currencies was that the Union's method was far more advanced and efficient than all the others.

It was in a merchant's nature to seek profit out. Lorist remembered attending a course about the history of gold when he was still the owner of his small workshop in his past life. In it, he learned that in the middle ages the Jews, who had lost their homes and traveled across Europe, noticed the profits that could be made in currency trading. They took immediate action and became primarily money-lenders, currency traders, and grocers. It was thanks to their domination of these three trades that they amassed so much wealth that they could even influence the world economy.

But, unlike the middle ages of Lorist's past life, the ones who controlled wealth and trade, and performed part of the functions the Jews had in middle age societies, was the shrine of the goddess Zejin. They did some things better than the Jews, in fact. For example, thanks to the trust they had from the public, they did appraisals for property and real estate. They were also witnesses to many business contracts and also released their gold Forde bills that could be used instead of the coins themselves. They also provided loans to nobles, merchant guilds, and even nations. In some ways, the shrine of the goddess Zejin was akin to a modern-day bank.



However, as opposed to a real bank, the shrine didn't provide services to store one's savings. That was the domain of large merchant guilds or even nations and noble houses. They also played a small part in private businesses, providing only services for exchanging gold Fordes into bills for ease of transport. The shrine's influence wasn't able to grow because they limited their activities. Almost no non-merchant commoners believed in Zejin. When the civil war started, the shrine left the empire. Now the closest branch to The Northlands was in Morante.

The plan that Lorist had to accompany Charade's proposal of releasing their own currency was to start a bank that could provide loans to any new businesses or factories that wished to start up and let commoners store their savings. It would definitely be beneficial to the house as it would own a share of 30 percent of all businesses started within the dominion. Lorist believed that after starting his own bank, he could use it to mitigate the burden of private business owners with his loans, providing an avenue for healthy competition. Not only that, the bank could also function as account auditors to decrease the rates fraud.

The most important thing was that Lorist would be able to regulate the flow of money within the dominion so he could decrease the burden of military and development expenditure on the house. Most people in Grindia had the habit of putting away their savings, normally by burying it, to prepare for urgent times. Given the population of the Norton dominion, which now neared 1.5 million, each household would have no less than ten gold Fordes in savings. Spiel estimated that the average citizen in Felicitas would be the first to gather a good amount of wealth. It was also the reason Spiel had suggested an increase in taxes.

Following the Hanayabarta kingdom's extermination by House Norton, the house obtained around 27 million gold Fordes. Lorist's spending in the following three years used up ten million.

According to Lorist's experience in the previous world, letting such a huge amount of currency into the market should've caused an economic crisis via inflation. However, the household's economic situation wasn't destabilized at all. This was mainly for two reasons: the house's subjects didn't spend much in the first place and were satisfied as long as they had food and a home, and they would save the extra gold without. This meant that Lorist's investments were essentially coins tossed into a well.

Lorist took out a beastskin and wrote the word 'bank' on it. He hoped that, within the year, he could wrap up the management issues within his dominion before launching his attack on the Iblia kingdom the following year and tangling with Duke Fisablen. When he made his move, he would leave most of the house's affairs to Charade, so he planned to write his plans down and leave their implementation to Charade as well.

Lorist spent the 11th month busy with one meeting after another. Charade was awed when Lorist suggested the formation of their own bank and even suggested an idol of Zejin be placed in the building to reassure people that the bank would carry out the functions of Zejin's shrines. It was an act in bad taste on Charade's part, as he wished to see the looks in the clergy's faces when they went to The Northlands to request to be allowed to set up a branch after seeing how rich the place was, only to see that the bank had taken the shrine's place.

Lorist also finished dealing with the list of people to be entitled. The house was to entitle two viscounts and 12 barons in this round. No one expected the two viscount titles to be given to grandmasters Sid and Fellin. Lorist's reasoning was that without them the household wouldn't have gotten Sid steel armor, steel ballistae and catapults, all of which were central to the Nortons' successes. Rumour had it that Grandmaster Sid cried like a small child as he pledged to serve House Norton on behalf of his descendants for eternity during the ceremony. As for Grandmaster Fellin, he was so moved that he fainted on the spot. When he finally woke, he had his son give him a slap to see whether he was still dreaming.

The twelve barons unsurprisingly included Potterfang, Fiercetiger Loze, Ironface Malek, Divine Marksman Josk, White Belnick and Mercenary Freiyar, the first ones to join Lorist. There were supervisors Hansk, Spiel, and Kedan as well. They were the three household supervisors from Maplewoods. They were finally rewarded for their years of service, service that stretched back to even before Lorist inherited his position as head of the household, and their contribution over those years. The final three caused quite a stir.

The first was Charade. As the chief knight of House Norton, he should've been made a baron without question, however, in comparison to Els, Terman, Yuriy and some others, Charade's promotion seemed a little too fast. The second was Grandmaster Jilian, entitled because of his technical contributions. Due to the nature of his discoveries concerning materials, which were not as eye-catching as those of grandmasters Fellin and Sid, there was much argument about what reward Julian deserved. Camorra was the last one and came with many voices of objection.

Baron Camorra had once been an honorary noble entitled by the former Duke of The Northlands, Duke Loggins. After he wronged the duke and was imprisoned in the water dungeon, however, his title was rescinded. Lorist appreciated his talent and had him serve the house after his release. Camorra had started off as the lowest-ranked official. It was not until Kedan noticed his abilities that he began to climb the ladder step by step, eventually becoming an executive official. In the end, he was given the task of overseeing the most secretive arms-producing forges. Not a single problem had come up since Camorra took up the position. He also managed to increase the forges' efficiency greatly, thus lowering the manufacturing costs of anything produced there. It was precisely because these achievements that Lorist insisted on his entitlement despite the opposition of some in the house.

When he received notice of his impending entitlement, the Camorra shut himself up in his quarters and cried for half a day, before he packed up and headed to Baron Jesder -- one of the seventeen soon-to-be-relocated nobles at Firmrock Castle -- for a visit. The reason for his visit was to propose a marriage between himself and the baron's widowed sister, who -- along with her 7-year-old son -- was living with him. Now that he was to be entitled, he could establish his own house, House Camorra.

Apart from the 14 noble houses already relocated, the nobles whose domains Lorist had conquered, were enfeoffed land in Delamock. They were demoted by a rank and made Norton vassals. In other words, House Norton was now their liege. One example was Count Spenseid, who was made a viscount and had pledged allegiance to Lorist.

To the 17 nobles, it was both a tragedy and a blessing. Those already barons were no doubt happy with the situation, as The Northlands couldn't compare to the once-prosperous Delamock. Their relocation meant a better life was waiting for them. The other nine, however, were rather troubled. The former counts were demoted to viscounts, while viscounts were made barons. Even with the penalties, House Norton was rather benevolent. It was already rather fortunate to retain a dominion even after having stood on the wrong side of history. It was their fault for siding with the second prince in the first place.

After ascertaining the list of relocated nobles and new entitled ones, Lorist also gave out six honorary titles. The first was Governor of Hanayabarta Archipelago, awarded to Hector. The might not come with land, and might not be hereditary, but this didn't mean it was anything to scoff at.  An honorary title could be considered a stepping stone; if the awardee didn't make any mistakes, they were on track to receiving a proper, hereditary title at some point in the future.

The second to receive an honorary title was Old Man Balk. Actually, Lorist really wanted to make him a proper landed noble, but almost all of his officials and knights objected. They complained that he had only been the manager of a copper mine.  He had nowhere near the contributions of the other nobles-in-waiting. To use an analogy, Balk was the one who erected the foundations while the three supervisors built the walls and floors. Everyone praised the beauty of the finished house, but nobody remembered the hidden foundations and the important role they played.

Next was Grandmaster Ciroba. The genius architect forced by Lorist to serve the house had already taken charge of all of the house's construction projects. He was currently neck deep in projects and had a rather fervent tendency of naming all the projects after himself, for example, Great Ciroba Dam, Ciroba Citadel, Ciroba Highway, and many others. While most of the names were later amended, it didn't change the old architect's habit. Just recently, he had named cannon station and lighthouse at Bullhorn Bay Ciroba Battery and Ciroba Lighthouse. In the end, Lorist changed the Ciroba Battery to Bullhorn Bay Battery, but he allowed the lighthouse to keep its original name.

Lorist's lover Telesti, academy head of Nico Academy, was also on the list for an honorary title. However, she refused to be made baroness. She only wanted to bear the same baronetess title as her mother. It was an honorary title above that of Knight of the Household, but did not actually convey peerage. It was thus the highest title of minor nobility.

The fifth and six titles of honorary baron were given to the house's two rank 1 blademasters, Engelich and Shuss. Shuss had prospects and ambitions of becoming a hereditary noble in the future, Engelich was already satisfied with his life as a rank 1 blademaster. While Shuss still actively served the house, Engelich was only willing to guard Firmrock Castle.

After he signed all the documents, Lorist finally relaxed. The decrees, although already made, would only take effect on the 1st day of the 1st month of the following year. Lorist planned to host a large celebration at Firmrock Castle both to welcome the new year and as an entitlement ceremony for his vassal houses. As the new Duke of The Northlands, Lorist had to hold new year's celebrations during winter just like the other dukes, to make merry with his vassals.

The land to be enfeoffed was in Delamock, but the nobles themselves couldn't stay there as they still had to serve the house. Apart from Josk, who was more than willing to leave his fief to his butler and collect the yearly income it generated, the other nobles let their family or relatives manage their fiefs while they continued to serve the house in order to stand a chance of getting a promotion to a higher rank and being given a larger fief.

Apart from preparing for the launch of a new bank and the entitlements, Lorist still had to deal with real estate. Spiel had once suggested the taxes be raised to cover the house's expenses as the subjects were gradually getting richer, but Lorist turned the idea down. He had many more ideas, inspired by the experiences of his previous life, to make the subjects throw their savings at the house.

He decided to launch a small test run by developing a new residential area. The seven towns of Felicitas and the eight towns of Salus were among the first places the house developed. Seven years had passed since their initial development and their populations had increased substantially. It saw the rise of youths moving to other towns to work as factory workers since the jobs were far more profitable than farming. It also brought about the increase in personally constructed houses, which was an inevitability considering the fact that the house only built wooden houses for the initial settlers. The growth of the population would no doubt prompt some to figure out ways to build their own homes.

The land on which the houses were built, however, belonged to the house, strictly speaking. Spiel had thought of collecting rent or a management fee for those who used the lands. It was another way to raise taxes. Lorist, however, said that, since they have allowed them to live like that without paying a fee for so many years, suddenly introducing a tax on it would only harm the house's reputation.

So, Lorist decided to start a real estate business in the 15 towns. He would demolish the ruddy wooden houses and build proper residential areas and villas for the rich. They would have to increase the town's area and build more public and administrative facilities. Felicitas would be the first of the two to undergo the procedure and the funds would be collected from pre-purchases.

Lorist had Ciroba build a simple model of the modified house in Wildnorth Town and put it on display. Those who wished to purchase one had to put down a third of the total price as a deposit. The houses would be ready in two years after purchase.

At first, the folks of Wildnorth Town were rather suspicious. Even though the models and designs were rather nice, they couldn't help but worry about the fact that they would only receive them in two year's time. While their current houses were crude, they were free and served their purpose, there was no good reason for them to spend unnecessary money to buy the new ones. Lorist came up with a great way of dealing with their reluctance.  He simply brought over people claiming to be from other towns interested in buying the houses. The sudden influx of outsiders sent the townsfolk into a panic. If the houses were all bought by outsiders, they would no longer have a place to live! Many dug out the gold coins they had buried to make buy the new houses.

"Do you see now?" Lorist asked Spiel, "We managed to get the money they stashed away, and we even let them make the purchase if they don't have enough. Those who incur a debt will just have to work for free for a few years to get their houses. They also have to pay the land lease, which will rise from 30 to 50 percent thanks to the rise in market prices. Even though the houses are theirs, the land belongs to us. If they don't pay their lease, they will be kicked out of their houses and we can even resell them. The next owner will also have to pay the lease, no exceptions. This is the right way to raise our taxes."

Spiel was so fascinated by the scheme that he instantly knelt before Lorist in admiration.

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