Chapter 151: To the Florence Principality (1)

It required a pinch of violence and duress, but Robin obeyed Queen Leila’s orders and set out to do as she willed. But before he acceded, Robin nagged them to the ends of the earth to guarantee him a performance incentive.

‘I was going to give him an incentive anyway.’

What he did not know was that Milton was thinking as such.

***

The newly amalgamated Northern Region of the Lester Kingdom – in other words, the old Hildess Republic.

The late Hildess Republic’s main industry was mining.

As the majority of their topography consisted of mountains, there were veins of ores abounds; and the iron ore that came out of these deposits were famous for their particularly high quality. In fact, the Hildess Republic was said to be a nation-sized forge by the other Republics. Added to this was that their other main industry was the production and export of weapons.

This naturally meant that their livelihood and economy depended on mining, and their population consequently centered around mining towns.

Conversely, there was a region that became neglected: namely, the coastal areas to the West. The reason this became the case was their comparatively low potential value.

When the Hildess Republic was still standing, their only trading partners were the other two Republics. Disregarding negligible small-scale black-market trading, exchanges between the Republics and Kingdoms were not allowed in the public realm.

As such, interstate trade and commerce between the Republics were limited to land routes. Naval trade was unthinkable: to travel by ship, they would need to wrap around much of the continent, which not only took an exorbitant amount of time but required one to travel through the territorial waters of Kingdoms.

As a result, the coastal region purely devoted themselves to fishing, and the seafood that they caught on their coastlines was the only good that was produced by the Western region. Scraping up seafood from their nets and selling them to the wider country was their one existing industry. Geographically speaking, the area boasted all the requisite conditions for the construction of a large-scale commercial port – yet their only livelihood remained their minor fishing businesses.

As such, the coastal region of the West was substantially underdeveloped compared to the wider Hildess Lands.

Queen Leila turned her attention to this point: this region had lagged behind others and become run down through neglect. A region like this was likely to have comparatively lower positive public sentiment regarding the Republics.

What would happen if such a place suddenly underwent rapid development?

Queen Leila mobilized Robin and his ship, and ordered it to be filled to the brim with food products to be distributed in the coastal port towns of the North.

***

“Oi, what’s that?”

“That’s one massive ship. Don’t tell me… is that a warship?”

“Surely not. The war’s over, innit?”

The Northwestern locals restlessly whispered amongst themselves at the appearance of this colossal vessel on their town’s waters. Paying them no heed, the gigantic ship docked at the town port and began to briskly unload something.

“What are they doing?”

“Dunno. Why would I know?”

The fishermen of the coast continued to watch them, half tempered with anticipation and half with fear.

One of the men from the ship approached the spectators and introduced himself.

“Now then, everyone – my name is Robin, and I am the manager of a merchant company under the direct operation of the Royal Palace. My identity is that of a commoner much like you all, so there’s no need to worry on that front.”

Although the people were initially on edge at the mention of the Royal Palace, they seemed to loosen just a bit at the fact that Robin was of the same modest upbringing as them. Robin continued his speech.

“I’ve come here today to sell wheat and barley that I’ve brought straight from the Royal Palace.”

“He’s selling food?”

“Actually?”

From the era of the Hildess Republic, this region highly valued food commodities. It was only a given since the majority of their topography consisted of mountains.

They had tried a plethora of workarounds – from slash-and-burn agriculture to planting greens that could survive the harsh mountain environment – but the effects on their natural scarcity of food were negligible.

As such, a merchant who came offering to sell food commodities was always a welcome guest, no matter their affiliation.

“From when will you start selling?” asked one of the townspeople.

Robin answered with an amicable smile, “Why, from now of course. Now then, each lot of wheat will go for 80 silver coins, while each lot of barley is going for 30 silver. It’s cheap I’m telling you, real cheap!”

Robin began promoting the goods and livening the atmosphere, a role he seemed familiar with. This considerably enlivened the people.

“A lot of wheat for 80 silver?”

“Barley for 30 silver? Unbelievable.”

The townspeople’s eyes widened as they heard the prices. They had not once bought food at these prices in their lives.

With how expensive food was in this area, a lot of wheat normally went for 3 gold; and in a year of bad harvests, it had shot up to as high as 10 gold per lot in the past.

“G… give me one lot – no, make that two.”

“Wait… I’d like to make a purchase as well. Just give me a moment.”

“Hang on while I pop by home and get my money – ah! Do you accept goods as well?”

Robin smiled amicably at the question.

“We do have an inclination to purchase the stockfish you all produce here. We’ll accept as much as you bring.”

That one statement set fire to the townspeople, who dashed to their houses with new fervor. When they reappeared, in their hands were all kinds of dried fish.

“Oooh! Thank you. We’ll formally purchase them at this stand right here, so please line up.”

With that, this tranquil fishing hamlet suddenly turned into the grounds of a massive trading market.

“200 dried herrings. We’ll take it for 1 gold and 20 silver.”

“Ooooh… truly, will you be offering that price?”

“Most certainly. Oh! And what may that be, good sir?”

“That dried stock of a shellfish is known as abalone. It’s a prized thing that comes up in the nets on a good day…”

“It will be rather difficult to determine a just price for this product as it is my first time coming across it… screw it. I’ll do it by feel. We’ll do one gold for every ten.”

“Ooooh… thank you.”

Robin bought all the goods that the townspeople brought at substantially high prices, and conversely sold his food commodities at unprecedented bargain prices.

Their fiery trading continued for half a day, upon which the townspeople asked Robin and his company a question with bright smiles.

“Did you say you were a merchant’s guild under the direct management of the royal family?”

“Indeed we are.”

“Mu-… much thanks to you all. Would you mind me asking one more question?”

“Certainly not. Be on with it.”

“Do you all have any profits to take home doing business like this?”

At this man’s one question, the other townspeople shot him a dirty look.

‘Oh, that witless idiot!’

‘Just let’em sell themselves dry.’

Robin was all too aware of what words their expressions conveyed.

‘These lil’ rascals look at me as a doormat, huh?’

Rather than being perturbed, Robin found their scuttling about to be laughable. Yet he still maintained that same amicable smile as he replied.

“Her Highness the Queen has stated that trivialities such as financial losses here and there are nothing compared to the priority of improving the food situation of the people.”

 “Oh… so does that mean…?”

“Yes, we have nothing left in terms of profits – but we intend to continue trading in this fashion, visiting at least once or twice every month.”

“Wooooooow!!”

“Long live the Queen!!”

The people cheered, for this sounded no different to an announcement that this doormat will come again next month. But Robin was not yet done.

“Of course, we fully intend to purchase not only stockfish but other goods as well, whether that be iron ore, precious gems, or even coal. After all, are those not the main specialties of this region?”

The people reacted with some ambivalence to Robin’s suggestion.

 “The mining towns of the inland areas ‘ave got a monopoly on things like that. For us, it’ll be a lil’…”

“Dear me, who suggested that you mine them firsthand? Could you all not simply buy it from them and resell it to me?”

“That’s easier said than done, I’m afraid. With what money would we…”

“Have you not just made that money today?”

Robin gestured to the grains they bought.

“Oh…?”

The sharper ones realized what Robin was suggesting as he continued.

“Food is expensive in this region, is it not? Since we have sold these foods to you at such low prices, could you not simply set a profit margin that you see fit and sell it to the inland areas?”

“In-… indeed.”

“If you are to use that money to purchase goods such as ores and coal and bring them to us, we will buy them with a healthy margin. Then that money could be used to buy a greater amount of grains and other food products.”

“Oooooh…”

“I suppose there was a way like that.”

The fishermen of the coastal towns, who spent their entire lives knowing nothing more about ways to make a living other than casting their nets into the ocean, had a glimpse of a new world with Robin’s tutelage. Robin grinned as he watched them and chimed in one more time.

“And that’s what you call a business.”

‘Got that? You bunch of exploitable doormats.’

Robin received the warmest of receptions from the townspeople for selling the grains at such generous prices. As he prepared for his return, they exchanged words on how he would bring more food products on their ships next time; and how they should likewise prepare more goods for exchange.

“Now then, I’ll be coming again next month.”

“Yes, please do.”

“Please be careful on your voyage!”

Robin boarded the ship with the hearty hospitality of the fishermen. He beamed at the townspeople and waved back at them as he thought to himself on the inside.

‘That was easy.’

He had been somewhat worried at first, but was food truly that scarce in these areas?

Thanks to this fact, he was able to honey up the people of the fishing hamlet with resounding success.

The royal order that Robin received from Queen Leila was to invigorate maritime trade in the Western regions of the North, backed by Milton’s threat of an exorbitant fine if he did not carry out his job properly. To complete his assignment, Robin hatched a strategy that required him to prepare himself to greet the coastal people personally, and kindly (?) teach them how to do business.

Did this particular day of trading result in a profit? No, it did not.

But this was an investment for the future, just as a cow needed to be fed before it could produce good milk.

The coastal people were sold prized grains at a low price, and their surplus goods were deliberately purchased at high price points. Now that the people knew of this repeatable profitable opportunity, they would be bound to attempt trading with the mining industry of the inlands to raise their profits even more.

The kingdom sent an official to the mining towns to open negotiations, but they did not want to cooperate with monarchists. However, it was a different story if their same ex-countrymen were the ones who brought grains to sell. The scarcity of grains was a commonality amongst the entirety of the newfound Northern region.

If more ports were revitalized in this manner, money and commodities would naturally begin to pool in the Northwest. This would lead to the development of their economy; and the residents of the coastal areas, who would undergo this development through the kingdom’s support, would greatly reduce their rejection of the new monarchy.

Robin talked to one of his subordinates.

“Where’s our next destination?”

“Around a day of sailing northbound lies Port Cape. Topographically speaking, I believe it has realistic potential of growing into a large-scale commercial port.”

“Good. I’m going to go get some shuteye, so wake me up when we get there.”

With that, Robin retired to his cabin.

According to Queen Leila’s orders, there were three ports that needed to be developed. He was going to need rest whenever possible if he was to mull his head over taking care of them all.

‘Don’t you dare not give me a bonus.’

Robin thought as he lay awake in his bedroom.

***

The coastal ports of the Northern region began to receive colossal funding.

Their initial activity only consisted of selling a portion of their grains, but their operations began to gradually increase in scale. In turn, the goods and products sold in the coastal districts also began to diversify and increase in trading volume.

At first, the only other traded goods were stockfish or fur from the beasts that lived in the mountains. But one day, someone employed laborers and began selling construction materials such as lumber and stone, and this business boomed. Other people who witnessed the process of this rise followed suit, and there were those that even took it a step further and established their own merchant companies. 

These people began by selling foodstuff at high prices in the inlands, and buying the ores from the inland mines as cheaply as possible which they sold again to the royal merchant company back in their coastal hometowns to eventually amass an immense amount of capital.

Where money gathered, so did people; and where people gathered, growth was bound to occur.

The three ports which Queen Leila pinpointed were once humble fishing towns, but they had developed blindingly fast to become unrecognizable in less than a year. In fact, one may have seen their amount of growth in such a short time as being almost comical.

Leaving everything else aside, the economy was prioritized first and foremost to guarantee growth and development.

But as they did so, some negative side effects began to rise to the surface.

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