“Someone came. To look for you. Before…”notified Veirya, from behind while taking my outer coat from me.
“I know. Anna told me. Do you know what he came for?”
“They. Want me to go see the elves. To ensure their safety.”
Despite Veirya’s simple answer, I couldn’t comprehend it. It wasn’t that I couldn’t understand what she said. I just couldn’t fathom what the workers were thinking. See, why would they wanted us to see the elves to guarantee their safety? In addition, their safety wasn’t my duty. I was never the person in charge of the mine. They should’ve asked Edward to help them address the safety issue. It was pointless to bring it up with me. To add, I didn’t think Veirya wanted to talk to the elves. After all, what happened between Veirya, the elves’ reigning Queen, Lucia, and I wasn’t exactly uh… harmonious. Ever since what happened between us, I hadn’t dared to go near their forest. I was worried that they might kidnap me; I was more worried than the workers. At most, the elves would kidnap them to sell for money. If I was kidnapped, then my fate was sealed. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the elves.
“Have the elves done anything recently?”
Veirya pinched her chin: “… No. I have not. Heard anything. If. The elves came here. What do. We do? Can I. Fight them?”
I noticed the subtle change in Veirya’s expression after her question, which was why I didn’t waste a moment in responding, “It would be best if you could avoid a physical altercation. I’m not worried about them. You might get hurt, though.”
I used my desire for her safety to steer the discussion away. The moment elves are brought up, the atmosphere between us turns eerie. It was akin to a husband and wife speaking about their exes who they still had lingering feelings for. To compound the matter, this particular ex of mine hadn’t given up yet.
“Leave the matter with the elves alone for the meantime… Humans and elves haven’t signed a ceasefire agreement. It’s just a tacit ceasefire. If we don’t handle it well, we might incite another conflict…”
As I previously stated. Elves and humanity didn’t have an official ceasefire in place. Else, the coal mine sitting on the two races’ border was in a pickle. I didn’t know if the elves had threatened the workers or not. Without a ceasefire, either side could march their army across. The elves could infiltrate since it was a forest , capture the workers and sell them for money. And what could humanity do about it? I doubted Queen Sisi would march her army again for the workers. Sisi was in a financial crisis already due to the previous failure. If she failed again, the entire empire would go kapoof.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about Veirya; the elves might very well purposely lure Veirya into an ambush. If Veirya initiated an attack, they could ambush her to kill or capture her. If I went to the elven lands again, it was a one hundred percent guarantee that I’d never come back again. I wasn’t sure if it was Lucia’s newest scheme…
Regardless of what Lucia wanted, I needed to counter the changes in circumstances. I planned to just up and leave for the imperial capital. As for the workers’ issue, I’d just handball it to Edward. Whether he decides to pull out his wallet to hire mercenaries, or coax the elves into staying in their own lane with money was none of my business.
It was just a mine, yet they had to make things so complicated. I didn’t know what the elves were up to, nor did I know what had to be done to get the workers to get to work. Additionally, I still didn’t know what the stance of the other shareholders were. Whether or not the coal could be successfully sold after it was extracted was a problem in itself. If it could be successfully sold, then I had another problem to resolve, which was how to get the shareholders to give up their shares. I couldn’t splash cold water in their faces right off the bat or fry Edward. When it was time for me to light the flame, I needed have the pan in my hand so that I could fry a dish with the flavour I desired.
As we didn’t have the internet in this era, the speed at which news travelled was about as fast as horses could go. The letter I wrote to Sisi should’ve just about finally arrived in her hands now, and news from the imperial capital might take a long time to reach the North. By then, it’d be too late. I needed to pen a letter to Achilles in order to ensure that I could receive news from the imperial palace immediately. I believed that Achilles was the one closest to Sisi in my absence.
Sisi’s response was the most important step in my plan. Only after knowing her stance could I enact my plan. Until then, I was a sitting duck.
Once Sisi gave the order to invest into producing steam engines, the value of coal would finally be revealed. Once the value of coal was known, the bank would perceive my shares to be worthy as collateral, thereby giving me a sum of money. Next, I’d buy shares and pawn those shares for more money. Then, it became a process of rinse and repeat, allowing me to earn over and over. Further, due to the change in value, I would be able to loan larger sums from the bank using the shares. That wasn’t even all of it. Owing to the competition between banks, the profitable collateral would make it a breeze for me to go between banks.
In the end, I could pawn the right to the coal mine for fifty thousand gold coins. I could then either have Sisi give up on a steam engine policy or use her leverage her right to land to pass the mine to the nation. There was no chance the bank would dare to fight the Queen for the rights. As a consequence, the bank would go bankrupt. I would’ve fulfilled my duty. I wouldn’t have money to pay back my debt, so I’d have to turn over to the bank what I pawned for them to keep. Nevertheless, my hands would be off the case, and it would have nothing to do with me after Sisi took the rights to it.
Alternatively, I could ask Sisi to give up on a steam engine policy as I mentioned. That was fairly unrealistic, having said that. Otherwise, I could find higher quality coal at a lower price, subsequently plummeting the value of the coal mine in the North. Once it did lose its value, though, it wouldn’t have anything to do with me because it was a fact that I had already gave them collateral of equal value. If the price of the coal mine dropped after they accepted my collateral, that wasn’t my issue. Fundamentally, it would be a form of future contract. All could be said was that I placed my bet on its value depreciating.
I didn’t particularly want the coal mine. The only reason I wanted the shares was to sell it off for a favourable price. Once I pocketed fifty thousand gold coins, I could go to the imperial capital and do whatever I fancied. The prerequisite was that I would need to make the value of the coal mine on the mountain depreciate; else, I wouldn’t have earned anything.
Selling a coal mine worth fifty thousand gold coins for fifty thousand gold coins isn’t what a businessman should do. Any idiot could achieve that.
Among all of the ideas I had, only one made the most sense. The best outcome would be to find another coal mine through the dwarves. Then, I’d hide its existence to start with. Only at the end, once bank took the bait, would I reveal the new coal mine. The question was, would I be able to find another one? From the standpoint of the modern day paradigm, coal mines weren’t rare. Therefore, I deduced that it was quite possible to find another coal mine. What was most vital at present was to get the rights to the mine. There are plenty of chances for a slip between the cup and the lips. What would I do if somebody found another mine before me?
Unfortunately, I still needed to do something about the workers even though I didn’t want to get involve. The workers didn’t make me wait long. I didn’t know if they had someone keeping an eye on our estate or what. As soon as I finished lunch and had only finished writing half of my letter, someone knocked. I asked Anna to have them wait for a bit and then swiftly finished composing the letter. Ross put forward his best effort to blow the ink dry and sealed the letter in the envelope. While he took it to the deliveryman, I went downstairs.
A man dressed in gunny cloth stood restlessly in the guest room. Perhaps his skin colour resembled soil due to a lot of work with Mother Nature, which could also explain his chapped and cracked skin. He squinted, presumably due to minimal sunlight exposure. He clasped his hands so tightly that one would think he might squeeze a handful of soil out between them. By no accounts did I feel disgusted.
“Please take a seat. Did you have something you wanted to say?” I revealed my usual smile and sat down opposite him.
He gripped his clothes. Judging from his demeanour, he, presumably, didn’t often socialise with high-ranking figures or heavyweights. I invited him to sit, but he still sat in place, refusing to budge. I didn’t care if he stood or sat, to be honest.
“Whatever this is about, you need to tell me first. Whether something can be done or not is another story.”
“S-so, we are in your territory. We are workers planning to extract the black stones from the mountain near the elven lands. Mm… you should already know… You know… elves and humans had a fight, right…? Now… Our camp… is not safe… because it is close to the elves… At night, the elves seem to be around us. During the day, we can see arrows that had been shot onto the timber at the top of our tents. Food… keeps getting stolen… We do not dare to go out at night… umm… if possible… Please … Please… Please speak to the elves, so that we can work…”
No surprises there. I touched my ears and questioned, “Look at my ears. Have a look. Are they long?”
“N-no, they are not… Mm…”
“Exactly. They aren’t long.”
All I had to do was look to Anna for her to understand what my intention was. She approached to prepare to see our guest out.
“I’m the same as you are. I’m also human. Why do you think that the elves will treat me kindly? Furthermore, if they want to take you hostage, wouldn’t I, a human, the person in charge of the land, be a better target? Trying to converse with elves is not wise. I can’t guarantee I can help you. The best I can do is get in contact with Edward. That’s the only thing I can do. You must understand that I have never hired you, and you have nothing to do with me. All of your requests should go to Edward, not me. I’d like to ask you to address your concerns and requests to the person responsible, not me.”
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