The imperial capital’s market was split up into different regions. The centre of the imperial capital was the plaza, which was where Queen Sisi would take the roll each time when the military headed to war. Enclosing the plaza were large buildings that had developed into designs similar to modern buildings. The majority of them sold luxury goods such as gems, resplendent clothing, make-up and goods from the mysterious East.
Porcelain goods, which fetched outlandish prices, made me feel nostalgic. Although I lived in this world and had a child, a wife and even mistresses, when I saw the porcelain items, I enjoyed the bliss and nostalgia of home. I mused, “If I get the chance, I’m going to go and visit the East. It seems that East India Company will change their name. Mm, seems I’m in a strong faction this time.”
The luxury goods area in the imperial capital didn’t sell the fabrics. Instead, they sold things identical to velvet and fabrics for exorbitant prices. The fabric that was similar to cotton was the choice of fabric for commoners. Therefore, the fabric must’ve been affordable. The two corners towards the south of the city were the commoners’ residential district. The two corners up north on either side of the imperial palace were where nobles resided.
Peering outside the carriage window upon arrival in the commoners’ zone, I discovered they were a completely different scene. Going from the centre of the city to their area was akin to time travelling for the place’s appearance resembled a place that had been abandoned for decades.
The air no longer smelt nice. Instead, I could smell a strange mix of smells that was unpleasant. Moreover, there didn’t seem to be any planning that went into its organisation to speak of. Horses and horse carriages shared the main road, albeit splitting it between them, thereby avoiding collisions with people walking around. Nevertheless, the floor wasn’t constructed from expensive rocks; it was just common dirt and sand. The horse carriages moving along and horses would just take dumps on the road as they pleased, leaving them to become bricks on the ground. The filthy water on the ground looked as though it had been there for ages. The people on either side of the road didn’t wear clothing as nice and elegant as in the centre of the city. The hawkers squeezed onto the middle of the road, consequently stalling my horse carriage for ages.
“This city is the heart of the nation; why does this place look so damaged and despondent? Nothing here would fit in the centre of the city. It’s like being in two worlds,” I noted silently.
The coach shouted and even resorted to coarse language to get the people to make way. Unfortunately, the people didn’t care. In all fairness, I wasn’t some sort of big wig. I wasn’t a duke, nor did I possess anything to prove my status. I hired an ordinary carriage, and I doubt anybody would’ve recognised my sky-blue cap. I knocked on the ceiling of the carriage, signalling for the coach to pull over. I paid him and told him to wait for me nearby.
The owner of a stall selling a small range of thick fabric folded his goods neatly on his small, tattered stall and, upon seeing me, politely inquired, “How can I help you, Sir?”
I picked up the most ordinary white piece of fabric: “How much is this, approximately?”
“That will depend on how much you buy.”
According to the official standard measurements in this world, a piece around one square metre of fabric was roughly twenty copper coins, which you could order in smaller sizes and make separate payments. Now, that was useless information to me. My plan wasn’t to calculate the price to sell. According to that standard, Achilles’ factory must’ve spent five copper coins on producing fabric of equal size. Its fixed price would be eight copper coins. Once it goes through a middle man before being sold, the cost would be approximately thirteen to fourteen copper coins, so the price was acceptable. The issue was how much handmade fabric should cost.
“Where is your fabric produced?”
“Oh, I order my stuff from Sir Achilles. We have an agreement with him; we import goods from him. Surely you know him. He is Her Majesty’s trusted businessman. His goods are guaranteed to be good quality. Additionally, this is produced using machinery. As such, the quality is the crop of the cream.”
I gave the man a smile, thinking, “If you’re praising things produced by machines as being good, wait till you see how ludicrous handmade goods become in a couple of centuries.”
“What do you think of Achilles’ goods, then? Do you think it’s cheap?”
“I would not say it is cheap. The good part is that the quality is superb.”
“Would it be cheaper if it was handmade?”
“It would be slightly cheaper… Having said that, look how good the quality is.”
Achilles got it totally wrong. He misconstrued the potential, viewing machine-produced fabric to be a new luxury good. From his perspective, items produced using machines were good quality. For that reason, they should be considered high-quality and expensive goods that could overcome consumer goods. Hence, he raised the price using quality as its selling point. The truth of the matter is that goods made by machines aren’t high quality. Having machines is a strength no doubt, but its main strength lies in the fact that not much labour is required to produce large volumes of products. Accordingly, the cost is low, and they can be sold at lower prices. That’s how it could steamroll handmade goods. That was the true potential factories offered.
“All right, then. I’ve identified the problem, so now I need to find a way to lower the factory’s cost of production. Why have the costs been reduced when Achilles produces a decent amount? Logically speaking, raw materials cost shouldn’t be the problem. There must be some other problem influencing it. Is it a question of labour costs? Why would they cost so much to employ? Achilles isn’t a charity, so why would he pay them such high salaries? That’s unlike him. Why is the factory’s costs not dropping? I need to visit the factory and see what’s going on,” I thought to myself.
I placed the material down as I couldn’t buy that sort of fabric at the stall for Veirya and Leah. Before I went to the factory, however, I needed to drop by Achilles’ building. I didn’t know if the employees were still working or not. His obituary had reached the imperial capital; therefore, his workers were bound to have found about his death.
“Have they abandoned Achilles? Have they deserted the building yet? I remember the chapel is just a ruin now. Is Achilles’ building next to become a ruin? I won’t allow that to happen. I could let the chapel be destroyed, but I won’t let Achilles be destroyed, as well,” I resolutely decided.
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