Game of the Monarch - Chapter 26

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“170 gold?”

“This has to be a joke, right? Even if grains are worth their weight in gold these days, still…”

This auction was not for the purpose of selling luxury items such as jewels or artworks. It was for procuring foodstuffs with the aim of selling them elsewhere at a higher price. Therefore, if one was not confident that they could sell the goods at a higher price than they were bought here, they would only incur a loss by purchasing them.

600 sacks of oats for 170 gold.

No matter how much the merchants gathered here racked their brains, they could only conclude that purchasing these goods at that price would only result in a loss.

‘170 gold is too much. Never mind any profit, it’s uncertain whether you can even recover the principal at that price.’

The person from Bemerick Merchant Company who had bid the previous price of 155 Gold turned towards the individual that called 170 -- that person was someone that he recognized.

It was one of the branch managers of the Charlotte Merchant Company whom he himself had some dealings with before. Among the merchant circles, although this individual was not particularly innovative in his commercial projects, he was famous nonetheless for consistently striking deals that were sound and prudent.

So it was all the more incomprehensible that a person like that would make such an unconventional deal.

‘Speaking of which, who’s this lady next to him?’

It was only now that this woman next to Charlotte Merchant Company’s branch manager caught the eye of the Bemerick guild’s representative. He could not see her face as she wore a wide-brimmed lady’s hat that covered it.

At first, he merely thought that she was his partner or wife. However, the respectful demeanor by which the branch manager treated the gentle lady next to him was more akin to one’s attitude towards a superior.

The answer was clear after a little thought.

‘That woman there must be the owner of Charlotte Merchant Company. This is my first time seeing her in person.’

For the owner of Charlotte Merchant guild to come out in person meant that they held this auction in high regards.

The Bemerick representative felt that this auction would not be an easy one.

“We have a bid of 170 gold. Any other bidders? Three, two, one… The 600 sacks of oat have been sold to Charlotte Merchant Company.”

Bang, bang, bang!

And so the oats auction ended, and the barley auction began right away.

“We have 1,100 sacks of barley. The starting price is 370 gold.”

This was also a costly price, equating to 1 gold for just shy of only 3 sacks of barley. The market price had nearly doubled since last year, but this was actually cheap considering the current times.

Of course, the merchants jumped at the opportunity.

“400 gold.”

“420 gold.”

“450 gold.”

Barley as a food was valued much more than oats. This was because the staple food of the common people was barley bread made by mixing it with a touch of wheat. In the case of oats, they were a grain that could be used for horse feed rather than human consumption if their price crashed enough; but barley was a different story.

The bids shot past the 500 gold mark in an instant.

“580 gold!”

The price called by Cornell Merchant Company started to slow the proceedings down.

“580 they say… that’s as far as it goes for us.”

“I’ve got no confidence that we can see to a profit if we buy at that price.”

“We can’t outcall the bid anymore.”

The merchants did their respective calculations and realized that a price of 580 was not something they could contest.

The representative of Cornell Merchant Company watched as the companies around him reached that conclusion, and triumphantly grinned.

‘It’s too much for you guys. After all, this is a price that can barely be bid even by us who boast the widest trade network in the Lester Kingdom.’

The Cornell company’s representative was sure of his win.

Cornell Merchant Company, the best and biggest merchant guild in this country, would themselves be unable to leave room for profit if they bid beyond this price. This meant that it was a price which could not be outbid at all by the other merchant companies.

“We have a bid of 580 gold. Do we have any higher bidders?”

Max asked in confirmation while the representative of the Cornell company wore a slight smile as his victory became assured.

At that moment…

“650 gold.”

Charlotte Merchant Company raised the bidding price. The Cornell representative choked on himself and spluttered.

‘The Charlotte Merchant Company? How dare they…’

He hadn’t thought much of them when they bought off the oats a moment ago. But now they were trying to snatch away the barley as well.

The pride of Cornell Merchant Company having reigned as Lester Kingdom’s greatest merchant company until now could not allow this.

The Cornell representative raised his hand and shouted, “680 gold!”

“Ooooooooh…”

“Did he say 680 gold?”

“In my 30 years as a merchant, it’s my first time seeing the price of barley go up this much.”

As he heard the awestruck comments of the merchants around them, the Cornell representative confidently smiled in the direction of the Charlotte representatives.

‘Can you outbid me even when I do this?”

This was past the issue of gains and losses.

The Cornell representative was now set on protecting their pride as the best merchant company in the Lester Kingdom, even if it meant incurring some losses here and there. Besides, this was a sum of money that he himself could handle well enough. This was because the representative for Cornell currently participating in these auctions was the younger brother of the merchant company’s chairman.

He thought that this sum of money would be enough for Charlotte Merchant Company to take their hands off.

But…

“700 gold, ”Charlotte Merchant Company coolly raised their bid.

“What?”

“700? Did I hear that right?”

“That’s nuts… no matter how much the price of foodstuff has risen, 700 gold for 1,100 sacks of barley?”

No matter how the other merchants thought about it, this was beyond the price of even the consideration of profits and losses.

“What on earth are they up to?”

At this point, the other companies began to suspect that Charlotte Merchant Company had some sort of other scheme in mind.

“We have a bid of 700 gold. Do we have any higher bidders?” Max checked the auction stands.

Of course, there was no way there would be more bids. As far as the merchants were concerned, Charlotte Merchant Company would retake the lead even if they were to raise the price from here.

In the end…

“These have been auctioned to Charlotte Merchant Company at 700 gold.”

With that, the barley was auctioned off to the Charlotte merchants.

“Lastly, we have 800 sacks of wheat. We’ll begin with a fixed starting price of 400 gold.”

This time, the merchants did not scramble to call their prices as all started becoming wary of Charlotte Merchant Company.

‘Surely not this one as well?’

‘This is driving me insane. How am I meant to know how to act if I can’t catch wind of their aim?’

They hesitated as they tried to read the air, but the merchants could not return empty-handed having come all this way.

As they cautiously began participating in the auction, the price started climbing.

“450 gold.”

“480 gold.”

“500 gold.”

Bids from here and there raised the price rather quickly.

Although being the last good on sale was partly the reason, wheat was fundamentally the most expensive out of all the grains.

Bread made from 100% pure wheat was considered a high-end good that was only eaten by nobles, and the commoners did not eat much of it unless it was a special occasion such as a birthday or a wedding. Most bread eaten by the general populace was wheat mixed with other grains. In other words, wheat was a good that was more expensive by nature compared to barley or oats. That was also the reason why it was being auctioned off last.

Before anyone knew it, the price was climbing past 700 gold. And around the time that the competitors began dropping out one by one…

“800 gold,” Charlotte Merchant Company raised the price by a wide margin.

The other merchant companies clenched their teeth and piled on.

“820 gold.”

“850 gold.”

Had the merchants been fired up because of their pride? Or had they become fixated on the idea that they could not come all the way here and return empty-handed?

The price was being raised in leaps and bounds.

Then, as if blotting a full stop on this competition, the Cornell merchant spoke.

“1,000 gold.”

No matter how much the price of food commodities had risen, this was 800 sacks of wheat for 1,000 gold. The price was, without a doubt, a record for this kingdom.

After bidding this price, the Cornell representative looked over to the Charlotte merchants and made an expression as if daring, ‘Will you still follow suit?’.

The Charlotte company’s branch manager received some sort of instruction from the lady beside him. Then with a surprised face, he confirmed a few more things with her before clearing his throat and speaking.

“2,000 gold.”

That amount transformed the atmosphere of the auction.

“……”

“……”

“……”

The bustling auction stands were filled with deafening silence. It was only after ten or so seconds had passed that the merchants came to their senses.

“2m000 gold?”

“Did he… hang on, what’s going on…”

The other merchant companies began having doubts as to Charlotte Merchant Company’s true intentions.

2,000 gold by itself was not a particularly large sum of money. However, all money had its uses.

For the mere purchase of some food provisions and not some deal involving military weapons or other valuables, this was an outrageous price. Even accounting for the rise in grain prices, this did not make any sense.

The merchants assessed that this was something that could not happen unless they had some other hidden intention. If that was so, what was it that Charlotte Merchant Company wanted?

‘Did Viscount Forrest and the Charlotte merchants strike a backend deal or something?’

‘I don’t understand. Why did they start an auction then?’

The questions in the merchants’ minds whipped up a whirlwind which spat out many different scenarios. But none of these theories held any certainty. Only one thing was certain right now. This auction was over.

“W-…We have a bid of 2,000 gold. Do we have more bidders?” Max surveyed the crowd with a trembling voice.

Of course, there would be none.

“The 800 sacks of wheat have been claimed by Charlotte Merchant Company. Congratulations.”

With that, all the grains had been bought off by the Charlotte merchants.

Today’s unexpected blindside had humiliated the other participating merchant companies, turning them into dogs fruitlessly barking at chickens on a rooftop.

Meanwhile, Milton made a fortune of close to 3,000 gold at once through this auction.

“Our total earnings were 2,870 gold?”

“Yes, that is so, my Lord.”

“Is this legit?”

“I’m sorry?”

“I-… I mean, is this for real?”

Having received Max’s report, Milton was shocked into habitually using the lingo of his previous life.

“Yes. This is for real.”

Max precisely explained what had transpired at the auction.

“So you mean to tell me those grubs at Charlotte Merchant Company purchased every last good.”

“Yes, that is so, my Lord.”

“Hmmmm…" Milton rubbed his chin and fell into deep thought.

He had known that this auction would rake in the money. But a much greater fortune than what he had estimated had come in as revenue. Milton had thought that they would earn around 1,500 gold if they were lucky, but a sum closer to 3,000 gold had come in.

Accounting for Milton’s personal fortune, his holding funds now amounted to more than 10,000 gold. This was perhaps the most well off Forrest Viscounty was financially since the inception of their House.

This was a good turn of events. It was a good turn of events, and yet...

“What are they scheming?”

Milton could not wrap his head around the motives of Charlotte Merchant Company. Unlike what the other merchants had hypothesized, there had been no backend deal or anything of the sort between him and the Charlotte merchants. Rather, Milton himself was curious.

Why on earth would the Charlotte Merchant Company vest such a large fortune in him?

Frankly speaking, he and Charlotte Merchant Company were not exactly on good terms.

‘So why?’

It was frustrating that he did not know this opponent’s objectives.

Milton finally gave Max his command.

“Call over the branch manager of Charlotte Merchant Company.”

“Yes, understood.”

Now that the auction was over, there would technically be no matter that would cause wariness or distance between them.

A moment later, the familiar face of the Charlotte Merchant Company branch manager appeared before Milton. A lady wearing a veil and a white dress stood next to him.

‘Is that woman… the owner?’

Everyone knew that the owner of the Charlotte Merchant Company was a woman. After all, the name of the company was ‘Charlotte’.

However, although the Charlotte Merchant Company was considerably big in the Lester Kingdom as well, the owner never took to the frontlines herself and always deployed a proxy in her steed. It went without saying that the lord of some outskirt country town like Milton would have never seen the face of the Charlotte company’s owner. He was simply jumping to conclusions that she was the owner from the circumstances.

“Please, have a seat.”

“Thank you for your hospitality. And…”

The branch manager introduced the lady to Milton, “This lady is Charlotte, the chairwoman of Charlotte Merchant Company.”

“I see, I expected as much.”

Indeed, there was not much to be surprised about considering the flow of the situation.

But if anything was surprising…

“I believe this is my first time meeting you, Viscount Milton Forrest.”

…It was the moment that the chairwoman lifted her veil as she greeted him.

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