Even in the face of Port City’s decisive blow, Isaac let out a single burst of laughter and continued his leisurely lifestyle on the city hall’s rooftop, which has become the city’s unofficial meeting room.
The rest however, couldn’t maintain their composure like Isaac. The merchant employees, Lanburton, Rizzly, the syndicate bosses, and the Campus graduates tried to ink out whatever wisdom they had in their heads to retaliate against Port City.
“The problem is the general public’s opinion of us. We don’t stand a chance if we were to fight in the same field as Port City. We must find a solution now!”
It seemed Cordnell was taking this the hardest. His face was drenched in stress as he spoke out in despair. Milena tilted her head in response.
“But it’s still a great merit for all men to visit the brothels without a worry. Won’t that bring at least some people?”
Milena couldn’t understand Cordnell’s words. She has experienced many times, of how men talk of pride and reputation even though their junk is clearly standing. Her thought was that this would have little impact on the number of male guests that would visit, since they could use the brothels without worrying about any repercussions it would have on their reputation and pride.
“That’s exactly the problem. Port City has already spread rumors in the higher echelons of noble society. Now that Port City has opened a Casino of their own, people visiting New Port City will be instantly labelled as those who have went there purely for the sake of using the brothel’s services. It’ll prevent anyone who cares about reputation from coming at all.”
Milena realised how dire the situation was with Cordnell’s explanation, and her expression also darkened with him. This time, it was Lanburton who asked a question.
“Even though the elves are working as dealers in our Casino?”
Cordnell bitterly shook his head.
“I won’t lie that it will bring in the crowd at first out of curiosity. But it will be a temporary one, and we can’t expect a long term profit from it alone.”
The atmosphere was increasingly disheartening as Cordnell continued to reason his disapproval for all of the suggestions made by others. They needed to come up with a solution, but no one here ever had experiences similar to this before. Isaac, who should be most worried about it all, simply sipped away at his wine, and Cordnell, who was practically in charge of everything because of Isaac’s slothful nature, came up with no answers. Everyone started to worry if this grand project of theirs was going to end before it began.
“Ahem, that is why we have come up with an idea.”
Kalden, who attended this meeting as one of the three representatives of the Campus graduates, spoke up when he had noticed that the mood was excessively depressed.
In truth, he expected a much more critical role in this place because of his academic background, but all he ever did until now was simple grunt work and document processing. He also didn’t like the fact that Cordnell, who wasn’t a Campus graduate, seemed to be favoured by Isaac and unofficially took place as the second in command. So Kalden and the rest of the colleagues came up with an idea to improve their reputation within this clique.
“It is obvious to know that most of the guests in Port City will be nobles because of the high market prices of goods and services in the city. Rather than compete with Port City over the nobles, we should aim to attract as many commoners as possible to be our guests. Most commoners will find Port City’s casino difficult to use because of its high-class atmosphere and mostly noble population. According to our recent survey, nobles find it difficult to enter New Port City because of the negative impact it has on their reputation, but commoners don’t have such impressions. They will most definitely favour us as long as we guarantee their safety.”
It was true that nobles weren’t the only guests. Commoners were also free to travel. It was obvious that most would find New Port City to be more attractive because of lower costs and such.
Everyone’s faces brightened as Kalden presented them with a glimmer of hope, yet Cordnell alone maintained his dark expression.
“Even if you were to attract as much commoners as possible, it will only manage to keep us out of the red.”
“Why is that?”
“It’s the difference in their total spending. A hundred commoners can’t match how much a single noble would spend during their trip.”
“That’s why we must bring in as much commoners as possible to make up for it with numbers. If we start events and competitions along with cheaper prices for them to enjoy aspects of noble culture, it will surely bring in more commoners.”
“I believe you will understand easily since you’re a commoner yourself. How often do commoners around you travel in their off time?”
Traveling is a lifestyle that can only be maintained by those who are well off. There are many people who have never left their own town during their entire life. Those who do leave are usually those who are forced to because of work.
Although there have been more commoners traveling for their honeymoons or anniversaries thanks to developments in transportation and roads, traveling was still a significant decision for commoners.
“Commoners have it difficult enough just surviving. Traveling is an extravagance for them. Even if they do decide on traveling, paying for transportation alone will be a burden for them.”
“We are also aware of that problem. So we have come up with a solution for that.”
Kalden confidently argued against Cordnell’s criticism. The Campus has always taught their students to consider all factors and variables to come up with the best solution. They had already come up with a counter to Cordnell’s criticism regarding geographical and financial problems.
“We should use our geographical position as our advantage. The reason Port City gained its wealth is because of the waterways which stretch out into the rest of the Empire. We must also capitalise on that and start operating ferries.”
“… Ferries as in?”
“There is no need for commoners to travel here on their own power. We should use the ferries to let the commoners travel here free of charge, like using ships to transport goods through the waterways.”
That would mean that commoners only had to pay for their trip to the ships alone. Everyone seemed impressed and nodded, but Cordnell, along with other employees from the merchant guilds, smiled as they shook their heads.
“It’s a nice suggestion, but there are many problems with it.”
Kalden retorted, slightly uncomfortable talking back to Cordnell but dissatisfied by his unchanging rejection to the suggestions.
“I don’t know what these problems are but I’m sure we can deal with it.”
“First thing is the cost of operating it. Even if these commoners spend their nights in New Port City, it will be up to us to pay for the commoner’s lodging and food while they are on the ships. The more commoners use it, the more we will need to pay to maintain it. And we are in no financial state to support such a project.”
“Second is time and distance. Why do southern merchants trade in Port City alone when they could simply travel through and go to the northern provinces themselves to make more profit? Because they have deemed it is more efficient to trade in Port City rather than travel all the way to the other side; it’s far more profitable in the long run.”
“That only works for the goods. People and goods are completely different.”
Cordnell sighed in his mind as Trentor spoke against him. He knew Trentor was from the Campus’s School of Administration and that this wasn’t his area of expertise, but Cordnell couldn’t believe that he didn’t even know the basics of business which should have been taught to him.
“Let me say this again. The problem is time and distance. Even if commoners wish to travel for their holidays, they won’t be able to make it any longer than five days unless they quit their job.”
“Let me use the citizens from Gabelin as an example, since they are much better off than others. It takes two days for ships to arrive here from Gabelin. It takes two days to arrive and two days to get back home in Gabelin. That means commoners will have stay a single day in New Port City. If we consider the first problem I mentioned before, it will definitely be a loss on our end. The only people who can come here in a single day are those that live at the centre of the Empire. The southern provinces which are close to us seem viable and so too do the western provinces thanks to Gabelin, but it will be impossible for those that live in the east or north. Meanwhile, the higher class citizens have all the time and money to travel here for their enjoyment. Therefore, the only people that will bring us money will be the upper echelons, being nobles.”
“Lastly, this is the biggest problem. Is there a reason for commoners to come to New Port City despite the arduous procedure?”
“Why do you say that?”
“As I said before, it is a huge burden for the commoners to travel with their budget. So most of their travels are to commemorate the most meaningful time of their lives after saving for a very long time. They will also most likely be parents who have families to support because of how long it took, and they will travel as a family too. But what will this happy little family have available to do when they’ve come to the City of Sin and Gambling?”
“Yes, there will be commoners who do not have families and have financial stability on their own, but they would prefer to go to Port City for a chance at forming connections with the higher class and nobles instead.”
Those were criticism they had never considered.
Kalden realised what he believed was the perfect plan was instead full of flaws, and sat back on his chair as he admit his inexperience. Trentor, on the other hand, tried to argue once more; whether it was because of his injured pride or as a last stand, only he knew.
“I admit, it was a flawed plan because it was a rushed one. But I believe we have a chance if we come up with solutions for all the problems you’ve listed and develop goods that can attract families!”
Cordnell nodded in assent. It is difficult to expect success for business like this in such a short time. It requires constant investment, advertisement, and customer service to maintain customers.
“But the problem is that time isn’t on our side.”
Cordnell glimpsed at Isaac, and everyone followed suit with him.
Isaac maintained his composure despite suddenly becoming the center of attention, and said his words after puffing out a cloud of smoke.
“We’ll do as my Hubaes have suggested.”
Not only Cordnell, but even Kalden looked in surprise at Isaac’s sudden decision. The plan has been butchered many times already for all the flaws it contained.
Cordnell stood up and shouted out immediately.
“We absolutely cannot!”
“What do you mean why? Haven’t you been listening the whole time?”
Even Rizzly shrank at Cordnell’s furious rant as his face turned bright red, yet Isaac continued to look at him as if he was pathetic.
“There is a saying that you must conquer children to open the parents’ wallet. You must conquer women to make men open their wallets and to make women open their wallets, you must conquer their vanity.”
“… I’ve never heard of such logic before.”
“Of course you haven’t. I just made it up now. But it does sound plausible right?”
Cordnell seemed to have taken Isaac’s words as his attempt at making a joke and was about to burst into a frenzy. His fellow colleagues barely managed to stop him by holding him back.
After a moment of festering anger, Cordnell spoke out to Isaac as he massaged his temples which have been aching from anger.
“Seeing as you have the time to speak such things, I assume you’ve got a plan of your own?”
“If we don’t have any properties that would attract commoners, we just need to make one. A city everyone wants to visit at least once in their lifetime. And after they visit once, it must be a city they want to visit again and again.”
“So I’m asking how you’re going to do that.”
“Have you heard of escort services?”
Countless methods have been developed in a capitalistic society to incentivise spending on the general public. Las Vegas also transformed slowly from Sin City to a city of entertainment using the profit they’ve made from the casinos to attract not just gamblers but the general public as a whole.
Isaac also planned to follow Las Vegas’ footsteps and transform New Port City into a city famous for tourism, but his plan had to be changed now that Port City was in open conflict with him by opening the casino before he did.
The biggest problem wasn’t the casino itself but the image spread in the noble society. They have imprinted the image that the only reason to visit New Port City is to use the brothels, and this was surely going to impact his plans to attract female guests to the city.
There was probably no one more aware of the importance of image than Isaac himself. He has seen many corporations fall from its grace because of a drop in its reputation, so he had to proceed with the rough plan he had thought of before this negative image was set in stone throughout the Empire.
“How goes the ‘escort service’?”
Cordnell responded with displeasure on his face.
“We’ve finished the basic training… But do we really have to go this far? This is bound to cause trouble later.”
“Has there been anything before this that wasn’t going to cause trouble?”
“You have a point but…”
“Stop with the whining and proceed.”
“… I feel like it’d be bitter even if this were to succeed.”
“Life’s never fair the moment you’re born.”
That was what everyone who watched New Port City with keen interest thought after they had seen the disastrous record on its opening ceremony.
It had opened with the most extravagant opening ceremony, but there wasn’t a single noteworthy participant in the ceremony. It was an obvious reaction, considering not even a single representative from the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds attended the ceremony.
The only people who welcomed this situation were the sailors. Now they could safely enjoy gambling without having to pay commissions to the illegal gambling dens or worry about having their skulls split after making a big winning. They could also pick on any woman on the street for an enjoyable night; plus, it wasn’t inside a run-down crumbling house but a fancy hotel. New Port City had become heaven for sailors who wished to relax from their tiresome journey.
There was even a bet on how long it will take until New Port City went bankrupt. With everyone expecting New Port City’s fall and the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds contemplating on taking back as much of their investment back as possible, a single piece of advertisement was spread across the Empire using the information network of the Seven Grand Merchant Guilds.
Are you in search of the soulmate of your dreams?
Come to New Port City. You will be treated with utmost care by the handsomest elves.
Myurena, the daughter of Baron Rogenic rolled on the floor, unable to hold her boredom in check. At one point in her life, she spent her days busy with financial work of her family’s fiefdom after graduating from a private institution with flying colors. But after her sister Eliza graduated from the Campus and brought Philip over to the manor as her husband, all of the duties were taken over by them. It was nice that Myurena’s brother-in-law held excellent grades regarding magic on top of having exceptional skills in managing the fiefdom. But the problem was that her father, Baron Rogenic, forced Myurena off from working, instead telling her to focus on getting married herself. She had been forced to study up on bridal lessons.
Unhappy with that decision, she forced herself out of the house by following her sister’s honeymoon, but it only increased her father’s interference ever since. She was now locked inside the manor, being taught how to be an excellent wife along with the manners and countenance she must have to be a noble’s wife. Myurena refused to attend the Campus because of its constricted freedom, but this situation was no different to her.
“Hm, is this an invitation from Baron Vuderon? Um, this is Count Defuin’s announcement, so I should leave this for my father to see. Huh?”
One of her few jobs left was to look through the letters and invitations sent to the manor, and she managed to spot a letter of invitation. The paper had golden background and fancy patterns drawn into it. The letter tried so hard to look elegant that it almost seemed distasteful. Surprisingly, this invitation was directed to her.
“What kind of a noble family would use such expensive letter?”
Myurena opened the letter to find the answer, and she couldn’t help but snort after finding out.
“I mean, I knew they were desperate, but are they so desperate that they would send this to me, whom they only saw once in their lives?”
The invitation was from New Port City. To summarize, the invitation asked her to come over and play with all of her expenses paid for.
Myurena smiled, but it quickly turned cold and she muttered with a hint of anger.
“Now that I think of it, this is quite distasteful. Isn’t New Port City what all the boys have been talking about lately? Are they asking me to come and gamble? Or…”
Myurena’s face turned red and screamed as she made a ruckus in the room. In truth, Myurena was curious about Isaac and New Port City. She’d heard all the stories about him and even managed to see him in real life.
She really wanted to see how it would end the last time, but she had to leave because of constant pressure from her sister and brother-in-law.
Even after she had come back, one of the many topics discussed by the nobles in social events were New Port City and Isaac.
Of course, not one of them spoke well of it. And after accidentally overhearing the men talk with perverted eyes about New Port City’s gambling and brothels, Myurena’s impression of New Port City and Isaac had dropped to rock bottom and also killed off all of her interest about those topics. But the word of this new advertisement flowing around has caught her ears and she had no choice but to be curious once more.
“I’ve been rather bored lately. Maybe I should visit to pass some time?”
Port City was only a day away via sea travel. This made it very easy for her to sneak out after leaving a single letter to let her family know. She was curious about the fact that elves would be escorting her throughout the city. It was this damn curiosity of hers that was her problem.
Myurena made her decision and picked up a pen to reply that she will be attending. But the list that was on the letter formed a question in her head.
“But why are they asking me to write this before I come?”
The invitation had a number of blanks to fill, such as the date of arrival and how many days she’ll be staying, but the strange part was choosing one of the many options below.
“The spy course? Knight in shining armour course? Queen of the social? What is all this?”
After questioning it, Myurena ticked the first option being the spy course without much thought. She placed the letter back in its package and placed it in the return box. After all, she could always stay in Port City instead if it turned to be boring. And so Myurena began plotting on her escape plan.
The manor shook with terror few days later with the disappearance of Myurena. For a grown lady to travel alone. Even if the security of the world had gotten much better lately, this was a perfect condition for bad rumours to be spread. Especially if she was a woman in her prime for marriage.
After finding Myurena’s letter, Baron Rogenic grabbed the back of his neck as he screeched at Eliza and Philip to bring Myurena back to the manor, even if they had to break her legs to do so.
PR Note: The act of grabbing the back of the neck is a gesture that people do when stressed out or angry, particularly prominent in Korean culture (e.g. Korean dramas, etc.).
Eliza and Philip sighed. They were already so busy at work, and their sister had to add onto the work by causing an incident of her own. They searched as to where she may have set off to, and quickly found out that she had taken out some money from Empire Bank in Port City. They were relieved to hear this, since Port City was well known for its stable public order.
But a single message sent from another noble family, whose daughter was a close friend of Myurena, made Baron Rogenic faint.
The message contained the following. ‘We are embarrassed to say this, but we managed to catch our daughter attempting to escape from our manor. The reason she did so was because she wanted to join Myurena after she had accepted the invitation sent from New Port City, and we are sending this message to check if your family is having any problems.’
This is when the two realised that New Port City was making its desperate last stand by using elves as its weapon for its business after the casinos has failed.
While her sister and brother-in-law sighed at the order to bring her back, Myurena was resting in Port City and prepared to head to New Port City. She has visited the casino during the night out of curiosity, and unlike her expectations of the place being full of men consumed by greed; it looked more like an elegant gathering of nobles and merchants chatting to each other as they enjoyed the games. The place had the best facilities and even the casino staff were so well trained that Myurena believed her own servants should learn a thing or two from them.
The only downside was that she couldn’t play any of the games with the allowance she had received as a daughter of a Baron and could only watch from afar. But she started to ponder the dangerous thought that gambling might be fun to play once in a while as long as she didn’t get so into it.
So she took out some of her savings to participate in some of the games in New Port City instead. With the Sky Bridge being both a tourist attraction and the only path into New Port City, the place was always booming with people. However this only extended to the top of the bridge. The entrance to New Port City was quite empty. That’s what it was supposed to be like this time, but the situation had changed completely.
“Kyaa! So soft!”
“Dear me. Look how squishy it is!”
‘Kya! He looked at me!”
“Ah! That cold expression of his is so charming!”
The security guards of the entrance were the centre of attention.
Myurena looked at the guards with her mouth open. With their giant bodies and small bead-like eyes, the two North Bears stood at the side in their bear form. It seemed they were quite the entertainers too, showing off their strength by lifting some of the women who approached them. On the table was an elf with a cold expression, who was also at the centre of attention.
Myurena was also mixed in with the group of women and rubbed her face against their fur and hung on to their arms and did everything she could do with the North Bears until she was pushed off by the other girls in line.
Realising how embarrassing she looked, her face blushed and approached the elf on the table who didn’t budge like a doll. The elf talked without emotion to Myurena.
“You are now entering New Port City. After you’ve bought the entrance ticket, you must leave the premises immediately if you aren’t going to use New Port City’s facilities. The entrance fee is 1 Mega, no exceptions.”
“I’ve come here because of the invitation.”
Myurena took out her letter of invitation, and the cold expression on the elf disappeared, replaced with a bright smile as he stood up.
“Welcome to New Port City, dear guest. My name is Elain. I will lead you in personally. This way please.”
Myurena was confused at the quick change of his welcome, and Elain politely extended his hand to her. Out of confusion, Myurena grabbed onto the elf’s hand and Elain proceeded to lead her down the stairs.
With the elf now leading her before she could even react, Myurena could feel the envy from other women on the bridge and felt a strange sensation of victory in her.
The sudden hospitality from a handsome man made Myurena’s tomboy-like personality to disappear, and she quickly transformed into a polite and shy lady.
Elain was very considerate of her as he led Myurena down the stairs one step at a time, and began to speak.
“We will go through some basic confirmations. Are you Lady Myurena from the Rogenic Family?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
It seemed Elain managed to read through the letter in the short span of time, and he gave her a bright smile that made her heart skip a beat.
‘Thank you for the confirmation. Once again, I thank you for replying to our letter and visiting New Port City.”
Myurena could only nod and by then they have reached the bottom of the stairs. Elain opened the exit, and the clean street was shown into her view.
“If you ever need help, just call for my name and I’ll help you with all I can.”
Myurena felt a sense of disappointment when Elain let go of her hand.
After some hesitation, Myurena stepped one foot outside and looked back at Elain, and he was seen bowing to her with a smile.
“I hope you make wonderful memories today.”
It seemed Myurena was still quite confused, as she slowly disappeared into the street with her head tilted to the side. Once she was far enough Elain closed the door, and wiped the smile off his face at the same time. He quickly approached the cylinder at the side of the wall and shouted.
“Ah ah! The protagonist is here. I repeat. The protagonist is here. Prepare the stage.”