“It seems the cleanup is just about finished.”
Isaac muttered as he stood upon the rooftop of a tall building. The entire Meta District was in his view, and the countless workers scrambled about like ants busy at work. This sight was a testament to New Port City’s cheapest and most abundant resource: manpower. There were plenty of people willing to work as long as they were paid barely enough to feed themselves.
“This is an unnecessary expenditure.”
Cordnell sighed as he commented.
“But thanks to that, we finished the job quickly.”
Isaac didn’t hire the citizens with a regular salary but traded money and food in proportion to how much debris they brought to the exchange centre, a practice commonly used in scrap yards. It meant that anyone could receive a reward as long as it matched their efforts, no matter their age or sex. Almost all of New Port City’s citizens rushed over to the Meta District and bulldozed through the piles of rubble. One month was all it took to dismantle and remove the debris and barricades which surrounded the Meta District.
Cordnell looked to Isaac, tired and full of contempt.
“They’ve come again from Port City.”
“Are they asking for the money again?”
Gambling results were either gains or losses. The three from Port City placed almost all of their wealth on the victory of the Marquis and the defeat of New Port City. However, with the war declared a draw by the government, Isaac simply took the money without hesitation.
The three from Port City obviously responded with a complaint and demanded their money back, but the government sided with New Port City, stating that a draw is also a result. The gamble never had the option of betting on a draw, so the Department of Law gladly nullified the gamble itself using that as a justification. But the Emperor’s interest in New Port City and his declaration pronouncing the mission meant that any opposition to Isaac was synonymous opposing the emperor. They were in fact, active in their support for Isaac because of their previous crimes.
“It seems… they have become desperate after the Marquis family, who they firmly trusted, suddenly changed their family head.”
Debora, the heroine of the Marquis family, overcame the disadvantage of being a member of the branch family and took over all of the rights in just a month after negotiating with Isaac. Some of the family’s elders rejected this claim, but it was silenced by overwhelming support from the subjects of their land and the young adults in the council. The history of their incapable leadership also aided in converting their trust to Debora. Debora now held the rank of Marchioness.
Word of Debora and Isaac’s alliance was an open secret, and many in the higher-ups knew of this fact. Port City had to support the main family in any way they could, but they could only watch from the sides since most of their assets were frozen. And while they watched from the sidelines, Debora quickly moved to legitimise and strengthen her authority. When one considers all of these facts, the greatest losers of this incident were perhaps the three from Port City, but no one here felt a shred of pity for them.
“That’s how gambling works. Just arrest them next time if they come again. I’m sure they’ll come to their senses if you throw them into the mines for a few days.”
The scariest part was that Isaac wasn’t joking.
“Get them even more desperate, and then tell them this. In return for getting their money back, they have to hand over all of the land and properties they own in New Port City.”
“What! That’s preposterous!”
Cordnell shouted out in refute. No matter how expensive New Port City’s real estate was, it was nothing compared to the money that was used to bet in the gamble.
“I’m sure they’ll know which is more profitable for them.”
“B, but that would be at a significant detriment to us!”
Most of the money they considered “free” was already sent over to the Marquis family at this point.
“We have no other choice. We’ll justify it with the excuse of needing to restrict the police force inevitably. I’m sure those wise guys in Port City will realise it too if we give them time. We have to prevent it from happening.”
Cordnell sighed and begged Isaac.
“Our administration is too generous. My blood runs dry whenever I watch the money evaporate into thin air! Please at least lower the wages to…”
“We really will go bankrupt at this pace!”
“Why do you always say the same thing whether we have money or not?”
Isaac returned Cordnell’s complaint with one of his own. The thought of mutiny began to swell in Cordnell’s mind as he watched Isaac grumble. He began to consider taking all of Isaac’s money and running away. The task would be easy enough for him, since he was already managing all of Isaac’s finances and accounts. All of New Port City’s money passed through Cordnell first, so embezzling it all was like taking candy from a baby.
Everything may have seemed like a piece of cake when you’re calling the shots from above, but it was a nightmare for the underlings. They were tasked with thoroughly investigating the details and planning for all possible outcomes and factors which may affect it. Having ten bodies wouldn’t be enough to get the job done, yet this boss was running them like slaves without a word of gratitude.
“Anyhow, how can I make more jobs?”
Isaac didn’t need to worry about money. Cordnell may have been complaining, but he’s only doing so because it was money which didn’t need to be wasted.
Isaac still had half of the 10 million Giga he had taken from the casino robbery, even after using much of it in preparation for the provincial war. Plus, the taxes he would collect from the eastern, western, and northern waterways were going to come in from this month onward.
Although the smuggling business had yet to take off, it was going to ramp up in the near future. And now that New Port City was the only gambling city in the Empire, Isaac was akin to having a goose that laid golden eggs for the rest of eternity.
The only problem was that there weren’t enough jobs. Due to its harsh living conditions, New Port City had very few children and elderly. Meanwhile, the age group suitable for work was disproportionately high. It meant that in order to reduce the unemployed population to less than a single percentage point, most of the citizens in New Port City had to have a job.
Even if the amount of money in New Port City were to increase, it didn’t lead to an increase in the number of jobs. The number of people the Ceta District could accept as workers was miniscule in comparison to the entire city’s population.
Warehouses, ports, restaurants, bars, and other infrastructural bodies hired numerous employees, but there were still more people who didn’t work in New Port City than those who did.
“I guess nothing compares to construction when it comes to hiring en mass.”
Isaac spoke as he looked at the map of New Port City. Around him sat the administrative body of the city, gathered for a meeting to discuss the unemployment issue.
“But there still exists something called ideal candidates.”
Cordnell carefully advised Isaac, convinced that Isaac was firmly set on a construction project. Constructions projects finished faster when more people were hired. If ten thousand people moved just 1 brick each, that was still ten thousand bricks.
What’s more, the workload is reduced as the construction progresses. If the number of workers stays the same, the expected time for completion gets faster and faster as construction goes on. Even if they slow the pace of construction down to its slowest, it would be difficult to keep the people employed for more than 2 years. Plus, no mayor was going to allow such abuse, no matter who was deployed here.
“How goes the buyout of New Port City?”
“They were suspicious as to what our real intentions were, but their desperation forced them to sign the paper.”
“Does that mean I now own everything?”
“Yes. Even all the legal matters have been settled. All of New Port City excluding the Ceta district is now yours, Sir Isaac.”
“Hm, I guess it’ll bring a lot of tax revenue.”
“Since all of the districts are considered a part of the New Port City administrative region, I will make sure to tax it thoroughly! I won’t go easy on it just because it’s yours, Sir Isaac!’
Cordnell made his declaration, gritting his teeth as if he was announcing a vendetta, and all of the syndicate bosses flinched in fear. Technically, it was all Isaac’s money at the end of the day. But the way it could be used was completely different depending on whose pocket it went into, whether it was the city’s account or Isaac’s.
Isaac simply smiled at Cordnell and made his own announcement.
“Now then, shall we proceed with a new business project for added income?”
Everyone tensed up at Isaac’s announcement. They looked to Isaac in horror. Until now, not a single project Isaac had launched was an ordinary one, and it was the administrative body who suffered the most in these abnormal business projects.
Cordnell shouted out as if representing the entire administrative body of New Port City.
“You, crazy bastard!”
“I, as a merciful lord, will overlook your transgression.”
“So this is New Port City? It really is different from the rumours. How much has it changed?”
Webster, a rank 1 enchanter and an employee of the Blue Spire’s offensive magical artefacts department, spoke to himself as he looked at New Port City. He was sent here on a business trip, which was quite a shock for him. For someone who lived his entire life in laboratories, it made little sense that he was deployed here. Another puzzling fact was the destination of his trip. New Port City was now a peaceful city, one far from war and with little use for offensive magical artefacts.
Working in the laboratories didn’t mean Webster was never sent for business trips. Weapons manufacturing was always a profitable business; large amounts of money exchanged hands in every contract. However, trying to win a contract for the creation of a massive military defence project was a fierce competition that should have been fought by the sales department, not Webster, who was the highest-ranking member in the laboratory’s research department. The reason he was selected for the job this time was because New Port City wanted someone from the research department.
Truth be told, massive military defence projects could lead to massive scores, but a project on the scale of a city was too small of a market to interest a famous brand such as the Blue Spire.
Although it could have been ignored, he was still called for the trip because New Port City was a larger customer than first imagined. The Blue Spire managed to sell all of their leftover stock to New Port City when they began buying all kinds of magical artefacts in preparation for the provincial war. That fact alone demanded that someone be sent to New Port City out of courtesy, but there was no reason for them to stop when the letter of invitation noted that they were willing to buy even more magical artefacts if things went well. These letters were sent to not only the Blue Spire but to all magical spires in the Empire, so it could not have been left unattended. Most magical spires paired a researcher and a salesperson for this invitation.
“Look who it is! What is this lab rat doing out here in the outside world?”
Webster raised his head in response to the remark to find Shieldlock approaching him with a smile. Shieldlock was perhaps Webster’s eternal rival. The Blue Spire specialised in manufacturing offensive magical artefacts, while the Silver Spire, where Shieldlock was employed, specialised in defensive magic. Like spear and shield, there was a fierce rivalry between the two spires to outdo the other. Although the relationship between Webster and Shieldlock looked the same from the outside, they were in fact close friends who got along very well.
“Seeing how you are here, I guess even the Silver Spire considers this job to be important.”
“No doubt about it. Do you have any idea as to how much whining I had to endure when our Spire Master heard that your spire sold all of your leftovers? He was making a scene telling me to sell whatever I could as he saw me off from the spire. Shit! I don’t understand why he’s telling that to a researcher like me.”
“I know, right? I’m already busy enough as it is, and there’s still plenty of research that needs to be done. It’s impossible for me to spend my time on this frivolous endeavour and research simultaenously. What does he expect me to do?”
The two continued to badmouth their higher-ups as they entered New Port City. They finally arrived at their destination, the incredibly luxurious hotel owned by the Rivolden Merchant Guild.
“Hah! I guess their title as the city of crime and poverty is but a myth now.”
“It only looks to be the case on the surface. You haven’t been to any of the other districts right? It’s still the same. It’s the poverty we’ve been hearing about all this time.”
“Tsk! If they had the money to spend on something like this, they should have spent it on helping the poor instead.”
The two seemed mistaken that the hotel was owned by Isaac, not the Rivolden Merchant Guild. They walked in with unpleasant expressions and entered the reception hall. The hall seemed to be designed to host conferences; a luxurious carpet was spread in the centre, and plenty of food was arranged at the side.
The hall was filled with a crowd. Some of them exchanged greetings and recalled recent events while others were carefully fighting a battle of surveillance, masked under their smiles and laughter.
“Look over there, it’s the Unface Spire.”
“That’s not all. I can see most, if not all of the most renowned construction guilds and suppliers. I guess the rumour that New Port City was preparing for a giant reconstruction project was true.”
“There is nothing better than construction when it comes to raising the employment rate in a short amount of time.”
As Webster and Shieldlock greeted those they were familiar with and asked how they were doing, Cordnell came up to the stand, listless and weak. He seemed to have given up on everything, and his face seemed to imply that he didn’t care about what was going to happen. Everyone in the hall looked at him in pity. Cordnell scanned the hall with a sigh and then began his speech.
“Eh… I will now begin presenting New Port City’s new business announcement.”
Everyone’s eyes opened wide. They expected this to be a reconstruction project announcement, not a new business announcement. Cordnell didn’t seem to care about the crowd’s reaction however. He hung a giant map of New Port City on the wall and began pointing at it with a stick in hand, his face visibly anguished.
“I will now begin the explanation. Please refrain from asking any questions. To be honest, I am doing this against my will, so I don’t know the details. I don’t want to know either.”
“I will first explain the new business. New Port City is planning to reconstruct some parts of the recently burnt down Meta District.”
Everyone nodded in agreement, expecting this announcement. The construction guilds and suppliers immediately began peppering Cordnell with questions.
“How large will the scale of construction be?”
“What is the expected budget?”
“Will this be a combined project, or a single project?”
“Which criteria will you use to finalise the contracts?’
Cordnell simply shook his head as he received those questions. He began to mutter under his breath; then he burst forth in a tirade.
“This is madness! The whole world’s gone mad if you can make money this way! Let me go! You’re all mad!”
Cordnell’s fellow employees seemed surprised by Cordnell’s sudden outburst and dragged him out of the hall. Even until the end, Cordnell continued to shout “madness.”
While everyone in the hall remained confused by the sudden turn of events, Kalden stepped up to Cordnell’s stand in his stead, wiping cold sweat from his forehead.
“I apologise. Please understand; he was simply too shocked at what had happened.”
“What is the reason you are only reconstructing some of the district?”
One of the construction guilds quickly asked the question, and Kalden hesitated at first, unsure of how to explain the reason. He seemed slightly troubled as he continued.
“Although it is reconstruction in name, these buildings will not have any purpose.”
The crowd began to murmur, unable to understand the reasoning. Kalden sighed and continued.
“To be precise, they are made with the purpose of being destroyed.”
The hall came to a cold silence, and Kalden quickly added on to his explanation.
“New Port City has decided to come up with a new form of ‘entertainment’ to provide the tired and bored guests who have visited New Port City – an entertainment consisting of destroying buildings with magical artefacts they’d never seen before.”
“… This is entertainment?”
Someone within the crowd spoke out in horror, and the others nodded in agreement.
“Yes. The city has designated three forms of this entertainment. Form one is just pure, unadulterated destruction, and the second uses heavily fortified building, where a reward is given to the person who lands the finishing blow on the building. Type three is like an archery competition, where players use the magical artefacts to land a hit on the target. The city doesn’t care if the construction guilds and suppliers compete for a contract as a group or individuals, but you must follow the rules laid out by the city. Therefore, we need poorly constructed buildings that would explode in a single hit, buildings which can stand tall even after being hit multiple times, and buildings and targets which use all kinds of barriers and illusions to make it difficult to hit. But, for forms 2 and 3, the guilds must provide a portion of the reward guests will receive. Therefore, we recommend that guilds submit proposals for areas they are most comfortable with.”
Some of the more quick-witted in the crowd realised this was a great opportunity when Kalden’s explanation finished. Type 1 wasn’t much of a challenge since all that was needed was flimsy construction with subpar materials. But type 2 and 3 were different. The more their buildings could withstand blows from magical artefacts, the more it would demonstrate their skills as construction guilds. The increase in reputation would create an advertisement effect, leading to an increase in the number of contracts.
Type 3 construction in particular was an excellent opportunity for guilds to test out their ingenuity and show off their prowess to the buyers with interesting demands. The only problem was they needed to provide a portion of the reward, but the profit was worth it if they managed to succeed.
“But can this really make money?”
The question from someone within the crowd brought everyone to a realisation. This was an excellent condition for the guilds, but New Port City was likely to face a deficit in this business.
Kalden smiled bitterly when all attention was on him.
“As you already know, these buildings are constructed to be destroyed. If they are destroyed, they will need to be constructed again. The labour force which will be tasked with clearing the debris and reconstructing will be from New Port City.”
Everyone dropped their jaws in shock at those words. The reason why this unthinkable business was made was to increase the employment rate and maintain it perpetually. Webster shook himself out of confusion and asked a question.
“Everything sounds fine for now, but what was the reason you called the magic spires for this announcement? Can’t you simply buy the artefacts from the spires?”
Kalden nodded at Webster’s question.
“The conditions for the magical spires are different from those of the construction guilds.”
“Yes. Magical spires must provide New Port City with the magical artefacts free of charge, and they must also pay a commission for any sales they make.”
All of the magic spires looked to Kalden in bafflement. They couldn’t understand where New Port City got the confidence to demand not just the magical artefacts but also a portion of their profit.
“What a ludicrous proposal. Your project will fail without doubt if all of the magical spires boycotted this project.”
Kalden simply shrugged at Webster’s threat.
“You are free to leave if you want. But know that you cannot rejoin once you leave.”
“You talk of us providing the artefacts free of charge and paying a commission, but a commission for what? No, how can there be profit in participating in this ludicrous business project?”
Kalden smiled, as if ready for Shieldlock’s question.
“I am sure some of you here have been to Port City a few times for vacation. New Port City’s guests may be mostly commoners now, but the charts are showing an increase in the number of guests from Port City moving here. We expect this trend to increase if this new business project were to commence, due to the hard times Port City has landed in recently.”
“What does that matter to this?”
“Of course it matters. I think it is very common to expect that the guests will find interest in this new entertainment, no?”
That statement was true. Offensive magical artefacts weren’t cheap, and trading these goods was illegal in most common practices. It was difficult for commoners to get their hands on offensive magical artefacts, and it was also the same for those who considered themselves rich. But now they had the opportunity to use them without any limits. Those who were well off weren’t going to pass up on this opportunity.
“It means that buyers throughout the Empire who have the wealth to purchase these magical artefacts can test the goods and determine its effectiveness on the spot.”
The magical spire’s employees’ mood changed. The first wizard who created the magical artefact released the technology to the public instead of claiming it as their own. Because of this, many magical spires sprouted like trees in a forest.
Most of the products which the spires created weren’t too different when it came to their offensive and defensive capabilities. Until now, all magical spires could do to make sales was to host a conference and show off their capabilities; then, they would send a salesperson to the buyers’ doorstep and beg them to purchase it. But now, the buyers would be able to compare and contrast all of the goods, determine their capabilities, and buy whatever feels best for them. This was an attempt at creating a new market, where buyers and sellers didn’t need to be separated but gathered at a single point for sale.
New Port City had the residential capabilities for everyone attending, and magical spires could reduce the costs of maintaining a sales department.
Webster was impressed by this win-win business project, and asked a question.
“Who came up with this idea?”
Upon hearing the question, Kalden rearranged his words to avoid insulting Isaac, his employer and sunbae, directly.
“No ordinary people like us could have such ingenuity.”