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 n.o.ble 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 doc.u.ment 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 n.o.bles because of the high market prices of goods and services in the city. Rather than compete with Port City over the n.o.bles, 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-cla.s.s atmosphere and mostly n.o.ble population. According to our recent survey, n.o.bles 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 n.o.bles 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 n.o.ble 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 compet.i.tions along with cheaper prices for them to enjoy aspects of n.o.ble 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 cla.s.s 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 n.o.bles.”
“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 cla.s.s and n.o.bles 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 a.s.sent. It is difficult to expect success for business like this in such a short time. It requires constant investment, advertis.e.m.e.nt, 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 ma.s.saged his temples which have been aching from anger.
“Seeing as you have the time to speak such things, I a.s.sume 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.
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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 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 n.o.ble family, whose daughter was a close friend of Myurena, made Baron Rogenic faint.
The message contained the following. ‘We are embarra.s.sed 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 n.o.bles 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 partic.i.p.ate 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 embarra.s.sing 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.”
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