Wuxiaworld > Release that Witch > Chapter 362: Predicament

Chapter 362: Predicament

Chapter 362: Predicament

Translator: Meh/TransN Editor: - -
At the pier, more than 10 sailships were lined up in a column, with the top of their masts and their interlacing hemp ropes covered in snow, such that they looked like threads of clear silver. Refugees filed out of the cabins and rushed towards the large open space in front of the pier.

This was not the first time Border Town welcomed refugees from the Kingdom of Graycastle, and therefore the entire procedure seemed very orderly. Four lines of iron fence separated the crowd into two columns, which helped to control the crowd movement and prevented a stampede. On both sides of the fences, there were policemen carrying batons on patrol. Anyone who pushed his way through or attempted to climb the fence would be beaten. Although there was punishment, there was also reward—in order to comfort them after an arduous journey, the refugees would each receive a hot bowl of gruel when they passed through the railed passageway. In any case, filling up their stomachs before all else could effectively abate the refugees' fear and discomfort of being in a foreign land.

This time, aside from the policemen, First Army soldiers, and City Hall officials, Nightingale and Sylvie also took part in the inspection to locate the drug users who were planted in the crowd by Timothy. Under the surveillance of the Eye of Magic, pills and snow powder had nowhere to be hidden.

"Thank you for all that you've done for Western Region." Roland looked away from the crowd and said to Margaret beside him. "If it wasn't for your fleet, these people would've to spend the winter in the slums of other cities."

"It was rare for Your Highness to ask me for help in such an urgent tone of voice, and naturally I had to do my best." She laughed. "However, many sailors were unwilling to set sail in the heavy snow, and hence I was only able to pool together these 13 sailships."

"It's better than not even one." Roland puffed out a white breath. After he learned that there were still large numbers of refugees held up in Silver City, Redwater City and Willow Town, he sent a letter of help to Margeret's Chamber of Commerce, hoping that it could deploy a fleet of sailships to help him transport the refugees.

Although 13 was a smaller number than he expected, all of the refugees could be transported by making the sailships take two extra trips. Assuming that each sailship could accommodate 100 people, and each trip to and fro required an estimated two weeks, the 3,000 stranded refugees would take roughly a month and a half to be transported. Because the gold royals brought along by a small platoon of the First Army were insufficient to last for this entire duration, therefore, on the last return journey, the sailships had to transport food and winter clothing as well. Roland did not wish to see the refugees carry their hopes of a better life on board the ships yet eventually fail to reach the destination.

Thanks to Lightning, Margaret calculated the transportation costs to be two times the normal daily rate. Any other merchant would have considered this to be a foolish transaction, as the transportation costs alone exceeded the value of the goods. On average, it cost one gold royal per two people, which, according to the current market price, would be enough to purchase several strong and high-quality slaves. Margaret had initially expressed her doubts to Roland, but he was insistent on bringing these people over to the Western Region.

From the moment the refugees stepped on board the ships together with the emissary delegation, they were considered subjects of the Western Region, and it was in line with his duty to provide them with asylum. Furthermore, in Roland's eyes, the value of these refugees was far greater than that of slaves. After receiving education and training, and eventually given employment, the wealth they would create through their jobs would be immeasurable.

...

Returning back to the reception room of the castle, Roland ordered the kitchen to prepare a hot pottage for Margaret. "Drink this, it'll make your limbs feel much warmer."

"Thank you for your kindness." The businesswoman scooped up a spoonful of the soup and sniffed. "There seems to be White Liquor in it."

"Indeed." He laughed, "In addition, there's also pepper and honey, and the base is chicken soup. Spirit is always an excellent drink to dispel the cold, and when heated with chicken soup, it becomes even more delicious. The other seasonings are added to cover the pungent taste, as well as add flavor and a little spice to the soup, such that even a person who rarely drinks alcohol will find it palatable.

Margaret slowly drank the pottage and finished it with a loud burp. "That's great. Every time I'm on the way to your place, I'm filled with anticipation, never knowing what novelty is in store. It's a pity that next year I'll probably be unable to visit you."

"Are you referring to a trading opportunity?" Roland subtly caught the meaning in her words.

The businesswoman nodded, "Timothy has decreed a ban on saltpeter trade, and therefore, sales are prohibited not only to King's City, but also Silver City and Redwater City. Aside from supplying at a low price to the Alchemist Workshop, the only other customers are the nobility in the city.

Roland frowned.

"Furthermore, according to a piece of news that I heard from a City Hall source, Timothy is planning to blockade the Western Region. It won't be just saltpeter, but also merchants, which will be stopped at the frontier of Redwater City. When the time comes, not only Border Town, but also Longsong Stronghold and Willow Town will be affected. Although many nobles have expressed opposition, it's unlikely that Timothy will revoke his order." She shook her head in resignation, "From next year onwards, I'll not only be unable to ship saltpeter and ingots over here, but even the steam engine trade will probably be suspended."

"I must have pushed him too far, or he wouldn't have issued a decree that's so damaging to the royalty." Roland silently thought. "Before completing the centralization of authority, hasty interference in the trading activities of other territories is always likely to evoke the resistance and defiance of the lords and nobles. Even if Timothy sends his own troops to blockade the land and river routes, the troops would easily be eliminated by assassins covertly sent by the local lords—just let him try to enforce this policy for a year and a half."

However, trade was the lifeblood of Border Town. Let alone a year... even half a year of blockade was a huge no-no. Saltpeter was a material used in large-scale acid production, and before the problem of synthetic ammonia was solved, it remained an irreplaceable component. If supply was cut off, the 152 mm artillery would become useless, and the reloading of the new repeating rifles would also be massively delayed.

However, compared to weapons, the prohibition of the steam engine trade was even more destructive. At present, the amount of gold royals stored in the City Hall's vaults was not much. A portion of revenue was used in infrastructure projects and increasing the number of jobs, while another portion was distributed as pay to the townspeople and recollected through the sale of food, convenience goods and housing. This economic model necessitated a continuous injection of gold royals into the market, which had to be at least equal in amount to the wealth created by the subjects.

At present, Border Town remained in a state of primitive accumulation and also did not issue credit. If the revenue from the steam engine trade was lost, finances might dry up to the point that pay cannot be issued to the people, and a full economic meltdown would follow.

In any case, the interruption of funds was absolutely unacceptable.

"This situation won't last long." Roland spread his arms, "I believe that you'll soon be able to visit our town again... no, when that time comes, you'll see a brand new city."

Margaret was slightly surprised, "Are you planning to build a city here?"

"Indeed, after the Months of the Demons." He smiled. "Also, I plan to set up a trade shipping route that connects directly to the fjords. Instead of passing through Seawindshire or Port of Clearwater, it'll set out directly from the Western Region towards the Fjord Islands. Will you be interested to participate in this?"