Chapter 7 – Insufficient Gold
No one followed.
As the twins had predicted, Magic Centipede were keeping watch inside of the company building.
“Well, not many would think that two ladies would escape through the window together.”
“In the first place, it’s surprising that you can carry us both and land without making a sound.”
“I thought we would have to make a run for it as soon as we got out.”
“That might have been fun in it’s own way. I’m a little disappointed.”
“So, where are you going?”
“We asked you to escort us, didn’t we?”
“It’s not part of the service.”
As there were no pursuers, they bantered lightly as they walked down the night streets.
The fact that they were far from the entertainment district also helped, and there were hardly any people to be spotted.
The magitec lamps ensured that there was plenty of light. You could even see the weeds growing in the gaps of the paved streets.
While they had said ‘escort,’ the twins knew exactly where they were going, and walked without hesitation.
“When did you come to this town, Tor?”
“Well, I suppose you wouldn’t know then.”
They entered a narrow alley that was near the outer walls that surrounded Durande.
However, the stores that lined the streets here sold luxurious clothes, silverwork and precious stones.
Their destination appeared to be a particular store that had a hanging sign with a scale depicted on it.
It seemed like it was also a pawn shop, but judging from the outside, they mainly exchanged currency.
As some time had passed since the sun went down, the place was already closed. But the twins’ attention seemed to be on the wooden plate near the entrance.
Tor looked to see what was so interesting, and then he narrowed his eyebrows.
“What is this exchange rate?”
The wooden plate had the day’s exchange rate for gold, silver and copper.
The problem was that while there were several types of gold coins, they were all ridiculously high.
When the innkeeper had made the request to Tor that morning, he had said that the fee was expensive, but it seemed like the real issue was the actual price for gold coins.
As if having learned what they needed, the twins started to walk again.
Tor followed after them, and the twins started to answer the question he had asked before they jumped out of the window.
“Shortly after Haran took control of the Ubaz company, the balance of supply and demand of silver and gold in Durande began to crumble.”
“During this season, the demand for gold coins rises due to payments of land taxes, but as you just saw, the supply in Durande is insufficient.”
As the demand was too high, the exchange rate had become absurd. That’s what they were saying.
Tor recalled the mutterings of the innkeeper.
‘They try and trick me when dealing with silvers and coppers.’
Every town had tax collectors who embezzled, but the residents still wanted gold coins to avoid unnecessary fees. However, with these exchange rates, it would be better to just pay with silver, even if there was embezzlement involved.
“Are you saying that the lack of gold coins is Haran’s doing?”
“Yes. But we don’t know how he is doing it.”
“Is there no possibility that it’s the result of fair transactions?”
“I have never heard of an entire town’s income and expenditure balance collapsing in this way. And more than anything, Durande’s food production is very high. It almost never fails to make a profit.”
“So, the gold coins are being hoarded somewhere?”
Tor asked. The twins seemed to be enjoying this exchange of opinions, and they were practically skipping as they continued down the street.
“It’s true that he is saving gold coins in case he might need them in the future.”
“However, we know that it is not much. In the first place, if there is a lack of gold coins, you could release the ones you have saved and exchange them for silver.”
“Maybe he is expecting the price of gold to go up even further?”
“Durande officials in the city council are already planning to import more gold.”
“I see. So you’re saying that there is no point in holding onto so much of it now. Still, presently there really is a lack of gold in Durande.”
Tor brought up a map of the area in his head. Durande was attached to the much larger city of Hevel, to the north, which boasted a population of over one-hundred and thirty thousand. They would have the power to solve Durande’s money problem.
So, where had the gold gone?
“Judging from what I just heard, the leaders of Durande are quite anxious about this matter?”
“Yes. They suspect that it is being smuggled out, and are investigating it. Aside from that, there are stories of silverwork of unknown origin being discovered, suggesting things are being smuggled in as well.”
“Where did you get this information?”
“Apparently, the Adventurer’s Guild was notified. They were to report if any suspicious persons were seen outside of the city.”
So they heard it from the manager. That was at least reliable.
“And I suppose you two intend to keep me as your guard until you solve this mystery?”
“Yes, that’s our intention. Of course, once that is done, we will hire you as our Japanese decoder.”
“No, thanks. However, illegal exports and imports of gold and silverwork, eh? Does that mean they are selling this silverwork and then shipping out the gold they earned?”
“We doubt that it’s that simple. Surely this silverwork business is nothing more than earning pocket money. As it would not be cheap to get, the profits would be quite low.”
“Besides, now that it’s starting to be investigated, the trade will not last long. The pawn shops are now cooperating with the investigation as well.”
The twins walked while holding hands. They were headed to what looked like a fine restaurant. Perhaps they meant to have their dinner there.
They stopped in front of the entrance and turned around to gesture for Tor to come.
“We can discuss the rest inside. Our father was well connected with this place, and they have private rooms. It’s perfect for secret talks.”
“I suppose you’ll be paying for this?”
“Of course, while you are under our employment, all food expenses will be paid.”
“I wonder where all this money is coming from? I doubt you two have any significant positions in the company these days.”
“It’s not the Ubaz name that has a monopoly on salt in this city, but ours. Still, it’s true that we’ve been deprived of any positions within the company.”
Tor had no reason to refuse them if they were paying.
And so he entered the building with the twins.
It turned out to be true that the owner was acquainted with them. And after being welcomed with a warm smile, they were led to one of the rooms in the back.
Tor was reminded that these really were two upper class ladies.
They entered the room that had thick, earthen walls and sat around the table. As Tor was a guard, he sat near the entrance while the two took the seats in the back.
“Now, we will tell you about the incident that led to us having to hire you, Mister Tor.”
He repeated. And the two began to talk in such a casual way that they might have been discussing the blooming of flowers in their garden with their neighbors.
“Haran seems to be making backdoor money through fictitious orders. We want to expose him and will need your help to do it.”