Ready to Expand
Griz entered the store and sat down by the counter. On the other side Lucy and Ming were sitting in a corner half asleep. Unfortunately for the merchant, the one he was most wary of was perched on the stool opposite him.
He twisted his face in frustration as the kid grinned with eyes brimming with liveliness.
“I’m taking those pelts, no deal here kid.”
Griz spoke in a commanding tone making the best intimidating face ever in his life. If the assistant John was here, he would already be scampering away in fright. Much less for children.
The grinning face however just remained on a motionless body. The expression changed slowly to a blank then turned red as it stifled the laughter that was building. It then burst in the fit of laughter like a volcano.
“Phsssstttt! Cough,cough…..ah hahahaha….Mr Griz. Oh, that really comes across..”
Not phased in the least, the boy broke out into a laugh as if it was the best joke in ages. His palms slapped the counter like a drunkard enjoying the best joke of the night in a bar. Wiping the tears from his eyes, he looked at the still menacing face across the counter.
“Ahem, Ahem. Pardon my rude behavior, Mr Griz. That was a good joke after the troubles we had. Please accept by apology for displaying such improper conduct.”
The boy’s countenance changed slowly into a blank unreadable face. The serious face like a businessman giving his all into sealing a deal. It was like the deadly gaze that stared down on a first time job applicant from the interviewing panel.
It was something they both had experienced just in totally different worlds and situations. Able to relate on the same level was one of the reasons why they both understood the ploys of the other party.
“You think I won’t do it?”
“If you were the lone merchant in this village, you would have already killed us to claim that prize. For a person whose hands extend out into the empire, that bear is not the first and definitely not the last you’ve seen. Why take advantage of us little slum children who gratefully fill your coffers.”
The boy stretched his back and continued.
“We may be worthless to others, but to you we are more useful than those guards outside. Why? It’s because we have no fear to risk our lives to make you money. The best thing is that we have no choice since we depend on you to survive. Now who in their right mind would cut out of a sweet deal like this. High profit, low maintenance.”
The stout man shook his head and breathed out a long sigh…
A merchant main driving force is greed. But the most successful merchants know when to unleash it.
A prime example is of a hen laying eggs. Knowing when to cut the neck after all the eggs that can be laid is important. Too soon and you risk loosing out on more eggs. Too late and your just feeding a barren bird.
It was an analogy understood in both worlds.
The burly man sighed again. Intimidation, blackmail, death and all other scare tactics were useless in the face of this opponent. They both were past such actions and were hoping to reach their bottom line.
“You promised a bargain. Considering that I had to risk the lives of my guards for transport especially at night in the forest. I think more than half of the price should be deducted.” Also we ha……”
Chu interrupted the man with a raised palm.
“Wait, wait, wait. First things first. I want to know how much your offering for the total price of the bear before we start deductions. In a few hours hunters and adventurers are going to be returning or heading out to the forest. With the commotion those beast are going to cause, its natural the rest of merchants will be willing to offer better deals. Let me hear what your willing to pay.”
Griz had the feeling that smacking this brat of the stool wouldn’t be a bad idea. Not only was he trying to get a good price, he was threatening him by dealing with his competitors.
“We pay sixty silvers for a bear. You can ask around if you like. I can call in any guard and they will say the same. Maybe even less after all a wolf pelt sells for just seven to ten silvers.”
Griz nodded his head like a salesman selling the best used car of the century.
Chu jumped down the stool and rummaged his bag. He returned to the counter opening the guide-book for adventurers and travelers. On the yellowed page a rough sketch of a bear with some notes scribbled underneath.
“Snow bear. A king beast of the north. Avoid at all cost since it is very dangerous. Pelt is worth its weight in gold.”
Griz nearly coughed up blood. He was close to falling off the stool from a coughing fit. Teary eyed from his unexpected outburst he looked up.
“Since when can you read?”
“Hmph! You think just because I live in the slums I got nothing to do and waste my time picking up sticks?”
Chu followed up the reply and continued as his face looked to Griz in disdain.
“You better cough up a good deal or this money tree will dry up! Next time you try to rob me as if I’m an idiot like that one, you will cough up blood on a poor deal.”
Griz looked at the boy in front of him who was pointing to the other sleeping in the corner. He had more gib than a street rat in the cities. It was amazing to find someone like this in the slum where most have resigned to die.
“The bear is in good condition. Usually when the hide is damaged it is sold to the weapon-smith for armor. Since the pelt is in good condition, this bear has a high likely hood of being sold to nobles as a rug decoration. My offer is ten gold.”
If the other were awake, they would probably have fainted. Chu on the other hand was quietly sitting drumming his fingers on the counter.
The last thing you would read about in novels was about the protagonist spending time on an insignificant thing like basic food supply.
Nobody ever said ‘hey I went to another world and the biggest problem was food, only when it happens to you then you understand. There is a reason why since recorded history food and shelter was always labeled under basic necessities.’
Only when faced in such a situation does the real troubles begin to show itself.
Flour, oil, cheese, butter, pickled fruit, smoked meat, provisions etc. To purchase these items in a bulk that had to last four months, the money would be staggering. Graduating from a fluid meal of flavored water to solid food taken for granted showed the disparity of living conditions. Even something unremarkable like salt was precious here.
In Chu’s mind the cost of living just moved up from a few double-digit coppers to a single digit silver. And this was just to provide the kind of food that a low-income family on earth would be satisfied with!
“Worth its weight in GOLD. You telling me that heavy thing is worth a measly ten gold? Two hundred, nothing less.”
A heavy hairy hand smacked the counter nearly breaking it.
“You crazy? Where the hell did you read one pound is one gold in that book? It’s a stupid analogy. It’s LIKE the pelt is WORTH it’s weight in gold. Twenty gold, not a dime more.”
A small hand slapped the counter its effect pathetic in comparison to the similar action as before.
“Heck no, I can start an auction going in front of the village gate and get a cool one hundred and seventy gold. Merchants are going to beg me to sell.”
“The garrison will whip you out before you even say what you’re selling. Forty gold since its you. That’s more that enough to tide a brat over a couple of winters in comfort.”
“One sixty, not a dime less. I’m minding a horde of children, what do I tell them when you take the food out of their mouths?”
“You stinking brat, I’m trying to save your life. Do you know what will happen if word got out you have so much gold? You are going to have the biggest bullseye strapped to your back. Sixty gold and a guarantee that you can stay in the Trading post lodge during winter.”
“One hundred and deal. Let’s talk about the other expenses.”
Chu stared at Griz until the latter finally gave up. Of the two of them, only Griz had a real idea on how much the bear was really worth. In bartering the key was how high was the starting price called and being able to whittle it down.
Chu’s price was like a dream to Griz. Even if he paid five hundred gold, he was going to make a fortune. Being able to compromise for both of them thinking they reached a sweet deal was the best.
‘In business dealings there are no friends.’
Worlds apart such statements still stands true.
“How much for the transport cost?”
“Four gold. That was a risky venture and we even rescued your little friend there.”
“Hell no, skim two golds off. That bear already made sure no predators would be around for miles in the forest. As for that little brat, he is long accustomed to spending all night in the forest.”
Chu pointed his head over at Ming as he slept.
“Four gold and anytime you want during winter, I sell you food supplies before winter markup prices.”
Griz was looking like a man trading on the line.
“Ha ha ha, no need to be so serious Mr Griz. I was just thinking about some other things. By the way, do you have smoked Great horned deer that’s been cured?”
The merchant had a surprised look at that out-of-the-way question.
“No, you don’t know this but that meat is usually cured and transported to the cities. That meat is treated as a delicacy.”
Chu rapped his knuckles again.
“Mr Griz I promised you a deal. One Hundred gold for the bear and the deer pelt is free. In return for this I want all the deer meat cured and seasoned. Of course I will gladly spend back the money on the sales offer you just gave.”
For Griz this was something he never expected. That bear alone would fetch a price nearly ten time the buying price. Although he lost out on the deer meat, the price of the pelt and complete horned head with antlers would sell for an astounding price. And it was free!!
The cost of seasoning and curing the meat could never reach above a few silvers, but these items were already worth gold coins!
He gave a suspicious look at the brat sitting in front.
“No need, no need to be suspicious. How long will it take for the meat to be ready?”
“The butchering can be finished today, give about three days for it to be cured and ready.”
Chu nodded in agreement.
“Good, at that time I want to request to borrow a horse and cart to transport the supplied to my hideout. If you don’t trust me then I would like you to get a loyal person who doesn’t run their mouth.”
Griz shot another surprised look at him.
“Your not staying in the slums?”
Chu gave him the look as if he was staring at an idiot.
“You trying to get me killed? You should have an ideal of what goes on in those village slums during winter. I should thing everywhere is the same. Best you mark a bullseye on my head!!”
The man nodded in understanding.
“Don’t bother I’ll lend you the cart when your ready. I trust you wont try to make an enemy of the Merchant Guild.”
Being wanted by the Merchant guild meant death. The only way to survive would be to live a life in isolation as a hermit. Of course that wouldn’t prevent mercenaries from trying to track you down for the bounty.
Chu nodded and continued.
“Lets seal it by throwing in a seasoned bear leg. I’ll send some kids over for some more of those free clothes you have. I’ll take some free old boots also. Gimme the gold coins now and don’t forget to add my money from your dumb night assistant. It is always a pleasure doing business with you!”
Griz finally understood. That boy already knew that borrowing a cart was not a problem. If he had stolen it after taking it, the cost of the deer head would have been more that adequate to pay back for it.
Before he knew it a trust was built up between the two parties. Between two merchants these little freebies were simply small incentives to gain favors. In the eyes of a villager however, this was like receiving a huge deal. For the slum residents it was like heaven descending its favors on land.
As Griz sorted out the coins it was this one question that kept nagging him.
‘WHY THE HECK DOES IT SEEM LIKE I’M THE ONE WHO IS LOOKING FOR FAVORS?’
In his secret pouch, Chu carefully placed his money after counting. The coins were thin and not bulky. If he had to get it in all silver he would have been struggling to carry such a pouch.
Thank god Griz was not a vindictive merchant!
After the deal, Chu and the others sneaked away to the slums. He was quick to blend in with the residents of the slums. Griz had long taken the beast to be processed from prying eyes. Who would believe the rumor that three kids brought in a snow bear?
The guards who went into the forest were the ones from the inner Trading post compound. As a merchant Griz would not be stupid to send thoughtless blabbermouths for a task like this. You would need to upturn the whole of the slums to find them.
Chu wasn’t too worried about it, by the time any and if troubles started they would be long gone. When winter chaos hits they might simply be written of as first casualties.
Back in the shack, wrapping up in the quilts, he decided to execute his plan.
The basic foundation was finally taken care of. He was ready to expand.