Pathfinder: 180 BN - Chapter 44

Published at 2nd of April 2024 01:32:25 PM

Chapter 44

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Evergreen, 11th of Budrise, year 179 BN

Dating someone wasn't a thing in this world, but to be fair, it wasn't something relevant on modern Earth either until the late 1800s. However, at that time it wasn't 'dating' as people knew of it today. That form of dating didn't begin until the 1970's when people could go out with one another to public places and mess around. Meaning, it was relatively new.

For Richard, he wasn't sure how he entirely felt about the matter. It's been a few days since his kiss with Roxanne, and there was nothing else beyond just kissing. Which was fine, he saw no problem in that considering they didn't know one another that well. At least, he thought that way.

What did bother him a bit was that they weren't 'dating' but rather in the process of getting engaged to be wed. Being married and having a family was something he did want, but it seemed a little quick for him. The process would take weeks or even months, it depended on the support they received from the community. They had to let people know that they were in a formal relationship, and from there they'd receive support of the marriage. With enough of the community behind them, they could get engaged and go to the priest to be wed.

The entire process seemed a bit too much, as there didn't seem to be an inkling of privacy. One thing Richard liked was his private life, both in his past life and in his current one. Keeping things to himself, or those close to him. But as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. In this case, he was here in Evergreen, so he had to adapt to some of their customs.

Scratching his head, Richard sighed as he looked down at the sheets of paper in front of him. They were on his wooden table inside his workshop. There were two piles, one on the right that contained the contracts for the blacksmiths, as well as another sheet that contained his own interests once he met with his investor today. On the left were sketches of a few projects Richard had in mind. There was the design of the carriage that he created long ago, but also two weapons he sketched but never put any thought into them as of late. One was a crossbow, the design simple for now as modifications could be made to it once he actually had time and the motivation to create it. The second was the ballista that could be mounted on Evergreen's walls to shoot down at the monsters.

It was his first large-scale project, but one he was putting on the backburner for now. Both of these inventions could change Evergreen and the way they defended the city as well as pursued their own war goals. The main reason for not thinking about either of them for now was due to him lacking a bit of funds as well as going about his own goals. There was also the fact that the more he stayed in this world, the more he found in terms of materials that could be used potentially. Such as the graphite, which he didn't expect to find but did stumble upon it on his outing with Gregor to meet the blacksmiths.

This left Richard wondering what else was out there that he had yet to encounter.

Besides the carriage and weapon sketches, there was also the design of the facilities he'd need to produce steel on a large scale. Along with his future home.

After his night with Roxanne, he returned home in a joyful mood he didn't know he had in him. This led him to sketch out the design for his home, which included bedrooms, bathrooms, dining rooms, a kitchen, and the like. It was somewhat modernized, but he figured it would work here if he had the help to build it.

Looking out the window, it was sunny outside. When he woke up it was dark, but now the sun finally broke through. Richard was always one to rise early, and that didn't change even after he arrived here. He awoke around five in the morning, but time was a bit hard to tell here due to there being no clock. At least he hasn't come across any so far. 

Letting out a breath, Richard gazed back down at the table with all the papers on it. He had to finish up his list that he was working on before he went to visit Issac. It was important to him, because this would be his life's work.

The idea to transform Evergreen into a city that attracted people from all over was a grand ambition, and Richard knew that. There were a lot of thoughts going through his head right at this moment that he knew some people just wouldn't accept. Times were different here, and so was the way people thought.

While he wanted the entire city paved with roads, some larger than others, he also wanted signs posted that told them what street they were on. A public bathhouse would be nice, to allow everyone in the city to be able to cleanse themselves on a daily basis. Food could be worked on, and would be accepted as long as it was tasty. No one could ignore a good meal, no matter what time period they were in. However, the introduction of sports such as football, the European kind, as well as baseball was something that he had to plan out. These sports weren't as rough or bloody, so people might not accept it. The transition to these two sports would take a while, but Richard was willing to wait.

Looking further ahead, Richard set his sights on elevating sanitation standards and cultivating an appreciation for the arts within the next five years. Though not an aficionado, the music from his own past held a special place in his heart, and he envisioned the arts—whether through music or theatrical performances—as vital to enriching the city's cultural landscape and providing a respite for its people.

With that in mind, Richard dedicated himself to meticulously outlining the remainder of his plans. He delved into the logistics and potential strategies for bringing his vision to fruition


Evergreen, 11th of Budrise, year 179 BN

As Richard crossed the threshold into Issac's sprawling estate, his gaze wandered involuntarily, absorbing the grandeur that enveloped him. The mansion unfurled before him, boasting a staircase that gracefully arced towards the second floor. The dark wooden floorboard seemed to glisten as it reflected the sunlight coming through from the open windows. Unlike Lord Kirk's estate that Richard's been to, Issac's had more of an elegant touch to it. There were pictures on the wall, but not ones that were hung as he was used to. These pictures were drawn and seemed to be embedded into the stone wall.

One such depiction arrested Richard's attention: a valiant figure, armored and resolute, spear aloft, leading a charge under a blood-red moon. The scene was etched directly into the stone, a permanent testament to valor amidst chaos, and it left Richard momentarily transfixed.

Issac's voice drew him from his reverie. "Come, the upper floor will afford us more privacy for our discussion," he suggested, directing one of the attendants clad in stark black and white to bring refreshments. The attendant acknowledged with a discreet nod and a graceful gesture, then departed.

Issac led Richard up the spiraling staircase, his hand lightly touching the polished wooden banister. The sound of their steps echoed through the grand hall, reverberating against the high ceilings adorned with intricate frescoes. "So, why have you come to me?" Issac asked.

Richard followed right behind him. "I believe I've stumbled upon an opportunity that could be of great interest to you," Richard began.

Issac, his demeanor unchanging, signaled for Richard to continue, his intrigue evident in the slight arch of his brow. "And what is this proposal?" he prompted.

"It revolves around the mass production of steel," Richard disclosed.

Issac's eyebrows furrowed, his interest now fully engaged. "And just what is this steel you speak of?" He was familiar with many materials, but the way Richard spoke of steel was unfamiliar.

"Steel is far superior in strength and durability compared to what we're accustomed to. Recall the sword I crafted for you—the one whose quality and edge surpassed that of iron, challenging even obsidian in its keenness," Richard elaborated. 

A nod from Issac acknowledged the memory of the sword's unmatched craftsmanship. "Indeed, the craftsmanship was exceptional, well justifying its cost," Issac admitted, now visibly intrigued. "But why, then, has this not been pursued more ambitiously until now?"

With a weary exhale, Richard addressed the challenge at hand, "It's not for lack of trying. The process demands exacting conditions and resources—many of which are hard to come by. Moreover, the expertise required is not commonplace. I possess the necessary skills, Issac, but the resources are scarce.

As they reached the upper floor, sunlight filtered in through tall windows, casting a warm glow on the intricate lining the walls. Issac motioned Richard to a sitting area, where the furniture was as opulent as it was comfortable.

Issac, settling into a chair with a posture that conveyed both authority and expectation, pressed Richard for clarity. "That still doesn't explain why you sought me out, Richard. You come here with a proposal, I surmise, not just a discussion of 'what ifs'."

Richard chose a seat by the window, where he could see the garden in full bloom. It was a calculated move, the sunlight softened his features, and the view provided a subtle distraction, giving him a moment's pause to collect his thoughts. "Issac, last we spoke, amidst the chaos of the monster tide, you showed a willingness to aid me," he said, turning to catch Issac's eye. "You're the richest man in Evergreen, so surely you can see where the potential of this venture will lead." 

A rare smile cracked Issac's usually impassive demeanor, softening the hard lines around his eyes. He took the seat opposite Richard. His gaze drifted momentarily toward the window, where his daughter Celeste lay immersed in her writing, the innocence of the scene not lost on him.

Issac's eyes flicked back to Richard. "Wealth," Issac intoned, "is but a means to an end, a lever to amplify potential, to cultivate influence and wield power." He paused, allowing the weight of his words to permeate the air between them. Leaning back, he broached a personal inquiry, "Are you aware of how I amassed my fortune?"

Not many people did, so even if Richard didn't know Issac wouldn't look down on him. It wasn't a story he often told people, but there was a lot to be said about his backstory. Things people could learn if they looked deep enough.

Richard was silent, wondering how he was supposed to know the answer to this question.

Issac's gaze drifted back to the expansive window, offering him a commanding view of the lush garden below. "To the world, I've always been affluent, at least through the lens of the average citizen. Yet, I was never affluent enough to rub elbows with the true elite of our society," he mused, his eyes looked distant as he turned his attention back to Richard. "You resemble my father in some regard, with your short expedition outside the city walls to Valewater if I'm not mistaken. My father was a trader as well and managed to accumulate a large sum of tales. Enough to buy land, hire servants, marry two women, and build a large estate. His status rose with the money he obtained and he was able to tangle around with some of the lesser elite members of society, merchants like himself, as well as some others who managed to have a successful business. He was ambitious and invested his money into projects that were deemed to be successful and life-changing. Do you know what happened?" Issac asked Richard as he leaned forward. 

"They failed," Richard replied as he could see where this story was going.

"Correct," Issac affirmed, the shadow of a past disappointment briefly crossing his features. "Every investment faltered, eroding our wealth and our standing. Those once deemed allies turned their backs; the familial bonds forged through marriage frayed. I never did see him as a strong man, but when he drank his life away that settled it for me. I never wanted to be like him, so with the ten gold tales he left me, I decided to establish myself. Seeing gold where others saw bronze."

Richard decided to bite, he was truly interested in what Issac did. This was a chance to learn a little bit more about the man. "So, what did you do?"

Issac turned away from the window, the sunlight catching the edge of his frame. "It was during a time when everyone predicted a bad season. 'The rains won't come', they claimed." Issac began as he began to pace slowly. "I saw through the panic, the fear everyone had on their faces. I knew the rain would come, the way the winds were blowing told me." He paused as he gazed at Richard. "So, I rented facilities—vineyards, farms, places that produced essentials. And when the season defied their expectations, my facilities were full, overflowing with goods when the supply was scarce.”

Richard connected the dots, "And when there was little to no competition, you could up the prices."

Issac smirked, glad that the young man seated before him was smart. "Indeed, and the money I gained from that was merely the beginning."

"That's a touching story Issac, but what does that have to do with me?" Richard asked.

The servant Issac asked to bring them refreshments earlier ascended up the staircase. With practiced grace, she navigated towards them, a silver tray in hand, its contents glinting in the sunlight filtering through the windows. Atop the tray sat an elegantly crafted vase, its white and gold facade speaking of refined taste, alongside two crystalline glasses. She delicately placed the glasses before them and filled each with a rich, ruby liquid that caught the light with every pour.

Issac dismissed her with a subtle gesture, his attention momentarily captured by the swirling wine in his glass.

"In one aspect, you remind me greatly of my father, yet in your ambition and market insight, I see reflections of myself. Such qualities are rare, and they merit support. I'm prepared to back your endeavor," Issac declared, settling into his chair. 

"But, before that, I have a question for you. What do you want to do? In life, what's your ambition? What is your goal?" Issac asked.

Richard chuckled at that. It's funny that Issac mentioned what his goal was, since he's been thinking about it for the past couple of days.

Richard glanced out the window. "I want to transform the city. You might think my goal is too broad, but what about yours? What do you want in life?"

Issac raised his eyebrow. "I simply want my family to sit with the elites, eat lavish meals, and continue to do so for generations to come. Never will they have to wonder how they'll make it to the next day. That's it."

Was that it? Richard honestly expected something else from the man, but hearing the story Issac told it seemed to align well so far. 

"Seems a bit humble. Was that all?" Richard asked.

Issac took a sip of his drink before setting it down on the table. "That's it. Your goal, however, will require you to have a lot of influence, connections to the right people, and wealth. I can facilitate the first two, but the financial aspect is something you'll have to figure out by yourself."

Richard was undeterred, confident in the economic potential of steel production. "If I can commence steel production, the financial piece will fall into place."

Issac's smile hinted at a broader vision. "Connections remain crucial," he mused, then suggested, "Lord Kirk is hosting a gathering soon. It presents an ideal opportunity to introduce you to Evergreen's influential circles."

Richard was silent for a moment but nodded in agreement. "And, the steel proposal?" Richard asked.

"Ah yes, I do find the quality of the sword you forged to be a masterpiece. If it was indeed forged from steel, then I can tell that it will be in high demand. With the right reach, it'll even be able to be sold in other cities. But, the cost of such a venture, what would you need?" Issac asked.

Richard, with a practiced motion, retrieved a neatly folded sheet of paper from within his tunic and laid it before Issac. As the parchment unfurled under Issac's careful hands, it revealed a comprehensive list of requirements, accompanied by a meticulously calculated estimate of costs. Richard elaborated on the flexibility of the timeline, dependent on the workforce's size and the initial quantity of ore available.

Issac perused the document, his expression betraying nothing of his inner thoughts. Yet, inwardly, he was markedly impressed. The depth of planning and the detailed considerations for both the construction of the facility and its operations surpassed even his own standards for thoroughness.

If Arthur had an inkling of Richard's talent when it came to business, then he wouldn't be concerned about his family. But, his son had other interests and disliked taking part in business matters.

Addressing Richard, Issac conveyed his decision, "I will oversee the provision of labor, construction, materials, and the requisite iron ore. Given the robust projections and the scope outlined here, I propose we expand the initiative to include two additional facilities. In return, I'd like three things. Exclusive rights to distribute and sell the steel in five cities of my choosing. A large stake in the operation, with a detailed report coming to me at the end of every month." Issac stated.

"The second one is a given, but the first one I'm not too sure about. I already have plans for distribution and selling the steel." Richard told him.

Issac smirked. "I can tell you the locations I plan to sell the steel if you are interested, but I'm sure they won't clash with anywhere you've already set your sights on." Issac said.

"And the third condition?" Richard inquired.

Issac, with a pause that seemed to weigh the moment, took a sip from his glass before revealing his final stipulation. "You will marry my daughter," he stated, his gaze briefly shifting towards the window.

Richard's reaction was instinctive, a sharp inhale of breath as the wine nearly went down the wrong way. Hastily, he placed the glass back on the table, his gaze fixed on Issac with a mixture of surprise and incredulity. "Surely, I misunderstood. You're suggesting I marry your daughter?"

Issac's confirmation was delivered with a calm certainty. "You heard correctly. The marriage would follow a formal engagement period of six months," he clarified, unfazed by Richard's apparent shock.

Richard found himself at a crossroads, his voice tinged with hesitancy. "I'm not sure that's possible. My affections are already engaged with Roxanne, and I barely know your daughter."

Issac's dismissal of Richard's concerns was as swift as it was unexpected. "Your current relationship is not yet a binding commitment, is it? My proposition stands regardless. My only stipulation is that my daughter be recognized as the primary spouse."

Richard was silent, he liked Roxanne. He'd known her for a bit now, but he was suddenly being asked to marry someone he hadn't seen yet. He didn't even know Issac's daughter's name, let alone her personality.

Sensing the crux of the matter, Richard sought clarity. "So, without agreement to these terms, you withdraw your investment?"

Issac's response was pragmatic, bordering on indifferent. "While your venture promises innovation and profit, my financial ventures are diversified. Without your acquiescence to my conditions, my support is withheld."

With that, Richard rose, his resolve firming. "Then it seems I must seek partnership elsewhere," he declared, preparing to depart.

Issac, however, wasn't finished. His voice halted Richard's exit. "Consider the broader context. The ongoing war constrains resources and attention. Your project, while compelling, demands a significant investment in a fragile economy. Nearly thirty gold tales in fact, that's a staggering sum for someone to part with given the economy at the moment. Few possess the means—or the foresight—to commit such funds."

Richard was silent.

Issac offered a concession, a bridge to understanding. "You haven't met my daughter. Visit her in the garden. See for yourself the kind of person she is. Then, with all facts in hand, return tomorrow with your decision."


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