Chapter 94: That time when things seemed to be going to plan
「I’ve been indebted to you so please accept this as a small token of my appreciation. Please keep it somewhere dark and out of sunlight」1
With that said, I left a box of chocolate that I received from Caam-san, as a gift. That happened ten days ago now, huh? The sun’s getting higher so It’s about to get hotter. I did remember him saying that chocolate melts with heat.
I was thinking about that as I was returning after delivering a finely decorated gold ring and another one with a large gemstone to a lower-rank noble in the town next to Corundum.
I’m going to check on the coffee shop once I get back. The number of customers has increased, and they come not only for coffee but also for cocoa and chocolate. It seems like there are more female customers too. Must be because of the rumors spreading throughout the town.
When I first tasted the chocolate, I was impressed by its unprecedented sweetness and the way it just melts in your mouth.
I also tried a cup of cocoa and it has a different charm from coffee. It looks like flour just like coffee but has a somewhat reassuring taste. They’ve already added the two new products to the shop’s set menu. I believe Caam-san has tried out all sorts of combinations before they could sell in the shop.
I have absolutely no idea what that demonkin is thinking but just like what I said, the three products that shop has, became really popular.
For what it’s worth, I also drink coffee there after lunch to feel refreshed. I occasionally observe what’s going on in the shop but I always get surprised when a rough-looking adventurer adds a large amount of milk and sugar to make it sweet.
Conversely, some women looked like they enjoy it as is, drinking it without adding anything. It definitely changed my opinion of all women liking sweet things. It’s an interesting drink that lets you know what someone’s tastes are like.
There are also parents who come with their children. I wonder if it’s because they’ve heard of rumors about cocoa. There may be children from wealthy families who stop by from time to time to drink cocoa but so far, I’ve only seen servants buying the powder for them.
I still remember the rumors about that shop when they first started advertising.
They were calling him a “strange demonkin with boards hanging around his body promoting his shop”. I was curious so I had my subordinate check it out. It seemed like people were amazed by his method of advertising. The man manning the counter and the waitress girl couldn’t move because of embarrassment at the time but people’s eyes were also drawn to them so they were still effective, or so I was told.
After that, I’ve often seen people wearing similar-looking planks over their bodies to advertise to the sailors on the ships stopping by the harbor. Thanks to that, the alcohol profits in my store were getting somewhat increased and it feels like the demand for employment in the town increased.2
It even affected a deserted off-street restaurant. They suddenly became famous for their cheap and delicious food. They’ve become so busy that my subordinates told me that they’ve had to hire more people. Because of this, I have come to realize how amazing advertising truly is.
The manager of the coffee shop always comes to my store to buy necessary supplies. When I asked him about it, he seemed to have been told by Caam-san to buy it from me because it’s cheaper. Now, it might be true that they can get items cheaper without a retail store in between but still……
I’ve also heard rumors that a certain fool from who knows where decided to hire a small-time thug to forcefully find out where the source of coffee comes from. They didn’t succeed though as the thug was immediately subdued and dragged away by a ruffian sailor and a guild official who wasn’t wearing their armor as it was their rest day. I think it’s great that the shop is so well-loved by the people that they don’t need to hire a full-time adventurer to prevent crime. I wonder if Caam-san also considered this?
I suppose if someone really wanted it, they could sneak into the store at night and steal it but it’s something that’s not out on the market yet and nobody knows where to get it so they would get discovered immediately once they start selling it.
I fell asleep while thinking about it and when I woke up, I was back at Corundum. The sun was starting to set and I was at my store’s office putting together some documents when the manager of the coffee shop came saying he wanted to talk to me.
「I apologize for bothering you」
「It’s alright, I don’t mind」
「I didn’t want to come on such short notice but a merchant came to the shop and asked if they could buy the coffee」
「I see. That’s nice but what’s that got to do with you coming here?」
「Caam-san said that I should give you this if someone asks to buy coffee」
The manager took out a letter with a seal and handed it over to me.
「Let me take a look」
The letter was sealed with wax but the wax didn’t have anything resembling a seal. I opened the seal and started reading it.
『I’ll dispense with the preliminaries but I told them to give you this letter if a customer who wants to purchase our shop’s goods. Someone must have come if you are reading this』
Dispense with the preliminaries? I put my questions aside for now and continued reading.
It said that as his representative, I have exclusive sales rights to the island’s goods for a certain period of time. The price of one cup, one bag, an approximate suggested retail price, and the wholesale price were written in the letter and he said he’ll leave it to my judgment if I wanted to change it. The number of inventory, those that can be transported via transfer magic, and other similar details are also written down. Considering the labor wages, the product’s popularity, and its rarity, it seems like the right price though I feel it’s a bit cheap. Is he being considerate of me?
I only happened to sell them beddings and some food when I passed by the island so I feel like I’m receiving too much. It’s the same for the chocolate the other day. It’s a bad mentality for a merchant. Caam-san is too kind……
「I’ve understood the gist of it. Next time that merchant or Caam-san visits, please send them my way」
「Got it. Thank you for your time」
「No problem. Considering the contents of the letter, I should be the one thanking you. It was my pleasure」
After saying that, I shook his hand then he went back.
「Boss, what did the coffee shop manager want?」
「A merchant who wants to buy coffee came by so he came to give me a letter that Caam-san wrote for that situation」
「Oh, sounds interesting」
「It really is. I’ve become that island’s exclusive merchant after all」
「Huh? What does that mean?」
「They’re going to sell coffee at a fixed price to us so we can sell it for whatever price we want. Well, though he did say we can add onto that price for our profit, I should talk with Caam-san about that later. We really ended up making a large profit huh? This opportunity would have been swiped away by someone else if we didn’t stop by that island」
「Boss, you’re making a scary face you know?」
「Ah, sorry about that. Things like these don’t come by very often after all. Anyway, I need to get Caam-san to make a stamp for the sealing wax. He really has no sense of danger for these kinds of things」
The following day, a merchant with catfish-like facial hair came to my office.
「I’ve heard that you are the one who sells coffee but just where do you get your stock? If possible, I would like to go there and purchase some so I would know where it is. Of course, I’m not saying the info should be free. I look forward to our future transactions from now on」
「I cannot divulge that information as it is the producer’s request. They seem to trust me and have appointed me as their sole distributor. However, because of its sudden surge in popularity despite it being rare, we still haven’t decided on a price. The producer will be visiting me at a later date and we will be discussing that matter so I apologize but please come back another time. We will contact you at a later date once it has been decided so could you please wait until then?」
「……I understand. I shall take my leave for today」
He quietly left after saying that.
I’m certain that I’ve had business transactions with that merchant before but there have been bad rumors surrounding him so I don’t really trust him. I think Caam-san would be fine with it but it’s also possible that he’ll strike a hard bargain.
While thinking about that, I wrote down the things I needed to do so I’m prepared when Caam-san comes.
「Good work. Has anything happened while I was gone?」
「Caam-san! A merchant who wanted to buy coffee came. That’s why we followed your instruction and gave the letter to Nils-san」
「Thanks. I guess I’ll head there then. Ah, make sure you lock up properly okay?」
With that said, he calmly exited the shop.
「I thought he would be happier to hear that but he didn’t react that way at all」
「That’s true but even though he was acting calmly, he opened the door with his left hand today. He usually opens the door with his right」
「You observe him a lot huh?」
「It’s fun you know?」
「Hello. Is Nils-san around?」
「Yeah. He’s inside」
As always, I talked to the staff member first before going to the usual room. I knocked on the door and then waited for a response before entering.
「Hello. I’ve heard from our shop’s manager so I came to ask about it」
「Sorry for skipping the formalities but let’s get down to business」
With that, I began my discussion with a slightly tense Nils-san. I hate this kind of mood and wanted things to be more relaxed though.
「Got it. Where do we begin?」
「From the beginning! What was that letter? It was too lax. Sure, the numbers you wrote down show a reasonable amount but shouldn’t that kind of thing be decided after a thorough discussion!? There wasn’t even a seal on the sealing wax. What were you going to do if it was forged?」
「Ahaha. You got me. Just wondering but have you seen those five symbols in the signature area before? You see, everyone has little idiosyncrasies when writing and unless it’s someone who has practiced copying someone, it won’t look the same. See?」
Of course, the said five symbols are a combination of the kanji of the island’s name, 藍玉(Aquamarine), two characters of my surname, and my first name. I wrote it in a calligraphy-like style with a brush and low viscosity ink. I really wanted to get a small calligraphy brush and India ink but I just settled for what I had.
Even if they wanted to imitate it, it’s probably impossible for people in this world. Just the『藍』part of aquamarine is already impossible because I wrote it in a slightly cursive way.
「That’s true but I don’t know what that is」
「You can just think of it as a combination of a detailed seal on the sealing wax and a signature」
He looked like he wasn’t convinced at all. I guess I should give him a bit more info.
「At the end, the symbol that looks like an unfinished square with four stick-like things in the middle is how you write Caam(凪 Nagi)」
I’ve been using this character for over twenty years and I obviously have my own way of writing it.
「So that’s what that is…… Hmmー」
He still isn’t convinced so he used a piece of scratch paper and then tried to imitate the five characters. You can’t do that with a quill pen you know? Moreover, he’s just copying a simple 玉 but no matter how you look at it, it’s just three lines with a dot when he does it.
「Hmm. It’s quite difficult, isn’t it? Apart from that, there are also the idiosyncrasies like you said. Perhaps it is difficult to forge. I will give up on asking you to make a seal for now but you definitely have to in the future. I hope you don’t end up having the fact that you don’t have a seal get taken advantage of by some idiot who decided to forge one」
After saying that, he crumpled the paper and tossed it in the wastebasket.
He gave up huh? He’s like a person from an English-speaking country writing kanji for the first time so it couldn’t be helped.
We worked out the fine details and then wrote them down on two sheets of paper. I signed the documents but not with a quill pen. I used a thick brush that’s meant for painting. I should buy a brush for signing stuff.
「Is that what you use? You can write surprisingly well with it despite it being soft.」
「If you ask me though, I’m amazed that you can write with something that hard」
I laughed for a bit while I wrote the five kanji characters in the two documents.
Once I was done, I had Nils-san compare them.
「It’s true. It’s pretty much the same. The sudden stop over here and the sweeping stroke over here are identical. There’s still the issue of the ink fading over time though」
With that said, he tried to copy it again but this time with the brush. However, it turned out worse than when he tried it with the quill so he silently threw the crumpled-up paper into the wastebasket.
「So, how much coffee do you have in stock?」
「I think we have a hundred sacks of wheat but I honestly don’t know about the coffee because I’m just storing it back in my old house. And besides, the only thing I’m doing is drying them out. It’s up to the person to roast it to their tastes」
「It’s basically cooking the beans until they’re charred. Depending on the way it’s roasted, the acidity and bitterness would change. We can’t do everything for every shipment. Rather, it’s the consumer who roasts it to their liking. Even the way its ground makes some difference to the taste you know?」
「Then, what about the coffee you’re serving at the shop」
「I used to be in charge of it but now I’m leaving it to someone who really loves coffee. We’re almost out of stock so we’ll be switching to beans roasted by that person. I think you’ll be able to somewhat tell the difference」
「Hmm…… I also have to let the client know about this」
「That’s right. You are mistaken if you think you’ll always get the same taste. Incidentally, I think the taste would also be different if you find coffee somewhere other than the island」
「Please wait a moment. Let me write this all down」
He took out a notebook and then wrote everything he heard about coffee in it. He’s probably doing this not to be rude to the client so I answered every question he asked and also those that he didn’t to the best of my knowledge.
「In the meantime, you can guarantee a hundred, right?」
「Yes. I think that more manpower will increase the yield but we don’t have the money so we can’t hire people or buy slaves. Well, we’ll just have to keep at it until we have a bit more money to do that」
I would make it a bit cheaper if they’ll harvest it themselves but I’ll have to take into consideration where they’ll sleep and what they’ll eat during their stay. They might even overharvest it. I guess I should just continue to take advantage of the scarcity while I can.
Several days later, the merchant from before visited me again.
「And so, that is what was decided after our discussion. Here is the document that was written. My partner also has a copy of it」
I showed him the paper I took out from my breast pocket.
The catfish-mustached merchant took the document and then started skimming through it.
「It’s true. Well then, I will be able to buy coffee through you」
「Yes. I apologize if this is a hassle but that’s how it’s come to be. Please note that even if you go directly to their shop, they cannot sell it to you without permission. Apart from that, these are things to take note of」
I took out another sheet of paper and let him read it.
「The taste changes depending on how it’s roasted and even the way it’s ground!? Does that mean I can’t acquire the same taste?」
「Unfortunately, it’s impossible. The true charm of it is being able to roast the dried beans yourself to suit your own tastes. It’s also great that each shop can have its own unique taste. At least that’s what I think」
He seemed really upset by that. Did he really think he could acquire the shop’s taste? Well, I did think that too but when I heard the reason, I was convinced.
I wonder if this person’s client specifically wanted the taste of the coffee of that shop or did this mustached man think he could just get the taste as is. Whatever the case, he took his time thinking about it.
「Well then, let me buy a sack to try it out」
It’s a lot less than I expected. I assume he’s just going to hire a chef to try it out or discuss it with his client first.
「Thank you for your purchase」
After saying that, I prepared the documents and delivered them to the shop manager in order to save Caam-san time and effort. If it’s just one sack, the shop shouldn’t have trouble producing it.
If things go well with that catfish mustache merchant, I’ll just go buy some stock and discuss how it’ll be transported at that time.
It’s a place where money’s just starting to pour in huh……?
If they can sell coffee and chocolate and increase the number of people on the island, they will be richer, the demand will grow, and we’ll be able to get more profit from selling them necessities and crops that are not grown on the island. While thinking about that, I hoped they would be able to expand their business soon. They’re making use of us so we should also do the same.
Ahー, I’m probably making a horrible smiling face right now. He was grumbling that they didn’t have iron on the island so I should visit a town with an iron mine in the future.