Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 158
The documents were delivered to Claude three days later. Rodan didn't look very cheery when he came with the documents, however.
"What's up with you? You look down."
Rodan sighed and told Claude about his troubles. He had completed the transfer, but had yet to make any progress on buying the property their mistress desired.
He supposed she still thought of it as the town she knew from ten years earlier. She'd not taken into account that the town had continued to grow and develop since her wholesale departure. As such, the kind of property she'd told the two to buy now cost several times more than what she'd posited in her calculations. Rather than buying a number of places with her three hundred crowns, it could barely net them a single building, and not even one on the main street.
No one was in a hurry to sell either. They all knew that, disastrous endeavour thereafter or not, Morssen's Route, as some had started calling it, would bring about a boom in the town hitherto unheard of in the entire country, possibly even this side of the continent. Only a fool would sell right before the gravy wagon arrived.
"Did Maria specifically say she wanted a shop on the main street?"
Rodan was a loyal servant, but he was no realtor. Maria didn't have anybody she could trust beside him, however, so he'd been put in charge of this. Claude decided he should probably do his bit since he would profit from it.
"Have a map of town?"
Rodan took out a map from his sack and put it on the dining table. He had marked every place he'd checked out.
"Give me a pencil."
Claude drew a large circle in the slums by Old Street.
"You should be able to buy there for a more reasonable price. Buy a couple buildings there then put them up as security for a loan from the bank. I doubt they'll complain about a loan from a noble of Maria's status and virtue. Take the money you get from the loan and buy more property. Put them up as security on more loans and keep going until you have as many plots and buildings as Maria wants."
Rodan's eyes were only just barely still in his skull. Could he really do such a thing? He almost wanted to storm off and get to it right away, but his better judgement and natural caution won him back to reason and he decided to think it over properly.
"But she asked me to get places near the main thoroughfares."
"Just build your own--" The pencil drew another line, bisecting the slum. "There's your thoroughfare. After you buy the property, not only can you build a street, you can also use it to build shop lots around that street. Maybe have apartment complexes. If the lady is sure the town will be developed, then there's no need to worry about finding tenants. You're close enough to the docks that the officers will be more than willing to stay there, and if you build them proper apartments fitting of their position, they'll even fight over them."
"B-but... M-madam d-doesn't have enough money for that..."
"She does. She just doesn't know it," Claude cracked a smile, "She doesn't even need to spend her own money either."
Claude pointed out the window.
"Put the wood up as security. She should be able to get more than enough in loans against it. If you play your cards right, you'll make more than double the repayments on the loan."
"F-for how much?" Rodan asked.
"The entire estate is about 470 hectares. If the bank will give you seventy percent of its value, then you should be able to get somewhere between 18 and 20 thousand crowns. Then there's also the fact that you can source most of the material you'll need for the construction from the wood as well, so you save a lot on material's cost."
Rodan twitched like a teenage girl facing her crush.
"I... I can't make a decision like that on the mistress' behalf. You must come back to the capital with me and explain everything to the mistress."
"You should know in what situation I am. I can't leave now. I'll write everything down for you, but I can't go with you."
Claude was really only using his family as a convenient excuse. The reality was he'd been talking way out of his depth. He had not pulled anything out of his arse, but he was far from confident in anything he'd just said. He was at best tangentially aware of a couple of the fundamental workings of property development. Most of it was just him thinking things through logically.
Property development was a completely alien and unthought of idea on Freia, however, so Claude was the closest thing to an expert on the topic. Most exchanges of property was a single, lone sale by a landowner or renting of a piece of property. Developments were made because they were necessary, not because they might bring money in in their own right.
He tried his best to describe his thoughts to his mistress, but putting a thought to paper was far harder, he found, than thinking the thought. It took him the whole night to finish his first draft, and another three hours into the morning to rewrite it properly.
Rodan sat beside him the whole time. He even made him tea, drinks, supper, a midnight munch and more. It made Claude severely uncomfortable, but he didn't have the heart to tell the man to stop.
Awkwardness aside, however, Claude had to admit Rodan was a very convenient one to have around. At the very least, he was an intelligent man, so anything he could not understand Maria probably wouldn't either. He could thus play a great barometer for the palatability of Claude's ideas and explanations. Neither Rodan nor Claude, however, could actually implement the plans if they were approved. Rodan knew next to nothing about the town since he rarely set foot in it even before his mistress had parted with the town. Claude, for his part, didn't have the connections to oil the bureaucratic machine into action. They needed a connected collaborator.
Claude thus suggested they bring a couple local richmen into the fold. He doubted any would object to practically free income.
Rodan worked on the map while Claude put the finishing touches to his proposal, redoing a map of the town and marking key properties for pursuit.
Claude's special comment section was practically all an extolment of the virtues and necessity of a proper fuel and water system. He practically wrote a book on gentrification, he thought when he'd finished. The last half an hour of his work time was spent mostly on calming Rodan down repeatedly as the man hopped around on his chair like child with attention and energy problems.
By the time it was five in the morning, Claude finally finished the whole thing. Rodan clutched his sack of documents as he would a gold-egg-laying goose.
"I'm going to return to the royal capital immediately," the butler said.
Shocked, Claude asked, "Aren't you going to take a bit of rest? You've been working through the night. I'll cook something up for you to fill your stomach."
"That won't be necessary, Master Claude. I have to deliver your plan to the lady as soon as possible. Time is of essence and I worry that we won't have enough of it even if she agrees to the plan."
Claude understood the urgency as well. The 5th month was only one month away. After Stellin X's announcement, all buildings or shop lots in Whitestag would instantly surge in price. Rodan had to rush to the royal capital and back and that would take four to five days at least. If Maria agreed to implement the plan, any wasted time would mean lost money.
So, Rodan returned to his carriage with nothing but some bread and water. He was prepared to drive nonstop and that would probably save them a day's time.
Five days later, Rodan once again appeared before Claude with another of Maria's letter. There was only one sentence in the letter: I'll go with your plan.
Claude smiled bitterly at how he was seeking out trouble on his own accord. But he had no choice. Since the whole thing was kicked off, he might as well go through with it. He could also earn quite a bit of money for himself while he was at it and it would be a rare opportunity. And with Maria backing him, he wouldn't have to worry about being given a hard time.
According to Rodan, Maria wanted seventy percent of the profits. Claude could get ten percent and the rest would be split between whoever he got to play collaborator.
"I'll also put my land up as security as well. I should at least invest a little to earn my shares. We should start by taking out a loan against the farm, so off to town. Come, I have a couple people to which to introduce you."
They were headed for Claude's father's old friends, the ones who'd played co-conspirator in his plans for the disastrous endeavour. The help they could be in this new endeavour was only part of his reason for suggesting their invitation, however. A big part of it was to give him a chance to rebuild his family's position and network in the town as well.