Lily paced back and forth, brow furrowed in thought. Tate, Prei and Iris followed her movement with their heads, looks of curiosity plainly apparent on their faces. Still, none of them said a thing. Even the young Prei understood that Lily would not wish for her thoughts to be interrupted. The afternoon sun shone strongly in the air, causing sweat to line Lily’s face, but she paid it no mind.
The quandary she was attempting to solve was a basic, yet difficult problem. She continued walking in circles, looking around at the forest, at the lake, at anything that might provide a clue. Eventually, frustrated, she kicked at the ground in annoyance, causing soil to fly outwards and scatter. She sat down on the ground and placed both hands to her forehead, kneading it while sighing.
Iris moved quickly, as though she had been waiting for precisely this moment – and perhaps she had. She briskly made her way to Lily’s side and placed a hand on her shoulder, causing Lily to look up, separating her forehead from her palms.
“Are you ready to tell us why you’ve been aimlessly pacing for an hour and twenty seven minutes?”
Lily blinked when she heard the duration, then scratched her head, chagrined.
She gestured at Prei and Tate to get closer, and indicated the ground in front of her. They sat down in the indicated spot, whereupon Lily leaned back, her arms positioned behind her. Then she began her explanation.
“…So I’ve been thinking. In order to build our house, we’ll need bricks, mortar and roof tiles. Since those don’t exactly grow on trees, the only way to get them is by buying them. But since demons have overrun this continent, the only people left to buy from are those same demons. That means we’re going to be dealing with one of the demon villages, like the one we saw on the way here.”
Tate’s eyes widened in understandable surprise. Prei seemed unfazed, but that may have been due to her age preventing her from understanding why the notion was absurd. Tate quickly voiced her concern.
“…are you sure? You’re okay with that?”
“…Honestly? No. No I’m not. The thought of speaking with those creatures that took my home makes my blood boil. Just thinking about it gives me the urge to storm the encampment which was once my home city. But this is necessary. If we are to survive in this foreign land, we need to establish trade with them. Though it irks me, this is an inevitability. Does it bother you, Tate? Does it bother you that we’re going to trade with demons?”
A part of Lily yearned for Tate to say yes, to object to her idea. It would give her the perfect self-justification to destroy the demon village and plunder its goods. The larger part of Lily, her rational self, held this impulse in check, recognising the importance of trade. It chastised her vengeful self for attempting to use Tate as an excuse. Yet, if Tate were to voice her objection here, Lily would have more than enough reason to loot the village, using “Tate’s wish” as a selfish justification.
“…I see. If you’re okay with it, I see no reason to object.”
Lily hung her head in disappointment, the strength leaving her body. Tate looked at her with eyes of confusion, wondering if she had perhaps given the wrong answer.
“…Uh, did I…say something wrong?”
Lily shook her head lethargically, expression still downcast.
“No, no. You did nothing wrong.”
Tate glanced at her with suspicion, but was interrupted by Iris, who interjected with her own question.
“So, if you’ve already made up your mind about this matter, what’s the issue that’s been causing you such distress?”
Reminded of her initial quandary, Lily’s face once again took on an expression of frustration and annoyance.
“So, we want to trade with the demons to get the materials we need. However, trade requires both parties to offer an item or service. As it stands, we have nothing to offer.”
Lily gestured at the forest around her.
“We could potentially sell them lumber, but none of us know how to tell the quality of wood, and lumber usually does not fetch very high prices. Not during this part of the year, anyway, when the weather is not yet cold enough for the fireplaces to be lit. We could sell them animals, but there don’t seem to be any animals of significant size in our vicinity, and we might not be able to get enough to purchase the materials we need.”
Lily folded her arms and regarded the forest around her, surveying the trees with a desperate eye.
“So, as you can see, while we need to trade to survive, we have nothing to offer. We have no capital. So we need to find some form of capital. If any of you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.”
Tate began fidgeting as her eyes narrowed in thought. Eventually, as though struck by inspiration, she jerked her head upwards and looked at Lily excitedly.
“What about the money we got from Mister Hyssop? You should still have a bit left over, and Mother and Father insisted I keep half of my share.”
Lily laughed bitterly.
“I thought about that, but the chances that they’ll accept Saphiz currency is lower than low. Even if the village were a human one, it would be difficult to do business with foreign currency. The village is a demon village. The humans consider them enemies. The chance that they’ll accept the currency of the enemy is miniscule. These coins are as good as useless.”
“But even if it’s an almost nonexistent chance, there is a slight chance that they would accept the money. Even if they didn’t, gold Par coins are made of high-purity gold, so if you melt them down, you should still be able to get something for them.”
Lily blinked, unsure of what she just heard.
“Wait, high-purity gold? Those coins? Why would anyone put substantial amounts of gold in common currency?”
Tate nodded and explained.
“Oparil has many gold mines under its control, but wearing golden jewellery is bad luck. Something about how gold comes from beneath the earth, and wearing it means you want to join it. Morbid, strange stuff. Anyway, gold is abundant in Oparil, but nobody really wants it for jewelry or decoration like in other countries. So gold’s value in Oparil is relatively low. That’s what my father taught me, anyway. Since they have so much gold, and it held so little value, they decided to put it in their money in large amounts to increase the value of their currency. Gold was still worth a lot in other countries, so their currency naturally became the strongest in the continent.”
Lily rubbed her chin, considering what Tate had told her. It was not unheard of for a country to artificially increase the economic strength of their currency by altering the purity of precious metals used in its construction. The gold story seemed plausible as well. But the fact that the country had decided to use the gold in its currency, other than as a simple export, struck Lily as odd.There were a number of possible reasons for this unusual decision, mostly political in nature. Still, the reason did not matter. If Tate was right, the coins might still have a use even if it was not a currency the demons accepted. Fortunately, Lily had a way to confirm if that was indeed the case.
Lily walked over to Iris. Iris, anticipating her request, retrieved the coin pouch from her leg compartment, took out a single golden Par coin, and handed it to Lily.
Lily grabbed the coin and closed her eyes, concentrating. She Extended into the coin, feeling it out, learning about it, understanding the component structure of the coin. Then she broke into a smile. Tate was right. These coins contained extremely high-purity gold, easily worth a fortune. She could use these. Elated, she grabbed Tate, embracing her in a tight hug.
“I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. You’re amazing, Tate!”
Tate blushed slightly and shifted uncomfortably in Lily’s embrace. Lily let her go, causing her to retreat, face completely red. Lily played with the coin in her hand, casually running it over the gaps between her fingers. She was having trouble accepting the fact that the answer to her troubles had been next to her all along, and yet had escaped her notice.
Now, with this, Tate had helped her discover a source of capital, which she could work to expand. Lily flipped the coin and caught it midair, a daring grin adorning her countenance.