48 Hours a Day

Chapter 235 - Capital Woes

The pile of gold bars was a monument on its own, creating a stunning sight as it shone and shimmered in the sun. Except for the pirates tasked with moving the gold bars, Zhang Heng gathered everyone from his ship and distributed weapons to them. They needed them to maintain order at the harbor in case of untoward incidents. That said, after Zhang Heng annihilated the Skeleton, everyone knew it best not to mess with Jackdaw. Unsurprisingly, no one lost their minds when they saw the gold bars coming out from the ship.

Afterward, Zhang Heng sent someone to contact Carina, asking her to empty one of her warehouses. He would use it as temporary storage for the gold. The Jackdaw had an overwhelming yield this trip, and if Zhang Heng distributed the gold to his men right now, safety would be a primary concern. On the surface, no one seemed to dare go against Jackdaw’s pirates but in actual fact, multitudes of thieves and robbers were waiting to get their hands on all those precious gold bars.

Other than that, the group of pirates who had previously gambled away twenty gold coins in a single night received a stark warning from Zhang Heng. Though the captain had no intention to poke around everyone’s spending habits, he knew his men would become moving targets the moment he gave them their share of the money.

So, he decided to only give them a portion of their share first. He would help them to keep the rest for now. He came up with a ledger to keep track of all the gold that he gave his men. Anyone could ask for more whenever they needed it. After a while, Carina and her men came to the pier.

It was then Zhang Heng noticed that Carina didn’t look too good. Since there were outsiders around him, he figured it was a bad time to talk about it. Only after reaching the warehouse and seeing that all the gold bars were safe did he talk to her in a quiet place.

“How’s everything? Has it all been good throughout my absence?”

“The situation… is not looking good,” replied Carina as she tried squeezing a smile.

“Huh?”

When Zhang Heng left Nassau two months ago, Carina’s problem was solved because the Skeleton was no longer a threat to her. Along with the rise of Jackdaw, her trading business flourished in Nassau as well. Not only did she enjoy repeat business with the captains she used to deal with, but some pirate ships even left the black market alliance hoping to build a long term partnership with her. All the while, Malcolm had been trying to dominate the black markets of Nassau. Naturally, Carina’s growth had become a huge threat to him. More and more traders were increasingly interested in trading with Carina instead of the black market alliance.

This was indeed great news for Carina since the black market alliance had been retarding her growth for a very long time. When she saw hope in defeating Malcolm and the black-market alliance, she instantly signed every contract of the captains who wished to trade with her. To take control of a broader market share, she purchased another ship to help her move the increasing amount of items moving through her warehouse. Right now, she was the proud owner of three cargo ships. Of course, the expansion required an increase in hiring as well. With the large acquisitions, she literally invested everything that she earned back into her business.

Unfortunately, whatever happened after that was out of her control. Carina’s biggest problem was her lack of shrewdness as a black-market merchant. The black market alliance was newly formed when she first came to Nassau. All her father’s trading partners had left to work with them when he got incarcerated. In the end, Jackdaw was the first and only ship willing to trade with her. Owing to that, she managed to survive in Nassau. However, although sleeping on a bed of roses, sharp thorns were present as well. She had to face perpetual harassment and pressure by the black-market alliance, which just wouldn’t let her off the hook.

That was why Carina differed from all the other black-market merchants. She never trusted anyone aside from Zhang Heng. Of course, she traded with many different captains under the radar of the alliance, but those were just one-off trades. The real situation, however, was way more complicated than that. Although Carina had a natural flair for business, she sorely lacked experience, not to mention needing a lot more time. All that in a place she was unfamiliar with. If Malcolm wasn’t after her, she would have had sufficient space to grow like a potato seedling. Right now, Malcolm was akin to a giant stone pinning her down. She had waste precious energy to squirm and crawl underneath its weight. In other words, he had severely stunted her growth.

Malone’s betrayal had also slowly affected Carina. After all, he used to be her father’s most trusted partner. He was also the only one familiar with his trading techniques. Without Malone’s guidance, Carina had to rely on herself to do business in a world filled with hounds and sharks. From that time on, one problem after another began to plague her.

For instance, she had supposedly set her buying price at 5% higher than the black market alliance, a rate Carina and the captains both agreed with. However, the black-market alliance offered different prices to captains from different tiers. Some pirates eventually discovered that they had been offered different rates compared to some others although the items they sold were similar.

It was hardly surprising then, how some pirates felt increasingly displeased with the double-standards. During that time, Carina was busy discussing partnerships with the merchants, worried that the bad reputation of the alliance would spill over to her. Ultimately, she was forced to cap her prices at the highest possible rate. That would mean she would be getting significantly less profit from all her trades.

The low-profit margins were just the beginning. Along with the increase in her cargo volume, the customs officers demanded an increase in bribes as well. This would all translate to higher costs, and subsequently, the retail price for the items would increase as well. Such a situation would only spell fewer buyers in the end. Initially, Carina thought that Malcolm must have been messing with her. Shockingly, she attempted a different port but found the same thing happening to her again. It was then when she realized that this was an unspoken rule for all black market merchants.

As if to worsen the situation, she had troubles at her business spot as well. The local traders were unhappy after seeing Carina dealing on a large scale on their turf. Two lawsuits were filed against her thanks to the jealous and disgruntled lot. The matter had to be settled regardless, and she was forced to spend a considerable sum to settle the case outside court. The detour eventually incurred huge losses for her.

All the above led to only one conclusion: the financial pit, the worst of her woes. Before Zhang Heng left, he gave Carina the Skeleton. Although it was supposed to be her third cargo ship, she would still need to pay for its refit and the manpower required. During that time, she had just spent a large sum of money to expand her warehouse by opening a grocery store. When the time came for her to purchase loot, she was so cash strapped that she was forced to mortgage her father’s property just to have enough.

The entire process of purchasing the goods from the pirate ships, finding prospective buyers, and shipping them to various colonies usually required a set amount of time. It was a well-established system that most traders were familiar with. Unfortunately, the situation didn’t always go as planned. The time the ships would return to port remained an uncontrollable factor. At times, a few pirate ships would all return to Nassau at once, and she would need a tremendous amount of money at hand to purchase their loot.

A week before Zhang Heng’s return to Nassau, Carina was already on the verge of financial collapse. As of now, she still owed two captains a large sum of money. Then, this morning, she was trying her hardest to calm her increasingly disguntled partners who had not received their payment on time.

Unfortunately, the heightened emotions caused some pirates to lose all patience and they proceeded to ransack her grocery store.

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