Competition in business was akin to the cruelty of an actual war.
Malcolm knew Carina’s weakness and quickly changed tactics from aggression to concession. This time, he threw a bait the businesswoman could never refuse.
If Carina wanted to expand her business, she couldn’t sorely rely on Jackdaw alone. It didn’t matter if it was flourishing her second-hand dealership or the private transactions with pirates from the black-market alliance – they were all retaliation to the obstacles Malcolm threw at her. Thus, there was no reason for her to turn down an opportunity laid before her feet.
Had Carina been given another six months, and being a quick learner at that, she would have solved her current predicament and turned her rags into riches. However, for obvious reasons, Malcolm was never going to allow her to do that.
“How much money do you have right now?” Zhang Heng asked.
“To get the business running again, I would need to throw in at least 700 gold coins. But then again, what’s the point of continuing anyway? We are bleeding money by the barrel. Before this, the business was slow, but now… now, we lose money every day, every hour, every minute,” she replied. There was a hint of frustration and exhaustion in her raspy voice, a rarity for her.
She had come across the most challenging time for her business. Strangely, no matter how hard she worked, she couldn’t seem to turn the situation around. An endless string of problems simply kept ramming into her.
Because they were expanding at an exponential rate, her capital reserves would not keep up with her expenditure. To make matters worse, the current market had reached a saturation point, with too much stock lying around and no buyers to take them. Then there was the problem of increased customs bribes and the local business’ boycotts – significant impediments that simply couldn’t be solved in such a short period.
“I can give you an additional 800 gold coins as a follow-up to my investment. On top of that, I can lend you 200 gold coins,” Zhang Heng said. During their last voyage, Jackdaw came back fully loaded. He made a simple calculation – as the captain, he and the founding members of Jackdaw would each get around 1200 gold coins – an indubitably tremendous amount of money.
With the newfound wealth, he could simply retire now, buy two plots of land, and live a comfortable life on the island. Nonetheless, Zhang Heng thought about how Roger Woode and his fleet would come back in a few years to recapture Nassau and how he refused to put his life at the mercy of others.
Roger Woode, the first governor in the history of Nassau, occupied the island with his fleet and pardoned most of the pirates there. However, Zhang Heng found it hard to believe that things would go that well for himself, especially given what he had done – including Scarborough, he had now attacked two navy fleets. Jackdaw, the pirate ship he now captained, had also been taken from the navy, not to mention that he was part of Queen Anne’s Revenge’ bombing of Charleston. Then, not long ago, he killed Worden, the highest-ranking navy commander of the British Caribbean.
With Blackbeard Teach missing, Black Sam dead, and Honegg retiring, Zhang Heng and his sailors were now the de facto top group of pirates on the whole island.
Should Roger Woode manage to take Nassau, many others would still have a chance to keep their lives, considering the fact that Nassau required a ton of young laborers to help develop the island. But not Zhang Heng. He would be among the first to be gotten rid of. So long Roger Woode’s head was attached to him, he would kill the chickens to scare the monkeys (to punish an individual as an example to others).
On that account, even though Zhang Heng had already completed his primary mission, he couldn’t go on a vacation. Moreover, it was no longer just him alone. As the captain of Jackdaw, he was now responsible for the welfare of his sailors, all depending on him for stipends. And then there was Anne, of whom he looked after. Without his support, the competition between Carina and Malcolm would instantly be over, with Malcolm completely crushing her.
At this point, it was hard to think of himself or resign at the height of his prosperity.
“But in return, my share of the business must increase by 10%,” Zhang Heng said.
“That won’t be a problem. But are you sure you want to continue? At least in the short term, there won’t be much hope of making a profit.”
“What if the Malcolm were to be resolved?” Zhang Heng asked.
Considering the windfall they got from their most recent expedition, Jackdaw’s sailors would most likely withdraw into a lengthy sabbatical, and it would probably be a while before they put to sea again. On top of that, the legendary battle of the Jackdaw had basically entrenched her dominance in the entire island of Nassau.
This meant Zhang Heng had enough time and energy to deal with the final opponents – Malcolm and his black-market alliance.
Although Carina’s business seemed to be bleak for now, she had made a strategic move that unwittingly pressured the black-market alliance. Regardless of whether Malcolm’s concessions were voluntary or not, his moves had indisputably caused this large-scale expansion of the used goods business.
The black-market alliance did not voice their doubts. Only Malcolm was assertive enough, foreseeing that he could afford it, whereas Carina couldn’t.
But when Zhang Heng returned with all that gold, it had become a whole total different ballgame altogether. One the other side, though, the black-market alliance lost five powerful pirate ships, the loss of Black Prince Sam and his Quidah, an especially big blow to them.
It appeared that Malcolm’s current situation might not be better than that of Karina.
In the early days of the black-market alliance’s establishment, they offered very favorable prices to the pirates, meaning that it also a time when their profits were at their lowest. Now that the number of powerful pirate ships was on a rapid decline, it was foreseeable that the amount of valuable loot would also decrease – aggravating an internal conflict that had been brewing within the black-market alliance.
Later that day, Zhang Heng secretly met up with Laeli behind Smoked Fish Alley.
During this period, the gladiator had also made a lot of progress. With Leah on the inside, Malcolm’s study could practically hide no secrets. She took the opportunity to go through his letters quietly each time she cleaned the room. To avoid being discovered by Malcolm, Leah did not take any of them but simply memorized any useful information she came across. Then, she would put them into writing, and have someone take the notes to Laeli.
Zhang Heng flipped through the notes, spotting some interesting messages. Along with the summary of the letters, Leah had also jotted down her impressions and analysis of Malcolm’s antics, which helped paint a more comprehensive picture of the man’s character. However, news regarding Carina’s father, Fegan, was only found in one letter.
Although it confirmed that Malcolm’s family had indeed contacted Count Slaughter, the man who framed Fegan, it wasn’t enough evidence to charge him for it. There was also a letter stating that Malcolm secretly invested in a parliament member of Whitehall and that he and Raymond’s son-in-law were political enemies.