Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 7

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"I know, Father," Arbeit replied.

He argued with his younger brother all the time and often scolded the little ones, but he never disobeyed his father. He was clear-minded enough to at least not do that. He knew his father was integral to his future finances though he was already an adult and had a job many others envied.

His father was the greatest backer he could have in the town, not to mention that everything he had today was thanks to his father.

His words were obedient, but he continued to glare at Claude, biting into his bread as if to say 'this will be you someday'.

Morssen sighed. Were the two already beyond saving? It seemed he would not have a harmonious household until one of the two left. Luckily, he had set the two on completely different paths, they might ruin themselves if the two had to work together. He could only hope they would resolve their differences once they grew mature enough to realise how silly this was.

"Why didn't Sir Fux take you with him to the city?"

Arbeit shrugged.

"How would I know? He told me I should take a few days off, I've been working too hard. I think he went to the city to deal with personal stuff. It's not surprising he wouldn't want to take me along. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about."

Arbeit thought his response was perfect, but his aloof tone annoyed his father.

"I hope you don't speak like this in front of other people. Any gossip about Sir Fux will spread like wildfire in town. Don't get caught up in that, it'll ruin your reputation and any hopes of a good career."

Arbeit was dismissive of his father's warning, however.

"I know, I'm only talking about it at home. If someone else asks, I'll tell them Sir Fux rushed to the city to deal with something urgent."

Morssen shook his head.

"I'm disappointed. You've worked for Sir Fux for two years but you still haven't earned his trust. He wouldn't have hid his meeting with his lover from you if he trusted you. If you had played your cards right, you would have been the one asked to arrange the meeting instead of the one sent on leave."

"But I know about the meeting! He didn't hide it from me at all! All the official documents and letters go through me, and I have to reply on his behalf for a number of them! Didn't he praise me before you a few times?" Arbeit countered.

"Sigh, this is precisely why I worry about you. How do you know Sir Fux really went to meet his mistress? He might have misled you and his real purpose. Everyone expects people of his station to have a lover or two, so it's the perfect cover for doing shady business. You only know that he's going to meet her, right? Do you know where the meeting will be, when exactly, or who the woman is?

"You know that council members have a lot of power and are involved in a lot of behind-the-scenes and under-the-table dealings with their connections. I had hoped you would become the baronet's confidant and begin building your connections through your involvement in his dealings. You'll have met a lot more people if he really trusted you.

"But here you are, proud of the fact that he sends a few documents your way every now and then. You're missing at least half of what he does, you only handle his excuses and the official stories. You don't have any part in any of the actual deals either, you're just handling the formalities after the fact.

"His letter will also tell you nothing about what he's really doing, the real stuff is in code. Let me guess, you can only handle his official documents, right? He hasn't let you touch his personal correspondence."

"B-but... the baronet praises me a lot…"

Realisation was finally dawning on the young Arbeit, but he wasn't willing to accept it so easily.

"It's just lip-service. It doesn't cost him anything. If you want to hear praise, I can hire someone to sing for you all day. But that means nothing. Do you think being praised a few times makes you someone important?"

Footsteps descended the stairs and interrupted their conversation. Their mother came down with the youngest child. Morssen dropped the subject and turned to his wife and youngest son.

"My little baby's finally willing to come downstairs? Come, give daddy a hug."

A chubby gnome ignored his father completely, focusing on Clause instead.

"Brother... Hug..." Bloweyk gurgled.

Claude reluctantly put his sausage down. Of everyone in the household, he was the only one that ate meat for breakfast. No wonder he was tougher than Arbeit.

His mother didn't mind making him sausage the night before so he could have his meat for breakfast, however. Claude really missed his previous life's breakfast selection. This world didn't have soft, fluffy bread, pancakes, Chinese doughnuts (youtiao), soya beancurd, fermented beancurd, pickles, or peanuts. It was a travesty, really.

He took the little piggy from his mother's arms, pinching his bursting cheeks.

"Why are you acting up today, Puffball? How could you let mom carry you downstairs? You're getting too old to act like a baby."

The child's cheeks pushed forward and his lips puffed into a pouted.

"Mom insisted! I told her I wanted to walk down by myself, but mom said I was still small and might fall!"

Claude smiled awkwardly. How could his parents spoil the kid this much? The boy was six already but they wouldn't even let him walk down the stairs on his own. That they could still lift him up at all was incredible, however.

"Let Bloweyk walk down the stairs himself next time, Mom. We were doing it when we were three, he's six already. Look at him, he's becoming rounder by the day, he needs the exercise."

His parents wouldn't listen, however.

"Don't worry, I can still carry him," his mother said.

Morssen nodded in agreement as well.

Claude sighed and focused on toying with the little ball of fat on his lap instead.

"What does Puffball want to eat? Big Brother will get it for you."

"I want bread! With honey!" the blob shouted, pointing at the honey pot.

"Okay, okay. Daddy will spread you some honey," Morssen quickly said as he reached for the pot.

The Ferds usually had fried eggs and bread with tea and milk for breakfast. The did sometimes have wheat porridge or baked apples though. They usually had their eggs and bread with salt and Claude had his bread with slices of sausage.

The honey was only supposed to be used to flavour the tea or milk. Rather than sugar, people generally used honey since the climate was perfect for beekeeping and the species that lived in the kingdom made a lot of honey, making it affordable for even only moderately wealthy people. The only common exception was green candy, which was made from the roots of a particular plant that grew in the extreme north of the kingdom. Claude had never seen any of it, however. A common, though rarely made, dish was baked apples slathered with honey. The apples that grew on Freia were quite tart and sour, so honey made for a good balancer. Claude had in fact never seen anything resembling white or brown sugar since coming here.

That said, honey was still not cheap, one couldn't just eat it as one wished. If Arbeit, Claude, and Angelina put honey on their bread, their father would have scolded them harshly for being wasteful. Bloweyk lived by a different set of rules, however. He could have as much honey as he wanted, it almost seemed like the only reason they had honey in the house at all was so the little piggy could stuff his face with it.

"Oh, that reminds me, Instructor Mark said we're going to learn equitation starting next week. We have to pay three riyas. If we want to be tutored personally we have to rent a horse as well, it'll be a silver thale in that case," Claude explained.

"Not happening," Arbeit immediately interjected.

Whenever it came to money, Arbeit felt entitled to the final say. And whenever he opened his mouth in that regard, he turned into a pauper. Most likely he considered the household's money his already and didn't want any of it spent on his siblings.

"Don't you already know how to ride a horse? You and those rat-friends of your often rode old Benz's black horse! He had to chase you halfway down town that time! It would be a waste of money to pay for you to learn something you already know."

Benz was the town's courier. Bauker, his horse, belonged to the local post office. At the time, it was loaded with letters.

Arbeit jumped at this chance to protect <i>his</i> wealth since he had an excuse this time.

The kingdom's currency was relatively young; Stellin IX introduced it as one of his reforms, which also forbade the use of foreign currencies within the country.

The smallest denomination was the penny, made out of pig iron. Ten pennies made a fenny, made of bronze, and ten fennies a sunar, made of mostly copper. Ten sunars made a riyas, a small three-tenths-silver coin. Ten riyas made a thale, a large, three-fourths-silver coin.

Claude had made a few comparisons against the currency of his previous world. A penny was worth about as much as a cent, a fenny ten cents, and a sunar one buck. One riyas was ten bucks and a thale a hundred. Above silver thales was one more small coin called crowns. Each crown was about half gold and worth five thales, about 500 bucks. The largest gold coin was the sufia, worth five crowns and about nine-tenths pure gold. The biggest currency was known as Stellin's Shield, a violet-gold coin in the shape of a shield with the great Stellin IX's face engraved on its face with ten sufia. It was commonly called a shield in lieu of its shape.

The fee for equitation was thus about thirty bucks, and that was the normal price, which was already considered cheap. It paid just the horses' feed and equipment rental plus the overtime pay for the equestrians. Even the gentlest of horses couldn't withstand the young teenagers' abuse, so the school couldn't afford the extra lessons if they didn't collect fees. It couldn't be helped since the annual budget was fixed.

The rental cost of a horse, on the other hand, was one thale, more or less a hundred bucks, including personal training all the way from the basics. It, too, was a good deal.

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