Chapter 45: Preparations
When Joshua left the theater, there was a tinge of orange sunset in the sky.
Melina had given Joshua a hand-drawn map before she left. Aided by the map, Joshua wandered the commercial streets of Norland for half an hour until he found Melina's temporary residence.
Coincidentally, Melina's place was only two streets away from Norland National Theater. From there, Joshua could see the glow of the first official theater in Norland.
The theater was going to host a show by Blackswan Theater that particular night. Like its namesake, the troupe had become the most sensational black swan in the lake that was Norland.
"Hyrlan… I have the tickets…"
Sansa waved the two VIP tickets to "World of Laughter", the latest production by Blackswan Theater.
Sansa had obtained the tickets from a male classmate, some Ricard-whatshisname, with a promise that went along the lines of, "I'll definitely get Hyrlan to the show," or something like that.
With less than an hour until the show began, those VIP tickets that originally cost around five hundred gold coins would now cost double.
While Sansa was excited to see the legendary Flower of Farucci earlier that day, her excitement was dampened after she watched "Beauty and the Demon". She could also empathize with her friend, Hyrlan for losing her passion for live theater.
"Don't mind me and Ciri. After all, this is your only chance to see the legendary Flower of Farucci, right?" said Joshua.
"Yea… Hyrlan, it's only going to take slightly more than an hour. Let's go watch it together."
Sansa did not want to waste the two pricey VIP tickets, especially if she could see the so-called most beautiful woman in the world. Lucky for her, she did not pay for those tickets herself.
In the end, Hyrlan accepted the suggestions from her three companions and went with Sansa to the theater.
"Don't you want to see the Flower of Farucci too?"
Ciri munched on a piece of bread that she had bought off the streets for dinner as she asked Joshua.
"To each his own, I guess. Instead of a flashy woman hidden under layers of make-up, I'd rather someone who can cook."
Of course, every man was inclined to pick a good-looking woman, but if it came down to a choice between beauty and ability, Joshua preferred the latter. It went without saying that having both would be ideal.
Nevertheless, Joshua did not have the time to consider matters of the heart, and he did not have anyone particular in mind either.
"You're right. Those noble ladies are mostly b*tches anyway."
Ciri loathed the noble and pampered women who whiled away their days in social dance parties since she had once been like them too. She lived the indulgent life of a noble when her mother was still alive, but it was also a life full of rules that she would rather do without.
Ciri preferred to live with her current lifestyle than live like a flower in a greenhouse. That aside, she missed her mother.
Joshua made no comment. A mage like Ciri who dared to face a brown bear in a fight would be wasted as a socialite dancing in the ballroom.
He followed the directions on the hand-drawn map from Melina and arrived at a neglected building on the commercial street. It was the only building there without glowing rune signage.
The three-story building looked spacious enough. Joshua was about to knock on the door when it opened without warning.
"Your… Your Highness."
Ynor had sensed Joshua's presence as he approached the building. Feeling respectful and anxious, the succubi went to the door and opened it for him.
"Where's your mother?"
Joshua did not refer to her as "the human merchant, Melina". Ever since Melina accepted Ynor as her own, the succubi had followed the human willingly.
"This way, Mr. Annerlaude. I didn't expect you to visit us so soon."
Melina came down the stairs hastily as Joshua stepped into the building. The ground floor was mostly empty except for some furniture like a few display cabinets. The goods that were supposed to be those cabinets had already been burned to ashes.
"You're the only merchant I know in this city, Madam. As an outsider to the trade, I can only rely on your expertise."
Joshua sat down at a table and Ciri took the seat next to him. After an indicative nod from Joshua, Ynor sat down on the opposite.
"What kind of business are you interested in, Joshua? I will do everything in my ability to assist you."
Melina took out a teapot from one of the cabinets and also something that looked like a spirit lamp. However, the lamp utilized magic as fuel instead of alcohol. In the world of magic, even a merchant like Melina could do such tricks.
"I want to convert the ground floor into a tavern."
Joshua took a sweeping glance at the ground floor area once again. The place was just right for the purpose.
"A tavern… But, Joshua… There are already many taverns here in Norland."
As a competent merchant, Melina had a sharp sense of business. By all practical measures, residents of Norland were mainly humans and dwarfs. For the dwarfs who worked underground, drinking was a favorite pastime after-hours.
For that reason, merchants came in droves to Norland in the hopes of profiting from the locals who had cash to spare, luring in their customers with manmade liquor and grilled meat. However, the dwarfs were not indiscriminate in their spending and tended to stick only to a few taverns that suited their tastes.
Human mages, on the other hand, would usually stay away from substances such as liquor that could cloud their minds.
Running a tavern could be a lucrative business in Norland, but the risk was high as well.
"I want to build a special tavern with a menu that will entice our underground friends and even the mages in this city. I will finance the structural works, while you, Madam, can help me look for a liquor supplier and a building contractor for the renovation works. According to my estimations, it'll take half a year to get the new tavern up and running."
Joshua thought of the Hearthstone Tavern as a long-term project that could also put the profits from "Beauty and the Demon" to good use. After all, he only needed very little money to produce his next movie.
"In that case… Joshua, what do you plan to do with the first and second floor?"
Melina had little left to herself, and her future relied heavily on Joshua's investment.