Flame Kingdom – 16

– – – –

“So, what do you think of it?”

“It was a well made one, I guess that’s what I should say?”

Kota once again looked at the shredded certificate that he throws on the table. Even the ‘日本語’ letters that he put there as a measure of counter-counterfeit was being replicated perfectly.

“What’s this? You’re not surprised?”

“Of course I’m surprised, despite looking like this…”

“Is that so? Anyway, it was just one piece. I can imitate it easily–…”

“… No.”

That was not it…

“What I find it surprising was, I found ‘this’ here, in Sorbania. -”

The advantage of bank notes was that it was easy to manufacture. After all, it was just a piece of paper. It was easier than even casting gold… At the same time, it would also be easier to counterfeit. the creation of Japan first bank notes, Yameda Hageki, which was made at Ise-Yamada(Modern Mie Prefecture) was known as when the first Fake Bill appears. Counterfeit was a problem since the start of bank notes.

“… That was what I was surprised about. To think that Sorbania would be the first who find a way to counterfeit the certificate…”

Naturally speaking, it was normal to find a counterfeit in a place close to where the goods were distributed. If it was a strong currency such as Dollar or the Euro, the story might be different… For example, you won’t find a counterfeit of Russian Ruble in Japan. Furthermore, in a world where there were no internet, television, airplane, and trains, the world feels a lot more narrow.

“But, you do recognize that was Terra Gold Certificate no?”

“… But still, this is too fast…”

Indeed too fast. He had just started managing Terra for less than a year. It was only six months ago that the certificate was being distributed. It has the reputation, and Terra had circulated a reasonable amount of it… However, it was only in the scale of ‘Regional Currency,’ and nothing more… Inside the Flame Kingdom itself, they still use physical Gold Coins for transactions… And there were still a lot of people inside the Kingdom that didn’t know such certificate existed.

“… Thank you very much, your majesty. With this, I’ve received good information. It was indeed worth it to come to Sorbania. Excuse me, but may I go back home? I would like to devise countermeasure immediately—…”

“Well, wait a moment. Don’t panic and hurry like that you know?”

Carlos the First immediately told Kota to remain.

“Your majesty. I’m sorry but…”

“Don’t worry I said… This thing is not yet being circulated…”

“… Not in circulation? But you have one in your hand—…”

Kota immediately noticed…

“Oho, you seem to have a good intuition~… Have you noticed?”

The counterfeit was shown by Carlos.

However, it was not yet been circulated.

“… Your majesty. It can’t be… You…”

If that the case then…

“That is right…”

The answer to where the counterfeit came was…

“I was the one who made that counterfeit.”

The creator of the counterfeit was the one who showed it first…

—————————————-

“… Your majesty.”

“What is it?”

“The counterfeiting is a capital crime. We have set it as such in Terra law…”

“I see… But that is “Terra” law, right? Can you judge me using Terra’s law here? Can you sent me to a guillotine, here?”

If you can do that, then could you sent my cute elder sister to Guillotine instead? he said that while laughing merrily while Kota could only bite his lips.

“… You can’t yes? After all, I am the King of Sorbania. No matter what you say, there is no way to punish other country’s king.”

“…”

“In spite all of that, I do think that Terra Certificate was a very interesting thing. To be able to replace physical Gold Coins and distributed it as a means of transaction… It was indeed ‘clever.’ But is that all of it? There was one more important than that yes?”

“… The faith in it…”

” ‘The Duke of Rondo de Terra,’ indeed that was a fancy title. Certainly, it would be effective for the common people an small business there, but would the prestige reach me?”

If a nation secures the value, the story would be different. However, the certificate was only something that Terra issued independently. There was no protection of the state there, just the pure power of the Duke of Terra.

“Are you trying to use the power of a nation to do a criminal act? People would lose their trust toward you, you know?”

… Morally speaking.

“I guess so… Then, shall we compete? Would Sorbania lost its credibility first, or Terra collapsing first?”

“… That is…”

“Furthermore, if you declare us as ‘enemy state,’ then won’t the entire Sorbania merchants left Terra?”

That was not impossible. – –

“… So.”

With a smile.

A hateful, beautiful smile on his face.

“This is checkmate, yes?”

A snake that entwined on a scale. Looking at his smile, Kota remembered that coat of arms.

“… Indeed.”

Kota admitted while looking at the ceiling. Without any mistake, truly perfect. Without a mistake, Kota was being checkmated. From here on out, there was no way to revive.

“… With that being the case, this is where we start then?”

“Start? What are you talking about?”

… Once one being checkmated, one should give up.

“That is of course…”

But above giving up…

“Talking about ‘business’…”

One can just flip the board upside down.

—————————————————————————-

The king of Sorbania, Carlos the First. He finds the young man from Yameto in front of him was very interesting.

“… Business, you said? Are you misunderstood or something? I am the one who is in advantages you know?”

Business could only be done by those with an equal position. If the other side was stronger, mostly it would end as exploitation than a trade.

“I’m not mistaken. Right now, we’re equal.”

Looking at the current situation, Carlos was indeed the one who held the advantages. Kota should just cry, cry and bow his head, that was the only way. Or so that how supposed to be…

“… Try to explain. Why are we equals?”

For a bit, he decides to go along with it.

“Because you have no advantages, distributing this…”

“Advantage? There’s a lot of things this can be used you know?”

Specifically?”

“To be specific… This can be exchanged with white gold coins right? I could just make them and bring them with me to change it into white gold coins?”

“I agree you may be able to do that. However…”

Why did he show the counterfeit here?

“If I were you, I won’t show this here…”

“Have you not noticed yourself that you’re already cornered?”

“I wonder… At first, I was surprised. But now, I realized.”

“… Are you a sour loser or something? That’s a bad taste…”

“I’m fine with you taking it that way. Anyway, if I could not catch the counterfeiter, then the only thing I could do was to change the money design as soon as possible. ”

“In the meantime, how much do you think we could create those counterfeit?”

“I believe you could create more if you kept quiet. That’s why, there’s no point, showing me this here.”

Carlos thought that was indeed reasonable.

“And the second would be… Along with the counterfeit certificate distribution, Terra economy would crash.”

“You realize that, good then…”

“Indeed… Certainly, Sorbania Kingdom won’t be blamed directly. But what about Sorbania’s merchants? There are some numbers of them opening a branch store in Terra. Following your thought, the counterfeit would not be created by some small-time criminal, but instead another country? With the counterfeit distribution, the value of the certificate would decrease a lot. In the worst case scenario, there would be a mounting commotion… It will go like that, until the day the certificate exchange being suspended.”

Rather, that was the only way to deal with it. Because, with the current Terra, we didn’t have enough money to overrun the counterfeit certificate.

“So?”

“Let’s stop pretending. The certificate, which the Sorbania’s merchants invested, had turned into just a piece of paper, with no value. I believe, those Merchants would hold some grudges? Not toward Terra, but toward the culprit who circulated the counterfeit. And I believe, not just Sorbania’s merchants. But all the merchants who opened their branches in Terra, all of them would hold grudges toward Sorbania, no?”

Saying that Kota glazed at Carlos the First.

“You mentioned, who would lose first, would Terra collapsed first, or Sorbania lost the people credibility first… But you know, the precondition for that is different.”

“Precondition?”

“With the fall of Terra, it would come to the end of Sorbania. Certainly, Terra will die. But with that, Sorbania will suffer greatly.”

And then… They too would fall…

“… What’s that… It doesn’t make any sense at all…”

“For example, I wanted to survive, I look for an escape. I beg by lowering my head. Saying ‘please don’t distribute the counterfeit’ toward you while crying. I could do that, but you know…”

If you decide to just die… And flip the survival table upside down, surprisingly you might find another road.

“There’s only a little benefit for Sorbania to circulate this counterfeit.”

“I thought I should just crush the noisy Terra now you know?’

“I think that would ‘never’ happen. I don’t think Sorbania which is the famous country in the world would have something to do with small rural local lord. In the unlikely event that you do have some purpose for wanting to do that, I still do not believe that you would do it like this. After all, you should know it too, no? It is true that you could destroy Terra, but with such method, you will also destroy Sorbania’s credibility.”

“Is that so? That happens only ‘if’ they know that the counterfeit was created by me, how are they going to find out about it?”

“That is because I would do any means necessary to achieve that.”

“Means?”

“Let see… Such as every time I found counterfeit I would speak it was created by Sorbania.”

Whether it was made in Sorbania or not, the blame would always fall on them…

“That’s outrageous!”

“Yes, it is outrageous indeed. It was not entirely false charge either. At worst… It had the probability of causing wars. Between Sorbania against Terra… But highly possible that the entire Flame Kingdom would be involved. However…”

If we have to get destroyed… Then we will at least make it mutual.

“… Mutually assured destruction is it?”

Carlos the first clicked his tongue inside his heart without looking away, while Kota keeps looking at him with cool looks.

“… Seriously, how reckless…”

“Indeed…”

“Don’t you think about the population of Terra?”

“Of course it is troubling. However, in the end, we’re going to get destroyed together, no? And right now, Terra was comprised of excess investment by a lot of company. If the tides change even just a bit, the life of the territory will collapse. The difference is whether you want to die fast or die slowly.”

“… You speak as if you’re the lord of the land…”

“Indeed, I am not a lord.”

…However.

“King Carlos of Sorbania. I would like to talk about business with you.”

“… A business you said?”

“You see, we paid close attention when it comes to anti-counterfeit measures. First, during the refining of the paper, we put ‘watermark’ in it.”

“Watermark? Are you idiot? That was not hard to imitate at all…”

Kota nodded in agreement. Indeed, Watermark was not an unusual technology.

“But, there are two kinds of watermarks. Black watermarks, and White watermarks. The combination of both is called Black white watermarks, the one Terra is using…”

The principle of watermarks was simple and clear. The thinner part of the paper looks brighter, and the thicker part seemed darker. Combining the two, it was the black-white watermarks.

“I cannot tell you the detail ratio because it is an important secret, but if the ratio is off just by a little bit, the impression of the paper would change radically. Which, one should recognize at once.”

That said, Kota took a piece of the counterfeit on the table.

“Did you see, the seal around here? Between the seal and the wording of ‘Deposit Certificate,’ letters are put in using watermarks. This counterfeit was indeed elaborately crafted…”

However, Kota took one certificate from his wallet.

“… If we compare it side by side, you should notice it, yes?”

If one holds it up toward the light, once could see words of ‘Sumiko Bank, Work Famous Local Bank’ neatly written as watermark. As for the counterfeit, the letter only looked whiteish. Here, the real one had Black ratio higher, while the counterfeit had the White ratio higher.

“… What are this characters anyway?”

“I guess, you can regard it as a cipher?”

There were a lot of strokes. I only choose Kanji which I’m familiar with. While there was no meaning in the sentence itself, if I had to explain it to him I felt a bit masochistic.

“Next, this part. It looked like being carved, transcribed with mirrored letters using a wooden board.”

It was the so-called intaglio printing.

“Of course, everything must be done precisely. Thus we manage to produce a uniformed certificate. This wooden plate was assembled and divided into seven parts whenever the production was over, and being stored in seven different places.”

It was to make sure that no one could misuse the wooden plate. Of course, if all seven-part were stolen, it would be indeed hopeless… As for why I choose seven-part, there was no meaning to it. Just some kind of lucky charm.

“The last is about the cipher that we’re talking about earlier, we put that as ‘something than nothing.'”

Since people didn’t understand the meaning of the Kanji, it would be hard for them to imitate it. Of course, if one could regard that thing as painting, then imitating it would be rather easy.

“… Terra’s certificate is made by using as much anti-counterfeit method as we could. Let me be honest with you, this cost a lot of money…”

“Is it alright for you to tell me all of this?”

“I don’t mind, our idea itself is the opposite.”

“Opposite?”

“Rather than make it a secret, Terra proactively disclose what kind of technology we use.”

“You tell them to make them didn’t make counterfeit?”

“That also the reason, But there’s another reason. We just simply want to tell them, that creating money cost a lot of money, making them thinking ‘I don’t want to create money, it is unprofitable’…”

“Calling it unprofitable, isn’t that strange?”

“After all, fundamentally it is a manual paper works. The labor cost for personnel, then the cost to create the seven-part plate. On top of that, you don’t know the ratio of the watermarks you know? You need to understand all of that before starting manufacturing. And I doubt you will succeed in one go. In other words, you would need to create countless of the plate, and tried countless of watermarks ratio, to find the perfect one. I wonder, how much cost will you spent to do all of that?”

Deterrence by disclosing the technology and cost. However, when there were manufacturers, there would always be a counterfeiter. No matter how much we told people how unprofitable it was, there would always be someone who still risks everything to do it.

“That is a fact, your majesty. It took a lot of money and labor to create this certificate, yes? Is it something that small criminal group could do?”

In response, Kota’s question Carlos could only stay silent. His silent was an affirmation, that creating a counterfeit cost a considerable amount of money.

“Just by a glance, I might not be able to notice the counterfeit. But, if we put them side by side like this, one should easily notice, which one is the real and which one is counterfeit. In short, this counterfeit is incomplete. Despite the trouble and cost to create it…”

“Honestly, you don’t have to tell me the last part…”

“That is the proof that reality could be harmful. Though I won’t make an excuse, I was caught off guard. I never thought I would be shown this here…”

“Well anyway… In the worst case scenario, if I tried to create a counterfeit now, how long do you think I could perfect it?”

“By the time your majesty showed me the counterfeit, we have decided to change the certificate pattern. But if we talk about how long it would take to create a counterfeit, I think it would take around two years. And as I said earlier, if this counterfeit already appears, we should change the certificate pattern at once.”

By the way, the next watermarks would be written as ‘Sumiko Bank, Work Best.” And the next ’embarrassing to read’ cipher would be, love, mind, and feeling.

“For that reason, counterfeiting would be a difficult thing to do. Especially for a small group of criminals. Well, though I said that, there would be always someone brave to do it.”

No matter how far we go, such a vicious circle would always follow. Kota himself was not a God. And no perfect countermeasure exist. Everything must be done regularly, repeating minor changes, and strive toward near perfection.

“… Now then, shall we get back to the main topic?”

“Back?”

“The business talk, you know?”

Being told that, Carlos seems to finally remember. –

“I hardly believe that Sorbania, known as the Maritime Empire, would call me based on a mere ‘interesting’…”

“I have my own consideration when doing things you know? Aren’t you a bit too narcissistic?”

“What I said was just a mere self-evaluation. Let me continue. So, why did you call me? Just to show my certificate counterfeit? Of course not about that, but it is without a doubt have relation with counterfeiting…”

Carlos didn’t say anything, and Kota continues talking…

“Then, what’s involved with counterfeit the most? A show of you possess the technology to create one? Are you willing to spent a lot of money to do that? At least, when I’m just a merchant, I won’t do it. If this meeting was not about the counterfeit… But about economic intervention? Then why the hassle… Sorbania has no reason to cripple Terra unless they wanted to suffer greatly. With all of that consideration, this meeting must be about a business linked with certificate counterfeiting. That’s why you go as far as to call me personally…”

To talk to me…

“In other words… You showed me counterfeit and scare me with the collapse of Terra was just…”

A bluff, wasn’t it?…

Kota starred at Carlos.

“Answer me, your majesty.”

He keeps starred like a dagger. After a while, Carlos once again relaxed his body on his chair.

“… Well done, forty points.”

“… Oh? Isn’t that a bit too harsh?”

“Fifty points is the perfect result you know?”

“… I see. Why the deduction then?”

After taking a small breath, Carlos began to talk.

“Just like you said, there are not many advantages for Sorbania distributing a counterfeit. There are many reasons, but the main reason is ‘trust’… Right now, Terra might experience an economic boom, but in the end, Terra was still countryside. You said you could exchange the certificate for white gold coins, and the coins are stored safely, but actually, you don’t have all of that money in hand right?”

“That’s right.”

In fact, if I didn’t do it carefully, it might cause a financial disaster.

“With Sorbania collapse due to the counterfeit accusation, sooner or later we could not do any trade. You see, we cannot buy ‘trust’ with money after all…”

“Agreed…”

“That’s why I deduced two points from that. Something that you said mistakenly…”

“Please continue, professor…”

“First. You said I create this counterfeit and going to distribute it, yes?”

‘… Right.”

Carlos’ eyes turn sharp.

“Well then… Shall I make you disappear?”

The atmosphere immediately froze.

“This place is not Terra. This is Sorbania Royal Palace, you realize? One or two corpses, I could easily make them disappear…”

“… In order to take care of that, I’ve told Erika that I’m going to Sorbania. She should be suspicious if I don’t go back soon…”

“… You do know, ‘accident’ does happen in a journey?”

“…”

“…..”

Dark, heavy atmosphere persisted inside the room.

“… What’s this.”

“… About what?”

“… You didn’t change your complexion at all…”

‘Boooriiiing,’ Carlos said that while relaxing his body.

“… Not really, despite looking like this, I’m actually scared you know?”

“Really now?”

“I’m only good at hiding that…”

In fact, my palms were drenched in sweat. Even I still want to continue to live.

“I might only think of this but, Kota, unexpectedly you’re a calm one aren’t you? I thought you wanted to die you know?”

“… I would like to say that I do not…”

Well, I guess you won’t come here if you don’t expect this…”

“… Are you someone who should say that, your majesty?”

When Kota said that, Carlos laughed like a little boy. One cannot imagine that he had threatened Kota just a while ago.

“Is that the reason for five points deduction?”

“No. At best, that only deduce one point. If I had to say it, that only the surface…”

Saying that, he threw half of the shredded counterfeit paper toward Kota.

“… This is?”

“Talking about the counterfeit measure… Do you think yours already perfect?”

“… No. In fact, it is far from it…”

The problem of counterfeit would always exist until the end of the monetary system. Even in modern Japan, where technology was progressing. Counterfeit still exist. Now we talk about Orkena immature technology, it would be arrogant to say that the measures were perfect.

“I see. I’m glad then…”

“… Glad?”

“If you said it is a perfect measure then I would lose my business opportunity…”

Saying that he took something round with both his hands.

“Here, look at this, Kota.”

“… This is, what is this?”

“Just look at it. I’m not deceiving you.”

Toward the suspicious Kota, Carlos said, ‘it’s fine…’ and ask him to lean forward.

“… Is this fine?”

“That’s good. Now Kota. Try looking at the counterfeit once again.”

“Like this?”

“Just do it…”

“… I understand..”

Reluctantly,

while wondering why he had to do it, Kota looked at the counterfeit once again through the circle.

The words of ‘Deposit Certificate’ began to glow green.

“?!”

“Surprised?”

“… Indeed.”

“Good then. It was worth the money to create the counterfeit and all…”

“… What do you mean?”

“Even if the paper shine, the impression is thin, no? I would like to make it more impactful.”

Impact. For that alone, he had put his money, time and labor to make the counterfeit.

“… That can’t be…”

“The biggest reason for points deduction is that, Kota. You said I didn’t do this to brag technology? The truth is, I did, I wanted to brag about my technology. For that reason, I want to create the best situation to present it.”

Midway, Kota had already ignored Carlos’ words. He keeps looking through the circle again, and there he saw the letter shine green.

“… The reason I called you is this.”

Hearing that words, Kota raised his face.

“… About the business…”

*Don*, A jar filled with powder was placed on the table.

“This magic powder that could make the certificate shine do you want to buy it?”

Carlos expression changed into smiling one.

Economic Knowledge.

Crown Jewel.

It was one of hostile takeover defense measures. It could also be called the scorched-earth operations. For example, a hostile company wants to take over, the company might sell or move the ‘crown jewel’ to another company, decreasing the company value assets, making the other reluctant to take over. People also called such method as double-edged swords, because its damaged the original corporate value despite the acquisition might be prevented.