Whispers of Fire Ch14 Ficbit – Definitely Not a Bribe

“All the cargoes have been listed, all the port fees and taxes paid in full. Merhdad is a merchant in good standing.” Sabhmad paused; even below, Alibaba could see him gulp. “Some of the taxes may have been paid with interest for being late, sea trade is never timely….” He managed to stand straight, even as Abhmad’s head swiveled to stare at him. “I have the receipts.”

Dead silence.

Amon, I know you think it’s a casual use of your power, Alibaba thought, studying the carefully stone-faced ambassadors. Whatever they’d been expecting out of an execution, it hadn’t been this. But you have no idea how grateful I am I’m not sweating.

“You fool! What are you thinking?” Abhmad’s face worked, as he looked their brother over from head to toe. “Is that ink on your hands?”

Sabhmad swallowed. “M-maybe?”

Whipping her attention back to Alibaba, Kougyoku drew in a breath that only hissed a little. “You bribed him?!?”

Alibaba made his eyes wide. “Princess! I am shocked. Do you mean to say that honest port fees are seen in the Kou Empire as bribes?” He gasped. “It’s a wonder you haven’t had more smuggling.”

Her face had gone from ice-white to slightly pink. He could see her shoulders tense, starting to fume.

Don’t give her time to react. “Now for the second terms; piracy and murder!”

One step forward. This is my battlefield!

“Dockmaster Shahidi made a full report, and I stand by it,” Alibaba declared, face cold as a duel. “Vessels under my command, and in my merchant association, have indeed attacked and burned ships of other nations. Ships bearing away citizens of Balbadd, and those who sail with us, into captivity, slavery, and death!”

There was a rumble from those who’d carried in their cargo, somehow more ominous than any roar from the crowds outside. In it he could hear hate, and the rage of a people who’d watched their kingdom destroyed from within… and somehow, the clink of Morgiana’s chains.

21 thoughts on “Whispers of Fire Ch14 Ficbit – Definitely Not a Bribe

    1. In this case? Abhmad, in his official capacity as the usurping pretender to the throne, gave letters of marque to pirates to attack Merhdad’s (i.e. Alibaba’s) shipping concerns and allies. The pirates took slaves from the survivors of those they attacked.

      Slavery is a HUGE no-no in Balbadd. Their security depends on not having an abused population with the knowledge and motivation to backstab them, but after hundreds of years this has become a mark of pride in the culture as well.

      So Alibaba took advantage of Sabhmad’s presence to get the paperwork updated, including late fees for tardy payment of dues and taxes (all paid in Fan, of course!), but the main thrust of this is that if Abhmad tries to press on the ‘your people killed mine!’ bit, he’s admitting to being the patron of pirates and slavers.

      Even if he were the legitimate king – and he isn’t, the whole point of their father formally claiming Alibaba was that Abhmad wasn’t fit to be king and so Rashid went looking for his other son – this might well motivate the nobles to declare a mulligan and put someone else on the throne.

      -Albert

      Liked by 5 people

  1. hahaha this entire debacle makes me want to laugh. sabhmad helping out in ways he can, kougyoku just coming out with accusations, and alibaba Still Talking. she’s not gonna be able to underestimate him anytime soon. neither will the rest of the ambassadors.

    thank you for the ficbit!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i can just see the ambassadors being half sleepy, and then ‘Merhdad’ starts talking, and the sleep flees from their minds.
    as recognition sets in.

    if there was merely thoughts about some similarity to merchant harun its now replaced with a certainty.
    How many of them will groan at this?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. *cackles*

    If Merhdad has paid all his port fees and taxes and has legal obligations to be fighting off other ships, Kougyoku will have a very hard time making her case that he’s a criminal she has to put to death won’t she?

    Given that jab at the Kou Empire, port fees and smuggling… (and that info about counterfeit Fan being smuggled into the Empire) …there’s no way the Kou Empire knows that either (a) the smuggling is happening or (b) what is actually being smuggled in.

    I can just see the other ambassadors looking between Sabhmad and Alibaba and realizing they’ve got two people who know enough about the local bureaucracy to make sure all the paperwork got filed correctly and on time. And then having a collective facepalm when they realize who their dad is.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Not quite. As I understand it, Alibaba has been accumulating Fan by getting Cassim to steal genuine Fan from the nobles and put counterfeit fan in their place, with an emphasis on replacing fan about to be shipped back to the Empire. I very much doubt that the ships carrying fake Fan know it’s fake.

      Interesting tidbit from 12 or 13: Judar can tell a genuine document from a forgery by examining the rukh attached to it when it was created. Can he do the same with printed documents, such as paper currency? Does Al-Thamen know the same spell?

      In the short term, it’s good for the Kou that they have Al-Thamen to handle money for them, because I get the feeling that the Kou ruling family would make the mistake of ‘oh, we need more money? Just print more!’ that dozens of nations have made in the real world. Al-Thamen may manipulate client nations into having hyperinflation episodes to breed despair, but by the same token I’m sure they know to not pull the same shit against the Kou for as long as they remain useful patsies.

      (The US is in a weird position because the dollar acts as an unofficial world reserve currency, so it’s backed by the world economy instead of just the US economy. Otherwise we’d have crashed like Greece did a few years back, given how awful our debt to domestic economy ratio is.)

      —-

      As far as filing the paperwork, Alibaba didn’t get it filed correctly (to Sabhmad) until just a few hours ago. However, he paid the late fees for ‘we didn’t have the legal tender until we finished trading’, so by Balbadd law he’s in the clear.

      The interesting part here is going to be that slavery is forbidden by Balbadd, but approved of and beloved by the Kou Empire. Her Pinkness may not realize the kind of hole she’s digging for herself if she objects to him bringing slavers in to be tied up at the low-tide mark.

      -Albert

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Logically I can’t imagine how he could determine real printed currency from fake printed currency.

        “I get the feeling that this was printed on a machine.”

        “That doesn’t mean it’s fake.”

        “I get the feeling of greed, and the desire to make more money.”

        “That doesn’t mean it’s fake either.”

        “I get a feeling of smug satisfaction over tricking the entire world.”

        “That… still doesn’t mean it’s fake.”

        Liked by 5 people

      2. You can have as much debt as you like, if nobody else is able to call it in. And everybody knows that since the US is a government, it is always possibly that they could repudiate part or all of the national debt. It would have serious, serious consequences, but the US could get away from it and many other countries could not. Nobody really wants to find out what would happen to them.

        Also, a good chunk of the US national debt is the national debt of other countries, to whom we lend and give money. Also, a good chunk of US assets involve investments from the rest of the world. For example, China can’t really do economic warfare on the US without really killing itself, for many reasons, but in this case, because China invested a ton of its citizens’ savings in US treasury bills and other longterm stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Re: slavery, it’s not that the Empire loves it. It’s that they are stuck with it, and that every single minor and unmarried woman of every social level can be sold into slavery by his/her parents at any time. The princess is a minor, and could very easily become a sex slave or some noble’s concubine, if she displeased the Emperor. (This wouldn’t happen to her, because it would be a security risk and a succession crisis in one, but yeah, it would be totally legal.) Kids are essentially an asset that can be sold for debt, or used to finance expensive purchases; and depending on the law’s similarity to various Chinese eras, even wives could be sold off to other men, if you weren’t afraid of her family getting back at you.

        So yeah, I think you are gravely mistaken if you think that people love slavery. It’s something that chains the Empire as much as the slaves.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yes, the dollar acts like the unofficial world reserve currency, because other countries depend on it to maintain their own financial stability. If they didn’t, we’d crash as hard as Greece did, because our debt to domestic product is worse. It’s just that while Russia, EU, and China would all like to step in and take our place as economic hyperpower, everyone knows they’re even less trustworthy than the US is, so they keep buying our inflation and the Tulip Bulb crisis gets delayed.

        As far as slavery goes, just about everyone hates the prospect of being a slave, but double standards are nothing new: The Kou consider slavery a wonderful institution for _lesser people_, who need to be taught how to ape their Kou betters in order to be civilized.

        That’s the paradigm Pink Meany is operating under: It’s a good thing for all these local barbarians to become slaves, so that they can be directed by their betters for the good of the Kou Empire and thus the world. But she’s got to pretend that the Kou respect nations that aren’t Kou, to trick them into taking Kou poison-pill money.

        -Albert

        Liked by 1 person

  4. /Ships bearing away citizens of Balbadd, and those who sail with us, into captivity, slavery, and death!”/
    And here’s where the culture clash is about to kick Kougyoku hard. It’s possible she never even knew that slavery is illegal in Balbadd and she is going t be completely blindsided by this crazy (to her) notion..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Especially since the details of “slavery is illegal” in Balbadd appear to be “is not just illegal, but outlaw”, so that it is perfectly legal to kill slavers without legal repercussion.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Plus, she’s used to the idea that the ruler’s whim is law. (Which makes everyone else de facto slaves, whenever the ruler decides they’d be more useful doing something other than what they choose.) Balbadd is a nation of merchants, so while they might not have the formal political doctrine of ‘social contract’, it’s clear that there are cultural expectations that the locals have regarding the proper boundaries of royal governance.

      Sadly, Al-Thamen got to Rashid’s wife and oldest son, along with quite a few of the noble families in the last generation.

      -Albert

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Just found out last night, that last week, Irregular at Magic Highschool had its thirty second and final volume.

    I’m hoping that there are sequel volumes covering magic university, because I would be disappointed by a conclusion in the space of the three graduation chapters I haven’t seen a summary of yet. Three issues, shipping, subplots that weren’t really covered, and a detail imagined by the author which I have trouble believing.

    One the other hand, maybe the author has played out his audience/got yanked for political reasons. The volume might be a little bit packed for a series conclusion.

    I have trouble believing the resolution with Minami and Minoru, following the big fight. “I have no mouth” anyone? Those entities are alien, but not established as that alien.

    Part of the subplot issue may simply that I’ve been following summaries since around volume 13. (And the translation on Amazon is up to 15.) My feeling was that when a certain girl was introduced, a clone/granddaughter of a Chinese magician who was killed, that she would have a purpose in the story beyond the one she has had. Chinese magicians have nearly cheated death before, so I expected her to compete with Miyuki in a romance plot involving Masaki.

    Which brings shipping. I do not for a moment find Tatsuya/Miyuki a satisfying answer to the shipping questions of the series, which I’ve been thinking about since at least volume 4. (Mikihiko/Mizuki, and Leo/Erika was settled by then in my mind. And I’m not sure that there has been any pay off of those.) The two co-dependent freaks fail to satisfy, because it is obviously not healthy, as well as for the structural reason that they started out with that relationship, and that there has not been serious opposition that matches the plot. Maya started lying that they weren’t actually siblings in volume 16, and I think 8 establishes that the basis of her claim cannot be true. I’ve been shipping Miyuki/Masaki I think since at least 3/4, and have recently come around to shipping Tatsuya with a character introduced later instead of Honoka. There are details that seem to make sense if the author is setting up both of these relationships.

    So, this is a notice of intent to fixit.

    I’ve got breakfast soon, and then an appointment, so later!

    Liked by 1 person

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