There were many answers to this question, but if one really had to choose an answer, it would undoubtedly be wise governance. How well a fiefdom fared would directly affect a noble house’s base of power.
A noble house could be blessed with talented offspring, but it would be futile if it had no money to hire the best instructors to nurture their talents. Building connections with other nobles also required money, be it purchasing dresses or keeping up appearances. Even a powerful army had to be maintained atop a pile of money.
All of this was financed by the taxes earned by the fiefdom, which was in turn related to the workforce.
If the governance is inept, the standard of living of the people will fall, reducing productivity. If the governance is tyrannical, the people will migrate to other lands. If the governance is excellent, foreign talent will consider settling down in the fiefdom.
It was with such considerations that the Sorofyas used the growth of population as one of the indicators to measure how qualified a lord was.
But how could the Sorofyas measure a fiefdom’s population? After all, it couldn’t possibly do a headcount of every single person in a territory. How inefficient would that be?
The Sorofyas’ approach toward this matter was to make an estimation through the flow of goods of one of the necessities in everyday life—salt.
Humans cannot live without salt; this was a physiological need. This was especially so in this era of menial labor. Those who under consume salt would find themselves feeling lethargic and lacking in strength.
“The Elric Fiefdom doesn’t produce salt, which means that they have to acquire all of it through merchants. As such, we’re confident about the accuracy of the figures we have. Any discrepancy in the results should be minimal. In our analysis, we found that the amount of salt bought by the Elric Fiefdom has been going up slowly over the past few decades, similar to some of the more stable fiefdoms around.
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“While it does show that the Elric Fiefdom has been governed decently, it also shows that there’s nothing spectacularly outstanding about it. To put it bluntly, it’s average. It’s doing neither good nor bad. From this result, our inference is that the Elric House should also be faring ordinarily, neither prospering nor in decline. But the truth is that…”
“The truth is that the Elric House has been rising with great momentum over the past few decades, making it one of the higher ranking houses in the Five Eminent Noble Houses. Its influence in the Theocracy’s circle of nobility has grown tremendously, perhaps even surpassing that of the Ascart House. Things are going very differently from what the Sorofya Merchant Association predicted.”
Roel finished the sentence for Arwen.
“Yes, that’s why I said that there’s something weird
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