Our harem party has half its members now, but before we go on with adventuring, we're going to head back to Loanne for a bit of business.

Returning to the castle, we're able to dismiss our "shadow." Mikhail thanks him for the work and he just kind of... disappears. But we can exit and re-enter the bedroom to summon him again at any time.

But now that we're back home, I'm going to try out something that I know can only be done in Mikhail's scenario. All I knew beforehand was that it was a thing you could do, but not really what it was like.

When we sit on the throne, we're given the option to get some work done. This starts the Loanne management minigame. It's a menu-based game where you essentially run Loanne as Mikhail.

When it first started, I got a message saying that the Bastard Sword and Protect Suit were completed. These were the projects that Nora's workshop had been working on in Pidona... So I wonder if somehow it's connected to Mikhail's castle?

We're presented with a menu of "Military Affairs," "Domestic Affairs," "International Diplomacy," and "Taxes."

But luckily there's also an "Explanation" option, something that SaGa games tend to lack. Happily, I click on it, and the "explanations" are seriously just stuff like "Military affairs are the affairs of the military."

At the bottom of the screen, we can see a few stats, it seems. It displays the current condition of the people, the industry, and the reputation abroad. They're all just "normal" so I'm not really sure what this means.

So I just... started clicking on stuff.

Under "Military Affairs" there was the ability to start battles, as well as to produce new weapons or armor. We have 990,000 Aurums to spend, so I tried it out. The options that came up for the weapons and armor were things that Nora's workshop can make, but I feel like some of them usually aren't available until later. And I tried making one that I knew required you to find a special item first, and I was able to order it without having the item!

Under "Taxes" we were just able to choose 'light tax' 'medium tax' or 'heavy tax.' If you choose one, a representative will come up and explain that they're going to go collect taxes. He'll say how much we'll make from the taxing, and then asks if we'd really like to proceed or not. I said no, though.

Under "Domestic Affairs" we were able to invest in industry and stuff, and I tried some of them out. The "industry" rating went up! But I also ended up spending all of the money without realizing. Now we have 0 Aurums. I bankrupted the entire country, I guess. Maybe I need to go collect taxes...

I can't remember exactly when it happened, but I think I had accidentally exited the menu and sat back on the throne again, but an advisor appeared with a message from the Papenheim Army (?!)

It's written very politely and passively to sound like a "request," but in the end, it sounds like a threat to attack if we don't give them 100,000 Aurums.

Well, we have 0, so we have to decline.

And all of a sudden, we're here again... I remember this place :\

I tried my best, but we ended up losing the battle against the Papenheim Army. They were pretty strong, and smarter than the armies we fought before. They waited until I used my special attack to lower their morale, then immediately used one to raise their morale and lower mine...

After that, we were returned to Loanne, and now the condition of the people has dropped to "bad."

So I decided to quit doing this for a while and come back later...

I headed over to Pidona to check on the workshop, to see if indeed the Bastard Sword and Protect Suit that we were awarded before were indeed from here. In the upper area, there's now an attendant in the shop who will sell us more of the armor that we've had the shop create already -- and the Protect Suit was among them.

Going downstairs, I find that the protect suit and bastard sword are no longer in production, and we're able to make new choices.

There are some projects that the workshop can't work on unless we supply them with certain items. This is why I was hoping for a Fish Scale earlier, because I knew I would need one here eventually. In the screenshot, the beard is telling us that in order to make the Beast Leather, we'll need a Monster Hide. If you do have the item they need, they will take it without asking as soon as you choose the item to create, so be careful if you're wanting to keep the item for some reason.

Also, I don't know why I didn't find them before, but I found the mage teacher in Pidona, and they teach Byakko, Solar, and Lunar arts!

And since we're in Pidona, we're going to head back to Thomas's place, where he has a guest. This guy is Fullbright the 23rd. You may remember that the Fullbright Firm is one of the biggest and oldest companies in the world, who even worked with the Holy Emperor.

Being that we're friends with Thomas, he has a proposition for us. I think the proposition is really supposed to be for Thomas, but any character can do this as long as Thomas is in the party.

He tells us that the House of Fullbright and our family (and by this I'm assuming he means the Bent family -- Thomas's family -- not the Ausbach family) have strong ties. He says that the head of the Fullbright family says we're a capable man, and that we've even earned Muse's trust.

Mikhail seems surprised that he knows so much, and Fullbright responds that gathering information is the most critical part of his job.

Though all he's done is talk about our abilities, what he really wants to know is if we'd like to help him with his work. Though he does warn that it's quite a difficult job. We're able to hear him out, or tell him we're not interested.

Hearing him out, he tells us that the Fullbright Firm isn't the only company in the world, but in fact many companies participate in trade. I... don't really know why he felt like he needed to explain that to us. Why would anyone be under the impression that the Fullbright Firm was the only company in the world...?

He says something about how companies grow simply from an increase in participation. I'm not exactly sure what he meant, but I think he meant something like the market grows the more participation there is? Or that companies expand their reach by aquiring more resources?

Anyway, he says that he wants us to manage a new firm. He'd be fine doing it on his own, but he thought he'd ask.

The Mesanna family from the House of Claudius was a very influential family, and at the same time they were big-time merchants. The had a lot of businesses operating under them, but the House of Claudius failed, and the businesses in the Group were split apart. Recently, some shady Groups have been targeting those companies.

Then he said something about it being hard to act on because the House of Fullbright is one of tradition, and I didn't really understand it.

But what he wants us to do is to start our own firm, and try to acquire all of the businesses from the former Claudius Group, so they don't fall into shady business.

We're given the ability to take on the responsibility or reject the offer at this point. Taking the offer will indeed start up your own firm, and then by contacting agents across the world, you can try to acquire different businesses. There are agents all around in various towns, and talking to them after creating your firm will bring up the company minigame.

You can also recruit Fullbright as a character, but you can't do so while running the firm, so you'll either have to reject his offer, or completely finish the minigame by acquiring all the businesses and becoming a powerful firm.

To be honest, I never really tried this out much. I tried it once and was kind of intimidtated by it, and never tried again. Plus I like to recruit Fullbright so a lot of times, I reject just to get him in the party earlier. But apparently you can make a lot of money by pursuing this minigame.

So, I accepted.

The head of the house we're already in happens to be an agent, so we can go there to get started right away. (Er, maybe this isn't the Bent house?)

Anyway, doesn't that look pretty intimidating? Each option we can choose leads to another set of options, too, so there's a LOT to look through. Once you start messing with it, it's not nearly as complicated as it looks, there's just a lot of various information available, but your available actions are few.

The top of the screen says Mikhail Company, 1st term, 1 point. I don't know what the points are. Every time you attempt to make an acquisition, it seems to move to the next 'term' afterward.

At the bottom, we're told that the headquarters of Mikhail Company is in Pidona (why not Loanne?) and we're given some basic stats:

Total Assets (40th place) - 1,954,000 Aurums
Total Funds - 100,000 Aurums
Ally Funds - 0 Aurums
Expected next-term expenditure - 300,000 Aurums

We do business in two cities, and we have a total of 4 products.

And the old dude is asking us, President Mikhail (hehe), what we would like to do. We're given three options: view reports, acquisition, or allies &c.

The "view reports" section is just tables and charts of information if you want to know something. Going here gives you six more options: properties, group arts, negotiation arts, ranking, town data, and commodities.

"Properties" shows you the companies of which you have ownership.
"Group arts" and "Negotiation arts" are skills you can learn to use in a battle for acquisition. At the moment, we have none.
"Ranking" is a leaderboard of the top 20 firms in the world. We're currently in 40th place, so we don't chart.
"Town data" gives you information on the town you're in.
"Commodities" lists all of the products your firm trades.

The screenshot above is of the "commodities" chart. It shows what we trade, how "many" of those we have in our network, and gives a little description of them. There are a LOT of available commodities so there's a lot of little flavor text here. We have farming tools, wheat, cattle, and wool. Thankfully playing Harvest Moon and Shepherd's Crossing made this easy to read without a dictionary at all!

The descriptions are kinda boring, though. The description for cattle is just "cows raised for meat," for example, and they're all like that. I mean, I don't know what else they would be, but... why even have them there at all?

When you go to the acquisition menu, the little character sprite across from Mikhail changes to the agent you're currently talking to. The "Allies etc." menu gives you the option to change your secretary's appearance, and you can choose from a variety of NPC sprites. You can also "give up" from that menu, which I'm assuming dismantles the firm and cancels this minigame quest.

You're given a list of all the businesses that are available to try to acquire through the agent you're talking to. There's a commission price, so even if you don't do anything at all once the negotiation begins, you'll still lose some money even if you spend nothing to try to acquire the company. That's listed in the speech bubble from the agent.

The middle is the list of businesses to choose from. There's a lot here and it scrolls. You can even try to buy the Devil Emperor's Palace.

At the bottom you see the representative for the business as a sprite, the name of the business, the current firm that owns the business, the market value of the business, the estimated expenditure of the business, and the commodities they produce.

The one I'm hovering over is Mesanna Sugar, and it produces 5 sugar. It's currently owned by the Raphaelo Firm. So, I'm going to try to acquire it from them to try out the system...

We're taken to the negotiation battle screen. This is an active-time battle, where stuff is constantly going on. There are ticker messages across the top that flash on the screen very quickly. Half of them I can't read in time because they're only up for maybe half a second.

The left side of the screen represents the rival firm, in this case, Raphaelo. They'll constantly bid more money on the company. The goal is simply to outbid them.

The right side represents Mikhail Company, and there are only three main actions -- requisition funds, requisition from group, and use personal funds (meaning, the funds of Mikhail Company, not our normal party's money).

You can requisition funds either from the businesses that you own or from allies in your Group. The names of them will change colors based on their willingness to offer money. If you try to ask them for too much, they'll back out of the deal and not want to lend money in the future, sometimes even leaving the firm. Each business and ally will offer a different amount of money, and you can't choose how much they offer. So if you only need like, 10,000 Aurums, and a business's offering level is like.... 720,000 Aurums... they'll put 720,000 on the table if you select them.

I'm not entirely sure how the game handles the assets of the other businesses and firms, so I'm not sure if it's bad to go way over or not.

After so much time pases, it will move on to the next "day." I'm not really sure if the "days" do anything (maybe they will once we get more arts). But eventually, whoever has the most money on the table when you reach the final day becomes the owner of the business. (EDIT: Nope. I misunderstood the winning condition XD)

I managed to acquire Mesanna Sugar, and now we've added 5 sugar to our commodities! We're given an update to our current status after a drumroll, and it seems like our funds and assets went up quite a bit, while our expenditure only went up a little, so that seems good? To be honest I don't really have the hang of this yet; I'm more just kind of messing around. It seems more straightforward than the Loanne management game, though...

When I saw the tons of menus before and wasn't entirely sure what I should be doing, and the negotiation battle being active with things happening even when I did nothing, I got way too overwhelmed and never tried this minigame again. But really trying to sit and look through all the menus thoroughly and try it out a few times, it seems like it won't be so bad.

In fact, I think it will be pretty fun. I love resource management games with lots of little data to look at, so it seems like this will be exactly that.

After getting the update from my new grey-bearded secretary that I chose, we entered "Term 2," and then the Raphaelo Firm wanted to make an acquisition of Messanna Sugar... so we had to try to outbid them again. They seemed a lot more aggressive this time, and it took longer, but finally I managed to protect my ownership of the business.

I probably won't report on these minigames too much more than just some asides as we move forward, but I do plan on coming back to them when taking a break from normal adventuring. Personally I think that these are really great additions to the game, even if the Loanne minigame is convoluted and frustrating. I'm sure if I understood the mass combat better it wouldn't be as bad, though.