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“Greetings sir, I am the finance officer for the Six Horse Carriages, you can just call me Thatch. I heard that you have something important to discuss with us, is that correct?”
I sat opposite the extravagant desk in the office of the trade company. I looked at the man wearing glasses and a long-robe sitting before me, smiling as he looked at me. I waited for a moment, then took out the two coins and placed them on the table. He looked at me surprised and then said with a smile: “If you wish to exchange your currency, you should visit a money changer instead.”
“No, you should know what this implies.”
I leaned my torso over, pointed at the two coins and softly said: “These are bronze coins, aren’t they? Castor’s new silver coins…”
He continued to look at me calmly. He waved his hand feigning ignorance, smiled and asked: “What may you be talking about?”
“Quit acting, Mr Thatch. Your trading company was sent here on orders of the ruler of Castor to seize the coins, am I right? You insist that you don’t do business with Castor, yet I saw someone selling eels with your wooden barrels. Your company has also constantly been spreading the news that the value of Castor’s currency was going to rise, yet the new Castor silver coins are made of bronze. What you’re trying to pull here is very obvious.”
Thatch looked at me through his glasses and was caught completely surprised. He then stood up, walked up to the window and drew the curtain. The room went dark. There was only the light coming from the fireplace. I noticed that Nier had already placed her hand on her sword handle. I gently shook my head and continued to watch Thatch.
Thatch stood by the bedside, and did some thinking while pinching his chin. A moment later, he turned around, smiled as he looked at me and said: “There’s a price for everything in this world. How much do you want to keep the secret? Please offer me a price that we both can accept. One hundred empire gold coins or two hundred?”
I placed my hands on the table, looked at him, shook my head and said: “Thatch, I don’t lack wealth. I’m not threatening you, but saving your country of Castor. The empress has already begun preparations to attack Castor. Your people are at risk.”
“So will you save us?”
“No. I’m giving you a way out. To be frank, you people aren’t related to me, but I saw the empress kill people before my eyes, I can’t stand that. I can’t stand helplessly watching people die before me. I know your country’s financial situation is poor. If you could return to Castor to inform your king, and then get him to send someone here to negotiate with us, I believe we can reach a plausible conclusion.”
Becoming a vassal state is better than getting slaughtered! As a vassal state they just need to pay half of their annual income, but getting conquered would mean their people would have nowhere to go. If we can talk it out then we can avoid a war. I don’t want to let more people die before my eyes. I’m not Castor’s hero. I just want to use a method that will allow both countries to get the best outcome with minimal repercussions.
Thatch looked at me confused. A second later, he revealed a smile, paused for a moment and said: “Sir, I don’t know who you happen to be, but this matter is none of your business. Castor has the ability to protect itself. Our king has already prepared the war ships to sail out. We don’t care about the lives of any others.”
“Are you people insane?!”
I stared at him absolutely stunned. If they decide to fight to their very last man, then I’ll reveal my identity right now, salute them and give up persuading them. A country must hold heroic funerals for its heroes. If I try to persuade a group of men who’d rather die fighting than submit, then I’m essentially insulting them.
But they’re ditching their own people and fleeing! The king may survive, but what about the peasants? What will become of his people? You’re feeding yourself and letting the rest of your family starve. Your people will definitely be slaughtered! Her majesty was nearly killed by another ethnic group, and there’s only one ethnic group in the empire now. There’s no way she’ll allow another ethnicity to exist in her territory.
“Please return. We, Castor will not submit.”
“You people aren’t heroes. You’re cowards!”
“The people will always exist, but there is only one king. Men, see our guest out!”
The door got pulled open violently. Nier drew her sword half-way out and the two men dressed in military clothing watched us vigilantly. Nier stood between us coldly with her half-drawn sword in hand. I looked at Thatch, took in a deep breath and then said: “It looks like our negotiations have broken down. I won’t be considerate of your king in my next moves. Please wait for your bad news.”
“How dare you speak such words in enemy territory?”
Thatch looked at me with a cold smile. I fearlessly stood proud and said: “Would you believe me if I told you that your mercenaries are no match for my bodyguard?”
Nier completely drew her sword and so did the two mercenaries. The atmosphere was set for a fight. Many mercenaries from outside rushed over and blocked the door. Nier looked at them coldly and silently. She wasn’t the least bit afraid. I looked at Thatch, folded my arms and asked: “Thatch, you better think this through. You’re in the territory of the empire. You’re the ones who are in enemy territory. Putting aside whether you can win or not, how will you deal with the troops that will come and surround this place if we fight?”
Thatch looked at us coldly. I looked back at him without backing down. Nier swept her eyes over the mercenaries surrounding us. The mercenaries were frozen in place by Nier’s gaze and didn’t dare to move.
“… Let them go.”
A second later, Thatch waved his hands, while I pat Nier on her shoulder and she sheathed her sword. I bowed slightly and then turned around to leave.
The negotiation failed.
I thought Castor did what they did for their people. It never occurred to me that it was for a king. Their king ruined the financial situation of such a great city to this degree and now he’s fleeing as a war is about to break out. For what reason would anyone serve such a king loyally? I didn’t want to save a coward. I wanted to save the innocent citizens.
If a war breaks out, the king can run, but the people will die not knowing what they died for.
I still have a trump card. They wouldn’t have ever seized all the Castor coins if their currency depreciated before this fiasco, but as soon as I leave, they will. However, I have the resources of the royal family. I just need to go back and order them to forbid Castor coins from leaving the city, get someone to prove that Castor’s currency will depreciate and everything will work out.
This is now a race between Castor and I. If I collect enough Castor coins, I can get the king of Castor to come over here. I’ll bet the king is a coward who’ll do anything if you put money before him.
Nier and I quickly reached the markets. I looked at Nier and said: “Nier, I need you to immediately rush back to the palace and tell Castell what we know. Get him to use all his available resources to seize the Castor coins. Also, notify her majesty. Ask her to pass down an order that forbids anybody from taking large volumes of Castor coins out of the country. All Castor coins are to be exchanged for empire coins before they may leave. Oh, right, here.”
I took my pendant off, placed it into her hand, and said: “Take this with you. Otherwise those two may not believe you.”
“Your majesty, aren’t you coming back?”
“I can’t go back. They’ve definitely got eyes on me already. Moreover, they’ve definitely begun seizing Castor coins. I’ll use my identity as the prince to stop their deal at the crucial moment. I don’t know what sort of shady tricks they’ll use. If we get caught together, then there’s no way for us to report this. Further, you’re a bodyguard so they’ll definitely prioritise capturing me. I trust that you can successfully return to the palace even if they do attempt to capture you.”
I know I’ll be in a real pinch like this. Those mercenaries would be a bit more fearful if it were Nier. Without Nier, I’m just a powerless guy with a handgun. I’m not worried though. If both Nier and I get captured, then we’re both dead meat. But as long as one of us escapes, the other will become an asset that won’t be killed.
It’s just getting captured. Big deal.
I pat Nier on her shoulder and then said with a smile: “I believe in you, Nier. Don’t worry about me. I reckon I’ll get caught by them though, so I’ll be waiting for you to come and rescue me when the time comes.”
Nier looked at me, sighed and said: “Your majesty, you’re as weak as ever, huh? But I don’t get it. You’re clearly incapable of doing anything, yet you’re putting yourself into a precarious situation. But don’t you die. If you die, I’ll have to kill myself to apologise.”
“This is the conclusion I reached after weighing the odds of the situation. I won’t die, I promise.”
I pointed at the small empty pouch on her belt, and said: “That aside, I think your candy should be delivered by now. I’ll give you some when you come back for me.”
Nier lowered her head to look in the direction of my finger and smiled. She then turned and swiftly left.
I watched her disappear in the crowd and helplessly smiled. I don’t know how many people are following behind me, but for your information, it’s pointless to capture me now.