Dear Lucia, I hope you have adapted to life in the North. The purpose of this letter is to confess…… I thought about it for a moment, but my pen never touched the paper again. After thinking it over and over, I decided it was best not to confess to Lucia. Lucia can smell the scent other elves leave behind on me. I trust that my entire body is covered in Luna’s scent. It’s not that I fell in love with Luna. It’s just that I randomly pitied her and went along with her yesterday. What I feel for Luna is sympathy, not love. If I’m honest, Lucia might forgive me……
But when I thought about the personality of elves…… Lucia would fly here, look for Luna and cut her up before taking me back. She would actually do that. After a moment of hesitation, I scrunched up the thirteenth letter into a ball and threw it into the fire.
Luna knocked on the door, walked in, bowed and said: “Your majesty, the people you asked to see have arrived and are waiting for you in the guest room.”
I nodded, picked up my coat by the side and wore it on. Luna looked at me with a smile. She walked up to me and helped me adjust my collar. She tippy-toed up like she was going to kiss me, but she didn’t kiss me this time.
“You are ready now, your majesty.”
Luna restored her usual smile the next day and didn’t show any odd signs. She greeted people as per usual as if nothing happened last night. I didn’t mention anything either. What happened that night was imprinted in my heart. It was our treasured memory.
Luna and I left the room and came to the guest room. It was the first time there were so many people seated in the guest room of the outer court. Right now, people dressed in formal robes were seated on both sides of the long table listening.
I shouted and the voices in the room went silent. All of them rose and saluted me. They respectfully said: “We wish you the best of health, your majesty.“
I sat in the master-seat and looked at all the nervous faces. There were young faces, old faces and a few females. They weren’t high-ranking officials or nobles. They were just merchants, ones that only had one store. However, their stores were located in terrific locations.
“You are all here today for a simple matter.”
Luna bent over and handed me a document. I took it and threw it onto the table. I looked at them and indifferently said: “And that is to sell your stores to me. I won’t forcefully take them from you. If you can work with me, we will all benefit. I know that it’s very unreasonable for me to make this sudden proposal, so I will pay you three times the estimated worth of your current store. Oh, you’ll have to trust the competence of the royal court’s merchants’ abilities to make estimations. I trust that you can accept this offer, so don’t bargain.”
They looked at me with astonishment as if I just told them aliens exist and that the aliens were pole-dancing. I looked at them and said: “What are you looking at me for? You’ll get your payment once you sign. Are you questioning my ability to compensate you? Her majesty is backing me. Do you think I can’t afford it?”
One of them looked at me and struggled to utter: “No, your majesty, it is just… it is a little too sudden…… Our stores are still operating as usual, so suddenly buying them off us puts us in a bit of a predicament……”
“That’s why I’m paying you three times the price. Something happened and I urgently need your stores. Is three times the price enough for you to find a bigger location to run your store? If you don’t wish to continue in business, that’s enough for you to retire, isn’t it? You won’t have to worry about land, will you?”
I chuckled coldly as I looked at them. I continued: “I’m in a rush. I desperately need the land you currently possess. I can give you time to think, but I can’t give you much time. I stand before you as a sincere buyer keen on buying your store. If you don’t accept, the next time I stand before you will be as the prince. Think about it. When I come back from dinner, I hope I’ll see your signatures. That way, I’ll even be able to give you a few bottles of wine when you leave.”
I then stood up and left without sparing the people behind me any attention. Luna who was behind me, smiled and saluted the merchants before closing the door.
“Your majesty, have you already finished your discussions with them?”
When I arrived at the dining hall, Castell had already finished setting up his napkin and wasn’t standing on ceremony. I nodded and sat down. Luna helped me with my napkin and then stepped aside. Castell stroked his smooth chin and then revealed a helpless smile before saying: “I never expected you to do this. If you spend money like this, you will spend several months-worth of my income within two days. Further, there is still the salt to consider.”
“Her majesty didn’t say anything, so what are you whinging about? In the future, if the prices of goods randomly increase, the empire will have the rights to stand up and punish those who raise the price of goods. This doesn’t give the freedom to ruin the market, but allows us to maintain a stable financial system.”
“Your majesty, you might make the merchants unhappy like that, won’t you?”
“The moment they hoard goods and raise prices, they’re no longer merchants but criminals.” I cut open the chicken and then looked at Castell and added, “I don’t think those people will hesitate. If they do, I’ll send someone to their stores and stash salt there. When I inspect their stores tomorrow, I’ll execute them for the crime of privately selling salt.”
Castell smiled helplessly. He raised his wine-cup and said: “Your majesty… You now seem to be even more extreme than her majesty……”
“Yeah? If I could build such a large empire as mom has, I wouldn’t have had to watch my friend die in front of my eyes, and I would’ve been able to protect those I wanted to protect.” I looked at Castell, clenched my teeth and continued, “You think I don’t hate my current self? I just have no choice. Only now can I protect my everything. Only now can I protect the people around me from getting hurt. This is the only way. If loathing myself would allow me to keep those around me safe, I won’t hesitate.”
Castell looked at me. His eyes contained a complex expression. For a while, the only sound that could be heard in the dining hall was the sound of eating utensils clinking. A moment later, Castell said: “Your majesty, look after yourself as you force yourself. Do not overextend. It is not as if it is unacceptable for you to sometimes to ask someone to spoil you.”
I looked at Castell and asked: “Have you asked someone to spoil you before then, Castell?”
“This is how I have always been. Thank you for looking after me, your majesty.”
Castell smiled and dodged the question. He then placed his fork and knife down. Two maids then stepped forth to collect his plate. I placed my fork and knife down as well. I stood up and Luna came over. She smiled and bid Castell farewell. She then followed me from behind and opened the door to the guest room once again.
The people inside had already left. I picked up the document on the table. Every page had been signed. I nodded and left the room. I handed it to Castell and said: “I’m going to check the results tomorrow. It’s best that I can start my plan the day after. I don’t have much time, Castell.”
“As you command.”