There were less than a hundred people in the village. Based on the size of our town, it required an overhaul to take care of all of the Anks people for the meantime. The villagers promised to leave. Thus, the deal entered its final stage. Francis and I signed a contract in the elder’s tent. We defined the boundaries of the land. We settled the price and signed it after confirming its uses. The deal, therefore, was officially complete.
The land already belonged to us; in other words, we just transferred ownership of it to the dwarf, Francis, and his business association. Francis completed his task and procured the land. The problem was that none of us knew if there was a mine there or not. If there wasn’t, Francis’ business association was duped.
The night we acquired the land from the villagers, we saw a second group of dwarves. I knew they were Francis’ competition; in other words, another business association. They didn’t look too happy when they saw Francis. Francis, on the other hand, smiled from ear to ear. He sat next to the large bonfire situated in the centre of the village and raised his cup of wine: “My dear friends, what a coincidence to see you here. I’m so glad to see you out here in the most desolate place in the entire world. Do you have business here? Sid you purely come to drink with lonely me?”
Two dwarves in front of Francis clenched their teeth. Seething anger seeping into their voices, they muttered, “Francis…”
I was glad to see the two dwarves’ expressions. At the end of the day, I was a businessman. I knew there were profits and losses. I didn’t go all the way there for the original inhabitants of the place. Gaining the villagers couldn’t even be considered a gain. I didn’t invest the money earned from selling the land into the deal. If Francis didn’t profit, then all of my earnings would be flushed down the drain, too, because I’d lose an entire block of land without any income. Put another way, I suffered the biggest defeat. Although we didn’t mention the idea on the journey, that didn’t mean that neither of us cared. Both of us were eager to find out the outcome.
“What’s the matter, my dear friends? Didn’t you think that I’d be here?” jeered Francis.
“We already sensed this shameless betrayal. Someone definitely leaked the news to you. Then, you got a step ahead of us thanks to your repulsive deal with humans!!”
Francis heartily laughed: “No, no, no, my friend. You’re wrong about that. Even if you came here, you wouldn’t have acquired the land. This land belonged to my friend, Veirya, and this gentleman. You wouldn’t have had the right to survey the area or mine here even if you did come.”
They fumed, “We had planned to search, but your group snatched it first. We may all be businessmen, but we’ve never used such unscrupulous means. You found out our plans through a traitor. Such unscrupulous means is sickening.”
“No, no, no, I beg to differ. I’ve never used underhanded tactics such as bribery. Shouldn’t you reflect on yourself? Why would your pupils take the initiative to betray you and join me? How do you treat their families? If you abuse others, it’s only natural they’d leave. If people resentfully depart, it’s bound to lead to betrayal. It’s not my fault; the fault lies with you,” Francis calmly argued. He then raised his cup for a toast and finished the drink in one go.
“Our association’s business has nothing to do with you. Francis, don’t stick your nose in our business.”
Francis nodded: “Sure. Similarly, this is our business deal. This is our association’s deal with Lord Veirya and this gentleman. By the same token, you have no right to stick your noses in, either. Moreover, this is now my territory, and you’re not welcome.”
The two dwarves exchanged glances after Francis’ response. They took a step forward to approach Francis. They looked at him and, in an absolutely serious tone, replied, “Francis, let’s put aside our personal grudge for now. What has happened and what we’re talking about is unrelated.”
Francis vigilantly watched them. Despite the dwarves saying that, there was no question they were planning something, and it was bound to be related to the land. According to what Francis previously said, the land was definitely valuable; hence, it was worth lying and betraying for. Francis aggressively asked, “What do you want?”
“We are talking about this land, Francis. How much did you spend on this land?”
“I told you already: this deal is none of your business. You have no right to be asking any questions.”
Francis had no intention of telling anyone about our deal. Under normal circumstances, disclosing the details of a contract to a third party was a violation of the terms, otherwise known as betrayal. He comprehended that. Worth noting was I didn’t know if he refused to disclose anything merely due to dislike or not.
“What I meant to say was that we could help you reduce your losses. I swear that was not our association’s intention but because our friend, who admires you as our dwarves’ hero. That’s why we plan to help you reduce your losses, understand? In essence, it’s useless for you to purchase this land. There are no gems that we’re after here, understand? We didn’t plan to purchase this block of land. There are no minerals here. All you’ve bought is a useless block of land located at the farthest and coldest corner in the world. You have to believe me.”
I didn’t believe him. I did think that it was a possibility before their visit. It was likely a method of distracting one to swindle them of their money. Howbeit, nobody would believe you if you suddenly came up to your competition and told them you’re conning them… Who would ever be so honest? Nevertheless, after their declaration, I began to panic… After all, if they were telling the truth… then all the money I earned was…. bound to be lost…
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