Whereas the imperial capital was fairly lax during Queen Sisi’s reign, the military was much stricter with their regulations. Perhaps it would be more befitting to say that nobody liked to leave their homes due to the overbearing way that the military enforced their regulations. Everyone on the streets made haste with their heads down. Few people shopped at the stores. The soldiers either patrolled the streets on horseback or in lines on foot. They didn’t treat the imperial capital as a prosperous city; I had the impression that they treated it as a large-scale military camp. You could find notices listing forbidden activities plastered all over the streets. Not only was being outside at night forbidden, but even drinking in groups was prohibited. Additionally, the punishments meted were incredibly harsh. The rules were so strict that being drunk at night would result in being detained.
Such strict regulations would only suit an empire that was military based or during times when everyone was at war, including peasants, and everyone’s lives were on the line. Otherwise, such oppressive means would only be counterproductive. As I thought, the military didn’t have a clue how a nation should be managed. They only knew how to manage military personnel in a military camp. People need more than just to have a full belly; they also need entertainment. Under Queen Sisi’s management, the entire city could be described as liberated and prosperous. Only a city that didn’t sleep would allow businesses to earn enough money.
The military’s rule zapped the city of any life. Without life, there is no money. In turn, businesses will be unhappy. Those who were used to the previous lifestyle wouldn’t be happy, either. While it sounded detrimental for the citizens and businesses, it was in my favour. The people were discontent and afraid. I needed to persuade everyone to not be scared and that things would return to how they formerly were after Queen Sisi returned. They could, therefore, have back what they wanted.
The succubi didn’t know where the bank president was. So accordingly, I had to search for Achilles. Businesses should be able to contact each other. After all, merchants were still considered a weak entity in this world. If the merchants didn’t form a united front to combat the crisis, they would all be annihilated soon if not later.
I ambled along the street. The guards paid me no heed, passing me one after another. The imperial capital was akin to the city under the chapel’s administration. I passed by the chapel’s former location again. The last time I was at the imperial city, ethereal and devout voices came from towering chapel in the form of songs. This time, to the contrary, the place had become a collection of black ruins that a wooden fence cordoned. The scene was Queen Sisi’s masterpiece. Before she knew it, it had come around to her. She personally destroyed the chapel in its entirety. The military then destroyed her. Perhaps the mysterious concept referred to as fate truly did exist. Fate has no mercy for anyone.
Achilles’ building was immersed in darkness just as the chapel’s was. I went around the vicinity, but there were no guards. Nobody had visited in ages or something. I headed to the merchant’s tavern. If Achilles wasn’t present, I, at the very least, could leave a voice message.
“Lord Lin, is it?”
Someone suddenly put their hand on my shoulder while simultaneously pressing something into my lower back. No, I didn’t think he was gay, which meant that it could’ve been a blade that could sink into my back right away. I stood in place; he didn’t seem to want me to turn around.
“That’ll depend on whether you think I am or not, then. Whether or not I’m Lin Dongqing will depend on what you’re after me for.”
“A cane, talks a lot, you must be Mr. Lin.”
“Is that how Achilles described me?”
“Apologies, Mr. Lin. We do not want to treat you this way. Even so, as an insurance policy, you will have to pardon us.”
Something instantly covered my entire face from overhead. I was then carried into a horse carriage. I felt that there were people on my left and right. The narrow interior was packed to the brim. We soon came to a stop. I was guided up a spiralling flight of stairs. They checked left and right before opening the door. They put me in a chair and granted me my vision again. Before me was a cup of hot tea, steam languidly ascending from it.
Seated around the circular table I was at were men in formal clothing. As an approximation, they were in their forties and fifties. From their white hair to their formal clothing, they oozed a sly aura. Looking around, I appeared to be the youngest. Opposite me was a plump elder. He pointed to my cup of tea with a smile: “I am sorry, Mr. Lin. We did not want to resort to much means; however, due to difficult times, we all have to put up with some discomfort. I hope the cup of tea can help you calm down.”
I snickered and casually picked up the cup: “I must say, this is a nice place. A brothel would not be inspected, correct? To add, this sort of run-down small tavern located next to a brothel would not be easy to find among the myriad of densely packed buildings.”
Everyone present revealed awkward expressions. The elder sitting opposite me froze. He looked at the man behind m, perplexed. I smiled and had a nip of tea: “You don’t need to blame them. If you don’t want others to know, don’t pass by the brothel on your way. I couldn’t be any more familiar with the scent of succubi. Furthermore, given the fact that we had to take detour after detour in this run-down building, it’s obvious that this is a slanted type of building. Hence, there can only be one place that comes to mind.”
“… You most certainly live up to your reputation, Mr. Lin. I truly am eager to know what sort of situation could lead to you losing your cool enough to give up thinking.”
The man opposite me chuckled then sat back down. I set down my cup of tea: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you must be the most successful merchants in the imperial capital, correct? Owing to the rush I was in to deal with business during my last visit to the imperial capital, I didn’t have a chance to meet with you all. I guess we’re finally acquainted. Let’s not beat around the bush, and get to the point. I want to loan money from you all.”
My final remark froze everyone, including Achilles. He nudged my leg, but I paid him no heed. After the short silence, the elder sitting in front of me forced a smile and dryly chuckled: “Umm, Mr. Lin, surely… you are joking, right?”
“I’m not joking.” I indicated I was serious with me gaze prior to elaborating, “Gentlemen, I know that the war took place in the North, which is also within my territory. After the defeat, I had to take responsibility for handling the elves’ fury and humanity’s injured soldiers. Meanwhile, you were all busy here with the contention for the throne. I am in the midst of doing my absolute best to rescue our brilliant young men’s lives. I used my own power to treat humanity’s wound. I want to return Queen Sisi to the throne, but without funds, the goal is a but a mere desire. Therefore, I need to loan money from you.”
“How much do you want?”
The moment the number exited my mouth, I caught them all gasping at the number. A few elders bobbed their heads down to begin discussing amongst themselves. The leader then laughed: “Mr. Lin, I think that the biggest problem lies in whether or not you truly have Queen Sisi with you. Excuse my bluntness. We will not withhold money if it is for Queen Sisi for we understand that the true nightmare is the world without her. In saying that, we do not understand you. If you are just a conman, then… Ten thousand gold coins is a large sum. I can definitely join hands and provide the sum, but we must act together. Let us see Queen Sisi first, all right?”
“No. When Queen Sisi was suffering humiliation in the elven lands, not a single one of you took a stand to protect her. I alone risked my life to rescue her from them. You and I are businessmen; we all work for money. That is why I can’t possibly hand you my goods for nothing. Coincidentally, I happen to have a very good relationship with Queen Sisi. If you refuse to provide the financial backing, I’ll pack up and go home, get married with Queen Sisi and then lead a peaceful life, while you can all flip coins, spin coins or whatever you fancy. If humanity becomes a dump, I’ll just migrate to the elves; no problems there. I don’t have any assets here, but go on, have a good think to yourselves.”
Achilles desperately tugged my arm, but all he got was, well, nothing. The elders all wore grave faces. They engaged in another round of discussions for an extensive period of time. I just sat there and enjoyed the cup of hot tea. While I was at it, I poured myself another cup.
I could understand debating, but I was sure that they’d agree to my terms. It might be a bit of a problem for one person alone to provide ten thousand gold coins; however, that was a small sum for the group. The IOU they would give me would be my protective talisman.
After the long discussion came to an end, the leader queried, “All right. Since you insist, we shall agree to your request. With that said, you must understand that you must repay the loan of ten thousand gold coins. How long do you think you need to repay it?’
I pulled up the corner of my lips: “Easy. One week. If Queen Sisi doesn’t return in one week, I won’t receive the ten thousand gold coins. If she is crowned, ten thousand gold coins is a miniscule sum.”
“All right, one week it is. We do not need interest. But nonetheless, you must ensure that Queen Sisi is crowned in one week. Else, you must repay the ten thousand.”
“Fine by me.” I extended my hand out to the merchants: “So then, gentlemen, please give me my IOU. I am the borrower, and the lender is all of you. You can write all of your names on it. Once I receive the ten thousand gold coins, I will bring your Queen back.”
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