Ring for a Proposal
It should be fine. Achilles couldn’t explain the problem with the letter, which was actually a few words I casually wrote in the spur of the moment. The basic takeaway was, “Understood,” which created the false impression that Achilles communicated with us through letters in private. In reality, though, Achilles and we never communicated in any capacity. Howbeit, he couldn’t explain the nature of the letter. Put another way, nobody would believe him even if he did explain it. If there was doubt between the president and Achilles, then the merchant inner circle would be in total disarray. Among the group of disordered businessmen, some helped Queen Sisi, and they didn’t have the capital to ask for anything after they provided help. That was exactly what we needed.
Queen Sisi’s letter was effective. The seemingly impregnable alliance was a laughing matter, as all it took was one letter to dismantle it. That was the nature of businessmen. Before money and profit, trust and friendship are worth nothing.
It was a much simpler issue compared to the first issue I tackled when I came to the imperial city for the first time. The businessmen and military personnel were not on the bishop’s level.
The soldiers were busy sticking up posters to announce Veirya’s upcoming coronation, while there were others who replaced the preachers, standing to one side, calling people over to explain why Veirya was superior to Queen Sisi. They also promised that Veirya wouldn’t do worse than Queen Sisi, and promised better days for everyone.
I stopped to listen to what they preached for a while. What they were doing wasn’t Veirya’s intent, and they didn’t even talk about the key point. A manifesto should have one priority key point, which was what the new ruler could do for everyone. A manifesto isn’t a couple of slogans jammed together. Instead, it should include some points, such as reducing unemployment rates or increasing benefits for citizens. You also need to provide details for how that goal will be achieved. That’s how you convince the people. The soldiers didn’t say a single thing with substance. All their garble was slogans without any substance. Most importantly, the people weren’t even passionate about the war against the elves. The soldiers prattled about avenging humanity’s defeat at the elves’ hands. That wasn’t going to get them in the people’s good books.
My plan was to go and arrange things with the food merchants. Essentially, I was going to have them transport food out for some time as per Achilles’ wish. They didn’t need to do much. All they had to do was to transport food out. Leave it there for a while, and then finally bring it back. That was a move in the food merchants’ favour because they could make some extra money from it. A commodity with a stable price, such as food, required such tactics to increase earnings. No businessman would pick a fight with money.
The food merchants’ were focused at the spot close to the city entrance as it was a good location for transporting food in. Needless to say, there were also stores foreigners run there. There were no longer any elven stores around. Basically, there were dwarves’ stores. Lots of them were jewellery stores. They were dwarves’ stores, after all. They were far superior to humanity when it came to processing metal and gems.
The mention of jewellery reminded me of that unpleasant dream…
The ring Francis gave me was still on Lucia’s ring finger. At the time, I had to propose to Lucia. Without a ring, a proposal isn’t sincere. I couldn’t ask Lucia to give it back after. I admit the dwarf’s ring was nice…
I gripped the ten thousand gold coins invoice in my pocket. I had ten thousand gold coins that all the merchants loaned to me. No matter how expensive a ring may be, it wouldn’t cost more than ten thousand gold coins. It was best for me to have a ring with me the next time I saw Veirya. If possible, I needed one the exact same as the one Francis gave me. But honestly… I couldn’t remember how it looked…
I strolled to the jewellery store. Someone suddenly pushed the door to the store open. A white robe appeared before my eyes, and a familiar scent came from in front, causing every muscle in my body to contract. My world lit up thanks to the familiar scent. My heart gradually began to beat faster. I couldn’t help myself from smiling. I told myself that I had to maintain my composure and not panic when I saw Veirya.
“You didn’t do anything wrong. You must calm down… just calm down. I need go and see the food merchants? And umm… uh…. I can just apologise to Veirya, and then we can go home, right? I can take Veirya home and crown Queen Sisi. I’ll make it up to her with a ring here. If possible, proposing here while I’m at it would be all right. Do I even need to try? Wouldn’t all end well if we just went back?” I told myself.
But… I suddenly realised something… I yanked my head up. There she was in front of me. Veirya hadn’t changed at all. She extended her hand toward the sun. The inlaid gem on the ring sitting on her left ring finger was akin to a sharp piece of glass that pierced my heart, with someone grabbing it and repetitively screwing it in while wearing a savage smile… The young man next to her looked at her with a smile, one that you’d wear when spoiling someone. She looked as if she was a wife who came to buy a ring with her husband.
What should’ve been fondness and affection had turned into pain and despair. Even though she saw me, Veirya immediately pulled her hand behind her. She gave me a small nod.
My heart ache stirred my tear ducts. My legs trembled. Had I not had my cane, I probably would’ve fell to the ground…
“Uhm.” Veirya removed her ring from her finger: “I just. Wanted this. So… Is the ring. Francis gave us. With you?”
It was the same as in my dream… the exact same… I didn’t have a ring in my pocket. The ring Francis gave me was his blessings for Veirya and I. I ended up giving mine to Lucia… I literally scrunched the invoice in my pocket up into a ball. I’d be willing to pay ten or even twenty times the ten thousand gold coins to get the ring back. I wanted to personally put it on Veirya’s finger…
“I see.” Seeing as I kept silent, Veirya lowered her head and wore on the ring again. She then looked up at me and questioned, “So. You no longer. Love me. Correct?”
“I… don’t have… ring… ring… I… Sisi…”
“You’re. Already addressing her by her name. And gave her. The ring. So. We have nothing left. To say, then. Thank you. For your help before. I won’t need it. From now.”
With a nod, Veirya turned around. The young man gave me a grin that I wanted to rip off his face. He taunted, “I am delighted to meet you here, Mr. Lin. Next time, you will receive my invitation, okay?”
I didn’t watch them leave. I grabbed my chest. I dropped my cane to the ground. I leaned onto the wall and banged it. My tears came from my eyes, nose and even my mouth.
“If these aren’t tears, why am I so bitter?” I asked myself. “Aaarrrrghh!”
Everyone in the vicinity went silent and looked shocked at the man kneeling on the ground. His body pulsated violently as he punched the wall over and over until his bloody fist was left on the wall. Nobody dared to approach him for they weren’t certain that he was human. A human wouldn’t roar that way.
“I failed. I completely, totally, utterly failed,” I cursed.
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