After descending, I walked back to our place, but I noticed a carriage stopped out front, which was a sign that somebody was there.
“Could Edward have arrived already? He’s earlier than I expected,” I thought.
I took in a deep breath then walked into the long corridor. The Elven Queen sat in the corridor in silence as per usual. Ciara stood leaning against a wall, quietly watching over her Queen.
The Elven Queen seemed to hear my footsteps and, therefore, turned to me with a smile: “Sir Lin, correct?”
“Yeah. How did you know?”
“Because your footsteps sound different,” expounded the Elven Queen. “Your footsteps are much lighter than others. It gives the impression that you are afraid of disturbing me.”
“Really…?” To be honest, I never paid particular attention. I asked, “Has a young man, with particularly pretty, blonde hair, come here?”
“Do you think that I can see?” queried the Elven Queen, not affronted. “I cannot see, but it is true that a visitor is in the house. Ciara, does he have pretty, blonde hair?”
“Yes. He is a young man. He is here to see you.”
I was certain it was Edward, then.
I ambled to the Elven Queen. She looked up in my direction when she heard me approach. With a smile, she inquired, “Did you come here to me for something? Is there something you wish to say to me?”
“Nothing special. I just wanted to give you a present.”
The Elven Queen bore with a lot during the mission to reinstate Sisi. She was treated as a prisoner of war in humanity’s presence. Further, to prove Queen Sisi’s war accomplishment, we revealed her missing eyes; we pretty much added insult to injury. She put up with all of humanity’s admonishment and ridicule merely to satisfy my own plan. She entrusted me with her dignity, which was more than asking for her life.
Truth be told, I wasn’t fond of jewellery. The necklace I was wearing was meaningless to me. I gently wore it around her neck and verbalised, “Sorry, I made you go through so much for my own ends. This is my compensation.”
A gentle and pretty smile surfaced on the Elven Queen’s face. She clutched the necklace and voiced, “Thank you, Sir Lin. I will treasure this necklace. I will cherish it as I would my life. I am sincerely happy to have received this gift from you. I am already happy to know that you still think about me when you have Lord Veirya and Sisi. Thank you very much.”
“You don’t need to thank me…”
The reality was that I merely didn’t like the necklace… Seeing the Elven Queen cherish it so much made me feel bad… Ciara and she were happy that I made the gesture. The Elven Queen held up the necklace and gave it a light kiss before letting it hang at her chest. She gently clasped my face and kissed my lips.
I took a step back and wiped my mouth before heading into the house. When I opened the door, Anna welcomed me back and took my cloak covered in dew. She quietly notified, “Sir, you have a guest.”
“I know. Edward. It won’t take too long. Please prepare us some hot tea.”
“We already have.”
Ross came up to Anna from behind with a tray in hand. His ears twitched with joy when he saw me.
“Good morning, Sir. You have a guest,” informed Ross.
I walked in. I undid one of the buttons on my shirt. Edward was sitting in the guest room. He peered outside, but I had no idea what at. He didn’t notice me even when I had almost reached the table. I followed his line of sight. Veirya and Leah were outside. The elven diplomat sat at a small desk outside, teaching Leah the elven language. Leah was a model student. Meanwhile, Veirya just calmly watched over them. The three of them were as beautiful as a work of art. My heart was filled with bliss and satisfaction just seeing them…
“But does it have anything to do with you?! Who are you to be watching the blissful scene? Leah’s my daughter, and Veirya is my wife. Where do you come in? What, you miss your wife and daughter you sold off now?” I inwardly snapped.
I knocked on the table. Edward jolted as he turned to look at me as if he woke from a long dream and dryly chuckled: “Ah, sorry, Mr. Lin. I did not notice you had come in.”
“Yeah, your attention was focused outside, after all.” I walked to the window with a smile and gazed outside: “What are you looking at, my wife or my daughter? Or were you looking at the pretty elf? You can forget about my wife, while my daughter has yet to grow up. If you like the elf, I suggest you quit while you are ahead.”
Judging from Edward’s surprised reaction, he didn’t have any interest in the elf. It was conclusive that he was either interested in my wife or my daughter. Should he dare to lay his hands on either of them, especially Leah, I’d personally kill him.
“Let us talk business, then,” Edward proposed.
I nodded and sat down opposite Edward. I had a drink of tea before starting, “I just got back yesterday and woke up early today, so I’m quite irritable at the moment. If you have something to say, you better not beat around the push, or I’ll be in a foul mood.”
“I hope to join hands with you in managing the coal mine.”
“No,” I answered with a poker face.
“Why?!” Edward rose to his feet and protested, “You may not be aware, but this is definitely a profitable business!! You must know that the steam engine can only burn coal. Furthermore, we are the only ones with coal, so… you get it, do you not?! This business will definitely be profitable.”
“That’s exactly why. I know how important it is, which is why I won’t trust you. No businessman, especially you, would share his money-making machine with another. You sold your wife and child. Therefore, it’s only natural that you would never share something so good with me. There’s no doubt that you have your own agenda, so I must decline.”
“This is what happened: you must be aware of what happened last time; I am referring to the war between elves and humans. Our mine is right next to the elves. Hence, I am worried that history will repeat itself, and our workers will flee due to fear of elves. To add, should the elves harass us, we would suffer severe losses. I know that your relationship with the elves is decent, especially given the fact that you have elves residing at your place. I, therefore, believe that the elves will show you a degree of respect. You just need to join us, and the elves will not give us any grief.”
Edward provided a reasonable reason that I couldn’t rebuke. Regardless, it was painfully obvious that it was a trap. Nobody would hand you their money for free. I wouldn’t. Achilles wouldn’t. So there wouldn’t be a remote chance of Edward giving away money for free. There had to be an undisclosed problem awaiting me. Either he was trying to drag me down or something happened to the steam engine, and the shifty Edward wanted me to take his garbage.
“Can you really not accept it? Can I ask why you cannot accept?”
“You know full well why.” I leaned forward a little. Voice quiet, I elaborated, “I said it before. There are no free lunches in this world. You’re plotting something. You wouldn’t let me earn money for nothing. Your business stint might already be in tatters, and now you want me to carry your garbage. That’s why you’re trying to convince me. Show me your steam engine. Not one but your warehouse. Let me see if your goods can be sold and if I can earn from them.”
“Are you sure you want to see? My warehouse is in the imperial capital. If you want to see it, make a trip back with me. Having said that, I think that there is no need for you to check out the warehouse. I have brought our ledger. If you really want to confirm, I can let you see my ledger. You can then write a letter to confirm it. You should be aware that I would not joke around with this business.”
“You always bring your ledger with you when you leave?”
“No. I only brought it with me since I was coming to see you. I knew that you would not easily trust me, after all. I felt that I needed to bring it with me.”
Under normal circumstances, nobody would thoughtlessly let another see their ledger. Financial records were a businessman’s life. You can’t mindlessly show it to others, particularly other businessmen.
He put the book on the table and pushed it over to me. I pressed a hand on it. If I opened it, it was tantamount to conveying that I agreed to join him, so I left it shut.
“Should I join him? Would Veirya be happy? We have our stable and peaceful life, but I still want to take a risk. What would Veirya think?” I deliberated.
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