One hour later at the bank’s VIP room.
I placed my cup of wine down. The amber liquid swished, moving the block of ice with it. I admired the extravagant candelabrum and golden candles overhead, chilling in a leather sofa with one leg crossed over the other. It was a similar situation to the last merchant meeting, except this time, I sat in the centre.
I refused to spare any of them a gander because I knew they all looked miserable. I knew they wanted to kill me. Sadly for them, it was absolutely pointless to. On second thought, if I died, nothing would change. They didn’t dare to let me die and were even more afraid of me vanishing. If was a smoker and used a tissue to light up a cigar, I’d look as cool as the gangsters when triads were all the rage. But it was a pity that I had neither item. Hence, I just had to stick with my current act.
I pursed my lips as if I was savouring the honey wine. Once I had enough, I jibed, “You’ve almost touched me to tears. I’m bankrupt and about to be sent to a mine or to work as a sailor, yet you’re all taking so much care of me for this farewell party. This one shall remember the gracious deed you have done for him. I think I should be going to Edward’s coal mine, hey? Please take care of me when I’m there. Thank you very much.”
I offered Edward, who was deathly pale, a toast.
“Ahem.” The bank president picked up my bankruptcy parchment, scrunched it up into a ball and tossed it into the fire with everyone witnessing.
I had another drink with a smile and then frowned. The attendant quickly refilled my glass. I focused on swishing the wine around in my glass. Whatever they did now was none of my business. I didn’t need to care about anything. It wasn’t my turn to be worried but their turn to be trying to rack their brains for a solution.
“You’re making things hard for me, man,” I jeered, with my hand open. It was about time for me to end the posing and begin my performance. “Didn’t you all come over from far away to fool me with the aim of making me bankrupt? You’ve succeeded. I’m bankrupt for real. Then, you go and burn my bankruptcy acknowledgement parchment with my signature. What are you playing at? What do you want from me? So, do you want me to be bankrupt or not? You’re making things really difficult for me.
“Haha, of course, Edward, you can count yourself out. I forgot you’re also bankrupt now, too. I won’t entrust my daughter to bankrupt businessman. You can’t give my daughter a better life, either. Let’s go mining together. We might even earn posts as foremen or overseers. Don’t forget I’m on good terms with the elves. When they kidnapped you, I can save you… just kidding; I’ll tell them to just kill you.”
“Lord Lin, you should be appeased now, should you not?” remarked the bank president, after the long silence. “It was not our intention to make you bankrupt. You should be aware that it was Her Majesty’s wish. We cannot oppose Her Majesty, and neither can you, right?”
“Exactly, which is why whether I’m bankrupt or not is none of your business. What are you all so hasty for? Give me the document. I’ll sign again for you. My name is easy to write; I can sign all of the copies you have for me.”
I placed my glass down and snapped my fingers. The bank president was seething. Even so, he had to remain calm and friendly. Else, I wouldn’t cooperate and declare bankruptcy. If I did that, the merchants could all forget any compensation. Every single one who owed the bank wouldn’t be able to repay their loan. The bank got their money from the citizens’ savings. All of their money had turned to stones all in an instant, and the people who had all become broke. The entire imperial capital’s economy would collapse and potentially even spread. Businessmen were essentially a huge spider web. If one side shook, the other side would inevitably be affected.
The bank president carried on, “Lord Lin, the situation at present has gone beyond our control. We need you to come see Her Majesty with us. We must compensate with the money in the national treasury. Please do not be angry anymore. We know that we were wrong now. We will compensate you for our mistakes. With that said, you should give all of us a way out, right? You should think about the innocent citizens. Do not let their blood, sweat and tears become stones.”
“Remind me why that’s my problem. When you decided to dupe me, did you consider the townsfolk of my town? Did you consider my wife? Veirya is still in the elven lands suffering from a critical wound, and I don’t even know if she’s recovered or not. My daughter was even forced into a marriage with Edward – courtesy of his fib – and you want me to calm down and be considerate to you? You must have extra rich imaginations. When did I ever give you the false impression that I was a benevolent saint?”
The bank president was shut down. Benevolence has always been an unnecessary trait for businessmen. They should’ve known long ago that trying to persuade me was futile. They had to provide me with an acceptable chip. Else, I wouldn’t accept.
I wasn’t bankrupt. I could go ask Queen Sisi to cover me with her national treasury, and then cover their losses. Correct, it’d be incredibly hard for me to give fifty thousand gold coins. Now, nevertheless, every single person in the entire empire had to repay my debt from my losses. My debt didn’t bother me as someone, if not people, would repay it for me.
“Tell me. How much do you want?” inquired the bank president. “I hope that you will not make any absurd demands. After all, we will not have much money left after sorting this out.”
“I know that. Do you think that money is important to me now? I don’t want money. I can make money any day. What I want is very simple.” I pointed at Edward and declared, “I want him dead.”
“Wh-” exclaimed Edward, with a shocked expression.
I added, “That’s it. I don’t want money or compensation. I want him dead. I want to personally watch him die! If a man tries to harbour those sorts of thoughts for my daughter, wounds my wife, yet I don’t avenge them, I wouldn’t be worthy of being a human being! I did all of this to get him killed! I promise to go see Her Majesty once he’s dead. I promise to ask Her Majesty to help you resolve the issue. Thoughts?”
There was no need for any businessman to think about my offer. It couldn’t be any simpler to choose. What does Edward’s death have to do with them? There are no friends between businessmen. They wouldn’t try to save his life. They, in fact, couldn’t ask for anything more. That would prevent them from going bankrupt. Edward was already isolated. Human nature is incomparably vile, but that’s fine because I’m part of the pack.
“Edward,” called the bank president after a brief silence, heaving a burdened breath. “You don’t have family, so… I presume you have nothing or anyone to worry about. You should’ve considered the consequences when you started this. Achilles warned you; however, you refused to listen. Rest in peace for our sake now.”
“You can’t do this! You can’t just obey him, and let me die! We’re the exact same! We were all played! We… We… We should join forces to get him, not kill me!” protested Edward, with his entire body, as he stammered after jumping to his feet.
Not one man showed a tinge of sympathy. The president shook his head: “Don’t forget who brought this demon king here. He’s a demon king! What was so wrong about leaving him alone in the North? Weren’t you the one who brought him here? You resorted to every means, ignoring time and place just to get in Her Majesty’s graces, putting the entire imperial capital in peril. Shouldn’t you compensate us for that now?”
“I didn’t do anything wrong! I didn’t do anything wrong! I don’t want to die! We can find another solution! We definitely can! Why do we need him?! Can’t we go see Queen Sisi ourselves? Why must we need him to go? W-we can resolve this, can’t we?!”
“Things are different this time. All of us are in dire straits this time. Do you think we can get out of the hole? Queen Sisi will only compensate our losses through Lord Lin. Otherwise, not even Queen Sisi would know how to distribute money.”
The money in the national treasury wasn’t Sisi’s personal wallet. She couldn’t just take money from there and distribute it to businessmen. If she bought out my insurance business, then she could justify repaying their debts. If she went around me, how would she do it? Turn all of the others a part of the nation? Sisi would laugh herself to madness. If every single business in entire imperial capital was to become her property all of a sudden, what would be the point of having the merchants?
“Gentlemen, please make up your decision quickly. I still have things to do. I want to sleep early, or I won’t be able to work in the mine tomorrow.”
I set my glass down and got up. Every step I took brought Edward closer to death. I wasn’t going to give any sympathy or give up. I wanted to see Edward die.
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