“Her Majesty left the town last night already,” informed the young girl whose family ran the tavern.
As the only place offering lodging, the tavern served countless affluent figures and nobles, thereby earning an impressive sum. Naturally, the young girl was elated. The lodging quality was only average, but the nobles, Queen and Elven Queen stayed there without any complaints. The nobles were willing to stay in the small building. Rather, they were happy to stay so close to Queen Sisi despite not being able to in the imperial palace.
I was worried Lucilia and Sisi would instigate another war between their respective races when they had to share a roof. Thankfully, the two stayed out of each other’s hairs out of respect for me, and both races stayed in their own lanes. They didn’t argue or start trouble at my wedding, either.
When I went to see Sisi at the tavern last night, she never indicated any intention of departing, so I was surprised to hear she had left.
Sisi must’ve been content after hearing we were willing to go to the South. That must’ve been why she was so calm and collected at our wedding. In other words, she didn’t care too much about our wedding; she was focused solely on persuading me to go to the South. Not one to waste her time, Sisi returned right after getting what she wanted. My chances of success dropped since I’d be in the imperial capital.
My reason for refusing remained unchanged, but I preferred to talk to Sisi in the North as I could refuse to leave. If I was placed under house arrest in the imperial capital, then I would be in a passive position. That meant I might not be able to leave. She almost put me under city arrest in the imperial capital before, although it was my fault, admittedly.
Upon leaving the tavern, the young girl came running out with a small bottle to tell me, “Count Lin, we did not give you and Countess Veirya a gift at your wedding… mainly because… I did not dare to when I saw so many nobles and Her Majesty give you gifts. This is our present for you. This is our best wine. We hope you will like it.”
“Ah, thank you so much!” I expressed brightly.
Continuing on my way, I contemplated how to communicate my standpoint to Sisi. I felt that the best method was to write a letter, telling Sisi that Veirya was pregnant. I just didn’t know if Sisi would believe it. It sounded about as genuine as the story of the wolf as I tried to give her the slip last time with Veirya’s fake pregnancy as an excuse.
They didn’t need me to defuse the war, but Veirya would be tormented without me by her side. I wouldn’t discard Veirya for some pointless, borderline non-existent obligations or a mistress.
Current time in the South.
“You mean that you are willing to help us?” the Queen behind the veil questioned, seeking confirmation. Although she had the voice of a girl, there was no questioning that she was as imposing as a Queen. Not even Queen Sisi covered her face, yet the people in front didn’t allow them to see her face, an explicit way of telling them they weren’t worthy.
“Yes, Your Venerated… Majesty… We can help you conquer the South as well as provide you with resources and funds to hire mercenaries from abroad to enter this land. All we ask in return is for you and your nation to treat us as equals. We hope to do business in your kingdom.”
“Is that right?’ asked the woman behind the veil, with a giggle that couldn’t be discerned as polite one or a form of ridicule.
From the viewpoint of the businessmen, loyalty was worthless unless it could be exchanged for an equal sum of money. They no longer devoted any of their loyalty to Queen Sisi after her deceit and imposed her will on them in a forcible manner. Hence, the invaders were their hope.
“If that’s possible, I would say it’s not a bad deal. While I think poorly of you, you rodents can help me batter that so-called Queen, correct? Fine, I agree to your request. Once I rule this land, you will receive the benefits you deserve. In saying that, can you guarantee that you can capture this land for me? I truly want to conquer this place. Who is my fiercest enemy?”
The businessmen visually regarded each other then answered, “Lin Dongqing.”
“Lin… Dongqing? …Who is he? The nation’s supreme commander? I heard this nation is home to a phenomenal soldier. Is that him?”
“No, that is his wife. Lin Dongqing is Queen Sisi’s favoured vassal. He is in charge of the nation’s businesses. His contrivances are formidable and vicious. I am sure he will soon be assigned here to take you down. In addition, he could bring the elves into the war as allies. He is the greatest threat to your rule.”
“Is that so? In that case, leave it to our soldiers. Provide our soldiers with his address and a description of him. They will get rid of him. I will leave planning his elimination in your hands. I don’t completely trust you, so prove your loyalty to me with Lin Dongqing’s life. If you can kill him, I can convince the others to treat you well. Otherwise, I suppose he will kill you.” The Queen got up to signify that negotiations were over until they could bring something worthy of her time to the table.
As businessmen, they assigned a value to everything, life included. Trading Lin Dongqing’s life in exchange for the ability to freely manipulate a nation’s businesses was a terrific deal. Lin Dongqing was a cripple who couldn’t defend himself. Finding someone to kill him, therefore, wasn’t difficult, especially since he wasn’t at the imperial capital. If they had enough men, they would still have a chance even if Veirya guarded him.
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