“Your father cheated Sinbad.” Aladdin was staring at his friend, as if he didn’t know whether to lift a disapproving finger like an old grandmother, or burst out laughing. “Is that how you know what to do to fight the Kou Empire?”
“It’s how I know some of it,” Alibaba nodded. “Trade and economics lessons. All the time. I-” He hesitated, then looked at Cassim straight on. “Okay. You might not want to know this, but… I haven’t pulled out every tactic we could yet, as merchants. I’m leaving some, the really nasty ones, for if Kou charges in here and takes over.”
“Oh?” Cassim drawled. “Just how nasty are we talking about?”
“The kind of stuff you wouldn’t pull on the next gang over, unless you didn’t plan to stop until every last one of them were dead,” Alibaba stated, unflinching. “Because that’s what the Empire plans to do to us, if they take us over. They may not kill us, but they’ll destroy Balbadd. If they get going on that – I will take them with me.”
“You will.” Cassim’s voice was cold. Just a little doubtful.
“We will,” Morgiana said firmly. Because what Alibaba had described, whole countries destroyed the way Katarg had been – no. No, she wouldn’t wait to see that happen again.
“But if we’re lucky, and I can talk to the Djinn, maybe we won’t have to,” Aladdin put in. “It’s really hard to be scary magic-using bad guys if your magic says no!”
“Magic that can say no.” Cassim seemed to relax a little, shaking his head at the younger boy. “That’s weird. Magic Tools are made to do one thing….” His gaze flicked toward Alibaba. “Aren’t they?”
He’s suspicious. Morgiana kept her pose relaxed, as if this weren’t something to worry about at all. She’d had practice.
“I don’t know, I haven’t seen a lot of them yet,” Aladdin answered. “I’ve seen Princess Hakuei’s fan, and Alibaba’s knife, and a few other things… could I get a look at yours?”