How. How did he…?
Still standing by an effort of will, Kougyoku kept her hands from shaking. With fear or pure rage, she wasn’t sure. Because this had been a setup, this had been an ambush – Sindria and Sabhmad and who knew how many of the ambassadors were all in on it-!
And Merhdad had just annihilated every legal pretext she had to take Balbadd. In full view of enough nations to spread the Kou Empire’s defeat across the world. After all, what could she do? Not take the money the Empire was owed?
Though part of her blush had nothing to do with rage. Merhdad was willing to pay a king’s ransom rather than fight her blade to blade. That was respect.
From Judar’s little huff of breath, the magi was restraining gut-busting laughter. “So that’s why Rashid… oh, this is going to be fun.”
“Heh.” Cassim’s voice was almost too low for her to hear. “Just wait.”
This is fun? They think this is fun?
Oddly, that let her calm down. Just a little. There still had to be a chance for a fight. Somehow. If she could not make any mistakes-
“I checked the amounts, Princess Kougyoku,” Merhdad went on. “It’s all there. Plus interest.” Blond brows arched. “Didn’t know your Empire was into loansharking.”
Eh? Interest? Loan-what? The Empire doesn’t even have sharks!
But it obviously had to be important, from the way the ambassadors had gone even more formally stoic. And how Sinbad was chuckling.
Merhdad was watching her, gold eyes blinking from hard concentration to sudden incredulity. Like Elder Brother Kouen, when someone had tossed what was supposed to be an experienced swordsman at him to spar.
He thinks I should know that? Why would I know about money? I am a princess of Kou! That’s merchant business!
Gold blazed, fierce as the flames she’d fought nights ago. “It’s a pity the Banker’s not here to explain… but don’t worry, we have his papers. All of them.”