Abhmad was red-faced and fuming. “You… killed…. Sinbad! Is this how you treat the nation that once gave you sanctuary?”
“If your father Rashid had ever heard of such dark magic worked in Sindria, I would have wanted him to interfere.” Sinbad folded his arms. “But as it stands, I wasn’t much more than a witness. Merhdad uncovered the Banker’s plots and moved to end them.” He paused, sweeping the assembled crowds with his gaze. “As any merchant who loved Balbadd would.”
Why had the ambassador from Reim started at that? And now the Reimish man was looking at Merhdad, as if he couldn’t quite believe his eyes.
The smuggler felt it too; she saw a tiny, uncomfortable twitch of his shoulders. “Princess Kougyoku. We offer you repayment of Balbadd’s debts, and our sincere apology for the disgraceful, unlawful, behavior of our king.”
“You what?” Abhmad bellowed.
“But if that is not enough,” Merhdad soldiered on, iron-faced, “if the princess truly feels her honor is besmirched by our honest efforts to repay a debt, then I will offer her a duel.” He laid his scroll across both palms, offering it as proudly as a sword. “After the debt is registered and witnessed as repaid, and Balbadd is safe.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Eldest Brother, shut up.”
Kougyoku snapped her attention to the palace balcony, where General Barkakk was oh-so-politely and firmly between Balbadd’s two royals.
“S-she’s a Dungeon Conqueror,” Sabhmad got out, voice shaking. “He’s offering his life for our country. Can’t you understand that?”
“He has no right!”
“Yes.” The general’s voice carried, as if this were already a battlefield. “He does.”
Kougyoku’s pulse quickened. She wasn’t brilliant like Elder Brother Koumei, but this feeling in the air. The tiny hints of things not being said. The way Judar was grinning, as if a fight could break out any moment. The way Cassim was actually smiling, not vicious but rueful; as if yes, Merhdad really was real, not some desert mirage…. “Who are you?”
Merhdad shrugged, smiling again; scroll barely rocking on his outstretched palms. “An honest merchant, Princess. Nothing else matters.”
The ambassador from Reim blinked, and buried his face in his hands.
A/N: Ambassador: Oh Solomon, Harun had a kid….