Translated by Tianic, edited by MadSnail.
Note: Please click on the character name for their illustrations.
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I approached Sander’s side, then tapped on his shoulder enthusiastically with an even kinder smile.
Sander and the Chief Elder were at a loss. They were unable to figure out what I was up to, which I felt the urge to show them personally.
Thus I made my move at a short distance: By putting my right hand on Sander’s sword hilt and pulling his neck with my left hand. This act had caused an intimate contact between his face and my forehead.
This pose had done its job instantly, which left Sander with no chance of fighting back instead of a miserable grunt.
It was not until I slammed Sander’s body upwards on the table by pulling his hair than his first drop of nosebleed began to show.
“The respectful Grand Chief, do you think that this man’s neck will be cut broken?” The dagger on my right hand flirted above Sander’s neck skin, “Or shall I give it a whirl?”
The Elder, at this moment, remained extraordinarily calm, as if Sander who was caught by me worth nothing to him.
“Governor Cohen Kheda, I don’t think you understand.” He remained unmoved, “Since the day our race was created, we’ve never stopped being teased, extorted, enslaved. That threatening method of yours, I’ve seen way many times.”
“Is that so?” I smiled and shrugged, “In that case, this man will be one who will have the most worthless death.”
“One who died in against of tyranny will be our hero to be worshiped for generations! How could that be worthless?”
“Wrong, Chief Elder.” I spoke as I use the dagger to pierce Sander’s skin, “He’ll die because of your foolishness.”
“My foolishness?” The Elder sided his head, “Enlighten me.”
“Sure!” I first cast a paralyzing spell on Sander so that he was still in my control, then sat in a chair beside, “I’m best at enlightening others.”
The Chief Elder made a ‘please’ gesture.
“As I said earlier, I am Cohen Kheda, Viceroy of Dark City. Whether you love it or not, the very island where you all live on is within my fief. Are you clear on that?”
The Elder nodded.
“Before I’ve revealed my true identity, I was sheerly a smuggler. It’s reasonable for you to treat me as a smuggler. However, not to your Governor.” I pointed at Sander, “Let alone this dumbass who intended to act rudely on me for several times.”
“Yes?” The Elder said, “However, we’ve never admitted that you are our governor.”
“Admit? Then I’ll give you two choices. The first choice, you and your people leave my Dark land immediately; second, stay here as my folks and show me the least respect as your governor.” I said, “If you can’t fulfill either one of them, I will enforce the rules.”
“Can I call that an extortion?”
“Extortion? How could anyone extort you with a fleet full of food? What am I getting from your poor aqua people?” I eased my emotions, “Think about it. I’m getting too bored reasoning things with you guys! As I don’t wanna waste my time and energy on a negotiation table. I’m busy, with loads of affairs to attend.”
“This is not enough to convince me.” The Elder said peacefully, “But I think, since this is a negotiation, you’ll have to be more specific.”
(Shit, this bastard! Not yielding to neither persuasion nor coercion.)
“Basically, if the aqua clan admits serving under my control. They will be entitled to not starve to die, nor freeze to die or not be enslaved like all other people who live in Dark City. You can legally live there. Your people will not be trafficked as they walk around. Plus, I will designate shares of land for your people.”
“So to speak… if we join your management system, we will be half-fed, and given thin clothes?” The Elder’s eyes rolled up, “Why not give us enough food and wearings?”
“Ugh, I’m not the Protoss Lord! I can’t care for that much. The only thing I can offer are the basic life supports. If people don’t work hard to earn their lives, then they deserve to starve to death!” I gazed at the Elder’s eyes, “As for the things you concern… I think you have more or less heard about the life conditions of the people living in my land.”
“You are indeed an odd man.” The Elder said, “It is true that we’ve heard a bit about you. If only you could guarantee that my people will receive the same disposition as those who live in your area, I will actually consider your offer.”
“Consider? I’d say you can’t help cheer about it!” I grinned, “Don’t get happy too soon. The offer won’t come that easy.”
“Gain and loss. No harvest without labor.” The Elder nodded, “Now say it!”
“Like all Dark City residents, you are to obey assignments from all ranked officials and adhere to the Dark City laws.” I continued, “Pay certain taxes. Sure enough, during the bad years, I will lower the tax ratio or even, if necessary, bring remedies like what I did today.”
“Sounds alluring!” The Elder smiled, “Who are you assigning to manage our affairs?”
“There’s one now, off the shelf.” I hinted a certain ‘someone’ who was bleeding aside, “Though he was rather a fool now, I believe with you coaching him, he’ll grow up.”
“Hehhe! Don’t flatter me.” The Elder said, “I am merely an old story-teller.”
“Is that a yes?” I asked, “Be done with it.”
“Looking at our aqua people’s current situation, I can’t say no to this. Let alone our holy Arethusa has chosen you.” The Elder gazed at Sander in compassion, “I wish for Arethusa’s mercy to lead our clan to the right direction.”
“If you cooperate, the Aqua people will be destined to thrive.” Since the Elder said yes to my offer, I had finally taken the loads off my mind, “So much for the talking, can’t you quit giving me the bitter dog face?”
The Elder made yet his last bitter smile. For a moment, he looked as if he aged much.
“Details, you have Sander! The old bone’ll leave the fun.” He stood up and waved to me his hand, “If you are into stories, you are always welcomed.”
The Chief Elder tottered out, indicating this negotiation had been accomplished.
Seeing his emaciated figure disappearing at the door, I was stricken by a unnamable touch, “The Elder is the true leader of Aqua Clan, but what a thin body he has! I wonder how he could survived all these years of hardship.
I uncasted the spell that numbed Sander’s body and sat in front of him.
“If you wanna avoid being hit again, behave!” I told him, “This is about your people’s face! Now, let’s get into business…”
“Say it!” Sander cleaned the blood on his face as he did not rush to attack me like I expected, “You devil, one day I will beat you!”
“Skip that.” I fetched a pamphlet and toss over, “Read carefully. This is what I need from you.”
“Is this…” Sander’s look changed before he could go through a few more pages, “You?!”
The feedback from him was much expected, for I had spent days to finish this tiny booklet. On it recorded my carefully selected, acceptable knowledge for the aqua people.
It was certainly military-related. Most of it were battleship blueprints. I could pour my heart and soul into building a mighty fleet.
“When can you start working on the first half of the project?” I asked.
“We have many excellent artisans. If well-supplied,” Sander did a quick calculation in the brain and said, “It might take shape by this time next year.”
“Good! The second half can wait.” I was glad by Sander’s affirmation, “I’ll notify if the plan changes. In addition, starting from now, you’ll be my Dark Navy Corps deputy commander!”
“Not an easy job, deputy commander.” Sander groaned, “I’ll be dog-tired…”
“That case, I’ll leave you to your job…”
I chuckled and exited the room. Because I was dying for stories.
“By the way!” Sander’s voice told me from behind, “We’ll have celebration party tonight. You should join us. It’s on the beach near the wharf.”
I reached the lobby and got some help to find the Chief Elder.
The Elder was sitting on a hillslope that faced the ocean. His cane was casually placed aside while his eyes were laid on the uneven water surface.
“Stunning view.” I rested beside him, “How much do you charge for telling stories?”
“I’m an Elder.” He chuckled, “Elders are not part-time bards. Stories are free of charge.”
“Are they?” I said, “I didn’t foresee that negotiation earlier was this easy.”
“Why negotiations have to be complicated?”
“Isn’t it a big deal for you aqua people? What if I was not a trustworthy human being?”
What I said has been a question I had been doubting. I had never figured out why the Elder chose to believe me.
“Hehhe, like I said, I am the Elder.” He faced at me, “A man who survived for decades will always catch unnoticeable details. What surprised you was that I wasn’t being nervous or angry that you held Sander as your hostage, right?”
There were three in the room. Obviously, I was of a higher status than him, and easier to capture. Thus I was supposed to be your first choice. However, you did not aim toward me. In this case, I could tell a few merits about you: the much-rumored Viceroy Rascal.”
“Is it really?” I said, “Merits and I just don’t work along, tell me about it.”
“First, you know where is the key point. Anyone could be your hostage because I can do nothing to a man who could save our race.”
“Second, you are thorough at everything yet you don’t stick to the status quo. You played well by implementing other methods as incentives when your opponents are diehard stubborn. As for why you captured Sander, you needed me as the decision maker, right?”
“Hehhe, sorry about that.”
“Thirdly, you are insightful and perspective. Sander said that you insisted on visiting me, which alerted me that any minor chaps won’t tour here. Whatever you are up to, we are bonded. I hope that you’ll come off at what you wanna do, which could lead to a few peaceful days for us.”
“But…” I said, “Are your mere three reasons enough to put your clan’s fate in me?”
“Sure not.” The Elder said, “If it weren’t for the warfare that’s about to occur, and my race is indeed facing a halfway into a once-in-a-century crisis, I had to plan ahead as an Elder. In fact, I have known you a long time ago. The alien races’ were well treated, which is very tempting. However, we don’t worship either Light or Dark Temple. Unaware of your attitude…”
“Cut it!” I shouted to interrupt, “So you planned all these and set me up? You created my eagerness to visit you and made me think I gained in this trade…”
”You did gain much.” He said with a smile, “Congratulations.”
(This old bastard… how cunning!)
I watched him, who refused to admit the loss.
“Well, well, don’t act like that. I have stories for you.” The Elder stroke my head, “I’ve made my mind to tell you after you made the Arethusa’s avatar smile.”
I tidied up my messy mind and nodded. I really wanted to know about Arethusa.
“It not actually a story.” The Elder gazed the surfs on the beach, “It’s the things written in our Clan Note. I believe they are for real, well, from a long time ago…”
I supposed all stories were from a long time ago. I listened quietly.
“Arethusa, namely the God of Water has existed from eons ago, along with three other Gods: Vulcan, God of Fire; Gnomia, God of Earth; Aeolus, God of Wind. Arethusa had chosen us as her worshipping people, thus came our name. In the meantime, Arethusa lived with us and granted us the ability to excel in water element.
“Where is she now?”
“During an apocalypse that spread to the whole continent, Arethusa had left us. On departure, she told us that Gaia was in danger, and she needed to assist Gaia. Who knew that she left without coming back. At this very moment, two Holy Temples which had coexisted peacefully with us suddenly started slaughter us and declared us as evil races!”
“There are total four races who were defined as evil at that time. There were all races that had once named after their worshipping gods. Us as well as the Terra Clan, Air Clan, Flame Clan. The two temples denied our existence, nor the existence of our gods. They seemed to spare no effort to wipe our history. What continued was a massacre among the four races. We, the Aqua Clan population was at millions were overkilled to a few thousand. After years of recuperation overseas, we have merely grown to around 200,000 in total.”
“What happened then?”
“Then we fled to this island. Years of hardships had left us without perspective. Our later generation had even grown to doubt the truth of Arethusa. Until finally, we accidentally found an avatar of her. Our race had finally realized that Arethusa did exist once. This is why the Aqua Clan were scattered though unite.”
“You said you were scattered?” I asked, “Yet you have 200,000 in total population?”
“Of course.” The Elder smiled and said, “Basically, at every habitat island in the ocean, there are our people. Those who live on this island is merely a small fraction. How do you think we were able to escape from the Temples’ slaughter?”
“And the reason they want you dead?”
“We have no idea. But you could.” The Elder gazed at me and said, “Since you made Arethusa smile, you must be able to find her for us!”
“Me? You want me to find someone… no, somegod?”
“Positive!” The Elder said seriously, “There must be some sort of connection between you two. You can find her! Our people need her!”
“Honestly, I don’t like it.” I scratched my head, “Well, I just felt familiar with Arethusa.”
“Please help us.” The Elder took my hands, “This is of utter importance. Only by Arethusa guide, our Aqua Clan could thrive again.”
“I know…” I nodded and smiled bitterly, “Another grind!”
“Hehhe! We have a celebration and I have to get prepared.” The Elder stood up and said, “Join us, Your Excellency!”
“Hey, Chief Elder, my real identity has to stay anonymous for the time being…”
I stretched as I stood up and followed as the Elder went ahead. What was so hard, finding a God! I was not worried, for I did not promise when to start searching.