"He should have been back a long time ago," Hagan said and stood up. Moramatch was a small town, and there were supplies Hagan needed that could not be found in the town. His potions were almost all gone, and a few potions were needed urgently. He had been waiting for Zubin impatiently.
A few minutes later, Zubin’s caravan entered the town. Zubin jumped off the first carriage. He seemed exhausted. Clearly this trip had not been easy for him.
"You’re finally back." Sante said,walking up to Zubin. "I thought you were too taken by the city and had forgotten about us."
"Sounds like something you would do," Zubin said with a grin. "I’ll keep in mind not to send you to the city."
"And I thought we were friends! You can just go have fun by yourself and leave me behind!"
"Have fun?" Zubin shook his head. "You can’t even imagine!"
Just then, someone screamed in a nearby house, "Get back here!"
A white figure jumped out of the house and landed by the clearing. The little unicorn glanced at the house proudly. A dress dangled from its horn.
Shally ran out of the house with a branch. She was chasing after the unicorn, but changed her path as soon as she saw Zubin. She stopped in front of him and asked, "Did you bring me anything?"
"Of course," Zubin smiled. He turned and called. A mercenary hurried over, holding a small chest.
"What’s in it?" Shally asked, her eyes shining. Most young girls like shining and beautiful things. The chest was adorned with shining crystals, and even if there was nothing inside, Shally would have been content with the gift.
"Look for yourself," Zubin said as he handed the chest to Shally.
The little unicorn, seeing that Shally was distracted, dropped the dress and whined, hoping to get Shally’s attention. Then it picked up the dress again, ready to run at anytime.
However, Shally's attention was completely absorbed by the chest, and she did not pay attention to the unicorn. She took the chest gingerly. She held her breath as she opened the lid carefully. The chest was filled with colorful dresses and sparkling jewelry. Shally’s eyes widened.
"Thank you so much, Zubin!" Shally said happily. She smiled and held her gift close to her chest.
"Zubin, why did you get her so many things? It’s surely expensive," Suzanna scolded him softly as she walked over. In the past, she did not care if anyone bought Shally gifts. Now, however, she was to be the wife of their leader, and was in a more complicated situation. She was afraid that buying luxuries for Shally would create a negative impact. She did not want to trouble anyone.
"It’s just some crystal jewelry. I thought Shally would find them pretty," Zubin said. This meant the the jewelry was inexpensive, and Suzanna had nothing to worry about.
"Suzanna!" Shally pouted, looking at her sister.
"She’s too young for jewelry," Suzanna said, patting Shally’s head. "You don’t have to bring her anything next time."
"That’s all secondary. The most important thing is that Shally is happy." Zubin grinned.
"You're the best, Zubin," Shally said sweetly.
"Even better than Anfey?"
Shally looked at Suzanna, then shook her head. She might have been young, but she knew that jewels were only temporary. What was more important was her family. She heard that Anfey was going to her marry her sister, so of course Anfey was more important.
The little unicorn was getting impatient. It ran towards Shally with the dress dangling from its mouth, and nudged Shally. It turned to run away, but before it could get away, Suzanna stopped it and took the dress.
"Is it doing this on purpose again?" Suzanna asked, handing Shally the dress.
Shally took the dress and glared at the unicorn.
The young unicorn whined unhappily at Suzanna. Clearly, it thought Suzanna was being unfair.
"Where are my things? My supplies?" Hagan hurried over and asked.
"It’s all on the carriages," Zubin said.
"What’s the rush? Even Shally was more patient than you," Sante said.
"Shut up," Hagan snapped. "I'm rushing because I’m making weapons for you."
"You wasted all those potions and made nothing so far."
"I'm practicing ancient alchemy. You wouldn’t understand," Hagan snorted. "I'm still not familiar with it, but when I get the hang of it, you will be very impressed."
"Ancient alchemy? You’ve never told us anything about that."
"I've only gotten into it lately," Hagan said, turning his eyes away.
"The only person that knows ancient languages is Hui Wei. Did you find out from him?" Zubin asked.
"That’s none of your business," Hagan said. He turned and began walking towards the carriages.
"Why is he being so secretive? I have no interest in alchemy," Sante said, shaking his head.
"Zubin, you’re back." Anfey walked over and joined the conversation. Zubin nodded.
"Did anything happen?" Anfey asked.
"We encountered some bandits, but we were under the Band of Brothers mercenary banner, and they did not attack us."
"As long as there were no casualties," Anfey nodded. He looked at Zubin and said, "Come with me."
Looking at Anfey and Zubin, Sante scratched his head. "Since when did they become so secretive? Why can't they talk in front of us? Suzanna, do you know anything?"
"She doesn’t," Shally said before Suzanna could reply. "She wouldn’t tell you if she did."
"Shally, I’ve never done anything to you, have I?"
Anfey and Zubin had already left the clearing and rounded the corner. Anfey’s residence was just ahead. "Is everything done?" Anfey asked softly.
Zubin nodded. "That guy named Shinon, he looked like he did not know anything. You sure he won’t mess anything up?"
"I use him because he knows nothing. If he knows too much he’s unfit for the job," Anfey said. "You’re sure he met with Anthony?"
"I saw Anthony escorting him out," Zubin said. He glanced around and said in a hushed voice, "Anfey, are you sure dealing with Anthony was the right move?"
"You’re not doubting me, are you?" Anfey asked jokingly.
"Listen, Anfey. After you saved us back in the Sacred City, I knew I could respect you as a leader." Zubin stopped in his tracks, his expression grave. "On that ship, you were the only one that remained calm after we fell into the trap. I am not a blind follower. Time after time you proved you are a good leader. I do not doubt your actions, or else I would have talked to you before I left."
"I apologize. I shouldn't have joked about that," Anfey said. He sighed and shook his head.
Zubin smiled and began walking again.
"Actually, this was just to get acquainted with Anthony. We want him to be able to recognize us and trust us, so we can use him later," Anfey told Zubin. "What did we give up? Useless information. Nothing that would affect Maho Empire negatively."
"Anfey, you better be careful. Anthony is not easily fooled."
"I know, and we only have one chance. We cannot waste that chance," Anfey sighed, looking up at the sky. "My respect for someone has increased."
"Who is it?"
"His Majesty," Anfey said with a smile. "After Black Eleven told everyone that His Majesty is still alive, I never expected everyone to be so happy. Blavi is a serious guy, and even he broke into song. Only the wisest, most respected king could manage to impact his subjects like that."
"His Majesty is a wonderful king," Zubin said with a smile. "There's a time he was patrolling the city, and his carriage driver…"
"The driver knocked over a commoner, and His Majesty helped the man up and apologized to him, right?" Anfey smiled. "I’ve heard it so many times." Anfey wasn’t trying to downplay Yolanthe’s achievement. Even though he suspected Yolanthe faked his own death as a stunt, he still respected him. People who did not know how to pull successful publicity stunts were not fit to be politicians. A king who did things for show was still much better than a king who did nothing. Yolanthe’s policies showed that he cared for the rights of his subjects. This was a rare occurrence in this world.