The Reluctant Consort

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Summary

Duke Silver takes on Jihan who is determined to protect his sister from an arranged marriage. Jihan Kamran is the Master of Kamran Estate. After a gruesome war with West Nation, Jihan’s powerful network gains the Emperor's attention. The Emperor orders a member of the Kamran Family must wed into the royal family. Kastan Miran (Duke Silver) is the second prince in the Akasha Royal Family. The Empress of Akasha is afraid of his growing power. When she tries to murder him, The Emperor asks Kastan to marry a member of the Kamran Family. Kastan is to keep Kamran in check and in turn, their vast wealth protects Kastan from the Empress's jealousy #WrittenWithPride

Genre:
Romance / Fantasy
Author:
Suilan
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
13+

Chapter 5: A day in a Merchant's Life

A Day in a Merchant’s Life

Jihan Kamran loved rainy days. He enjoyed the sound of raindrops tapping on the roof, on the stones in courtyards, or on the grass. The rhythm soothed him. Twirling his fan, he watched raindrops hit the stones in the inn courtyard where he was staying. Big fat drops overtaking the smaller ones, it was a wild dance. It was a far more exciting dance than his time in this little town in the Sun Kingdom.

“Jihan.”

His name came in a quiet tone no higher than a whisper. He shifted his gaze away from the rain to the man standing a few feet away.

Firuz, his shadow guard, never yelled or spoke too high.

“They are here,” Firuz said.

Jihan picked up his teacup and sipped, then placed it on the mat.

“Let them in,” he said with a lazy tone.

Giving the rain one last look, he turned his attention to Firuz.

Firuz’s steps to the door were silent.

Jihan had made it a game to listen to Firuz’s footsteps as he moved. He started the game at eleven years of age, he had yet to win, and Firuz got more skilled with each year. Jihan had decided the silent steps were a good thing. He would worry when he could hear Firuz’s footsteps.

Minutes later, three men sat opposite him with teacups of their on the table.

Jihan had met the trio two days ago. He had two hundred bags of Silver Lake salt. The most coveted salt in the empire. The bags of salt came to him as a payment given to him by his ex-lover, Tagon, a successful merchant from Taen City, the capital city of Sun Kingdom.

The salt was a gold asset.

Jihan had wanted to get it back home to Kamran Estate. However, the constant rain in the Sun Kingdom made the journey home too expensive. Added to the cost was a growing sense of foreboding he had no choice but to honor. He had decided to sell the bags on his way home instead. The extra money in his pocket would be good; he had a gut feeling that he would need it very soon.

This was how he ended up in the little town three hours out of Taen City. The three men sitting opposite him had the largest business monopoly in the small town he had chosen.

The man in the middle of the trio spoke first. He was robust and dressed in expensive flashy emerald robes with gold embroidery on the edges.

Jihan imagined he thought himself a nobleman.

“Master Kamran, we have come to an agreement with our associates.”

The men on each side of him were much slighter. They wore clothes that were more subdued but Jihan could still tell they were of expensive taste. The man in the middle ruled over the two on each side.

“You are Melen, the head of trade in this town?” Jihan asked.

His information network was thorough, he knew all there was to know about Melen and his two friends. He never made a deal without understanding the other party.

“I am,” Melen said, nodding with satisfaction. “I’ve come to complete the business negotiation we started two days ago.”

“My price at the time was twenty silver taels a bag.” Jihan sipped his tea and sat back in his chair. “You kept me waiting, so I sourced another buyer. Willen is from the neighboring town. He is willing to come to collect all my hundred bags of salt at the price of thirty-five silver taels. I have no need to continue our negotiation. This meeting was a courtesy to you.”

Willen was Melen’s business rival.

They never talked to each other, but they competed fiercely when it came to business.

“You’re bluffing,” Melen said, his gaze wide, his tone accusing. His fingers tightened into fists on the table, and his friend on the left moved his teacup aside.

Jihan guessed Melen had a tendency to throw things whenever Willen came up in conversation.

“There is no way Willen would dare take on a deal we started,” Melen said, skeptic.

“Business is business,” Jihan said, picking up the black wood token he had kept on the table beside his teacup.

He held it up so that the three men could see the name on the token.

“Melen, that’s Willen’s business token. He makes sure his people bring them to prospective business associates,” the man on Melen’s right said. “You can’t do this to us, Master Kamran.”

“What can’t I do?” Jihan asked, placing the token next to his teacup. “I will make any transaction that benefits my business. Kamran has goods to sell. We are willing to offer them to the highest bidder. You’re not that bidder. Let’s not waste each other’s time.”

Jihan lifted his teacup and Firuz stepped out from behind his chair.

The three men at the table tensed.

Jihan knew why they all looked afraid.

Firuz was a formidable force, even in his silence. The sword on a dark belt on Firuz’s hips was no toy. Not that Firuz ever needed to use it. He was deadly with his hands and the knife he kept hidden up his sleeve. He loved to wear black. Jihan’s older sister, Andiya, had tried her best to introduce Firuz to another color still he clung to black clothes.

Jihan thought Firuz liked the color because it added to his intimidating nature. So, Andiya and Jihan invested in making sure Firuz’s clothes used the finest black cloth they could find. The tailor had a hell of a time creating robes that could withstand the rigors of combat.

“Masters,” Firuz said, addressing the three men. He nodded to the door, giving the three men a clear invitation to leave.

Jihan started to look out at the pouring rain.

Melen stood, bracing his hands on the table so that he could lean toward Jihan.

Firuz stepped closer to the table making Melen shift back his stance, his gaze wary.

“W-what will make you change your mind?” Melen asked Jihan, his gaze remaining on Firuz. “State a new price and we’ll match it. We can also purchase your salt at the same price as Willen.”

Jihan’s brow rose.

“Why would I want to do business with you at the same price? I’m happy with Willen’s offer. Why spoil a perfect deal? He’ll be here by this afternoon to collect the bags of salt.”

Jihan continued to sip his tea in calm, making Melen get even more agitated.

His friends stood too and started whispering in Melen’s ear, an urgent conversation ensued.

Jihan ignored it.

He waited.

Firuz remained standing by his chair ready for action. His gaze on the three men having a rapid discussion. They gave him wary glances every few minutes. When five minutes had passed, they quieted down but did not sit.

“Um, Master Jihan,” Melen said, his tone sounding more confident. “We’re prepared to offer you a better price than Willen. Will you agree to sell the Silver Lake salt to us?”

“Name your price,” Firuz said, folding his arms against his chest.

“We’ll offer you forty-five silver taels each for the two hundred bags of Silver Lake salt.”

Jihan placed his teacup on the table, elated. It was much more than he had expected. Silver Lake salt had countless uses in the empire. It was rare to acquire because it was mined in the very protected Silver Shore Valley. He had been hoping to sell at thirty silver taels a bag. Forty-five was a win. He held in his excitement.

“I have an agreement with Willen. I don’t want to end up accused of breaking a promise. How can I be sure you won’t brag to Willen when this is over?”

“Our transaction will remain confidential. We’re not willing to cross Willen either,” Melen said, his tone hard.

Jihan glanced at Firuz.

Firuz stepped back from the table and Jihan turned his attention to the three men.

“Forty-five silver taels sounds reasonable,” Jihan said, smiling for the first time.

It startled the three men, as he had not shown them any other expression but coldness.

“How quickly can we complete our deal?” Melen asked, looking hopeful.

Jihan stood, taking his fan and the black token, which he slid into his pocket.

“That depends on how fast you can gather nine thousand silver taels. Or, you can make that nine hundred gold pieces, I don’t mind either.”

“Right away,” Melen said, taking a green bag out of his robes, which he handed to the man on the right. “You only need to show us the storage house and we shall handle everything else.”

The man on the right did a quick count, adding a few pieces from his moneybag before he handed Firuz the heavy green bag. Firuz overturned the contents on the table to reveal gold pieces shaped into thick coins. He counted them arranging them in the fifties until he had eighteen piles indicating nine hundred gold pieces. When Jihan nodded his approval, Firuz returned the pieces into the bag and kept it.

Jihan led the way out of the private room they had used for their discussion. He headed to the back of the inn and the stores he used to keep his sacks of salt.

The exchange took less time than their conversation.

Thirty minutes later found Jihan on his black horse riding out of the small town in the Sun Kingdom followed by his ten men and Firuz. They did not slow down until they crossed the border, leaving the Sun Kingdom behind and entering the Silver Kingdom.

When they were on the road to Vasia Town, a merchant town closest to the Imperial City Akan, Firuz slowed down their pace.

They stopped at a roadside stall selling food and drinks for travelers.

Jihan sat down at a table outside the small inn and removed the black conical hat he used for travel. Placing it on the table, he looked up when Firuz brought him a jug of water and a bowl of beef soup. The rest of the men scattered around the surrounding tables around him.

As Firuz sat down opposite him, Jihan got the black token with Willen’s name on it from his pocket. He smiled and shook his head.

“Congratulations,” Firuz said, drinking his water, finishing two cups before Jihan started on his first. “You have truly mastered the art of deception.”

“Look who’s talking,” Jihan teased, breaking the black wood token and throwing it into the bushes behind him.

Firuz forged the token from descriptions made by the information network they ran.

“Melen will always think he stole a marvelous transaction from Willen. He would be thoroughly upset to know that you have never even met this Willen,” Firuz said with a shake of his head.

Jihan chuckled and focused on drinking his beef soup first. The soup was more water than beef, but he was hungry. Giving it a taste, Jihan grimaced at the salt in the liquid. He still drank the soup because they had a four-hour journey to Vasia.

“Forty-five silver taels is a good price,” Jihan said, when his hunger was under control, and he could think. “With more time I would have made it fifty silver taels, but it’s better than the original twenty they had suggested.”

“Why are you intent on accumulating money?” Firuz asked, drinking his beef soup too.

It was not a delicious meal but it would tide them over until they reached Vasia Town.

“We could easily have left some of the men in the troop to transport the bags of silver lake salt, leaving you to travel home fast. Why did you need to sell them?”

Jihan finished his soup and pushed the bowl to the side. He wiped his mouth and drank a mouthful of water to wash away the soup’s salty taste.

“Something Tagon said when we met him in Taen,” Jihan said. “He’s sure there is a war brewing, though he cannot be clear on when. West Nation and Akasha have been at odds. There are bound to be two or three court officials who will push us into a complete dispute. It would be best if we were back at Kamran Estate before it happens.”

“You’re worried about Andiya,” Firuz guessed, putting their bowls together and pushing them to the edge of the table.

“I’m always worried about Andiya,” Jihan said, thinking about his older sister. “She’s probably living the hardest she can, loving Ishan with every inch of her heart. I can only hope she remembers to be safe while running wild.”

Jihan sighed and shook his head.

“Andiya is safest at home,” Firuz said, and then his gaze narrowed, studying Jihan hard. “But she’s not the reason you are so on edge, what else?”

Jihan got fifteen silver taels and placed them on the table to cover their food. He picked up his black conical hat and wore it.

“I’m afraid of the decisions my father might make if a war breaks out.”

Firuz’s expression mirrored his concern, as they got up to mount their horses again.

Jihan hoped Tagon was wrong about his predictions, though Tagon was rarely wrong. He also hoped that his father, Duyi Kamran, would stay put and not make hasty decisions that would harm their lives.

*~*~*~*

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