In short, there was nothing for him to lose. Even though Midas was bursting with curiosity and interest, he purposefully put on an indifferent expression. It was a very easy task for him to separate his outer appearance from his inner feelings.
“I expected this to be your response.” Zich shrugged. He didn’t seem surprised, as if he had expected Midas’ response.
‘He really isn’t a normal swindler,’ Midas thought as he maintained a calm expression.
Zich raised both of his hands. “Fine, it’s my loss. I’m the one asking for a favor, so I’ll tell you everything necessary.”
Midas was surprised to hear Zich back down so easily. But Zich simply took the wine bottle in front of Midas and drank it directly. It enraged Midas to see Zich gulp down a bottle worth six months of a peasant family’s living expenses like a barbarian. Still, he pushed down his anger and drank the wine in the glass he was holding.
Zich roughly slammed down the wine bottle on the table. About half of its contents were gone.
“This is some good wine!” While licking the remains on his lips, Zich looked for the wine bottle’s logo. “Pornine! Haa, you drink such an expensive wine! As expected of someone who drags around a golden carriage.”
“Didn’t you have something to tell me?” Even if Midas was withholding his rage, he couldn’t prevent his speech from becoming rougher. His tone was sharp with displeasure.
“Yeah, yeah, I got it. What’s the rush?” Zich sliced a piece of cheese with his knife and talked as he chewed. “As you guessed, I approached the elf thinking she possessed a treasure similar to the Lake’s Tear, and I gradually gained her trust.”
Midas jerked his chin for Zich to continue.
“As you saw, the elf lady is extremely gullible. Not just gullible but completely clueless. But even this clueless lady was firm about protecting her treasure.” Zich scowled as if this were the cause of his headache.
Midas’ mood brightened at the sight. There was nothing more joyful than seeing a person who annoyed you suffer.
With Zich’s admission of defeat, Midas no longer put his guard up against him and asked, “Didn’t you think about taking the treasure by force?” His head still spun trying to discern whether Zich was telling him the truth or not.
“You know how strong elves are. My companions and I are on the strong side, but we didn’t think we would be able to capture her if she ran away with all her might. And if she ran away, all our efforts would become a waste.”
As Midas was imagining the moment, he let out a small laugh. “So, is that why you returned to Tungel? Because there was no way you could retrieve it?”
“It’s not that there was no way. I came to find another method.”
Midas reached his hands out to the wine bottle and halted; he remembered that Zich had drunk from it with his lips touching the bottle’s top. He had no desire to drink that dirty wine and called for the waiter. Then he groaned, remembering that he had gotten rid of all the waiters to enjoy his meal in peace. Midas had no choice but to get up and get his own wine bottle and glass. He grimaced at the logo of the wine glass he got; it was a cheap one. Of course, though, it was expensive for plenty of other people.
‘All my precious ones are in the storehouse,’ he thought. But it was bothersome to go all the way there. Thus, Midas poured the wine into his glass and drank a sip of it. “What happened to the treasure you guys said you would take back for the elf?”
“Why are you mentioning that? I didn’t think you believed us.”
“That’s true.” Midas adjusted his position again. It looked as if he didn’t need more explanations. “What is it that you want?”
“Money,” Zich immediately answered and continued, “Truthfully, the only reason why I went through all that trouble to get the elf’s treasure was because of money. I’m not really interested in the treasure itself.”
“How could a person like you leave a gold bar, though?” Midas mentioned the time Zich had thrown a gold bar onto a store’s counter.
“I thought the elf could be listening to us from outside. Don’t you know that elves have very keen ears? To keep her trust in me, I have to be very careful about things like that. I had to show her that I’m not the type of person to act on my greed.”
Midas thought Zich was a very thorough person. To retrieve something of a greater value in the future, Zich had given up the gold bar without hesitation. He was almost impressed with Zich as a swindler. ‘And he is as dangerous,’ he thought.
Midas asked, “What do I get from this?”
“The treasure that the elf has,” Zich replied.
“What’s the treasure?”
But Zich, who had been talking normally until this point, suddenly withdrew his body as if he were creating distance between them. “Sorry, but I already told you too much. I just want you to answer whether you’re going to be part of this or not.”
“Didn’t you say you would tell me everything?”
“I added the condition that I would only tell you things that are necessary.”
“I have a different opinion.”
A war of nerves commenced amid a long silence. As if one side would lose if they took their eyes away from their opponent, they glared at each other strongly. But in the end, the one who raised his hands was Zich, who had more to lose from this exchange.
“It’s called the ‘Earth’s Tear.’ I don’t know what it is exactly, only that the elf really treasures it,” Zich began.
“Is there more information than that?”
“Then it’s impossible for me to collaborate.”
“It can’t be helped then. You don’t want to be part of this even after I gave you all the information I could give. I should find another way.” Zich seized the wine bottle in front of him and gulped the rest of the wine down. “Be safe, Mr. Rich.”
“Wait.” As Zich tried to get up with no lingering attachment, Midas stopped him. “What’s your plan?”
“I don’t have to tell you anymore. You have to tell me if you’re going to participate in our plan or not first.” Zich laid down more pressure with his eyes, as if he wouldn’t back off anymore.
Midas thought for a while. “…I need a couple more days to think about this.”
“Fine. If you’re interested, send someone to me.” Zich told Midas the address of his lodging. “Make your decision before the Black Market Auction House opens. If you don’t decide before that, I’ll just accept that as your rejection.”
“I got it.”
Zich really got up this time. But Zich stopped before he went out of the room. He hesitated for a while and then turned around to stare at Midas. “I was just wondering…”
Zich asked with a bit of a sheepish tone, “...if you could give me the gold bar you tried to give me last time.”
Midas was stunned for a moment. But he soon burst into laughter and took out a gold bar from his pockets and threw it towards Zich. Seeing Zich’s delighted expression, Midas laughed even harder.
* * *
Midas came back to his mansion. He filled the tub with hot water and immersed himself in it. Like his whole mansion, the tub was also made completely out of gold. From his bath, he felt as if all the stress and fatigue he had accumulated throughout the day was being released from his body. But rather than focusing on this feeling, Midas’ attention was on a different subject.
‘I can hear them.’ The gold bar that Midas had thrown to Zich was specially made by him. He grinned from ear to ear. ‘It was so funny seeing him take it with such glee.’
It was even funnier because Midas knew what he could do with his specially made gold. Midas focused his attention on the gold bar, and information about the gold bar’s surroundings poured into this mind.
‘My vision is blocked.’ Judging by that, it seemed as if Zich had put the gold bar inside some kind of box or bag. However, he hadn’t put it in a magic box; if it were in a magic box, even he won’t be able to connect to it.
‘I can hear their voices.’ Midas focused all his attention on the voices.
—How was it?
The voice was from a female, but it wasn’t from that elf. The speaker was probably that stunning woman who had been next to the swindler.
—Well, I gave him my offer.
It was now the swindler’s voice.
‘It looks like I listened to them at the perfect time,’ Midas thought.
They were definitely conversing about the swindler’s meeting with him. Midas concentrated even harder on the voices.
—How was his reaction?
—He showed interest. We just have to see how he reacts now.
—Do you think he’ll come over to us?
—I don’t know.
From the gold bar, Midas was able to clearly hear their conversation. If he waited just a moment longer, it seemed as if they would begin talking about the elf’s treasure. And his prediction was right.
—Damn it! I can’t believe that the Earth’s Tear is just a useless piece of metal without the Lake’s Tear!
Midas had just obtained top-level information; he couldn’t repress his smile. Two stupid puppets were dancing around in his palms.
—We worked so hard to steal the Earth’s Tear and it’s useless!
‘They already stole the Earth’s Tear.’ As expected of swindlers, they had tried to con him too. A malicious smile appeared on his face. He liked swindling people but hated anyone who tried to cheat him. ‘I have to make them suffer at one point.’
But this was going to be in the future. Right now, obtaining information was more important.
— ‘The Lake’s Tear would probably be very expensive, right?
—Of course. Even that Wips Midas seems to have his eyes on it. It’s crazy to try competing with him for money.
Midas nodded in agreement. As he was someone who could make gold, no one could ever be wealthier than him.
‘At least he knows his place.’ For the first time, Midas was pleased by Zich. But that was all; it didn’t make him change his mind about punishing Zich later on.
—So we have to try everything we can to fulfill our plan. But don’t worry. If my plan works, we can definitely get the Lake’s Tear and also scrape some money off of Wips Midas.
‘Unfortunately for you swindler…’ Midas held up the tub’s water with his hands. Naturally, the water seeped between his fingers and flowed through the cracks. ‘That’s never going to happen.’
To Midas, the water seeping from his fingers looked like the blood that was going to come out of the swindler soon.
* * *
Hans and Snoc stood in the corner of the room and stared in amazement at the comedic play unfolding in front of them. A table was in the center of the room, and on top of it was a thick bag. The gold bar that Zich had gotten from Wips Midas was in the bag. Zich and Lyla sat across from each other with the table in between them and were conversing with each other.
Despite the subject matter being discussed and the tone of their voices, their faces were calm as possible. Lyla was inspecting and breaking apart the golem’s cores, and Zich was playing around with a piece of mithril by throwing it in the air and then catching it in one hand. Anyone could see that they weren’t having a serious conversation. However, they took turns saying their lines, and a conversation—no, something similar to a conversation—was continuing between them.
Even though it sounded similar to a conversation, it wasn’t a proper conversation. They were merely acting out the scripts they had prepared to trick Midas, who was now listening to their conversation. Zich and Lyla’s voice acting was on par with famous play-actors, and they performed like this even while doing different jobs.
Since Zich acted like a swindler from time to time, this was expected of him. However, it was shocking to find out that Lyla was also proficient at tricking people. While watching this bizarre play in front of them, Hans and Snoc had the same thought simultaneously.
They looked exactly like swindlers—no, even more so, they resembled a husband and wife who worked together to swindle people.Previous Chapter Next Chapter