Episode 27: Between Friends (3)
Many nobles were flocking to Hamill’s side to win the manastone trading rights.
If one of the slots were given to Aristine under Nephther’s orders, Prince Hamill’s side would lose one of their incentives for cooperation.
‘And that can be quite significant in the political battlefield.’
Furthermore, she would be getting manastone which were very beneficial in the long run.
But as the ruler of the nation, it was not a very appealing idea.
Such an important resource would be used to mess around.
To many nobles, it was an opportunity to fill their own pockets, but such behaviors was a vice that slowed the development of their country.
Did Aristine choose such a method for her political standing?
But for some reason…
Nephther’s hand slowly tapped on his velvet-wrapped armrest.
‘I feel like Rineh has a different idea.’
Aristine’s gaze was steady, and she looked straight at him without avoiding his eyes.
If she was just doing this for her political gain, she wouldn’t be able to look at him like that.
Nephther looked into those earnest and urging eyes then he slowly opened his mouth.
“I do not think you are unaware of the importance of manastones nor do I believe you are doing this out of greed.”
Hearing that, Aristine smiled.
Before she could explain why she needed manastones, Nephther said, “Shall we play a game?”
The servant who was waiting on Nephther’s words began to shuffle the playing cards.
‘A game all of a sudden?’
Aristine was puzzled for a moment, but seeing the smile on Nephther’s lips, she picked up a card.
An ace of spades.
Followed by a 7 of Hearts.
Nephther picked up a card.
Aristine couldn’t see the card but she was sure it was a Queen of Clubs.
And the next card she picked up was…
‘I knew it.’
A king of diamonds.
Aristine gazed at the water bowl with flowers.
On the water surface, was a scene of Aristine and Nephther playing a card game. And the view was wide, allowing her to see the hands of both sides.
The timing of this scene was impeccable.
‘Should I say I’m lucky?’
Aristine could see all the cards that Nephther collected. And how he used his cards as well.
Of course, if her actions changed, the King’s actions would also change.
She’d already memorized the order that the cards appeared.
Even if his actions changed, the order of the cards would not change.
“You said this is your first-time playing cards, right?”
“Yes, Royal father.”
Normally, she wouldn’t even be Nephther’s opponent. But with her knowledge of the rules and the order of the cards, she was able to play against him to some extent.
‘I feel like I’m committing a scam.’
Aristine flicked a card.
‘Should I try to win?’
Aristine asked for the manastone trading right and Nephther’s response was to play a game.
The only thing she could think of in this situation was—.
If you defeat me, I will grant your wish.
‘Maybe that’s what he meant?’
But Nephther might be upset if he lost.
They say when you’re playing games against people with power, the advisable thing to do is to lose first.
‘I guess I should lose?’
Normally, people felt good and generous after winning so they granted the wishes of the other party.
Aristine pondered deeply as she picked up another card.
Unfortunately, the mirrored surface disappeared before she could see the outcome or Nephther’s reaction.
Aristine tapped the bridge of her nose with the card in her hand.
“So, is manastone the key to solving the pig-iron shortage?”
Nephther suddenly asked and Aristine looked up at him.
But his gaze was still on his card.
“Yes, it is a very important key,” Aristine replied, changing the position of her cards.
Nephther’s eyes lit up.
He thought that the scalpel and manastone had nothing to do with each other. But was there a connection?
Or did she mean it was the key to solving the problem politically?
As if sensing his doubt, Aristine smiled and put down a card.
“Because with the manastone, pig-iron is unnecessary.”
Seeing the card, Nephther’s eyes narrowed.
Both the card game and Aristine’s words were interesting.
She had been playing with a hesitant attitude so far, but it seems she had finally made up her mind.
Nephther placed his card on top of Aristine’s.
Aristine drew a card and put another down.
And when Nephther drew a new card, he frowned.
“Royal father,” Aristine looked at Nephther with a grin, “I can take back my move.”
Nephther chuckled at her energetic tone.
He must be getting old because those words didn’t sound arrogant to him but more like a daughter acting cute.
“I will fulfill Your Majesty’s wish.”
“My wish, you say.”
Nephther mumbled, fiddling with the card in his hand.
Right now, Aristine wasn’t just talking about undoing her move in the game.
The King of Irugo’s long-standing wish.
In other words, dispelling the stigma that Irugo was a barbaric country.
“Shall I take it back?” Aristine spoke provokingly.
“Well,” Nephther put down all his cards dramatically, “let me see your hand.”
The hand Nephther was talking about wasn’t the deck of cards. He was asking what Aristine could do with the manastones.
His attitude was very different from before where he suggested a game without even asking her reason.
Aristine smiled widely.
She put all her cards on the table.
“My hand is perfect.”
* * *
Aristine stepped out of the King’s palace, feeling lighter. The sun shone brightly on the greenery in the garden, highlighting the full bloom of summer roses.
Aristine walked through the garden, to where her carriage was parked.
With every sweep of the breeze, a refreshing scent filled her nose.
And in the midst of the blue haze, something foreign caught her eyes.
A hair color that you would be hard-pressed to find in Irugo.
Aristine had recently met a man with such a shade of platinum blonde hair.
《Let’s end today here. I shall not go looking for you, Princess Consort. Of course, I will not come here either.》
《However, if we happen to meet again somewhere, let us become friends.》
Instantly, that unusual encounter resurfaced in her mind.
Aristine’s eyes grew wide.
‘I really met him. And coincidentally too.’
Perhaps feeling her gaze, the man who was talking with someone, turned to look at Aristine.
Their eyes met in the middle of the fragrant flower bed, lined with pink roses.