106 Much Like Opium Pt.2

    Disgust. Fear. Hate.

    Vernon swept his gaze across the dirt road and took note of how the Saimese locals had stopped to gawk at him and his companion. It had already been a month since he and his companions had arrived in Benkei and still, the locals regarded them with distrust.

    Vernon smiled wryly. I cannot blame them. If I were in their position I too would be wary of our presence. After all, he glanced at Archie who was scanning the vicinity with his bright, hazel eyes, we do not exactly 'blend in'.

    "How much longer do we have to stay here?" Archie complained as he continued to trudge alongside Vernon. "This place is dreadful. I hope we can sort this thing out with the emperor, so we can return to New Britannia soon."

    "Are you in a hurry to be back at sea?" Vernon enquired. "If I recall correctly, you detested the voyage to Saim."

    The brown-haired man scoffed. "Not as much as I despise being here." With a sideward glance, he added, "I cannot comprehend why any of our ancestors would want to stay in such an uncivilised nation as this. I mean, look at them!" He subtly hinted at a wealthy-looking gentleman who was minding his own business. "Such uncouth clothing" he tutted. "Is he even wearing trousers?"

    Vernon stifled a small laugh at his companion's exaggerated repulsion. "Archie, the Saimese wear such garments as it befits the climate here. Their clothes are ill-fitting to allow better ventilation."

    "But still," Archie argued, "it is unsightly." He focused his attention on a huddle of finely dressed ladies, who immediately turned away when he caught them staring. Archie raised a brow as the ladies blushed and giggled behind their big fans. "And even the women here are unappealing" he muttered. "Exotic, yes, but hardly enticing."

    Vernon rolled his eyes. "When we return, you may satisfy your manly urges, but for now, I need you to focus on the task in hand. We are here for diplomacy reasons-not for a vacation."

    The taller of the pair tossed him a knowing look despite his carefree body language. "Yes, yes, roger that" he flippantly answered. "It is not like I would want to visit this place again. Not until they install a proper privy." He scrunched up his face in disgust. "I do not think I can stand to do my business in that poor excuse of a lavatory for much longer."

    The pair continued to stroll down the dirt road, their leather boots rubbing against their sweaty feet. Vernon fixed his gaze ahead with the thought of a cold shower motivating his every step. With the sun's glares mercilessly shining down on them, he felt incredibly hot and sticky. Dressed in his cotton shirt that was rolled up in the sleeves and suspended trousers, Vernon paced back to the tavern with Archie. After checking up on Brahms at the sanatorium, the pair had decided to return early to prepare for their meeting with the emperor later that day.

    It is finally time, Vernon thought. This is the beginning of a long series of negotiations to come.

    "All of this better be worth it" Archie faintly mumbled.

    Vernon peered at the brown-haired man.

    He eyed him gravely, his hazel eyes dark. "I do not understand what the king wishes to achieve through diplomatic means," he muttered, "since New Britannia can seize this nation easily by force." He lifted his right arm to pat his right hip, where Vernon knew Archie kept his pistol encased. "We are stronger now than in the past. I bet if our armada invades the coasts of this dreaded nation right now, we can easily defeat their armies." He grinned malevolently. "Do you concur?"

    Vernon forced a slight curl of the lips. "Violence is not the answer to everything, Archie."

    Archie studied Vernon's face as if trying to decipher the enigmatic man. "No..." he responded, his eyes watchful. "But it is the fastest solution. After all," he dropped his arm and locked his fingers together as he cracked his knuckles, "I can already guarantee that blood will be shed over this matter."

    Vernon watched as Archie smirked.

    "And it definitely will not be shed on our side."
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