“Won’t you reconsider, Vur?”
Diamant’s voice floated up from Vur’s arm, causing him to turn his head away from his meal. The elementals that composed the Gemstone Merchants Clan didn’t need to eat, but after finding out their new clan master did, they had bought everything they could get their hands on. Vur swallowed a lump of yellow fruit that he didn’t know the name of. “I’m not going to pay tribute,” he said and wrinkled his nose. He glanced up at Stella who was sitting on his head with a tiny notebook in her hands. “It didn’t taste good.”
“Okay. Mangos are off the list,” Stella said, crossing out an item on the page. “Next, you have to try the lychees.” She gestured towards a plate of red fruit with her quill.
“I know that you’re the new clan master,” Diamant said, “but you’ve never run a clan before, have you? And it doesn’t seem like you’re from around here. Why not delegate all your tasks to me so I can preserve the integrity of the clan?”
“I’m the ruler of a kingdom,” Vur said with a snort. “I can run a clan.” He bit into the lychee like it was a small apple, crunching through its rind and seed. He chewed for a bit before nodding. “It’s sweet and bitter. I like it.”
“Lychees are good,” Stella said with a nod before drawing a circle in her notebook. “But you’re supposed to remove the rind and not eat the seed.”
“I’m sure you’re a great ruler in the kingdom you came from, but you really don’t understand how dangerous the dwarves are,” Diamant said, his voice pleading. “I can guarantee the prosperity of the clan. We’re already one of the richest. Wealth will continue to accumulate as long as you don’t do anything to irritate the dwarves. Please.”
“No tributes!” Vur smacked his runed arm with his opposite hand, causing Diamant to yelp. “Stop asking.”
The door to the room they were in opened. Stella tilted her head at the intruder, a stout boulder with stubby arms and legs. “It’s not time for the new fruit,” she said.
“The tribute dwarves are here,” the boulder said. “Should I invite them inside?”
“No,” Vur said as he threw a few unpeeled lychees into his mouth before standing up. “They won’t fly as far if you do.”
“Fly…?” the boulder asked as Vur walked past it, leaving the dining room and entering a lobby of sorts. He had traveled with Diamant to the main headquarters of the clan. When he first met Diamant, he had been teleported to one of the clan’s rare-creature-gathering points.
The boulders and rocks saluted Vur, staring at him with unblinking gemstone eyes as he marched to the entrance of the headquarters which also happened to be a mountain—the very mountain Diamant had formed from. Three dwarves were waiting at the base of the mountain with disgruntled faces. Their expressions turned to those of confusion when Vur stepped outside.
“You are?” one of the dwarves asked. His face was green, and his nose was purple. “Where’s Diamant?”
“I’m Vur, the new clan master,” Vur said, crossing his arms over his bare chest. Since Tafel wasn’t around, he saw no reason to wear his armor.
“The new clan master?” the green-faced dwarf asked. “I haven’t heard anything about a new clan master.”
Vur snorted. “Well, now you have. So hurry up and pay your respects.”
“…Pay our respects?” the green-faced dwarf asked. “Do you know who you’re talking to?”
“A midget,” Vur said with a nod. Stella giggled while Diamant made strange whimpering noises. The roots of Stella’s tattoo entwined around the runes on Vur’s arm, preventing Diamant from speaking or moving.
“Is the Gemstone Merchants Clan turning against the throne?” the green-faced dwarf asked. His expression darkened as the elementals behind Vur made no motions to step in. “I see. I see. Well then, clan master Vur, are you going to pay your tribute or not? If you double the usual, I’ll be willing to overlook all your transgressions.”
Vur stepped forward with his left leg. His right leg blurred and the green-faced dwarf disappeared. “How can such a tiny body have so much arrogance?” he asked as he tilted his head up to meet Stella’s gaze. “They’re like chihuahuas.”
“Y-you!” the two remaining dwarves shouted and trembled, pointing their fingers at Vur. “Do you know what you’ve done!?”
Vur nodded. “I removed a pest.” He stepped forward and lifted one of the dwarves, shaking him like a child would shake a wrapped present. Coins fell out of the dwarf’s clothes, and Vur swept them up with his feet before dropping the dwarf. He repeated the process with the other dwarf and ordered an elemental to add the coins to the treasury. Vur patted the two stunned dwarves’ heads. “Those were your protection fees. You can leave now. Bye.”
Vur turned around and closed the door leading into the mountain while the two dwarves stared at his back. The roots entangling Diamant loosened, and the mountain spirit burst out of Vur’s arm, materializing into a human form. “I’m going to apologize to the dwarves right—”
Vur grabbed Diamant’s shoulder and pulled the elemental back before stuffing him into the runes on his arm. “Calm down,” Vur said and yawned. He rubbed his eyes before blinking twice.
“Calm down!?” Diamant shouted as Vur went back to the dining room. “How can I calm down!? You’ve ruined millennia of hard work! Everything I’ve worked to build, gone! My clan is ruined. Ruined. Ruined….”
Sobbing sounds echoed through the room, causing Vur to frown. He slapped the runes on his arm. “Think of all the tributes the dwarves have collected from you,” he said. “Don’t you want it back? You’d be much richer without paying them, right?”
“No! If I don’t pay the dwarves, I won’t make any profit at all!”
Vur sighed and shook his head. “You’re too narrow-minded. The dwarves make money off of you by threatening you, which makes them richer than you. So if I threaten the dwarves and make money off of them instead, then I’ll make more money than them. See? The clan will prosper more than the dwarves.”
“That’s not how it works! You’re not stronger than the dwarves; how can you threaten them?”
“I’m confident I am, so you should be too. End of discussion.” Vur picked up a spiked yellow fruit and bit into it. His eyes widened before he made a gagging noise. “This is terrible.”
Stella nodded as she pulled out her notebook and quill. “No durians. Noted.”