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“A hundred thousand for top hundred. Half a million for the top fifty. A million for the top ten. And . . . ten million if Guns and Knives won the championship.”
Isolde glared at her father while kicking his leg with her shoes, but it was Axel’s leg she hit instead. Axel’s stoic face didn’t register any pain though a sweat ticked the side of his face.
Leonel tried hard to swallow his food after he managed to take into his mouth the shaking spoon he held by his trembling hand. That took quite the effort, actually. The food was great, but it was no use if he couldn’t eat it because his body felt like a drum being repeatedly beaten by a gong by how hard it quivered.
On the other hand, Ren flashed a small smile. “It’s too early to talk about it. Let’s see what the second war is all about and we’ll talk business.”
There was no hint of cowardice or uncertainty in Ren’s voice, and Augustus liked him even more because of that. Confident but not overbearing.
I like it. Augustus nodded to himself. Ren is an excellent candidate to be my future son-in-law. Augustus mused to himself while rubbing his beard. Ren’s guts and confidence were one of a kind. Among the many men he met his age, Ren was the only one who portrayed self-assurance that made him believe his every word.
Others simply didn’t cut the first test. And if they did, their words were hollow as their character.
Augustus then leaned to Axel and asked in a low voice, “Well . . . what do you think?”
Axel nudged his glasses. “He’s okay but needs more muscles and height.”
“You sure that he’s the one Isolde likes?” Augustus muttered, lips pouting and eyes scrutinizing Ren. While the latter pretended that he wasn’t the one they were talking about.
Ren couldn’t hear their whispers, but he was sure as hell that he was the topic of their conversation.
Axel whispered back, eyes on Ren. He wasn’t the least bit bothered that the man in question was gazing at them with narrowed eyes?
“According to our collected source, Isolde likes him.”
Augustus muttered back, “What did mommy say?”
“Mother is fine with him. Though she wish he has piercings at least. Or even a small tattoo on his arm.”
Augustus nodded in agreement. “Yeah. He is too clean.”
“Mmm . . .”
Ren cleared his throat, and that was only when Augustus and Axel straightened in their seat.
Augustus then changed the topic to Isolde. Now it was the time to launch the bait and hook the fish, slowly but surely.
“So . . . What do you think about my daughter?” Augustus asked, eyes on Ren.
But since Ren and Leonel were sitting beside each other, Ren was convinced that it was Leonel who he was asking.
Ren elbowed Leonel. The latter was already nervous enough, and the food on his shaking spoon spilled all over his plate at Ren’s nudge.
Leonel sat straight and stuttered, “S-s-s-she’s cool . . . and she’s . . .” He blanked out for a moment before uttering, “. . . manlier than me.”
Heavy Silence descended in the room while the two men looked at Leonel dead in the eyes.
Ren, on the other hand, wanted to smack his head with his hand at Leonel’s idiotic reply. How was he going to warm up to his future father-in-law if he was like that?
While Isolde was the only one who forced a smile. Leonel’s first sentence was already okay. But why did she had to be manlier than him? That wasn’t her intention to begin with.
Ren was quick to save Leonel and his future relationship with Isolde and his soon to be family. “What he meant to say is . . . Isolde is a cool woman who has our backs in times of needs. She’s very dependable.”
Ren then stomped Leonel’s shoe. “Right, Leo?”
Leonel nodded so hard that his neck strained.
Isolde’s mouth fell while her face glowed red. She then looked away while clutching her heated cheeks. R-Ren thinks that I am . . . dependable? She squealed inside her head and did her happy-happy dance in her mind.
Augustus and Axel all saw how Isolde reacted to what Ren said, and both of their frozen hearts thawed at the sight. She’s too cute. They both thought.
Ren invincibly patted his shoulder for a job well done. He saved his best friend from the firing range. Looked at how Isolde blushed. He was so sure that Leonel and Isolde would get closer after this.
Not to brag but . . . even though he was insensitive, he’s a great wingman.
Augustus cleared his throat, drawing attention to him again. “Then . . . I’ll leave my daughter in your hands. I hope that you’ll make her happy . . . Or else. . .”
Purposely hanging his sentence, Augustus made a cutting motion in his throat, and Leonel shook from his seat. His fear and nervousness blew the roof when Ren added gas to the fire.
“He meant you, Leo,” whispered Ren and added, “Even though you didn’t tell me. You have my blessing. Isolde is a nice catch. Take care of her.”
“Egh?” Leonel was shocked as much as he was shaking. His brain ran off to who knows where when he needed it the most. Why, when, and how did he and Isolde suddenly became an item?
Leonel looked at the blush on Isolde’s face and he froze even more.
Does Isolde . . . like him?
Was that it? Was that why everyone was looking at him like that? Was that why her father and brother were asking him questions? Was that why Ren said those confusing words to him?
Isolde was cool and all, and he felt flattered if she liked him . . . but he only liked her as a friend.
Leonel then shifted his attention at Isolde’s brother and father, who were looking in their direction with smiling faces but warning eyes.
Leonel was about to straighten the record when Augustus spoke with an edge to his tone and a promised of pain in his gaze.
“You will . . . right?”
Leonel shrunk and looked at his trembling fingers as he squeaked, “Y-yes . . .”
Ren nodded. “Don’t worry. We will take care of her.”
I’ll make sure that Leonel courts her properly. Ren thought.
The hard line on Augustus’s face disappeared, and he laughed merely. “Good! Good! As long as you take good care of Isolde, then consider the Gambino family as your second family. If there’s anything you want, don’t be shy and ask away. If there’s a person you wish to disappear just say the words. Bahahaha!”
“Just kidding,” teased Augustus when his words was met with silence.
Then he whispered close to Leonel’s ears, “Just say the name and we’ll take care of it.”
All blood was drained from Leonel’s face while Augustus winked at him.
On the other hand, Ren was glad at the turn of events. Having the Gambino on their side would surely guarantee their safety . . . somewhat. And having a powerhouse on their backs would add power and credibility to World Conquerors name.
Isolde couldn’t eat anymore, even in the face of her favorite food. She felt so full. Her heart felt so full!
Though she was reprimanding her father and brother for their coercive ways, she was happy inside to hear Ren’s reply. “Dad, brother. Stop that. Stop scaring them.”
She faced Ren and Leonel with an apologetic smile. Though her gaze were mostly on Leonel since she couldn’t look straight at Ren’s eyes.
And Ren’s grin was ear to ear for misunderstanding Isolde’s gesture again. He thought that the lovers were making gooey eyes with each other.
Looks like Leonel’s love life is finally blossoming. He even mused to himself.
Augustus and Axel only ignored Isolde’s plea and teased her instead. The mood inside the room was festive, and everyone was smiling and eating merrily except for one person.
Dread ate Leonel’s resolve to tell the truth, and he felt like mud was sitting on his stomach. He didn’t have an appetite anymore.
It looked like he had to court Isolde now or face the wrath of his family for breaking her heart.
At least it was Isolde. Leonel thought. Though he didn’t love her, he liked her personality and she was fun to be with.
Leonel scratched his head and could only sigh his grievances.
What was a guy to do?