Empress Tikki gave her minders the side-eye. They were waving at the scantily clad women dancing in the hall. The Ambassador was seated next to her, outlining his plan to bring animals to the country instead of an embassy. She was only half listening.
It was a terrible idea. Animals aren’t valuable hostages. They don’t bring jobs to the local economy. The Empress fluttered her eyelids. The Ambassador thought she was impressed. She was, in fact, signalling the kitchen.
Someone brought out a bowl of soup garnished with roasted chili peppers. “Fragrant, warming spices,” she said, taking a sip. “Astringent herbs improve the circulation, Excellency.” She handed him the bowl.
The Ambassador had blundered into a dangerous valley and was now trapped in a bog. Moments later, he was in floods of tears but was obliged to keep sipping. Empress Tikki asked one question to end the discussion. “What will you name your residence, Excellency?” He was in death throes but managed to sneeze out a response: “Eh… Eh… It… Eh… S-s-s-saigon!!!”
Saigon | SB
SHXPIR for Harper’s Bazaar China.