The Ni-Kunni Who Was Emperor for a Day

“This is the dumbest plan you’ve had yet,” Hari grumbled.

You’re the dumbest plan I’ve had yet,” Priore countered. “I swear this will work. It’s our meal ticket.”

“No one will ever believe I’m the Emperor of the Amarr Empire!” Hari sighed. “I’m not even Amarrian.”

“You’re Ni-Kunni! That’s Amarrian.

“I’m not a True Amarr.”

“Like anyone will know! That’s the beauty of the plan. These people haven’t seen the outside world since before the war!”

“And what makes grifting them worth our while?” floated Red’s voice through the ship’s internal comms.

Priore looked over his shoulder, despite the woman not being anywhere in that direction. “During the war, my grandfather was shot down over the planet. Before he was rescued, he said he saw tons of valuables. Gold, platinum, palladium! All sorts of precious metals, just lying around like it was nothing!”

“And what makes you think we can even get to it?” Red’s disembodied voice came.

Priore smiled, like a jackal. “That’s where Emperor Hari comes in. All we have to do is convince them he’s the Amarr Emperor and their planet has just been signed over to the Empire. We sell them the planet back and make out like bandits. And since they’re a bunch of tech-hating luddites, no one ever finds out.”

“They won’t believe I’m the Emperor.”

“They’ve never even seen an Amarrian! They won’t know the difference.”

“Then why don’t you play the Emperor? You’re the front man, after all.”

“I’m Gallente. They’re Gallente. They’ll know I’m not the Emperor. And Red’s Civire, who they should recognize too. Come on Red, what do you think?” Hari glared at Priore.

“I think it’s a good idea. It beats contract scamming, that’s for sure.”

“Fine,” Hari said, leaning his head back to rest against the chair. “I’ll do it. But I swear, this is the last time I get caught up in your schemes.”

Priore grinned. “If this works out, it’s the last time you’ll have to.” He looked back over his shoulder. “Red, dock us up. We’ve got some preparing to do!”

Hari yanked on the collar of the stiff robe, grumbling as he looked at himself in the mirror. It was little more than a cheap costume, with fake gold threading that made the entire thing itch.

“You look good in those robes,” Red said, causing Hari to jump and whirl.

“Red!” Hari stammered. “Give some warning, please! I could have been indecent!”

Red chuckled and tossed her auburn hair as she walked into the room. “Oh, don’t get so uppity. You’re not my type anyway, old man. Besides, I’m a pod pilot. I can peek through any camera I wanted.” As if to emphasize it, she ran a hand down the side of her skin-tight pod suit.

Hari’s face darkened to match Red’s hair. “You’re older than me. I’m only thirty-three.”

Red crossed her arms and clucked her tongue. “Yeah, but I don’t look older than you.”

Hari huffed and turned back to the mirror. “I can’t believe I’m wearing this.”

“Worried you’ll be dragged off for heresy if any other Amarrians see you?”

“Hardly. This thing is so shoddy, no real Amarrian would even think I was trying to impersonate the Emperor.”

She chuckled and shook her head. “I think it looks fine. It looks fancy to me, at least. That big high collar, all those gold buttons and pins. It looks exactly like what the Amarr Emperor would wear.”

“Maybe in a bad holoreel.”

On cue, Priore walked in holding a clothes hangar with several sheer scarves hanging from it. “Did someone mention my name?”


“What are you holding?” Red asked.

“Your costume,” Priore answered.

“What?” Red deadpanned.

“Costume?” Hari meeped.

Priore held it up and pulled one of the scarves in front of his face. “Neat, huh? It’s perfect for the Caldari slave girl!”

“Slave girl?” Red asked, her tone falling.

“Yes! We can’t have an Emperor without a slave, can we? We need to be believable.”

“I am not wearing that!”

“Come on! You pilot naked half the time!”

“Yes, but then I’m in a pod! Hundreds of strangers won’t be able to see me!”

“Ah, it just looks see-through because you’re looking at one layer. Once you put it on, you won’t be able to see anything!”

“Why can’t you be the slave?”

“I’m the one that’s going to do all the talking,” Priore said. “That wouldn’t make sense if I was a slave. We need to all establish credibility. Hari is the Amarr Emperor coming to enslave the populace. I’m the smooth talking Gallente trying to cut these people a good deal. And you’re the demure, sexy slave girl. We all have roles and if we want to pull this off, we all have to play them.”

“Hari, what do you think?”

Hari’s face was red as a fedo. “Well, I… I don’t know,” he stammered.

“He’s got to have a look first, Red.” Priore gave Hari a wink as he said it. “Try it on, see if you like it and then get a second opinion.” Red looked back and forth between the two men for a moment, then huffed and snatched the costume from Priore’s hands.

“What’d you do that for?” Hari huffed as soon as she left.

“What do you mean?”

“Telling her to change into it,” he muttered. “Besides, the Emperor wouldn’t have a scantily clad slave girl following him around.”

Priore smiled his jackal smile. “I thought I was doing you a favor. After all, to keep up the illusion, Red will have to do anything you say. Anything.”

“Wha… Why… I don’t like those implications.”

“Oh, come off it, Hari! It’s as plain as the Rabbit’s stutter that - ”

“So, guys, what do you think?” Red said as she reentered the room. The silk scarves were tied tight around her chest, shoulders, and hips, with several scarves hanging down between her legs. She did a pirouette, sending the dangling scarves fluttering.

“It’s… it’s…” Hari stammered.

“You sure got back fast,” Priore mentioned. “What’d you do, strip in the hallway and glue the scarves to yourself?”

“Shut up, Priore.”

Hari took a deep breath. “I think it looks wonderful,” he said so fast the words ran together. He took another deep breath, then said, “It doesn’t cover your pod implants though.”

Red frowned and touched the base of her neck, poking at the metal jacks implanted there. “Yeah, that is a problem.”

“No it isn’t!” Priore sighed. “Did you forget the entire basis for the plan already? They’re backwards! They’ve rejected technology almost completely! They use oil for heat and have equis-pulled carriages! They won’t know what a pod pilot is!”

“He’s got a point,” Hari said. “I think you’ll be alright.”

“I guess so,” Red said. “I’m still not sure about dressing like some Gallente pleasure hub dancer, but I guess it could be worse.”

Priore grinned. “Looks like we’re all in agreement then. Red, get back into your pod suit and get us under way. In a few days, we’ll all be filthy rich.”

Red nodded and walked out the door. A second later, she poked her head back into the room. “Um… Just don’t come out into the hall for a few minutes.”

Hari gave Priore an incredulous look, causing Priore to cackle hysterically.

“Remember, keep your head down,” Priore muttered, too quiet for anyone but her and Hari to hear. “Don’t look at Hari directly. And you, Hari, just look important. Let me do all the talking.”

The crowd of people surrounding their atmospheric shuttle was growing by the minute. The people, of mixed Gallente, Intaki, Mannar, and even some Caldari heritage, gawked at them. Few held reverent looks; most eyed them with suspicion or downright hate through dirt-caked faces. There was a dull droning mutter coming from them.

Hari kept his nose turned up and put on a wrinkled, disgusted look he imagined any Emperor would have. It wasn’t that difficult to maintain, as the stink of the city was evident even ten kilometers outside its borders. Hari shuddered to think of the state of sanitation - or lack thereof - in the the city. Even now, he could hear the grunts and bleats of farm animals not far off.

Even so, he glanced at Red, who was dutifully keeping her eyes on the ground and looking at nothing. She didn’t seem to mind all the stares from the crowd, though with her hair down blocking her face, he couldn’t quite tell.

Priore had already walked to the bottom of the ramp. “Ladies! Gentlemen!” he shouted loud enough so that everyone immediately stopped murmuring. “I am Priore Fontaine, appointed representative of this planet by the Gallente Federal government! Who among you can speak as a representative of your people?”

There was more murmuring from the crowd. Most of them weren’t interested in Priore, but rather the strange man wearing robes and the almost-naked Caldari standing at the top of the ramp. After a minute, Priore cleared his throat and repeated his request.

Finally, a man stepped forward. “Well, I’m not really a representative,” the man said, “but I can talk to you and figure out where we need to go.” The man was older, with graying hair, and wore a scowl.

Great!” said Priore with a giant smile and open arms. “You see, this planet… Hmm, how can I put this delicately?” He made a show of tapping his chin with a finger. “This planet has been turned over to the Amarr Empire as part of a war settlement.”

The murmurs from the crowd grew louder and confused. Their self-appointed spokesperson looked back, then to Priore. “And who are the Amarr Empire?”

Hari felt his stomach drop and he noticed Red look up briefly in worry. Even Priore blinked in shock, but he quickly recovered. “Ah, the Amarr Empire,” he began, “is a great and mighty power! As great as the Federation! Maybe even a little greater, unfortunately. And they have defeated us and taken control of this solar system.” Despite speaking to the man, he kept his voice loud enough for everyone to hear.

“I see,” the spokesman said. “And what are you doing here?”

“I am glad you asked!” Priore boomed, his smile wide. “That man there!” He pointed back to Hari. “He is the august Amarr Emperor! He is the master and lord of the entire Empire and its hundreds of star systems! He is the master of this system! And he is touring his new domains, looking for the best place to find his new slaves!”

That brought an even louder murmur of worry from the crowd. “Slaves?” the spokesman said, his scowl worn to worry.

“Yes! The Amarr Empire in all its wisdom and piety has dedicated itself to Reclaiming the galaxy! They wish to bring everyone closer to the light of God Almighty! The Emperor is God manifest in our world! It is only through the intense work of slavery that the unclean can ever hope to be made pure!”

“Work?” the man seemed to relax some. “We can do work.”

“Yes, work!” Priore shouted. “For generations you and your children shall toil in the harshest mines, the most dangerous factories, and the most inhospitable colonies! Then, maybe, should God smile on your line, your master may choose to free one of your descendants! And though you will be long dead and your soul damned to Hell, maybe your great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will find themselves saved!”

That put the man on edge. “That seems excessive!” he said.

“Well, I am afraid there is nothing that - ” On cue, Hari raised his hand and Priore stopped talking. The crowd began murmuring with suitable fear. “The Emperor shall speak! However, as you are all commoners, only I may relay his words to you!”

Priore retreated up the ramp and knelt before Hari. “This is going well.”

“Is it? They don’t seem too pleased,” Hari muttered.

Exactly!” Priore said. “They’ve taken the bait. Now we just reel them in.”

“Red? How’re you doing?”

“I’m fine, my lord,” she said through clenched teeth.

Priore chuckled and Hari had to catch himself. “Shall I go finish the negotiations, my lord?” Priore clucked with a grin.

“Of course, my minion,” Hari countered. Red had to cover her mouth to avoid giving away anything to the crowd.

Priore returned to the bottom of the ramp and loudly spoke. “The mighty Amarr Emperor in all his wisdom has decided that there may be a compromise to be made.”

“What sort of compromise?” someone from the crowd shouted. A few others echoed the sentiment, then more. Priore’s grin eclipsed his face.

“Well,” Priore said. “That will have to be determined later.”

Hari and Red had been placed in the nicest building in the city, the mayor’s manor. Despite it undeniably being the nicest building in the city, Red was aghast at the conditions inside. “Did you see the bathroom! There’s a footed tub! It’s made of metal!”

“Not so loud,” Hari chided. “They might hear you. And the slave shouldn’t really be talking like that to the Emperor.”

Red rolled her eyes and ran a hand through her hair. “Oh, please. They’re pretty much ready to give us anything we ask for. By the time Priore gets back, we’ll be set!” She went over to the doorway and peered at the wall. “Do you see this? What is this, a light switch? I didn’t think they existed any more!”

“Well, this place is purposefully backwards. I don’t see how the simpler times of the Industrial Revolution are so great,” Hari sighed.

“So, what are you going to do with your cut of the loot?” Red asked.

Hari sighed again and wrung his hands. “I don’t know. Maybe buy an estate back in the Empire. Settle down.”

Red quirked an eyebrow. “Find a nice Ni-Kunni girl to settle down with?”

Hari blushed a little. “I think I’ve been ruined for any woman from the Empire. I’ve seen too much I’ve fallen for outside of it.”

Red chuckled. “Me? I live the life of adventure. I’m a pod pilot for a reason. I could never settle down. This might net us millions of ISK, but it won’t be enough for me. I’ll probably just turn it into a nest egg, then move out into one of those deep space alliances. Get some fighting out of my blood.”

“Well, if you ever need a navigator…”

“I’d find someone else. It’s dangerous for ship crew on pod ships, Hari.”

“I didn’t think you cared.”

“Hey, you’re still my friend, Hari.”

Hari took a deep breath. “Maybe after all of this, we could go to a nice Caldari restaurant?”

Red turned and gave him a smile. “You know Priore hates Caldari food.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Hari muttered.

Red flopped down on a couch and sighed. “It’s so hot here! You know, I’m glad I wore this costume. It may not cover much, but at least it’s cool!”

“Yeah. Meanwhile, I’m wearing the heavy robe.”

“Oh, but you’re not wearing anything under it. So it shouldn’t be too bad.”

“How did you know that?”

Red winked at him. “So, you saw that big gold statue in the city center, right? That thing must weigh a ton and be worth our weight in ISK!”

“ISK is pretty much all electronic. It has no weight.”

“My point exactly! Even a few pieces could make us rich. And we’ll get whatever we want as long as Priore does his job!”

“Where is he anyway?” Hari wondered. “He’s been gone for hours. It shouldn’t have taken him this long.”

Red drooped her head back over the arm of the couch and kicked her legs into the air. “Oh, don’t be such a worry wart. Priore knows what he’s doing!”

As if on cue, Priore walked into the room. “Did someone mention my name?”

“No,” Red answered.

Priore grinned and held out a gold choker with a huge diamond in the center. “Check this out. The silly people are better negotiators than I expected. But they’re still no match for me! They’ve given us this as a sign of good will.”

Red snatched the choker from Priore’s hands and clasped it around her throat. The diamond glittered even in the dingy light. “How do I look?”

“Wonderful,” Hari said.

“Agreed,” said Priore. “But take it off! A slave shouldn’t be caught wearing jewelry like that. We’ll be off this planet by tomorrow! You can wear it then.”

“Tomorrow?” Hari blanched. “We have to spend the night here?”

Priore shrugged. “They wanted time. To get their best treasures together, they said. They want to make sure that the Emperor is pleased.”

“That’s wonderful!” Red squealed. “If they give us more things like this… Ooh, I might just have to keep a few for myself!”

“I’m sure they’ll all look lovely,” Hari said.

Priore grinned his wide jackal grin and nodded. “I personally think all those zeroes on my wallet will look the most lovely. But whatever you like. Now come on, let’s get some rest. It’s been a long day.”

“Wake up!” Priore shouted. He was pounding on the door to the bedroom. Hari rolled over and sat up.

“Lights,” he said, but they did not come. After a moment, he remembered everything was still hopelessly analog here.

“Come on Hari! Get up! There’s trouble!”

Hari rolled out of the bed and blindly groped for the doorknob. It was still dark outside, with the planet’s twin moons barely providing any illumination. Priore continued to pound on the doorway, until Hari finally reached it and threw it open.

“Priore, what’s wrong?” he muttered, sleep still clinging to his head.

Priore walked in and flicked on the lights. The look on his face banished the sleep from Hari. “Things are bad Hari. Very bad!”

“What! Priore, calm down and tell me what’s happened. We’ve had grifts go wrong before! Just tell me.”

Priore shook his head. He had no grin, just a grim line of a mouth and wide eyes. “Not like this. The natives, they decided not to give us anything.”

“So they saw through the con?”

“No! They still think you’re the Amarr Emperor. But some of them, the older ones who still remember the old Federation morals figured that no matter what happens to them, freedom is more important than life!”

“What? I don’t follow!”

“They think if they kill the Amarr Emperor, they’ll be heroes. Damn the consequences!”

The blood drained from Hari’s face. “How’d you find this out?”

“They don’t know that I’m with you. They think I’m just a good Gallente who was forced to do a dirty job. So they told me the plan.”

“We’ve got to get out of here. Where’s Red? We have to get to Red first.” Hari nearly shoved past Priore, but the Gallente grabbed his arm to stop him.

“Red already knows. I went to her first. She’s already headed for the shuttle. They won’t bother her. She’s just a slave, after all. She’ll make sure that it’s safe.”

Hari nodded and he and Priore ran from the room. Hari didn’t even bother to throw on his robe, staying in his pajamas. As they exited the house, they spotted a large glow down the street. “Crap!” Hari spat. “They’ve got a mob coming for me!”

“We’ve spotted them though. Come on, there’s a stables in the back. We can grab some equis and get out of here!”

“I’ve never ridden an equis before!”

“Me either. But I don’t want to have to run all the way back to the shuttle. So we’re taking the equis!”

The two ducked back into the house and ran to the rear. The equis didn’t spook when they entered the stables and Priore grabbed a saddle and threw it on the back of one of the steeds. “Come on Hari, help me put this thing on!” Hari knelt down in the straw and dung and began pulling the straps tight.

“Come out, Emperor!” came a shout from outside. “We know you’re in there!”

Shit!” Priore cursed. “They’ve figured us out!” He slammed his fist against the wall.

“What are we going to do?”

You keep putting that saddle on. I will go out there and buy us some time.” Hari nodded as Priore walked out of the stables. He had never saddled anything before, but the equis wasn’t complaining about what he was doing, so he figured he was doing it right.

He could hear Priore’s voice outside, though not loud enough for him to make out any words. The shouting and screaming of the mob didn’t help. Finally, Hari got the saddle secured as best he could and he went to grab a second one for Priore, when Priore ran back into the stable.

“Hari! Quick, get out of here! They figured out that I’m working with you! They’re going - ”

A gunshot rang out and Priore collapsed onto the ground. Hari stared for a moment then clambered onto the back of the equis. “Come on!” he shouted at it, kicking it in the sides like he’d seen in holoreels. The equis snorted and shook its head, but started trotting forward none the less. “Come on, faster!” he spat, kicking it again.

“There you are, Emperor!” a man shouted, standing in the doorway. The light of the torches made it impossible for Hari to make him out, but the voice told him it was the same spokesman from their arrival.

“You’ll pay for this!” Hari shouted, his voice cracking. “The Empire will not stand for such treachery! Your entire planet will burn!”

“Better destroyed than in the hands of tyranny! Give up and we’ll give you a peaceful death!”

Not wanting any kind of death, Hari kicked the equis in the sides again. Finally, the beast gathered Hari’s intentions and galloped forward, right at the exit. “Stop!” shouted the man, but the equis didn’t seem to care, as it kept on running right for him. At the last minute, the man dove out of the way and Hari burst out into the open.

The equis reared, kicking its feet into the air at the sight of the mob. There were shouts and cries from the people, but none did anything. Hari kicked the equis again and it charged right at the crowd, which parted to avoid being trampled.

“Stop him!” someone shouted and gun shots began to ring out. Hari kept his head low against the neck of the equis. He spared a glance back at the crowd, which was growing rapidly distant from the speedy equis. Their shouts grew inaudible and the gunshots stopped.

Only after he had exited the city did Hari allow a sigh of relief. He had gotten away, though not without losing Priore. “I hope Red got away alright,” he muttered. Even though it had only been a few minutes, his body ached from riding the equis. He couldn’t see where he was going, but he knew he was still on the road that led back to the atmospheric shuttle.

Just as he thought he was home free, he heard shouts behind him. “You there! Stop!” He glanced behind himself and saw four pinpoints of light, all rapidly nearing him. The sound of equis hooves thundered on the ground.

“Crap,” Hari said. “Come on, go faster!” He kicked his heels into the equis’s sides again, and it seemed to pick up speed.

A gunshot rang out and suddenly Hari was in the air. A moment later, he was hitting the ground hard, knocking the wind out of him. He tumbled head over heels several times before coming to rest. He couldn’t even groan with pain, he just lay there. The pounding of hooves quickly reached him.

“Alright Emperor! Get up!” one of the riders shouted. They shined their lamps down at Hari, who lay there helpless. He couldn’t have stood if he wanted to.

“I… I…” Hari gasped, still trying to catch his breath.

“Collote, get him up!” the rider ordered.

“Alright.” One of the riders dismounted and grabbed Hari by the shirt and yanked him up. Hari could only groan in pain.

Suddenly, the main rider shouted in pain and tumbled off his equis. Hari looked up and saw a bright burst of light, followed by another man falling to the ground. “Let go of him!” Red shouted before she pulled the trigger on her hand-held coil gun, sending the last mounted man tumbling off his equis.

The man holding Hari immediately let go and stepped away. Red immediately shot him. “Red!” Hari shouted in relief.

“Hari! Are you alright? Where’s Priore?”

“Priore is… I think they shot him. I think he’s dead.”

Red grimaced. “At least you got away.”

“What are you doing here? I thought you were going to the shuttle!”

“I’ve been there already,” Red said, nodding at the gun. “I figured you two might need some help, so I was heading back. It’s good that I did.”

“You have no idea how glad I am to see you,” Hari said.

“Can you run?”

Hari tried to take a step, but his right leg buckled. “I don’t think so. I think I might have broken my leg in the fall.”

Red shook her head. “And all those damn equis ran off. And yours is dead.” She put her arm around Hari’s shoulder. “Come on, lean on me. The shuttle isn’t far off, only about a kilometer. We can make it.” Hari leaned against her. Her body was hot and he could feel her heart pounding. “Don’t even think of trying anything either, Hari.”

“This isn’t the best time to try anything anyway.” With Red supporting him, Hari was able to slowly hobble down the road. They were still slow, however, and soon he could hear the sound of more pursuers.

“They’re getting closer Red,” he muttered. “Come on, leave me behind! Don’t die because of me.”

“Oh, don’t play the hero. That’s only sexy in the movies.”


“Just shut up and keep moving.”

He gritted his teeth and tried to push himself faster. His entire body ached from the fall and he was finally starting to feel the pain from his broken leg through the adrenaline. The shouts from the crowd grew louder all at once.

“They see us,” Hari said.

“I know, Hari. Keep moving.”

As they crested a hill, he could see the shuttle, sitting there waiting. The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon, bathing the shuttle with light and causing it to glow gold. “Almost there, Hari. Come on, push.”

The shouts of the mob were growing audible now. There were numerous calls for them to stop. Red stopped, but only to turn and fire a few rounds at the mob. Hari heard a few shouts of pain, but it didn’t seem to discourage the mob. A moment later, return gunshots rang out, though Hari and Red were still too far away for the primitive weapons to hit.

They reached the ramp and slowly began crawling up it. Red glanced behind herself. “Come on Hari, speed up. They’re almost on top of us.”

Hari pushed as hard as he could. “Stop! STOP!” shouted the mob. More gunshots rang out, but none hit. Slowly they crept up the ramp. All they had to do was reach the doors and they’d be safe.

Suddenly, Red dropped. “Aaagh!” she shouted. Hari had just been taking a step, so he fell too, right next to her.

“Red!” Hari shouted.

“Get to the door!” she coughed, blood touching her lips. The blue scarf tied around her chest was quickly being soaked with blood.

“I’m not leaving you!” Hari said. He grabbed hold of her hair, the only thing he could get a grip on, with one hand and grabbed the edge of the ramp with the other. The dull metal cut into his fingers, but he still pulled.

A bullet pinged off the ramp only a few centimeters away from Hari’s arm. He didn’t spare a glance at the mob, he knew they were almost on top of them. But he was only a meter away from the door.
With one final tug, he pulled himself into the shuttle. He yanked Red in with him. He could hear the sound of boots charging up the ramp. With his last burst of strength, he stood and slammed his hand down on the door panel. With a quiet swoosh, it closed shut and locked.

“Initiate emergency takeoff procedures,” Hari ordered.

“Emergency takeoff procedures beginning. Takeoff in one minute,” responded the mechanical, feminine voice of the ship.

Hari slumped back down against the door. “Red, are you still there?” She whimpered a little bit. “Don’t die, Red. We can go to that Caldari restaurant now. Priore won’t be around to object.” She laughed a little, which Hari thought was good. He turned and looked at her.

“Take this,” she rasped, holding out the diamond choker. Her face was pale and the blood had soaked through the scarf entirely and was pooling on the floor. “Don’t let all this go to waste.”

He took it and smiled at her. “I’ll hold on to it for you until you get better.” She smiled weakly. “You know, you didn’t have to come back and save me. Maybe I am your type after all?”

Her expression didn’t change. Hari took her hand and held it as the shine of life left her eyes.

Hari leaned heavily on his cane. It had taken nearly a week before someone picked up the distress signal from the atmospheric shuttle. The broken leg had started to heal poorly and the surgery to correct it was expensive. But soon, he’d have enough ISK to pay for it. Plus, he’d already reserved two seats at a fancy Caldari restaurant. He just wished Red could have been there.

The jeweler walked back into the room, holding the diamond choker. “How much is it worth?” he asked.

“Nothing,” the jeweler said. “It’s a fake.”

Hari stared at him for a moment. Then he started to laugh.

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