93 Not The Only One
"My, my... If it isn't Cornelius Rellen himself. I wonder what brings the Patriarch-to-be to this little town out here in the Exile Frontier?" The man in the white robes and decorated turban said as the surrounding people of Sand Pit watched and whispered amongst themselves.
"Sultan Samir. What a pleasure. I'm sure your reason to come here from the south has just as much merit." Cornelius replied, no emotion showing on his face or in his voice. He was completely deadpan.
"How's your old man doing? Its been a while since he's been to out and about. When is the last time you made sure he was breathing? Or maybe you made sure he wasn't breathing?" Sultan Samir asked, clearly trying to get an emotional response from Cornelius.
"My family's matters are none of your concern, Sultan." Cornelius gave a short reply, still showing no emotion.
The Sultan laughed, but his eyes narrowed behind his jovial appearance as he looked around them at the townspeople. "There's been a lot of rumors going around recently from up north... Rumors that something interesting showed up on your doorstep. I wonder if that's the reason you're here..."
"That... is also none of your concern" Cornelius replied, but this time, there was a dangerous glint in his eyes.
The two noble leaders locked eyes for a tense moment before Sultan Samir laughed again, his large belly shaking with each laugh.
Not a moment later two groups showed up behind them coming down the stairs from the upper mercenary platforms. From her position in the crowd, Zoey spotted Loxon and his Sand Sharks, and Serena with her Siren Vultures. Both of the mercenary leaders had clearly made some effort to clean themselves up. They had worn their best gear and clothing, but before the groomed nobles they looked almost shabby in comparison.
Doris and the Flame Scorpions were noticeably absent from the welcoming party and the crowd was murmuring about that when they noticed. Zoey and Nito stayed low in the crowd and watched as Loxon and Serena nervously greeted Sultan Samir and Cornelius Rellen. Serena was blushing and doing her best to catch Cornelius's eyes with her sultry curves and clearly fake, demure attitude while Loxon bowed repeatedly to the Sultan.
Zoey shook her head as she watched it all take place. Even though Loxon and Serena were big shots in Sand Pit, there was always a bigger fish. Strength was the only thing that mattered if you wanted respect in this world.
After the greetings took place, the nobles and their troops followed the mercenary leaders back to the upper area. Zoey was curious about what they would be discussing, but she had her own things to worry about. Nito and her dispersed with the crowd and found a sheltered corner in the marketplace to wait for things to settle down.
They needed to get up to Doris's base, but there was only one way up to that area. They mulled it over, and decided to blend in with one of the trading groups that were making their way upstairs in hopes that the nobles would be willing to buy some of their wares. It was not hard to inconspicuously attach themselves to one of the groups and follow them up, many of the more curious townspeople were also tagging along, so Nito and Zoey did not stand out.
The sandstone spire that the upper portion of Sand Pit was carved out of was several hundred meters tall. The the main platforms that the mercenary companies used to dock their Kreppelin airships was about halfway up the inside of the spire. Once you reached the top of the staircase leading to that area, there was a open cavern carved into the sandstone that had three large gates, each leading to a different mercenary camp.
At the moment, Zoey could see that the Rellen troops and their leader had gone into the Siren Vulture compound and the Sultan had gone to the Sand Sharks. Through the open gates of the compounds, she could see the nobles being seated around tables loaded with food and wines, no doubt a lavish expense for the mercenaries.
The third mercenary compound was closed shut, with the black and yellow emblem on the door marking it at the Flame Scorpion base. Nito and Zoey moved quietly away from the crowds around the other two compound gates and approached the closed doors, wondering how they could get in. Zoey looked at Nito, who shrugged and knocked on the door. They waited a moment, but nobody answered. Nito knocked again, this time a little harder. There was still no response. As he was getting ready for a third knock, a viewport slid open on the door, and someone peeked through.
"What in the God's names do you want?" A Vekt growled angrily through the door.
"We want to see Doris. We're friends of Athena," Nito answered quickly.
"Oh really? And I'm the King of the West! No wait, I'm the bloody Sun God himself! Get lost!" Then the viewport was slammed shut.
Zoey looked at Nito in surprise. She had not expected that reaction. Nito shrugged again, then looked around thoughtfully. He then got a mischievous look on his face, and before Zoey could ask him about it, he disappeared! It took Zoey a second to react to Nito's disappearing act, but before she could make sense of what happened, the door in front of her opened up just enough for someone to reach out, grab her, and abruptly pull her through, closing the door behind.
Zoey was now inside the Flame Scorpion base, and standing before her with a proud grin on his face was Nito! Zoey saw that behind him was a sprawled out, unconscious gate guard, and so far nobody else had noticed their entrance yet.
"So you can move through walls now?" Zoey asked Nito, who was still proudly puffing up his chest.
"Yup! You are not the only one who got stronger over the last month you know. I reached Rank 3, and thanks to the Scythe Mantis Reaper technique you gave me, my innate talent can now not only make me invisible like before, I can move through solid objects! Only for a small distance though. Right now a door like that is my limit." Nito said, eager to show off his newfound strength.
Zoey was impressed. Who could have known that a book she pulled from a dungeon would have such a powerful technique hidden inside. She was looking forward to how strong Nito would become one day when he mastered the technique.
It would be an interesting day indeed!