Glorious Ground. Mayor’s office building, seventy second floor.
The entire floor was a high class restaurant, even in Kingdom Earth’s standards. Nonetheless, for a place reserved only for those with significant capital, there were only a handful of empty tables.
“Our table is in the VIP area. It’s more private there”. Xinia smilingly told Zax.
“Miss”, a waiter in black and white uniform, who recognized Xinia upon her arrival with Zax, bowed his head and without saying another word turned to show the way.
Many pairs of eyes were attracted to the tall and beautiful Xinia, men and women alike were looking at her with an array of different expressions, most of which poorly concealed lust.
Zax noticed the piercing gazes at his direction, as well as Xinia poised yet contented sweet smile. It was not from a sense of superiority, he somewhat could tell by the air she exuded, something else.
It was the alluring countenance she put as the hostess of the Sensensar family. But to know that, Zax had to first get to know Xinia better.
“Who is he?”
“Mmm… These are the common clothes in the villages outside the city”.
“A villager? What his cultivation level? He looks quite young”.
“I cannot get a read on his cultivation level, but if he is escorted by Miss Xinia, it most likely that…”
“But for a country bumpkin to be treated here, among the rest of us, is it not going overboard?”
“As the Sensensar family’s hostess, it is Miss Xinia’s duty to welcome all potential interest. For someone with no style or class, at least this once, an exception should have been made”.
“Enough, silent. Are you looking for troubles by meddling in the Sensensar family’s business?”
The guests at the restaurant gossiped among themselves, limiting the sound of their voices to the space encompassed by their tables. Although Zax could still hear them, he did not care. As a Mist Master, Xinia was also able to hear the surrounding talks, yet she, too, was apathetic toward them.
The VIP table was in a room of its own. Large enough to perfectly accommodate two and decorated more modestly in contrast to the rest of the restaurant. It even was absolved from the large windows that viewed the city and replaced them with a couple of modern art pictures.
The waiter closed the VIP room’s door as he exited. If he will be needed, there was a golden bell at the center of the table.
“Ms. Sensensar”, Zax sighed. “If all of this is for me to eventually be recruited to your family, then allow me to disappoint you in advance”. He did not need to be a genius to figure Xinia interest in him. It certainly was not sexual, in his opinion, nor was he looking forward for it to be.
Xinia still smiled. She was well versed in the many layers of refusal. If Zax will not join her family, it did not mean that he could not benefit it in some other ways.
“Mr. Walaow, since it is your first visit to Glorious Ground, let me ask you, not in a conceited manner, but with merely pure curiosity. Do you know who the Sensensar family is?”
Zax let rhe question to sink in a little before replying. “You have the registration officers in your pocket and even the people working in the mayor’s office building. If it is not one of the most influential families of the city, then it is the most influential family”.
“Hahaha, precisely. The Sensensar family is the one in control of the mayor’s office building and who also possess the Blessed Army’s Czar Seal of Glorious Ground”.
For a fleeting instant Zax puckered his brow. He could handle the attention of an ordinary high class family, but to right away be caught in the net of the top family in Glorious Ground… How rotten his luck has to be?!
“Please, Mr. Walaow, don’t make this face. Unless you want me to, I won’t bite you”. Xinia sweetly laughed and opened the menu. “This supposed to be a meal in the top’s second best restaurant in the city on my expense. You should not be shy and order. For starter, I recommend the Gendar salad. It is very refreshing and will open your taste buds for all the following delicacies you may crave after. For wine, do you mind if I’ll pick for the both of us?”
“I don’t drink wine-”
“Then your first time will be with me”.
Zax was perplexed by Xinia’s attitude. On one hand, she led the conversation almost seductively, definitely not in a casual tone! On the other, her body language expressed a hard to get ambiance.
You can see, but you cannot touch.
At least until you will earn it.
And then there was the dubious feeling that she just puts on a show.
Before Zax uttered a single syllable, Xinia rang the bell for the waiter outside to enter.
“We will both start with the Gendar salad and a bottle of Roshfeletz’s Morning Dew wine. Adjust the rest of the course accordingly”.
“Yes”. The waiter respectfully nodded, took the two menus and exited the VIP room.
“Ms. Sensensar, I still don’t intend to join your family”. Zax was not feeling awkward by being blunt with his decision regardless of him being Xinia’s guest and how persistent she was, will be.
“Mr. Walaow, the Sensensar family doesn’t beg. If you are adamant with your choice, then so be it. I won’t try to sway you anymore. However, when we walked here, even if I did not show you off, your presence in Glorious Ground would have been uncovered by some of the snooping high ranked families of the city. Moreover, I can say with a ninety percent assuredness that you are not just a foreigner in Glorious Ground, you are a foreigner to the Blessed Army’s territory”. Seeing that Zax do not refute her statement, Xinia asked. “Do you want to know how I know this?”
Once more, Xinia caught Zax unprepared. Not that he planned to hide his status, but for others to determine it before he first does something extreme to divulge information about himself… With the rural tunic he is still wearing, he should not look any different than a robust villager.
Xinia continued. “Be they humans or beasts, all who live in Selivereb are registered in the Blessed Army’s and Violet Scaled Troops’ data base. Usually it should not mean much to anyone, but in your case… With cultivation like yours it is hard not to, eventually, get noticed. You can be certain that by registering here, in one of the Blessed Army’s cities, it’s only a matter of time now before your name will reach the high ranked echelon of this part of the continent, arousing various responses. And with affiliation to no one but yourself, well… should I call you from now on ‘Hot Stuff’?”
Zax was at loss. Did he miscalculate the effectiveness of revealing some of his strength? He does not fear attention, but if he was hasty in his decision, then executing the task he received from Supreme Ruler Ariel would be problematic.
Although Supreme Ruler Ariel could not be explicit with what he wants him to do, Zax already assessed that following the footsteps of his predecessors who compiled Earth’s Records will be the right path to start off. That is, to learn all he can about Ercas Mir and the five powers.
Now it seems that to accomplish his goal he needs to start from the beginning, in another part of the world…
“Don’t beat around the bush if you have something to say”. Zax scowled.
Now nothing could be changed and Xinia was not exactly subtle with the direction she led the conversation.
“Mm…” Xinia smiled and halted.
The waiter returned, holding a rectangle shaped tray. On both ends of the tray were frozen plates with green and purple veggies; next to each plate was a glass of wine and at the center of the tray, a blue and cloudy tall bottle.
Finishing serving and pouring the murky, white wine, the waiter left.
Xinia raised her glass. “Wait”, she said to Zax, looking at the wine inside.
The bottom of the glass slowly became clear as all the murkiness rose up, forming two and a half centimeters thick layer of clouds at the top. Crystallized petite flakes rained down to the bottom of the glass, as they reached it they transformed back into murky incense that again joined the clouds.
Xinia sipped from her glass. “I have a proposition for you, Mr. Walaow. I’ll block any information feed with regard to your arrival to Glorious Ground. The only other person to know about you, other than those I answer to in my family, will be my contact in the Blessed Army. It’s unfortunate, but your existent cannot be concealed from the Blessed Army’s data base”.
“If what you said before is true, your family should not be the only one with connections in the Blessed Army. What will happen when a new record about a loose expert will appear? Will it not catch the attention of those you promise that won’t find out about me?”
“Your registration is not yet complete. Since your article was brought to the mayor’s office building, there need to be final verification, to make sure all the required fields are properly filled and that there is correspondence with the optional ones. If something is found incorrect, the entire article is put in review, a tedious job that sometimes, understandably, reduces the article to basic information for a more efficient use of time”.
In other words, because there should not be any errors in Zax article, Xinia just offered to forge it!
“And the people in the restaurant who saw the hostess of the great Sensensar family accompanying a ‘country bumpkin’?”
“If I could not deal with them, they would not have been here”.
A moment of silent.
Since everything on Xinia’s side was already figured out, next should be her terms for helping him.
His glass of wine and plate of salad on his side were still untouched. Zax raised his glass and took a first sip. The initial taste was not to his liking, nor the curt of spiciness. Nevertheless, he found the sensation of the drink pleasing to his palate, uplifting. Lastly was the after taste. It, too, was not great, but a wisp of an indescribable ingredient that stood out at the end left him wanting to give the, seemingly, unremarkable drink a second try.
The first bite from the salad turned out to be different than expected. Despite the frozen plate, the salad itself was room temperature, and from the time of chewing it to swallowing, its juices rinsed the mouth with bits of bitter sweet coldness.
Seeing the intrigued look on Zax’s face, Xinia explained. “These vegetables are grown in icy attribute greenhouses. The plate is carved from a special mineral that absorbs cold temperatures”.
Zax laid down his fork. “In return for your help, what is it you want me to do?”
Xinia also rested her silverware. “Mr. Walaow, I would really like us to communicate on a first name basis. Regrettably, that can’t be done unless you choose to join my family. The next best thing, which should not be impossible for you to achieve or agree to, would be to at least form an alliance with my family”.
If Xinia could measure his real talent, then Zax could imagine why she and the Sensensar family would suggest a proposition that could put him close to or on equal standing with them.
“You plan to join the Mercenary Association, don’t you?” Xinia answered back with a question.
“How do you know?” Zax would be surprised if without him knowing someone followed him, Mendor and the rest from the registration office and heard their conversation.
“You came to the mayor’s office building together with the leader of Mendor’s mercenary band. According to the information I received before our meeting, at the registration office you stated that your arrival is for work and that you are accompanying Mendor and his group. For a foreigner to encounter on the way a mercenary band and ending up traveling together with it is not common, but not that rare, either. However, upon your arrival, Mendor could’ve sent one of his mercenaries to show you the way to the mayor’s office building instead of leaving to his men the processing of the job’s gains. The only reason for mercenary leaders to be so blithe is if they found something more precious to acquire”.
Xinia’s intuition was sharp. Even if Mendor do not admit it to himself, by following Zax so far and explaining so much, he did have the small hope for Zax to decide to join his mercenary band.
“A person like you, who doesn’t fear the dangers of traveling alone, will not be enticed by joining a mediocre mercenary band like Mendor’s. Instead, why don’t you have a go at the High Rankers’ trials and see if you are then worthy of entering a Geared ranked mercenary band?”
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