"What-- WHAT IS THAT??!" Ambassador Blacktooth yelled.
A behemoth monstrosity had appeared where a human girl once stood. It was bigger than a titanblood or a troll... it was even bigger than an ogre!
Prince Dragan lazily picked the inside of his ear, "Oh, that's Kimura Taree. She's my human friend."
Blacktooth pointed a shaky finger at the thing that was beating the living hells out of his pack's strongest warrior, "That is NOT a human, Prince!!!"
Dragan raised an eyebrow. The smile on his face had frozen stiff. It was the same way the Prince looked at the ogre ambassador, moments before he cracked their skull open with their own magical staff.
"Ahem," Blacktooth coughed, trying his best to compose himself... "N-not to question your judgment, Prince... but I find it difficult to believe."
"Okay. That's... reasonable," Dragan shrugged, "Taree! That's enough!"
"'Kayyyyy!" The human sang in response as she forcibly pulled out a bloody fang from Stonefang's jaw.
Prince Dragan patted Ambassador Blacktooth on the back, "So there you have it. Your pack was worried that there was a human not pulling her weight. That human is uh... pulling out your best girl's teeth. Any problems, bud?"
Blacktooth took a deep breath to still his beating heart, "Ehehe... N-no, Prince Dragan. No problems, at all! I will send word to the other packs that Vralkek's strength has never been stronger."
⟬ A missive addressed to Prince Tycondrius of Charm, Leader of Sol Invictus. ⟭
...So that's how it is, bud.
The little whelpling, Kimura Taree's finally made her breakthrough. According to the class crystal in Vralkek, she's an Iron-Rank Titan Berserker, now. Though, knowing Quay's kid, Pale's probably Gold by now. Taree's doing good, though.
The entirety of the Free Nation's been trying to rebuild since the Lycan Purge, which is a pretty shite issue. The Holy Country's built military bases all along the eastern side and the pressure's made the Warbands start fighting again.
As you know, showing weakness to occupying technically-allied forces is the worst strategy ever, but hey, you can only control your own Warband, right?
The biggest thing about that is that your sister's made a name for herself as a War Princess. She's got a lot of military accomplishments, and even got a no-casualty victory against the minotaurs. The medusas are saying she's the best thing since toasted bread.
The harpies are starting to say it, too. I'm not racist, but you know how much they love toasted bread.
Then, of course, in Bael Turath, General Raelion's having all that trouble with the Plane of Fire. We promised him and Lulu that we'd rotate north to help if things went to shite. Like a big level of shite, not a small one.
All that said, we're not really in a good position to help you in the Holy Country. The gnolls have promised to pray to their gods for your success, though, so you got that going for you.
Lulu said you gave up your weapon to her after she did unspeakable sex things with it. I sent back something that should hopefully help with whatever you're doing.
Give Sorina and the others my regards. And tell Horse to not do a repeat of 'Jacksonville'. He'll know what I meant.
Sincerely, your pal, Dragan.
PS. If you need to break Lone out of prison, let me know. I have an Orkish Kommando with a Krew of freelancers that owes me a favor.
Tycondrius summarized the missive's contents to his three female companions, Sorina Capulet, Korr, and Popoto Potata Pota.
"So Mister Dragan's doing well. That's good," Sorina nodded. "I wonder what... Jacksonville means."
Korr was wheezing rhythmically, having fallen asleep on the bed. Tycon sighed internally. Instead of sleeping in his own room, he'd likely opt to sleep in the male servants' quarters, the same as Victorius and Zenon.
"Wowww... your sister is a Warrior Princess, Sir Tycon," Potata beamed. "That's awwwwesome."
Tycon smiled politely. As Dragan had specifically mentioned the fact, it must have been significant. Unfortunately, he had no idea what that significance was. From the fragmentary memories he'd gathered of his sister, he assumed his relationship with her was positive at best, neutral at worst.
Throughout his adventuring, Tycon had done the best he could to avoid being tracked too closely by outside parties. He wasn't certain... but he had an inkling that the party he wanted to avoid the most was his mother's faction. Logically, his sister would be part of it.
That she was growing in power and influence meant it was safer for them to move aggressively... Still, even if his sister wanted to actively sabotage his mission, she had no plausible way to. She was in the Free Nation and Tycondrius was east, halfway across the continent, in the Holy Country.
"I wish I was in an adventuring guild as cool as you guys's," Potata sighed. She had finished her boxed meal and daintily wiping the corners of her lips with her napkin.
Sorina Capulet leaned over, grinning at the young Popoto girl. The armor cube floating by her head flashed in mana, forming a ^_^ shape in glowing lines, "How about you join my guild?"
"Ahem," Tycon coughed, "Our guild."
Sorina shrugged flippantly, "You say Popoto, I say Potata."
"Oh, no, I can't. I really shouldn't," Potata flailed her arms about in embarrassment. "I... I'm not really good at adventuring."
"Well, I'm THE BEST!!!" Sorina declared.
Tycon smacked the back of Sorina's head out of reflex. She was easily the worst adventurer in the guild.
"I'm PRETTY GOOD!" Sorina declared, just as confidently as earlier.
Tycon narrowed his eyes to thin, judgmental squints.
"I could always be better," Sorina relented. "Anyroad, it doesn't matter. You have to contract with us now, Miss Potata."
Potata gasped, "I... I do?"
Tycon pursed his lips. She does?
"Yep," The sly Calculator nodded. "You ate our food. It's in the rules."
It was not.
Potata wrung her small hands in embarrassment, "It... it was really good, though."
That was also untrue. It was mediocre, at best.
Sorina Capulet immediately produced a contract for the young Popoto to sign, "Here you go! As long as you're not doing Courier Guild duties, you belong to us, now!"
Tycon felt his lip twitch. None of that would be true unless Potata actually signed the contract.
The Popoto courier stood up on her chair and grabbed the ink pen from the desk nearby, "Um. Okay. Where do I sign?"
Tycon held a palm out, "Hold, if you would. Please, think about this, Miss Potata."
"Don't worry about it! There's nothing to think about!" Sorina insisted, "It's in the rules."
The Calculator had been so insistent that Tycon began to doubt his own correctness. He didn't remember any rule like that... but he also gave Sorina free reign to work with contracts, both mundane and magical.
Tycon shook his head before glaring at his Chief Financial Officer, "At least tell her who we are."
Sorina shrugged, "Fine. We're Sol Invictus, legendary Ezyrian arena guild, blah blah blah."
Tycon placed his face in his palms, "Please take this seriously, Miss Sorina."
"Sol Invictus??? THE Sol Invictus?!" Potata gasped, starry-eyed.
As the young Popoto went over the contract, Sorina pulled Tycon close, "See? Now we have a contact in the Courier's Guild and we can get a discount on mail for the rest of forever."
Tycon averted his gaze. He could not deny the usefulness of those advantages.
In the mere span of a week, the Vanzano estate had transformed from an empty-furniture shell with no denizens to... an empty-furniture shell with a constant flow of business-persons and adventurers.
Calculator Sorina Capulet was gone for most of each sun, visiting House Vanzano's businesses... often returning, upset and unruly. Korr accompanied her as her guard, though would often return with worrying signs of violence. Once, she came back with her traveling cloak completely drenched in blood.
The only explanation she offered was: "I fell."
As Tycon judged the blood to not be hers, he chose to not question it.
The visiting suppliers and contracting companies came, eager to work with the East Charm Trading Company and House Vanzano. In Sorina's absence, her assistant, Maeva Leserre, signed or rejected them.
The adventurers were attracted by the promise of training and fantastic pay, especially considering the low bar of entry advertised. Tycon, with the help of Zenon and the others, screened them for character and potential.
If the Stormbrands could recruit a ragtag group of trash and could call it a Tyrion adventuring company, then he could do the same... And as expensive as it seemed, Tycon expected less than half of the recruits to pass his strict requirements after their training was completed.
Within the moon, his forces would also be padded by adventurers pulled from his other assets: Guild Staghorn in Nice and the Iron-Blooded Butchers in Merylsward.
They were already being paid, so there wasn't a real loss.
Tycon also looked forward to the arrival of a particular Sea Wolf. Lieutenant Shao Ran of the Kingdom's Royal Marines would be the head instructor of his new guild. Further, the gentleman was a Hidden Sect Martialist and could advise Athena Vanzano on cultivating her martial abilities in tandem with her Yin Body.
Tycon had high expectations for his allies.
...which also meant he needed to improve himself, just as well.
He had recently grown in power, reaching Gold-Rank... the highest established pinnacle for human adventurers.
However... he wasn't human. Gold was neither his limit nor was it enough to allow him to rest easy.
This was a world of Titan Snakes and Calamity Beasts and Gorgon Idiots. If he wanted to succeed, he couldn't afford to stop growing in strength.
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