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House Iris

An ornately decored carriage bearing the crest of House Rothschild accompanied by a dozen mounted arms men rode up before the wrought gates of the estate of House Iris. The guards waved the carriage and their escorts in after recognizing the crest and the whole convoy arrived at the porte cochere where a small army of doormen and butlers quickly presented themselves neatly in two rolls, welcoming the guest exiting the carriage gratefully.

Dressed in a velvet red dress that bared her shoulders with a thin shawl to cover her shoulders from the sun, Titanna carefully climbed down the steps placed by the doorman and a bundle of silks rammed into her.

"Sister Titanna!" A bubbly female a few years younger than Titanna smiled at her with rosy cheeks and eyes shining with excitement. "You are back!"

"Greetings, Lady Rosette!" Titanna patted the little girl on her head gently. "How are you faring?"

"I'm good! I'm so happy to see you!" The girl hopped out from Titanna's embrace and did a little spin on the spot. "Now, that you are back! Tell me all about your adventures and battles when you left to subdue the barbarians in the south!"

"Rosie!" A regal bearing middle age lady still bearing traces of her beauty rebuked Rosette from the doorway. "How can you greet guests this way!"

"My apologies, Lady Rothschild," The elegant lady gave a curtsy. "Welcome to my humble abode."

"Lady Iris," Titanna returned her greeting. "It's alright, you do not have to be so formal. After all, I treat Rosette like a sister!"

"Still, as the host, we must have manners!" Lady Iris smiled. "Come in, come in!"

"Hehe," Rosette grinned and wrapped her arms around Titanna. "You must tell me about your adventures over tea!"

"Yes, yes!" Titanna gave a rare smile as the girl dragged her into the house and towards the garden.

A large gazebo sat in the middle of the garden surrounded by flowers and rare plants carefully maintained by magic and manual labor. Snatches of conversation and laughter drifted over as dozens of noble ladies and their lady in waiting gossiped over tea and delicacies. Servants stood behind an ornate screen constantly worked a cord linked to a fan hung on the ceiling, creating a constant draft of cool air.

A low hush descended upon the garden party as Titanna made her entrance as every eye turned to her direction. She paused and Rosette turned around in confusion, "Come on!"

Titanna gave a small smile at the girl and steeled herself before she resumed her steps. The ladies in the gazebo covered their lips with their hand fans and whispered in low tones to their neighbors as they eyed her entrance.

"So, you still have the guts to show your face around here?" A sneer came from a group of ladies dressed in the latest society fashion. "After all that had happened, how... carefree can one be!"

"Of course, now that the old Lord is gone, someone can steal the seat of the Lord!" Another voice from the group added in. "How shameless!"

"Lady Titanna!" Two fashionably dressed ladies appeared from the side and waved at her eagerly. "Over here!"

"Lady Sophia and Lady Grace!" She sat down on the table with the two who were her classmates in the School of Magic.

"Ignore those four!" Lady Sophia who had fiery red hair and freckles fiercely said. "They kept badmouthing you ever since word of your return came!"

"Yes," Lady Grace who had a pale complex and golden brown hair bobbed her head in agreement. "They just want to make trouble for you!"

"What are they saying?" Titanna frowned as she took a sip of tea poured by the fawning Rosette.

"Something about how you betrayed your father and brother," Lady Sophia said in a low voice. "And how you sold them out to the barbarians in return for your life!"

Titanna sighed inwardly. Part of that was the truth, and she felt a pang of sadness at the memory of seeing the ash grey body of her father. "It does not matter."

"They are taking this chance to smear your name and your family!" Lady Grace frowned. "And the rest of these... people here love to gossip about such things! I fear, it will not do you good when you formally take over the position as head of the Rothschild!"

"Did they say anything when I and my late father wasn't in the city?" Titanna tapped a finger on the table in thought.

"No," Both girls replied together. "Only after word of your return came, did they start talking about your misdeeds."

"I see," Titanna took another sip of her tea. "Clearly they are spreading these gossips on purpose."

"To undermine your authority?" Both girls' eyes widened. "But... Oh... Deflin and Taros?"

"I guess it's a ploy by them," Titanna replied calmly. "Now that the Rothschild is weakened, they want to be in power. What better way to do that then to weaken my influence among the people and other Houses?"

"Don't worry!" Lady Sophia patted her chest. "I can ensure House Canda stands by your side!"

"House Westlake will stand by you too!" Lady Grace added. "If my father does... I make him!"

"Hehe, I am sure my mother stands by your side too!" Rosette raised her hand as she joined in the conversation. "Sister Titanna is so strong! No one can defeat her!"

"Thank you all!" Titanna smiled warmly at their support and patted Rosette. "But... there will be danger and I am afraid of dragging all of you down with me!"

"Hey! We have been friends since Magic School!" Lady Sophia held Titanna's hand tightly. "How can we stand at one side and watch when you need help?"

"Yes!" Lady Grace and Rosette both declared. "We will do our best for you!"

"Alright!" Titanna nodded and made up her mind. "I need your influence!"

"Influence?" The girls tilted their heads in confusion. "What can we do?"

"Sophia, your family deals with the grain merchants in the market," Titanna said. "I like you to put a good word for me among the merchants. I will talk with the merchant guild leaders another time, but I like to lay out some groundwork before our talks."

"Sure!" Lady Sophia quickly agreed. "That's simple!"

"Grace, I know your family deals with textile merchants," Titanna said. "Can you do the same?"

Lady Grace nodded. "But why the merchants? Shouldn't the support of the Major Houses to be more important?"

"There's nine Great Houses and fourteen Minor Houses..." Titanna explained. "While the Minor Houses provided supplies and gold instead of soldiers. Four of these Great Houses did not send troops down when ordered."

"I am certain that these four, namely House Deflin and Taros are the main culprits," Titanna said. "They will surely pull the Great Houses who had sent troops out over to their side."

"Which means they will have more of the Great Houses supporting them," Lady Grace said in horror. "They just need to pull one of the Great Houses over to their side..."

"Yes," Titanna nodded. "But I hope to count on the Minor Houses instead."

"But the Minor Houses has no forces for you to draw on!" Lady Sophia said. Both her and Grace's families were from a Minor House.

"Wait!" Lady Sophia leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. "I have heard from my father that the Houses are buying a lot of grain and salt. Way more than what they normally buy. Are they...?"

Titanna hearing the news gave a solemn nod, "I think they are stockpiling supplies for a war!"

The girls drew in a sharp intake of breath upon hearing Titanna's words. Unlike Titanna, both of them did not show much interest in fighting.

"Try to spread the word to not sell to them!" Titanna said. "We can't let them have their way!"

"If I can get the support from the Guilds and the Minor Houses who are the ones supporting the entire city's markets," Titanna gave a predatory smile. "We can cut off the opposing faction's source of weapons and supplies before they can stockpile enough! We can win this!"

-----

UNS Singapore, Captain's Quarters

"What the hell is this?" Blake dropped the tablet on the table. "Are you telling me we have another mad God on the loose?"

Fleet Intelligence Officer Tavor stood at attention and confirmed by nodding. "Yes, Sir. Claymore Two has encountered this Entity and had managed with the help of Elizabeth Regnar destroyed its host before it could create greater problems."

Blake sighed and rubbed his face. "Damn Gods, fucking popping out like rabbits..."

"How did it came about to this?" Blake continued to grill Tavor. "I thought you had eyes on that Hunter girl?"

"Yes, Sir, it was an... oversight on my part," Tavor admitted his error. "I was hoping to catch a bigger fish..."

"But not at the expanse of putting people in danger!" Blake smacked the table in anger. "What happens if she tried to summon or do some kind of ritual right in the Marine barracks?"

Tavor kept quiet as Blake raged on. "How many lives will be lost if something like another hero appears?"

"Sorry, sir!" Tavor apologized. "That will not happen again."

"Make sure it doesn't!" Blake huffed. "I don't want something like this to happen again!"

"Any unknown artifact, idol, statue, or charm," Blake said. "Are to be secured and tallied by the Occult Intelligence section! I do not want you to tread into murky waters, especially with something we do not understand!"

"Is that clear?" Blake glared at Tavor who remained at attention.

"Yes, sir!" Tavor replied.

"Good, now, what do we know about this new Entity?" Blake asked, his anger lessened.

"As of now, forensics is still combing the site," Tavor replied. "Statements from Claymore Two members and Elizabeth gave us some clues but not much."

"What we do know is that Entity has an ability that works similarly like the Princess's Charm effort," Tavor said. "But strength and area of effort are at least a hundred times of hers."

"What?" Blake frowned. He knew how irritating the effects of Charm has since it affected him several times. "So will our anti charm measures work against it?"

He rubbed the ring on his forefinger as he asked. It was made by Magister Thorn and enchanted with an anti charm spell and he had mandated all senior officers are to wear the ring at all times.

"I expect that our current anti charm measures will require to be boosted," Tavor said. "We are after all dealing with a God or even a fragment of a God being which powers greatly overwhelms our own magic capabilities."

Blake nodded, "Get Thorn to see if he can upgrade or come out with something."

Tavor nodded. "Also from the findings of the incident site, we found carvings that greatly resemble greek or roman architecture."

Blake rapped his fingers on the table. "So we are dealing with something from Greek or Roman mythology?"

"Yes, Sir," Tavor said. "Very high chance, Dr. Sharon is working on it and she has informed me that should involve a female Goddess from either Greek or Roman myths."

"She is narrowing it down to those Goddess that the myths say that they have the powers of charming people," Tavor continued. "So far, she reported that she has narrowed down a few choices but she needs more time to be sure."

"Got it," Blake nodded and dismissed Tavor. "Report to me once she has something confirmed."

"Yes, Sir!" Tavor saluted and turned to exit the room.

"Tavor!" Blake stopped the Intel Officer before he left the room. "I don't want a repeat of what has happened in Orwell's Point. No backdoors, hidden ops, or department rivalries. Report everything to me or I will find someone else to replace your post. Is that clear?"

"Crystal clear, Sir!"

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