Robin was not the font of information I had hoped regarding the two bickering women. She said I would have to ask them. The glint in her eyes told me it was part payback for my refusal to answer earlier, but she was right. It would have to come from them, gossip could destroy companies and friendship quicker than cheating on the wife with the secretary could ruin a marriage. So I stopped pressing Robin for information.
I had her deliver a NutriShake to my room because I wanted to waste as little time as possible. The huge windfall of blood hawk was too good to pass up, so I stayed online for the entire night except for the five minutes it took to log out, chug down the shake, and log in again.
There was a second and maybe much more important reason why I did not log out during the game’s night. Actually, two reasons: Mia and Kira. I needed to figure out how to handle this. Obviously, they had issues with each other, I had no idea what that might be, having never witnessed anything of the sort before. However, even if I could not get to the bottom of why they acted like that, I would have to admonish them and ask them to remain professional.
It was not a conversation slash discussion I was looking forward to having.
Of course, I could not slaughter all the birds on my lonesome, so Brandt stayed the night as well, helping me butcher them and levelling up my Mentor skill at the same time, meaning it hit level 20 and the upper ceiling of the Beginner tier. However, I had Butchery. I could upgrade it to Journeyman with the upgrade points I had already.
However, we were still mostly using below average quality ingredients, if I moved to Journeyman I would produce above average, rarely average or good. Until the rest of my skills could keep up with Butchery, it would have to be held back. So I put an upgrade point into Mentor, and let Brandt handle the rest of the hawks, which would level up my Mentor skill further.
The levels from Butchery, Cooking, Mentor, and Brewing were enough to push me to level 38. Nothing exciting, but getting closer to level 40 was a big deal in my opinion. Another skill slot and a lot of class XP to assign. What was there not to like about that?
Before we left, Mozart anxiously and a little hesitantly asked, “When are you back this way, boss?”
“Prefer that I’m not in your hair, eh?” I asked with a smile.
“No, no, no, of course not,” he lied poorly.
“I understand, Mozzie, you’ve been here without anyone bossing you around. Me being here was a disruption,” I said with a smile. “Nothing wrong with that. I like the profits you’re showing, I like the fact that you help the less fortunate players. It’s exactly what I want Blue Lotus to stand for, and to be seen as a force that helps those less fortunate.”
“But we’re in a guild war with the largest and most popular guild, people are already talking about it, like there’s something wrong with us, some rotten secret,” he put forward. “Especially since they’ve announced that if they win, they’re going to use their shares to vote for abolishing the coffins.”
I nodded thoughtfully. I would think that was the case. “I’m going to reach out to Hannah and see if we can get started on some propaganda. I know a thing or two about Dawnguard that might help.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Anyway, to answer your question. In about two weeks. I’m invited to the monthly auction taking place then. I’ll probably have a few people with me,” I finally provided the answer to his first question.
“Okay, I’ll make sure there is room for you.”
“It shouldn’t be more than a day or two, but you’ll start seeing guild people here more often, when we finish the village,” I said before saying my goodbyes and leaving. I made a detour and three stops along the way to the docks.
The detour and first stop took me to Fillard’s. As soon as he saw me, he lit up in a bright smile, “Damian, my friend, you here to buy?”
“No, but I had my people running in and out of here all day yesterday,” I replied.
“Ah, their purchases did remind me of you. So what can I do for you today?”
“I’ve got a lot of meat to sell, some fur, bones, you know, the usual,” I replied and started putting up sacks of stuff on the counter. Antwon was helping with lugging all the stuff around.
“Damian, all these sacks are blood hawk meat,” Fillard whispered, full of awe. “I’ve never seen so many.”
“A nest was spawned when we placed down the settlement token, we couldn’t find it in time,” I replied, then pointed to a couple of sacks lying off to the side. “Those are just rabbit meat though.”
“What about the blood?” Fillard asked eagerly. “I’m very interested in their blood and eyes.”
“Sorry, we have a need for the blood ourselves. I’m willing to sell some eyes though,” I said and put out two glass jars of eyes.
“The blood is worth a lot though, normally I’d only pay three gold per litre, but because it’s you, I’ll be willing to pay three gold and ten silver per litre,” he offered.
I shook my head. “Sorry, it’s worth a hell of a lot more for me. Let me guess, there’s a large order for it, with a hefty bonus for anyone who can fill the contract on their own?”
He pouted at that. “You take all the fun out of trading.”
I just shrugged. “Anyway, here’s a list of stuff I’ll be needing.”
“Okay, let me see,” he said and started going over everything, pulling stuff away from the counter to make room for the items I ordered. In the end, I still received almost 3 platinum coins. Not a lot, but not bad for a day’s work.
My next stop was the Adventurer’s Association where I informed them that our village would be done in a couple of days. Of course, I did not need to inform them of that, the system, or as they knew it, the Gods would inform them. More importantly, I informed them that some players were heading in our direction in three days time.
That would generate an escort quest for the three small guilds I was hoping to tie much closer to Blue Lotus. The third and final stop was the Lord’s mansion where I provided the Seneschal with the same information. That would generate another quest.
The quests would be targetted at those I suggested first but at a lower payout. However, I was not about to have some random guild pick up a quest or two to escort some NPCs to my village and learn the location before we were ready.
The trip back to the village was mostly excitement free, William got some fishing done, while the rest of us were just waiting to get back to the village. Most of us made sure to use some mana all the time, and then meditate. Besides that, we got attacked a few times by some sea mobs, nothing too exciting, except for a couple of squids that would provide some variety for the larder.
Because the winds were against us, it prolonged the trip a bit. We spent a total of 14 hours sailing. Still much better than the 26 to 28 it would take us to walk. I spent the time imbuing and meditating, levelling up both skills several times, which pushed me above level 39. In fact, I was only 21 skill points from reaching level 40.
When we arrived at the village, people were excited that we were back, and Mia wanted to show what they had accomplished while I was gone. It was already dark, people having stayed logged in to greet us when we got back.
“Everyone, thanks for staying inside. Go log out, get some food, enjoy your time off,” I said with a large smile. “I’ll inspect your progress tomorrow.”
When the crowd started dispersing to follow my instructions, I looked at Mia and Kira in turn. They tried to kill each other with venomous stares. “You two will meet me in my virtual room as soon as you log out.”
“Damian, you can’t talk—” Mia started saying with a frown.
I interrupted her harshly. “It’s an order from your boss, not your boyfriend. Be there in two minutes.”
With that, I went to the gazebo and sat down to log out.
A few seconds later I found myself in my virtual conference room. Modified to better suit my needs. Gone was the gaudy office Mia had created, replaced with a small wooden cabin, the only light source was the fireplace. In front of it were a large comfortable couch and a couple of recliners, whose frames were made from rough-hewn timber. A couple of big bean-bag chairs were stacked in one corner. It was all I had managed to make earlier.
Mere seconds after I had arrived, Mia arrived as well. She looked around in confusion, with a big frown on her face. She looked at me with a bit of anger in her eyes. “Damian—”
“Sit down, don’t speak just yet,” I said sternly, pointing to one of the recliners. At the same time, I had muted her so she could not speak. “We’ll talk about private stuff in a moment. Right now it’s business.”
Only a few more seconds passed before Kira entered. “Nice—”
I cut her off by muting her. I pointed at the recliner opposite Mia. “Sorry to be rude, but right now both of you are going to listen. And I mean listen.”
Both of them stared daggers at me for muting them, but it was nothing compared to the glares they sent each other. Almost reluctantly they nodded.
“I’m just going to state plainly that I’m fucking disappointed in both of you,” I said with a sad expression on my face, one I had used often to guilt students into feeling bad. “You guys are causing tensions because of—fuck, I don’t even know, which is bad for the guild.”
I turned to Kira. “Kira, you’re a freaking guild officer, a party leader, the rest of the guild looks to you for guidance. You’re our physical instructor, our best fighter, and the most popular of our members. If you create tension—no, treat her with animosity, the members will take notice of that and start treating her the same.”
She folded her arms and looked away angrily. “No, I’m not taking my girlfriend’s side. I’m stating the facts. You’re an example to the others, I need you to be a shining one, just like you have been so far. Of course, the option is always on the table for you to cancel our contract. We haven’t fulfilled all stipulations yet, so you still got a way out. I hope you don’t take it.”
I turned to look at Mia and caught her hiding a self-satisfied smirk. “And you. What the fuck is wrong you? Why the heck do you start berating people for an action I decided to take? I told you from the start to leave the feelings out of it. You’re my assistant and girlfriend, your actions in both capacities reflect on me. And frankly, your behaviour appals me even if you were only my secretary. It has been compounded by the fact you’re my girlfriend.”
She flinched as if I had struck her. “Now, I’ve plainly stated what I thought. I’ll let the AI decide which one of you goes first.”
The system chose Mia. “Mia, why did you scream at people?”
“Because they failed to protect you, their leader!” she hissed venomously.
“It was my decision, and I’ve come out stronger for it. I’m almost to level forty, and I managed to turn this into a great opportunity to progress our village and make allies,” I explained patiently. “Mia, I’m glad that you care, but I’m not a helpless clown. I make the decisions I do for the betterment of the guild, for the world. It hurt, but it’s only a game, despite what is at stake.”
“I—I’m sorry,” she said with a downcast look.
I got down on my haunches in front of her. “Don’t tell that to me. You’re going to stand up in the dining hall and apologize to everyone.”
She looked up at me with anger in her eyes. “I’m not going to fucking apologize to those freeloaders!”
“They’re freeloaders, as much as you are,” I said with a sad shake of my head and muted her. “Think about that. They’re no different than you are.”
I turned to Kira. “And why did you go off on Mia?”
She looked at me with crossed arms. “Because she started screaming at me. She’s a bitch.”
“That’s not helpful, Kira,” I said admonishingly.
“Fuck you, you’re just thinking with your dick!” she snapped at me.
“That was uncalled for.”
“Whatever, you’re just a fucking liar.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know why, you lied to us from the start,” she said with a withering look at me.
“I eventually told you the truth,” I pointed out.
“You lied about my legs as well. You promised me!” Her voice was rising towards her scream, tears threatening to leak out. I had the feeling that she was deflecting. Not telling me what was really going on.
“I’ve not lied about them, I promised them within a year, it hasn’t even been two months,” I tried to reason with her. “And I don’t think that is what is bothering you.”
“Either get me my legs, or I’m out of here,” she said, doubling down. “I’ll tell everything to Dawnguard.”
“They already know,” I said stonily. A pit was forming in my stomach. “Give me a month, you’ll have your legs, on the condition that you keep your mouth shut, perform to the utmost of your abilities, and remain civil to everyone. Do you concur?”
She nodded, a weird look on her face. I said for the record, “Computer, log her non-verbal agreement to the verbal deal we just struck.”
“Logged,” a synthetic voice echoed through the room.
Kira rose, took a step towards me, reaching a hand out. “Damian, I’m—”
I muted her, I was not interested in what she had to say. “You’re dismissed. Congratulations, you got what I would have given you anyway. I guess you showed your real colours. I thought we had an understanding.”
Before she could do or try to say anything else, I had booted her from the simulation. I turned to Mia, who again tried to hide a smirk. “Mia, listen carefully, I don’t care if you have a problem with Kira. I’ll hold you to a higher standard than everyone else. You’ll be civil to everyone, and you’ll apologize to everyone. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I’ll do that, but I think it’s best you don’t come visiting tonight. I’ll tell Alicia that you’re busy,” she said with a huff and logged out as well.
“Well, fuck me,” I said into the empty room, before sitting down heavily in the recliner Kira had been sitting in. I stared at the spot Mia had vanished from. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”