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"Must you continue to look at me like that?" Pacore tries to make a puppy dog face, but it's just weird seeing an old man trying to look meek on purpose, especially after he handed us our asses yesterday.

 

With a sour look, I choose to ignore Pacore, knowing he will only be spurred on by anything I say. After a minute of Pacore holding his ridiculous expression and me trying not to laugh, I feel myself about to break. "Can you stop playing around, so we can get this over with?" I snap before I accidentally smile in front of him. I can't show weakness right now.

 

“Fine,” Pacore lets out a sigh. “Sign this one here, that one there, and this one down at the bottom, and you'll be officially my disciple.” Pacore spreads three contracts out on Camden's drawing-room table with a cocky grin. He’s not putting in any effort to hide how happy he is.

 

This would be a lot easier if Mom were here, but the two of us are alone in the room. Pacore left Jason and General Pitz back at his camp while I asked Mom and Dad to stay home. Pacore hasn't met my family yet, and I plan to keep it that way.

 

“Yeah, no,” I reach out and gather up the three documents. “I’m not signing anything until I’ve read through them a few times.”

 

“I should hope so,” Pacore chuckles. “I was concerned whether or not my new student would be able to learn from her past mistakes.” Pacore leans back in his chair and looks down his nose at me.

 

I don't rise to his taunting; instead, I focus on the three contracts. Unlike the contract I signed with Mr. Grey, each document has long, drawn-out paragraphs of text to read through. I thought Pacore would combine all three of my demands into one contract, but instead, he kept them separated. "Why are there three of them?" I bite the bullet and just ask him for the reason he chose to do it this way.

 

“I could’ve put everything into one document, but I would’ve still used the same amount of paper. And the more contracts we have binding us together, the stronger the connection will be,” Pacore explains to me.

 

Mom and I stayed up late into the night discussing what I need to look for in each of the documents. I was prepared to argue for every reassurance we needed, but it appears it’s already all in there. Unlike my deal with Grey, Pacore included how the contracts I’m signing will be binding for the next five years, at which point I’ll need to rediscuss the terms with either Pacore, his successor, or the ruler of Scholl, whoever that may be.

 

All three contracts start the same, mentioning how I'll be joining Scholl as Pacore's student. Then, they start to differ, depending on who they're geared to.

 

The first document goes into great detail about how my family will be left alone should we ask and covers the possibility of them following me to Scholl. The contract goes on to specify a monthly jaw-dropping 20 gold coin allowance my parents would receive on behalf of Master Pacore if they come to Scholl with me.

 

I switch to the second contract to see if it reads the same as the first.

 

The bulk of the second contract goes into how Scholl will not interfere with Spotted Creek Village beyond governing it as a typical village under their control. Pacore even wrote out how the village won't be subjected to unreasonable taxes or forced conscription as long as I remain his student.

 

While the first contract talks about how my family is free to decide what they want, and the second one covers the village, the third contract talks about Master Del, but I'm surprised to see the third contract is the shortest. I thought Pacore would jump at the chance to recruit Master, but judging by what's written down, Pacore has little interest in Del. In fact, unlike with my family, there's no mention anywhere of any incentives to bring Master to Scholl with me.

 

I reread every sentence twice to try and find any hidden meaning in any of the contracts, but I can't spot a single loophole. The only vague terms I come across are in regards to my role under Pacore, but he specifically wrote down I’m allowed to refuse any unreasonable requests. Besides that, the more I read, the more the contracts skews in my favor. It's written that I'm allowed to and encouraged to continue forging, with each contract stateing I’ll be given all the materials I'll need to improve.

 

And to top everything off, there is no cancelation penalty on my part, while if Pacore reneges on our deal, he'll lose… "His LIFE!" I exclaim out loud when I read the final part of the contract. "What is this!?" I point at the bottom of the documents.

 

“Can my new apprentice not read?” Pacore cheekily laughs.

 

“You can’t be serious!?” I stare at the old man waiting for him to claim this is a joke or something. This has to be some elaborate ruse.

 

“Is my life not enough?” Pacore coyly asks me. “I know I’m an old man, but I assure you, my life is quite valuable.”

 

I quickly skip to the end of the other two documents and see all three of them state Pacore will die if he breaks his end of our deal, while if I should break our deal, I merely forfeit the safety promised to everyone I care about.

 

"I thought our terms were quite even," Pacore grins at me.

 

“Why are you taking this so far?” I hesitantly ask him.

 

Pacore leans forward, and his entire personality changes instantly. His eyes drill into me with the weight of countless years behind them. "I'm aware you're only becoming my apprentice because you have no other options available to you."

 

My hands become clammy, and a bead of sweat rolls down my back.

 

"If you're to be my student, I can't have you second-guessing my intentions each step of the way. This is the best way I can prove to you that you have no reason to distrust me." The old jokester is gone, and in his place sits Pacore the Deathless, patiently waiting for my answer.

 

The silence makes looking at him unbearable, so I reread the contracts before giving him my answer.

 

After rereading each document another two times, I find I can’t think of any reason as to why I should refuse to sign them. There is no downside for me, and I can just void them with my skill if I need to.

 

Reaching for the quill Pacore brought with him, I dip it in the magic ink. I quickly sign my name three times and turn the documents around for Pacore to sign. The old man doesn't hesitate to take the offered quill and sign his name right underneath mine.

 

Pacore grins as he holds out his hand to finalize our deal. Isn't this what it's like when someone sells their soul to the devil? I guess it's only suitable that my devil is a creepy old man that I can't beat.

 

Reaching out, I grasp Pacore’s invisibly gauntleted hand.

 

Before we start shaking, I try squeezing with all my Strength, hoping for any kind of reaction. Pacore's smile only widens when his armor doesn't so much as dent under my grip. The only thing my Strength does is hold his hand in place. Apparently, I'm stronger than Pacore in brute strength, but that armor is just ridiculous.

 

"Our deal doesn't become official until we shake," Pacore points out to me.

 

Reluctantly, I start moving my arm up and down. I feel my Contract skill flare to life as Pacore and I exchange pieces of our outer soul. It feels weird to have Contract skill activate three times at once, but it's nothing I can't handle. It will be tiring, but later I'll need to search for all the fragments in my soul.

 

“Now it’s official! You can call me Master Pacore now!” Pacore beams a large smile at me.

 

“Not happening,” I immediately shut him down.

 

"But you called me Master yesterday?" Pacore playfully whines.

 

"And that's the last time I'll ever say it," I flat out tell him.

 

"Well, that won't do," Pacore shakes his head. "I don't mind you being cold to me when it's just the two of us, but I have an image to uphold."

 

“That’s not my problem,” I grin at Pacore.

 

"Oh, but it is," Pacore retorts. "If I'm seen as weak, you will be too. And it could be dangerous if either of us is seen as weak." Pacore ominously doesn't elaborate what he means, but I can guess. Working under my new master won't be all rainbows and sunshine, apparently.

 

"I'll keep that in mind," I pout, Pacore chuckles and there's a long pause between us. As much as I wish he would leave already, there are still some things I need to ask him. "You said I could stay here longer, right? How much longer is longer?"

 

Pacore starts stroking his beard. "You are my apprentice now, so I suppose I can tell you a bit of information. I won't go into all the details, but I will be moving further into Olebert. After that, I'll need to secure our hold over the land we conquered. You won’t need to leave your village until then.”

 

“That isn’t exactly a time frame,” I complain. “That sounds like it could take a lot of time; does that mean I have years before I need to worry about your wrinkly ass showing back up?”

 

"It seems my apprentice is still looking down on me," Pacore mirthfully chuckles, not appearing to care about my insult. Then, all of a sudden, Pacore's serious persona shows up again. "I'll have everything resolved by the end of next year."

 

I’m forced to swallow a lump in my throat. This monster truly believes he can push back Olebert’s armies and secure his new borders in only a year!

 

“Is that enough of a timeframe for you?” Pacore gives me a challenging look.

 

I refuse to look away from him this time. "Yeah, it is."

 

Pacore’s expression softens back to his usual annoying self. “I’m happy you haven’t lost your spine after our fight. I’ll have to work harder so we can return to Scholl quicker. I can’t wait to rub my new apprentice in everyone’s faces.”

 

“Then shouldn’t you should get going,” I grumble back.

 

"All in due time," Pacore leans back in his chair again. "Don't you have more questions to ask me? I have a few for you," Pacore's cocky grin becomes even more infuriating, but he's right; I still need to discuss the situation with Mr. Grey.

 

“What are you going to do about my contract with Grey?” I ask my new master. If he wants me to make him anything, my contract with Grey needs to be terminated first.

 

Pacore frows for a moment before he sneers, "I've found dealing with people like him is a lot easier when you're holding them by the throat. It will be a hassle if I kill him right away, but I can’t let someone take advantage of my cute apprentice.”

 

"Please don't call me cute; it weirds me out," I frown at Pacore.

 

"Aww, you're no fun," Pacore playfully pouts again. But this time, he quickly shifts back to the point of our conversation. "Do you have any objections to me killing him?"

 

“None that I can think of,” I admit. “But I know another party that’s also angry at Grey. Can you wait to do anything until I contact them?”

 

Pacore hums in thought. “I don’t suppose you’ll tell me who you’re referring to, will you?”

 

“Just some people I have a vested interest with,” I modestly answer.

 

Pacore chuckles, aware I'm not going to give up Silver Herd after we just met. "I'll think about holding off killing the rat for right now. Tell your unseen friends I would like to do business with them the next time you make contact."

 

I nod in agreement. There’s no way I can keep Pacore a secret from Giovanni anyways, though I’m not sure how our partnership will work out under the current circumstances.

 

“Now I have a question of my own. That skill you used on General Pitz and me?” Pacore curiously tilts his head.

 

"Yeah?" I ask, trying not to flinch or give myself away.

 

"It's a high-tier soul skill, wasn't it?" It's evident by Pacore's grin that he already knows the answer to his question.

 

"What makes you say that?" I try to keep up my best poker face. Master warned me about how Soul skills are considered taboo, and I doubt that sentiment changes much just because Pacore is from a different country.

 

Pacore scoffs at my acting. "You're lucky General Pitz didn't notice anything when you used your skill on her. Soul skills are scarce, and unless you've felt their effects before, they're often confused with other lesser skills." That makes a lot of sense, considering I've seen how Camden's skill affects people's souls. But while most skills affect the soul's surface, my soul-related skills go much deeper than that.

 

Based on how he’s bragging, I take it Pacore doesn’t care about my skill, but that doesn't mean I'm about to admit to having it either. “And you’ve felt soul skills before?” I ask him, not confirming or denying anything seeing how my lies did jack shit yesterday.

 

"I have," Pacore grins at me, not missing my deflection. "When I was an up and comer in my younger years, there was a mage who worked directly under the previous kings. If he were alive today, he would be considered a four-star mage, and the magic he specialized in happened to be soul magic. He was never able to find a successor, and after his death, his grimoire was placed in the royal vault and hasn't seen the light of day since."

 

“Being a hot-blooded youth back then, I challenged the soul mage to a fight to prove I was already one of the best warriors in the kingdom. I’ll never forget the feeling that brought me to my knees when he looked me in the eye. It’s hard to tell after all this time but whatever you used on me felt weaker than what I remember.”

 

I want to yell at him; it's probably the size of his soul that's changed, but I hold myself back. I already determined having a higher Mind and Senses stats helps a person resist the backlash of me looking at their soul. It was stupid of me not to consider that a stronger soul would be less affected by my skill as well.

 

“If you’re good, I might just try and get you that grimoire,” Pacore dangles a big carrot in front of me.

 

“I haven’t said anything yet,” I frown in annoyance.

 

“You didn’t have to,” Pacore smiles and starts stroking his beard again. "The more I talk to you, the more interesting you become. I'm almost tempted to drag you back to Scholl now and let someone else take over."

 

I glare at the old man. He knows I don't want to leave yet, and he still makes jokes like that! Who does that? I'm briefly reminded how master compared me to Pacore yesterday, and I feel my face start to heat up. Master is getting a bucket of water to his face the next time I see him.

 

"No need to fret," Pacore mistakes my red face for anger. "I was merely joking. This war is too important for our people to leave to anybody else."

 

Since he brought it up, I’ve been curious, "why is Scholl invading Olebert?" I ask the million gold question.

 

I’m surprised when a sad look befalls Pacore. “You said you faced something scarier than me, was that right?”

 

"Yeah," Pacore's sudden mood change and question threw me off my game, and I answered without thinking.

 

“Tell me, how did you survive?”

 

The small hairs on my arms stand on end when I think back on the day I faced the soul eater. Do I tell Pacore I don't want to answer him? I don't want to get into the details of my fight, and I definitely don’t want to tell him what I got for slaying the beast.

 

Pacore's eyes tell me he won't drop the conversation without an answer, so I plan out what I'm about to tell him in my head so I don't reveal too much information without lying. "The monster I encountered was slow and weak for its level; it was only thanks to that, I survived." I don't mention that I actually killed the beast, and technically I'm not lying about it being weak. For the soul eater's level, it had horrible Endurance and could only move when I looked away from it.

 

“I see, I guess you’re lucky then,” Pacore gives me an encouraging smile, but a blind man could see the pain hidden behind it. "Scholl didn't have your luck. A water dragon took up residence in the Heart of Scholl; that's our largest body of freshwater. Our ability to produce food has drastically been reduced. If we fail in this invasion, countless people will die."

 

An actual dragon, fuck me! I could only imagine what a dragon in this world be like, and it has to be ridiculously strong if Scholl decided invading another country would be easier than killing it.

 

Well, now what do I do? It was easy to blame Scholl for everything considering they were the ones invading, but now that I see where they’re coming from, I actually feel a little bad for them. I’m curious about the dragon, wondering if it’s as strong as I think it is, but the sad old man sitting across from me looks to be in no mood to discuss the beast.

 

"I think that is enough for now," Pacore slowly stands up. I have to stop myself from asking more questions and keeping him here longer. Pacore notices my strained expression, and a small smile reappears on his face. "I'll send word for my apprentice as soon as I'm back in Drey. In two weeks, you should be able to ask her any more questions you might have."

 

Damn it, I should be complaining about Pacore assigning me a babysitter, but I’ve started to feel bad for him.

 

What am I thinking!? Yes, Scholl's situation is sad, but Pacore is still basically abducting me from my home. His problems don't have anything to do with him forcing me to become his apprentice; that's all on him.

 

I harden my heart and cross my arms. "And where is she supposed to stay?"

 

Pacore’s usual annoying smile fully returns as he moves to leave the room. “She’s your senior apprentice, so I’ll leave her living accommodations up to you.”

 

“You want me to house her!?”

 

"Thanks for offering," Pacore opens the door leading to Camden's hallway and leaves me behind before I can object.

 

"That wasn't me agreeing!" I shout, rushing after Pacore.

 

Pacore stops at Camden’s front door. “I’m sure the two of you will get along splendidly. I’ll send a message soon to keep in touch with you.”

 

Pacore's smooth-talking leaves me stunned as he walks out of Camden's house like he owns the place. When the door shuts behind him, I'm left alone in Camden's entryway. "Screw Scholl, and screw Pacore," I growl to myself. The next time I see him, I'm ripping that beard out with my bare hands. I stomp my foot in frustration, and I hear the stone fracture under my heel.

 

“Aaliyah, dear, are you ok?” I twirl around to find Camden and Sarette standing together at the opposite end of the hall with worried expressions.

 

Taking a deep breath in through my nose, I steady my emotions. "I'm fine," I try to reassure them. "The negotiations are finished, and Pacore is leaving."

 

“Are you leaving with him?” Camden hesitantly asks.

 

I shake my head, no. "He's leaving me here now, but I don't know for how long. Pacore said he'd send one of his apprentices to oversee me in a few weeks, though."

 

Camden looks happy hearing I'm not leaving the village right away but frowns hearing we'll have to host another important individual from Scholl.

 

"You're staying; that's great news!" Sarette chooses to focus on the positive. She moves down the hallway and wraps me in a hug, which I'll admit makes me feel a little better.

 

“I’m sorry I cracked your floor,” I mumble after we separate.

 

"It's fine; I'll have your brother fix it later," Sarette waves off my apology. "You should head home and see your family. I'm sure they'll be happy to hear the good news as well."

 

I'm not so sure they'll share the same optimism as Sarette, but she's right; I should go tell Mom and Dad about my meeting with Pacore. I should hurry too; I still have one more meeting today after I check in with my parents.

 

"Thanks, Mrs. Downs," I hold Sarette's hands, thanking her for reminding me where my priorities should be.

 

“Not a problem, sweety. Hurry along, don’t keep your mother waiting any longer than she needs to.”

 

“I won’t,” I tell her as I push open her front door.

 

I don't see Pacore around; hopefully, he's already back in his camp, readying to leave. The next time I see him, it will be too soon.

 

Rushing home, I think over everything I need to discuss with my parents. I hope I'll have enough time for my business call later.

 

**********

 

Giovanni Turrini’s Point of View:

 

“How are things moving, Marshall?” I ask my right-hand man.

 

"Things are going well, Boss. Earl Vagan sent over another order of wine while the soldiers stationed in the city are putting more and more coin in our pockets."

 

“Didn’t we just send a delivery of wine to the Earl last week?” I ask.

 

“We did,” Marshall reminds me. “I guess the rumors of the Earl drinking himself to death are true.”

 

Groaning in frustration, I massage my temples. After the Earl declared Scholl is not to get past Blaiton under any circumstances and appointed Lord Rayes in charge of leading the defense, the Earl has been oddly silent of late.

 

Lord Rayes is the governor of Blaiton, and he has an invested interest in saving the city, but a military mastermind he is not. Every day rumors spread of the other nobility second-guessing Lord Rayes' orders, particularly that swine that fled Drey.

 

The city is packed with soldiers, and more people are conscripted each day. It's only thanks to my friendship with Lord Rayes and his family that I've managed to spare my men the same fate. When the soldiers are given leave time, they crowd the local bars and openly complain about receiving conflicting orders from multiple sources.

 

Some say Olebert is sending us reinforcements, but Lord Rayes told me he only knows about the battalion they have stationed outside Teeburn, and it's no surprise that that front is stalled. Scholl does have multiple high-leveled hostages along with General Pitz after all, I’m sure she’s considered more important than a few cities out in the middle of nowhere.

 

It also doesn’t help that the reason behind Scholl’s invasion has slowly spread through the populace. You can’t walk down a dark alley without hearing whispers of a dragon.

 

Silver Herd is profiting from the invasion on paper, but each day, those profit margins are slowly thinning along with morale. Technically we've lost our Drey and Teeburn branches, and with Grey pursuing his own agenda, we might just have. With all the turmoil, it's hard to predict how we should prepare for the future.

 

“Boss, your ring,” Marshall points out to me.

 

I lower my hands away from my temples and see the ring on my left pinky is glowing. That ring is tied to the communication magic tool hidden in my desk. The ring glows when someone is trying to contact me. "Are we expecting a report from any of the numbers?" I ask Marshall.

 

Frowning, Marshall shakes his head. Damn, that means something unexpected has come up! I quickly pull the communication magic tool out from the hidden compartment in my desk and see which number is contacting me. "Two?" Why would he?

 

That's right! Two gave his communicator to Aaliyah; why is she calling me?

 

I activate the magic item and speak into it. "Aaliyah, I wasn't expecting a call from you. Is there anything I can help you with?" I maintain a cheerful tone of voice; I don't want to risk upsetting the golden rock.

 

“Are you sitting down?” I’m surprised by her sudden question rather than returning my greeting. “I am,” I tell her. Marshall moves next to me, obviously curious as to why she would ask me that.

 

"Guess who just left my village?" I can hear the frustration in Aaliyah's voice, and my hands become sweaty.

 

“What happened to the village?” I anxiously ask her. Is my daughter ok!?

 

"The village is fine," Aaliyah sighs on the other end line. "I have a contract from him, stating Scholl won't mess with the village."

 

“A contract from who?” I ask.

 

“Pacore the Deathless.”

 

The blood drains from my face, and Marshall's eyes widen to the size of dinner plates. "Pacore the Deathless came to your village!? You met him!?" I shout into the magic item.

 

“Yeah, I met the old geezer. Kicked our asses all by himself.”

 

"You fought him!?" I feel a pain in my chest, and I consider the possibility I might have a heart attack. "Why would possibly make you think that was a good idea?"

 

“It’s the best we could come up with on such short notice,” Aaliyah tries to defend herself.

 

“That’s insane,” I retort.

 

"This is a courtesy call. If you're going to keep rubbing salt in my wounds, I'll hang up."

 

"Wait!" I shout before she disconnects the line. "I'm sorry if I offended you; it's just hard to wrap my head around what you're saying. You said the village was safe, so I don't understand why you would challenge Pacore."

 

“That’s the reason why I’m calling,” Aaliyah sighs again. “Pacore sort of forced me to become his apprentice.”

 

 

……

 

……..

 

“Are you still there?” Aaliyah's voice pulls Marshall and me back to reality.

 

I swallow back a lump in my throat. “You joined Pacore as a student; are you joining Scholl's army!?"

 

"What, no! Well, sort of. I guess I'm technically a part of Scholl's army now, but Pacore left me in the village, but that's not why I called you. I wanted to call you because I’m not sure how our partnership will fare in the future.”

 

She's right; I planned to secretly support Aaliyah until she decided to leave her village finally. But with Pacore as her master, Aaliyah is almost certainly going to be heading to Scholl once the war subsides. "Is this your way of cutting ties with us?" Our business with Aaliyah has always been complicated because of her rapid rise in levels, and now that she's become Pacore's student, she's virtually untouchable.

 

“It sounds like you’re the one trying to cut ties,” Aaliyah retorts. “I still need materials while I’m here. Plus, I owe Kervin for helping me all these years and for putting him in danger with Grey. I don’t know what things will be like in a year, but I still want to do business with you guys if that’s ok.”

 

"That's very kind of you," I remark, surprised. She just got an incredibly powerful backer, and she still wishes to work with us without throwing Pacore’s name around.

 

"Don't get happy yet; I still haven't told you the good news."

 

“Oh?” I’m curious what she considers good news in this situation.

 

“My new master,” she emphasizes the word master like she doesn’t like using it, “heard about my deal with Grey. I don’t think we’ll have to worry about him for much longer,” I can practically hear her grinning ear to ear on the other line.

 

“That… might be a bad idea,” I frown.

 

“I don’t understand.” I can hear her the confusion in her voice.

 

"If Pacore kills Grey right now, the two branches we're cut off from will fall into chaos, and that isn't considering any traps he might leave in the event of his death."

 

"I don't mean to be rude, but that's not my problem at the moment," Aaliyah bluntly tells me. "I have to look out for my village and family; whether you or Pacore resolve the issue with Grey, I profit in the end. My offer still stands to terminate the contract if you need me to, but I need to get going. My mom was already breathing fire when I told her I had to go into the forest for a few hours.”

 

I want to ask how my daughter is doing, but I'm not sure if I want Aaliyah to be aware of my feelings towards her now that she's Pacore's student. But Aaliyah has proven to be quite loyal to Kervin and the company despite the problems with Grey. With my lines of communication cut off from the village, Aaliyah is the only person I can ask. "Can I have one more moment of your time?" I ask before she disconnects us.

 

“Sure, but can you make it quick,” she reminds me that she’s pressed for time.

 

Let’s hope I’m not wrong about her. “How is my daughter doing?”

 

For a moment, there's only silence on the other end. "You mean Anastasia, right?" She asks for clarification.

 

“Yes, is… is my daughter doing well?” I nervously ask. Marshall gives me a nod of encouragement.

 

“She’s fine,” Alayah tells me. “We don’t talk much, but I see her during important village meetings. Are you asking about anything in particular?"

 

“No, I was just curious how she was doing.”

 

"Would you like me to bring her with me next time and let you guys talk? She's helped my family and me multiple times, and I owe her at least that much." It brings a smile to my face to hear Aaliyah complement my daughter. After she was kicked out of the army for her inferior magic talents, she was so depressed. I'm happy to know she's making a good life for herself in Spotted Creek Village.

 

"That's quite alright," I tell Aaliyah. "Our relationship is estranged after all these years, and I'm sure she doesn't want to speak with me." I still remember the look on her face when I told her I was sending her to a village out in the middle of nowhere.

 

"I won't pretend to know what went on between you two, but I know as a daughter, I could never hate my father enough to never want to talk to him again. Just my opinion. I'll call back in a few weeks to get an update." The magic tool goes dark as Aaliyah disconnects from her end.

 

“She’s right, you know,” Marshall throws out his unwanted opinion.

 

“My relationship with my daughter is not the issue right now,” I snap at him. “What are we going to do about Aaliyah and Grey?”

 

I was content to play both sides of the conflict and work with the winner, but most of my plans were hedging on Aaliyah's rising abilities. She still wants to work with us, but that only applies until Aaliyah leaves for Scholl. Should I revise my original plan without including Aaliyah, or do I double down on the golden rock and throw Silver Herd in with Scholl?

 

It has always been my family's goal to grow and be recognized as a major trade organization, does it matter if that just so happens to be in a different kingdom than Olebert?

 

My father always planned to compete with Olebert's big trading companies, but I'm not sure if that is feasible any longer.

 

There's a branch in the path before me, and I can no longer see which leads to profit and which to ruin. "Marshall, should I bet on Olebert or Aaliyah?"

 

Marshall thinks over my question. “Olebert would be the safe bet,” he tells me.

 

I nod my head.

 

“But opportunities like Aaliyah only show up once in a lifetime, maybe longer. It’s up to you, Boss,” Marshall reminds me.

 

I have no idea about the various trade unions in Scholl. A few merchants would risk the trek between nations before the war, but Scholl's only notable export has always been magic beast materials. I'll need to figure out a way to gather more information before committing to one side or the other. But until then, I make eye contact with Marshall. "Contact One, and have her intercept Pacore before he enters Drey."

 

“And have her do what exactly?” Marshall gives me a concerned look, afraid I might ask that One try to assassinate the man.

 

I snort at his needless worry. One might be our best agent, but even she wouldn't be able to harm Pacore. Even if the rumors about him are only half true, he would still be able to kill all the numbers on his own. "I want her to convince Pacore that he should wait to kill Grey until we have better control over the situation.”

 

“Do you think that will work?”

 

“It’s the best I have at the moment,” I admit.

 

"You sound like Aaliyah now," in a rare moment, Marshall pokes fun at me.

 

“Well, you said I should listen to her,” I quip back.

 

“Gods help us all,” Marshall playfully shakes his head before moving to prepare a message for One.

 

Left alone to my own thoughts, I can't help but think about whether I'll lead Silver Herd to success or doom. Time will only tell if I make the right decision.

 

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A note from kosnik4

5,700 words.

 

I hope you all enjoyed the chapter and are having a great weekend. Stay safe out there.


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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