Two days passed by quickly, the last half a day spent cultivating and then sleeping made time pass in a blur. Drilling to get his body and techniques synced once more had taken up almost an entire day, most of it being chased around or fighting back against his team or the rest of the Durians management group.
It seemed nearly everyone had a better Body attribute than him, but thankfully, years spent training – unlike some of those here – left him with better overall skills. It still did not save him from the constantly accumulating bruises, but all those faded away in hours thanks to the Tower and his cultivation technique healing working in conjunction.
All of which meant, that on the day of their meeting, Arthur was as prepared as he could be. He still tugged at the new set of clothing that had made its way to his room, grimacing as he ran his fingers down the nice black silk.
“I don’t know why I have to dress up,” Arthur muttered. “I mean, I know why. Got to look the part. But did it have to be like a tart?”
“Yes,” Jan said, walking beside him.
Yao Jing was on the other side, flanking him and a little behind like Jan was a little ahead. The pair who had become his defacto bodyguards were both here for this meeting, as was Mel. Arthur knew that Uswah and a few of the other teams had drifted ahead too, and some would be coming behind all to surround the meeting area.
“And why black?” Arthur grumbled. “Couldn’t we have a little more splash? A little more pizazz if we’re going with making a statement.”
“It’s cheaper, it shows blood less well when you inevitably get stabbed and we can replace the panels simpler,” Mel said, ticking each point off with a finger. “Any further questions?”
“Why is everyone thinking I’m going to get stabbed?” Arthur complained.
There was pointed silence, before Jan chose to speak. “I want to stab you lah, why wouldn’t they?”
“You know, having your bodyguard say she wants to stab you always makes me uncomfortable,” Arthur said.
“Keeps you honest though, eh?”
Arthur snorted. “Like there’s much to steal.”
“That you haven’t already used?” Jan let that statement linger in the air, watching as Arthur hunched in a little. He really had been hogging a lot of the resources lately.
“It’s fine. We need you strong. For meetings like this boss.” A clap on the back of his shoulder from Yao Jing brought Arthur’s head up and he let out a long breath.
Forcibly straightening himself up, he glared at Jan only to catch Mel giving her the death stare too. He almost chose to smirk before choosing to keep that hidden, not wanting to drive the point home too much. Getting her to stop picking at him might never stop, but at least she was learning when and where.
Or so he hoped at least.
“So, we got everything ready for this?” Arthur said, idly. He let his gaze bounce around the tiny beginner village, noting that there weren’t anymore people hanging around than usual. They’d kept word of the meeting quiet it seemed, which meant that they shouldn’t have an oversized crowd this time. “I know the other groups haven’t chosen to throw in with us just yet, but Mohammad Oman?”
“He’s one of those coming from behind,” Mel said. “We weren’t exactly sure where to put him, so figured reinforcements work. Or, well, his second.”
Arthur nodded. “Any word on the rest of the Suey Ying?”
“Not really. We know they’ve joined other groups, but most of them aren’t even in the village anymore.” Mel chuckled darkly. “Seems like they’re all being put to work hard. Maybe to keep them out of sight of us. Maybe just ‘cause they’re all asses and that’s what they deserve.”
“Good enough for me.” He slowed down a little as they came towards the no man’s land between village and tent city. His grip tightened on the black spear he held, and for a moment he felt a flash of uncertainty run through him.
Before he could ask, Mel cut him off. “Your call, remember. We just follow your lead. And it’s too late to back out.”
“Yeah, yeah. I was actually just going to ask if anyone had any gum,” he huffed into his hand and frowned. “Don’t want to make a bad impression.”
“Too late.” Jan pointed with a hand held down low. Following the motion in the direction, Arthur realized that between his hesitation and him looking at Mel when she spoke, the Chin’s representative had made her appearance.
“Four. Coincidence or spies?” Arthur said, idly.
Yao Jing was eyeing the bodyguard on the left, another massive bodybuilder who looked like he ate two dozen eggs for breakfast and then had three dozen more for lunch. He even wore a way too tight shirt, one that looked to be straining to hold itself together with each breath.
On the other side of the bodyguard and their charge was another guard, this one clad in a full black suit. The man might have been doing an impersonation of a secret service bodyguard, for all the sunglasses and tie getup he was wearing, but it mostly made him look foolish. While the Tower was cooler than the outside, it was more a case of twenty eight degrees Celsius rather than the boiling thirty eight degrees. Warm enough to make wearing a full suit foolish in the extreme.
Ignoring the guards, Arthur eyed the older man standing right behind the Chin woman, just to the side. He had the look of a real bureaucrat, and one who had been here for ages. There were lines in his eyes and a seriously thinned top along with a pair of glasses. Considering the Tower fixed most sight problems when one entered, he must have been doing a lot of reading to require them again.
And, of course, finally, it was the Chin girl. The representative of the infamous, powerful Clan. The ones who had tried to kill him.
And she gorgeous.
“You might want to close your mouth before a fly flies in.” Mel’s voice was chilly. “And maybe not sell us out for a pretty face.”
Coughing, his face a little flushed in embarrassment, Arthur snapped his mouth shut. He straightened himself out, gave his head a shake and reminded himself that she had tried to kill him. So. Pretty face or not, she was a killer. It wasn’t even as though he was raring to go – the Yin chi in his body kept him calmed to some extent. Still, he was a man, and he could look and admire.
Striding over with that refrain in his mind, he met her outside the boundaries as agreed, forcing his eyes to keep moving as he searched for treachery or additional danger. Finding none, he found his heartbeat speeding up a little more.
Hidden treachery was worse, it seemed than visible ones.
“Arthur Chua?” Her voice was clear, bright and cultured. British accent. And not a fake one, like some Malaysian’s got after spending three months overseas, but smooth and without a wrong inflection.
“I am glad you were willing to meet with me.” Then, to his utter surprise, she dropped into a deep bow from her waist, hands together. “I apologise for the earlier actions taken against you. They were unconscionable and I can only blame inexperience at managing my personnel.
“I hope you can forgive me.”
For the second time in the meeting in as many minutes, Arthur found himself floored.