“It took you long enough.”
The voice surprised Arthur. Reflexively he turned to level his spear at the speaker. His group moved quickly too, including Rick whose hands dropped to his guns. The only one not going for a weapon was Su Mei, who actually started edging towards an alleyway, ready to bolt. Not that he blamed her. Sometimes, running was the smartest choice.
“Ms. Chin.” Arthur relaxed when he saw who it was. Eyeing the woman and then glancing over to her bodyguard, he said, “I didn’t realise you were waiting for me.”
“When the notification came that a new clan building was formed, I assumed you were in town. It didn’t take long to find it,” Casey said, rapping a wall of the alleyway she had walked out from. She would have been hard to make out, what with the alleyway cast in shadow. Even the looming bulk of her bodyguard was hard to make out, though a quick verification showed that both were missing backpacks and other gear like he and Jan were carrying. Likely they’d been in town for at least a day.
“I was picking up some quests,” Arthur said, then jerked his head sideways. “And some new and potential allies.”
“Really.” Now Casey’s voice grew chillier. She stepped closer, dark eyes glittering, the long hair that she’d tied off in a tight pigtail swaying. Once more Arthur was struck by how pretty she was. Also clean. That reminded him that he really did need a bath. “You’re taking on allies without my approval?”
“My clan, my choice,” Arthur said, bristling a little.
“Still, as current allies, I assumed you’d speak with me before making any serious decisions,” Casey said, stepping closer. Her gaze rested on Rick, who had taken his hands off his guns and stuck them in his belt. He was wearing a grin that Arthur assumed was meant to be charming. “Especially when dealing with sharks.”
“Sharks?” Rick said, shaking his head. “Nothing that dire. Nice to see you too, Casey.”
“You know him?” Arthur said curiously as he stepped aside.
“His parents mostly. His parents bought up a few manufacturing plants in Shah Alam, fired all the locals, retooled some of the machines, and then rehired people at half the number and cost,” Casey said coolly.
“That was my parents,” Rick said, mostly to Casey though he looked to Arthur as he said so, indicating who he was really interested in. “I don’t have much to do with that.”
“Makes me doubt you have access to any money then,” Arthur pointed out.
“I’m more with the Tower side of our investments,” Rick replied hurriedly.
Casey snorted. “Did he mention it’s a trust? And he only has an allowance? He’s not even on the board.”
“I didn’t want to be,” Rick snapped. “I’m a Tower climber. A real one.” He huffed, then faced Arthur fully. “If you’ll let me explain, I think you’ll find I can offer a lot. We can offer a lot. And yes, I can make certain promises.” He growled at Casey before she could reply. “Just . . . let’s talk somewhere more private?”
Arthur looked around automatically as his words, scanning the surroundings. Like most non-main thoroughfares, the road they walked on was neither paved nor lit well, with a number of quiet lurkers who were watching—and listening—to them. Not to mention, the makeshift housing all around them likely housed other cultivators, some of whom might have an Enhanced Hearing trait.
“Fair enough,” Arthur said. “Later.”
Casey’s lips pursed but he ignored the young woman, walking up to the main door of his new clan building. He placed a hand on it and waited a second. Not getting any notification from the Tower, he tried the door handle. That swung open easily enough.
He got in about a foot before he had to stop, with a blade resting against his throat.
“Urk.” Frozen Arthur stared down the blade and at the hovering, faceless figure that held it. The Tower guard retracted the blade after a moment, and now notifications bloomed.
Clan Head Confirmed
Control of Benevolent Durians Clan Building (Second Floor, Tower 2895) Confirmed
Building Bonus Chosen: Security (Town Guard assigned)
Total Number of Floors: 1
Total Number of Residents: 0
Total Number of Rooms: 18
Would you like to review the layout?
Arthur pushed the notification down for a moment without answering it, peering at the Tower guard before him. He could not help but ask as the silent faceless guard stood before him. “Why aren’t you named?”
No answer from the guard itself. In fact, after a moment, the Tower guard shifted away to stand by the side as Jan wandered in. Rick hovered near the door, not daring to enter while Casey looked on, annoyed as her bodyguard held her back with an overabundance of caution.
“Am I allowed in?” Casey said.
“And I?” Rick muttered.
“One second,” Arthur said. He flicked on the details of the layout, scanned through it for the rooms, noting it was rather a simplistic design. Main hallway they were within stretching on all the way down, with the room on the right designated as a dining hall and living room. The ones further down were all residences, storage closets, and shared bathrooms. The last four towards the end were larger, by a small amount, than the ones towards the front. Nothing much to hide or designate, not that the layout or options offered to him gave him much choice.
“Dining hall,” Arthur pointed. “Washroom right next to the dining hall. You’re now allowed to enter and use those for the moment, Rick, on a temporary basis.” He made sure to stress those words as he eyed the Tower guard. “Let’s call it a night.”
“Much appreciated,” Rick said, stepping in and making a motion like the tipping of a hat. He still made sure to keep a distance from the Tower guard that eyed him as he stepped in.
“And you’re good to go, Casey. You and your bodyguard,” Arthur said after a moment, designating them as long-term guests. “Rooms are down the hall, feel free to take any one you want that isn’t already filled.” He shrugged. “There’s enough right now for everyone, though I’m sure once the rest of the team get moving on finding members of the Thorned Lotuses, we’ll be filling up fast.”
“Good.” Casey stepped in and then turned to the bodyguard. “Get our gear. Check if Ah Kit has arrived. If not, leave a note for him to come meet us. And make sure they know to send what they owe us here as soon as they can.”
The bodyguard hesitated, then nodded. He left quickly. Casey closed the door after he was gone, then smiled grimly.
“Alright then, let’s see what Rick MacKenzie wants.” She strode towards the dining hall door immediately, throwing it open and leaving Arthur to watch, shaking his head.
“Ten seconds in my clan building and she’s ordering me around like she owns it.” He rolled his eyes, while Jan smirked at him. She mouthed something he found hard to read, though he assumed it was something along the lines of “I told you so.”
Really, she had. Still . . .
“Rank hath its privileges. Put this away for me?” Arthur unclipped his backpack and tossed it underhand towards Jan. The woman growled, refusing to grab it, but Su Mei smoothly stepped in and caught it for her.
“Where?” she asked.
“Last room at the end of the hall. Take the one on the right,” Arthur said, recalling the layout. Then he turned away before she could acknowledge him.
After all, Casey was not wrong. It was about time to deal with Rick.