"I can't say I know many people at the party at all." Arthur answered Roshi's question. "Your companion is definitely a great swordsman though. And I'm handy with a sword, as well. Why do you ask, Yasumori-san?" Arthur had no idea why the leader of the JHWAB needed another swordsman when he already his bodyguard here.
Just then, Loveline and the fairy appeared next to them. The fairy explained to them how to access their services and also threw in what appeared to be a quick jab at... Someone. Probably another stuck-up rich guy. And then the fairy left
Loveline sat down. "Whew, sorry, but these teleportations are somehow weirder then the little teleport stones. I hope I didn't interrupt anything important."
Melea rubbed away the tears, once again glad she didn't wear the traditional face paint to go with this outfit. It would have run all over. "Do you ever speak clearly? Just give me your demands. I have other things to do you know." Melea wondered if this woman somehow knew about her country's greatest resource. She just might have to refuse if asked for that, depending on how much Madam Elizabeth demanded as a fee. Cherry sighed and rubbed her forehead with her palm, massaging it like it would scrub out the stress. "Oh well, nothing I can do about it now. Come on." She grabbed the brat's wrist and drug him across the room back to the tables. There she picked a small round table with three seats. She pulled chairs out for Sherry and the child out of habit.
"You don't know? Death Knights are greater undead. They're loyal knights, so a necromancer can only make them from somebody who was loyal to them in life. They're the bravest heroes who can fight off any foe!" As Cherry dramatically described the glorious undead warriors, Sherry grabbed a knife off the table and held it aloft like a sword, striking a triumphant pose. "What do your parents do? They must be important if they got to drag you here.” She didn’t hide her disgust with the child. He had only become more unpleasant to deal with as this went on. “It might be a little late for that.” Ellen admitted. “My dad had a heart attack and died last year, and I haven’t seen my mom since I left for college. I don’t really want to see her you know, she never did anything to me but she never paid attention to me and neither did he, he just drank and left his booze where I could reach it so I spent ten years fighting off an alcohol problem that ironically only ended when I could legally drink and nobody noticed or maybe they did and didn’t care.” Ellen stopped herself from saying more forcefully. “Sorry. That was a bit personal. It’s never your job to make people better. Only the threat of force can change people like that.”
Roshi showed a sly old fox smile. -I admit I do not like these kind of gatherings, too much western formality for my tastes, but years over years have granted me a great tolerance to the empty ceremony.- The JHWAB Leader pointed at Callis with a barely noticeable nod. -But I think that my bodyguard lacks that tolerance and seems a bit tense.- The Beast Knight awkwardly move away from a passing waitress as Roshi kept talking, only proving his point. -And according to his BHA bio he seems to be possibly a top ranking swordsman, unlike any other they met.- His smile had just a hint of sarcasm. -Trust me when I tell you that the Japanese Branch, Yatagarasu, is over-crowded with sword-happy idiots who tend to cause more harm than good. So admiting that somebody might be better than them is quite the feat.-
Roshi then went to explain his idea. -I’ve seen more than enough empty gardens and isolated spaces around, so I’ve an idea.- He pointed at Callis and then at Arthur. -I wish you could have a short exhibition duel with Nomene here, to get his blood pumping and try to make him forget his nerves as I have no use for a jumpy and nervous bodyguard.- Roshi really meant that, but truly he also wanted to witness something more entertaining than the droll and lackluster luxury of the party. -So what do you say? I can assure secrecy and the ignorance of the hosts.- He winked, knowing that a couple of basic spells would allow them privacy and weapons only useful for a mostly ceremonial duel.
Madam Elizabeth stares at Melea for a few moments as if she is reading her mind. She eventually reaches into her purple purse. This time pulling out a rolled up piece of paper along with a quill pen. She places them both down on the table. The tip of the quill faces Melea as the paper remains rolled. “My price is written on that fragile piece of paper. Read it silently to yourself. And remember this my beautiful queen. You can never be too careful. There are prying ears everywhere these days.” Her eyes glance around the room as she continues to display a polite and small smile. “If you do choose to sign, you will be obligated to make the payment once a year. To save you a headache, I’ll allow you to follow your own calendar. Doesn’t matter when, but sometime this year you will make a pay me. It can be tomorrow when you get back home, or the last day of the year. It makes no difference to me. Just make sure to follow the instructions carefully."
The boy looks at Sherry the entire time that Cherry is explaining the concept of a death knight to her. Wondering if he will be able to create one some day himself. When she explains the part of them being loyal, he becomes sad as he didn’t know anyone who could be a Death Knight for him. Everyone he knew is just loyal to his parent’s money. He turn away from the table for a moment as he tries to search for his parents again, yet he couldn’t spot them anywhere. He turns back to Cherry when she asked him a question. He initially replies with a quick and slight head tilt as he didn’t fully understand the question. “They work a lot, and a lot of people work for them,” he answered honestly. The lad didn’t know what exactly his parents do for a living, but he did understands that they are important. Which in turn males him feel important. “So, what do you do?” the boy asked the question back to her. There was no thinking behind his question, he merely replicated the question he was asked out of childish habit.
Before Smith could reply to Ellen, another bell rings and echoes throughout dinning room. Once again everyone turns deadly silent as they wait for the next person to walk down the staircase. Everyone knew who was coming down those steps next. And for a moment Smith has the urge to leave the room before the man could arrive. Yet, he forces himself to wait and see this through. The silence is finally ended when a nearby servant announces the arrival of Smith’s father,“I present to you, Lord Maximus Smith.” Marvel eyes turn upwards along with the rest of the family to spot the master of the estate at the top of the grand staircase.
The first thing he immediately notices is how much older his father looks. Though he hasn’t seen him for several years now, the man looks to be decades older. What was once jet black hair has now turn pale with touches of grey all around, with the sides of his head no longer containing any of its previous black. Though the biggest surprise to him is that his father has decided to grew a beard. The beard completely masks his checks, chin, and lower jaw in a thick, but well-trimmed layer of grayish hair. However his eyes are still icy blue as ever. And judging by the dark circles around his eyes, the man must be in dire need of rest, but his focus appears to become clearer when he looks down at him. Seeing the failure of the family before his eyes has given the man new strength from his endless supply of anger and disappointment. But his facial expression never changed. No one in the room would be able to tell the difference. No one but Marvel, who has been on the receiving end of that particular glare from his father too many times to ever forget. His father only looked at him for a split second, but that was all he needed to get inside his head.
His father is dress in his typical formal attire. A somewhat loose, buy heavy black suit with bright white stripes, along with a short black cape hanging over his shoulders. The cape contain many unique golden symbols around the family crest located at the center of the cape. The Smith family sigil is a european style blue dragon flying over a grey mountain range against a white background. The outfit is completed by his black dress shoes, which the man doesn’t even bother to use to get down the staircase as he decides to teleport to the bottom of the steps. As he steps towards the gigantic and elaborate dinning table, the rest of the family proceeds to bow deeply at their approaching patriarch, including all his children with the exception of Marvel. His unwillingness to show respect causes a couple of the younger children at the table to whisper questions, but their older siblings and parents quickly hush them to be quiet. Lord Maximus gradually makes his way to the head of the table as he makes a hang gesture, causing all the servants in both the room and throughout the entire estate to act.
Just a few moments before, the guests have finally been seated at their tables inside the massive ballroom, with the exception of those waiting for Maximus in the private room, where Madam Elizabeth, Melea, and the other more secretive acquaintances of Maximus are waiting patiently inside. Plenty of servants begin to walk through the elegant doors leading in and out of the colossal ballroom, which seem to open on their own. The servants enter carrying bottles and trays full of wine glasses stack on top of each other in pyramid like structures. In an incredibly organize fashion the servants place a wine glass in front of every guest and their bodyguards (everyone who is appropriately old enough to drink received a glass). Once the glasses are set, a different set of servants would then approach each table to fill the glasses with an extremely expensive bottle of vintage red wine. The entire process takes a few minutes, but eventually more than four thousand people have a vibrant rich wine in front of them. Oddly enough, the only person not sitting at a table outside the estate’s employees is Mr. Stone, who is still sitting at the bar and appears to be arguing with the red fairy that had just recently helped out Loveline. However once a few household guards arrive at the scene, and soon enough the man gives up and walks away from the bar as he says his goodbyes to the bartender. He takes a quick stroll towards the table of young adults he is being payed to protect, which is located near the center of the room. A few moments later and a hologram suddenly materializes in mid air over the ballroom. Projecting a live feed of Lord Maximus Smith.
By the time he reaches his chair, everyone has been given a glass of red wine at the table excluding the younglings of course. Even Marvel and Ellen have been given a glass full of sweet wine. Looking forward the master of the estate prepares to give his short speech for the members of his house and his guests. Maximus reaches down and picks up his own wine glass before lifting it to the air. “A Toast!” The other members copy the gesture and lift their own glasses, which is quickly followed by the guests inside the ballroom. “May we all find ourselves in good health, and look forward to a future full of prosperity.” Yet when he said these words his eyes only would meet the gaze of his children sitting at the head of the table. He proceeds to sip his wine, which everyone else in the room and the majority in the ballroom repeat in unison, however Smith remains unmoving with his wine glass still on the table. Lord Maximus places his drink down and looks forward at the camera recording the live feed.
“Thank you all for being here tonight. Welcome to my humble home, which celebrates turning one hundred years old today. I know a few here in attendance tonight were fortunate enough to be present when the first brick was laid a century ago, and there are even more here who have the greater fortunate of knowing the builder of this estate. My grandfather, Mason Smith, was a man who not only created a home for us to share this evening together, but he helped build and protect our community. Because for him the community was a second family that we all belong to. I, along with the rest of the Smith family, share this sentiment. Which is why we will continue to support the preservation and expansion of the magic community to the best of our abilities. However, such a task is too large for a single family, and far too important to be left to chance. In the past I had propose the formation of a council of mages, who will be given the responsibility and authority to be able to properly act on our collective interests. For too long we have been split into too many factions, which prevents us from making any real progress. But if we stand together now, there is nothing that we won’t be able to accomplish.”
“Again, thank you all for being here tonight. I hope you will consider my words deeply within your hearts and minds. Please enjoy the food and the rest of the evening.” And with that the hologram vanishes. Leaving the guests to ponder on Lord Maximus’ words. A few seconds later and the doors open on their own. Once more a small army of servants march throughout the room, this time handing out mouth watery dishes. By some miracle every person is serve a unique dish that fits their particular palate perfectly. Not only that, but people will quickly notice that the flavor of their wine has alerted to best compliment their dish. it wasn’t long before the room is full of conversations and music, as a few musicians start to play in the corner of the room. The atmosphere of the ballroom is one of joy and good feelings between thousands as they consume their meals in utter bliss. However, that is not to say that everybody was having fun.
"While I want to jump at the offer, I'm afraid that isn't possible, sir. The invitation listed many forms of magic that would be inaccessible during this charming little party." The sarcasm on the word charming was clear. "One of them were hiding spells. While I'm sure you can find a way to work around them, I doubt you would be able to hide your workarounds from the many mages who I'm sure organized this event."
While he wanted to go on a tirade about the fairly uninteresting proceedings, he was stopped by the sudden appearance of a giant hologram showing Lord Maximilian, the host. Arthur rolled his eyes at yet attempt at grabbing everyone's attention. Of course the guy who organized this party would feel the need to show off to everyone like that. And of course he would be too snobby to even grace his guests with his physical presence. And the worst part was that Arthur was given wine! He didn't like wine or any other alcoholic beverages! After the toast, he merely put his glass down
Arthur rolled his eyes again when the host started his speech. "Humble home" indeed. At least own up to your own frivolous spending and kitsch tastes, you pretentious bastard! But by the time the speech was over, he found himself slightly nodding his head. The idea didn't seem terrible. But, it also didn't seem that good. Arthur could see all the ways this council could be used the wrong way. In fact, he was certain that it wasn't just a means of acting on the interests of mages, but that it had hidden motives. A bid for power? With a consolidation of power like that, with the man who suggested it at the head of the council, there was no doubt some shady shit could be arranged. In fact, a hidden world collective like this could probably rival the organizations.
"Yasumori-san, what do you think of this plan? While I know your interests are primarily focused on Japan, a council like this could affect the entirety of the hidden world." He asked Roshi, and took the glass of wine he didn't bother with before. Out of a strange curiosity he took a sip and discovered it didn't taste like alcohol at all. In fact, it was more like normal grape juice. While he was confused by that he failed to notice Loveline more then gleefully sipping her own glass filled with what should be grape juice.
Melea's eye took in the contract, every line and everything between them too. "That's all?" She asked, raising an eyebrow. "Really, I expected much worse." She laughed as she read it again. Her eyes had not deceived her. "I accept your bargain, Madam Elizabeth!" Her quill dashed out over the page in a few quick slashes, leaving her signature marked irreparably on what was clean paper. "I am ready." She growled, eye burning yellow, casting her whole face in an unhealthy light. "Hm." Was Cherry's restrained response to the child's description. Royalty did not smack small children upside the head. Even stupid children. "I work for Friends of the Dead. We supply and handle undead all over the world." She puffed out her chest in pride, stopping when her meal arrived. "Oh, thank you." She did a slight bow, as best she could while seated. Before her were a few golden-seared chicken parts, surrounded by a healthy heaping of vegetables soaked in the same golden sauce that spiced the chicken. "Ugh. Mind reading is poor hosting etiquette." She said even as she lifted the vegetables to her lips. It was exactly what she wanted, and that was what annoyed her. When Smith's father entered, she felt a strange pang of disappointment. This man was the owner of everything here? He seemed so small and ordinary among it all, nothing special compared to the others here. When his speech ended, she turned to Smith and huffed. "His ideas aren't crazy of course but to think of who he would pick for a council especially because he favors mages over others and that's really not okay!" She paused when a plate of macaroni and cheese, looking surprisingly cheap and simple compared to the other dishes here, was set before her. "Also does this place have mind reading stuff, I'm also very not okay with that even though this is my favorite." She poked at it with her fork like she was worried that it was reading her mind itself.
-You’re right Cromwell-kun.- Roshi looked at the drink on his hand. -I used to be less susceptible to spirits, maybe I’m getting too old.- For a moment it seemed that he was about to leave the glass on the table but finally he shrugged and chugged the contents. The evening was starting to become almost unbearable for the the JHWAB Leader, not too kind on displays of ostentation or power. When Maximus started talking Roshi had to contain a chuckle and a spurt of air. “When I got to my century of life I didn’t make a lavish party.” The Head of the Japanese Hidden World, at least the human representative, was partially intrigued by the proposition, yet he knew the temperament of magicians, usually reserved and close minded, wouldn’t be helpful for this endeavor.
-My opinion, Cromwell-kun?- Roshi spoke with a half-smile. -I don’t think this will work, cooperation in the arcane arts always comes with a cost and this kind of selfless association tends to end in tragedy, black magic or bureaucracy.- He lifted a finger each time he mentioned something. -I’ve seen enough tragedy in my life, I actively pursue black magic like Necromancy and I’m close enough of reaching a point in which suicide seems more attractive that filling up more paperwork on my daily life.- Roshi was already elbow deep in JHWAB affairs, and couldn’t spare a single mage to join this kind of doomed, at least on his mind, enterprise. -Yet this managed to remind me of the need to talk with people I really don’t want to talk to.- Roshi was, of course, referring to meetings with the rest of the Hidden World Organizations to reveal what was happening in Japan.
He wasn’t looking forward to those meetings at all.