Chapter 215 Skeleton Fingers
Theo was brought to the second floor of the small house; the brawny man had told the waiters to continue cleaning then shut the door.
These rooms were usually used to entertain those customers with special needs, but for only twenty-five copper royals a night, the environment wasn’t very elegant. Within the room, there was an unpleasant moldy smelling and a narrow bed, with a bedding on top which was so crumpled as if it hadn't been washed or taken out to the sun to dry for a very long time. The cracked table was missing a corner and the cracks were filled with a black floccule, giving it a dirty and greasy appearance. But Theo was too lazy to care about all of this, he sat on the bedside, quietly waiting for the opposite party to start to talk.
"You have disappeared for quite a while,” the brawny man said with a grin. “Since Sir Naji has taken your seat, why didn’t you have come to the tavern? Even if you are no longer in charge of this matter, you could still have come to drink a cup of wine with us, right?"
His nickname was Black Hammer; he was the watchman for the “Covert Trumpeter”, and one of skeleton fingers’ member. His name sounded quite scary, but he was only one of King’s City many street rats. To help each other, the rats had formed groups, divided the territory under their control, and according to their business operation they were either a huge and firm group or a loose organization. These underground organizations had more or less all had a noble or wealthy merchant as mastermind behind them and the skeleton fingers was no exception. But unlike a domestic dog, most rats didn’t choose to be loyal to only one person, as long as they became interested, they would work for everyone.
"Nonsense," Theo said bluntly. "This night, you will call Hillwei, Swineherd, Silver Ring, and Pott into the tavern. I have something I need to get done.”
"These few are only the people of the Covert Trumpeter," Black Hammer shouted out shocked, "Will they be enough?
"I said, this is an excellent business opportunity." He shrugged, "I have come looking for you since you have done a lot of things for me already."
According to the usual procedure when dealing with street rats, the first step was to find the connector, and then it was the other party who determined whether they take up the task or not. When the two came to an agreement, the connector would delegate the task to the right person, and at the same time be in charge of the money.
Of course, during the whole process, they would make no contract or certificate which could be used as a guarantee, and ultimately, if they could achieve the desired result for the employer was also completely unknown. In general it could be said that the more prestigious organizations would care about their credibility, so their commission costs were also high, while the new organization would charge a lower price, but made it more likely to lose one’s life and property in the process. With time a delicate balance had been formed between the street rats and the city patrol, which together maintained an image of superficial order inside of King’s City.
Before Theo had entered the palace to become a palace guard, he had served as patrol, responsible for giving some task to the street rats to handle if they were inconvenient for the public to see. As a result, making it very clear to him which groups of street rats were the most powerful and what their share in King’s City was, giving him the opportunity to eliminate the time taken to deal with the connector. As for the reason why he had chosen the Skeleton Fingers, that was because they weren’t as thoroughly bad as the others.
"Can I ask you, whom are you working now?" Black Hammer asked after a moment of hesitation.
Theo didn’t give him an answer. Instead, he simply pointed with his thumb into the direction of the palace behind him.
After leaving the patrol and rats, most people only knew that he had become a guard, but they didn’t know that he was soon selected by Wimbledon III as the personal guard of the 4th Prince, following His Royal Highness to Border Town. Within his six months of disappearance, they should think that he had been working in the palace. Moreover, by just pointing to the direction of the palace, he hadn’t lied – the royal family wasn’t only Timothy, Roland Wimbledon was also a member of the royal family.
"I see," he nodded. "But Hillwei and Swineherd are gone, can I pick my own hands?"
"What happened to them?"
"Dead," Black Hammer said full of hate, "Within last year’s winter, a conflict with the people of Dreamland Water arose, they had taken hold of poppy flowers and dying fern, selling it within the northern city district. Casas had led everyone to drive them back. During the fight, Hillwei got a knife to his neck, the blood simply could not be stopped from flowing, and Swineherd was also thrown into the canal.
Theo frowned, with such kind of thinks the patrol would bother themselves, from time to time they would even deliberately provoke the rats into biting each other in order to control their strength and quantity, so whenever one of them died, they wouldn’t care. "That's all right, but remember, they must be the people of the tavern.”
Theo took a deep breath after leaving the Covert Trumpeter.
The moist and moldy smell in the pub made him want to vomit, only when his lungs were once more filled with the burning hot summer air was he able to disperse the dark and suffocating feeling.
Although Black Hammer had invited him to wait in the tavern, even claiming that he would come up with good wine to entertain him, Theo wasn't willing to stay in that small place for too long. In the event that something unforeseen arose, he would be unable to react by the time he became aware of it.
After leaving the tavern, he decided to go to the inner city, and look for a reasonable Inn and reserve a room there for the night. As for the soldiers of the first army, they were already very skilled in setting up camp for the night, so there was no need for him to worry about them.
When night fell, Theo returned to the Convert Trumpeter.
At this time, the pub was doing its usual business, and from time to time a customer would enter or exit. For a while he just watched from the dark, waiting for the regular customers to come into the house.
As a low-grade tavern in the outer city, most of the visitors were commoners, so the drinks were also the cheap ale. Just ten copper royals was enough to drink several large cups in succession. Within the noisy surrounding, he quickly found Black Hammer’s men; they were sitting around a table next to the wall and on top of their table laid a white phalange.
When Theo, calmly and collectedly walked over, a person immediately stood up to make a place for him.
"Good evening, Sir," Silver Ring and Pott greeted him with a nod.
"Let me introduce these two to you. This is Little Finger." Black Hammer patted the little woman beside him and then pointed at the young man opposite her, "And this one is Hill Fawkes, he only recently became a member of the Skeleton Fingers."
"Fawkes?" Theo's eyes stopped on the opposite party, while the latter somewhat sparingly bowed his head in greeting.
"Within our line of work, there are only a few who have a family name," Black Hammer laughed, "he had gambled until nothing was left. First, his wife ran away, then he even had to sell his house, after that he came to join the ranks of the street rats. He used to live in the Northern District and was an occasionally patron of the Covert Trumpeter."
Silver Rings and Pott were old acquaintances, while Little Finger looked like any other child from the streets, but Hill Fawkes, Theo actually felt that there was something strange about him... yet, his appearance really resembled someone who had gone through such a drastic change of life, suffering physically and mentally. Yet, within his eyes, there was something, which Theo was unable to grasp, it was like... In the end, after thinking about it, he was still unable to get an answer.
Whatever, since he had been living in the Northern District and was a customer of the tavern, there shouldn't be a problem. Furthermore, my first task it just to complete the transport of the fugitives, there isn't any risk involved.
"Alright, now listen, the job you have to do isn't complicated. The upper ranks don't want to see that the number of fugitives who fled from the Eastern Region continues to increase. The grain reserves are becoming less and less every day, if it goes on like this, it is only a matter of time until riots start to break out, making it much harder to deal with them. Because of this, they thought of a way to lure them away from King's City."
"What do you need us to do?" Black Hammer asked.
"It is very simple; you only have to spread the message that the wasteland in the West is being reclaimed and that the local Lords are willing to accept the fugitives. Moreover, a fleet with mercenaries has already set out to escort them back and will arrive in three days at the canal's pier. So, the only thing you need to do is to spread this message between those fools outside of the city. Feel free to add the specific details, the more attractive you make it appear, the better.
"But... If the appointed time for the fleet and mercenaries comes and they aren't there, saying all this will have no use ah." Silver Ring said.
"Of course, the escort will come," Theo smiled.
"Ah?" He got startled, "Is it really true that the Lords of the Western Region want to accept them?"
"You fool," Black Hammer gave him a slap on top of his head, "If you want to play such an act, you naturally have to go through with it. After they get escorted to the Western Region, do you believe they will be able to come back by only relying on their two feet? As for how to handle them afterward, let the local Lords get a headache about that." He looked to Theo, "This is indeed not a difficult task, but the reward..."
Theo raised two fingers, "Twice as much. My new employer has money, unlike the patrol. He just wants to see some results as quickly as possible, how much gold royals it will cost him, doesn't matter to him." He smiled, "Haven't I told you already, that this is very a good business deal."
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