"This is Suzanna. She is a senior swordsmaster and my deputy."
"Nice meeting you," Suzanna nodded and said.
"Certainly, certainly," Ozzic said. "I’m Ozzic, leader of Dragon Rider mercenaries."
"I’ve been looking forward to meeting you." In front of others, Suzanna appeared cold and distant. She said that she had been looking forward to meeting Ozzic, though her expression was cold and unreadable.
"Ozzic, these are the quarters prepared for your men. The houses are newly built and unoccupied. I apologize in advance for any discomfort caused by the houses." Anfey smiled and turned to look at the men Ozzic brought. "I am not sure if we can house two thousand people, though."
"Don’t worry. I saw a clearing outside. We can camp there."
"Don’t worry about it, I tell you. For mercenaries like us, camping outside is common. Don’t let it bother you," Ozzic said.
"Our resources are limited. That is the only way. I can trust you to put an end to any possible complaints?"
"Let me handle that," Ozzic promised. He pounded on his chest with a fist a few times, then turned to join his mercenaries and began leading them toward their campground.
"Do we have to be so friendly?" Zubin asked quietly as soon as Ozzic was out of earshot.
Suzanna nodded in agreement. "They aren’t our guests," she said. "Letting mercenaries into the town was the most we should have offered. Other mercenaries can camp wherever they want, but they can’t come into the town."
"It’s not that easy," Anfey said, shaking his head. "Zubin, go tell Christian that we need to start moving our belongings into the tunnels immediately. Suzanna, take Riska, Blavi, and Sante and station yourselves beyond the town. We cannot let the mercenaries go past the old trees."
"What if they insist?"
"It’s not that easy keeping the secrets of the tunnels away from them," Black Eleven said. "Moramatch’s tunnels are well known. You can’t keep it from them."
"I don’t want to keep it a secret," Anfey said. "I need Ozzic to know that is the bottom line. It is my only warning. The rest is up to him."
"All the houses have entrances to the tunnels. What if they go through there?"
"Have your men keep an eye on the tunnel lobby. Kill any unauthorized personnel down there."
Black Eleven shook his head. "What if Ozzic asks about his men, or wants to explore the town?"
"Killing is killing. Killing one man is the same as killing a hundred. If they ignore my warnings, I don’t mind killing a few more."
After spending so much time together, everyone was used to Anfey’s personality. It didn’t matter under what circumstances he said "kill," he was never joking. Even if the number of Dragon Riders mercenaries increase tenfold, Anfey would not change his mind, only his tactics.
"They came so they could fight Shansa Empire. Can't we use a more secretive way to manipulate them?"
"I want to work with Ozzic, but he cannot cross my line. If it really comes to it, I will make my move first."
The mercenaries had a very strong sense of punctuality. After breakfast, several mercenary groups arrived at the town. Anfey did not appear, but Ozzic was very busy. By sundown, thousands of mercenaries dotted the hill on the outskirts of town. Men, women, young, old were all packed into the same space.
Seeing that the sun was about to set, Ozzic walked onto the hill and waved at his men. One of his mercenaries began banging on a large drum, and a mage walked up to amplify his voice.
"I think everyone knows why we are all gathered here. I want to thank everyone in advance. Everyone who has the courage to come here is a hero. Nothing can scare us, not even Shansa Empire." Ozzic appeared very excited. "I want to ask, how did this happen? How did the Country of Mercenaries became something that other nations can simply tread on? Who allowed invaders into our country?"
The mercenaries fell silent, listening to Ozzic’s speech. Anfey and Suzanna observed the scene from a distance. What they were worried about earlier did not happen. There were a few men from Dragon Riders mercenary who wanted to go to the back of the town, but they did not insist on going after they were stopped by Suzanna. However, Anfey still did not lower his guard. It was very hard to gain the trust of people like Anfey. He did not start trusting Christian and Suzanna until he had known them a long time, let alone some unfamiliar mercenaries.
"What is this?" Ozzic asked. He held up a rotten apple for all of his listeners to see. "Look at this rotten apple. The world is like this. There will be no growth without rot. No life without death.
"A long time ago, the four major mercenary groups were the backbone of our nation. They fought for our freedom. No matter how terrible the enemy, how difficult the situation, they did not back down. Now what is happening? Let me tell everyone. They are rotting! Tiger of Tawau mercenaries wanted to ally themselves with Shansa Empire, and they turned their swords toward their own countrymen! Tiger of Tawau mercenary now controls Blackwater City, and they are putting our brothers and sisters through hell!
"Glory mercenary isn't much better. What they and Tiger of Tawau mercenary did made us look weak and unorganized. Now Ellisen Empire also has found an excuse to invade us. When did our nation become a place where other nations could show disrespect like this? Can we allow this?"
"No!" The gathered mercenaries called loudly.
"The four mercenary groups are not to be trusted anymore. We can only rely on ourselves to defend our country. Take up your weapons and let us unite against our common enemies!"
Anfey shook his head and turned away. "Let’s go."
"You don’t want to listen to the whole thing?"
"There's no point. I’ve seen a lot of people like him. What they say and what they think could be two different things." Anfey shrugged. "Even if I'm wrong, and Ozzic really is a hero, nothing could be solved by waving his arms."
"I sense you don’t like Ozzic," Suzanna said.
"Why is that?"
"Instinct, I suppose. When I meet new people, sometimes I find myself liking and gravitating towards them. Sometimes I dislike them. Some people makes me nervous. I can’t exactly tell you why."
"What about me?"
"You’re the first type."
"What is the first type?" Suzanna said, searching for a clearer answer to a question she deemed important. Anfey had already answered, but Suzanna wanted to a more straightforward answer.
"Of course I liked you." This wasn’t about lying or not. Anfey wanted to make Suzanna as happy as possible, even though he was very nervous when he first met her.
"You’re not just sweet talking, are you?" Suzanna asked, smiling. The two of them had a death match in a pond the first time they met, and Suzanna knew very well Anfey wasn’t telling the truth. Suzanna was still happy. There was a saying about how people in love were not as smart. It seemed like there was a degree of truth to it.
"Oh, by the way, tell Shally not to tell anyone her name."
"Why? What happened?" Suzanna asked.
"Gruce Principality’s wanted warrant just reached the Country of Mercenaries," Anfey told her. "Zubin and I saw it when we went to White Mountain City last time. He didn’t see your name, though, which was…strange."
Suzanna stopped and looked at Anfey. "I know you want to know my past," she said quietly, "but it’s better for both of us if you don’t."
"If you want to tell me, I’m all ears. If you don’t want to tell me anything, I won’t press you," Anfey said. "Don’t overthink it. Zubin saw it randomly. Come on, let’s go. Christian is still waiting."