The next day, Ves experienced a completely new day. The addition of Nitaa and Crindon to his staff made him feel a lot more at ease because he was finally able to offload some of his concerns to his new bondsmen.
With the imposing form of Nitaa following behind his back, people started to divert to the sides in order to avoid bumping into him. Aside from her deterrent effect, she also possessed a sharp judgement as she frequently managed to spot the more dangerous men and women in the vicinity.
As for Crindon, Ves did not bring him along during his forays in Bloodstone. As a spy and a security expert, it was much more appropriate to deploy him in the background than in the foreground.
Currently, Ves ordered the Kinner bondsman to take a shuttle ride to orbit and board the Barracuda. From there, he could begin to sweep his ship for bugs and determine which portions were suspect.
In the meantime, Ves spent a few days touring Bloodstone and stopping by the job markets to see if he could pick up another bargain like Nitaa. Kelandra guided him through all the famous sites and job markets and introduced him to many possible hires.
While the Kinner Tribe offered plenty of Kinner professionals of all vocations, Ves did not find anyone too exceptional.
It was extremely unlikely for most people to develop spiritual potential. Those that did mostly possessed unremarkable attributes. Drawing out their potential took a lot of effort on his part, so he at least wanted to obtain something worthwhile out of all of that trouble.
Someone like Fe Nitaa possessed a remarkably different spiritual attribute than others. Ves suspected that it may have even been the essential prerequisite for her to make use of her empowered nose.
Best of all was that she could already sense unusual presences despite the immaturity of her spiritual potential. As long as Ves managed to find a way to develop other people's spiritual potential, Nitaa's mysterious smelling ability might become incredibly potent one day!
Thinking about exploiting unusual spiritual potential reminded him of the offer he extended to the Ingvar twins. The two fallen noble mech pilots should be facing a lot of trouble trying to keep themselves afloat.
The offer that Ves extended them should have been the first and most attractive one they received, but whether they accepted it or not was still in question.
Nobles tended to be very proud of themselves. Ordinarily, they always looked down on mercenaries. Mech pilots who tended to go mercenary usually weren't cut out for the military or more elite and prestigious outfits.
Some stuck-up people even considered mercenaries to be just a step above pirates!
To be fair, the lowest mercenaries often turned out to be little different from thugs with mech. Their lack of discipline, training, altruism, commitment and other desirable traits did not endear them to their peers.
Yet the mercenary community as a whole was very diverse.
At the upper end, the life of a mercenary was often romanticized in the dramas, and for good reason. A mech pilot brought on to a mercenary corps with a good reputation received excellent pay and enjoyed a lot more freedom than a military mech pilot.
They traveled from star to star, experiencing new sights while participating in important missions that made the galaxy a better place.
All kinds of mercenaries and mercenary corps existed, and to Ves it seemed that Bloodstone encompassed almost every variety that existed.
The Kinner Tribe featured elite tribal corps like the Hundred-And-Seventeen Blades which could give the elites of the Bright Republic a run for their money.
They also featured more haphazard mercenary corps such as the Battle Criers which Ves recently extended an offer to as well. While they were not exactly his first choice, he valued their resourcefulness and scoundrel-like nature.
Compared to a more rigid mercenary corps like Commander Oryn Mair's Edge of Redemption, the Battle Criers could make do with less supplies, pay and preparation.
A more flexible outfit like the Battle Criers also wouldn't object as much if Ves ever ordered them to do something questionable.
Ves needed the right tool for the right job. Considering his current plans, the Battle Criers were much more suitable because they had already traveled widely.
That was not to say that a more disciplined and well-trained outfit like the Edge of Redemption lacked utility. It was just that they served best as a hammer to smash through solid obstacles.
Forcing them into other roles such as acting as his escorts was a significant waste.
In the future, he might require the services elite mech troop that could act as his hammer. If that time ever came, Ves much preferred to raise a troop from the ground up rather than buy one ready-made.
He wanted his strongest mech element to be trained in the use of his mechs from the start. They would become his most elite Avatars, the ones who were better than all the other mech pilots in his employ other than his expert pilots.
Setting something up like that would take years, perhaps even decades. Ves always imagined that he would have plenty of time to build up an elite mech company within the Avatars, but considering his new plans he might have to accelerate his timeframe.
"If only I can buy out the more skilled or elite Kinner outfits." He sighed.
Kelandra offered him a pat on the back. "You are still young. You should return to the Kinner Tribe when you've become a more established mech designer. Once you build up a lot of renown and grow your company to an impressive scale, the pickier Kinners will be glad to knock on your doors."
That would take too long. The Five Scrolls Compact presence in the star cluster would experience a major transformation in the future.
The coming arrival of the Ruined Temple envoys meant that the Compact's local cells would definitely become extraordinarily active.
The dignitary from the Ruined Temple would likely initiate a search for the Metal Scroll in Ves' possession!
Under such threatening circumstances, Ves did not dare to venture to the Kinner Tribe knowing that their Order of Fl'xix was actually an arm of the Compact!
In fact, getting out of the star cluster and vacationing elsewhere sounded like a really good idea!
Faced with this distant but approaching threat, Ves no longer occupied himself with hiring additional Kinners. He merely passed the time while waiting for follow-ups from his outstanding offers.
While touring the various monuments and historical sites, Ves also managed to squeeze a moment to drop off a very special package.
Ves passed on a familiar-looking cube to a Shadow Courier who met him in an isolated alleyway. Kelandra and Gavin waited outside, leaving only Lucky and Nita by his side.
"Package received. We will ensure it will arrive in the hands of its intended recipient." The man hidden in his dark robes replied. "Please be assured that we will do everything possible to deliver it as fast as possible, but due to the distance involved the delivery might take three or four months."
"I'm aware of the difficulties."
"If you are transmitting data, I highly advise you to allow us to transmit it over our highly secure channels. Delivery can be completed in a matter of days instead of months."
Ves shook his head. "No thanks. This will do. Make sure that no one messes with the package, or else its contents will be lost."
"Have no fear, customer. We always ensure sound delivery, or your money back!"
"Yes, yes, just get on with it. By the way, tell the recipient not to bother me unless he sends me another package!"
"That will cost extra."
With that errand done, Ves resumed touring Bloodstone, though he soon lost interest in the sights. The ubiquitous bloodstone and the monotonous architecture made the cities look the same.
The Kinners possessed a very practical mindset, but they blended it with ancient tribal customs. This combination essentially froze their culture in time. Many Kinners embraced their shabbiness and felt very little desire to modernize their culture and living conditions.
This stood in complete contrast to the Kamon Republic he visited before. The Kamoners, flush with wealth and devoid of threats, pursuit comfort and refinement, so much so that their strength and readiness had declined to disastrous levels.
The reluctance of the Kinners to engage in hedonism and materialism elicited a lot of admiration from Ves. Yet the downside of that was that most Kinners exhibited a lot of division.
A disproportionate amount of Kinners counted among the lower classes of the tribe. Those who were a bit more well-off were few in number. Their numbers were kept down to the the high amount of taxes and other contributions the state demanded of its people.
The observations he made in the past few days lessened his admiration of the Kinner Tribe. While he still ranked them higher than the Kamon Republic, it was anything but perfect.
"No state is perfect." Kelandra ruefully smiled. "Yet the Kinner Tribe is still my home."
It was because of this widespread sentiment that the Kinner Tribe remained so stagnant. None of them truly questioned whether their expansive Kinner trade went too far. Hardly any of the money the state earned from the trade was reflected back on Bloodstone. Where did the bulk of the money truly go?
No one knew.
"It's almost been a week." He remarked after they visited some museums. "The offers I extended to the Battle Criers and the Ingvar twins will expire tomorrow."
That the mercenaries waited so long before answering was not a good sign. A hint of uncertainty lingered in his mind. Did he have to revisit Ornament Halls to hire a more readily-available mercenary corps?
While plenty of Kinner outfits expressed their willingness to work for him, they lacked the colorfulness and camaraderie of the Battle Criers.
Fortunately, Ves soon received one of the messages that he had been waiting for. His eyes lit up as he read the message.
"Commander Cinnabar is ready to sign a contract with me! Let's head back to Ornament Halls!"
His group interrupted their boring tour and immediately hopped into an aircar that took them to the familiar grounds.
After entering one of the halls, they filed into an office where Commander Cinnabar already waited for him with a contract lawyer and another official.
"So you made up your mind?" Ves hopefully asked.
"We had a long discussion about it. Some of my mech pilots weren't enthused about moving to the Bright Republic. It's too far away from the tribe." Cinnabar admitted.
"Will that be a problem?"
The commander smirked. "Nope. It took some convincing, but my Battle Criers all came around to the idea of settling down somewhere new. While we have a lot of friends in this region, we also pissed a lot of people off. It will ultimately be better for us if we moved away and leave all that ugliness behind."
It sounded like the Battle Criers had done more than stir up some trouble. Regardless of what they did in the past, once Ves bought them out, their past deeds no longer mattered.
For now though, neither Ves and the Commander were ready to make that step. Instead, they signed a simple one-year contract that was subject to extension if both sides agreed to it. Ves would have the opportunity to buy out the Battle Criers if he was happy with their performance.
It took hours to go through the contract and all of the additional paperwork that came with hiring an armed mech force. An official from the Mercenary Association witnessed the agreement and approved of the terms.
"Alright! From now on, you work for me. I will be placing myself in the care of your mech pilots, commander."
"I'll do my best to keep my men in line." The burly mercenary commander grinned as he shook the hand of his new employer. "It will take some time for us to get used to escort duty, but I'll get it done."
With a Kinner mercenary corps in his pocket, Ves had met his primary goal for his visit to Bloodstone.
"Now, there's only the Ingvar twins left." He whispered.