The sun began to fade over the horizon. Ves began to lose hope that the Ingvar twins would accept his offer.
He found that to be a bit of a pity. While the two mech pilots of a higher caliber than the mech pilots of the Battle Criers, Ves really valued them for their unusual spiritual potential.
While their spirituality was as faint and undeveloped as the ones present in the minds of others with potential, their attribute was very peculiar. It was something that Ves had never encountered before.
"The two are like a splash of color in a sea of grey."
What their unusual spiritual attribute represented and what capabilities it brought to the Ingvars when they developed was a mystery to Ves. All he cared about was developing their potential to see what kind of surprises their mysterious attribute produced.
"Meow." Lucky padded his paw on his head.
"Yeah, you're right." He sighed. "There's no use pining over people who don't want to work for me. I'd have to be a Senior or something if I want to access the good stuff."
Despite advancing to Journeyman, Ves had not yet reached the apex of the local power structure. Most of the Kinner Tribe's premier products still remained out of reach until he proved he wasn't a flash in the pan who quickly fizzled out in a couple of years.
Just as Ves was ready to return to his hotel, his comm lit up, informing him that he received another message. He immediately activated the interface to read the message.
"Yes! They accepted!"
In the end, necessity trumped pride. The situation of the Ingvar twins might be better than other mercenaries since they piloted their own mechs, but it was a far cry from their old station back when House Ingvar still stood proud.
Once Ves took in the message, he diverted back to Ornament Halls, which was in the process of emptying out. Ves and his company squeezed past the mercenaries who were done for the day and met the Ingvars in another office.
Imon Ingvar went straight to the point. "Mr. Larkinson, we thought long and hard about your offer. After considering our options, we have decided to accept your offer."
Both Imon and Casella looked a bit more composed compared to last time. Back then, they were smarting from all of the setbacks and betrayals they suffered.
This time, they seemed resigned to their new circumstances. Ves could tell that they gave up any hope of recovering the former mechs and ship they lost at the hands of their mutinous subordinates.
"Are you sure you want to work for me?" He asked. "The contract requires that you will have to stick with me for at least a year. We'll be moving away from the Kinner Tribe during this time."
Casella Ingvar brushed aside her platinum hair from her face. "We are aware. We thought about staying in this region in order to hatch a plan to take revenge against those who betrayed our noble house, but... it's impossible for us to strike back at Black Poppy without a ship."
"Distancing ourselves from the Kingdom of the Three Flowers sounds like a better idea." Imon continued. "It's the only form of revenge we can realistically take. By staying alive, House Ingvar will still continue to exist."
Ves crossed his arms as he leaned back against the office chair. "I hope you don't harbor any unrealistic expectations that I will help you take revenge against Black Poppy. I'm a mech designer, not a revolutionary. The affairs that take place in Three Flowers don't concern me. My company may even sell its products to Black Poppy in the future. Are you willing to stomach that from me, or would you rather look elsewhere?"
He wanted to draw a very clear line from the start. Right now, Ves might hold some curiosity towards the Ingvar siblings, but that did not mean they entered his inner circle. They weren't as loyal and reliable as the Kinners, so Ves needed to handle them with a lot more caution.
The Ingvars both appeared conflicted, yet Casella quickly regained her composure. It appeared that she was the calmer and more analytical sibling.
"We know what we are getting into." She said with a deliberately professional tone. "We do not wish to interfere with your business activities. We are only hired to pilot mechs and fight. Everything else is not our concern. We only hope that you will be mindful enough to spare us of any interactions with our enemies."
"I won't force you to play nice with Black Poppy or the Kingdom of the Three Flowers." Ves let out a reassuring smile. "While I won't specifically accommodate your desires, I can give you at least this much if you inform me of any potential objections beforehand."
That wasn't enough for Casella. "It would make us feel a lot better if this is added to the contract. We would like our employment contract to contain a clause that allows us to opt out on any orders, missions or instructions related to the Kingdom of the Three Flowers without incurring any penalty."
Ves lazily waved his hand. "Granted."
As the contract lawyer added the requested terms to the contract, Ves asked another question.
"Are you the only survivors of your house, or have other Ingvars managed to escape with their lives?"
Imon grimaced. "We do not know. There are a number of Ingvars stationed in other states at the time of the betrayal, but most of them died at the hands of assassins. While we are sure that some of our distant relatives have managed to slip the net, we do not have any way of organizing ourselves. All the channels of our house are definitely monitored by our enemies. Gathering in a single place will only present a convenient target to the hunters assigned to clean up any trace of our noble house."
Ves expressed some interest in collecting a couple more Ingvars. He wanted to see whether some of the Ingvar survivors with spiritual potential possessed the same special attribute as Imon and Casella.
If that was the case, then this trait might be hereditary, which opened up a lot of possibilities!
He felt a little disappointed that he wouldn't be able to gather more Ingvars. He quickly pushed it aside when he realized that he started to regard the Ingvars in the same way as the Kinners.
Not every human was a product! Ves had to show a lot more mindfulness towards his subordinates.
As the contract continued to take shape, the Ingvars asked their own questions.
"Will you be fine with our old mechs or will you assign us with new ones?" Imon asked.
"It depends on how long you stay in my service." Ves answered. "If you decide to continue to stick with me, I'll transfer you to my Avatars of Myth, where you will be assigned to different mechs, mostly of my own design. What mechs do you specialize in, by the way?"
He hadn't looked that up yet, which was a major oversight on his part.
"We are both trained in spaceborn mech combat, though we are not novices when it comes to piloting landbound mechs."
Most mech pilots who specialized in spaceborn mechs knew how to pilot landbound mechs as well. Yet their lack of training in this area meant they lacked many of the nuances and tactics employed by dedicated landbound mech pilots.
"Which mech types do you pilot?"
"I specialize in piloting spaceborn rifleman mechs." Casella answered. "In fact, I excel at long-range marksmanship, so laser weapons are my go-to loadouts. I also possess some command training. I was the commander of my former detachment."
"I prefer to duel my enemies up close. I pilot a spaceborn swordsman mech, though I can pilot other melee mechs if needed. As long as I'm not getting shot at by an entire mech company, I'm confident I can fell most mechs who block my way." Imon added.
That was a good mix, though Ves took their words with a grain of salt.
He might be able to employ Imon as a mech duelist or champion who could fight on his behalf. Yet the man did not possess the emotional fortitude to excel in this area.
Someone as determined and passionate about mech duels like Raella Larkinson wouldn't cry like a sorry little kid after suffering a small setback.
As for Casella, Ves put a lot of question marks on her command ability. Even if she did take classes, the fact that her household mech company mutinied meant that her actual performance in this area was very sketchy!
Her command ability was a far cry from that of Commander Cinnabar, who easily managed to maintain control over his band of ruffians!
Fortunately, Ves did not require the two to serve in those capacities. He was fine with letting them work as regular mech pilots. They might learn a thing or two about the mercenary life from the Battle Criers.
Time passed as the contract reached its final form. Neither side requested anymore additions, which meant that both of them signed the agreement in short order as witnessed by the Mercenary Association.
Unlike his previous hires, the Ingvars did not bow or kneel to him to swear a ritual oath. They weren't Kinners whose oaths were taken a lot more seriously. This meant the Ingvars had now hired themselves on to Ves with remarkably little fanfare.
A moment of silence stretched as the contract lawyer and the other officials filed out of the office.
"It is.. strange." The female Ingvar said with a hollow voice. "Even if we have only agreed to work for you for a year, I feel as if I've signed my life away."
Imon embraced his sister in a hug. "It's all the Kinners around us that give you that impression. We are different from their kind. Remember who we are and where we came from. House Ingvar may have fallen, but as long as we are alive, we can one day restore it to its former glory!"
While the two siblings had their private moment, Ves turned around to Kelandra. "Now that the Ingvars accepted my offer, my stay at Bloodstone has come to an end. I will soon depart for the Chuko Republic."
"Chuko isn't exactly the most pleasant destination, I've heard."
"That is what the Battle Criers and the Ingvar pair are for. While the news coming out of Chuko is fairly troubling, I'm confident my new escorts are more than capable of fending off any trouble we'll meet on the way. I don't plan to travel outside the most established trade routes anyway."
Once they completed all of the formalities, Ves instructed his latest two hires to pack up their bags and join the fleet of the Battle Criers in orbit of Bloodstone II-A.
"What about our mechs, sir?" Casella asked.
"Benny, please arrange shipment of their mechs."
"On it, boss."
His visit to Bloodstone came to an end. As Ves and his staff returned to the hotel, they only planned to stay for one more night before they departed from the planet.
A smile appeared on his face as he thought of all the new people he hired. Aside from the Ingvar siblings, his new subordinates consisted entirely of Kinners.
"I might have more scruples about hiring other mercenaries, but the Kinners are different."
Lucky climbed on top of his stomach as he lied down on a couch in his hotel room. The cat curled into a ball and squinted its eyes on contentment.
"Hehe, looking forward to our next destinations, are you?"
"Yeah, you're right. We're getting closer and closer to the Nyxian Gap. The Sentinel Kingdom is especially close to this dangerous region. I wonder if I'll be able to obtain more spicy Nyx dog ingredients. I'm becoming addicted to this food!"