As Ves took a bite of the bun, a ball of spice exploded in his mouth!

”Hot! ”

A mixture of spices prickled his mouth and barraged his tongue with a grand feast.
Chief among them was the much-anticipated geril spice.

The taste of it was indescribable.
All he knew was that his mouth would faintly carry the odor for hours if he didn ’t cleanse his mouth afterwards!

While everyone else enjoyed their spicy Nyx dogs, Ves quietly tried to analyze his food.

What was it about geril spice that made it so exceptional?

His spiritual senses revealed nothing of note.
However it worked, it did not do so on a spiritual level.

While its material properties were already quite remarkable, Ves doubted that any of them served as the key to its ability to overwhelm Fe Nitaa ’s special nose.

He needed to perform some thorough research.

”Benny. ” He said after swallowing a bite of spicy Nyx dog.
”Please inquire where we can buy the Nyx dogs or more preferably the ingredients in bulk.
I ’ve taken a liking for this snack. ”

”Uh, pardon? ”

”Am I not clear? I ’ve fallen in love with spicy Nyx dogs! Let ’s bring it back to the Bright Republic! It ’s best if you order a container ’s worth of ingredients or more! ”

Though Gavin looked bewildered by Ves ’ sudden love for a peculiar but relatively simple hot dog variation, he nonetheless did as ordered.

Initially, the food vendor adamantly refused to divulge his source.
No one liked to facilitate a competitor, after all.

It was only when Ves urged Gavin to pull all the stops did the negotiations proceed.

Anything could be bought with money.
After offering a modest bribe and a very generous commission, Gavin negotiated a deal for a single container ’s worth of ingredients.

Several barrels filled with geril spice happened to be included as well, though it was by far the most expensive ingredient.

When Gavin returned to Ves, he shook his head.
”I don ’t know why you ’re so insistent on getting the ingredients for spicy Nyx dogs.
The vendor knew you were rich enough to care nothing about the expense, so he drove a hard bargain.
I think we must have overpaid for the ingredients by a factor of ten!

How could this paltry amount of money ever compare to evading the nosy hunters of the dreaded Five Scrolls Compact? Let alone spending a few hundred-thousand bright credits, he would gladly pay a billion credits to secure the ingredients!

”Some pleasures in life are worth pursuing.
Who knows if I can find any authentic spicy Nyx dogs when I return to the Bright Republic? Make sure the vendor arranges the delivery of authentic ingredients to the Barracuda.
With how much we ’re paying, I absolutely don ’t want to see any fakes.
Hire a food inspector if needed in order to verify that nothing is amiss. ”

The weird emphasis on spicy Nyx dogs confused Gavin to no end, but he did as instructed.

To her credit, Kelandra managed to maintain a polite facade.
She had dealt with plenty of eccentric clients.

”Do you wish to explore the food market any further? ”

”No thanks.
I ’ve already seen most of what it has to offer.
Let ’s go. ”

The group began to exit the food market and return to Trinity Halls.
While finding Fe Nitaa had been an unexpected find for him, he still intended to expand his staff by at least another hire.

He definitely couldn ’t do without a spymaster! This might be the only opportunity in years for him to hire a reliable Kinner spy or security expert, so he definitely couldn ’t leave empty-handed!

During the journey back to the halls, Ves casually drifted over to Nitaa by slowing down his pace.

”Are there any others like you at Trinity Halls? ”

Nitaa nodded.
”Order rejects like me are not uncommon, sir.
I am unsure of their priorities, however.
Not all are resentful of the Fl ’xixians after they had been rejected.
Hiring them on without ascertaining their true sentiments is..
not wise. ”

”I understand.
Are you able to detect anyone that shares your..
former loyalties? ”

He didn ’t refer to the Order of Fl ’xix this time.
Fe Nitaa should be clever enough to figure out his true meaning.

She shook her head.
”Not as much as I wish.
We come in many forms.
Disguising my true self is a habit that I ’ve learned by heart. ”

”Does that mean that anyone from the ’order ’ can sneak into my employ without me getting the wiser? ”

”I am capable of detecting most of those who have been trained by the order.
I ’m also capable of recognizing those who possess the same enhancements as mine.
As for those who are only related to the order, they come in so many forms that I cannot guarantee that I can identify them in a crowd. ”

In other words, Nitaa could detect other members of the order as well as the humans employed as bloodhounds by the Compact.
She couldn ’t detect the brothers and sisters of the Compact, though, which was a big shame, because Ves feared them the most.

Nonetheless, he shouldn ’t look at a gift horse in the mouth.
Nitaa brought a lot to the table.
Aside from her detection capabilities, she also possessed a deeper insight into the Five Scrolls Compact than other people.

Ves definitely intended to question her about the Compact in further detail once they had some time alone!

Considering Nitaa ’s peculiar spiritual attribute, Ves became reasonably confident he could detect others like her.
That did not mean she was redundant, as Ves could not keep up his spiritual senses active all the time without expending his reserves.

Once they returned to Trinity Hall, Kelandra guided them to the third floor of the main hall.
She led them to the back of the hall where a number of virtual security experts, hackers and other people with related professions lingered.

”Did you take us to the right place? ” Ves asked.

His words caused Kelandra to smirk.

”Please recall who you wish to hire.
Would anyone of their ilk broadcast their capabilities? ”

Of course not.
A spy would have a much harder time to do their jobs if their identities were in the open!

”How many of them are here? ”

”Not much, Mr.
Perhaps one out of twenty among the job seekers are the ones you wish to find. ”

”Then how will we know we got the right one? ”

”Leave that to me. ” Kelandra smiled.

This was the benefit of hiring an insider.
Ves didn ’t know how she managed it, but she began to guide the group towards specific individuals sitting or standing in wait to appeal to a potential client.

At least half of the job seekers consisted of foreigners, though.
Since Ves firmly wanted to obtain a Kinner spy, that did not leave him with much choice.

”Don ’t expect too much from the ones who have been waiting here for a while.
Very keen employers already took the good ones away. ” Kelandra warned.

”I ’m aware. ”

The search and negotiation for Kinner spies turned out to be a very subtle dance.
Neither Ves, Kelandra or the prospective hires mentioned the truth.
Trinity Halls was a very public venue and it was a given that every interaction would be recorded.

For this reason, on the surface, Ves simply appeared to be on the lookout to hire a mundane virtual security expert.
He asked relatively standard questions while the men and women looking to get hired by a rich mech designer did their best to showcase their actual skill without giving away any clues about their true vocation.

Most of the spies also tended to be on the younger side.
Their lack of experience meant that they did not have any prior ties to other employers, which was good.

Less good was judging their actual competence.
Without a track record, Ves found it difficult to evaluate how much they exaggerated their capabilities.

His visit to the food market earlier in the day taught him that Kinners were still capable of lying.

The aid of both Nitaa and Kelandra proved to be invaluable.

His guide had a better sense of judging the truth coming out of the mouth of her fellow Kinners.
She possessed an abundant amount of experience in helping clients, so she could tell when a prospective hire went too far with their boasts.

As for Nitaa, her tall presence was sufficient to restrain the job seekers.
The intricate tattoos on her face made it clear that she used to be a part of the Order of Fl ’xix, which commanded a lot of respect and apprehension from the Kinners.

After interviewing the handful of spies hidden in the crowd of security experts, Kelandra could find no more.

”That ’s not all of them. ” She said with a mild frown.
”There are more people in their midst who might be interesting to you.
It is just that they refused to expose themselves. ”

Just like with Commander Oryn Mair, they looked down on Ves.
He lacked the reputation or institutional weight to reassure their concerns.

Every Kinner wanted to latch on to winners but especially to known quantities.
Someone like Ves who emerged fairly recently did not have the track record to prove that he would be a stable employer.

For all they knew, the new boss they promised to serve for the rest of his life might go bankrupt next year, putting all of them on the streets!

His ample connections played much less of a role than he anticipated.
What did it matter if his girlfriend was a notable member of the Wodin Dynasty? Partnerships and alliances always ended at the most inconvenient times.

If Ves lost the protection of others, how well would he be able to fare in the galaxy by himself?

He was still confident he could make it somehow, but the spies looking to serve a master lacked the same confidence.
For this reason, Ves could only choose among a paltry selection of six spies.

Each of them were rather bland and unexceptional.
While being unassuming was definitely an asset to spies, none of them inspired a lot of confidence in Ves.
At best, they might be able to hold their ground against Leland.

His hopes of finding a hidden gem who might possibly stand equal against Calabast were dashed.

He should have known better.

”Are there any other places where I can obtain what I want? ”

”I doubt it. ” Kelandra replied.
”More exclusive venues exist, but they will not open their doors to you.
Only the most generous and loyal clients are eligible to receive invitations. ”

”What about places similar to Trinity Halls? ”

”I would not advise you to frequent those venues.
Every person at Trinity Halls is vetted by the Kinner Tribe.
The other establishments do not offer the same level of assurance. ”

Bloodstone was a huge planet, and the amount of Kinners educated as spies looking for employment was quite considerable.

It was just that most of them had already been taken away by foreign organizations in need of extremely loyal spies.
What Ves essentially got was a selection of their leftovers.

He sighed.
”While I ’m sure they ’re competent, none of them stand out to me.
I might as well leave the decision to my cat. ”

”Meow? ”

”That ’s right, Lucky.
You get to choose! Which one do you like the most? ”

”Meow. ”

Lucky carefully extended his paw towards a thin, reedy man.

”What do you think, Nitaa? ”

”I don ’t detect anything of note that raises my concern. ”

Neither Lucky or Nitaa expressed any misgivings about the man, though they didn ’t look very enthusiastic either.
The choice was merely..
Enough to fulfill the job, but nothing more.

One of the biggest disappointments to Ves was that none of the prospective hires possessed any noticeable spirituality.
While he could still visit the other job markets to find a spy with spiritual potential, they wouldn ’t be as reliable despite their Kinner upbringing.

He shrugged.
Not every member of his staff needed to be a latent superhuman.
Someone like Gavin already proved to be invaluable to him despite his utter normality.

”Alright, let ’s see if he makes the cut. ”

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