“You are not responsible for the aftermath.
You are only responsible for preparing Acolyte Gien ’s mech for battle.
We have given you access to the tools and means to fulfill your mission. ”

”What ’s in it for me? How does my work benefit the Vandals? ”

Ves hadn ’t been paying too much attention to the previous negotiation with the Coinlord, so he wasn ’t sure why he needed to play along in the first place.

”Insure that Acolyte Gien wins the Redemption Duel, and we will shower you with rewards.
Not only will we charge ten percent less K-coins for the services we provide, you are also entitled to a personal boon from the Soulless Priest himself! ”

”What does this personal boon entail? ” Ves asked with a frown.
”No offense, but I ’m not sure I want anything to do with the Soulless Priest.
We are not exactly alike. ”

Certainly, the ten percent discount was a significant reward to the Vandals, but Ves did not care too much about their budgetary concerns.
The Flagrant Vandals recently defeated the Castle Breakers during their visit to the Mancroft Independent Harbor.
Fencing the spoils with the help of the Omen of Misfortune must have netted the Vandals a couple of billion of credits.

Right now, the Vandals shouldn ’t be too short on liquid funds.

”Remember that you will be competing against a rival guest, who will be preparing the mech of Acolyte Gien ’s opponent. ” She said as she summoned a small projection from her comm.
”Your rival will be competing for the same reward, one that is coveted by many among the designers of the frontier. ”

The projection beamed from her comm displayed a fancy-looking invitation card.
It allowed its bearer to become initiated in an exclusive black market society called the Angel ’s Wing Foundation.
A stylized angel wing that transitioned from white to black served as their symbol.

He had never heard of this particular club before.
”What is the Angel ’s Wing Foundation? ”

The acolyte cackled.
”A true son and daughter of the frontier never asks that question! You ask what the Angel ’s Wing Foundation does? Silly! The Foundation is one of the most exclusive invitation-only black markets in the galactic rim! Their reach stretches across tens of thousands of lightyears! Their black markets are physically present in so many star sectors that they can smuggle anything that can be found in the galactic rim to your doorstep! ”

Ves became truly intrigued now.
”The Foundation trades in anything? What about mechs? Technologies? Exotics? Slaves? ”

”The Foundation does not dabble in the sorts of goods that mech designers are interested in. ” The Acolyte responded in an amused tone.
”Yet before you shake your head and turn away, know that the Foundation is one of the most premier sources of anything biological.
It offers the finest gene mod templates, gene boost elixirs, rare and powerful exobeasts and exoflora, biological implants and much, much more! ”

Though Ves appeared incredibly excited at what he heard, inwardly he felt a chill.
This sounded exactly like something the Five Scrolls Compact would run!

He felt rather strange to hear Acolyte Villis praise the Foundation so enthusiastically.
Her enthusiasm for shilling the Foundation matched her devotion to Haatumak.

”The Angel ’s Wing Foundation sounds like an impressive marketplace.
How hard is it to obtain their invitation? ”

”Extremely hard.
This is a chance that you can only meet, but never seek out.
If our Church was not a supplier for the Foundation, we wouldn ’t be able to extend an invitation to you as a reward for completing your assignment. ”

Rewarding Ves with an invitation sounded incredibly generous for the Church of Haatumak.
If he hadn ’t suspected that the Church and the Foundation were backed by the same shadow organization, then he would have been grateful for the generous reward.

As it was, Ves figured this was just a case of the left hand passing something to the right hand.
It didn ’t cost the Church anything to hand over this exclusive invitation because they probably possessed a carte blanche to distribute them whenever they felt like doing so.

Still, it wouldn ’t do for Ves to show that he was clueless.
”Why are you so generous with handing out this invitation? Shouldn ’t you be keeping it to yourselves? ”

”As I said, we are already a fixed supplier to the Foundation.
They hand over a small number of invitations to us every standard year, but frankly we do not have any preference where they end up.
The Soulless Priest has full discretion on how to employ them.
He must have approved of you in some way, or wishes you to make a full effort, so he has promised you this invitation if you win. ”

Hearing the acolyte ’s answer only furthered his suspicion.
In fact, Ves started to doubt if Acolyte Villis was as simple as she looked.
Her title and behavior made it seem as if she was just a low-ranking peripheral member of the church, yet her advanced age and her insights made her sound sagely at times.

Ves closed his eyes and paused.
While the Church of Haatumak hadn ’t pushed Ves to participate in a gruesome ritual, this assignment came with a lot of complications that he would rather do without.

First, did he even want the reward? Certainly, Ves always felt troubled by his modified biology.
Having been investigated by various doctors and experts including those employed by the CFA and the Friday Coalition, they had all admitted defeat when presented with the radical and incomprehensible Jutland organ.

That piece of semi-alien flesh in his chest represented a ticking time bomb that might explode within a few decades from now.
While that didn ’t sound to bad for a normal person, Ves intended to live at least a few hundred years, so he required an urgent solution for the problem.

Who better to turn to than the masters of biology? The Angel ’s Wing Foundation had likely been set up as an offshoot of the Five Scrolls Compact.
Since Dr.
Jutland used to hail from that organization as well, the odds of finding an expert who could permanently solve the biological hazards within his body was a lot higher than engaging with the much less impressive Clifford Society.

Though there were always risks to becoming involved with the Five Scrolls Compact, as long as Ves remained prudent, he shouldn ’t catch their attention.

He decided to aim for the invitation.
No matter what obstacles stood in his way, Acolyte Gien needed to win!

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