"We've arrived, Mr. Daemonara."
Daemonara glanced up from the article he was reading on his data scroll and turned to look out the window of the groundcar. "So we have."
Switching off his scroll, he stowed it in his suit pocket before opening the door and stepping out of the groundcar. Sabbaton Towers stood in uniform shape in front of him, stretching up as far as the eye could see.
Why a single tower had so many floors was beyond him. What was the point of having so many facilities in one building? The Viscount's office was located somewhere at the very top, so couldn't the building have just enough for only him and his family?
As he observed the building, Daemonara could hear the clatter of the manekale's saddle as the beast settled down. He always wondered if those creatures enjoyed pulling groundcars all day and night. Probably not.
"That'll be 20 lucre," the driver spoke as he approached the observer.
Daemonara reached into his pocket and pulled out several coins. He handed the amount needed to the driver.
"Thank you," he responded before heading back to the groundcar. "Have a good day, sir."
"I'm sure I will," Daemonara mumbled as he placed the rest of the coins back into his pocket. He proceeded up the stairs to the entrance of the building.
He had a lot to do during this visit. Meetings with gang leaders, tracking down a liability, catching up with "old friends," et cetera. Being pulled away from work and traveling all the way to Anduruna was frustrating, but he knew the importance of the situation.
That's why he brought along Nautico. Maybe the two of them would be able to finish their objective in a matter of days, though Daemonara knew he shouldn't get his hopes up.
As long as the job gets done, he thought as he reached the entrance.
Daemonara moved swiftly through the lobby, maneuvering through the sea of people both visiting and leaving. He again questioned the need for so many facilities in one building.
Too many people drawn to this place. Like bugs to the flame.
He knew all too well.
He soon reached the elevators, stepping aboard one just before it closed, and pushed the correct floor button. It was a long ride up due to the seemingly endless number of floors. From residential floors to hotels, from malls to studios, Sabbaton Towers had it all.
Daemonara, however, had another destination in mind.
Several sets of eyes focused on Daemonara as he strode confidently through the headquarters of the Central City Authority, his hands clasped behind his back. He had to agree: his suit's white and gold color did make him stand out. After all, coming by one like it was rare nowadays.
He shook off those thoughts as he approached the secretary's desk. "I'm here for an 8:30 appointment with Guard Captain Antioch."
"Of course sir, let me just-" She trailed off when she glanced at something, above his eyes.
He clicked his tongue in annoyance. Of course, they were looking at that, not the suit. That one little scar always seemed to catch people's attention wherever he went. It annoyed him to no end.
Daemonara tapped his foot impatiently, huffing in frustration. "You were about to inform Antioch of my arrival."
The comment brought the secretary out of her stare. "O-of course! Please excuse me."
Daemonara rolled his eyes as she got up from her desk and swiftly moved to the Guard Captain's office. Why did everyone he came across have to stare at his scar? Was there nothing better to do?
"He'll see you now," the secretary said, looking flustered as she sat back down. Daemonara noticed that she avoided making eye contact with him. It was most likely to avoid repeating her earlier offense.
"Thank you," he replied as he walked towards the door.
"Daemonara, welcome," Antioch greeted his visitor as the latter entered the room and closed the door. "Please," he gestured to a chair by his desk, "have a seat."
The Guard Captain had the appearance of an enormous grey and white owl with a giant curved horn on each side of his head. He wore a grey, red, and white uniform with golden buttons, two of which sported the symbol of the Central City Authority.
Daemonara had much respect for Antioch. The Guard Captain was a man who represented authority and knew how to get the job done. He made sure none of his men stepped out of line when questioning the law, even though Antioch himself questioned how far they could stretch the law to Nabonidus' needs. Daemonara had considered inviting Antioch to be a part of his project for some time, but he would bring the matter up when the time was right.
"I must admit I was surprised when I heard you were coming to Anduruna," Antioch continued as Daemonara sat down. "I can tell it's not a leisurely visit."
"You're correct in your assumption," Daemonara leaned back in his seat. "To be perfectly honest, I'd rather be back home, continuing my work. I also believe that this trip will leave me with a serious headache."
Antioch opened one of his desk drawers and pulled out a pair of small glasses and a red fermentae bottle from inside. He filled one glass and passed it to Daemonara. "Would a drink help calm your nerves?"
"I doubt it, but thank you nonetheless," Daemonara answered as he accepted the drink. He took a sip of the intoxicating beverage. "Hmm... Fire Reed?"
Antioch nodded as he poured himself a glass. "Not your favorite?"
Daemonara shrugged. "I'd prefer the Agro Mix, but I'll take what I can get." He took another sip before setting the glass down.
"Now, onto business. Nabonidus has sent me to track down a rogue element in our little group."
"A rogue element?" Antioch arched an eyebrow. He corked the bottle and placed it back in the drawer. "Who?"
Daemonara shook his head. "Unfortunately, we don't know who, but one of my associates is currently tracking them down. It shouldn't be long now."
"Is Nabonidus worried that this individual could expose our organization?" Antioch asked. "I could offer the assistance of several CCA Shock Troopers."
"That would be appreciated," Daemonara answered. "However, if shock troopers were to assist in the search, it could attract unwanted attention from the media. That, in turn, would alert our target. You should instead have your men keep a closer eye on activity outside Anduruna.
Antioch looked perplexed. "Why should we only focus there?"
"Our target did a lot to cover their tracks, but from what we managed to uncover was communication with unknown individuals hidden outside Anduruna," Daemonara explained. "If I am correct in knowing who these individuals are, they pose a threat not only to Anduruna but to us as well.
Antioch leaned back in his seat. "So, you would rather keep my men on standby and wait for you to permit them to intervene?"
"Indeed, for the time being," Daemonara nodded as he picked his glass up and took a drink. "For now, keep an eye out for anything happening beyond Anduruna's walls. My associate and I will handle things here in town on our own. To make sure none of our scapegoats get involved with this, I'll be speaking to O'Naicul and Zhu about their subordinates. We need to weed out those who may have gone silent."
Antioch took a drink as well. "What if this rogue realizes you're after them? Won't they try to expose us?"
"That's certainly possible," Daemonara nodded. "Although, unless they have any physical evidence which they could very well have, no one will take them seriously."
The Guard Captain set his glass down. "Should we still consider it?"
Daemonara took another sip. "Of course. We would be fools not to, which is why we have to move quickly. The target could pass on information to whoever they work with."
"Whoever this rogue is, they have a goal in mind," Daemonara continued, "which is currently unknown to us. All we know is that they will probably seek protection from us. They'll most likely choose the individuals they're contacting, or hire anyone who can wield a weapon, won't ask questions and isn't afraid of killing. And we both know the Neon Knives and Soul Reapers recruit people like that."
Antioch briefly stroked his chin as he processed Daemonara's answer. "We can handle small-time thugs, and the Neon Knives aren't that big of a group, but the Reapers have more organized outposts in Anduruna. It will take a while to sort through them all."
"While it is possible that the delinquents and the gangsters of both groups could easily turn traitor," Daemonara continued, setting his glass back down. "I believe that I should primarily keep an eye on the lieutenants of the Soul Reapers."
"Why just the lieutenants?"
"It's simple. As you know, the Neon Knives reside in Calypsa and Norvondire while the Soul Reapers have control of the other districts except for Margate, which both groups share," Daemonara explained. "In each of the districts controlled by the Soul Reapers, a single member is placed in charge.
"These individual members hold complete control over their outposts, and if one were to join the rogue..."
"...control of the outpost shifts to the latter," Antioch realized. He leaned forward, placing his elbows on the desk, hands folded together. "Which would possibly allow to interfere in the Soul Reapers operations undetected."
Antioch sat deep in thought for several moments. "Will you be meeting with any other of our associates besides the gangs?"
"A few, I'd rather not get everyone involved. Things would get too-"
Their conversation was cut off by a soft ping that came from the pocket of Daemonara's suit. He held up his finger to Antioch to ask for a quick moment, which the Guard Captain allowed.
Daemonara reached into his pocket to pull out his data scroll and turned it on. Checking his mail, he saw there was a request for a voice call from someone named H2OhS#!Urded.
Daemonara sighed as he leaned back in his seat. He rubbed his head before accepting the call. "What is it?"
"H-hey boss! What's up? Hope you're doing well." Nautico's voice sounded nervous over the speaker. "I've just started my search, so no need to worry about that."
Daemonara was unimpressed. He looked at Antioch who had a confused look on his face before going back to the scroll. "What did you do?"
Even though he couldn't see him, Daemonara could tell Nautico was shuffling uncomfortably.
"Uh, n-nothing at all boss. Heh. Although there is something, you should probably know."
Daemonara had a feeling he knew where this was going. "Go on."
Nautico hesitated. "Do you remember the shipment that held the special gas tanks? The one to be delivered to the Reapers?"
Daemonara's expression was neutral except for an arched eyebrow, though his grip on the scroll tightened. "Yes?"
"Well, uh, you see the thing is... It's gone."
Daemonara could feel his anger slowly build-up, so he let out a small exhalation of breath. Not only did the thieves to escape, but with very precious cargo. Hopefully, Nautico acquired the one thing Daemonara needed to know about them.
"Did you at least figure out who they were?"
Several moments went by with no response. Daemonara tightly gripped the arm of his chair as his anger increased with every second.