Chapter 231: Underground Invitation
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Nisha heeded the Luthais’ advice and did not head out to attend the academy or visit her acquaintances in the capital.

Henry similarly stayed at home and spent the rest of the day playing with their contracted beasts and monsters, showing a fair deal of talent when it came to dealing with them.

When day turned to night and the sun had entirely vanished behind the horizon, the Grand Marshall still did not return to his home.

It wasn’t unusual for the man to stay outside for a night to deal with his workload, but the Dharnas House worried about him when he did not send any message back after especially warning them to stay at home and avoid going out.

Nevertheless, there was nothing that Nisha and Henry could do and Galan was assuring them that the Duke would have sent a message back if there truly was danger abound, so he was most likely held back at work.

The only measure they took was to stay inside the boundaries of the Dharnas estate for another day.

At least that was the plan, which changed when one of the guards delivered a message from a visitor to the elf around noon.

The paper handed to her had a small nondescript wax seal without any markings to show its origin.

Unfurling the paper after breaking the seal, Nisha was surprised to see a familiar pattern printed on the top half of the message.

Perhaps it would be seen as a pretty adornment to make the content more fancy, but those in possession of the small metal cards the [Thieves Guild] used to identify members and customers would surely recognize the pattern from the letter as the same as engraved on the metal cards.

The second half of the paper was filled with meaningless phrases and contained no further leads.

Intrigued by the veiled invitation, Nisha informed Galan that she had received a letter from a friend at the [Seven Stars Church] and planned to go out.

Unsure whether the warning from Luthais still stood, the butler simply warned her to pay extra attention towards any dangers and tacitly approved the outing.

 

Bringing the puzzling letter with her, the dragon stepped outside of the Dharnas estate and surveyed the street.

Someone wanted to set up a meeting, hence there should be more clues around.

Fortunately, she did not have to try at all to find more elusive traces, a hooded figure loitered around a small alley between two estates on the other side of the road and retreated into the shadows after spotting the girl.

While the figure remained outside of Nisha’s [Spirit Sight], she had become quite adept at estimating the strength of humans through their bearing and comparing their actual strength in comparison to their surface impression.

Hence, the girl was not concerned to follow the messenger - who hovered around the middle of the second aura rank - into the alleyway between the estates.

The messenger did not confirm whether the target followed and opened a small door set into a thicker portion of the wall, with stairs leading downward.

Once Nisha descended the flight of stairs, she actually already had an idea where the hidden door led.

The stench of the canals wafted out of the open passage, and the view quickly changed as the small passage opened into the sewers.

Giving a small back view, the hurried hooded figure sped away around the next bend, blocking the line of sight, though the elf’s attention no longer lingered on them.

Standing on the stone path on either side of the waste flowing through the sewer canals, the Golden Heel Carmen, one of the Seats of the [Thieves Guild], already waited to welcome her with a smile.

Nisha was surprised to see the woman actually waiting for her in such a place and hurried forward to return the greeting.

“Miss Carmen, how nice to see you. I assume you wanted to see me?”

Seeing how the female leader placed so much emphasis on secrecy, the girl did not ask unnecessary questions and dove straight into the thick of the matter.

 

“Since you’re here now, it’s indeed a lovely occasion here on the street of thieves.”

Seeing the raised brow at the unknown term, the beautiful lady let out a melodious laugh.

“Have you not heard about the street of thieves before? The canals under the city and the rooftops above are considered the territory of the thieves.

As long as you travel through either, everyone will treat you like a thief, whether you are one or not.

Come, let’s talk while we walk.”

Gesturing towards the opposite direction from the exit of the hooded figure, the Golden Heel led the way deeper into the maze of tunnels.

Rather than a dirty and grimy underworld, the sewers were actually quite well maintained and more spacious than thought.

Small outcroppings appeared at regular intervals and at one time a silhouette appeared at one of the crossings in the distance, though it turned around and hurried away, as if afraid of meeting others.

“I’m sorry about the obscure language of the invitation, there was a need for haste.

Normally, meetings are scheduled in a more obscure manner and the location can be discussed beforehand, but an incident happened and now everyone is busy moving around as a result.

Since I’m already acquainted with you, the job fell into my hands, though it’s also a pleasure to see you again.”

Every time the two women met so far, Miss Carmen always treated the elf with care and in an amenable manner.

This did not quite fit her image of a ruthless Seat in charge of the [Thieves Guild], who often left behind bloody noses and broken bones when the city guard discovered the aftermath of the guild’s work.

As the leading group, the different Seats had no doubt spilt copious amounts of blood and stepped over a mountain of dead competitors.

There was no reason for Miss Carmen to take special care of the elf and treat her so well.

 

“It doesn’t matter. I saw the print on the letter and managed to figure it out.

I’m just not sure why you wanted to see me.”

As a matter of fact, Nisha did not have strong personal feelings for or against the [Thieves Guild] despite being part of the Dharnas estate, with the Grand Marshal Luthais Dharnas overseeing the city guard, two diametrically opposed forces.

She clearly separated her personal business from the House though, and had no problems cooperating with the guild.

“Ah yes, the copper grade token is pretty convenient for that. A lot of them are given out to customers who do not have any illegal dealings going on and only make contact out of convenience and most of the guild members at the copper rank don’t commit crimes that are worthy of attention from the guard.

As a result, holding the card or getting found with the print of it is hardly incriminating or worthy of notice. It’s really convenient, though I guess the guard also agrees to close one eye on the matter since it would be a hassle to catch anyone with a card.”

The elf and the Seat had walked quite a distance below the city and by now, they probably already exited the noble district.

While Nisha was not quite sure what their destination was, Miss Carmen moved with determination and purpose.

The small talk helped to distract from the stench and the occasional critter running through the sewers, although it made the dragon wonder if the rats and similar animals ever turned into problems by becoming monsters down here.

“I knew that the token was an identification sign, just not the differences between the grades.

Since there’s a bronze token, I assume there’s also silver and gold? What’s the difference?”

The elf had already heard some of the details when she accepted the card from the [Thieves Guild], though it was also news to her that the guard turned a blind eye on them.

 

“Pretty much anyone can own a bronze card, they’re not rare or hard to get. It’s mostly to inform those from the guild who is not a good target to steal from or deal with.

As long as you have the card, you had some contact with the guild at least, while those without most likely have no contacts and there will be no retaliation.

On top of that, those who are not part of the guild but have a card can figure out who they need to contact in case they have business.

Silver rank is only for senior members in the guild, who have proven loyalty and can be trusted.

Customers need to do more to get silver rank, since it also offers some protection and better services.

Anyone can still target and rob them, of course, but we won’t protect them in case they get caught, making other targets much more attractive.

Well, that’s simplifying the exact details a lot, but most of the remaining benefits are more specific towards the needs of the owners.

Gold rank is only given out with the recommendation of three Seats and for members of the Guild, they are therefore considered core members.

We will assist them if they ever get caught and some important missions are only entrusted to gold rank holders.

Patrons, on the other hand, are given shelter against activities from the different branches against themselves and their business, since most of the time their interests are tied together with us anyway. Helping them is the same as helping ourselves.

Well, you get the gist.”

During the explanation of the details regarding the different ranks, their journey through the street of thieves came to an end.

Instead of exiting through another concealed stairway, Miss Carmen activated a hidden switch and part of the wall slid into the ground through a set of intricate counterweights and pulleys.

“Come inside, we’ve almost reached our destination.”

 

Nisha already remembered a similar contraception from the past and had most likely figured out who they were going to meet down here.

She was slightly interested how the [Thieves Guild] managed to build such intricate machinery and hideouts.

Without her [Spirit Sight], it would be close to impossible for the dragon to spot the hollow pathways behind the secret door.

Following the Golden Heel, the elf entered the path and heard the rumbling behind them as the secret door closed off the entrance.

Instead of darkness, a soft green and yellow glow illuminated the area, allowing the two women to properly walk forwards into the underground base.

Just as the last time they visited, most of the furniture and inventory still wasted away in a state of disrepair, with dust piling up in thick sheets wherever no footprints formed paths throughout the rooms.

Interestingly enough, they had entered through a different direction the last time they were here, so most likely even more entrances and exits were scattered around the hideout.

Nisha had more confidence compared to the previous time too, and kept up with Carmen as they walked deeper inside the place.

“So we’re visiting the Alchemist again? Has something happened recently?”

The [Thieves Guild] reached out towards the elf precisely because of the [Blackroot Plague] and made a deal to secure a source of grain in advance.

Since they arranged a hasty meeting and without prior notice, Nisha connected the clues and suspected that this time also concerned the same topic.

 

“Men dislike smart women, you know? You should pretend to let them figure out things first in the future, or it will be difficult for you to find someone.”

The Golden Heel pretended to softly chide her, yet she smiled at the same time.

Working with smart people was a good thing, after all.

“Indeed, there has been a change in the general situation and the Alchemist insisted on a meeting.

He had an unusually staunch attitude regarding this, so we could only trouble you again and send a fast invitation.”

Golden Heel was actually quite apologetic towards the girl regarding this.

Most Seats were amenable to discussion and persuasion once she set her mind on something, but the old man holding the Alchemist Seat was more obstinate than a goat and nothing could change his mind.

“He wants to show you something and say some words, so I could only hurry over.”

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