Many Meetings
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When I had suggested to The Voice that an appropriate reward for Alley was a briefcase full of cash, I did not expect it to literally follow through with my suggestion. I found the said briefcase in the apartment once Alley had arranged for the return of Brocon to the girl's dormitory. The cover story we used was that an ORPO patrolman had found Brocon unconscious and abandoned in a black cab. Since Brocon's actual relatives were either on the run as a suspect in her kidnapping or recovering in hospital after the fight at the von Amsterg manor, ORPO called up the Academy to take custody of Brocon. 

Thankfully, The Voice had kept Brocon sedated through pretty much everything. It also assured me that Brocon had a clean bill of health and that she would awaken once she was back safely at the Academy. By now Alley had grown used to my outlandish requests and silently accepted that I was far more than what I appeared to be, so she sullenly cooperated in the plan.

Brocon was delivered safely back to the dorms where she awakened, crying for the Hero. Alley duly filled her in with a very rough version of events, the short version being the Hero went to rescue her and in the process beat up Nicky. Nicky fled in a helicopter and his goons got cold feet, abandoning Brocon before legging it themselves. No, she could not meet the Hero now since he was still in hospital. Yes, the Hero is fine and will be discharged soon. The end.

Well, its not actually the end of course. The succession dispute was in no way settled and as long as Nicky was alive and kicking, I was sure that he would be making a comeback. Then there was the Loli vampire backing Nicky. Going by The Voice's description of how she pretty much held off the Hero's entire party by herself, Loli was shaping up to be a boss character the Hero needed to defeat. That's a problem for the Hero to deal with in the future I suppose. 

Right now though, I was waiting outside the main building with the briefcase in my hand. I did not want the rest of the administration staff to spot me handing over the money to Alley, so that left intercepting her once she leaves the office to go home. I idly trace patterns in the snow with my foot to keep boredom at bay. Office hours had ended twenty minutes ago but Alley had yet to emerge from the building. I could not kill time by chatting with The Voice either. It had told me that it would be busy following up on the investigation of the sarcophagus and left me to my devices. The free time is nice, but a little disconcerting after the mad rush caused by the recent crisis. 

Alley finally emerges from the building and stops in her tracks the moment she sees me. I signal her to keep moving and fall in beside her. The two of us make our way in silence to the staff parking area and when Alley unlocks the door to her car, a nondescript saloon which screams middle-class, I get in without asking her for permission. Alley deposits herself in the driver's seat next to me with a look of tired annoyance. 

"What is it now, Mr Greer?" Alley grumbles.

I pass the briefcase to her, replying, "Compliments from our mutual friend for a job well done."

Alley looks at me with suspicion before opening the briefcase. Her eyes immediately go wide and she quickly slams the briefcase shut. There's easily more than what she makes a year in that briefcase. I suppose The Voice could afford to be generous since at the end of the day it was just spawning a big pile of paper. 

Alley looks at me uncertainly and says, "I don't want it. I don't want to be further in debt to our so-called friend."

I just shrug and keep looking ahead, "That's up to you. Its your money now. You can do whatever you want with it."

Alley's eye dart back to the briefcase before asking cautiously, "Does this mean that my part is over?"

I shake my head, "You're part of our little gang now. Stick with us, and there is more where that came from. Our mutual friend will also allow you to work off your debt to him this way."

I had figured from The Voice's description of Alley that she was doing badly in the way of money. The obvious financial rewards that I offered combined with the unspoken threat of reprisal was something that Alley was finding very hard to resist. Her face was going through multiple different expressions at once before settling into a look that could be described as a mixture of resignation and relief. 

"Thank you Mr Greer. Please also thank our mutual friend for me." Alley says politely. 

I give her a thumbs up and leave the car. 

....

I was dozing in the hospital bed when I was suddenly awoken by someone holding tightly to my body while crying. Blinking my eyes in confusion, I find Rose embracing me with her head laid on my chest, her tears soaking through the hospital gown. My hand instinctively moves to gently pat her on the head and causes Rose to realize that I have woken up. 

"Stupid. Stupid brother." Rose pouts as she petulantly hits me on the chest with her fists, "Why did you get yourself hurt for my sake?"

I wince in pain from the soft blows. Nicholas had really worked me over the other night. Rose notices my discomfort and begins to gently massage the areas where it hurts. 

"I could not let Nicholas treat you like that." I tell Rose, "Not after I had swore to protect you."

Rose smiles and leans closer to me, so close that I feel her breath against my skin. She whispers in my ear, "You really would go so far to protect me?" 

Her scent. Its driving me wild. I cannot think straight. My face flushes and I become tongue tied. Rose laughs lightly and tightens her embrace. 

"How daring." Rose says throatily, "Such bravery deserves a reward." Her hands begin undoing my hospital gown. I am completely helpless. I cannot resist. I don't think I even want to resist. 

A sudden crash breaks the mood and I see Sera kicking in the door to the private ward. She charges into my room with her sword drawn, ready to fight. Her eyes land on us and she immediately gives Rose a furious scowl while relaxing out of the battle stance. From the frame of the doorway, I see Celeste shyly peeking in, her face completely red. 

"Sera! What is going on?" I quickly shout in order to distract her from what Rose had been doing. Rose on her part covers me with a blanket and sits straight in her seat with both hands demurely on her lap. 

Sera's scowl grows more severe as she glares at Rose while sheathing the saber. "I was coming to visit you, Ms Scott and Ken but got here a bit before visiting hours." Sera explains, "Then I saw Celeste at reception making a fuss about seeing someone sneak into the wards."

"I thought that one of Nicholas's people came here to finish the job, but it turns out," Sera turns to look pointedly at Rose, "that it was just you."

Rose makes a slightly offended noise at Sera's remarks but I quickly gesture at Rose not to protest too much. Both of us are already in trouble here. Sera's still carrying that sword of hers after all. 

I look at Celeste and try to change the subject, "Uh, why are you here then Celeste? You are welcome to come in by the way."

Celeste shuffles into the room carrying a small plastic container. She presents it to me saying, "I came here to visit Tensei as well. I made cookies too to help you get better."

I take a bite out of one of the cookies. They're good. Just as I am about to compliment Celeste, another pair of figures walk into the private ward. 

"Kira! Master!" I shout, "What are you doing here?" Crap. That came out wrong. 

Kira just stares at all of us, her mouth hanging open, her hand caught in mid-wave.

Master on the other hand just nods sagaciously and says, "My bad student is clearly entertaining female company at the moment. Three rounds. You have certainly grown up Tensei. Its clear we are not wanted at the moment Kira. Let's go." Master begins maneuvering a dumbstruck Kira back out of the door. 

Kira struggles against Master with a deranged look in her eyes. She shouts, "Five rounds! I don't mind being the fifth! As long as its with Tensei!"

No wait! That's not what's happening at all! Are you trying to get me killed Master?

Sera suddenly slams her hand against the wall and everyone shuts up. 

"Since everyone is here," Sera says in the sweetest tone possible, "you don't mind that I bring Ms Scott and Ken over as well do you, Tensei?"

I quickly shake my head and Sera marches out of the room. 

How did things end up like this?

 

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