Chapter 5: Curveballs
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Nolan's consciousness slowly returned, and he jolted awake with a sudden jerk. He blinked, realizing that Regina was not one to be trifled with when faced with uncertainty.
"Huh," he mumbled to himself, "so she can be nasty when things get tricky."
Well, still all according to plan. He knew that Regina likes to be on top of a deal and have anticipated something like this. She will not kill him not when she can make use of him, but how can she let an upstart brat to share same position as her.
As his groggy mind cleared, he began to take in his surroundings.
He found himself bound in a dimly lit underground chamber, his hands securely fastened to the table in front of him. On the other side of the table, Regina Thornheart, the leader of Underworld of Brimstone Isle, sat in a dark corner. Her eyes showed both curiosity and doubt as she stared at him.
Nolan cleared his throat, breaking the silence in the dimly lit chamber. "So, it seems I've found myself in a bit of a bind, Regina," he began, trying to keep his tone calm.
Regina regarded him with a hint of a smirk, her eyes still sharp. "You're a clever one, Nolan. You don't have act so in control. Then again, I don't trust easily, and your little display didn't exactly put me at ease."
Ah, playing superior, lady.
But he could feel the presence of water in a female shape nearby, concealed by some form of magic, but he couldn't see its source. Anouther guard, but more proficient than what should be present in this island, he thought, this was more complex than he had expected.
The room lay hidden beneath the bustling streets of the city as he can feel people moving above, a secret enclave.
Nolan shifted in his restraints, feeling the weight of the mana infused cuffs. "I can understand that. I'm sure you've had your share of betrayals. But I came here seeking partnership, not betrayal."
Regina leaned forward slightly, her expression turning stoic. "Partnerships are built on trust, Nolan. And even if I broke my rule to not do any partnership, right now, I'm not sure I can trust you. Especially when a poor brat like you acted as if he can conquer the whole world with his power."
Nolan met Regina's stoic gaze with a wry smile. "Maybe some day. Trust isn't something that happens overnight, and I admit, I might have come across as a bit too confident back there."
Regina's eyes softened ever so slightly as she leaned back, her suspicion still lurking in the shadows of her gaze. "Confidence can be a tricky thing, Nolan. It can be impressive, but it can also lead to recklessness. So, let's start with something simple. Care to share what you've gained?"
A chuckle escaped his lips upon hearing her question. "You don't think I'm foolish enough to spill the beans, do you?"
Raising his hand in a half-hearted gesture of peace, he added, "Come on, lighten up a bit. How about you free your potential partner from these cuffs?"
She let out a scoff, her confidence unwavering. "Absurd. I don't work with anyone, Nolan. At best, you can work under my command. There will be decent pay, a significant upgrade from your previous endeavors, and I might even assist you with the funds needed for your mother's treatment."
Nolan let a small snort escape his mouth. "Regina Thornheart, you lose. Are you changing your mind about our deal?" he asked as he leaned back in the chair, ignoring her offer.
His words hung in the air, a daring challenge to Regina's resolve. She leaned forward, her piercing gaze locked onto mine. "Nolan, you're playing a dangerous game. Working with me is not a place for bargaining or threats."
He smirked, unfazed by her warning. "Isn't that what the underworld thrives on, Regina? Bargains, threats, and the pursuit of power?"
Regina's expression hardened, and she regarded him with a mix of frustration and intrigue. "You're not like the previous self. Somethings changed."
He didn't react anyway, but simply raised an eyebrow.
Not getting an answer, she continued. "There's a fire in you, a determination that's hard to ignore. But remember, you're treading on thin ice. This island is under me, take my offer or you can see that there are tigers and dragons above you."
With a swift motion, she pulled a tiny key from her cloak's pocket and unlocked the handcuffs restraining his hands to the table. As his wrists were set free, he flexed them, the warmth of returning blood bringing relief.
Turning his head towards the vacant spot in the room, he questioned, "Is the hidden assassin among them? Have you been tricked into seeing wolves as tigers and sparrows as dragons?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Regina freezing at his words. The assassin's demeanor remained unchanged, but her pulse quickened slightly. Yes, it was clear she was a woman with his power.
Nolan turned his head back to Regina when the assassin remained hidden and leaned in, his tone dripping with a veiled threat. "Regina, you ought to reconsider working with me. You might think you can rule this island with your tigers and dragons, but if you want, we can see who can really stand their ground here."
Regina's gaze remained unyielding, but there was a hint of wariness in her eyes as he snapped his fingers once more. She flinched visibly, the effects of their earlier bet still fresh in her mind. It seemed that the snap had left a lasting impression, one he might be able to use to his advantage in the future.
My focus shifted to the assassin, the one with the innate resistance that had surprised me. As he attempted to manipulate her, he could feel the subtle pushback from a dormant source, a power concealed well. But here on this remote island, among Regina's crew, she couldn't possibly match his expertise in manipulation.
The assassin have started moving as soon as she felt the changes in her body. But just as the her dagger lunged towards him, he managed to incapacitate her, rendering her unconscious before she could strike.
Regina had risen from her chair, but Nolan couldn't help but notice that the placement of the dagger seemed more about incapacitating him than delivering a fatal blow.
He raised an eyebrow as he glanced at the unconscious woman. Confident enough to hold him down even when Regina should have told her about his power. Something about this girl didn't add up. Regina shouldn't have someone with this much potential under her.
The assassin lay unconscious on the floor, her features now more visible in the dimly lit room. She was a woman of lithe build, dressed in a dark, form-fitting attire that allowed her to blend seamlessly into the shadows. Her attire bore the mark of a serpent, a symbol that sent a shiver down Nolan's spine as soon as he laid eyes on it.
The mark, a coiled serpent with emerald eyes, was etched onto the fabric of her clothing. It was a symbol he hadn't seen in years, one that brought back memories of a young girl he had once known. The realization hit him like a tidal wave, and he staggered back in shock.
The mark was unmistakable, and it raised a torrent of questions that he wasn't prepared to answer. Especially if she really was, who he think she was.
Nolan quickly composed himself, his expression turning flat as he realized that Regina had noticed his reaction to the serpent symbol. He knew he couldn't hide the shock he had felt upon seeing the mark, especially given the significance it held and Regina have probably noticed it.
Regina remained composed, her raised eyebrows a silent acknowledgment of Nolan's stunt. "Alright," she said, her tone measured, "I guess you have more to offer than it seems. We'll start with a single project and go from there."
But Nolan had drifted away from the conversation. His thoughts were a whirlwind of revelations and connections. The Future Sovereign of the Dark, he mused. In his previous life, she had been a formidable force, a young woman of around 17 who had carved a path of vengeance and power. Her ruthless rise to fame had begun when someone close to her had been killed, and Nolan couldn't help but piece together the puzzle.
As he looked at the young assassin before him, who bore the same serpent mark as Regina's sister, it became clear. The one the Future Sovereign had sought vengeance for had been Regina herself. The pieces of the past and present were aligning, and Nolan realized that he had just made an a huge headache for him. His power will awake her dormant potential, and soon she will be beyond his powers.
"Huh, what?" Nolan's mind struggled to catch up with Regina's words.
But he quickly refocused on his priorities. The stake had already risen to the Realms level and now his mother's safety is paramount, and he couldn't afford to be complacent in this dangerous game. He realized that life had thrown him an unexpected curveball, and he had to adapt.
"Right, a partnership," Nolan said, his voice more determined now. "But you've broken trust with this assassin, and there should be consequences."
With a swift motion, he conjured a blade made of water and sat beside the unconscious assassin. Regina remained outwardly composed, but Nolan could sense her rising blood pressure. The artifact's power, which had previously rendered him unconscious, was trying to control his mind again. But now that the part have been completed, he had neutralized its effects within his own body.
Regina challenged him, her tone unyielding. "And you think shedding the blood of an assassin will achieve anything? I have plenty of them under my command. But you should also be wary of the consequences, Nolan."
Nolan could already feel the approaching guards in the outer tunnels due to his powers, as their hurried steps not echoed a single sound towards them.
Stepping back from the assassin, he turned towards Regina, his voice firm. "Let's simplify this then, Regina. This dispute should stay between us. You leave my mother out of this, and I promise not to spill the blood of your agents. But if you try to harm my mother, I will make sure that you regret it."
Nolan's ultimatum had been laid out, and now it was up to her to decide.
She already knew that Nolan knew something about her sister and likely knew their relation. She also knew that Nolan was powerful or will be, and but she had no idea what he was capable of, especially if he have powers similar to her sister.