Finding An Opportunity
Chapter 9: Finding An Opportunity
I walked up to the batwing doors of the Dandy Saloon listening to nothing talking and laughing that can be heard outside. Upon opening those doors and entering the establishment the ruckus slowly subsided as everyone stopped for a moment to look at the unfamiliar face who entered their exclusive saloon meant for High Rollers with only the workers managing the place being normal people.
“Who’s that guy?”
“Never seen him before.”
“Lucky bastard has a rare soul.”
They spoke amongst themselves wondering who I was which made things a bit awkward for me since I preferred to keep a low profile. Especially when I was able to tell that they were High Rollers with experience in fighting other High Rollers. I felt out of place but didn’t falter and walked towards the counter.
“Hey, shiny boy!” One of the High Rollers called out to me who was older with wrinkles and a white beard. When I first saw him, he reminded me of Jackson Reed back at Vornil Town which slightly annoyed me. “Where did ye come from? Never seen a shiny one like ye before.” He asked.
As I looked at that white-bearded man, I could sense disapproval and some jealousy which he knew I was able to see but since he along with the others he sat with knew they could see each other’s emotions it wasn’t much of a big deal for them.
“Vornil Town, and I only recently became a High Roller,” I answered figuring lying about something like that wasn’t worth testing my ability to swap my intent yet.
“Oh!? That’s where ass stick John was placed! Bwahahaha!” The white-bearded man laughed along with his two other mates.
“Why do you call him that?”
“Cause the bastard got a stick far and deep in his ass! Always acting like some high and mighty brat thinking he better than us.”
I didn’t know much about John’s past but from what I did know at the time is that I wasn’t going to let that old fat bastard speak ill towards John. Especially since he reminded me of Jackson Reed. Without thinking I was going to speak up out of emotion until another incident happened on the saloon when the sound of shattering glass and a man wailing in pain is heard.
“AAAHH! You…Stofpid.. whrore!” A middle-aged man mumbled while he held his wounded bloodied nose.
“Stupid pig! I warned you not to touch me!” A woman with shortish blonde hair angrily shouted at that man.
“Hahaha! It’s the third time this week!” Someone yelled out.
“Cut his balls off!”
“Let me get a touch too!”
Everyone shouted and laughed not interfering with what was transpiring despite seeing the man who got hit with glass show lots of anger in his soul. It was enough to know he had some intention to kill. Upon regaining his composure, I decided to try what I wished to test at that moment. It all happened fast with little time to prepare because both the man and woman were reaching down their holsters to draw their guns. Since they were high rollers and knew the intent of the other leaving the one with the fastest reaction to come out on top. However, on that day there would be no deciding factor for I used my special ability to make it seem like I had the intent to kill that man.
“Huh!?” The man instantly turned towards me in the middle of drawing out his gun. Having gotten distracted at that moment upon turning his head towards me seeing I didn’t have a weapon and wasn’t even close to him.
Confusion was visible in those eyes within those critical seconds and that man suddenly switched his target at me. At that moment, I felt like my life was flashing before my eyes over a mere test as I saw that gun being drawn and aimed directly at my chest. I didn’t expect that man to decide to shoot me instead of the woman which caused my reaction in attempting to dodge too late. But I was saved in time by the woman who shot that man right at his gun making his aim veer off to the right nearly scraping my arm.
“Agh!” The man dropped his gun from the force of the bullet striking it and looked at the woman angrily refusing to back down.
“Don’t even think about it, pig.” The woman told him knowing he still had the intent to fight.
I stood there in a slight daze for my life could have ended right there if the woman hadn’t disarmed the man. In that instance, the man knew he lost the draw with the woman and committed to killing me instead. Because it was in the moment, I assumed that man would simply be dumbfounded still trying to aim and fire at the woman when he saw I had no weapon and tricked him with my ability.
“Haha! Kill the bastard!”
“Yeah! Shoot his balls off, Annie!”
“End that son bitch!”
The saloon full of High Rollers encouraged the woman named Annie to finish him off. Before things went any further the entire place went from making such a racket to utter silence as someone pushed open the batwing doors loudly, entering the Dandy Saloon. Normally, it would have gone unnoticed but every High Roller in that saloon could sense such an intimidating intent that came from the person who entered and shut the whole place up with his mere presence alone. This person was the Dark Rider Mato, the Native man who saved me from Uisai.
“So, this is someone else with a rare soul.” I thought to myself as I looked at Mato who was quite tall and muscular. Behind Mato was his soul which was even bigger and resembled a lot like a giant bear.
Back then I wasn’t aware that a human could even become a High Roller with an animal. Not only that but the opposite could also happen as some wildlife in Velorian can also turn into High Rollers although they aren’t exactly considered High Rollers and are more like monsters. As long as a living thing can feel emotion and desire; if strong enough can become a wandering soul waiting until someone successfully makes a pact. Anyways, I eventually learn about all of that, and Mato who came by the Dandy Saloon remembered me. Mato looked at Grace being able to guess that the girl whom he last saw barely alive became a part of my soul. Mato then looks around at the scene but isn’t fazed in the least by it.
“I need a few more hands to venture out into the mountains southwest of here,” Mato spoke out loudly and walked in the middle of the saloon. “The remainder of the Nahr’Shak are holding up there including their leader who managed to escape from me.”
“Shit, southwest mountains? Count me out.”
“If I’m going to risk my life I’d at least want to get paid handsomely.”
“Yeah, fuck that place.”
Everyone in the saloon was hesitant to take part in hunting the remaining Nahr’Shak. Well, everyone except for me as I heard there were still some of them alive, I couldn’t pass up on that opportunity to have Mato teach me some things about being a High Roller. That while also getting some revenge for Grace and myself for what they did to us.
“Here, I’ll go with you,” I said and raised my hand to let Mato know I was the one who spoke.
“Sorry, but I can only trust experienced High Rollers with this.” Mato declined me.
“And I need to experience to become experienced. I won’t hold you back and if I do then do not feel inclined to keep me alive.” I said determined to go and Mato could see I wasn’t lying about not caring for death.
Mato walked over to me with a curiosity like he hasn’t seen a type of man like me in a long time.
“You have a strong desire to live yet knowingly and willingly face danger. But what for exactly? Why would someone like you want experience in being a High Roller?” Mato asked away wondering what I wanted from a cursed land.
“… I’m looking for someone, Logan Campbell,” I said it loudly so everyone in the bar could hear and hoped someone would be familiar with the name.
“Huh? Who’s that?”
“Never heard of him.”
“Logan Campbell? Doesn’t ring a bell.”
Everyone in the saloon didn’t know who I was talking about and Mato didn’t know either.
“Logan Campbell was exiled to Velorian. And I intend to look in every single corner of these lands until the day I die.” I said with confidence but everyone looked at me like I was utterly insane.
“Ha! This guy has lost his damn mind!”
“Bastard is taking Velorian lightly.”
“The idiot will regret it.”
Mato didn’t say a word upon hearing my intention and after a few moments walked a bit closer to have a deeper look into my eyes.
“I’ll allow you to come. And just as you said I will make sure you do not put our lives at risk for your inexperience. Understood?” Mato warned me that he would kill me immediately if I turned out to be dead weight.
“I understand. But I won’t idly sit around and let myself be killed.” I also gave him a warning.
“I’ll come too.” The woman named Annie spoke out and stepped forward.
“Huh? Annie? Bwahaha!”
“Haha! You’ll just end up being Negro dinner! Ahaha!”
Everyone laughed at Annie for it was something truly unexpected because no one in the Dandy Saloon had any expectations for her to be of any use. Despite the ridicule, Annie stood her ground in silence not letting such things get to her.
“Your experience?” Mato asked Annie wanting to know an estimate on how she can hold her own.
“One year being a High Roller and three years surviving Velorian,” Annie answered truthfully.
“We’re going after a dangerous man. Chances of dying or worse are high. Are you certain you wish to join?” Mato asked to make sure Annie would be aware since everyone including High Rollers come to Delidaware to live a much safer life and settle.
“I’ll be sure to put a bullet in my own head before they capture me,” Annie said being serious about it.
“Anyone else!?” Mato yelled out making the laughter stop as he looked around at the saloon.
After me and Annie, no one else dared to volunteer for such a dangerous job.
“Come to the stables at Merl street early in the morning,” Mato told Annie and then looked at me. “What’s your name?” He asked.
“Levi Carter,” I answered.
“Annie, was it? I’ll entrust you to show where Levi can find Merl street.”
Mato didn’t say anything else and left the Dandy Saloon. After leaving the entire place returned to its usual ruckus.
“HA! I hope those black bastards tear open that little asshole of yours!” The man whom Annie hit with a jar of glass wished the worst for her.
“Having a grudge over something you deserved. You’re the spitting image of a pathetic man.” Annie told him with disgust.
The man spit on the floor almost landing on Annie’s boots.
“How’s that for a spitting image? Gahaha!”
Annie doesn’t bother wasting any more words on him and walked towards me.
“Come, I’ll show you where Merl street is,” Annie told me and headed out.
I followed behind Annie and sensed the jealousy and hate from that man. He didn’t like it one bit that I was going to be spending time with her. But his hate for me was wasted since I had no interest in women at all. There was only ever one woman for me and she’s gone. However, I was curious to know why Annie volunteered since the reaction in the Dandy Saloon were all surprised. But as I followed Annie while leading my horse she didn’t say anything to me for a while until halfway to Merl street she suddenly stopped and turned around.
“That was your ability, right? Tricking that pig into thinking you were going to kill him.” Annie asked having spent that whole time walking figuring it out in her mind.
I stayed silent for a moment and figured telling someone like Annie about Grace wouldn’t be a problem. But I still considered that information very valuable and wanted something in return.
“If I answer, will you tell me why you volunteered?” I asked wanting to know her reason.
“Bargaining, are we? Well, I already know the answer so there’s no need for me to accept. But I will anyway since you’ll learn of it sooner or later.” Annie said and continued to walk.
“Yes, that was the ability from my soul, Grace.” I followed behind.
“Mmm, what a lovely name for a soul. I’m jealous.”
“Yours has a name? It doesn’t seem hostile towards you.”
“He does, but normal souls are left with no names. Otherwise, there’d be too many of the same. Only rare souls like yours are given a name.”
“I see, will you now tell me why you volunteered?”
Annie stopped walking to take a moment on how she should answer.
“Will you have a problem if I tag along in your journey?” Annie asked wanting to join me in heading out to explore Velorian.
“…I need an explanation.” I knew there was more to it as I could sense some guilt from Annie.
“Guess I have to if you want to trust me. But let’s hold off on that for now. Not exactly a proper place to tell you about my life these past years.” Annie said and came up with a different thought and continued walking. “Speaking of proper place, you’re new here, right?” She asked.
“I just arrived today.”
“Have you found a place to stay the night?”
“After you show me Merl street I’ll look for one.”
“You’re more than welcome to stay at my place. I’ll be more comfortable telling you about my reasons there.”
“Are you sure? Don’t seem like the type to just let a man you’ve only met recently to your home.”
“Hmph, have you forgotten we’re High Rollers? I don’t sense anything malicious from you.”
“And have you forgotten I can manipulate what I can express?”
“True, but I can tell you’re not that type of man. Then again, I’ll still lay out a warning just in case. If you even think about trying some funny business, I’ll put a bullet right on your throat and watch you choke in your own blood.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
The night continued as Annie showed me the rendezvous spot in which I left my horse on the stables to rest and after that walked to her apartment home. It was cramped with tight hallways as many people living in Delidaware were returning home from work. Most of the rooms in that place can only house one and maybe two people depending on their size but then there are exclusive rooms with a bit more space with a guarantee that two people of any size can fit perhaps even three. Those rooms typically cost a lot but Annie being a High Roller with a role to protect the citizens of Delidaware from outside threats is given a special price. Not all High Rollers receive such offers but that’s because they declined the dangerous jobs that would grant said offers.
Despite being given the special, Annie had her home empty in terms of what’s on display as a first impression when one enters. Merely having the basics with even those being void of any cosmetic but it only made sense since Annie never was able to make up her mind on settling in Delidaware. That’s because she wasn’t originally from Delidaware or any of its smaller towns but from a town similar to where Grace used to live when she was alive. Just like Grace, Annie wanted to find her family which consisted of a mother, father, elder brother, and little sister. They got separated after their town got raided by a gang and captured. Being taken to different places only in Annie’s captured group was it attacked by another rival gang which allowed Annie and a few others to escape into the woods.
Since then, Annie had survived on her own trying to find her family and becoming a High Roller along the way. However, the deeper Annie ventured into uncharted Velorian territory and learned more about the ones who captured her family. The more her eyes were opened to a scene of defeat. The number of dangerous enemies she’d need to go through just to find out if her family was still alive proved too much for her to handle. Eventually, Annie heard of a thriving city with a civilized government system with strong protection from outside threats. But in the end, the guilt of having given up on her family has kept Annie from deciding for a whole year until I arrived. When Annie heard about my reasons to venture out into Velorian she felt like we were the same and, at that moment, found the motivation to finally make that difficult decision.
“So, that’s your reason,” I said after Annie explained her past to me while we both sat near a small table for two and drank some tee-like drink. “Well, it’s your choice to risk your life following me and I don’t intend to take any responsibility for it either,” I told her being upfront that my life comes first. “Also, you’re misunderstanding. My reasoning is not the same as yours. I’m not heading out to find a family member or friend. I’m looking for Logan Campbell to kill him myself or at the very least find reassurance that he is no longer alive.”
Annie who sat across was shocked to hear my real reason for finding Logan Campbell expecting something nobler.
“Did this man… take away what’s dear to you?” Annie asked guessing that would be the only reason a man like me would go to such lengths.
“That’s right, everything that I cherished and gave me happiness was taken away by him,” I said and Grace suddenly floated in front of me to not leave out her request. “I know, I didn’t forget,” I told Grace in which Annie found it surprising that I was talking with my soul. “I recently added another purpose for going out. In exchange for being cooperative and helping with my hunt, I’ll also try to find Grace’s brother.”
“Wow, you could speak with your soul?” Annie curiously asked.
“Wouldn’t say we’re exactly speaking to each other since Grace isn’t exactly saying words to me. It’s more or less like she’s sharing what’s on her mind with mine. That’s the best way I can explain it.”
“Still, to be able to communicate with your soul. You indeed found yourself a very special one. You best keep her safe, because there’s many out there who are trying to capture those with rare souls and experimenting with em. Some are even willing to pay handsomely to anyone who manages to bring one captured alive.”
“I doubt a normal person could possibly capture someone like Mato alive.”
“Don’t overestimate a High Roller. We can still die just like any other human. The only difference is we have higher chances to avoid tough situations.”
“I know, I was merely speaking in a normal fight with no disadvantage.” I then thought of something else that I wanted to know about Delidaware. “Do you know the history of Delidaware? How is it that it’s able to remain civil with its people being trustworthy of its government?”
“Don’t know a lot about that. All I know is that years ago a man named Abraham Lincoln worked effortlessly to gain the trust of many and build Delidaware. He’s long dead but what he left behind is what he believed to be the future of a land that isn’t known for its curse but its freedom. Equality, opportunity, and liberty to all men and women no matter their race or color. A land that would one day be rid of its cursed name Velorian and be known as America, the land of the free.”
“To be rid of Velorian? Does that mean he planned to make this place a livable country?”
“Yes, but that’s just what I have been told of those who believe in his words.”
“Are they even aware of such a goal? I don’t believe any of the existing countries intend to just idly sit by and allow this huge land to not be theirs.”
“There’s a reason why you come ashore to these cursed lands and don’t find a civilized city or someone to direct you to it. Nor do you find anyone trying to build a ship to return. It’s cruel but those in charge of Delidaware don’t make it easy for newcomers to Velorian to find this place or leave. They must find return themselves and if they don’t… well… they end up dying.”
“Letting them die for the sake of ensuring the other countries don’t catch wind that it’s possible to live in Velorian.”
“It’s said only those destined to make this American dream come to life will find it.”
The more I found out about the origins of Delidaware I realized just how much thought went into building it from the ground up. I couldn’t even imagine how rough it must have been for that Abraham Lincoln fella to get so many people on board to follow his dream even after death. It piqued my curiosity to see how far this American dream would go but my interest lies in finding Logan Campbell alive or dead