"I don't think there's much to negotiate about. The commercial street is my territory anyways," said Loden coldly. He was initially curious why Blackjack sought him out and he just found out that they wanted to take a bite out of Bloodhand Brotherhood's meat.
"Please forgive my frankness, but I doubt you can make that decision for the whole brotherhood as an individual, Mister Loden. Unless, you're saying that you've gotten the agreement of your leader, and that you're conveying Mister Taewon's will," said the other man sneakily.
Loden kept silent for a moment before he replied, "I have come here to represent only myself."
"Alright then," the man said, "We don't need you to make the decision right now. All we ask is that you pass these words on to your leader. That's all there is."
"You don't even need to think about it to know that Boss Taewon won't agree to something like that!" Loden said without hesitation, "I am sure of that!"
"Is that so?" the sneaky man said once more, "Does Mister Loden really think so?"
"Our leader is no idiot. Why would he do something that would compromise his own profits? Boss Taewon aside, are you telling me that Mister Blackjack would do the same?" said Loden with a smirk.
"Of course he wouldn't. Most normal people wouldn't do something to harm their own benefits, however..." the man suddenly closed in and asked, "how can you be sure that there isn't a reason for it this time?"
"You..." Loden felt a chill run down his spine. He knew that someone had gripped his weak point.
"I admit that I've held a sense of respect for the brotherhood in the long time I've been here. However, that person's appearance changed everything" said the other man. When he mentioned 'that person', a look of respect flashed through his eyes.
"Dark Requiem..." muttered Loden.
"That's right, Dark Requiem indeed," the man said with a nod, "In fact, I'm curious how Bloodhand Brotherhood managed to make that kind of enemy."
"That's none of your business," said Loden without a change in expression. In fact, he wasn't aware of the reason himself.
"This is but a fact," the man said with a shrug, "However, after deliberating over it, I came upon a thought: don't you think that such a sinister assassin has an even bigger power standing behind him?"
"What do you mean?" Loden kept his poker face.
"An even stronger faction," replied that man.
"You can investigate it yourself," said Loden.
"We don't have to," the man said, "But regardless, I believe that Bloodhand Brotherhood will no doubt be ripped apart by Dark Requiem."
"So you're saying that you're here to exploit our predicament?" A cold glint could be seen in Loden's eyes.
That man nodded frankly. "That's right. We are here to do exactly that. In fact, apart from us, quite a number of other factions in the city are just staring and waiting for a chance. That's especially true with regards to the commercial street. If our estimations are not mistaken, the street brings the brotherhood a quarter of its income. Others, us included, are pining for that kind of profit."
"Well, you can try. Stretch your hand into our mouth to take our meat and I guarantee that your hand will be bitten off," hissed Loden.
The man merely smiled. "Mister Loden, I'm sure you're a pretty smart man, seeing as how you've managed to secure your current position. Why would you say something so stupid then?"
"I'm not sure I follow."
"Oh, you do," the man continued, "With seven of your branches destroyed, I'm sure that Bloodhand Brotherhood will be in for a hell of a ride even without our interference. We'd definitely wouldn't dare demand the things we did in the past. But now, the great lion has already been wounded and its fangs and talons are sharp no more. Naturally, we have to rebuild the natural order and restore the equilibrium of power once more."
Loden humphed audibly, neither confirming nor denying the man's allegations. Blackjack was well-prepared for the negotiations. Since the name of the Bloodhand Brotherhood no longer threatened them, it was their turn to play their cards.
"And Boss Blackjack is willing to stretch out an olive branch right now," that man said, seeing as Loden wasn't going to say anything else, "In exchange, Boss Taewon should give us part of the profits of the commercial street."
"Exchange? For what?" Loden said, "You guys aren't contributing one bit and yet you demand part of the profits from the commercial street? That's no trade. It's robbery!"
"So you're telling me that the brotherhood has never robbed anyone before? Or are you saying you had a hand in building the prosperity of the commercial street with your own hands?" responded the man without holding anything back. After that, he softened his tone and said, "But, if you are willing to give us a part of the profits, we'll ensure that what remains will securely be in your hands. At the same time, Boss Blackjack will help your brotherhood to survive this predicament. This is our offer."
Loden looked at that man without saying a word as he considered the pros and cons of the matter.
The man added, "I believe that Mister Loden is also aware that apart from Boss Taewon, Boss Blackjack has never feared anyone in Kent. Even if we don't take anything from the commercial street, there's no doubt that the other factions would try to stretch their hands in. How could you weather the pressure from all the factions in Kent alone? You'd be unable to keep the commercial street to yourself anyway, so why not trade a part of its profits for Boss Blackjack's friendship? I believe that this is the optimal choice and the best deal you can get. We assure you that our price is the fairest."
Loden kept silent as usual. After some consideration, he said, "I will bring this matter up to Boss Taewon, but I'm not sure if he'll agree to it."
"That's more than enough!" the man said with a confident smile, "We thank you for giving us face today, Mister Loden. Well then, we'll be waiting patiently for Boss Taewon's reply. You should know how to get in touch with us."
"Got it," said Loden with a nod.
"Very well. We'll be taking our leave. The bill has already been paid for, so feel free to help yourself," said the man before he left the room.
Loden sat in the room alone without making the slightest sound. After who knows how long, he stood up and left it. A few of his goons were patiently waiting outside.
"Come on, let's go back," said Loden. But at that moment, an immeasurably alluring woman entered his line of sight. 'She' had a head of long, lush black hair. Paired with her soul-tempting face and enchanting figure, she was the finest thing to ever exist. Loden had also noticed 'her' revealing clothes, which told him that women like that were easy to conquer.
The woman only gave him a cursory glance before entering the washroom.
Having just participated in an infuriating negotiation with Blackjack's faction, he felt that he needed to vent on a woman. It seemed that he had gotten the very thing he wished for.
"Be on the lookout for me. I'll go in for a bit," instructed Loden.
"Don't worry, I'll make sure that nobody comes to bother you!" The goon understood his intentions and promised his superior privacy.
Loden nodded with satisfaction before he entered the washroom impatiently. He ignored the 'ladies' sign completely and pushed the door open.
As expected, that woman seemed to be waiting for him within.
"I wonder who a beautiful lady such as you is waiting for at a place like this?" said Loden with a smile. Even though he was small and weak, his face could still be considered handsome. His trademark smile had allowed him to successfully conquer quite a number of women.
"Well, you're not wrong in that I'm waiting for someone," replied the woman in a husky, sexy voice.
"Oh? I wonder who that person might be?" Loden's smile intensified, but he began to feel a sense of discomfort because the woman felt almost too easy to get. It was as if she had sent herself into his embrace.
The woman smiled, before she revealed a piercing gaze. 'She' suddenly said in a grossly different-sounding male voice, "Why for you of course."
Loden was horrified. He knew that something was off when that woman's gaze shifted. But before he could react, the woman's dagger had already been held against his throat.
"Ssssshhh! Relax. Don't make any weird sounds. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to stop my hand from shuddering," said Leguna with a laugh.
"Who are you?" Loden tried hard to suppress the stutter in his voice. He knew that he couldn't afford to show any weakness at times like this.
"Dark Requiem," replied he softly.
Loden began to emit cold sweat.
"Loden, right?" Leguna said, "What were you doing in there just now? You had me waiting for a long time."
Loden merely looked coldly at Leguna without saying a single word.
Leguna sighed. "Why are you all always like that? Well, I guess I can try out some new things today."
"Wow, it sounds so exciting," said one goon who was respectfully standing guard outside the washroom. They listened to the rough moans coming out from within and couldn't help but picture what was going on.
"Did you see that? That woman truly is the cream of the crop! I've never seen someone so hot in all my life!" said another as he drooled.
"Of course I did. Darn it, if I were inside, I would be willing to give her my life!"
If Loden had heard that, he would've no doubt said, 'So you want to give it a f*cking try? It's not so good that I'm going to heaven! I'm literally dying!'
Within the washroom, Loden could be seen with greenish-purple bruises over his back and abdomen. Even though they weren't too obvious, Loden only knew how pain he currently felt. However, the hateful Leguna had sealed off his voice box and impetus. Even though he wasn't completely silent, he could only make a few soft sounds that were not that different from moans during intercourse.
"Well, you will tell me what I want to know now, right?" said Leguna with some annoyance.
Loden caught his breath and waited for the pain to subside. After that, he answered Leguna with complete honesty.
"Good," said Leguna with a satisfied nod. He thought for a bit before he brought out a small pill and stuffed it in Loden's mouth. "This is a poison I made myself. You'll be fine for the next five days after ingesting it. But if you don't get the antidote by then, you'll bleed out from your seven orifices and intestines before dying. The pain you felt just now is nothing in comparison."
Loden glared at Leguna wordlessly.
"You might not believe it, but I'm sure you can feel a slight pain in your abdomen now," Leguna said, "By the time that pain rises to your heart, that will be your death."
It was then when Loden was truly frightened. He did feel a subtle pulse of pain in his abdomen. If it really was as Leguna had said... He shivered to imagine the consequences.
"That's it." Leguna could tell that Loden was completely in his control after seeing his response. "If you want the antidote, just do a few simple things for me..."