Chapter 344 An Inheritance Issue 3
Aarav witnessed Vexa's sudden appearance without a single switch in stride. All he did was look at the smoking, dimmed end of his cigarette with an annoyed face before lighting it again with his finger lighter.
"Alright, so who is this?" said Aarav.
Vexa materialized behind Aldrich - but in front of Valera - in a swirl of visible, cyan tinted winds. Her imperial robes flowed about her like a gentle breeze.
"You must be a man of some power," said Vexa, looking Aarav's calm, seated figure up and down.
"Oh? And how can you tell?" said Aarav.
"Your mannerisms. Stiff. Not in the way a scared retainer is before their lord, but rather the reverse: the stiffness of one who is used to lording. And that, in spite of the relaxed air you try to give, perhaps in a guise to relate with your underlings."
"We've got a mind reader here, do we?" Aarav blew out a curl of smoke, unphased that he had been read so easily.
Vexa's observational ability was superb. It exceeded that of Aldrich's, likely because she had a vastly more experience in navigating treacherous imperial court drama. "I'm thinking of a number between one and ten. Can you guess it?"
"Only if you are willing to give up your body to me."
Aarav raised a brow.
"Such indecency!" said Valera. "You are talking to a renowned guest of ours here."
"Despite being such an innocently sweet little thing, your mind does tend to stray towards the muck, no?" Vexa put her sleeved hands together and gave Aarav a small bow. "My apologies for the sudden appearance. But when I heard I could be of service, I simply had to intervene."
"What do you have in mind, Vexa?" said Aldrich.
"Is this man trustworthy?"
Aarav saw that his cigarette died down again in the presence of Vexa's chilling aura. He took Vexa's hint and said, "I'll take a smoke break outside. Give you all some time to talk things through."
Once Aarav left, Aldrich said to Vexa, "I know you haven't been here long, but you should stop referring to me as 'lord' or using court terminology in general. The human world here is comlpetely different from the one you knew."
"That much is very apparent. Yet observing this world has made me realize that humanity here is still very much the same in many ways. They are still governed by the same instincts and emotions that give their actions direction, a direction that can be read with a discerning eye."
"Then what is your suggestion?" said Valera, crossing her arms.
"My, that dress looks wonderful on your, my sweeting. But to answer your question, I present another of my own. You both understand what type of being I am, no?"
"A Phantom," said Aldrich. He did not know all of Vexa's abilities. He knew her basic ones from when she could be first summoned, but in the mid-late game of levels, she would have developed a much larger host of talents that he was in the dark about.
Plus, she had been busy all this time setting up surveillance and managing it. It was hard to pin her down and get her to explain every little thing she could do.
Aldrich still had a good idea, though. "But you aren't specialized in stealth. And you can [Ghost Walk] through walls, but sufficiently powerful spirits like yourself need to stay visible to use any powerful magic or abilities."
"That is correct, my lord, but sufficiently powerful spirits such as myself are also capable of Possession."
"That is true, but at the same time, ghost based possession counts as a mental attack." Aldrich put a thinking hand to his chin. "The humans of this world find it difficult to adapt to magic, but they do have an innate resistance to mental attacks.
Sheshanaga's CEO used to be a powerful Alter. His body may have withered over time, but mental resistance wears away slower than physical ability."
"Not the leader. The girl," said Vexa. "The one that warms his bed. I can possess her with ease. However, though I am a phantom, I am still a jiangshi." She flipped her hair, and the veil of black parted to reveal her face. It was a small, angular, dainty face, the type that would have belonged to a pop star.
Her features, were, however, covered by a rectangular piece of paper attached to her forehead. Upon the weathered paper were various sigils glowing blue with power.
"As a jiangshi, I only require that my talisman transfer to another's body before I possess it," explained Vexa.
"That still poses an issue," said Aldrich. "The CEO will get rid of any talisman on the girl before she steps foot near him."
Vexa put her hand on Aldrich's table, and when she withdrew it, a blue sigil glowed upon the dark, glossy surface.
"Permanent possession requires my talisman to be on another at all times. But a temporary one is a different matter. Simply transfer this sigil to the girl and I will have free reign to enter her body. She is a girl of no consequential power and thus resistance, no?"
"It would be highly unlikely," said Aldrich.
"Then it is done. It requires but a simple touch to transfer the sigil. The sigil itself will also remain invisible once it is transferred."
"That can work," said Aldrich. He figured it was not difficult to arrange someone, especially with Aarav's resources, to just touch the girl and transfer the sigil. Anyone could pose as a street rat or vendor and brush by someone else. "But what will you do once you're in there? Use a potion from Fler'Gan? Or Aarav's bio-capsule?"
"I will handle it on my own. I need not to carry anything that may be detected."
"May I ask what abilities you are going to use?" asked Aldrich.
"I would like to keep that close to my heart," said Vexa.
"Unacceptable." Valera's tone was serious. Firm. "You are his Chosen. You do not have the luxury of bearing secrets, especially those related to your ability."
"You have a long, deep, and cherished bond with our lord, I can sense it," said Vexa. "But it is not the same for myself. I have no qualms serving, but I wish to serve at my own pace. With my own privacy.
And, I wish to know whether you, an ever careful man, would be willing to take a leap of faith with me."
Vexa's talisman covered gaze settled at Aldrich, and even under the paper, he could tell her stare was intent.
"I'll take that leap of faith," said Aldrich.
"Are you sure, master?" said Valera, concerned. "Aarav, if I understand his position correctly, is like the prince of a great kingdom. His power and resources are a great pillar of support. Failure here may lead to that disappearing."
"I know. It wouldn't be a leap of faith if there wasn't anything to stumble over," said Aldrich. He had an idea of why Vexa was doing this.
When she was alive, the emperor she served was at first a capable ruler who turned into a paranoid despot. He used Vexa's surveillance network and created a secret police that executed anyone who even had a slightly rebellious thought.
In the end, he lost trust even in Vexa and had her killed. She, however, foresaw this, reanimated as a jiangshi, and assassinated the emperor in turn.
There was likely trust based trauma here that lingered with her. Or perhaps this was just how she operated - he could not really tell as he could not read her.
But he did trust her enough to see this through.
"Again, I'll take that leap of faith. I only hope you won't end up disappointing me," said Aldrich.
Vexa smiled warmly. " This man, this 'CEO', reminds me of the type of man I despise. The type that clings to what they have built with all the anger of a toddler, willing to see it all collapse before they give even a single piece to another.
But I happen to know exactly how to deal with this type of man. You will not be disappointed."
With that, Vexa disappeared in a rush of howling, cold winds.
When Aldrich tracked her using his chosen bond, he could sense she was headed outside, likely to check up on her butterflies.
Aldrich pressed a button on his desk. "You can come back in." His voice projected outside.
Aarav stepped into the room again, sliding doors opening and closing shut behind him with a smooth click.
"Oh, she's gone?" Aarav said, blowing out another trail of smoke. "At least my cig won't keep dying now. So, what's the plan here?"
"She'll take care of it," said Aldrich.
"Now that's handy." Aarav sat back in his chair. "How's it going to get done?"
Aldrich put his palm on the blue sigil still left on the desk. When he withdrew his hand, he found it attached to him. He showed the sigil to Aarav. "Transfer this to your father's maid. Only requires a touch. The mark will remain invisible once moved. At that point, Vexa will handle the rest."