Chapter 564 - The Canary Sings: Open Notes
Meanwhile, a person with an ancient zither floating before them ran through the Rosentarus jungle. This individual went by the name Open Notes, and she was one of the Twelve Banes of the Headhunter Syndicate, The Virtuoso.
The Twelve Banes was a recent creation of the Headhunter Syndicate, and their status was beneath only that of the guild leader, Vault. Most of the Twelve Banes were personally recruited by Vault—drawn by the power and benefits that came along with the title. In terms of status, they were similar to the Captains of Blue Oasis or the Five Great Generals of Cross Haven. But, since they had emerged not too long ago, there was little to nothing known about the Twelve Banes.
"An unforeseen turn of events has arisen. It is disappointing, but there will be another opportunity to strike a captivating tune after we regroup and gather a few reinforcements." Open Notes said to herself as she retreated.
"But alas, such a pity I could not pluck the wildflower from its garden."
Open Notes felt a gust of wind brush past her. A few moments later, she noticed someone standing a few meters ahead of her. This caused her to immediately change course and sprint in a different direction.
She flicked her wrist as a chaotic tune echoed from her zither and created a destructive soundwave that spread outward like a fan at the one who appeared.
The soundwave violently struck the earth and kicked up a cloud of dust in the process.
"That should hold them off for-"
Open Notes halted her steps and words simultaneously as the tip of a cold blade of steel pressed up against her throat. If she moved forward just one more step, that sword would have undoubtedly pierced into her neck with ease!
Open Notes asked, "Why did you stop? I'll say this now. I'm only interested in a man who can carry a tune."
The flickering silhouette stopped as a clear image of Izroth formed with his sword to Open Notes' throat.
When she met Izroth's gaze and did not get an immediate response, Open Notes swallowed nervously.
"I'm a support-type class. I lack the power to fight back and pose no threat to you since no one is around to adore my melodies. You wouldn't strike a defenseless woman, would you?" Open Notes said coyly.
"That's up to you and whether or not you prove to be useful," Izroth stated indifferently.
There was only one reason Izroth did not instantly eliminate Open Notes after he caught up to her. If someone like Morning Sky, who was with Vault that day during such an important meeting, was following her orders, then her standing in the Headhunter Syndicate must be relatively high.
If the Headhunter Syndicate were a guild like Cross Haven or Sleeping Gardenia, then what Izroth had in mind would undoubtedly fail nine out of ten times. However, there was one trait every member of the Headhunter Syndicate shared—they cared about themselves more than anything else.
"Useful? What? You want to make some sort of deal? If so, I'm always willing to play it by ear, handsome." Open Notes replied.
She then continued, "But, first, if you don't mind... How about removing that sword of yours from my throat? I'm quite the modest girl at heart, so at least take me out to dinner first. Your treat, of course."
"Not interested," Izroth said, and he lowered his Sword of The Storm from her neck and placed it within its sheath.
"How disappointing. Though I suppose that lovely wildflower with the little pup at her side is more suitable to my tastes." Open Notes smirked.
"I have no interest in your taste. I'm sure she would feel the same. Now, enough games. I'll make this simple for you." Izroth said as he accessed his inventory.
A few moments later, he pulled out a pouch that contained an abundance of gold coins.
"There are 50 gold coins in this pouch. As long as you tell me what I want to know, not only will I spare your life, but these gold coins will belong to you." Izroth stated as he dropped the coin pouch on the ground at his feet.
Open Notes' eyes lit up when she saw the pouch of gold coins; however, she felt a sudden chill run down her spine that caused her to shiver as Open Notes' gaze was drawn to Izroth.
"However, if you feed me falsehoods, one death will be the least of your concerns," Izroth said in a cold tone. He utilized Soul Pressure to shake Open Notes but made sure to keep the amount of Essence he used limited.
It did not take long for Izroth to get a good grasp on Open Notes from their brief exchange of words paired with her eccentric behavior. She was a good actor, but Izroth could see right through her facade of fear.
Open Notes was not afraid of perishing at his hands since she had multiple event lives to spare; therefore, Izroth knew he had to use a different approach with someone like her.
"Alright, you've made your point, handsome. Ask away—this little canary is willing to sing for you. Since it's not me... What is it that's piqued your curiosity?" Open Notes inquired.
"Menerva—I assume you're familiar with this name?" Izroth questioned.
"That scary little apathetic doll who's always at the guild leader's side? Sorry, but that's a rose full of thorns even I don't want to touch. Can't you choose another topic, handsome?" Open Notes pouted.
Izroth remained unmoved and answered with his silence, causing Open Notes to release a long helpless sigh.
"Fine, fine, I get it. I don't know why you're interested in her, but if I were you, I'd leave well enough alone. Though I have a strange feeling you won't heed my warning." Open Notes shrugged.
She then continued, "Second Bane, The Puppeteer, Menerva. The secret—well, I guess not so secret anymore—strategist of the Headhunter Syndicate. I don't know much about her, just that she's freakishly loyal to the guild leader. One day, she appeared with the guild leader, and in the days that followed, the Headhunter Syndicate went from a wild bunch to a well-established organization. That's all I know, alright?"
'It adds up.'
At the beginning of RML, the Headhunter Syndicate was nothing but a disconnected group of players who used a wide array of underhanded tactics to get by. However, sometime before the Protectors of Amaharpe event began, something changed. They became more organized. Their actions shifted from mindless aggression to calculated violence with a purpose. This was probably around the same time Menerva joined the Headhunter Syndicate.
When Izroth received the coordinates from Mariposa, he could tell at a glance that it was Menerva's handiwork. But, Menerva was no fool. There had to be a reason she was willing to work for someone like Vault despite his twisted character.
It made Izroth think back to his last encounter with Menerva after his talks with Vault, and the Headhunter Syndicate came to an abrupt end.
"In the future, I advise you to exercise caution. Today, you have undoubtedly made an enemy of the Headhunter Syndicate. Your path forward will not be easily walked, Izroth." (Menerva)
"Do you not fear being labeled a traitor in your guild?" (Izroth)
"I am not a member of the Headhunter Syndicate—just someone passing by. Besides, if the conversation had persisted, would not have your intention been revealed? I am not sure what grudge you hold against the guild leader of the Headhunter Syndicate; however, an inadequate move now only renders the significant move that succeeds it ineffective." (Menerva)
Why warn him? Why go out of her way to mention that she was not a member of the Headhunter Syndicate? Why offer him advice that would effectively go against the guild she worked for?
Menerva had also deduced his identity as the Pill Emperor, yet she kept it a secret from Vault. Was it some type of game to her? Or, was she hinting at something more? Izroth wanted answers.
"If you want to see a single gold coin, I'm afraid you'll have to reach deeper than that," Izroth stated.
Open Notes placed a finger upon her lip as she tried to think of something—anything to secure her payment.
"Ah, I do remember one other thing. But, it's not much. One time, she did something to upset the guild leader, and when he threatened her, she seemed angry? It's hard to tell with her, but she definitely showed some emotion for a split second—that apathetic little doll. Strange, right?" Open Notes stated.
"Do you know what they were discussing?" Izroth inquired.
"Not the specifics. I try not to make a habit of eavesdropping on others' conversations, so I didn't pay it much attention. But, I did hear something about an orphanage. Who knows? Maybe they wanted to adopt a child together." Open Notes said jokingly.
Izroth had a thoughtful expression on his face after he heard Open Notes words. It did not take him long to start piecing things together.
'So, it's like that. That's why she said those words to me back then. It's not me she was referring to, but rather herself. A message within a message.'
"An inadequate move now only renders the significant move that succeeds it ineffective... Interesting." Izroth muttered to himself as a carefree smile appeared on his face.
"Take the coins and go. If we ever cross paths again, you won't enjoy the outcome." Izroth warned as he disappeared from view using Enhanced Instantaneous Movement to make his way back towards the members of Sacred Beasts.
"Well, it was nice talking to you, too, handsome." Open Notes said to herself as she picked up the pouch of coins and placed it into her inventory. Then, without delay, she departed from the area.