The grey-haired woman nodded at his words after she had schooled her face from the shock that was there previously. Apparently, she hadn’t considered that someone else was bold enough to open a random door and squirrel themselves away.
“Mr. Erickson. I’m surprised you let the factory long enough to attend this.” Sonya said, a touch of irony in her words.
Randidly’s lip curled, but he said nothing. Truly, she was right.
She joined him on the couch with her own plate of food and drink, and for a long time, they simply sat there. After a few minutes of tension, something eased between them, as both of their unconscious acknowledged each other as fellow introverts. Both preferred this silence vastly to the frantic energy of the party.
It was only after Sonya produced a bottle of wine from her interspatial watch and offered some to Randidly that they spoke again. Mostly, they spoke of steel prices, and whether they were being skimped on it. They were both aware that stirring up negative emotions in regards to Foreman Davey was the point of the party, and while Randidly was satisfied from the straightforward impression that Foreman Davey gave him, it seemed Sonya was waivering more.
They shared several drinks. Catching Sonya’s eyes wandering in a …strange way, Randidly abruptly realized that this woman probably had a Vitality total that might not even be ⅕ his. Drinking a whole bottle of wine probably wouldn’t knock her unconscious, but some of her reasoning would be inhibited. Perhaps that was the reason for providing so much free alcohol.
Randidly was about to suggest they switch to water when Gregory Muldane, another influential steelworker, surreptitiously opened the door and snuck in. He froze briefly when he spotted Randidly and Sonya, but his wizened and twisted face quickly bloomed into a smile.
“So, you guys too, eh?” He said, throwing himself down between Randidly and Sonya. Randidly saw with a sinking feeling he carried his own bottle of wine. But very quickly he forgot about that, as talk turned from the politics of the steel factory to the particulars.
They talked about shifts in purity in the ore and the optimum temperature for the blast furnace, and the time the carbon splicing could occur before impurities would emerge in the metal. To his surprise, Randidly found himself so taken with the frank and open the way these two people were talking that he revealed the general idea behind his Erickson Steel: the fact that he used a method to mix in the bones of monsters into the metal.
Both considered that for a long time, slowing sipping their drinks. Outside, the party was going full swing. The two idiots Tooya and Diego were dead drunk, their arms draped around petite women, heedless of the calculating looks in the eyes of the waitstaff and bartenders.
Still, within the safety of the small sunroom, Randidly finally felt like he felt a place to relax. Although Randidly didn’t intend to dedicate himself to this fully, he still found the process of making the metal to be incredibly fulfilling. Hard work is sometimes its own reward, and comparing knowledge, Randidly felt like he was among peers, in metalworking at least.
These two would likely have even more exaggerated results if they possessed Randidly’s stats and Skills.
The next thing that took Randidly by surprise was words out of Sonya’s mouth, very soon after a small burp. “That woman is really pretty. She’s been looking at me.”
Both Randidly and Gregory looked up, curiously. Sure enough, a curvaceous woman in a turquoise dress was leaning up against the side table by the pool. She had wide-set eyes and soft looking lips. As Sonya indicated, her eyes had wandered away from the party, and locked on their figures through the window.
When Gregory and Randidly looked at her, she smiled, as if she had a secret that she was only willing to share if they came over. Instantly, Randidly was put on guard.
Gregory giggled. “Ohoho… what a pretty young thing.”
“Shut up, you old pervert,” Sonya said, slapping Gregory good-naturedly. Both of them stunk of alcohol. There were four empty wine bottles on the floor. “She was looking at me. Let’s go talk to her.”
“Uh,” Randidly began, but they were both standing.
They cast impatient glances his way and then walked off, arm in arm.
“Uh…,” Randidly said again, slowly standing. Then he sighed. Gathering information was the point. He had already learned a bit about the profit margin that Foreman Davey was making on him, and the situation with the expanding Zones. He would likely learn more if he went out there. So he followed them.
“Ah, our main guest arrived!”
Griffith smiled coolly at Ricky Stain as he hurried over to greet him at the door.
Griffith knew why Ricky wanted him here; Ricky was only a Tier 1 Citizen and wanted the legitimacy that Griffith provided. As a Tier 2 Citizen who had gone with the initial exploration party into the borderlands, Griffith’s influence was not small. His presence at this party would likely give weight to the appeals that Ricky was making. Besides, Griffith’s appreciated the significant upfront money Ricky was willing to pay, as well as the portion of his business that he would give to Griffith in exchange for his appearance.
It wasn’t fear that drove Griffith away from the expedition after the initial disasters, but rather a seemingly impassable wall. Although Griffith was almost Level 40, he had felt helpless before those Level 60 monsters in the borderlands. They were too quick to hit with a plasma rifle, and even when you did, they often could survive the shot long enough to kill five men, under constant fire.
It was a bitter realization. But Griffith accepted it. So he returned to the relative safety of patrols and made some money where he could on the side to make up from the decrease in pay from his change in employment. This one night would do a lot to relieve the financial burdens in which Griffith currently found himself.
“Come in, come in!” Ricky was saying, his eyes slightly glassy. “The party is going very well! The steelworkers are taking the bait, hook line and sinker, hahah!”
Ricky handed him a drink, but Griffith was relatively unamused. As he was going to be owning a part of Ricky’s business, he would like to see some proof before he relaxed. “Where are they?”
After leading him out to the pool deck, Ricky pointed to two Hispanic men who were taking shots off of an Asian woman’s stomach. “There are two. And the others…. Uh….. Oh, there they are.”
Griffith followed Ricky’s upraised arm to a group of three that was strolling towards a beautiful-
Griffith almost dropped his drink. When he looked at the group of three, one of them was gazing back at him with sharp brown eyes. That gaze cut right through him, left him feeling just as bare as if he was being hunted by a Level 60 monster. But just as soon as their gazes met, the other man looked away, turning towards the beautiful woman. Griffith instantly became serious.
One thing he learned in the borderlands was to trust his instincts. And instantly, his instincts warned him against letting his guard down around this man.
Ignoring the throbbing beat of the music, Griffith turned to Ricky. “All those three are steelworkers?”
Ricky nodded, an empty smile plastered on his face. After a deep breath, Griffith breathed back. “Then let’s go and introduce ourselves.”
Tatiana looked up a with a smile as the three approached her as if she had only just now noticed their approach. As if she hadn’t tagged them gently out into the party with a smile a minute ago. “Do you three believe in magic?”
The three of them stopped. The tall woman who led them seemed to be the drunkest of them all and was completely flummoxed by the statement. The lean old man next to her seemed strangely gleeful, but she appreciated how his gaze flickered over her body, but he had the presence to not linger overmuch on any of her.
The final man was tall but was somewhat pudgy. But his eyes were sharp and direct, gazing with an innocent curiosity at her.
She laughed in a self-deprecating way as she spread her hands wide in invitation. “I mean, it’s silly to say now, isn’t it? But I’m not talking about that boring magic. I’m talking about the future. Would you like me to tell your fortunes?”