Chapter 173:

The Casino 1

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

The Hilbert family was one of the most well-known and wealthiest in all of Nun. Their great grandfather, the original Hilbert, was a frugal Hobusian who started with a small shop in a corner of Nun—which had long since been paved over. The family continued to grow for many years, building larger and grander buildings to accompany the Nun atmosphere.

The Hilbert Hotel and Casino was made with such grandiose in mind. To say it was a simple building would be an understatement. It was built on a natural lake and could only be reached by crossing a glowing drawbridge. Those deemed unsightly would be thrown into the lake and expected to swim back to shore. The bottom floor was the lobby, the next two floors contained the casino, and the rest contained the hotel.

Alone, the structure might not be too strange, but the hotel had another feature that would cause people’s heads to spin. It was built like an overly complex merry-go-round with three separate wheels that always slowly turned. The outer wheel would turn counterclockwise, the middle clockwise, and the inner counterclockwise as well. The very center was a still section that acted as an axel to the tall wheel, and the spinning was so slow that one wouldn’t notice until they had become thoroughly lost. Naturally, the building itself functioned as a part of the casino, and every day, there was a possibility to win big for someone who stood in a randomly selected section of the casino—as if it was the most complex roulette ever devised.

Odell and Hal stood and stared at the gaudy glowing building at the end of the bridge.

“Are you coming?” Tancred shouted back. He was several steps ahead, but his short Bentulousian stature was liable to get lost if they let him stray further.

“They are obviously overwhelmed,” the detective's assistant, Rym, said as she shook her scaly pink head.

Nevertheless, Tancred’s words were enough to break the duo out of their surprise, and they quickly formed a group that got in line for the entrance.

“Must we really come here? I would think you are more interested in gambling the money our agency doesn’t have,” Rym groaned.

“Now, my dear assistant, don’t you recall what Hagan said? This hotel has a lead, and we will find it!” Tancred replied with an enthusiastic but hushed tone. “What’s the harm in a little gambling! I have a feeling we will strike it big!” he shouted after noticing a few funny looks from others in the line. They were an odd crowd, and two carrying Needaimus was enough to warrant caution. The detective’s words were enough to alleviate their attention, and people began to turn back to their business.

“How big is this place?” Odell asked as he eyed the glowing building that seemed to grow larger and more intimidating with every step they took.

“Large enough to get lost in, so stay close,” Tancred replied with a smile.

The line moved up slowly but at a steady pace, and before long, the group was the next to speak to the guard at the door. They observed as he talked to a couple trying to make a case for entering the casino. When the guard was not convinced, he grabbed the well-dressed couple by the backs of their shirts and tossed them into the water below the bridge with no more effort than one would give when flicking away a pesky bug.

Odell was wide-eyed as they walked up to the guard. He wore black clothes and a frown. A scar ran down his shiny green face from a bald head to his chin, and his form was bulky like a bodybuilder.

“State your business for being here,” the guard said.

“Come on, Harry, I come here all the time to gamble!” Tancred replied as he got close to the guard and nudged him with an elbow. The green guard looked down at the short detective and then at the other three.

“You don’t normally bring others around,” he said curtly.

“I have some friends visiting and thought I’d introduce them to the wonders of gambling at the best place in all of Nun!”

“Two of them look rather young.”

“It’s never too early!”

Harry sighed.

“Just don’t cause too much of a stir, the boss is on an extended vacation, and his temp is much more of a hard case.”

“I understand,” Tancred replied while gesturing that the others should follow. He quickly got a couple paces ahead within the long hallway to the casino. Lights and colors seemed to flash on the sides as if to distract people coming in before they ever got to their desired destination.

“Only two of us look rather young?” Rym said in shock once she was sure they were out of Harry’s earshot. “I don’t look old, do I?”

“Don’t let it get too you!” Tancred replied.

“You don’t look a day over 30!” Odell reassured.

“I’m 25.”

“Oh… uh… Hal, help!”

The Netzian soldier looked at Rym’s frustrated glare and Odell’s confused expression and shook his head. He quickly sped up to match Tancred’s pace and left the Hobusian prince to fend for himself.

“You’re pretty wise to get out of that one!” Tancred said with a laugh as Odell tried to stammer out an escape from the hole he put himself in—his words only dug him deeper.

“It does not take the wise to know that was a battle which could only end in loss,” Hal replied.

Tancred chuckled but said nothing as they approached two large, wooded doors. They were engraved with geometric shapes and patterns and had ornate golden trimmings.

“Well, let’s get to our investigation!” he happily said. With the short detective’s words, he pushed the doors open. An unnatural and uncomfortable light began to pour in from the other side.