The Chaotic Province
"It's only been two years since we last met. I didn't think you'd change from a toilet-scrubbing monkey to a rich scion," joked Hans as he sat in the comfortable carriage.
He had never even dreamt of imagine such an outcome. He recalled Leguna's appearance two years earlier. He was thin and scrawny, and covered in dirt because he'd never bathed. There was also a distinct sour stench about him. Apart from his wit-flashing eyes, he was really no different from a mud-covered monkey. But this monkey had now grown into a human in just two years.
While Leguna was slender, he stood 1.8 meters tall. He couldn't be considered huge, but he far from as puny as he used to be. Additionally, after Kurdak picked him up -- for lack of a better expression -- he paid attention to hygiene. While he wasn't as well-kempt as Annelotte -- who wanted her hair, body, and clothes completely speck-free -- he was much better than Kurdak -- who went all year without washing his feet.
Hans was shocked even more by how well the kid had been doing on Lance. He could, at least, cover the ten-gold carriage fee. His expression when he paid screamed 'this change doesn't matter'.
"Well, it's been great," replied Leguna.
Hans nodded. He had heard Leguna worked as a mercenary at Starfall for a time. Though the kid didn't make a big deal of it when it was discussed, Hans knew he must've experienced a lot.
He took out four gold coins after a lot of hesitation and handed them to Leguna.
"My share. I know it's not much, but I can't take advantage of you."
"What are you saying, Uncle?" Leguna asked, shaking his head frantically, "It was my choice to use the carriage. I'll pay for it."
"True, but I have to pay my share."
"I'm not trying to brag, but that kind of money really isn't much to us," Kurdak interjected, "But you live on the pay the empire gives you. Your family might need it. It'd be best to reconsider for their sake. Also, strictly speaking, you aren't taking advantage of us. Isn't it rather taxing to serve as our guide? Since we both know you aren't the kind of person to be calculative, we didn't bring up payment. But, if you really want to talk about it, we'll have to as well. You ought to be compensated a few gold coins for being our guide."
"Kurdak is right. We can't accept your money," Vera agreed.
Hans listened and understood it would take forever to count every single thing, so he forced a smile and kept his coins.
"I see you two are easy-going. No wonder we get along so well, calling me 'Brother' and 'Uncle'... Fine, since you won't accept it, I won't insist. I'll guide you as a friend. I'll just ask that you not forget me when you become big-shots."
"Of course," Leguna chuckled, "Uncle only has to be our guide. We'll pay for the food and expenses."
"Haha, well said. You sound like you have deep wallets. You've made a lit as a mercenary I see. So, how is it? What stratum are you?"
Hans gazed at him intently.
"I've become quite a bit worse, so I can't tell. BUt you should be a league ahead. Then again you made so much money, so it's not just the 8th stratum. Don't tell me you're in the tenth already!"
"More or less."
Leguna had learned a trick or two about hiding power from Wayerliss's notebook. While he could yet not hide everything, nor hide what he could as well as Wayerliss, he could push it down by four or five strata.
"Really? No wonder Mister Marolyt would take note. You're phenomenal." Hans remembered that, when they first met, the brat was just a 5th-stratum rookie. Now, however, he was twice as strong. He was breaking through at least twice a year. It was completely unheard of.
Innilis tried to stifle a giggle on the side. Though she didn't know how to use magic or impetus, she had a rough understanding of her big bro's power. The uncle's guess was way off. Leguna flung a hard glare at the girl but she was fearless. She widened her own eyes and glared back at him. Her innocent expression instantly shot the youth off his steed.
Innilis was no fool. Her big bro's glance meant he wanted her to keep his true strength secret. So, she shut up obediently and poked her head out of the carriage to enjoy the scenery.
Their first stop was Hans's hometown. According to the sailor, it was near the provincial capital, Sydek. It was a small, wet village. Its prosperity was nothing compared to Sydek, but it was much safer than Doen.
Hans had told the group all about the Doen. It was in the extreme north of the province. It wasn't on the border itself, but it was very far from any major settlements.
The empire had a constabulary there as well, they lived in the middle of nowhere where the constables could do almost nothing to or about them. Leguna was also even more certain of Eirinn's whereabouts now. It was a chaotic place, so it wasn't weird for it to have a slave trade. Chances of Eirinn having been sold there were high.
Hans also informed him that the most rowdy band was the Bloodhand Brotherhood. It was a gigantic group of bandits that spanned the whole northern half of the province. Not only did they kill and raid, they also dealt with darker trades like prostitution, slavery, and human trafficking.
"I don't care if they're huge or not. If they piss me off, I will wipe them out," Leguna declared.
While he said it like it was the most natural thing in the world, Hans just thought it was a blind blurt.
The Bloodhand Brotherhood is the largest band in the whole province. What could you do to them? Nobody has ever tried to go against them… they clearly have a working relationship with the provincial officials.
That said, the man was completely ignorant of Leguna's true power and his achievements. He also didn't know about Wayerliss's notebook, which contained information on the band in question. Leguna might even understood them even better than him. But he didn't really care about the bandits or those in power. If he really were to follow the path Wayerliss was guiding him on, the enemies would be nothing but drizzle. If he couldn't handle even that, how could Leguna face the far more horrifying tidal wave that awaited him?
The group stayed at Hans's home for two days. But, since he couldn't wait to look for Eirinn, Leguna dragged the man back on the road before he could get some intimate time with his wife. The man stared daggers into the boy's back as they left.
Leguna also felt rather apologetic for disturbing Hans's time with his wife, so he secretly left ten gold coins under his pillow as compensation. If his wife was a hard worker, she'd be able to discover that money in a couple of days. Leguna also left a note that asked her to not tell Hans that. He was worried that Hans would get into a fight over it with his wife given his temperament.
As for how he snuck into their bedroom... He didn't have the nickname 'Leguna the Agile' for nothing. Only he knew how exactly he did it.
He found a decent-looking carriage quite quickly. Hans was worried traveling to the chaotic lands on such a flashy ride would draw undue attention, but neither Leguna nor his comrades cared.
The group soon proved they could afford to ignore such things. They were robbed five times along the way but finished their robbers off before they'd even properly attacked. Hans was left wondering who the real victims were.
Since the empire in the midst of dire war, most who knew how to use impetus were enlisted. The pay was stable and good, and it wasn't as risky as being a bandit. They could even rise through the ranks quite quickly if they were capable. Those left behind were just common thugs, bulky, strong thugs, mind you, but normal people all the same. Some practiced combat skills and maybe had the barest whiff of impetus, but nothing noteworthy. They were only really a threat if vast numbers of them attacked at the same time. And even then they could only pressure a 3th-stratum fighter. They were a herd of sheep, not a pack of wolves.
Everyone arrived in Doen without incident.
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