The moment Leguna’s words left his mouth, Arikos felt the room cool.
Help out?! Huh?! Are you asking Annie to help her love rival look prettier?! Do you know how ‘death’ is spelled?! I’m sure you don’t! But you have to know how to spell ‘suicide’! Are you trying to test Annie’s patience?! Annie will kill us both if you piss her off like that! And here she was calling me out for speaking nonsense... You’re nothing but a pathetic shit! The worst kind of human ever to join the guild’s inner circle! Guess you won’t be satisfied until death comes knocking, huh?!
Arikos shook Leguna ferociously by the shoulders in his mind as he screamed, spraying saliva all over his face.
He didn’t dare do it for real, however. He didn’t even dare breath lest he be turned into ice without even knowing his end had come.
Leguna also knew he was asking for it. He stood in front of the girl awkwardly, staring holes into his feet.
Time dragged on for eternity. Just when Arikos couldn’t bare it any longer and was about to say something, however, Annelotte spoke.
“I don’t know the spell.”
“But you’re a magus, a rare genius! Can I count on you to find a way? Nobody can do it if you can’t. Even if I have to wait until you reach the 18th stratum, I’ll wait. Please just agree to do your best to help her.”
Another period of silence. Annelotte glared at Leguna like she was trying to kill him with her eyes.
“Eirinn is my dearest friend. I can’t let her live looking like that if I can do anything about it. She’s always been optimistic and joyful, but I know how fragile her looks have made her beneath all that. Please, I beg you... This is really important to me!”
If even Annelotte didn’t want to help Eirinn, what old magus would?
Annelotte was taken aback. She suddenly remembered that Leguna never asked anything of anyone. He was happy-go-lucky and irritating with his constant jackal-like snickering, but he was also very arrogant and egotistical. He had only asked Annelotte for help once before, for example, when Jaehart’s family was wiped out. He had been preparing to charge out to fight the high-order magus responsible for their deaths and had asked Annelot to let him go and look after Innilis instead.
So you only ask for help when a woman is involved? A crimson fury bubbled up from her stomach, but she pushed it back down.
Arikos couldn’t keep his jaw off the ground. Wasn’t Annelotte supposed to flip out and kill the brat? Truth was indeed stranger than fiction. But instead girl kept her calm and even agreed to help.
Ahh... Aaaahh! Girl, you crazy?! This is Eirinn you’re talking about! That Eirinn! Leguna’s childhood friend who saved his life! She occupies at least half his heart! And you’re going to help her get her looks back? You’re helping your love rival! And I thought it wasn’t a big deal when you acted so coldly… Turns out I don’t understand you at all!
It was Annelotte’s turn to be shaken by the shoulder in Arikos’s imagination, the only difference was that Arikos did not dare let a drop of saliva fall on her face, even in his imagination.
“Why’d you cry? You startled me!” Leguna complained.
“I’m the one in shock here!” Arikos cried.
“So you agree?”
“Don’t misunderstand. I couldn’t care less if you crawled naked on the ground through the mud to beg me. I just don’t think Eirinn deserves to suffer such a face when she’s already suffering having to be in your presence every day,” Annelotte spat.
“That’s fine, as long as you agree to help her.” Leguna knew how dishonest Annelotte could be, especially towards herself, and especially when she was mad. She would never admit she was helping because of him.
Annelotte humphed coldly and ignored him.
“Alright, that’s all for now. You better leave now, brat. Don’t miss the banquet,” Arikos concluded.
“Alright,” Leguna nodded. He bade Annelotte farewell, waiting until she humphed to leave happily.
“Are you really going to help Eirinn?” Arikos asked once the little rat was gone.
“Should I ignore the pitiful girl?”
“Come on, you know what I mean. Why can’t you just be honest with yourself about your feelings?”
“I’m being perfectly honest. I’m absolutely furious.”
“Whatever!” Arikos blurted exasperatedly. There was no point in continuing the argument. “If I’m not mistaken, Geoffrey will ask you to become his magic assistant tonight. What will your answer be?”
“No,” Annelotte left behind as she left the room.
“Being the senior really isn’t easy... I always have to take care you two’s messes...” Arikos smile bitterly, watching Annelotte leave.
“But if it’s Annie’s ‘mess’, I’ll give it a thorough rub…” he said, a perverted smile covering his face, “The more the better.”
Kurdak was busy showing off his sword to Eibron and Gerd when Leguna returned.
Gerd wore a mild smile and congratulated Kurdak while Eibron pestered him to trade for the enchanted bow.
“Forget it, this is for my wife.”
“Then I’m your wife!” Eibron yelled shamelessly, “I’m meaty in the right places and can warm your bed too!”
“Buzz off, pervert!” everyone snapped together.
The banquet started before sundown. Leguna hadn’t attended such a grand event ever before. Various dishes filled the tables and were free for the taking. He started drooling uncontrollably even before stepping into the hall. He glanced at Kurdak momentarily before the two leapt at the food.
“I say, Mister Leguna,’ Gerd reminded softly, “This is the palace. Best pay attention to your manners. This behavior will ruin your reputation.”
“I am not going to put on airs and play coy!” Leguna waved his oily hands, “I’m here to eat a drink! That’s what a banquet’s for, isn’t it?”
“You can’t put it that way. This not commoner’s feast, it’s a noble banquet. You have to learn to restrain yourself. You’ll have to attend many more of these, once you take over the bureau,” Gerd insisted.
He turned around and pointed at Kurdak, who was staying put.
“Look at Mister Kurdak. He’s not wolfing down his food like you, at least.”
Kurdak turned around and Gerd nearly lost his eyes. Kurdak wasn’t shoving food in his mouth only because it was already bulging.
“You see? Boss taught me well,” Leguna smiled and started scarfing down the food again like a barbarian.
Gerd was speechless. His only option was to get away from the two as quickly as possible and hope nobody important had seen him with them already.
Annelotte stared at the vulgar little rat from afar and winced when she saw the fat drip from his chin onto his clothes like so much drool. It was a miracle it wasn’t in his hair already.
She stood alone. Geoffrey had asked her to be his escort, but she turned him down. She was intent on doing the same when he asked her to be his aide as well.
Geoffrey clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention when the banquet was about halfway through.
“I am the host, so I’d like to thank all of you for your attendance. I hope my hospitality is satisfactory.”
He raised his glass and downed the wine inside. Everyone followed his lead and emptied their glasses as well.
“I am a member of the imperial family, but I have my hobbies,” Geoffrey said when he finished, “I love to make friends, especially with powerful people. Many of you are top experts. I am overjoyed that you have accepted my invitations! Since you’ve indulged me, I now consider you my friends.”
“Your Highness is being too courteous. It’s our honor to serve you,” a middle-aged magus not far from Geoffrey said.
Annelotte recognized him. He was a member of the magi court, Yumir. He had made it to the top eight in the tournament. She remembered him only for his remarkably thorough mediocrity. But he was witty and courageous -- the perfect opportunist.
“Wonderful!” Geoffrey nodded happily. “I’m sure you all know I am a magus. I’ve recently run into some problems in my studies. So, I’d like to hire a personal assistant. Would anyone be interested?”
Many people were taken aback. No one really knew why the prince was bringing this up now, so out of the blue.
Some did know. Yumir was one.
“What kind of problem is it, Your Highness?” he asked.
“It has something to do with ice-aspect magic. I am having trouble controlling certain spells with that aspect. It’s hard to keep it balanced in the array. My teacher has instructed me how to multiple times, but I have yet to successfully use an eighth level ice-aspect spell. My teacher cannot spend all his time on me, so I was hoping to hire an assistant to help me with this.”
“Apologies, Your Highness, but level-eight ice-aspect spells is not my expertise. I am sorry, but I fear I will not be of any help. I’m sure Miss Annelotte can help you, though. She specializes in ice-aspect spells, after all.”
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