The banquet finished uneventfully. The emperor gave a quick speech to finish off the festivities in which he once again praised his son's efforts and successes. He even reserved a few words for Kurdak and his companions. He also officially commissioned Kurdak into his army, making him a major and giving him command of a regiment. His regiment was one of three, one of which was cavalry, two of which were infantry, which made up a brigade.
The brigade had 1300 people in all, one thousand infantry split between the two regiments, and three hundred cavalry. Half of the brigade's men were veterans, a quarter were selected from contestants that made it to the preliminaries in the tournament, and the rest were green recruits.
The average member in Kurdak's regiment had six strata. Overall, a pretty decent unit, certainly better than the average regiment.
It was just a single stratum greater than was the standard for the rest of the military, but when that was considered over 1300 people, it was a considerable force difference. Thus, despite the numbers being low, it was a considerable responsibility and reward.
There was only one hitch to the arrangement. The emperor had left the unit's set-up to Geoffrey. Not only was the prince already prejudiced against mercenaries, but he now also held a grudge against Leguna, and by extension, everyone associated with him. He was certainly not going to miss this chance to make things miserable for Kurdak.
He's picked men that met his father's strength requirements, but he made sure to select the worst troublemakers he could find. They were good fighters, but Kurdak would have to bleed to the bone to keep them under control. And their lack of discipline, and all the trouble they'd cause, coupled with Kurdak's inability to keep them under control, would no doubt reflect badly on him and ruin the good reputation he had built up thus far.
The prince didn't hate Kurdak personally, he just didn't find him likeable, in which case, his connection to Leguna was enough reason to make his life miserable.
He'd offended someone rather thorny in the process however, though that is a story for another day.
Vera and Eibron weren't commissioned, instead they were enlisted as Kurdak's subordinates and he could choose what to do with them. Leguna, was not enlisted, however.
Leguna had no less achievements than Kurdak. Yet the emperor said nothing about him, no reward, no commendation, not even a comment about his achievements. No one lifted an eyebrow at the conspicuous omission, however. Everyone present had the means to find out a lot of interesting things about the boy the emperor had neglected to reward. Like the fact that he was Moonshadow's chairman's personal disciple, or the all but a war they'd fought with the Eye or Arcana, or that he'd killed several individuals several strata his superior. It wasn't unheard of, uncommon, yes, but not exceedingly rare, for someone to possess the skills and ability to kill someone with quite a few strata more than they have, but being able to do that with the addition of an order barrier in the way? Now that was exceedingly rare. Then there was his killing of Haden, and his matching up against Saron.
His ability were undoubted, and Wayerliss appeared quite fond of the boy. Everyone who knew about his connection to that elf, knew why he'd sent the kid here. He was supposed to take over the Bureau of Military Intelligence. Of course, no one had actually said that was why he was here, but everyone knew it anyway. And no one liked it. Not only was Wayerliss and his organisation a foreign entity, he wasn't even from the continent, and then there was the fact that he wasn't human.
The three who had received rewards, made the formal pledge of loyalty, fealty, and obeisance. And everyone dispersed to their waiting carriages. Several carriages were waiting for Kurdak and his companions as well. They were not of high enough birth or position to be granted leave to stay in the palace overnight, but they'd been given fitting accommodation in the city's grandest hotel.
Innilis nearly burst through the gate to go with them, but Annelotte planted her firmly in the ground beside her.
"I'll be returning to the manor. It's far more comfortable than any of those places," she said for herself.
"Can't you stay with us?" Leguna asked carefully.
If Innilis was right, Annelotte was furious at him, so he was extra tender with his words.
"No. You're back, so Innilis will go with you, which means I've no reason to stay here."
She'd stayed in the palace so Innilis could be close to the imperial libraries in the palace for her research, but the girl had finished her research, and was now going to be staying with Leguna, and her own involvement in the research on gifted individuals had come to an end, so she had no reason to stay here. And she was certainly not going to stay anywhere near that brat!
"That's right, Annie will be staying with her father," Marolyt chirped from the side.
Annelotte gave him a surreptitious glance, then ignored him.
Marolyt stared at her, his heart hurt.
"Okay, I'll come visit you tomorrow, then."
Annelotte looked at him, her eyes as cold and aloof as he'd only seen them earlier that night for the first time in years. She opened her mouth to say something, but instead just turned around and left.
"Wait for me." Marolyt shouted as he hurried after her.
Leguna did not expect he'd end up spending his first night back in Melindor exactly as he had his last one before he left. Even worse, Innilis was even worse behaved than she'd been the last time they'd slept together. She clung to him like he'd fall off a cliff if she relaxed her grip. Her eyes, however, bored holes in his skull as if trying to push him off the edge despite her hold on him.
"Innie..." Leguna whispered, his voice hoarse on the bed, "You're making it impossible for me to sleep."
"How?" the girl asked.
"Um…" his words stuck in his throat, too embarrassed to mention the topic.
"Hehe..." the little girl giggled triumphantly, "You're a real pervert!"
"You want to steal, me tonight, don't you? You want to ravage this poor, innocent, little girl, don't you? Huh, huh, don't you?" she showed her teeth, rubbing as much of her body against him as she could.
"And when did you become this perverted? It's not right for little kids to behave like this!"
"Don't treat me like a kid!" Innilis barked in his ear, slapping his chest, "I know lots about these things!"
"Oh? I couldn't tell at all…" he retorted sarcastically, "Then why doesn't this perverted little girl show me how much naughty things she knows?"
Innilis froze and her face glowed visibly in the darkness. Despite her brags, she knew next to nothing about the things between men and women. She was only aware of the fact that she was romantically inclined towards Leguna, and everything she'd done so far, especially where skinship was concerned, had been done on instinct. At best, she knew, more by instinct than knowledge, how to tease Leguna and make him uncomfortable, she was not ready to go all the way, she didn't even know what 'all the way' was. And she was not prepared for him to suddenly put her on the spot. She recoiled, struck by embarrassment, and the fear of being exposed for having bitten off far more than she could chew.
"What's wrong?" Leguna ask, shoving himself after her to maintain their contact.
Hmph, child... You dare tease me? Shame on me if I don't teach you a proper lesson tonight!
Innilis shuttered her eyes as tightly as she could, shivering with a mixture of nerves and excitement. Leguna was indeed perverted, but she didn't mind, in fact, as long as his perversions drove him to her, and not to some other woman, she wanted him to be even more perverted. If nothing else, his current behavior told her she was at least not repulsive to him. She didn't know, didn't want to think about, how she would react if he pressed his current advance.
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