Alaine the Gambling Saint
Everyone was utterly speechless.
Alaine gleefully shuffled the cards with one hand and gazed at Blackie, who had nothing but underwear on.
"Do you yield?" she asked haughtily.
Quite a few soldiers were making a lot of noise drinking and chatting nearby, but Blackie's section was dead silent. Blackie was an experienced gambler, yet he had lost completely. How would anybody else dare to join in?
"Hmph! You're trying to run a gambling ring in an army camp with your skill? Go back and train a few more years!" she added.
"No way! I want a rematch!" Blackie shouted, unable to stand her mockery of his gambling skills.
"No problem!" Alaine nodded carefreely.
Kurdak choose that moment to point out a pressing issue.
"You only have your underwear left, my friend! Do you really want to gamble on that as well? I'm not sure I would be willing to unveil myself in front of so many people."
Everyone within earshot suddenly burst out laughing.
"Then let's change the bet," Blackie said angrily, "If she loses, I want all the women with you to strip! They're to not have a single thread on their bodies!"
"Alaine!" Leguna half-shouted as he darted to her side. He was not about to let Annelotte's purity be put on display to any other men. Not just that, but her father would really kill him if he let that happen, even if Annelotte pleaded for his life, and she would probably only stop her father from killing him so she could do it herself.
"No problem, trust me!" Alaine said confidently. She turned to Blackie. "What if you lose?"
"I'll give you all the money I won today!" he snapped.
"No-no-no!" Alaine said with a wave of her finger. She pointed at Kurdak. "If you lose, you have to listen to his orders."
"What would you have me do?" Blackie asked carefully.
"I haven't thought about it yet, but I can promise you it won't be anything that goes against imperial law... or anything inhumane," Kurdak said with a thin smile.
Blackie pondered the suggestion for a moment before finally gritting his teeth.
"What shall we play?" Alaine asked.
"Let's do dice! Big and small! You're free to call either!"
"Let's do it then."
Blackie was covered, positively drenched, in sweat despite the cold. He betted against Alaine for more than ten bouts.
It was a simple thing for an expert gambler to roll his desired number. But no gambler was perfect. He'd already pushed his luck and skill to the breaking point just to get ten good rolls in a row, but Alaine matched him casually every time.
They went for two more bouts before he lost. Alaine had called small, and he'd rolled big.
"I... lost..." More than the shame of loss, Blackie was just relieved to be done with this. He looked at Alaine weakly. "Who are you? How can you have such impressive gambling skills at your age?"
"Hmph, you were only a casino bodyguard. I ran one in my hometown when I was just seven!"
Alain smiled with pride, but the smile didn't reach her eyes. She was born in a small town in Simralsin. Her family weren't nobles, but they owned a large casino and were rather well off. And cultivated her from the moment she left her mother's womb to eventually take over. She knew every kind of gambling game by heart when she was six, and was an expert when she was just thirteen.
Bloodhand set their sights on the casino four years earlier and bribed the local government to help them topple her family. Her father was assassinated and her uncle was framed for it and imprisoned.
Alaine lost badly in a big bet and was sold into slavery. Luckily Marolyt came across her in the market and bought her. He took her to his mansion and she'd been his maid ever since.
She never wanted to gamble again in her life. She begged her new master to find her mother, her last family member, and planned to serve her savior for the rest of her life. It wasn't just that he was her master now, he was also her savior, she could never repay the debt she owed him. She was lonely in the mansion, though, but that all changed when her mistress arrived.
She was very happy, too, to hear that someone called Dark Requiem wiped out the brotherhood a few months earlier. Doubly so when she heard Taewon, the one directly responsible for her family's destruction, was dead. She'd had only one other dream besides serving her new master and his daughter from then on: to meat the man who'd exacted revenge in her stead.
No matter what she did, however, and being the servant of a swordsaint gave her quite a few options, she couldn't learn who he was. With Leguna's return to the city, however, she finally learned the man's identity, and he was even the little brat who was trying to woo her mistress! She was completely terrified when he found out who he really was.
She didn't know how to handle him. On the one hand, she was eternally grateful to him for getting her revenge for her, even if that had not been his intent. But, on the other hand, she was revolted by his weak personality, and resented him deeply for having caused her mistress so much pain.
No one knew her story or her thoughts, of course. She was just as good at keeping secrets as she was at throwing the die. Only Annelotte noticed the slight gloom in her eyes. She knew, however, that some things were to be kept secret, so she only patted her shoulder gently and gave her a very rare, warm smile.
"I hope you'll forgive me for stepping out of line, Mistress," the maid said with another, well-hidden, forced smile.
"You did well," Annelotte said, "You've solved all Boss' trouble."
"Do you really care about them, Mistress?" Alaine asked finally.
She'd gotten to know her mistress very well over the months they'd spent together.
"They're my friends, and friends are treasures, aren't they?"
"I understand," Alaine said noddingly.
"I lost. What do you want me to do?" Blackie asked unwillingly.
He was very unhappy about it, but he was a man of his word. A good gambler accepted victory and loss graciously, after all.
"We'll settle that later. Gather all the men for now." Kurdak said, squaring his shoulders.
"For what?" Blackie's eyes suddenly turned suspicious.
They were in an army camp and these people were definitely not soldiers. What right did any of them have ordering the men around?
"Just call them!" Eibron said, unable to contain himself any longer. He'd have beaten everyone present up already if Kurdak hadn't pinned him down with a stern glance.
"And why would I listen to you?" Blackie asked.
He could still stomach listening to the old man, since that was the condition of the bet, but this little snot nose had nothing to do with it.
"Because you're looking at Major Kurdak, this brigade's new commanding officer!" Eibron revealed with a vile smile.
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