Book 4 Chapter 298

Leguna on the Brink of Breakdown

Kurdak seemed a little hesitant.

"If we can pull this off, you'll get a lot of merits. I'll write a letter of commendation to the emperor myself," Manhattan said.

"You misunderstand, Sir. I've joined the military to serve the empire. I won't deny having thought of promotions, but using my friend to achieve that is wrong," Kurdak said sincerely.

"Good. I like how honest you are--" Manhattan nodded, "--but can you tell me why you're hesitant?"

"To be frank, Sir, my friend doesn't have that good a relationship with First Prince Geoffrey. If I write him to come here, I worry he will be sabotaged. I would never forgive myself if my actions cause him trouble."

"Mister Leguna sure is fortunate to have a friend like you. But..." Manhattan sighed coldly. "--Even if Dark Requiem comes over because of a letter, it's in service of the empire and its people. I doubt Geoffrey would dare criticize him for that. Hmph! In fact, if he really does, I won't mind chastising Larwin's kid for him. Don't worry. As long as I'm here, nobody will cause you or Leguna any trouble. Do you not trust my word?"

"I don't dare doubt it," Kurdak said quickly, "I'll write the letter."

"Then I'll leave you to it. You're as good as promoted if this works out. You're only a major, but I've kept an eye on your these last six months. And I've listened to how your subordinates talk about you. They aren't bad people, but they're more than a handful, yet you've whipped them into shape and turned them into a force to be reckoned with. You've made countless small mistakes here and there, so you're far from perfect, but you've achieved more than most could have with your command. Just take this last week. It would have taken as another week to finally surround the city if not for you. You should have been promoted long ago. This will finally be the single achievement to solidly recommend it."

"Thank you, General."

......

Leguna was buried under a mountain of paperwork. He finally understood why Wayerliss didn't tell him much even though he was his teacher. Running an organization was a nightmare!

There were revolts everywhere, Stokian troop movements, spies in the empire, and too much more. No wonder Wayerliss couldn't make extra time and Arikos wanted to get out of the place as quickly as possible.

No one but a maniac actually wanted to be buried under all this work. And this wasn't even all of it! More than half were sorted and taken care of by Annelotte and Arikos already. Arikos had done this job for quite some time and no doubt knew how to handle everything.

Annelotte had worked as Wayerliss's assistant for two years and this had probably been her primary responsibility. That this was less than half the actual total amount of paperwork was a small comfort, however, the portion he did get was still seven times more than he could reasonably handle.

Had Gahrona not often helped him, he wouldn't have gotten a single night's sleep these last six months!

Even his teacher, however, had her limits and her help had become increasingly infrequent over the last couple of weeks.

"Come on... Gimme a difficult mission so I can finally go out..." Leguna begged the gods as he walked into his office and saw the paperwork literally falling off his desk.

He'd not left the headquarters in months, and this had been his world seven days a week in that time. He had managed to slip out of the office for a couple of infrequent days to laze with Annelotte and Innilis, but even that was still done in the headquarters. He only got to leave when he was called on to perform some difficult assassination.

Those were few and far in between, however. The lower level operatives handled most of the missions, and his two assistants made sure to filter those authorisations out so he didn't get a chance to snatch them up as an excuse to get out of doing his real job. He only got a mission as a last resort when everyone else failed.

At least part of it was to not put him in unnecessary danger, high-order assassins were even rarer than their magus counterparts. But he had no doubt most of it was to make sure he suffered through the paperwork.

It wasn't any harder to become a high-order assassin than it was to become an equivalent magus. They were so much rarer because most died long before they broke into the high-order. The job was far more dangerous, and most died early on in their career, before they learned how to handle themselves properly against stronger opponents, and before they had time to accrue the experience necessary to break through into the higher order.

The riskiest of approaches was a physical assassination, a stab in the back, or a slice across the throat. It got the job done well, but it forced the assassin to get into the physical presence of their target. They had to break through or avoid all the target's security, and face and overpower their target's own strength; then slip away before the defenses turned around and trapped them inside; and finally they had to avoid being discovered and caught or killed as they escaped. Then there was also the constant threat of someone coming after them even years later to seek revenge if they were found out.

Poison was far less risky to their lives, but much more risky to the success of the mission. They had to find a poison that would do the job, and work things out in such a way that the target got the poison and not someone else, or that he got it at such a time that he could not get help before it killed him. And there was the problem that the number of poisons that could kill someone became progressively fewer and fewer as they got stronger; and the ones that could still do the job were well known, most people knew how to detect them, and were damn expensive, some even more so than equivalently effective potions.

The result was that assassinations of stronger opponents, about mid mid-order and up, were almost exclusively carried out with the blade, which made them very dangerous.

Not only was the job very dangerous, but most people hated assassins, even their employers usually didn't trust them as far as they could spit them, and many were often killed by their own employers to make sure they wouldn't tell anyone what they'd done for them.

As a result, strong assassins were direly rare and Leguna couldn't bare to send them on risky and iffy missions. Someone still had to do them, however, and Leguna was all too happy to.

Everyone originally thought of him as a snot-nosed brat -- with good reason, and they weren't wrong either -- and even his own subordinates didn't take him seriously. It took him several months to get his house in order and win his people's approval. And the only way he knew how, was to go off killing.

He'd taken on the three most dangerous assassinations in the last half a year, and killed all four of the targets. One was a high-order magus, another a high-order warrior. He generally took one of two extreme approaches, neither of which had any finesse, which had led to his reputation as a 'blunt needle that could do the job, but had to be rammed through the cloth'. He either struck from the shadows using Wave Blade, or charged in like a dog with rabies.

Ridiculed as he was for his lack of finesse and style, he had a perfect track record, and he'd only been injured once, and it had been barely more than a couple of scratches. While he was often called a 'brute' in conversations between his subordinates and in the palace courts, no one doubted his ability. It was an unwilling, begrudging respect, but Leguna was fine as long as it was respect.

He didn't know if they'd have given him even that if they'd known he'd not taken on even one of those missions alone. Annelotte had gone with him on every one. The only reason he'd managed to make it out of most of his missions at all, much less alive and unscathed, was thanks to her. He'd run to her like a naughty boy after getting the kill, and she'd take him away with a transference spell.

Gahrona had made sure to ridicule him for failing to sharpen his combat skills properly. He was mediocre with the blade at best, but she had to admit his infiltration skills were impeccable.

Those missions were chances both to get away from his responsibilities in the bureau, and to spend time with Annelotte, so he welcomed them with open arms. Arikos had clamped down on this recently, however, and made sure none of those missions made it to his desk at all.

And it was driving him insane. He had to get out. He didn't care if he had to take on a saint-ranker to do it, he just had to get out.

Someone knocked on the door, and it opened. It was Annelotte. She was always adamant she was only keeping her promise to Kurdak. She would never accept the title as 'Leguna's subordinate' and Leguna had no illusion that he could ever get her to. He certainly wasn't going to risk losing the help she gave him, much less the chance to work with her, over such a technicality.

"Thanks," he said at her worn expression.

She worked at least twice as hard as he did, and while he wasn't happy that she and Arikos together had kept him from leaving the bureau for several months now, he was grateful for her help.

She dropped another stack of documents in his office, not on his desk, there was no space, but on one of the number of extra tables that had been carried into his office over the last month, then took out a letter.

"Boss wrote you a letter."


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