Hurry Up and Take it
"Boss sent us a letter?!" Leguna half shouted.
Neither he nor Vera had written to either Leguna or Annelotte since they'd parted. He was actually troubled by the lack of communication. It felt like they'd cut all ties. Annelotte had made it clear to him that it was for his sake, but that didn't completely resolve his angst.
Now they had finally written. If they'd kept quiet for so long, the only reason they would have written to him now would be because something had come up. He had kept a close eye on them through the bureau, however, and should have been told if they'd gotten into trouble. That said, it did some time for news to travel from the frontlines to the capital. If they'd courier'd the letter with all haste, they could easily have gotten the letter to him before news made its way through the bureau's channels.
He knew Kurdak had suffered considerable injuries during the last offensive, but the last he'd heard the man was well on his way to a full recovery. Why, then had he sent a letter?
He all but tore the letter up, thank goodness only Annelotte was present or his obvious anxiety would have badly hurt his image with his subordinates.
Kurdak knew him too well. The letter began with 'Don't freak out, we're fine.'
The rest of the letter was just as to the point. It briefly described the situation and informed him of General Manhattan's request. Leguna read the letter through twice, then handed it to Annelotte.
"What will you do?" she asked, putting it down after going through it a couple of times as well.
"Do you even need to ask? I'll obviously go help him out," Leguna said.
"Alright," Annelotte answered calmly.
She had expected that answer.
"You can't just drop everything here though. Finish up the immediate stuff first, then you can go. And don't tell everyone you're leaving. Geoffrey might try something if he knows you're absent."
"Yeah, he's been cosying up to the premier a lot lately..." Leguna replied, scratching his chin in what had become his signature 'I am thinking' motion, "I'm not too worried about him, but the premier... He's a fox. I don't want to cross him."
"He doesn't seem to have any intention of making friends," Annelotte added, "He had his hand in the Bloodhand pie, so I doubt he's positively inclined towards you. The fact that he's let Geoffrey cozy up to him should tell you all you need to know about his opinion of you. I also heard he doesn't get along with the general, either. If you help the general out, you're only going to make things even worse between you and the premier."
"Ah, who cares?" Leguna exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air, "Just thinking about him's given me a headache. I'll just do what I want. If he doesn't like that, it's his problem. I'm done worrying about him. Besides, I trust you can keep the fort down while I'm gone."
"Who said I was staying at Melindor?" Annelotte asked.
"Huh? You going with me?"
"You trying to say I can't?" Annelotte asked, raising a frosty eyebrow, "I went with you on every little road-trip of yours since you took over the bureau, what makes you think I'll let you just dump me with all this--" she gestured to the paperwork littering his office, "-- this time?"
"This isn't like the other times. This is really dangerous..." Leguna said, despite knowing he would not change her mind, "The city has fifty cannons. I might be able to get a couple by surprise at the beginning, but most of it is going to be an outright battle. I can't put you in that kind of danger, Annie."
"That just means you need my help even more than before," she reposted in a you-know-you-can't-do-this-without-me tone.
"And how are you going to get up the wall?" he shot back, "They're most definitely going to have a disruption formation. You're not going to be able to transfer in."
She knew he was right. An asset like Seatide would have all the standard bells and whistles of defense, especially when they had a permanent magi garrison. That said, the formation would be stretched to its limit to cover the entire city. Realistically it would only be able to stop spells. Gifts and abilities would be unaffected. Permanent portals wouldn't be affected either.
"You don't have to worry about that. I have my own ways of dealing with it," she said, shaking her head, "Besides, those are magic cannons. We both know I know a hundred times more about magic than you. Do you even know how to disable them?"
Of course he did! He just had to turn them into scrap metal. He had never seen a magic cannon before, but he knew just as well as anybody that once the physical tool or weapon was destroyed, the magic used to operate it would cease to function as well, no matter how powerful it was.
He didn't dare voice his thoughts, however. Annelotte would rip him to shreds for being such a brute. She must know what he was thinking, however, and she wouldn't have asked the question if there wasn't some catch.
There was another reason he wasn't fighting her decision to come along too hard. This was the first time she'd indicated a desire to help out. Even a fool wouldn't turn her down. That didn't mean he wasn't being honest when he said he didn't want to put her in that kind of danger, but they both knew she stood a far better chance of making it out of that kind of situation unscathed than he did.
He stared at her for a few more moments, then sighed and dropped his shoulders.
"Fine. But I have one condition."
"What?" she asked, suspicious.
"Don't worry about me. If you're in any danger, leave immediately. I'll find my own way out."
Her cold eyes lost the tiniest bit of their frost for half a moment, then she nodded.
"I was going to do that regardless," she said defiantly.
"What?! Where are you going this time?!" Arikos's shouted.
Damn the little brat! All he ever wanted to do was play or slack off!
"It's a secret," Leguna smirked, "Just take care of things while I'm gone. You'll be in full control~" he said like an adult teasing a child with a sweet.
"Full control?!" Arikos jumped, "You're being too carefree again! You should worry about me undermining your authority!"
It was Leguna's turn to jump.
"Without even breaking a sweat! I can do the job ten times better than you." Arikos said confidently.
Leguna didn't react the way he wanted, however. Rather than arguing with him furiously, he grabbed his hands like someone pleading another to save their life.
"Uncle, I beg you... Please take it! I've always wanted to quit! If you really want it, I don't mind giving it to you!"
"Buzz off!--" Arikos almost spat blood on the brat's face. "--And here I was wondering what you were up to... You just want me to clean up your mess!"
"You're the one who dragged me into this in the first place! I'm just returning the favor!" Leguna spat back, literally.
The old man sighed after several long, salivated moments.
"I knew you would see reason!" Leguna exclaimed.
"I don't want you gone for long, you hear?!" Arikos said as much threat as he could, "The barbarians are getting rowdy again. Something's brewing up there."
"Fine." Leguna said unhappily.
He had also seen the reports. The empire used to mount regular expeditions into the barbarian territory to keep them placid, but it hadn't for several years due to the war. Everyone expected this to happen, no one had expected it to take this long for the barbarians to get too big for their shoes again.
"Alright," the old man sighed again. "You better look after Annie!" he said with that same faux sternness.
"Of course!" Leguna smiled and left.
Arikos watched him leave, shaking his head again with a bitter smile, "Anyone reasonable person would beg for the chance to prove himself in front of the chairman, but you can't wait to throw it away... I seriously doubt the chairman's judgement on this one."
"Xeno!" he yelled.
"You called, Sir?" the boy asked, popping his head around a corner a few moments later.
He wore the uniform of the bureau now, and was Arikos's apprentice. He was a Stokian, but Arikos didn't really care about Chino's politics and prejudices. He quite liked the boy.
Xeno was smart and reliable. He only needed a single, rough order to carry out his mission. And he always did his best, which was usually more than enough.
More importantly, he didn't care for the limelight, and actually went out of his way to be as unobtrusive as possible. Arikos liked that in particular a lot. He was currently grooming the boy to be his successor in the bureau, as well as being his eyes and ears once he left.
"I'll be filling in for Leguna for a while. I need you to take care of something for me."
That was another thing he liked about the boy; he never asked any unnecessary questions.
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