Since Leguna promised to maintain their relationship as it was, they pretended that nothing happened that night. In actuality, however, it wasn't practically possible.
Annelotte was all dazed and hazy the rest of the night and it lasted all the way till morning. Even now, she still didn't understand what had happened. Why was she so intimate with him? Were those really manifestations of her true feelings?
She had fussed over those questions throughout the night without getting an ounce of sleep. During breakfast, Leguna almost burst out laughing when he saw her almost stuffing an egg into her nose. Fortunately, he had done his part crucially well and he wasn't in a rush to snap her out of it. He would let her come to terms with her feelings at her own pace and believed that one day she would get used to it.
"By the way, Annie..." Leguna casually said.
"What?!" Perhaps she had recalled the embarrassing moments of yesterday, her cheeks flushed red the moment she set sights on him. However, she forced herself to appear collected and look him straight in the eyes. She was stubborn just like that, not willing to give up on her persona under any circumstances.
He's not gonna say anything weird, is he? Hmph! It's one thing if it happened yesterday, but if he dares to do the same today... I'll make sure he gets what's coming to him! she thought guiltily, despite how headstrong she appeared. She squinted her eyes and readied herself to use Glacial Domain on Leguna.
He felt an urge to laugh at her expression. He wasn't sure why, but ever since what happened yesterday, he felt as if the world brightened. Now, he smiled at anyone he saw and would occasionally chuckle when he was alone. Eibron and Blackie thought that he was losing it when they saw him this morning.
And now, he wore his signature idiot smile and said, "I was just going to ask about the Stokian magi you had me capture yesterday. What do you need them from?"
"Huh?!" She started and didn't expect a question like that to come from him. Wait... why did my mind wander so far?
"Huh?" Leguna gave her flushed face a curious look and asked, "What's up with you?"
"Nothing..." She regulated her feelings and continued, "It's a matter of the court magi association."
"Can you tell me about it?" Leguna asked. Even though Annelotte was a member of the bureau, she was also a consultant for the association. There were some things he couldn't just simply ask her about. Even though it was rather odd for someone to hold two such positions, Leguna didn't really mind it.
Annelotte's position in the court magi association was only nominal anyway. Leguna hadn't ever considered whether she was in the bureau to serve as Larwin's eyes. There were few people in the world in which one could instill unconditional trust. Leguna had committed such a mistake before and he wasn't keen on repeating it.
"Well, it's not really a secret. It's something that would've been announced if it succeeds anyway," Annelotte said with a slight nod, "As you can tell, the Stokian warriors should be weaker than ours, but why has Hocke suffered one loss after another on the battlefield over the past few years?"
"There are a bunch of reasons," Leguna said with a shrug, "Hocke is a relatively young nation. In terms of foundation, history, facilities and structure, it is far from Stok's match. Not to mention, Stokian generals aren't fools. At the very least, there are still quite a good number of talented Stokian generals in our bureau's list that pose quite a threat to our empire. Other than that, they are far superior in the magic department."
"Oh? You have views on this matter as well?" Annelotte furrowed her brows with interest. She was quite curious what kinds of opinions a magic-illiterate person would have.
"Of course!" He nodded delightfully. "I've spent quite some time with you already, Annie. I would've at least gotten an inkling of what magic is about, right?"
"Who spent lots of time with you?!" she whispered as she turned away.
However, Leguna didn't hear it. "The influence of magic in this world is plain to see, and it is especially crucial in war. Other things aside, just take the magic cannons for example! Only 50 of them on the walls of Seatide was able to stop an army of 50 thousand for more than ten days!"
"Low-ranked magi! Boss suffered quite a bit from their bombardment the last time. To be frank, having so many fireball shooters that can move about intelligently is rather terrifying. In battles with more than a thousand combatants, having a squad of fireball shooters can really reshape the power balance."
"Not bad! Additionally, magi isn't just important for war. It also influences the empire's transportation, supplies, logistics, medicine and so on. Even though Stok's magic automobiles aren't completely practical, they're at least far more advanced than carts pulled by people or horses. There's also magic-augmented medicine which plays a tremendous role in treating injured Stokian combatants. Come to think of it, it's all your fault."
"How can you blame that on me?" Leguna felt that he was being shot at unreasonably.
"You had Innie research the medicine to restore Eirinn's looks," Annelotte said plainly, "Given her talent, if she had half a year, she might've been able to improve the medicines used by the military. But she hasn't contributed anything to the court herbalist association because of your matter. The association is even considering revoking her title."
"They won't dare! Hmph! Those crazed researchers hole up in their labs all day and aren't able to come up with any findings. How dare they expect a teenager like Innie to have any results within half a year? I'm gonna tear their lab apart!"
"So you're willing to let the Hockian soldiers suffer from low-quality healthcare?"
"Of course I'm not, but Eirinn is far more important to me! That aside, even Innie isn't guaranteed to come up with a formula to improve the medicines. It's only a possibility at best. Even though I feel bad for the soldiers, I don't regret my decision at all and ain't planning to change it! It's something the herbalists should be fussing over in the first place. What does Innie have to do with it?"
"Is Eirinn really that important to you?" she couldn't help but ask.
"Of course!" he said without hesitation, "She and Innie are just as important to me as you are! You three are the most important to me!"
"Idiot! What are you spouting again?!" she snapped.
He merely snickered. Whenever he said such things before, Annelotte would only hum a cold reply before going straight to teaching him a lesson. Displays of embarrassment like that were never-before-seen. The night had indeed changed her quite a lot. She was starting to accept him and her own feelings.
"Alright! Let's get back to topic!" Annelotte changed the subject forcefully after once more having her emotions swayed by him. "What I'm trying to say is... the commonness of magic in Stokian society is causing Hocke to lose quite an edge on the battlefield."
"Come to think of it, I remember reading some files that the sudden heavy reliance on magic only began a few years ago in Stok," Leguna said as he rocked his memory, "And coincidentally, that's when Saron began to gain a reputation on Chino, which was followed by the use of various magical tools. Could those things be related somehow?"
"I don't know. Collecting information is supposed to be your job. But I'm sure you heard about how the magical research all comes from a certain organization in the empire, right?"
"You mean the Imperial School of Magic?" Leguna nodded. "That accursed school is really an eyesore. I recall that it was only a place for magi to convene and conduct research. But five years ago, the old fart Jilroan renovated the whole school and since then, even commoners were allowed to enroll and learn magic. When the first batch graduated some three years ago and were sent into the battlefield, Stok's defensive stance began to change."
Annelotte added, "And not long after, those new innovations came one after another from the academy and were quickly applied in the various aspects of war, causing the sudden change. Thankfully, His Imperial Majesty Larwin managed to adapt in time and better the situation here at the battlefield slightly."
"So? Why do you want those magi?"
She smiled. "His Imperial Majesty believes that since Stok has such an amazing school, why can't we build our own here?"
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