Caught up in the Middle
In the middle of the night, Leguna woke up with a tight bladder.
Annelotte was currently sleeping nearby. Perhaps due to the hot summer weather, she had kicked her blanket aside and her bare legs were revealed. Instead, she hugged the blanket like a bolster tightly as if she couldn't sleep without it. The beautiful sight of those uncovered legs was something he had never seen before.
However, he didn't feel the slightest urge or rush from it. He quietly looked at her face and couldn't help but smile. "It feels great to wake up beside a girl. Her sleeping habits seem worse than Innie's!"
He didn't wake her and quietly left the tent to answer nature's call before meeting Annelotte in his dreams.
"Gosh, this feels great!" When he was done, he admired how blissful the simple things were.
"Hey, kid!" Kurdak said from not far away.
"Boss?" He looked at him, surprised. Kurdak was tailed by two guards. Leguna asked, "Why are you here this late in the night?"
"I'm on watch, of course. You think being commander is that easy?" He rolled his eyes.
"It must be a pain..." Leguna sighed. The two of them had gone all over the place without rest ever since they parted half a year ago.
Kurdak had drunk quite a lot during the night, yet he was patrolling now. Fortunately, they were high-order warriors who could easily shake away their drunkenness with their power. Usually, however, they wouldn't do so because getting drunk with friends was a decent experience in itself.
"But of course!" He sighed and asked Leguna, "Wanna tag along?"
"Of course!" The two of them hadn't had time alone since they parted. As they were going to leave tomorrow, he felt it best to spend some more time with Kurdak.
"I will take care of the patrolling. You guys go get some rest!" Kurdak instructed his two guards.
"Yes, Sir!" The two soldiers saluted and left.
"I recall that half a year ago, those fellows were still rather wild! You've done good work here, boss!" Leguna said, commenting on how swift and proper the soldiers were.
"Haha, but of course! I'm your boss, you know!" Kurdak said without the slightest humility.
The two of them continued through the route as they chatted. Sometimes, Leguna would bring up the policies enacted by Larwin in melindor and Kurdak helped him analyze Leguna's position and gave him some encouragement and suggestions.
"Oh, by the way," Kurdak said, "I don't know if I should ask this, but why did you ask for the magi captives from the general? I'm just a little curious."
"It's not a secret, really," Leguna said with a shrug, "I heard Annie say that His Imperial Majesty Larwin is going to found a school of magic in the empire just like Stok's. Annie seemed rather pumped about it, and since most of the captives graduated from that school, it would be much easier for us to form our own with their help."
"I see..." Kurdak gave it some thought and widened his eyes. Patting Leguna on the shoulder, he said, "I see! So Annie was thinking for your sake after all!"
"Why do you say that?" What Kurdak said sounded like what Gahrona had told him, but he couldn't tell what Annelotte's intentions were.
"Forget it, you're caught up in the middle of it. It's no surprise that you don't get what's going on," Kurdak said with a smile, before he explained Leguna's current situation and why Annelotte was doing what she did.
"Think about it, if you can control the bureau and she can have influence in the school, then Geoffrey and Alfreid won't be able to touch you so easily. Annie has far better foresight than you do," Kurdak concluded.
"She's always been smarter than I am. She just doesn't show it much," Leguna said, a little moved.
"That's why you have to not let go of a fine lass like her!" Kurdak said solemnly after he gave Leguna a pat on the back.;
"Of course I won't! Come to think of it, what's your deal with Lamir?"
"What deal?" He feigned ignorance.
"What kind of relationship do the two of you have?"
"We're just friends. Didn't she say so herself?" Kurdak shrugged.
"Don't give me that! Lamir's just lying to herself by saying that," Leguna said with disbelief, "Forgive me for being forward with this. You're just a brigade commander, you know. Even if General Manhattan favors you, there's no way you'll be the first person on his list of suitors for his granddaughter. There are a bunch of other nobles and officials in the empire. I refuse to believe you're first in line."
"So I guess you are, huh?" he groaned.
"Hey, don't change the subject!" Leguna said with dissatisfaction, "I don't believe what she said tonight. I doubt Sis Vera and Annie believe it too."
"Then why didn't they say anything about it?" Kurdak asked powerlessly.
"Because they weren't willing to expose that lie. Since Lamir had changed her tone, they weren't willing to push more salt onto the wound."
"Then why didn't Lamir speak out herself?"
"Because she could tell that there's no point in shaking the relationship between the two of you. So, the best choice for her was to take a temporary step back. As for what will happen in future, it'll depend on her."
Kurdak thought for a moment in silence and smiled bitterly. "I see... It's no wonder she said those things to me before she left..."
"Huh? What did she say to you?" Leguna started. He recalled that Lamir left earliest because she couldn't drink any more. Kurdak was the one who sent her off.
"She said... She said that if she runs into trouble in the future, she'll be counting on me."
"And you promised her?"
"Well, I didn't think too much about it, so I said yes." Kurdak scratched his head awkwardly.
"Darn it... Aren't you usually really sharp, boss? Couldn't you tell that Lamir was lying?"
Kurdak said self-mockingly, "Well, I'm caught in the middle of all this, just like you were in your own matter. I could only see it from my perspective."
After a moment's hesitation, Leguna asked, "Then what would you do if she comes for you?"
"Since I already gave her my word, I'd definitely lend her a hand." Kurdak sighed.
"Does that mean you'll accept her? Sis Vera wouldn't be too keen on that." Leguna didn't blame Kurdak for it. He was romantically invested in three women, after all. Who was he to judge?
"No, these are two different matters. I will only help her."
"I still don't get it."
Kurdak shot him a serious gaze and said, "Kid, there's one person I would never hurt in this world, and that's Vera. My dedication to her definitely isn't inferior to yours for your three girls!"
"Boss, hearing you say that makes me feel like the lecher. Leguna was quite frustrated that he was on the moral lowground.
"Oh? Lecher? It is quite appropriate. I wonder who started calling you that?" Kurdak nodded his agreement to the term.
"Do you remember Annie's maidservant, Alaine? She did..."
"Haha! Lecher it is then! Many men can only dream of becoming one. But let me warn you if you disappoint those three fine girls of yours, even if they forgive you, I won't!"
"Sigh... You don't know how many people have threatened me like this already. I understand," Leguna powerlessly replied.
Morning the next day, Leguna and Annelotte set out back for Melindor. Since it would be quite troublesome for the two of them alone to bring the captives back, Manhattan had ten elite Stokian warriors accompany them back to the capital.
Thankfully, Manhattan considered that far. On the way back, one of the magi tried to escape only to be discovered by a guard. Leguna didn't hesitate to kill that low-order magus and warned the others that there was no way they could escape, and that obedience was key to their survival. He said that he didn't mind killing them off since low-order magi weren't worth much anyway.
Only after Leguna's bloody threat did the magi settle down. After that, it was Annelotte's turn to shine. She showed off her terrifying magical talent and also regarded the captives with appropriate respect.
The good-cop, bad-cop routine the two had made the magi regard Annelotte as their personal goddess by the time they arrived at Melindor. Leguna on the other hand was seen as a demon.
Not that he cared about it. Assassins like him would benefit more from having a terrifying reputation than a benevolent one.
It didn't take long before the jocular youth's name came to be synonymous to fear and death in the eyes of many.
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