"Well, of course you can help out," the emperor smiled and gave Leguna a nonchalant glance, "but you seem to require someone's permission for it, am I right? Don't forget your other post!"
"Of course I do! She's told me about it long before and I've given her my permission," Leguna hurriedly replied. Annie only helped me out as a friend. I'd be asking for trouble if I really treated her as my subordinate...
Despite that, Leguna hoped that he would eventually gain greater status than the women he loved. He had worked hard for the past two to three years and it seemed to be going rather well for him. Now, he was below the hierarchy underneath Annelotte, Innilis, Eirinn, Vera and Alaine. Come to think of it, Annelotte's position in the hierarchy was akin to Marolyt's!
"Oh? I didn't think you'd agree that easily," Larwin said, stifling a chuckle. "Then, my niece, do you have any plans for the school already?"
"First, we'll have to set up the facilities the school requires," Annelotte said.
A little surprised, Larwin replied, "You've thought up the details already? To be honest, the court magi are still discussing that matter and still haven't been able to come to a conclusion yet."
"Your Imperial Majesty has misunderstood," Annelotte said with a lowered head, "While I don't yet have a detailed plan for what facilities we require, I believe we can base it off the exemplary Stokian school of magic."
"Indeed, the Stokian school of magic was founded more than a century ago. I remember that old fellow Jilroan was in one of the first batches to graduate," Larwin said with a nod, "but now, our two nations are at war and there wouldn't be a way for us to send someone there to tour their school."
"What we can do is listen to the suggestions of graduates from that school," Annelotte said, "I requested General Manhattan to hand the magi captives to me from the battle at Seatide for that. I believe that our work will be much easier with their input."
"This is indeed something I've never considered before," Larwin said with a look of surprise. As Stokian magi captives usually weren't that powerful, they were overlooked by the Hockian court magi and the emperor.
Had Annelotte not interfered, low-order magi like them would've been killed off or used up as cannon fodder by the Hockian military. The northerners didn't see those fireball-tossing magi as anything valuable. The low-order magi who thought they'd receive preferential treatment as captives were completely delusional. Only mid-order magi could afford to ask for it.
"Miss Annelotte," the finance minister Andro carefully asked, "Founding our own school of magic is an internal matter of empire. I worry that it won't be appropriate for Stokians to be involved."
"Lord, you may rest assured about that--" Annelotte shook her head. "--I've studied the culture of Stokains, especially their worship for powerful magi, which is held to an unbelievable degree. As such, Stokian magi are usually really arrogant and selfish."
"I can attest to that," Leguna chimed in, "I killed two stuck up magi out of rage because they weren't playing nice."
"Killing a few low-order magi is no big deal. While we here at Hocke respect magi, we won't worship them like the southerners!" Larwin seemed to understand how arrogant the magi could be from some experience he had long ago.
"That kind of attitude hasn't changed even after the numbers of Stokian magi grew," Annelotte continued, "as such, I believe these magi are usually individualistic and self-centered."
"You mean to say that selfish people would hardly sacrifice themselves for their own country, right?" Larwin said.
"Your Imperial Majesty truly is wise. During our trip back with the captives, while they hate Leguna with a passion, they never said anything to the likes of sacrificing themselves for their nation. I don't think I even heard them say 'Stok' after their capture. They spouted nothing but the pride, status and glory of magi."
What she said was the plain truth. The evaluation the Stokian magi had on their own nation was surprisingly low. She even suspected that a Lancian born like her was more faithful to Hocke than the magi were to Stok.
It truly was a weird phenomenon, but it was all from Jilroan's own making. He had been rather proud of his status as a magus and greatly increased the influence magi held in Stok during the early days of his reign. The Stokians themselves were also proud of having an emperor who was also a powerful magus, but now, he was going to pay the price for it.
The magi in Stok became arrogant bullies like oppressive land owners. Their arrogance also caused them to largely disregard chain of command in the military as only a stronger magus could command the obedience of another.
"That's why, I firmly believe that as long as we give them adequate motivation and threats, it won't be hard to make them serve us." She turned to Leguna and continued, "I have to thank Sir Leguna for this too. He had completely crushed the arrogance of the captives and they're far easier to control than before."
"Haha, well, I'm only doing my job..." Leguna scratched his head awkwardly. He wasn't sure whether she was praising or mocking him.
Larwin's thick fingers rapped on the table. "I think it's a good suggestion. Alright, we'll let the Stokian magi take part in the formation of the school. As for their status... We'll let them serve as assistants for court magi for now. They're only low-order magi and I doubt that they'd be dissatisfied with this position. Tell them that if they really want to become true Hockian magi, they must show their loyalty through the contributions they make. I, Larwin, won't mistreat anyone that has served the empire well."
"Understood." Annelotte nodded.
Larwin shot her another look and smiled. "Come to think of it, they are your captives, so you deserve a reward for bringing them to the empire. Annie, tell me what you want!"
Come on, the magi were captured by me, alright? Shouldn't I be the one who gets the reward? thought Leguna. The fat emperor really had his sights on Marolyt and spoiled his daughter so much.
"I would like the empire to grant me my personal magic experiment laboratory with complete facilities," Annelotte said without holding back.
"A laboratory?" Larwin wasn't taken aback by Annelotte's huge demand. He knew that the girl would never ask for something excessive without a good reason. Since she already made the request, he would no doubt follow through. Larwin asked, "What would you need that lab for, Annie?"
"Even though it's still just an idea of mine, I think it's worth trying." Annelotte proceeded to drop a bombshell. "I plan to replicate the new Stokian weapon -- the magic cannon."
Everyone present, including Alfreid and Larwin, were flabbergasted.
The might of the magic cannons were clear for all to see. The reason the Stokians held back their reinforcements for Seatide for so long was due to the 50-odd cannons they had mounted on their walls. Defending a city with such cannons would be a piece of cake.
Had Leguna not sabotaged the cannons beforehand, General Manhattan wouldn't have been able to take the city back even with six times the forces. Their might on the battlefield was truly unparalleled.
Both Larwin and the military were troubled over having no countermeasure to the cutting edge Stokian weapon and winning the war seemed ever so much harder.
Yet, Annelotte was saying she might be able to replicate them. That would even the playing field once more and Annelotte would have contributed insurmountably to the empire!
"Annie..." Larwin said with solemn look, "How certain are you?"
"I have a mid-order magus captive who used to work on maintaining the cannons. I believe I have a 70 percent chance of completing the task with her aid," she said after some consideration.
"What about the time frame? How long do you think you need with our support?"
"A year," she gave a generous time frame. She knew Larwin would try to 'haggle' it down.
"Two months." Larwin didn't hold back as the magic cannons were far too crucial. One year might be too late.
"Half a year."
"Four months. In four months, all of the court magi will cooperate with your efforts, including Mister Messen, the chairman, and me. If you are successful in your endeavor, I'll have good reason to make you the first principal of the school of magic!"
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