The officials all gasped when they heard it. They understood the weight Larwin's words carried.
If the school of magic was really formed, it would no doubt be one of the most powerful and influential institutions in the empire. While that might not show in the initial stages, as long as the school began operation, it would grow to be crucial to the empire in time.
One of the main reasons for that was that the school could help produce tens of thousands of magi regardless of rank as was apparent with Stok's own academy. Not only that, the yield from the research conducted by the Stokian school of magic was for all to see. There were improved potions, powerful antidotes, magic cannons and so on. The school in Stok influenced almost every aspect of their society. Given how fervent the southerners worshipped magic, magi were almost hailed as gods there.
There was a saying in Stok among its people that went, 'it's better to be an honor student in the school of magic than a noble in the sticks'. That came about as a result of nobles of relatively low standing going to absurd lengths to send their progeny into the school. If their descendants managed to succeed in their studies and endeavors, they would end up far better than being a mere minor noble.
While the Hocke empire also held magi in high regard, it was far from comparable with Stok. As such, there was little doubt that the Hockian school of magic would also come to have a pivotal role in the kingdom. It was bordering on insanity for Larwin to even entertain the idea of letting a girl less than twenty years of age take charge of such a prestigious and crucial institution.
Back then when Leguna became the bureau head, many feathers were already ruffled. But as Wayerliss had the most say in that matter, even Larwin wouldn't be able to change that decision. Additionally, Leguna did rather well despite his age and the officials begrudgingly accepted his appointment.
Yet, Larwin now said that he was going to let another youngling take charge of the school. How could that be allowed to fly? Leguna taking over the bureau was acceptable since Wayerliss was the one who did the most to set it up. However, the school of magic was still being formed. The foundations hadn't even been set yet and nobody had the experience of running it. Would Annelotte really be able to handle it?
"Your Imperial Majesty--" Finance Minister Andro was the first one to lose it. "--the formation of the school is still in its initial stages. I am not questioning Miss Annelotte's accomplishments in the field of magic, as well as her talent. But I worry that she won't be able to handle many aspects of managing a school as a principal."
"Annie, do you think you can handle it?" Larwin asked.
"I can," she casually said. The reason she suggested that long a time frame was because she was waiting for Larwin to come up with a condition enticing enough to encourage her to speed up her research work. She never imagined that he would offer something of that magnitude though. She could hardly believe her ears.
"Even if you can, I believe this will affect your own cultivation in magic, right?" Andro said, unwilling to concede.
"Even if Annie sleeps through the days, she'd still advance faster than those idiot magi!" Leguna said nonchalantly. Even though she had been helping him at the bureau day in and out, she still managed to train her way to the 17th stratum.
However, he had the wrong impression. As Annelotte was a magus, she could recover her energy with two hours of meditation. While Leguna worked, she helped him out. When he slept, she meditated for two short hours and began her magic training. She had never eased up on it the whole time.
Perhaps she didn't tell Leguna about it because she didn't want him to worry. After all, sleeping was far more comfortable than meditation, as was apparent from how long Annelotte could sleep when she spent the night in the same tent as Leguna. She treated their mission like a vacation just like he did.
However, Annelotte didn't refute Andro's point. The added workload would definitely affect her progress in training. It was almost inevitable. Not to mention, being principal was a little too catchy for her tastes. She didn't appreciate a high profile, so perhaps a lower position might be more adequate, such as an elder of the academy or a consultant.
So, she said after some hesitation, "I can't deny that, Lord Andro. You are right."
"Alfreid, what do you think?" the emperor asked.
"Your Imperial Majesty, I do have a suggestion," he said after a bow, "As we can see, the existence of the Stokian school of magic caused the status of magi in their nation to surge. I believe Your Imperial Majesty wouldn't want that to happen in our empire too."
"That is right. I have been considering that matter as well. The school should be formed to serve the empire. It would be quite distressing to let it have the same kind of status as the Stokian school."
"That is why, I humbly suggest that we form two schools. That will encourage healthy competition. Not only will our empire be able to advance quickly in magic, the schools can keep each other in their respective places. The situation with the Stokian school won't repeat here."
"It is a rather intriguing proposition. What do you think about it, Annie?" Larwin asked with a satisfied nod. Alfreid's suggestion did seem to cover the best of both worlds. While each school's scale would be smaller as a consequence, it would solve a lot of awkward problems.
"The Lord Premier's suggestion is indeed great--" She shot the finance minister a look. "--But, there's a small problem."
"What would that be?" the emperor inquired.
"Funding," Andro said with a pained look, "Your Imperial Majesty, I believe that our imperial treasury has been running rather dry from the years of war with the Stokians. Forming one school of magic is already a daunting endeavor. Where would I get enough funds to form another?"
"Haha, even our finance minister is starting to complain!" Larwin said with an awkward laugh. It was indeed a rather practical consideration to have.
"We can scale down on each school," Alfreid said.
"Even if we do, I believe we'll still be at least forty percent over budget. While we're on the topic, I believe I might as well inform you all that we can't even exceed our budget by five percent," Andro said staunchly. He didn't have any other choice. If he didn't voice his concerns now, where would he get the funds? Selling his kidneys? Even Larwin's kidneys might not sell for enough.
"That is to say, you can take an extra four percent out, right?" Larwin sarcastically said.
"Your Imperial Majesty, it is my fault for being incompetent and not managing the treasury properly. Please punish me for my mistakes." Andro wasn't in the mood for any smiles.
"Alright. While the war has sapped much of our resources over the years, it isn't really something preventable. You've really had it hard," the emperor said with a wave of his thick hand, "I don't blame you for this."
"I do have a suggestion for that," Leguna said.
"Oh? Let's hear it." The emperor's eyes lit up. Though Leguna seldom spoke during council meetings, he always had a decent idea when he did.
"Borrow it from the merchant guilds." Though the war has worn both empires down considerably, it was a time for merchants to prosper. Leguna collected quite a lot of information about the earnings of numerous merchant guilds during the past half year in the bureau.
"To be frank, Sir Leguna, the merchant guilds have lent the empire quite a lot of money already. I doubt they'd agree to lend more," Andro said.
"Oh, they will," Leguna said confidently, "Because it's investment. And this time, they're investing in the empire's school of magic."
"How would we pay them dividends then?" Andro asked as his brain began to kick into action.
"The fruits of the research of the schools will be their dividends. Naturally, I'm only talking about part of them. I think we can all agree that the school of magic would have a great influence on our empire. Not only would the number of magi in the empire increase, we will also see more and more new inventions from the school."
"Ah, so all we have to do is to share some of the research with the merchant guilds, which would in turn make them lots of profit as well!" Andro had already come to the conclusion.
"That's right," Leguna said with a satisfied nod, "And let me emphasize that we'll only be giving away part of the results."
"I didn't think you'd have such a sharp mind for business, kid!" Larwin praised. Leguna's idea was commendable. If part of the research efforts of the schools were offered, the merchant guilds might scramble to make donations, to say no less of lending money.
"Haha, to be frank, Your Imperial Majesty, that idea was thanks to inspiration from someone else," he said while shyly scratching his head. He had gotten the idea from Innilis.
The recipe for the cold-resistance concoction she happened to develop by chance managed to sell for five thousand gold coins. Following the sale, the large merchant guilds remembered the genius herbalist and would often visit her to express their goodwill. Leguna also heard from Annelotte that someone actually tried to buy guardianship over Innilis from her! Naturally, she didn't even bother to consider it.
In the following six months, Innilis had focused all her efforts on researching a way to accomplish Leguna's wish: the undoing of Eirinn's disfiguration. Regardless, Leguna was able to see how attractive new magical products were for the merchant guilds and came up with that idea.
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