"The bureau, a cooperative effort between the empire and Moonshadow, actually fell short to the enemy's own spy operations and you still dare to laugh!" Messen's eyes widened. Though the slender old man's height only reached up to Leguna's chin, Leguna still felt like he was faced with a titan.
"It pains me to say it, but yeah..." he said.
"Pains you? You're the least hurt from all of this!" Messen's saliva sputtered all over his face. Leguna didn't think that the titan in the world of magic would actually do something so inelegant and distasteful. Though he wanted to wipe it off, he stopped himself from doing so in considering Messen's current mood, allowing more droplets to continue to gather on his face.
"They were right under your noses in Melindor! Even I feel ashamed for you!" The old man said as he patted Leguna's cheek nonstop.
"Yes, yes..." He hurriedly lowered his head.
"Don't put me off like that!" Messen was quite dissatisfied with Leguna's perfunctory responses. He waved to the captain of the city guard and said, "You may go. I don't want to see this repeated in the future!"
"Understood!" The guard answered hurriedly and ran out like he was escaping a burning building.
"Hmph, can't even deal with being scolded by an old man like me?" Messen humphed while looking at the captain's back, but his words seemed to be directed at Leguna somehow.
"I wouldn't dare. You are right to scold me, Master Messen," Leguna hurriedly said.
The old man glared at him. "You little brat really have a way with words, huh? Tell me what you want to say straight, or don't blame me for scolding you!"
"I wouldn't dare. You are right to scold me, Master Messen," Leguna repeated once more carefully.
Messen looked at his troubled expression and sighed. He toned down his words. "Kid, you haven't been on your post of bureau head for long, only half a year in fact, but I've reprimanded you four to five times within that span already. Do you have any complaints?"
"I wouldn't da--"
Messen jumped and interrupted him. "Don't say that anymore! I'm old, but no fool! Speak to me for real!"
"Master, can you promise not to get mad?" he asked probingly.
"I will if you continue to spout superficial bullshit!" Even though the old man was rather slender, his widened, glaring eyes almost took up a quarter of his face.
"Then... let me muster my courage first." He took a deep breath. "Master Messen, I would be lying if I said that I enjoy being scolded by you. But honestly, I have never hated you for that."
"Because I'm a senior old man and the chairman of the court magi association? You make me sound like a power harasser," he said snidely.
"This..." Leguna didn't know how to respond. Even though that was indeed what he thought, he would be in for another saliva sputtering if he said it out loud.
"Forget it, I'll just own up to that reputation then," Messen said, "Kid, let me tell you that I have some strong thoughts on you!"
"Dare I ask why?" Leguna said stubbornly.
"Why? Because of Annie!"
How did that have anything to do with her? Is he actually an old pervert that has his eyes on her?! How come I haven't found out about it after so long?
How dare you set your sights on her, you old sack of bones, and mistreat me because of it?! So that was the reason! Even I have to admit that I'm out of Annie's league, but you're in a totally different plane of existence! Let's see how I deal with you later!
As Leguna was pondering how he should deal with Messen, the old man continued, "Annie's training was greatly hampered thanks to you! How can I not be angry?"
"What?" Leguna was completely taken aback.
"What? You refuse to admit it?" Messen asked coldly.
"...Could you please explain?" Leguna felt like he dodged one bullet after another today.
"Hmph! Ever since she first came to Melindor, I knew she was a precious talent waiting to be moulded. I even dropped my pride to ask her to become my disciple, but she refused! After that, I found out that she wasn't able to completely focus her efforts in magic. I heard that she refused me because she heard that becoming my disciple meant focusing completely on studies and training."
He couldn't help but add, "This lass is smart and beautiful and also has impressive talent. And there I was wondering what kind of amazing man could sway her concentration. I didn't think it'd be a pathetic jester like you! The only thing on my mind back then was how you ruined everything!"
Leguna covered his face as he recalled that Messen had told him the same thing the first time they met. Back then, he didn't know who Messen was and treated him as a normal member of the court magi association. The old man seemed to have just finished an experiment and his face was quite dirty. Leguna saw that and casually remarked, 'Pops, did you just climb out of a pile of coal?'
To this day, he still hated his mouth for doing so.
"Hmph! Far worse is that ever since you came, she's been even less driven!" Messen said with an audible humph. "And there's the matter of you pushing Innie to her after the tournament. Do you know how much she had to do to look after her? I do admit that Innie has shocking talent in magic theory. But it's still inconsequential compared to a person who could become a myth-rank magus in the future! Do you know you're hampering the progress of an upcoming myth?!"
"Myth?!" Leguna said with a start. He knew that Annelotte was impressive, but never imagined that she would actually have that much potential.
After all, he was now the bureau head and had started seeing things from a larger picture. But all this time, he had only encountered one myth-rank magus! That insane old man from Stok! Even now, he still couldn't be sure whether he was a real myth-ranker!
Leguna wanted to look into that man, but because of the order spell, he wasn't capable of asking for any information about it, not even to Gahrona. Oddly, Gahrona didn't seem intent on telling him anything about it either.
In fact, Gahrona had entered sleep state when Leguna encountered that man. Of those two, one was at the end of fate and the other was outside fate. The two of them shouldn't ever have anything to do with each other on the wheel of fate. That was why Gahrona had no choice but to remove her own memory of then and chose to enter deep sleep during the encounter. Otherwise, she would be punished by the world's laws.
"What? You don't believe me?" Messen asked.
"Annie is talented, but myth..." Leguna carefully picked his words. "That's a little..."
"You muscle-brained dimwit!" Messen began to saw Leguna with even more disdain. "I've never seen anything like that girl's talent! Even I don't know how much inferior I am in comparison to her! I don't mind telling you straight to your face that you slowed her training by as much as half the rate. Can you believe that?!"
Messen was speaking the truth. Annelotte's magic talent showed itself in many aspects. He recalled his exploits when he was at Annelotte's age. He only managed to reach the high order after single-mindedly chasing that power. Even though it was an amazing achievement to most, Messen was all too aware of the things he had to forsake to achieve what he had. At the very least, he could say for sure that he wouldn't be confident enough to claim that he had seventy percent confidence that he could replicate the magic cannons when he was at Annelotte's age.
Annelotte on the other hand trained in magic, all the while dabbling in formation arrays, herbalism and alchemy. Most importantly, she used most of her available time to help Leguna out with his matters at the bureau! Despite that, her achievements in magic was still superior to Messen's! That kind of talent struck fear even into the old magus. If Annelotte had used all her time and effort in studying magic, Messen was quite certain that she would become the first myth-rank magus Hocke saw a decade later.
All to regrettably, his myth-rank nurture plan ran into one problem after another. Not only was he unable to take Annelotte as a disciple, he wasn't able to get her to focus her efforts on magic. It wasn't like he could force her to, given her father's influence. And the root cause for her distractions was none other than Leguna.
Every time he happened upon that thought, Messen's hate for Leguna would deepen. That was why he would cause him trouble from time to time over the past half year to vent his frustrations.
When Messen finished his complaints, Leguna was left with complex emotions. He was quite touched that Annelotte would do so much to him, but at the same time, he felt guilt and regret for owing so much to her. He was also giddy with joy that he was so important in Annelotte's eyes.
"Alright, that's all I'll say! I don't expect anything to come from it. I merely wanted to vent a bit. I know I have a short temper, but mouthing off on you is the most I'll do. If I continue to interfere with your and Annie's matters, who knows what kind of things you'll say to her about me behind my back!" He licked his dry lips and continued. "I only want to remind you that Annie's training might be inhibited by your affairs. Her potential is huge, and I think it's a huge shame that she would forsake her training for inconsequential matters!"
"I understand. I just never thought I was causing her so much trouble."
"Good. If she manages to replicate the magic cannons, then she'll have the post as principal of the school of magic. I don't really expect too much either. I only want you to not trouble her with every little thing from the bureau. The affairs of the school would be the most she can deal with for sure. At the risk of being laughed at, even though she's not my disciple, I'll happily admit that I already treat her as one. I really hope she can really make her name in the field of magic. Can you promise that at least?"
Leguna hesitated, but nodded in the end. "Fine, I got it!"