Marolyt had finally allowed her to call him her master a few years earlier, but she'd only snapped at him back then. This was indeed the first time she had called him by that title.
"You've grown, lass." Marolyt smiled admirably.
No one had been willing to give him shelter from that storm that night, save this girl's parents.
He liked the lively girl from the moment he first saw her. She was about as old as his daughter, whom he couldn't help but see every time he looked at her. He noticed her incredible talent a few hours into his stay, and it drove him relentlessly to train her. He held himself back initially, but lost control at around midnight and dragged her outside to teach her. As he had expected, the little girl memorized the simpler moves after only one quick demonstration. As for the more arcane sword style he used, though she couldn't understand it, she memorized all the same.
He held much satisfaction for his first, and hitherto only, disciple. Even years after he had left, she was always in his thoughts.
"Lisana pays her respects to Master!" the girl half-shouted as she bowed.
Her mood swerved for only a few seconds before she was once again the swordswoman and knight everyone know. She wiped away her tears and half-knelt before her master.
"Oh my? When did you get such a sweet mouth?" Marolyt asked, somewhat surprised. He recalled she had been a real sharp-mouthed girl, but she was also very obedient. What had changed her so much?
"Master..." Lisana murmured, her head slightly lowered to keep her gaze off the old man.
"Alright, stand up," Marolyt caved as he dragged her to her feet.
She lifted her gaze as well, and Marolyte was struck how beautiful the years had made her. She had been a beauty when he'd first met her, of course, but she had surpassed even her parents now.
"A moment, please, Master. I have to be punished first. I'll come pay my respects properly afterwards," Lisana said.
"Nonsense!" Marolyt snapped, "Who dares touch the disciple in front of the master?!"
"Mister Marolyt, whether anyone likes it or not, and no matter what you say, this is the military's rules," Alissanda said.
He already knew the punishment would not happen today, if at all, but he had to argue for it. Such was his duty as a commander in the military, as Lisana's superior, and even more than anything else, as the empire's crown prince. There could be no exceptions.
"Rules?" Marolyt snickered. "I don't care what happened. I've seen and heard enough to know Lisana acted for your sake. No one else would have considered punishing her for even a moment. Who are you, the one she saved, to demand her punishment? If this is what your regulations require, I fear most gravely for your empire's future."
"You impudent!" Jast yelled, "Rules are the foundation of the military! If we let just anyone break them then how can anyone lead anyone else? Don't think that just because you're a geriatric senior, you will get away with spouting this nonsense!"
"Shut up, coward." Marolyt barked.
He didn't even bat an eye. Instead, his hand waved in front of Jast and the man was slapped off his feet, sent flying, in fact, by an invisible force.
"Heh! You're quite something to listen to that kind of order to retreat. If not for Lisana, you would've been captured and sent to the court in Melindor for giving up crucial territory. Isn't it quite ridiculous to blame her? Gold-eagle's prowess didn't strike me as much, but at least they were loyal to each other and weathered danger together. How did a coward like you make it to this brigade's top brass? Don't you think it's embarrassing?" Marolyt mocked.
"You're overstepping your bounds, Sir. Jast has always been loyal. He's save my life on more than a few occasions. He may be somewhat stubborn, but he does not have a disloyal bone in his body," Alissanda said, stepping in.
"So Lisana isn't loyal? How many times has she saved your life?" Marolyt asked, fuming unreasonably, "She saved your sorry little life only because she disobeyed orders. Do you really want to beat her cripple for saving your life? Do you really want no one to come to your aid in the future?"
Alissanda lowered his head.
"As long as I'm here, nobody will touch even one of her hairs!" Marolyt drew Azureflash with his last words. "I know you're trying to keep order, but tell, me, which do you think will hurt your position more: not punishing someone for disobeying orders to save your life, or a punishment of which your entire order disapproves? Let's at least hear what everyone else has to say. Laws are dead, only people still live. Surely everyone has their own opinions."
"Master..." Lisana pleased, trying to dissuade the old man with her watery eyes.
"I'll hear nothing from you, lass," Marolyt stopped her, "You call me master, so you'll listen to my decision."
Lisana closed her mouth.
"Hmph! If anyone has thoughts, let me hear them!"
The soul of Hocke's sword and the top three fighters on the whole continent of Lance was so imposing that nobody dared to speak otherwise. The whole camp fell into a dead silence.
"Your words are not ridiculous. Then let us do this," Alissanda said with great difficulty, "I will leave Lisana's fate in the brigade's hands. A vote by the people here will decide what will happen. Since regulation demands punishment, the counter votes will have to be three-quarters of the total to overrule it. If that many are not contrarian, however, then no matter how much you may threaten me, Sir, she will be punished accordingly."
Marolyt nodded slowly.
"Alright. I trust justice has at least some place in everyone here's voice, if not much."
As expected! The damned prince has to give a good reason even for doing something he believes in so vehemently... That stinking brat is much more easygoing, Marolyt thought.
He didn't doubt that the vote would go his way. It didn't matter whether he was in the right, no one would dare cross any saint, much less someone as lacking in sanity and decorum as he.
Alissanda took a deep breath, finally. Unlike Geoffrey, Alissanda understood the swordsaint's temperament. Kevin, his teacher, was very well-acquainted with the old lunatic, after all.
Alissanda believed that, if he insisted, there was no doubt Marolyt would just take Lisana with him. If anyone from the brigade dared to stop him, he wouldn't hold back, even if that meant several would die.
The most troublesome thing was that, even if he did something like that, Larwin might not necessarily punish him. It was no wonder he could so easily and casually insist the rules be broken where his disciple was concerned, he treated all the world's rules are hogwash unfit to be even just mentioned in his presence, unless it suited him.
Some might ask why he was given such insane freedoms, but those that asked, didn't understand how much of a shield he was for the empire against Moonshadow. No matter how strong Gold-eagle was, they were still just knights. The military intelligence bureau, on the other hand, essential, without them the war was lost, but they were also a threat to the empire since their ultimate allegiance was to a foreign power.
Not to mention that saint-realm fighters or myth-realm magi on their own were too powerful to hold to the laws of mere mortals. The empire would not offend this old lunatic if there was any other, however unreasonable, alternative.
The votes finished a few minutes later. As expected, the vast majority, about nine-tenths, chose to oppose the punishment. Alissanda smiled dryly as he read the numbers, shook his head, and annulled the girl's punishment.
"Wait!" Marolyt cried as Alissanda prepared to depart.
"Is there something else, Sir?" Alissanda asked.
"There is still one vote missing," Marolyt said with a venomous smile.
What did one person's vote matter at this point? It certainly couldn't change the outcome, and he knew Marolyt knew that as well.
"You," Marolyt half-giggled in his less-than-sane manner.
Alissanda's jaws clenched involuntarily as he realized what the old lunatic was up to. He didn't just want Alissanda to let Lisana go unpunished, he wanted to make Alissanda eat his pride. He was determined that he was to apologize to her like he was the crook. However crazy the old man was, however, he still had some inkling of propriety left in him and knew he could not simply ask for it outright if he wanted any kind of relationship with the prince afterward, so he was using this pernicious method instead.
So far the punishment's annulment was only because the brigade had wanted it so, it had not been a declaration of Alissanda's personal absolving of her. His vote, however, would be such a declaration, one way or another. And if he voted for her punishment, Marolyt would be most displeased, and Alissanda knew that. If he voted in favor of annulment, he would be declaring her innocence and effectively his opposition to the rules.
Alissanda barked unhappily. He picked up a stone and lifted his arm.
"Alissanda, you little bastard! You're really going to punish Lisana? I thought you saw sense after I scolded you! Come out here! Come accept your punishment as well! Get out here now!" an annoying brat's voice baa'd from outside the yard.
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