Trust and Suspicion
Leguna barged through his office door. The sound of his boots on the floorboards let out a constant thump.
"I'm busy, please quiet down!" Gerd said frustratedly.
He was dealing with paperwork and didn't bother to look at who it was. He didn't care, since Leguna and Arikos weren't supposed to be back yet. He was in the bureau and only the two of them outranked him. He was the head's right hand, after all.
"Put your stuff aside. I have more important tasks for you," Leguna said, not minding Gerd's haughty tone.
He snapped out of his own world and glanced at Leguna, who was walking to him hastily.
"Sir, you're back?!" Gerd quickly stood up and got Leguna a drink. "Xeno and I have been dealing with the assignments you gave us fine. There hasn't been anything noteworthy lately. But for some reason, Xeno is absent over the past two days. He only said that he would be going to report some matters to you and left, so I have been managing the bureau myself. I hope it would be to your satisfaction. Oh, by the way, there's Fort Kesta's matter. I've looked into it and it seemed Sir Arikos has suppressed the reports. I'm not entirely sure about the reason, but His Imperial Majesty Larwin is markedly miffed at our handling of the matter, so I hope you can come up with an explanation for it soon."
"Forget that. There's something more crucial I need you to deal with now," Leguna said, frowning.
Gerd had wanted to prove his worth to Leguna using that opportunity, but he didn't seem to be in the right mood. Was it because of what happened in the fort? He wasn't too sure, so he reasoned it'd be best if he did what he was told.
"First, send a few people to monitor the northern highlands," Leguna said after some thought.
"Monitor? Who?" Gerd was puzzled. He recalled receiving word that Leguna had killed Legg and the barbarians were in complete chaos. Wasn't that the chance for them to get things their way? With Arikos there, there was little that could go wrong.
"Monitor Arikos of course," Leguna said with a cold look. "Please be discreet with this. Send someone we can trust and make sure Arikos doesn't find out. Tell them to monitor him properly and send word back the moment he tames the barbarians. I will greet His Imperial Majesty. The decision will be made depending on how well Arikos performs. You won't have to worry about anything else."
"Yes, Sir. I understand."
"Also, I need to leave Melindor for a time. I need you to make sure to keep Annie and the rest in check. Don't let them know about the fall of Fort Kesta and my departure. Please make sure to do this well. Keep it under wraps at least until my return."
"Yes, Sir. It shall be done."
"Lastly, I will write a letter I'll need you to hand to His Imperial Majesty personally. Emphasis on the personal." After being one-upped by Arikos a time too many, he didn't know who he could trust any longer.
He wanted to explain Arikos' part in the matter of Fort Kesta using the letter. If it was cut off by Arikos' men, Leguna would probably be made the scapegoat.
Leguna couldn't help but be taken aback as he suddenly recalled that Gerd used to be a member of Moonshadow too. If he was acting under their instructions, could he really trust him?
[Darn it! Why did I return only to find I don't have a single person I can trust?]
[You can't blame anyone for this,] Gahrona replied lazily, [You're the one who was so unwilling to take up the post at first. Now you know how troublesome it is. Arikos managed this place for so long. You can't make everyone loyal to you by just showing up and taking over for a year or two.]
Leguna scratched his head and spat.
[Then I'll quit!]
[Tch! Who was it that promised he'd join the bureau to gain enough power to protect his loved ones? You're going to give up after running into your first real obstacle? Don't forget quitting is going to be much harder than joining. Your decision doesn't play that huge a part in this.]
[I know! I was just venting...] He knew he was too deep in to pull out. He had been working as the bureau head for nearly half a year now and it wasn't a post he could just resign from, given the sensitivity of the information he held in his head. Not only would the Stokians want to get him to reveal his secrets, the Hockians wouldn't allow someone like him to live his life out as a normal peasant either!
Leguna didn't want to return to Moonshadow too. How would he free himself without a huge faction backing him?
[It's better to just do it properly. Let me emphasize once more that this world you're in is a really dangerous one. Anything you do, make sure to think it twice or thrice. Don't make your decisions based on a moment's frustration. If you quit, only death might await you and your companions.]
Leguna gave it some good thought and said, [I understand.]
By then, Gerd had prepared a quill and paper. Leguna sat on his chair and mulled it over before writing the emperor a letter.
First, he admitted that Fort Kesta's fall was his mistake and said he would be willing to accept punishment. He also mentioned Arikos' odd actions. He didn't bring up the scheming at the barbarians' since Larwin was in on it too.
But the suppression of reports was too outlandish. Leguna didn't know why he did that. Was he trying to get back at Hocke? While the fall of the fort was a substantial loss, it wasn't one that would cripple the empire. Leguna couldn't figure out any other reason for those actions, however. He couldn't truly be trying to kill Eirinn, could he?
So, he merely reported Arikos' actions objectively for Larwin to come to his own conclusion about it.
Lastly, he reminded the emperor to be wary of anything else Arikos might be trying to pull. He explained that he had sent people to monitor Arikos and that he had to leave Melindor because of something else, so if the emperor needed anything, he could get Gerd to do it.
He paused, before adding Xeno's name into it as well. He found Xeno to be quite to decent subordinate. While Gerd seemed loyal so far just like Xeno was, he wasn't as capable and resourceful.
So, he decided to give the Stokian a little more trust as a test.
He handed the letter to Gerd, who didn't dare to read through it and kept the letter carefully. He sealed it with wax and stamped the bureau's seal on it. After that, he said, "I'll be sending this to His Imperial Majesty now."
"Alright, get going!"
After Gerd left, he sighed and slumped into his chair. Half an hour had passed, and he planned to get a short rest before getting back to work.
[Ley...] Gahrona said.
[What is it, Teacher?]
[Actually, I don't think you should head to Fort Kesta now,] she said, though she wasn't confident she could convince him, anyway.
[Why? Eirinn just got out of danger. I have to go accompany her.]
Gahrona kept silent for a moment. [I feel that it'd be even more dangerous if you go. She's already safe now, so there's no need for you to see her personally.]
[Danger? I'm not going to assassinate anyone. Why would I be in any danger?]
She sighed. [There are some things that I can't say. I only ask whether you must go no matter what.]
[I must! The reports on Eirinn aren't complete, so I can't feel relieved if I don't see her. I doubt I'd be able to stay put in Melindor if I don't see her.]
[Fine. They're your feet, after all. I'm just a spirit and I can't stop you. You're already grown up too, so it's about time you made your mind up yourself. Just remember one thing.]
[I hope you act more calmly.]
Half an hour later, Xeno knocked on his door and said, "Sir, the preparations are done. We can leave now."
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