Captain Velagros could only grin and bear Lith’s attitude, and not only because of his orders. The more he looked at the youth, the more wrong everything felt. The cold and dead eyes, the detached attitude, were all things he had seen plenty of times, but never in kids.
They were traits found either in battle hardened veterans or in madmen with an agenda. Last but not least, back when he had stepped forward with an intimidating manner, his body had started screaming for danger.
A member of the corps didn’t manage to reach his age without developing a keen instinct, and in that moment his own was telling him to back off and avoid sudden movements.
“How much do you want?” He asked.
“You say it like I’m extorting money. Before being a healer, I was a hunter. And the first thing I learned, is that hunters don’t do favours, we cut deals. Here is my offer. I do the job, and if I succeed, I get a safe house for my family.
I don’t care if it’s because the civil war breaks out, we get invaded or there’s a sudden drought. The second something goes wrong; I want them safe and out of the Kingdom. Deal?”
Lith extended his hand and Velagros shook it without hesitation. For a moment, Velagros had feared the kid would ask for a ridiculous sum of money or an artifact. Instead he had demanded something simple and reasonable, albeit expensive, leaving no space for bargain.
“Deal. And what if you fail?”
“If that happens, we both would have just lost a few hours of our time.” Lith shrugged.
– “As long I can use Invigoration, there’s nothing I can’t diagnose. Curing it, thought, is another matter entirely. If the plague is something beyond my comprehension, not even true magic can help me.” –
“It will take more than a few hours.” Velagros explained.
“Warp Steps are blocked in all the region. First, I need to have an exit point set up for us in the vicinity. Then we’ll reach the quarantine borders by flying. It will take a couple of hours to arrange everything.”
“I thought we were moving right away.” Lith frowned.
“In this case, I want our deal recorded in writing and signed up. Words may fly away, but writings remain.”
“Not a problem. Use the time to settle your business or to arrange your baggage before leaving. Depending on how it goes, we may be stuck in Kandria until tomorrow. And remember, you are not allowed to speak about the mission with anyone.”
Lith walked away, ignoring the last trivial order. He moved quickly toward his room, his aim to catch as much sleep as possible before departing. Being in his weakened state while inside the academy was one thing.
It was full of Professors bound to help him, and an hospital that could heal him as long he had a single breath of life. But on the outside, he didn’t care if he was with the Queen’s corps or the Queen herself, he would always act as he were alone.
– “I’m so happy you took this mission.” Solus mind-smiled. “So many people are suffering, we should help if we can.”
“And that’s where you are wrong.” Lith objected. “If you volunteer every time someone is in danger, you’ll live your life for the sake of others. Give an inch, and they will take a mile. The demand of payment served multiple purposes.
First, if I succeed the vision should be foiled, at least the part that I really care for. Second, it showed them I’m no puppet. Only soldiers obey without questions, and only idiots and saints work for free when they could get the right compensation.” –
Solus pondered on those words. Once she would have dismissed them as Lith being cold and cynical, now she wasn’t so sure anymore.
After Lith left the Headmaster’s office, Velagros started arranging the last details for the mission, while Linjos couldn’t stop sighing.
“Is this the society we really want to create? A world where heroes are actually cold-blooded killers? At this point, I don’t care what the Queen will do with me. I find way more terrifying the idea that if he succeeds, such a person will become a role model.
I hoped that nurture could beat nature, but it seems I was wrong once again.”
Captain Velagros laughed out loud at those words.
“Dear Headmaster, I don’t know where you lived until now, but when I attended the Water Griffon, it was a nightmare. The pranks, the competition, the stress. So, what nurture are you talking about? Do you coddle the students here? Take them by the hand?”
Linjos shook his head, blushing a little from embarrassment.
“I’ve seen a lot of people like that. They usually end up in jail, join the military or become successful merchants. It depends on how much they are able to restrain themselves, usually picking jobs where they can legally ruin the lives of others or use violence.
Think about the adventurers or speculators. Most of them are like him, yet everyone dreams of becoming rich with quests or being acclaimed as a self-made man. Have you ever stopped considering how much death is hidden behind their fortunes?
If he does his job and doesn’t go on a murder spree, then he is fine by me.”
Not even a minute after Lith was summoned in Linjos’ office with the academy’s public announcement system, a call was made from within the White Griffon to Archmage Lukart.
“Lukart, you idiot, the Queen has asked for our help.”
“Who cares?” Lukart didn’t like being insulted, but decided to let it slide. Having a traitor in the academy was worth enduring a foul mouth.
“I already made sure that Manohar got the ingredient he was looking for, so he is out of the picture. According to Hatorne, there’s no one else that can understand the ‘plague’s’ nature. Despite the accident in the lab, everything is going smoothly.”
“Smoothly?” The voice sneered. “Triggering a quarantine and alerting the whole world about your experiments, is far from what would I call ‘going smoothly’. Also, Linjos has just summoned Lith from Lutia, so you’d better take action fast.”
“Who cares about a kid? He can die in a fire, together with his filthy little village.”
The voice laughed out loud.
“If you keep underestimating the same ‘kid’ that saved Distar’s daughter from your prized poison, taking away the only silver lining in your utter fiasco of an assassination attempt, and later stopped the spatial breakdown with no casualties despite my sabotage, then you are a bigger fool than I thought.”
Lukart snarled, both failures still haunted his dreams. The first was supposed the take out Marchioness Distar’s whole family, but because of Ainz’s presence they had only managed to injure the daughter.
The second had gone even worse. The death of the students would have caused an uproar, setting the foundations for the next step, leading to Linjos’ execution and force the new noble’s faction to either drop all their claims or start a civil war.
Both scenarios were perfect, since in Lukart’s mind they would end up the same way. His faction would win, and the commoners would have to submit or die.
“Can’t you just turn off the protective system and kill him?”
“You really are stupid. After the sabotage, our rings have been stripped of several functions. Now only the Headmaster himself can interact with the academy’s control system.”
“You really are useless!” Lukart slammed his fist against the table, bleeding a little.
“Useless?” The voice gasped in outrage.
“I arranged my lessons so they would be much easier for your sons. I made sure that the Clackers would haunt the location where the most promising commoners would appear. I deactivated all the protections, so that a class full of students could be decimated.
If I am useless, then what about your precious offspring, that keeps getting outclassed by commoners? I’m starting to think this is all a big mistake. Maybe we should just accept the change.”
“Never!” Incapable of bearing any more of that nonsense, Archmage Lukart hung up the call.