Reivyn looked at the silver and copper coins in his hand. He had just received his pay for the conscription and the bonuses. On top of getting a combat pay bonus, his squad also received two additions to their pay from the requisition of the silver ore on their two Dungeon delves. He looked up at Corporal Decker who had just passed out the coins to the squad.
"Corporal, this is too much," he said. The men received their pay monthly, and it was about a silver's worth of coppers for the rank of Lance Corporal. Reivyn was a private, so he should have less, but even if he accounted for an additional combat bonus from fighting the Revenant, the numbers didn't make sense.
"No, it's right," Corporal Decker said. He pulled out a piece of paper and showed it to Reivyn. "See here? Pay scale is Aide to the Adjutant, which is equivalent to a sergeant."
"But I was only assigned as the Aide for just over a week," Reivyn protested. He wasn't adverse to receiving more pay, but he felt uncomfortable taking more than he thought he deserved.
"Hand me your token," Corporal Decker extended his hand. Reivyn pulled the token out of his pocket and placed it in the NCO's hand. The man took out his own token and held them together, and then he appeared to be reading something in front of his face that Reivyn couldn't see. He was obviously looking at a System Notification of some kind.
"According to the date on your token, you've been assigned as the Aide to the Knight-Lieutenant since the day you were transferred from the levies to the regulars," he said after a moment. He handed the token back to Reivyn. "So, the pay is correct. It looks like the officers planned on taking care of you from day one."
Reivyn pocketed the token along with the coins. Any reservations he had had were alleviated. Knight-Lieutenant Brand did tell me that they had wanted to assign me as an Aide in the very beginning. It made perfect sense to him after getting the clarification.
"Alright, I have some things to take care of, so I'll see you all later," Reivyn bid the squad farewell with a wave.
Brace got up from his customary spot playing cards and followed him out of the barracks as everyone else waved in response.
"So what do you got planned?" He asked.
"Oh, I have to attend the banquet tonight, so I need to go find a barber and get my hair under control," Reivyn answered. A bit over a month without a proper haircut had caused his hair to get a bit unruly. Despite proper hygiene and care, his hair had natural waves to it, and letting it get past a certain length caused it to stick out in weird ways no matter how he tried to comb it into place.
"Sure, sure. I've got nothing going on today. Do you need a guide through the city?" Brace volunteered.
"Yeah, I'd like that," Reivyn said.
"Alright, let me square it away with the Corporal real quick." Brace went back into the barracks briefly before returning and waving Reivyn on.
The two men traversed the open square to where the levies were still quartered. They were given a few days to rest before they had to march back towards their homes under the supervision of Sergeant Mok. Teilon was standing waiting for him at the edge of the tents. He was conversing with a familiar figure as the two approached.
"Hah! What are you wearing?" Reivyn teased. Teilon was wearing the clothes he had been conscripted in, and he had apparently experienced a considerable growth spurt as they no longer properly fit him. He had several inches of skin showing between the bottom of his trousers and his footwear.
"Laugh it up, shorty. This just means I'm turning into a real man," Teilon retorted. The figure next to him snorted. Teilon gasped and put on a face of mock hurt as he turned towards the person waiting with him. "You, too?"
"Me, especially," the girl said. She turned towards Reivyn and offered her hand in a dainty grip. "Hi, we haven't ever been properly introduced. I'm Kimberly," she said. Reivyn was slightly surprised at the girlish handshake she offered considering the state he had seen her leave Teilon in after their "dance" sessions.
"Pleasure to make your acquaintance. I'm Reivyn," he replied. "This here is Brace"
"Hello," Brace said. The two shared a handshake as well.
"Kimberly insisted on coming along once she heard of the main purpose of our trek into the city proper," Teilon explained. "She said, and I quote, 'I need to be there to make sure you don't mess up your shaggy mane any further.'"
"Yeah, obviously," she said with a roll of her eyes. "You're a, ahem, 'man,' as you say, and everyone knows that men can't be trusted with these things."
It was Teilon's turn to roll his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Just remember," he said seriously, "you just agreed that I'm a man." He smirked as she playfully swatted at him.
"Ok. We've got coins in our pocket, so we can take the opportunity to get some new clothes while we're at it," Reivyn said.
"Alright, enough talking. Let's goooo!" Teilon pointed forward dramatically.
The streets were bustling as the four people made their way along. The road was properly paved throughout the entirety of the city, and the buildings were taller and more compact together than the ones found in Haluville. They could still see some suburbs in the distance with individual houses, but from what they could see, the empty spaces and yards around them were also much smaller so as to fit in more buildings.
Brace led them to the commercial district in the center of the city, and they had a grand time perusing all of the storefronts. The wares on display were more varied and generally of a higher quality than the ones they were used to.
They all spent some of their hard-earned coins on getting some new clothes that properly fit and taming their hair. Reivyn felt much more comfortable being able to finally feel the breeze on the back and sides of his head once his hair was cut short. There was no "standard" hairstyle, but he had been advised to keep his hair short when wearing a helmet. He planned on doing some adventuring with Teilon in the future, so it was a good idea, he figured, to get into the habit of keeping his hair short.
Kimberly seemed to be fascinated with the way the short stubble felt, as she constantly ran her hand against the grain on the back of Teilon's head. He didn't seem to mind in the least. In fact, he positively beamed at the ministration. Reivyn had to admit that it did feel pretty nice when he did so to his own hair.
The four walked into the storefront attached to a blacksmith shop. Any craftsman that had the ability to take up a large area in the central commercial district had to have the necessary abilities to keep their spot amongst the competition. The wares available on display were high quality, and the four of them inspected the weapons and armor with great detail.
They were more window shopping than planning on making any purchases. They still had some time before they would set out to do any actual adventuring, but it was prudent to price the market and get a gauge of the quality of the gear they would need in the future. The weapons and armor they would equip themselves with would potentially save their lives one day.
Teilon was inspecting a pair of daggers almost long enough to be considered shortswords while Kimberly tested the balance of a staff she had found. Reivyn was getting the professional opinion of Brace on a longsword when something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. He left the sword with the other man while he went exploring the new discovery.
A rectangular, box-looking object found its way into Reivyn's grasp. It looked completely out of place amongst the steel surrounding it, but Reivyn was drawn to it. He flicked his wrist and the object opened into a fan. This was a proper war fan as it was reinforced with metal. He couldn't place the main material of the fan itself, but it didn't appear to be simple cloth.
"Hey, Brace. What color are the uniforms, again?" Reiyvn called out.
"Dark blue with red trim. Why?" The man asked back. Reivyn held up the fan for Brace's inspection. It was dark blue with red patterns. "Oh yeah, just like that."
"What are the chances I'd find something like this in the exact colors of the uniform?" Reivyn asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Pretty high, actually," Brace said. "These are the colors of Count Ilpir. It makes perfect sense to me."
"You have a good eye there, Young Master," an attendant said as he walked up. "That's a tessen. It was manufactured as the journeyman piece of one of the apprentices under the tutelage of our master blacksmith. While it's not as high quality as one that comes from the owner, it's much cheaper as a result. Is the Young Master interested in such a piece?"
Reivyn considered the words the attendant spoke along with examining the fan, tessen, he reminded himself, in his hand. The craftsmanship was perfectly passable. There weren't any obvious flaws, the design was impeccable, and it was lightweight yet sturdy.
"How much?" He asked as he looked back up at the attendant.
"Two silvers," the attendant replied.
Reivyn pulled the coins out of his pocket. After getting a haircut and purchasing several sets of travel clothes, he had just over five silvers left from the initial six. He contemplated whether or not he should go ahead and splurge on the fan. Two silvers wasn't necessarily expensive, but it wasn't cheap, either. The longsword that he had left in Brace's care was priced at 120 coppers, or 1 silver 20 coppers.
"I'll take it," he finally answered. He wouldn't need to spend all of his money on gear right now, but it was unlikely he would come across another tessen such as this anywhere else. This was the only one he had seen in the several shops they had gone through.
"Excellent choice, Young Master," the attendant said. He was clearly an experienced salesman. Where other attendants in other stores had ignored the four of them, assuming by their plain clothes that they didn't have any money, this one was able to spot a potential spending customer, and, more importantly, he was able to smoothly convince him of the product.
Reivyn handed over the two silvers he owed. There was no need to go to the counter for anything formal. It was an option, but it was mainly used either for people who were purchasing several things or for someone who didn't have an attendant come to them.
Brace looked back and forth between the battle fan and the longsword in his hand.
"You bought a folding fan?" He asked incredulously. "Over a longsword. A cheaper longsword?"
"A battle fan. I purchased a battle fan," Reivyn corrected him. "And don't look down on this thing. I can take it somewhere that a sword or dagger would be confiscated, and it's perfectly capable of both attacking and defending. Trust me. I've spent years training with an actual folding fan, and this thing is way better."
"Ok~ay, if you say so," Brace said. He didn't sound particularly convinced.
"Dance, boy!" The sound of Kimberly shouting from somewhere startled the two who had been focused on the fan. Reivyn looked up to see Kimberly thrusting and sweeping the staff she had previously been inspecting at a harried Teilon. They were in an open space that was designed to allow people to gauge the weight and feel of any weapon they considered buying.
"Dance for your money!" Kimberly was grinning. At first glance, it seemed like Teilon was barely holding his own as he hopped about and twisted his body to avoid the attacks from the girl. Upon closer Observation, however, Reivyn noticed a lack of panic in his eyes or sweat on his brow. Maybe he really did let her win.
"Haaa, alright," Kimberly huffed as she lowered the staff to rest on the ground. Teilon relaxed and pretended to wipe sweat from his brow. He started to swagger over towards Kimberly, but a glint entered her eye as she suddenly shifted the staff and tripped him.
Hmmm... Maybe not.
"Haha, I win," Kimberly shouted as she threw her hands into the air. She had to quickly stop and catch her staff, though, as her movement had caused her to nearly drop it.
"So, what was that all about?" Reivyn asked as the two rejoined him and Brace.
"He wanted to buy those daggers, but he only had enough money for one. He was only short a couple of coppers, but when he turned his puppy dog eyes on me, I told him nothing in life is free, and if he wanted any of my money, he would have to dance for me." Kimberly had a smug smile on her face.
Reivyn cocked an eyebrow at the statement. It didn't appear that she had acted out of malice. She seemed to genuinely enjoy using the staff, and the trip at the end was probably because of Teilon's arrogant attitude.
Reivyn flicked his wrist and fanned himself with his new purchase as he spoke. "Well, I have everything I wanted to get, but I still need to get my uniform from the quartermaster and take a bath. It's about time for us to head back." He continued to fan himself as if it was the most natural thing in the world and he did it all the time.
The other three gave him the side-eye at his antics, but they all nodded and made their way back towards the barracks.
Reivyn examined himself with a mirror in the Knight-Lieutenant's office. The crisp lines of the uniform plus his tidy haircut caused a resonance with the dreams he had had all his life. It wasn't a one-for-one match to what he remembered, but there were enough similarities to evoke a sense to belonging. It felt nice, was the only way he could describe it.
The uniform was as Brace had described it. Dark blue for the most part, with red trim. There was a thin red line on the epaulettes, which were themselves nothing fancy. He turned towards the Adjutant and saw a two thick, silver line on his. He assumed it was the rank, but as a private, he shouldn't have any markings at all.
"Sir, what's the thin red line on my shoulders?" He asked.
"That's the rank signifying an officer candidate," Brand answered. "Despite how I've thrown the term about, it's not an actual rank within the chain of command. It's just a designation. In your case, we're flubbing it a little based on your 'official' position as my Aide to give you a bit of face at the banquet. I wouldn't worry about it."
"Here," the older man handed Reivyn a sheathed longsword. The scabbard was a shiny black that matched the waist belt of the uniform, and it was embossed in silver at the tip and hilt.
Reivyn frowned as he received the weapon. "Are we allowed to carry a weapon in the presence of the Count?"
"You're representing the Lord's Retinue, and technically as an officer, as others will see it. It's perfectly appropriate for you to carry a sidearm."
Reivyn strapped the sidearm to his belt, and then the two men made their way out to the front of the headquarters where they would meet up with the other officers to travel to the lord's manor as a group. As he was wont to do, Knight-Captain Reifold was the last to arrive.
His uniform was slightly different than everyone else's. Instead of a black waist belt, he had a wide red sash. There were decorative chains and medallions hanging across his chest, and a red cape completed the ensemble. It was a much more flamboyant version of the military garb.
"That's the mess dress," Knight-Lieutenant Brand leaned over and whispered in Reivyn's ear. "It's expensive." His wide-eyed look told Reivyn that what he meant was "it's expensive even for me."
"Everyone's here?" Knight-Captain Reifold looked around to make sure. "Excellent. We'll ride our mounts to give the citizens a little show to increase their spirit."
The horses had been meticulously groomed, and they had been outfitted with clean, ceremonial saddles. They were clearly not used very often as it felt a bit stiff to Reivyn as he alighted his horse.
The city looked different in the evening as the orange glow from the setting sun splashed its color over everything. Street lamps were already in the process of being lit. There were both mundane and magical lamps for different parts of the city. The main thoroughfare had bright, blue lamps powered by mana, and the alleys and back roads had more traditional orange lamps that used fire.
Reivyn felt slightly uncomfortable as the citizens gazed and pointed at the passing soldiers. He wasn't used to being the center of attention so openly, and he could feel the curious stares directed at him. Luckily the ride to the manor was short and straightforward.
The Lord's manor that the group of officers arrived at wasn't the austere seat of government controlling the city. While that building did have living quarters in it, there was no rule that stipulated the Count had to actually live there. Instead he preferred to treat the building as his place of work, and he lived in a mansion close by.
The mansion was walled off with a well maintained brick wall with an elaborate iron gate at the entrance. The grounds of the manor were well maintained with tasteful paths, gazebos, and ponds, but they weren't so ostentatious as to take up an exorbitant amount of space. To Reivyn's untrained eye, it appeared to be the perfect balance between wealth and utility, allowing for other people to occupy residences in the area.
Servants waited to take the horses to the stables for the troupe. They were attired in black with embellishments in the count's colors, and they moved with utmost professionalism and efficiency. Nobody demanded an invitation or anything upon their arrival. The uniform was invitation enough, and the servants were intimately familiar with the Knight-Captain.
The officers accompanied the Knight-Captain to pay their respects to Count Ilpir, and by this they simply gave a military salute while the Knight-Captain did all of the talking. The count acknowledged their greeting and dismissed them with a smile as he retained the Knight-Captain. Knight-Lieutenant Brand indicated Reivyn to stick with him, and they walked around the crowd giving simple greetings to the socialites attending.
"The key to these functions is to appear to be sociable, but always moving from one place to another. You don't want to get bogged down by someone, as that's a good way to get surrounded by sycophants," Knight-Lieutenant Brand said with a gleam of mischief in his eye. He gave Reivyn a wink, and in his moment of distraction, he nearly walked right into a person who had stepped right into their path. Reivyn heard him curse under his breath and then whisper, "Exactly like this."
"Knight-Lieutenant," the woman greeted. She was dressed in similar attire to the uniforms Reivyn and the other officers wore, but hers had the colors inverted among a few other small differences.
"Captain," Brand replied tersely. He obviously knew who the woman was.
She appeared to be in her early 20's, and she bore a striking resemblance to someone that Reivyn couldn't quite place his finger on. It was just out of reach of his mental grasp. She was a beautiful young woman, and her uniform didn't do anything to detract from her harm. In fact, Reivyn would argue that it accentuated it perfectly.
"I'm here to represent the Duke's and my father's stance," the woman said. "I'm sure you know to what I'm referring?"
"Yes," Knight-Lieutenant Brand answered simply. This was the least amount of speaking that Reivyn had seen him do when he had the opportunity.
"Yes, well, our stance is that he gets what he deserves, and there will be no interference or objection on our end." She looked at Reivyn. "So you're 'The Little Hero' that caused my brother to finally fall from grace." Despite her words, the smile she directed at Reivyn was genuine.
"I'm sorry, miss...?" Reivyn asked.
"Oh, where are my manners? I'm Lin. Captain Lin of the Duke's Retinue. Ren is my twin brother." She extended her hand towards Reivyn and chuckled when he subconsciously reciprocated with a dazed look.
"Now don't give me that. I just said our stance was that we weren't going to interfere. You can expect no problems from us in the future."
Reivyn frowned as he regained his composure. "Are your elders not upset that I, through no fault of my own, mind you, had a hand in ending Ren's career?"
Lin burst out laughing. "Hardly. Let me guess, he's been spouting some nonsense about being the best hope for our family in generations, and that he was sent out here to gain military achievements to get a commission in the Army? Does that sound about right?" Reivyn nodded. "Hah! He wasn't sent out here to gain military achievements. He was banished out here to temper his character because he's a brat. The stunts he pulled were not sanctioned by the family."
Reivyn was suddenly enlightened. The story had never quite made sense to him. It was the opposite path that Knight-Captain Reifold had taken, after all.
"I mean, look at me. We're twins, and I'm already a Captain in the Duke's Retinue. He was a corporal for a count, no offense," she directed that last statement towards the Knight-Lieutenant.
"None taken," he curtly replied. He wasn't as guarded as he had been at first, but he wasn't about to open up and become best friends with the younger officer from one statement on her part.
"I can see that you 'have places to be,' as it were," Lin said. "I won't keep you. It was a pleasure to meet you, Reivyn." With that, she walked off.
"Whew, I need a drink," Knight-Lieutenant Brand said. He glanced at Reivyn from the corner of his eye. "You're too young. You can watch me have a drink." Reivyn rolled his eyes at the older man who had apparently returned to normal.
They found their seats, and, true to his word, the Knight-Lieutenant snagged a glass of wine from a passing waiter. They refrained from any more mingling and remained in their seats until the banquet began. The count gave a little speech to congratulate the Knight-Captain, but Reivyn was too preoccupied with his thoughts to really care too much.
The banquet was a simple three-course meal, consisting of an appetizer, a main entrée, and a dessert. The food was honestly the most delicious Reivyn had ever tasted. Outside of my mother's cooking, of course. A mother's home-cooked meal couldn't be equaled.
Reivyn wasn't used to wearing the military uniform, and after a while he found it stifling. He unsnapped the tessen he had hooked to his belt and used it to cool himself off. He heard a snicker from the side and turned to find the Adjutant holding back a laugh.
"Oh, is it too hot for you, Young Master?" The older man teased. Reivyn turned his head and lifted his chin in mock disapproval. He locked eyes with Lin sitting across the room however, and his movements froze as she grinned at him. He could guess what her thoughts were. He snapped the fan closed with a sigh and reattached it to his waist belt.
The banquet continued without any further incidents, and as the guests made small talk on their way out of the manor, Knight-Captain Reifold came up to Reivyn and the Adjutant.
"Come with me," he said. "The count wishes to see you." Knight-Lieutenant Brand gave Reivyn a smile and a wink.
Reivyn followed the Knight-Captain out of the banquet hall to a more personal living space. It was well furnished, but it wasn't decorated to impress like the public areas of the manor were. The count was sitting in a chair by a fireplace. He had short black hair and a pointed goatee on his chin, and his clothes were expensive without looking expensive. All in all, he struck a quite dignified appearance.
Knight-Captain Reifold led Reivyn over to the man, and Reivyn performed another military salute as he greeted the seated noble. The count stood up and approached Reivyn, but he suddenly stopped in his tracks as his body jerked forward a few times and he had to visibly gain control of himself. Reivyn saw sweat bead his brow as he had a perplexed look on his face.
He suddenly turned away from the two men, waved his hand, and said, "Alright, I've seen the boy. Give him his reward and you're dismissed." He quickly strode off without looking back.
Knight-Captain Reifold frowned at the departing man's back before turning towards Reivyn.
"I'm not sure what that was about. He's usually quite amiable in a private setting," he explained. "Anyway, the reward he has bestowed upon you is a simple, high quality mana sword."
The Knight-Captain reached down to a box that had been waiting on a table. He lifted the cover and removed a sword from within. It looked like a standard issue sword, but Reivyn could feel something different about it. He could sense that it was allowing the ambient mana to flow freely through it instead of acting like an obstacle like other objects typically did.
"This isn't anything extraordinary, and it's not a magical weapon," Knight-Captain Reifold introduced the sword to Reivyn. "The only difference is that the core is made out of a small amount of mythril, which allows it to act as a conduit for mana. You'll be able to more effectively imbue this weapon with your mana."
He handed the sword to Reivyn to inspect, and he was immensely pleased to find that it had been balanced to fit him personally. He placed the sword back in its box and tucked it under his arm.
"I extend my heartfelt thanks to the count," Reivyn said.
Knight-Captain Reifold nodded. He stuck his hand into his inner coat and withdrew an envelope. It was sealed with the Knight-Captain Reifold's mark, and he placed it into Reivyn's hand.
"This is my reward to you," he said. "It's a letter of recommendation."
Reivyn frowned and asked in confusion, "A letter of recommendation to what?"
"Anything you want. If you apply to anywhere in the kingdom, give them that letter and you'll be accepted."
Reivyn's eyebrows rose in surprise. This was a true treasure. It represented opportunity.
He said the entire kingdom. Maybe I underestimated just how famous he actually is.