"We are not philanthropists," Alice said slowly. "Moramatch is not a place they can come and leave as they wish. If Moramatch had provided them safety, they should have contributed something for Moramatch. I wanted them to join us from the very beginning. People will never hear the names of some mercenary groups anymore, including Jagged Rose, Warflame and Wuming. I did not specifically say it, but I think those mercenary group commanders had prepared for the future."
"Manlyn knew what you were thinking and that was why he did that?" Anfey asked.
"Without me telling you, you can tell he is very ambitious," Alice said.
"I know what you are thinking now, but do you think we can do it?" Anfey said. "I met the couple of Shadow mercenary group on the way here. I can tell they did not like you and Manlyn. Not everyone would work for you."
"What did they tell you?" Alice asked.
"They said Manlyn wanted them to work their a.s.ses for him," Anfey said.
"They felt embarra.s.sed to tell you the truth. I knew what happened to them. Nibison thought Ling was beautiful and tried to flirt with her. They could not stand it anymore, so they tried to escape from Moramatch." Seeing Anfey did not want to look like he was interrogating her and just wanted to discuss the issues, Alice finally smiled. "Shadow mercenary group only had two of them. What else could they lose? Even if they had something to lose, it would be nothing compared with other commanders."
"Are you sure they would not fight against us?" Anfey asked.
"I cannot guarantee you that, but I think you can totally solve these small conflicts," Alice said with a smile. "Master, when you came back, how did Ozzic treat you?"
"He welcomed me warmly. He was very respectful as well," Anfey said.
"Manlyn had talked about reforming the mercenaries, but Ozzic never agreed with him. They were firmly against Manlyn on that. If you propose the same issue, what do you think they would do?" Alice asked.
"I do not know." Anfey was quiet for a moment, then said, "I saved them before, but they could take it or leave it. Now they want to be on my side only because I am more powerful than Manlyn. If they could find someone more powerful than me later on, I am not sure what they would do."
"You are wrong. I think they would 100% support you even if you wanted to mix all the mercenaries together and do a total reorganization," Alice said.
"Don’t you think you are a little too confident?" Anfey asked.
"No, you are too cautious and think of people in a bad way, just like…" Alice suddenly stopped. She switched the topic. "Master, if you had a precious item you got from your family, and you had to sell it because you were in a very difficult situation, wouldn’t you find someone and try to sell it to him?"
"Like what? Just like I have been suspecting you?" Anfey shook his head and smiled. "No. I have to find the best guy to sell it to because it was such a precious thing for me."
"They could only sell their mercenary groups once as well, but Manlyn was not the best guy," Alice said.
"I have given a lot of thought to what you said, but…" Anfey said.
"Are you worrying about their loyalty?" Alice heaved a sigh. "You do not have to worry about it. There is malicious compet.i.tion among mercenaries, but they have their own justice, much more trustworthy than those royalty who only know how to kiss a.s.s and bully weak ones. Even if you took away their position later, as long as you give them hope, they would not betray you. In fact, I should congratulate you right now since you already have a group of loyal subordinates."
"I feel k.u.maraghosha is more trustworthy," Anfey said.
Alice was shocked for a second and said slowly, "Master, I can promise you, at some point k.u.maraghosha would betray you, just as I would not."
Anfey chuckled. "I trust you, otherwise I would not come to talk to you." Anfey’s smile looked even more sincere than Alice’s. His eyes were even more clear. In fact, he was still not so sure about Alice when he walked into her room. If Alice could not give him a reasonable answer, this could have been a totally different situation.
"Master, do you know k.u.maraghosha? I feel you are very interested in him," Alice said.
"After the conflict with him at Moramatch, I sent people to investigate him. He is an honorable and capable general. If he had better opportunity to show off his capability, he would have become like Baery in Shansa Empire." Anfey sighed. "It is so unfortunate that the people he has worked for have such a deep bias against him, while the people who appreciate him could not have him."
Alice grinned. "I feel much better now."
k.u.maraghosha and a few other soldiers were quietly listening to Anfey and Alice’s conversation a few yards away from Alice’s room. There was an iron tube wrapped with vines in front of k.u.maraghosha, with which he could hear the conversation between Alice and Anfey. The sound was weak, but loud enough to understand what they were talking about. k.u.maraghosha did not think Anfey thought so highly of him. Baery enjoyed such fame, while he only shared similar fame with the commander of Dark Moon mercenary group, Newyoheim, in Ellisen Empire. They both represented two ever-victorious generals in two empires. However, k.u.maraghosha had gotten used to being criticized as a traitor some time ago. What Anfey said made him so excited that he unconsciously pulled the vine off and pinched it.
"What made you feel better?" Anfey asked in surprise.
"I did not plan on having you contact k.u.maraghosha because I was afraid you would not trust him and destroy him in the end." Alice thought for a moment. "Since you appreciate him so much, you can take him as your bodyguard. You are already an earl. You need have a bodyguard. k.u.maraghosha will be a very good chief guard."
"I do not think he wants to be my bodyguard. He held hostility towards me. This only made him dislike me even more," Anfey said bitterly. He had set a trap for Alice.
Anfey knew his vision sometimes was not as good as Alice’s, nor was he as perceptive, but he had his own strengths. Alice was good at government affairs and pretty popular in Shansa Empire. After she escaped from her wedding, she took her maid with her on the run. They took the risk of asking for help from a merchant wagon, which made her a slave. She was wise on small issues, but did not have street smarts. Anfey was very street smart and rarely made any mistakes on these kinds of issues. The way they acted had nothing to do with their capability; rather, it totally depended on their upbringing and experience.
Anfey had vision that very few people could have. He could see as far as he wanted. He had sensed the existence of k.u.maraghosha a long time ago. He actually meant to let k.u.maraghosha hear how what Anfey thought of him. If Alice had any other intention or personal interests, she definitely would not be willing to recommend k.u.maraghosha to Anfey, since k.u.maraghosha was the only person she trusted. After Anfey politely turned her suggestion down, Alice could have taken her suggestion back.
"The key is how you see him. The rest is not important," Alice said naturally. "Let him follow you. This way he could be at his best. I do not want to see his talent being ignored and getting frustrated by it."
"We will talk about it later." Anfey finally felt relieved. He sounded as if he was getting playful. "It looks like you would have had the confidence to kill Manlyn, even if I had not come back."
"He did not suspect me at all. If I could have planned it well, it should have been easy," Alice said.
"Why did you wait so long?" Anfey asked.
"Master, mercenaries are wild. If you want their respect, you have to respect them. For example, being tough. We have to reform. Forcing those mercenaries to listen to you can work for a while, but it would make others dislike you." Alice smiled. "Right now is the perfect time. You killed Manlyn. You have successfully shown your power and skills, but did not hurt anyone else. Everything seems to be falling into the right place."
"I mean, you could have done these things as well. Why were you waiting for me to come back?" Anfey asked.
"I am just a woman without a home country. I do not need them to respect me or listen to me. You are their best choice," Alice said.
Anfey crossed his legs and smiled. Alice had explained clearly and answered all his concerns. He went quiet for a while. "Alice, do you know about Scarlet?"
"Scarlet? She is really famous right now," Alice said.
Anfey looked serious. He could tell Alice held much hatred towards Scarlet. Could they have had some conflict before? Anfey thought to himself.
"I admire Princess Victoria the most. She is an example for me. Scarlet is not interested in government affairs. She only wanted to take revenge for her mother, so she took the other route."
"Do you hate her?" Anfey asked directly.
"Master, don’t you understand there could be only one princess regent in the empire? I am a failure," Alice said. Perhaps because she did not want Anfey to see the hatred on her face, Alice looked to the side. She said very deliberately, "I could not forget how she treated me. I never wanted to hurt her, but she hurt me without any hesitation."
Anfey suddenly realized why Alice admired Princess Victoria as her example. Now he knew everything. Deciding her own wedding was only a wish of Alice’s. Her wish and her dreams were two different things. Becoming the next princess regent was her real aim. Scarlet, as the only daughter of Victoria, wanted to be the regent herself. The compet.i.tion between them was inevitable. From the way Alice talked about, she seemed to care too much about family and was not as cruel in the compet.i.tion, so she got hurt.
Suzanna’s voice rose outside of the door. "Anfey, are you inside?"
"I am coming back now." Then to Alice he said, "You’d better get to bed early." Anfey stood up. He hesitated for a second and said, "Don’t worry. The worst is pa.s.sed, isn’t it?"