"I am not important enough to even talk to the General," Anfey said with a smile. "I’m too insignificant."
"You may be, but your teacher is not," Aroben said. "As far as I know, Archmage Saul is on good relations with General Miorich. If you are in trouble, surely the General will aid you."
Anfey shook his head and did not say anything. Seeing that Anfey did not want to accept his proposal, Aroben frowned. Aroben did not know Anfey’s history, however, and would not be able to come up with a plan Anfey could work with. What Anfey did in the Sacred City was unforgivable. Even though no one had blamed him, Anfey knew he was in deep trouble. He had made himself an enemy of one of the most powerful men in the empire, and brought a lot of trouble in doing so. He could not rely on Saul for everything. He must solve this on his own. Aroben, on the other hand, was trying to find a realistic solution. He knew that Saul was still busy on the northern front with Prince Grandon, or else he would have tried to convince Anfey to get Saul to Violet City a long time ago.
"What are you worried about, my lord?" Aroben asked quietly.
"I’m not worried. I'm just trying to solve the problem by myself."
"I think you’re wrong in thinking this way, my lord," Aroben said. "Some things were already set in stone when you became the city lord of Violet City. If you lost to Marquis Djoser, it’s not just your problem. Now that everyone knows you are Archmage Saul’s student, his reputation would be damaged, as well. When you are in trouble, I am certain that Lord Saul would try to help even if you do not request any help. All we have to do is to accelerate that process."
"Let’s talk about this later," Anfey said, shifting the topic. "Urter, how many soldiers do I have?"
"You are a count right now, my lord, which means you can have thirty soldiers according to the law."
"What about city guards? Is there a limit on that?"
"There were twelve hundred city guards. During the invasion, they were either slaughtered or abandoned their posts. There is barely anyone left now."
"Alright. We will start recruiting tomorrow."
"Yes, my lord."
"I will leave the recruiting to you, Urter. You have to be strict when picking the men. I will not tolerate anyone who is slacking on the job, understand?"
"Yes, my lord. Do you have a specific standard?"
Anfey frowned. He recalled the Shansa general, Kumaraghosha, and his soldiers. "Intermediate swordsman, at least. The standard for mages can be lower. Same requirement for the knights."
Urter frowned and stared at Anfey. Aroben frowned as well.
"What, is that requirement too high?" Anfey asked.
"Way too high."
"If we use that standard, we won't get a single recruit," Urter said. "The wage of a city guard is lower than the wage of a real soldier’s. For a swordsman, the best thing to do is join a mercenary band. The life of a mercenary is dangerous, but so is the life of a civilian soldier. A mercenary can decide what mission he does, but a soldier cannot decide which battle to fight."
"Even if they don’t become mercenaries, it’s better to become an actual soldier. There is no use for them to join the city guard. The older guards were all at least forty years old. Young, able-bodied people will not join the city guard."
"What if we increase the wages?"
"For a thousand men?"
Anfey fell quiet. "Urter," he asked after a few moments. "As a city lord, how much will I make a day?"
"It is all in the files I gave you, my lord, though it may not be accurate now. The city was pillaged, and it would take a while for it to recover. We barely have any income except for the money to rebuild the city."
"It seems like we can’t do much at this point," Anfey said, shaking his head. "I will leaving the city for a few days soon. Wait for me to come back. Lord Aroben, Urter, I entrust the city to you." Anfey finally realized how difficult it would be to run a city by himself. He needed to find some helpers from Sacred City. He trusted Aroben and Urter, but he could not rely on them for everything. He needed to have his own helpers. If he relied on Aroben and Urter for everything, it would be as if he was handing off his power.
"My lord, I am just an old man," Aroben said. He looked at his wrinkled hand and sighed.
"On the contrary, sir. Your experience running this city is priceless," Anfey said with a smile.
"Are you going back to Sacred City, my lord?" Urter asked.
"It’s been awhile since I last saw my teacher," Anfey said. "I need to finish what I started. Frankly, it is unsettling to think that I'm finally returning. You should know that the only reason I fled that city was because I angered the wrong man."
"Don’t worry, my lord. If His Majesty gave you this city, it means that His Majesty is on your side. Philip will not do anything," Aroben said.
"Not publicly," Anfey said, shaking his head. "Who knows what he will do in secret." Anfey doubted Philip would listening to Yolanthe’s orders.
"You may be right," Aroben said. "Maybe you should wait for Lord Saul to return to the city. To ensure your safety."
"I think Aroben is right," Urter said. "Maybe staying for a few more days is a better plan."
"No, I have some things I need to take care of," Anfey said. He did not forget about the map Suzanna carried with her. The only things he took were some weapons and some treasures. There was still a large sum of money left, and now was the time to use it.
Aroben and Urter did not press for more answers. The three of them talked for a few more minutes, and Anfey stood to leave. Aroben tapped on his leg and said, "I apologize for not being able to see you out, my lord."
"Don’t worry about it," Anfey said with a grin.
Urter closed the door carefully as he stepped out of the room behind Anfey. Inside, Aroben’s expression suddenly changed. His eyes snapped shut, and his back bent over in pain. His family was slaughtered and he was crippled. It was hard to suffer through such traumatizing events. He chose to stay in Violet City and not to end his miserable life because Aroben wanted revenge. It was impossible to kill the emperor of Shansa Empire, but he didn’t care. All he wanted to do, and needed to do, was hunt down the general that allowed the killings to take place. He would never forget that general’s name. Urter helped him when he was at his lowest, and he was very grateful. For his, and Urter’s future, he had tried his best to hide his pain today and tried to advise Anfey. His goal was to let Anfey know that he was important and should not be ignored. Now that Anfey was gone, he could not keep the facade up any longer.
"Urter," Anfey asked quietly. "Is Aroben always like this?"
"No," Urter said hesitantly. "He had always been bad, but he's especially bad today. I do not know why."
"Because he was too traumatized," Anfey said with a sigh. He had initially wanted Aroben to remain the city lord, but gave up on that idea when he realized that Aroben was too keen on killing the Marquis and have Anfey take over. Anfey did not know what Aroben would do after those things were done, but he knew that a city lord must remain calm and patient.
"Sometimes I wish Lord Aroben had died in the invasion," Urter said with a sigh, "so he wouldn’t suffer like this."
"You are too much of a pessimist," Anfey said, shaking his head. "How’s his appetite?"
"He eats, but I can tell he is forcing the food down."
Anfey nodded. He already had a vague idea what Aroben wanted. "What does he talk about the most?"
"Alright," Anfey said, nodding. "We will respect his wishes."