386 The Worth of Salt Part Two
Cecil Salt had looked forward to meeting his savior, Baron Tycondrius.
But somehow... he'd forgotten his fear.
The Baron was young... appearing like a youth barely in his twenties, at most... but his demeanor was like he'd walked a hundred battlefields unharmed. His medium-length, but neatly trimmed hair was colored an uncommon green... and his sharp, golden eyes passed over Cecil like that of a judgmental god.
Though Cecil had once seen him in silvery Kingdom armor along with the royal blue cape of his homeland, the Baron inspected the adventurers while wearing the ornate sculpted-armor design of the Holy Country.
Was he a Paladin, too?
Even as strong as Cecil was, it felt like the Baron was infinitely stronger. He had to will himself to stop shaking in his boots. One wrong word... maybe even a hint of weakness would result in the Baron immediately executing him for heresy against the Tyrion god, the Eternal Flame.
Baron Tycondrius approached Cecil and the other adventurers, walking alongside another fearsome existence.
The training instructor's reputation preceded him, whispered amongst the adventurers that had gathered for House Vanzano's cause. Lieutenant Ran was a monster in human skin, an officer belonging to the Royal Navy's Sea Wolf Fleet. The Sea Wolves were known for transforming into immortal god-beasts, hunting down pirates, and tearing them limb from limb.
The worst part about the old sailor's tales... was that they were all true. And one such being stood by the Baron with sandy hair and an arrogant sneer.
"Ahh... Mister... Cecil," The Baron mused. "I see you've opted for a fresh haircut and a clean shave."
"Tch," The Sea Wolf scoffed. "That's a minimum requirement-- nothing to be impressed by. Ridiculous."
Tycondrius raised an eyebrow, "Credit must be given where it is due, Brother-Lieutenant. This fine gentleman has improved in both strength and professional appearance since last we met."
"We'll see..." Shao Ran glared with eyes that looked like a fire burned within them. "You. Who the hells are you?"
"Ahem," Cecil cleared his throat. "H-hello, sirs-- err... gents. My name is Cecil Salt, and I'm a--"
"Stop," Ran ordered. "I don't gods-damned ask for your life story, now did I?"
The golden-eyed Baron narrowed his gaze, "You were contracted as a Privateer for the Kingdom for several years, were you not?"
Cecil's eyes widened. Baron Tycondrius had given him a chance... a hint... Even in social circumstances, there was a correct way to act in order to garner respect. He had been so terrified of meeting with the Baron again that he nearly forgot all of the courtesies he'd learned during his sailing suns.
Cecil gathered his pride, straightened his back, and rendered the sharpest salute he'd ever performed in his life, "Good morning, gentlemen! Petty Officer Salt, reporting as ordered!"
The corners of the Baron's lips curled up in a sly smirk.
Shao Ran raised an eyebrow, "Ho~ly. Shite. This one might be worth something, after all."
Cecil had yet another thing to thank Baron Tycon for. That small action had earned the tiny bit of respect he sought.
"Hm. As we are in the Holy Country, perhaps it would be more appropriate to assign him the rank of Decanus?" Tycondrius offered Lieutenant Ran.
"Nah. That sounds stupid," Ran waved off the notion. "You've given me responsibility for these recruits, Lieutenant Tycon. We'll go by Kingdom terms, the leaders as Corporals, and only those I deem capable as Sergeants."
Cecil's heart pounded in his chest. The Baron was an Officer of the Kingdom, too? What else was he hiding?
Tycon nodded, "Sergeant Salt... Yes, I find the title aesthetically pleasing."
"Hahaha... Yeah. Not bad, not bad! Not quite the level I want-- but work hard, Salt, and you'll rate soon enough." Ran sneered, "Brother-Lieutenant, what does the scouter say about his power level?"
The Baron shut his eyes and waved his hand. There was a magical ring on his finger. From the way Lieutenant Ran was talking, the ring was probably a Class Scanning tool. Those things were so rare and so costly to maintain, that only large organizations could afford them... or someone as rich as Baron Tycondrius.
"Iron-Rank Gunner," Tycon smiled. "Your thoughts, Brother-Lieutenant?"
"Ah! Hahaha!!" Ran cackled in glee, "Very well! How about you introduce us to the other recruits, SERGEANT Salt!?!"
His heart bursting with pride, Cecil saluted once more, "Aye aye, Sir!"
Tycondrius was pleasantly surprised by the growth of Sergeant Cecil Salt. He had lost weight, grown from Bronze to Iron-Rank, and had recovered his dignity as a professional mercenary. In order to further solidify his reintroduction, he had his hair cut to the Royal Navy's regulations, and wore a handsome set of leather armor with two well-maintained pistols holstered onto his belt.
Upon first meeting the former ship-Captain, Tycon had taken a chance to invest in him... which bore fruit in Merylsward. The Iron-Blooded Butcher leader, Reynard, was exceptionally grateful for Cecil's assistance, along with the few Bronze-Ranks in his crew.
It seemed that Cecil wanted more... whether it was out of gratitude or self-improvement, it would serve Tycon just as well. He expected great things from the Sergeant.
Cecil introduced Tycon and Ran to the other notable personalities from Sol Invictus' allied guild, the Iron-Blooded Butchers. He recognized a few Thieves, Ruffians, and Archers that would serve well as scouts. As they were raised on and around the rougher districts of Merylsward, they would perform especially well in urban environments.
The large, very polite, bruiser of a man, Mister William Lawrence hadn't ranked up to Iron like Cecil. However, his class had changed to Heavy Gunner. That was promising.
He along with a number of Cecil's former crew all had gun-related classes, something sorely underutilized, save in the northern reaches of the Kingdom and their Royal Navy. A barrage of pistol shot and cannon fire served a similar role as same-ranked mages.
Several elites from the Kingdom adventuring company, Guild Staghorn, had answered the summons. As a traditional guild, many of their number came from noble or knight-lineages.
Raphael of Cannes was one such gentleman. He had experienced Sol Invictus' effectiveness, having suffered a defeat against Tycon and his allies in the Mosswood Wilds. The human was a curly-haired Axe Warrior that had fought alongside Maximus of Ezyria. Though he was saddened by the news of the dovahkiin's death, he was thrilled to fight for the honor and glory of the Vanzano name.
Though not an adventurer under Tycon's and Ran's purview, a young lady named Maeva Leserre had also arrived in Silva to serve as Sorina Capulet's assistant. The blonde woman dressed and acted professionally and respectfully... which made Tycon want to question her blood-relation to her brother, Emilien Leserre, the leader of Guild Staghorn.
Tycon did not. That would be rude.
He reviewed the paperwork that Maeva had compiled and provided to him, "Sergeant, are you familiar with the Circle Mage that Wizard Clemont had recommended to us?"
"Ah, yes," Cecil chuckled to himself.
The way he responded aroused Tycon's suspicion, "Is there something amiss, Sergeant Salt?"
"Ahaha... Her name is Radia! She's a very attractive woman. And I believe she is not yet married," Cecil leered.
Tycon struggled to find the reason Cecil would mention such things. An adventurer's attractiveness was not indicative of their usefulness.
...It could improve morale, perhaps?
"That's great news!" Ran pulled Tycon close, "Let's get you two introduced, Brother-Lieutenant! I'll start out by telling her some war stories about how awesome I am!"
Whatever was going through Cecil's and Ran's heads, Tycon was completely oblivious.
The trio approached a small collection of female adventurers. As the mercenary profession was male-dominated, women associated with each other to provide support and encouragement. It was a type of clique that Tycon had no issues with, as he could only see additional means of psychological support as a boon.
At the center of the circle was a youthful girl with honey-blonde locks of hair spilling from her hood. Especially noteworthy was the fact that her hood had two triangular points atop it-- space for pointed ears.
According to Wizard Clemont, Radia was actually a Weretouched Fox girl. She seemed to have excellently integrated herself in with the Tyrion humans, assumedly having used glamour magic to hide her ears and tail-- pointedly non-human features.
"I mean, I just hate people who are super-entitled," Radia complained. "Especially when they abuse their subordinates."
A few of the girls responded to her positively. It made sense. Tycon also disliked such people.
The fox girl shrugged, "Arseholes being arseholes for no reason! I hate it."
Cecil and Ran had both abruptly stopped.
Ran looked around... almost nervously, "Maybe we shouldn't go over there."
Cecil coughed, "Y-yes... How about I introduce you fine gentlemen to some of our logistics personnel?"
Tycon crossed his arms, "Very well."
He didn't quite understand the shift in plans but decided not to question it.