Chapter 18

“Good day!” A scrawny little man with long grey hair, dressed in leggings and star patterned stockings walked up behind Cadet Bowman, frightening the life out of him.

“Who in hell are you?” Bowman demanded.

“Oh you wouldn't want to know.” The old man squinted at the sky. “Nice day for it eh?”

“How in blue buggery did you get in here?” Bowman shoved the intruder towards the door with his arm. “Come on, out of it.”

“Certainly. Good day to you sir.” The man saluted the Cadet and strolled off down the Villa path.

Ben sat and listened to his parents, taking notice very carefully.

“I see.” He said after his father had finished speaking. “So you think that the likes of Bonetti and Marx will clutch at their skirts and scream 'Athula!' at the top of their lungs?”

“More than that, Ben, they'll go along the lines of the Pit being ran by an Athula, seeing she's the champion.” Lily added. “Don't you start shouting here, but there's also a very good chance of them hauling your association with Kore out in to the public eye and battering it all out of shape and dragging it through the mud.”

“They can all go to hell!” Ben said in outrage. “It won't work, mum. I know my family and upbringing is of a slightly higher profile than the average soldier but I'm still nowhere near important enough for anybugger to be bothered. I don't care! They'll all oo and ahh for a week or so then go back to being concerned with the mess their city is in. Quite rightly too in my opinion. They can try their best mum but it'll soon be seen for the blatant harassment of a person just because of a name. It's old.” Ben sat and fumed. How dare it even be theorised that his private life be but on display in such a way!

“Ben you're more important that you think to people who like to dig up statistics and speculate on them.” Herz said. “Her mother was called Athula ...”

“Her mother, yes, so that won't even be her damned name! Even if it was, they can't possibly damage the Military's name via my association with her. That's ridiculous.” Ben snapped.

“You'll mind your soldier's mouth in front of your mother.” Herz said sharply.

“I'm sorry, please excuse that, mum.” Ben sighed. “It doesn't make any difference, is all I'm saying. The name Athula doesn't inspire the same feeling of 'riot' just as the name DeGaise doesn't inspire 'tyrant', not to any effective extent.”

“How about an Athula-DeGaise combination?” Lily spoke up. “Does that inspire a feeling of a return to the emperor ruling days where the DeGaise were advised by the Athula? Two of the most powerful families in the empire, Ben and I think our people have had enough of single source power sources. That's what will be played on.”

“I must be tired, I just haven't followed this at all.” Ben rubbed his eyes.

“That's because you're sitting there roaring instead of listening.” Herz said bluntly. “The woman I married was called Lady Lily DeGaise. Now are you up to date? Yes I know you keep telling us that you're just friends but we've been around a bit longer than you have, Ben.”

“That's ... fantastically far-fetched dad.” Ben laughed uncertainly. “So the people of Azoria could be both anti DeGaise and and Athulan and still be on the same side as anti ... me and Kore?”

“Basically yes, although it's more the alliance of two symbols rather than the two people. The anti-duo Azorian population will need a leader. Guess who might humbly accept that role?”

“Bonetti, if he ever clicks this into place.” Ben shook his head. “He hasn't done so far.”

“He hasn't had the situations he has now and no need to make the associations. You, Kore, and his desire to Govern Azoria have never been on the same stage before.” Lily reasoned. “Your father thinks his suspicions have been aroused.”

“Oh?” Ben looked up sharply. “Any ideas ...”

“How did you get in here?” Rowan's voice sounded from outside the drawing room door.

“Through the front door. Well through the conservatory window. Did you know it was open?” Ben drew his sword and pulled the door open. “Bloody soldiers are everywhere.”

“I believe you're trespassing. Rowan will escort you off the premises.” Ben said menacingly to the scraggy little man in the hallway. “Rowan, inform whoever's at the door to bloody well secure the windows.”

“Oh! You must be General Astrella!” The thin little man chuckled a laugh. “Is your mum in?”

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