Trion was powerless to do anything to Lith. No Commanding Officer in his right mind would put two brothers in the same platoon. Phloria, though, was a whole different story.
Trion did his worst to ruin her military file. He charged her with insubordination whenever she objected to the impossible tasks he assigned to her and gave her demerits when she inevitably failed to accomplish them.
Phloria wasn't a stunner, but everything about her drove Trion crazy with envy. She was now 1.78 meters (5'10") tall, while he barely reached the average height of 1.65 meters (5'5").
The idea that a noble dame belonging to one of the most important households in the Kingdom, who also was a very powerful mage, had been his brother's girlfriend was something he couldn't stand.
'According to the rumors, this wh*re slept with him for over a year. I heard they got this close to becoming engaged. Yet none of the noble b*tches I met did so much as to look at me because of my origins.' Trion thought.
He knew that messing with an Ernas was a bad idea, yet he did it nonetheless. Trion knew it was likely to be his only opportunity to get back at his brother, so he couldn't miss it. Teben was aware of Trion's grudge, it was the reason he had chosen him for the job.
Only an idiot would put everything on the line for a petty reason and Trion was exactly that kind of man. Phloria endured the constant latrine duty, the insults, and the protection he offered to anyone who hazed her.
The only silver lining in that situation was that the Ernas name was both a blessing and a curse. It gave everyone a reason to hate her, but at the same time, it set boundaries not even the most reckless soldier dared to cross.
Jirni's reputation was only second to Orion's when it came to avenging his daughters for any kind of offense, be it real or simply perceived as such. Even with Teben's protection, Trion had to walk a thin line to avoid turning from perpetrator to victim.
Months passed. That morning Phloria found her mail in the mud, as it always was after a rainy night. Normally it would take her first magic and quite an effort to salvage its contents, but this time the letter was written with special ink which made it easy to read.
She grinned and had the courtesy to slam the barracks' door behind her and waking everyone up. A lot of swear words filled the morning silence, but she didn't care. For once she deserved them.
Phloria walked double time toward the officers' quarters, humming the whole time.
"What are you doing here, private Ernas?" Trion's voice was full of contempt, putting emphasis on her rank being at the bottom of the barrel.
"I'm going to receive my new assignment, sergeant Proudstar, sir." She gave him the salute. Her voice was unusually happy.
"You have no assignment until I say so!" He yelled. Trion might have been a simple sergeant instructor, but to a private in boot camp, he was a king.
"Haven't you learned that I hate sass? Drop down and give me twenty!"
"I'm not in the mood, thanks. Do it yourself, I have better things to do."
Trion turned bright red in outrage. Never before had someone dared to defy his orders.
"This is the army, not your precious household, little missy! Your insubordination will cost you dearly!"
Phloria's reply was but a simple word.
Suddenly Trion felt his body weight increase until he wasn't able to stand up anymore. His hands hit the muddy ground with a thud, requiring all of his strength to not end up face first in the dirt.
"That does it! Using magic on your commanding officer will get you court martialled. Not even your family can save you this time." He said with a grunt while his face inched closer and closer to the ground.
"I don't think so. I'm just using magic on a measly sergeant to punish his bad manners which border on insubordination." Phloria placed the letter where he could read its contents. She had just been promoted to Second Lieutenant.
The only reason why Phloria endured Trion for the past three months was that she knew that there was little he could do if she didn't fall for his provocations. The only results that mattered were those assigned to the whole platoon.
If Trion set them too high to make her fail, everyone would fail. Whenever he underrated her performances, all she had to do was to ask for a second evaluation.
"For your information, Sergeant, gravity magic is another thing I learned from your brother. After meeting you, I'm not surprised your family has completely forgotten about you." Her voice was stone cold. She pressed down on his head with her boot until Trion's nose dipped into the mud.
"I don't believe you!" Despite the anger behind his words, his voice lacked conviction.
"Do you know that you have another little brother? That Rena now has a daughter? Except for Elina, no one cares if you are dead or alive. Both babies have been named after Lith, you know? Instead of running away as you did, he made their life better."
Phloria used the truth to hide her lies, making them as painful as possible.
"You are nothing but a little man, inside and out. I could ruin your career with a call, but you are not worthy of my time. Two years and you are still a sergeant? Pathetic."
Her words and her boot crushed his resistance, making Trion fall flat into the mud.
Phloria left him sobbing. She wanted to wear her new uniform and settle all the scores she had left before leaving the camp.
White Griffon academy
After the end of lessons, all Lith had left to do was to make sure Manohar was properly entertained. Ever since Marth became Headmaster, the eccentric genius had stopped going missing.
Marth made sure he would receive new components and ingredients from time to time instead of getting them all at once. This way Manohar would explore the possibilities that each branch of his research offered before moving on to the next project.
Lith's duty was to check if Manohar's boredom levels were reaching the danger zone. In such cases, Lith was allowed to provide him with new toys that would keep him busy in his lab.
Judging from the "Do not disturb" sign hung to Manohar's door and the amount of neglected paperwork on his desk, Lith could sigh in relief.
'It's when he starts doing his job without being forced to that I have to worry.' Lith reminded himself.
Then, he used his ring to open a Warp Steps to the fifth floor, right in front of Quylla's door.
"Thanks for coming. I'm sorry to bother you so often." Quylla hugged him as soon as he stepped inside and away from prying eyes.
"Stop saying that every time we meet, little one." He replied while patting her head.
Ever since her return to the academy, Lith had done his best to stay close to her and help Quylla overcome her sense of guilt for killing Yurial while under Nalear's influence. Quylla needed all the support she could get.
Lith was the only one in the group that had no role in the accident. Quylla was the main culprit, but Phloria was the one that gave the order to save Jirni first, while Friya mindlessly obeyed.
Quylla considered him to be the only one that could judge the events without his own guilt clouding his mind.