‘It’s always nice to see a friendly face and have a pleasant chat,’ said Axiolis, ‘but I get the impression that’s not really why you’re here now.’
“It does seem odd that the two of you are traveling alone,” said Zeff.
“Why?” said Salazar. “Is it dangerous here?”
“Even with your level of strength, someone as important as you should have some kind of security detail,” said Zeff.
That left the General quiet, but after a moment, Armengél responded for her. ‘There aren’t that many people we trust right now.’
“Why?” said Mariana.
“Let’s table that question for a bit,” said Salazar. “There are some other things we should discuss first.”
‘Do go on, then,’ said Shenado.
The butler chose that moment to arrive with the aforementioned snacks, which further delayed the discussion between the three servants as Salazar politely complained that there wasn’t anything alcoholic. The reapers, however, continued talking while Mariana and Zeff just listened.
‘In terms of raw manpower, the Vanguard is stronger now than it has ever been,’ said Armengél. ‘Twenty years ago, we hardly had five thousand active servants, but now we have ten times that. In the past year alone, we’ve gained over three thousand new recruits--many of them, reapers who have never taken on a servant before and therefore require considerable direction.’
‘Startling numbers,’ said Axiolis. ‘Abolish must not be pleased. This business with aberrations has only ended up reinforcing our cause.’
‘Poetic justice for not upholding the Old Law,’ said Shenado. ‘If they keep allowing their pets to break neutrality agreements, Sai-hee might even start helping us out.’
“You’re being too optimistic,” said Salazar now that the butler had ventured off again. “It’s nice to imagine that the enemy’s plan has blown up in their face, but that’s not exactly the case here, unfortunately.”
‘Explain,’ said Shenado.
“As Armengél said, the Vanguard is larger than ever,” said Salazar. “Too large, in other words. Bloated. And still growing. All these new recruits--who’s to say some of them aren’t Abolish spies?’
‘That is why they are vetted,’ said Axiolis.
‘Which, at best, is a difficult process,’ argued Armengél.