“What? Say that again!”
“I… I don’t dare…” mumbled Leguna.
His mind was currently dominated by fear and confusion as to how a strong man that could carry two huge bags just an hour earlier stopped moving all of a sudden. Cyranos was the strongest one in the party, but he died just like that. Even though Leguna was an orphan and had seen his fair share of horrors, such cold, emotionless violence was beyond his mind’s fortitude.
Cyranos’s death made Leguna feel an unprecedented fear for orcs. His only hope was for everything to be a nightmare from which he would soon he would wake. But no matter how hard he closed his eyes, he still smelled the stench of blood. He desperately wanted to escape. He no longer had the slightest trace of courage to face the terrifying orcs.
Whap! Kurdak gave him a harsh slap. He looked at the fallen youth with hatred and disappointment.
“Just try and say that again!” he growled like a lion ready to pounce, “Come on! Say you don’t dare! What about when you wandered into Silvermoon Forest on your own?! Without us, you would’ve been drake droppings by now! And yesterday I saved you from a freaking crimsonblood bear’s strike! But you tell me you have no courage?! Let’s see if you dare say such a shameless thing again! Darn it, is this the kind of person the great Moonshadow has high hopes for?! A weakling like you?! Even though we saved your life twice, you dare tell me you don’t dare do the same when we’re in trouble!? Don’t dare my ass!”
Kurdak’s temper soared the more he spoke. He gave Leguna’s chin a kick, sending his small frame flying.
Leguna kneeled as he crawled to Kurdak, bawling.
“Boss, hit me more! I deserve it! But even so, I really don’t dare! I’m afraid of death! Cyranos died just like that and he only managed to kill three orcs. And there’s still more than ten left! I really don’t have the courage! Going’s suicide! I’m just a small fry, an orphan; I’m no hero or legend! I don’t have their courage. I’m far from indestructible like them! I’m just a useless orphan no one needs! I only barely managed to get out of the slums. I don’t want to die like this! Waaaaaah!”
His nose had already begun to bleed. When mixed with the mud and his ceaseless tears, his whole face seemed as dirty as it was when he was still in the slums.
Kurdak looked at him coldly and saw the reddish palm mark on the left of his face that wore an expression full of shame and fear.
He eventually began to soften for the 15-year-old youth.
I bet I would be like him if I were that old now. How could I have had such high hopes for him?
Calming himself down, Kurdak sighed and helped Leguna up gently.
“Alright, Ley. It was my bad. I shouldn’t have snapped at you. Sorry.”
“Bossm it’s my fault… I… I am a coward.”
He finally understood the pain that tormented Vera after so many years. While the feeling of abandoning someone one cared for wasn’t as painful as it sounded, it was something that ground at one’s soul incessantly. Even so, Leguna couldn’t muster the courage to face the orcs.
Kurdak pressed lightly on Leguna’s shoulder.
“This is indeed really dangerous. I doubt I’d succeed whether you come with me or not. Since you’re still young, I can understand why you don’t want to risk your life.”
” Boss…” Leguna stopped before he finished.
He had wanted to convince Kurdak to give up as well, but he knew he couldn’t. He had already acted cowardly. What right did he have to ask Kurdak to run away with him? Would they really be able to leave Vera helpless and alone? It was a huge dilemma for which he didn’t have a satisfactory answer.
“You don’t have to advise me against it,” Kurdak said with a smile, “Vera’s the woman I set my sights on. I have to do this no matter what.”
“Boss… I… I’m sorry…” Leguna didn’t have a clue what he should do.
On the one hand, he hated his own cowardice, on the other, he feared losing his life no less, perhaps even more. He was at a complete loss for what to choose. Both choices led to equally depressing outcomes.
“Can you do me a favor? Help me bury Cyranos and wait for me back at Starfall. If I don’t return in ten days, report our deaths to the Association. They’ll handle everything else.” Kurdak had already made preparations for the worst.
When Leguna heard this, he bawled even more. Kurdak hugged him and whispered into his ear softly.
“Everyone has something they will fight for even it cost them their life. Living would be too pitiful otherwise.”
Kurdak didn’t look at him anymore. He turned silently to leave.
Seeing his silhouette fade away, Leguna felt like stepping forward, but just couldn’t no matter how many times he tried.
After Kurdak vanished completely he turned to deal with Cyranos’s corpse. He cleaned his face with some water and gave his wounds a simple wrapping despite how gut-wrenching it was. It would at least let Cyranos be buried in a more complete state. After finishing, he looked around and saw no one, just the three orc corpses. Everything was how it was before: he was alone again.
So I’m all by myself again.
He began to recall the time he spent coming to Lance. The faces of Hans, the third-in-command, the captain, Eimon, Lorey, and Jilrock’s faces flashed in his mind. They all looked at him with a sneer, like they were looking at the most disgusting kind of trash.
He thought of Kurdak, Vera, and the now dead Cyranos. They were ever so earnest and friendly towards him. He once felt elated that, after Eirinn and the old man, he had found new partners. Three at that. But now he had just lost Cyranos, and Vera and Kurdak’s fates were uncertain at best. He was about to lose everything he had and be alone yet again.
Is this really what I want?
“Definitely not!” roared he as a rush of primal emotion erupted from the depths of his soul. The old man was dead, and Eirinn was gone. It wasn’t easy for him to meet his newest three companions. But now that Cyranos was dead, could he afford to just sit and watch as Kurdak and Vera died too? He couldn’t! There was just no way!
He suddenly began to think a lot, about how well the three had treated him, how he had pledged that night to never let go of his three hard-earned friends, how pained he felt when the old man had died and when he learned Eirinn had left, how it felt to be alone. That feeling of emptiness in which even despair found no home, which made him feel like a walking corpse… He began to recall when the old man had told him about ‘gain’ and ‘loss’.
He had been only ten back then.
The old man had told him in a hoarse voice, “Every gain is accompanied by loss, and the opposite is also true. When you beg for the money of others, you lose your pride and self-respect at the same time you get their coin.”
The old man had said it as he bowed to a man who had just tossed him a coin.
Leguna thought about the loss of his friend. What did he get in return? Only pain and loneliness. They were things he’d tasted for the past fifteen years. ‘This is enough,’ he decided. Why was it that he always lost what he wanted and got what he didn’t?
Looking at himself, he saw he had already lost everything. What should he do to get back the times he enjoyed, the friends that brought him joy, and the party that made him feel like he belonged?
What would he trade for it? What did he have to trade for it? His life, of course!
Since I don’t have anything else, I’ll bet with my life! It’s the only thing I have, and the only thing I can bring to the table!
He had once fought in a pile of trash with a stray dog for a piece of stale bread. The dog had become orcs. It was about to consume the only bread he had left. He had to fight to keep it, there was no question, no doubt, he had to fight.
“I hate stray dogs that take my bread the most. Let them all die!”
At that moment, an insidious smile unbefitting his childish face surfaced. His dark blue eyes turned pitch black. A wave of black impetus surged out of his body. It put out the nearby flames completely.
He calmly checked his gear before he dashed in the direction Kurdak had left.