The Kiss and the Slap
The words Farsi uttered caused an atmosphere of deathly silence to descend.
Killing non-combatants? Only orcs are capable of such travesties. There’s no way we can do such a thing as humans with moral lines we won’t cross, thought Kurdak.
He smiled nonchalantly.
“Forget it, we’ve already earned quite a bit and the rest doesn’t amount to much. Also, killing non-combatants is bad taste.”
Farsi scanned the orcs before he smiled.
“Then, Mister Kurdak, I take it you don’t want part of this bounty?”
“That’s right. I can do without such a small amount of money.”
Farsi gave his attendants a glance.
“I’ll be taking it all.”
The moment Farsi’s words left his mouth, the agonized cries of orcs drowned out all other sounds. The human warriors didn’t hesitate to slaughter the civilians. They waved their weapons expressionlessly. One orc head after another rolled on the ground.
At that moment, Kurdak and Vera’s faces glummed. They hadn’t thought under the peaceful and warm outlook of their employer hid such a cruel and murderous heart. Daver, Farsi’s subordinate and partner, struggled to resist the urge to up-end his stomach. The sight unnerved him without end. He raised his hand slightly, only to lower it again with a self-mocking smile.
“Stop immediately,” said Leguna, suddenly appearing behind Farsi before anyone noticed.
He didn’t look angry, on the contrary, his face was completely expressionless. But Annelotte knew this was when he was at his most dangerous. As she stood rather close to him, she noticed that his irises had turned pitch black.
Every time he entered this state, he would become unstoppable Death itself. So long as he wished it, he could kill anyone his sights set on. That was what Annelotte believed after two years of interaction with him. A choking sense of fear rushed into Farsi from his back. He twitched involuntarily.
What’s up with this kid?! thought he, shocked.
While he had long known Leguna was a shadow dancer. He hadn’t thought a mere shadow dancer, one of a lower stratum no less, could instill such a raw fear in a fire guide! Since his instincts told him it wasn’t a good time to piss the kid off, he raised his hand to stop the slaughter.
The sound of metal cutting flesh ceased along with the cries. The surroundings quietened down once more; the only sound heard was the warm summer breeze. It was as if nature was trying to warm up the chilling atmosphere.
Kurdak also noticed Leguna’s change and stepped forward in between him and Farsi.
“Um, Ley… Mister Farsi is just doing this for the money. There’s nothing wrong with killing a few orcs, right? Also, he’s already stopped the rest, so let this be all, alright? The sky will brighten soon, we have to hurry and find a place to set up camp.”
As Kurdak spoke, he glanced at Annelotte. While Leguna was usually obedient to his two elder comrades, even the two couldn’t keep him in check at certain times. And every time it happened, only Annelotte could hold him back. Kurdak refused to believe it at first, but he came to the disappointing conclusion that Leguna was someone who put ‘hoes before bros’ after a few experiments. Annelotte understood his intention. If Leguna really ended up killing Farsi, he would no longer be safe as long as he remained on Lance.
Eye of Arcana was willing to pay out millions of gold coins in bounty for the orc ears after a few outposts had been conquered. If their important developmental target was killed by Leguna, he might be chased to the ends of the world in retaliation!
The girl stepped forward and placed her fine, fair hand on Leguna’s shoulder. His gaze shifted to her expressionlessly. She shook her head.
“I’ll let you off this time, but if this happens again, I’ll kill you,” said he calmly, as if there was no doubt that an 11th-stratum assassin could kill a 14th-stratum magus.
Kurdak and the rest didn’t suspect his words at all, though. It wasn’t just a matter of 14 minus 11 equals 3. Any function with Leguna in it seemed to produce only death.
Upon hearing what the kid had said, Farsi breathed a sigh of relief.
It seems he’s really going to let me off.
The humiliation overwhelmed him a moment later, though. He had been insulted in public by an assassin both younger and weaker than him. It was not something he, a favored genius from his early childhood, could ever tolerate. However, he was a patient character. Forcing down his desire to kill the group right away, he nodded at the kid before he left wordlessly.
Daver felt a little awkward. He had wanted to chase the surviving orcs away, but he realized he didn’t speak their language, so he merely opened his mouth with nothing to say. Ferd took the initiative to stand out and spoke in fluent orcish.
“Just an accident. We humans don’t kill enemies that don’t resist us. You may leave.”
The orcs watched the humans cut the ropes that bound them suspiciously. Their will to live overpowered their fear and grief. Some tried to leave, and when the others saw the humans didn’t attack them, they began to run away in droves.
Leguna was seated upon a rock. The sun rose gradually over the horizon, casting a warm orange glow across the skies. Leguna stared straight at the sun, seemingly in deep thought. Annelotte knew there was something on his mind. Even though she initially didn’t want to meddle, somehow she still walked to him after watching him from behind for a while.
Helping Leguna is helping the president, she told herself before she walked forward naturally.
She got straight to the point.
“I suddenly don’t know why I kill, orcs or others,” said he with some hesitance.
“Aren’t they enemies? Weren’t they the ones who killed Cyranos?”
He was stunned momentarily.
“But the orcs that killed Cyranos are dead. And if we really want to pinpoint the one at fault, we should be pointing at Balor.”
Seeing Annelotte silent, he continued.
“Sis told me many of her relatives were killed by orcs. At first, I felt killing orcs was exacting revenge on her part, so I didn’t think it inappropriate at all.”
“But two days ago, when we encountered the patrol, Boss had me kill their captain. After I did, I noticed another orc trying to escape.”
“What happened next?”
“I… I killed him. But I later realized the fleeing orc bore a strong resemblance to the captain. They were father and son.”
“So you feel you also destroyed a family and took their happiness?”
“I killed a father and a son. Each time I do, a mother and her children lose precious family. They will no doubt feel ruined all the same. I tried to find a difference between us and them but I can’t, even after thinking about it for very long. We’re the same. We kill and ruin others’ happiness… It’s… not right.”
Annelotte stayed silent for a moment before she suddenly asked, “If what you’re doing is wrong, then what’s right?”
Leguna had no words with which to answer.
“Do you feel the right thing is to not kill them? But if you don’t, they might come kill you, Kurdak, Vera, Cyranos, and… me. Do you feel not killing them is right?”
Leguna was completely speechless.
That’s right, war’s everlasting between different races and peoples. If you don’t kill your enemy, they’ll kill you. Since it’s all killing, does it mean all of it is wrong?
“There’s never been right or wrong in war. Only slaughter and death,” Annelotte said softly, “All you can do is try your best to makes things go the way you want. If you want us to survive, you have to grow stronger, until you can protect us all. To achieve this, you may slaughter and ruin the bliss of others. Even though it’s selfish, it’s not something that can be judged by right or wrong, because that’s what everyone else does.”
“I have to do whatever I want?”
“Yes. There are many things neither right nor wrong. Follow your heart or do what you believe is right. Remember, never hesitate. If you do, you might just die. If you don’t want to die, don’t hesitate.”
Leguna nodded. Annelotte sighed; this reasoning Wayerliss had taught her a long time ago. To be frank, she didn’t really understand what exactly it meant, either. How could she expect Leguna to?
“Well, don’t ponder it too much. Balor is always looking from the shadows, ready to deliver a fatal blow at a moment’s notice. If you don’t grow stronger, you’ll die. Kurdak will die, so will Vera, and I… might as well.”
She prepared to leave.
“Annie,” called Leguna as he stood.
“Yes?” Annelotte turned back, slightly confused.
She had already said what she wanted, so for what did Leguna want to stop her?
All of a sudden, he planted a light kiss on her forehead, before he smiled.
“Thank you. I’ll do my best to protect you all well.”
Her mind went blank for a moment. The instant she processed what he’d just done, she unconsciously raised her small, gentle hand.
The clear sound of a smack followed by the incessant cry of pain was like an alarm clock that woke the sleeping denizens of the wild flatlands.