Leguna and the rest stayed at Jaehart’s for the next few days. After some discussion, they each gave him two gold coins as thanks for their stay. At first, he refused to accept the money, but when they said they would leave right away if he didn’t accept, he finally gave in.
“It’s fine. It isn’t much,” said Leguna as he patted the guilty-feeling boy on the back.
“Yep! Yep! Big Bro Leguna is the richest! He buys us desserts every day!” said Minnie as she nodded furiously.
She had gotten along well with Leguna for a couple of days now and no longer feared him. On the contrary, she had grown quite attached to the fair and slender youth. She even occasionally wondered whether she could spend the rest of her life with him if he agreed to her brother’s request. She reddened every time she happened upon the thought. She was permanently bashful when glancing at Leguna.
The easy-going days were a rather rare experience for the four mercenaries. Leguna felt a life like this would make him the most satisfied… he brought up the idea again. The last time he had brought it up, he had mentioned it jokingly; this time, however, he was far more serious. So serious, in fact, he was thinking of ways to make peace with Balor. He mentioned his thoughts in passing to Kurdak, hoping for affirmation…
He would be left wanting.
“If you really want this kind of life… you should stay behind.”
“What about you, Boss?”
Kurdak said it like it was a goodbye.
“I have no way of staying here,” said the man with a bitter smile.
The man patted the child’s head gently.
“Did you forget? The next full moon is in two days.”
Leguna stiffened. He was not the only one who wanted to leave this kind of life, but couldn’t do so easily. Everyone around him was the same. Kurdak’s veins were filled with werewolf blood. The only life that would allow him to keep this a secret, was the bloody one he currently lived. Vera couldn’t leave either, she still had to bring her brother back. She could not settle down peacefully if she didn’t, no matter how hard she tried. Leguna, for his part, had no idea how to put the whole business with Balor behind him, and there was no way he could get out of his current life if he couldn’t settle things with him. Annelotte was in no better a place than any of them. She was a high-ranking member of Moonshadow, there was no leaving as she pleased for her.
Even if he could somehow get out of this life, there would be no point if he couldn’t bring his comrades with him. Without them by his side, a peaceful life would still not be a happy life. He shook his head helplessly and stop thinking about it.
At the very least I got to experience peace for a few days. Let’s enjoy it as much as I can!
The bliss was short-lived. It all ended with the coming of the full moon. The group had no choice but to leave.
“Hey, Jaehart, ever thought of joining our group? Mercenaries make a lot of money. It’s better than being a hunter, at the very least.”
“Sorry, Brother. I appreciate the thought, but… But… if I go work as a mercenary, there’ll be no one left to take care of those two.”
Jaehart looked lovingly at his two sisters energetically cleaning the house as he spoke.
“Those two have been all I have since the day my parents died. They’re my everything. I have to take care of them no matter what. Know what I mean?”
“That feeling you get when someone you care about looks at you like they’re expecting something. I made it through these two years in part because of you and your mindset, and partly because of these two,” Jaehart said softly, “They cried so much when mom and dad died. They kept saying we now had no one who’d take care of us. I told them I would be there for them. I promised myself that no matter how hard life was, no matter how many people put me down, I won’t let them have it hard. They are the only reason I keep on going.”
Jaehart spoke softly, but his voice was steady and filled with conviction. Leguna new there was no way to convince him otherwise, so he dropped it. He handed the boy a fine dagger.
“The enchanted blade is very dear to me, so I can’t give to you. Have this instead. It’s not as great as Flameblade, but it’s still good. It might help improve your hunts.”
“I can’t! It’s too expensive!”
Jaehart was no blacksmith, but he could tell the dagger was nothing cheap, on the contrary, a town smith would have no shame in calling it his greatest work. It was worth ten gold easily, even more.
“Stop bringing up money. It’s the one thing I have lots of,” Leguna boasted, “Think about your sisters. What will happen to them if you die? I’m not giving you this so you can sell it. It’s so you’ll be safer.”
“Brother… thanks,” Jaehart stuttered.
He didn’t know Leguna well, at least he didn’t think so, but the boy was still willing to do so much for him. It would be his shame if he didn’t respect him, he couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude for the boy just a few years his senior.
“For what? This isn’t much, but it’s all I can do for you,” Leguna said as he gave Jaehart’s shoulder a pat, “If I survive, I’ll come visit you. If I hear you mistreated your sisters, I’ll kick your ass, you hear?!”
“Don’t worry, Brother!”
The group wanted to leave without the little ones knowing, but the two attentive girls immediately noticed they were packing their luggage. Jaehart had no choice but to spill the beans. The two were very sad and only calmed down after the four mercenaries consoled them for several hours. After a goodbye lunch, it was time for the four to leave. The three to be left behind saw the group off at the edge of town.
“Big Bro, remember to come back. You have to come visit Minnie!” said Minnie, teary-eyed.
“I promise!” said Leguna as he stroked her small head.
The girl lowered her head to wipe away her tears and glanced at Innilis. Her face reddened, but she pushed on.
“Come closer,” she murmured.
Leguna wondered what was going on, but obeyed. Two pairs of lips suddenly, and momentarily, pressed against his two cheeks.
“Whoa!” exclaimed Vera oddly.
Kurdak whistled. Annelotte was fascinated by something in their surroundings, but a warm smile still snuck across her face when her eyes came to a rest on the two girls. Leguna was stunned for a moment before his face, too, was ambushed by a sneaky smile. He stared at the two bushing girls, clutching the ends of their sleeves nervously before stroking their heads gently.
“Don’t worry, I promise I’ll come visit.”
“Big Bro, Big Sis… Goodbye!” yelled the two girls together.
“Goodbye!” The four mercenaries waved before they embarked on their journey.
The four’s departure didn’t cause any commotion in the town. Actually, not many had known Jaehart had had any guests, even fewer knew his guests were mercenaries. Few, but not no one at all…
York was peaceful that night like it was every other night. The peace attracted a large group of people. Well equipped, they were led by a middle-aged magus with a weak magic corona. He was a high-order magus. The presence of a corona, no matter how weak, meant its bearer was a high-order magus. The appearance of such a scary group naturally attracted the mayor’s attention.
The mayor, Edwin Molt, had gone out to receive them personally and even invited them to his luxurious home as guests.
“I apologize for my ignorance, but may I know who you gentlemen are? I hope you will forgive me if I offend you.”
Edwin sent his attendant away and personally poured a cup of tea for the group’s leader, the high-order magus. He may live in a rural town, but he knew of high-order magi. Other things aside, the magus in front of him now could easily level the whole town and grind everything to dust if he wanted. So, even though he looked really wretched and wore a look of arrogant annoyance, Edwin didn’t dare feel angry.
“There’s no need to be so cordial, Mayor. We’re only here on a mission. I apologize for disturbing you,” replied an attendant who stood behind the magus.
He was clad in full armor, a knight by appearance.
“…Forgive me for rambling on endlessly… Is there anything I can do for you, gentlemen? I am just a small town’s mayor. I’m not very skilled or capable but I do know everything about this town.”
The knight laughed.
“We were just about to ask you something, Mr. Mayor. First, though… A brief introduction is due. We’re members of the Eye’s enforcement division.”
“Ah, I see you gentlemen are from Eye of Arcana. Apologies for not recognizing you sooner,” said Edwin even more respectfully.
“Mayor, there really is no need to be so formal. We came here on the order of our vice-president, His Reverence, Grand Magus Hladik. We’re here to investigate a few mercenaries. This one here is the leader of our squad and he’s also His Reverence’s first disciple, Mister Nabir. I am Kratt, the squad’s vice-captain.”
The vice-captain turned around to receive a piece of paper from a guard and passed it to Edwin.
“These are the mercenaries we’re here to find.”
The mayor received the paper and mumbled, “Kurdak Wedwin, Vera Trikel, Annelotte, Leguna…”