The report said news of Kurdak being a werewolf had been disseminated to the public by the Eye. A huge commotion had erupted in Starfall though many still doubted the information. The Eye had promised to prove their claim with the next full moon. Kurdak and Vera would be locked in the organization's anti-magic dungeon until then.
It's only been two weeks. I didn't think something like this would happen just two weeks after splitting up. How did the secret get out?
"What's going on?" Leguna glared at Oljharok, killing intent radiating from his eyes.
The orc's expression didn't change.
"Relax, kid. What's done is done, there's no point in getting angry over this, it won't solve the problem," he said in his deep, thick voice.
"Then you better explain before I get angry!" hissed the kid.
"Who do you think would do something like this?"
Leguna furrowed his brow as he thought.
Only the party knows Kurdak's secret. There's no way Vera would reveal it, and I haven't either. Could it be Annie? No! Impossible! Annie isn't someone like that! Apart from Annie... maybe Moonshadow also knows? But they have no reason. Who else?
Seeing that Leguna couldn't come up with an answer even after thinking about it for some time, Oljharok decided to help him out a little.
"There's someone else who knows about the secret. The one who outed Kurdak was a warrior from the Eye's patrol squad."
Understanding flashed across Leguna's eyes.
"It's him! He was the one from the Eye's enforcement division we met two years ago in Nightsong!"
"I don't know much about him," Oljharok added, "But it's enough for me as long as you don't think I or any other orc had anything to do with this."
Leguna took a deep breath and tried hard to regulate his emotions.
"How're they doing now?"
"According to my informants, the two have been apprehended and imprisoned in an anti-magic prison. Apart from being treated badly, I heard Hladik has resorted to beating them to learn your whereabouts. I'm not sure about the details, though," offered Oljharok.
"I feel sad about what happened to your comrades, but I wonder if this is enough to give you the determination you need to kill Hladik?"
Previously he even felt he had wronged Hladik somewhat. But now that the man had used such underhanded methods and had even laid his hands on his companions, an act that violated his baseline. He had no qualms killing him..
"So as long as I kill Hladik, you'll release Annie and Inni?"
"Yes. As long as you agree and give your best, I will make sure they are freed safely."
"How can I trust you?"
"I admit the two supple-fleshed maidens could be cooked into a nice pot of stew if tossed into the slums, but their use only goes so far for me. As the great chief, why would I betray my trust an honor for such an insignificant benefit? While lies and deceit are commonplace for humans, it is incredibly rare for orcs."
Since the two were in Oljharok's hands, Leguna had no choice but to trust him.
"When do you want me to act?"
This time, it was Oljharok's turn to be surprised.
"You're really going to face Hladik as you are now? He's far stronger than his disciple, Nabir, you know."
Oljharok was right in that while Hladik was only two strata superior to Nabir, the differences between strata were all the more apparent the further one progressed on the path of magic. The 17th-stratum magus's might was far from comparable to the 15th-stratum Nabir.
The most notable part was that Hladik could grasp one or two level nine spells. It should be noted that the might of level nine spells far exceeded those of level eight spells and lower. He was also a famous and experienced high-order magus. In terms understanding spell and mana usage, how could he be compared to Nabir?
While Leguna really could barely kill Nabir even in his wounded state, thanks to Host of Darkness, his injuries didn't affect his movements all that badly. Even so, Nabir's spells almost took his life. Had it not been for the two magical barriers Annelotte had dictated on him before she left, he would've already been turned into a pincushion by Nabir's spell.
Given how taxing it was on him when dealing with Nabir alone, how could he stand a chance against Hladik, who was far stronger? Doing so was suicide. Faced with Oljharok's doubt, Leguna smirked and mocked, "Since your goal is to instigate conflict between Moonshadow and the Eye, you can achieve your goal regardless of whether I or Hladik die. Why would you worry about my skills? As long as I agree, your goal is, isn't it so, o' wise great chief?"
Oljharok acted as if he didn't hear the kid's mocking.
"No, kid, it might be my goal to make the two guilds fight, they might not turn against each other simply because one guild's chairman and the other's target for development flipped out against one another. I actually really want Hladik's head."
Surprised, Leguna looked at the orc; he realized the usually calm and friendly great chief spoke of Hladik with a seething hatred hard to mask. He looked at the orc quietly and awaited his answer.
"I didn't originally belong to Earth-shaking Hammer," Oljharok said, "I was born in a small tribe on the wild flatlands called Greyeyes. Hladik had led some humans to exterminate it. My parents and all my tribesmen were slaughtered. As I was still young, I was hidden under my parents' bodies and barely managed to escape. It was Earth-shaking Hammer that took me in after that."
Leguna finally realized the great chief had a blood feud with Hladik. While he had only briefly summarized his experiences, the kid believed having his whole tribe exterminated was deeply ingrained in the orc's soul. So long as Hladik lived, the orc's heart would remain submerged in the flames of vengeance.
"Alright, why don't you have Mister Kreighdon do it? Given your status as great chief, he can't refuse. He'd also stand far better a chance than me."
Oljharok smiled bitterly.
"I am the only survivor of Greyeyes. But I'm also the orcs' great chief. There are also a few saint fighters of mythical magi among the humans. No matter how strong Mister Kreighdon is, he's not indomitable. If Mister Kreighdon were to lose his life in an unfortunate turn of events, it would be a huge loss for orcish kind as a whole. As great chief, I cannot allow myself to indulge in my personal desires and abandon our race as a whole."
"I see." Leguna nodded.
As the great chief, Oljharok endured endless hardships without even uttering a single word of complaint. All he did was consider the welfare of his people. Such mental fortitude and endurance were not the least bit inferior to Kreighdon. It was no wonder he held the orc's trust and could become great chief.
"As for other assassins, while some do have quite outstanding abilities, it would prove quite difficult for them to mingle among deceitful and cunning humans. Also, killing Hladik is an incredibly difficult feat. They are our race's precious resources, I can't use them to fulfill my personal desires either."
Leguna continued the line of reasoning.
"So it would make me the best candidate. If I fail, you won't lose much and there's a chance that internal strife would emerge among the humans. If I succeed, not only would you succeed in your vengeance, internal strife might also result. Great chief, your scheme truly is quite thorough."
"For the sake of our future, there are times I have to scheme," Oljharok admitted, before he bowed to Leguna, "Apart from that, I also have to thank you for helping me achieve my desire of vengeance. Whether you succeed or not, I, Oljharok, pledge on my title as great chief of all orcs, that your two companions will remain safe and sound!"
Seeing Oljharok's sincerity, Leguna stopped mocking him. He forced a nod.
"That's enough. As long as you keep your promise. But as you can see, my abilities may fluctuate quite a bit, I'm not confident I can kill Hladik even in peak condition."
"That's why I'm giving you this in return for fulfilling my wish. We orc shamans have a special secret art that allows the retained essence of the legacy of experts who came before to be passed onto another. In simple terms, we can transfer the abilities and power of a deceased expert to someone else. The target can receive a portion of that expert's power."
Does Oljharok mean he can help me raise my strength quickly? That's a pretty decent reward.
"Retained essences left behind by experts are immeasurably precious. We don't have that many passed down either. But as a reward for risking your life, I've decided to bequeath you Gahrona's Heart."
Even the unperturbed orc showed a wince of unwillingness as he uttered the last sentence.
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