Leguna arrived at Ogrimma the next day. He decided to rest for a day before heading to his designated meeting spot with Balor.
A single day of relaxation. He had to be in top condition before this fight. He would normally need at least five days to recover from the injuries he currently had, but the witch doctors healed up up in a single day. The great chief was helping him out quite a lot, Leguna was very grateful.
The duel he was about to have would determine the course of his life. If he lost, he would die, if he won, he would become the next master of one of mankind's strongest factions. He had to be prepared, this was a duel he could not lose. It was actually not just his life that would be forfeit if he lost, Eirinn would die as well. He could net let himself become the reason for her death. As far as he was concerned, this was the most important moment in his life.
He couldn't be sure how powerful Balor was, but he should be at least halfway into the high-order, probably around the 17th stratum. He had successfully killed several 17th-stratum individuals, but they were all assassinations, this would be a duel — he could not get a surprise attack on his enemy. On top of that, the one he'd killed were all magi, Balor was a skilled assassin and a shadow dancer like himself. The latter had also no doubt studied him and his techniques and skills carefully; he had no way to surprise his opponent or catch him off guard.
It went without saying that he not only outmatched Leguna in terms of skill and knowledge of his opponent, but he also knew the terrain far better. He could not compete with him in any of their grounds. Yet again, his gifts would be his crutches, yet again he would rely on them to make up for his own ineptitude and lack of skill. Of his skills, Shadow Blink and Host of Darkness were already known to his enemy. Shadowedge, a skill he inherited from Gahrona, was the only one still hidden from his opponent. He had only these three he could use to try to turn the tables.
He combed through all the reports on Balor he could find in his free time. He had to squeeze out what little understanding of his opponent he could in the time he had left. His struggle for information revealed to him how helpful Annelotte was. While she was cold towards him most of the time, she always helped in without hesitation what it was necessary. His other companions worried for him no less than Annelotte would have had she been here, but they had nothing about Balor to share.
Night snuck up on him quickly. He sat on his chair, chatting with his teacher from time to time as he ate dinner. A knock rang on his door. He found Kurdak, Vera, Innilis, even Kreighdon outside when he opened it.
"Why are you here?"
Kurdak punched his chest, smiling.
"We were afraid, in your terror, you'd wet your bed. We're here to wish you good luck."
Leguna punched back.
"Hey, I'm not a kid anymore! Don't worry, I will settle this perfectly tomorrow."
"You may not be a kid anymore, but you're not a man yet either!… I'll trust you nonetheless," Kurdak retorted, suddenly giving Leguna a crushing bear hug, "You're my brother, after all, you can't be too incapable. You shouldn't embarrass me and die so easily. Then again, it won't be too bad even if you die, I'll just hunt him down myself in that case."
Though he spoke casually, Leguna could hear the concern hidden in his voice. He didn't doubt that Kurdak would really hunt Balor down if the man killed him. Kurdak wasn't his match and wouldn't be able to kill him, even then, at the very least he would get in his way at every turn in whatever way he could.
Leguna nodded at the giant subtly. No words needed to be exchanged between the two. Leguna had slaughtered his way into Starfall to save them, and Kurdak would face impossible odds and fearsome foes for his sake. Brother born from life-and-death moments did these things for one another, even when told not to. Words of thanks were wasted between such men, some might even consider them insults.
Kurdak patted the kid's should before making way for everyone else to get their words in.
Innilis was next in line. She had pestered the lover pair until they caved and told here what was going on. Her eyes were red but she hadn't wailed because she had yet to face Leguna. When he returned from Bladedge, however, all bets were off. She jumped into his arms and wailed until her voice gave out. The kid was caught completely off guard and stood there like a statue, staring at the little girl as she soaked his clothes. He only figured out what was going on when Kurdak explained everything to him.
Leguna watched the girl step up to him. He flicked her nose playfully when she was in front of him.
"You're not going to cry this time?"
He wanted to tease her and make her laugh, but instead, she burst out in tears the moment he spoke.
"Big Bro has to stay. You can't go! Uncle Kurdak and Sis said it's really dangerous and you might not come back!" the little girl gasped through her tears.
"Why am I an uncle?" mumbled Kurdak, tears in the corners of his eyes as well.
Leguna stroked Innilis's head. "I have to go no matter what. But don't worry, Innie. I'll be back. That fellow isn't my match at all! Boss and Sis were lying to you, so don't worry!"
"Really?" asked she with widened eyes.
"Of course!" Leguna thumped his chest confidently, "Don't you know how amazing I am? Have I ever lost a fight?"
"You lost to Big One every time!"
Leguna's mouth dropped… This was not the time to be realistic!
"He doesn't count! He's many times stronger than the guy I'm going to fight now! Apart from him, I've never lost to anyone, right?"
Innilis scratched her head. Her confidence grew slightly. She shouldn't make more trouble for Leguna now so she kept her retorts to herself and nodded obediently.
"Don't worry. I'll be back in five days!"
"Okay! Liars are dogs!" Innilis nodded frantically.
"Liars are dogs."
Kreighdon was after his ancestor. Orcs really hated such melodramatic sendoffs, he was no exception. He had planned to not attend, but his ancestor kept pestering him until he finally caved. The little devil kept throwing fits in his room until his eyes bled. She threatened to keep him up until Leguna came back if he didn't go with her to see him off.
Leguna understood his temperament. He bowed, smiling.
"It's an honor to have Mister Kreighdon send me off. I am very grateful."
Kreighdon stroked his little ancestor's head roughly.
"It's all because of this little devil! Anyway, let's keep it brief. If you can't beat someone on his level, it won't be too much of a shame to die."
"Big One! How can you say that!" Innilis jumped and smashed her little fist into the orc's chest.
"I was only telling the truth..." he responded, innocently.
"Mister Kreighdon is right," he stopped her, "If I can't beat Balor, I won't make it far."
"I have nothing more to say. I won't bother with something as troublesome as taking revenge," said Kreighdon, "Well... I guess it depends on how it turns out," he quickly added when he saw the dissatisfaction on his ancestor's face.
Leguna smiled at the pair. The Blood-colored Wargod was a frank and self-confident orc. He had even more influence over his people than Oljharok, even this great chief was just his junior. But the little girl was his little ancestor, he could do nothing to or against the spoilt girl. He obeyed her every whim like a well-trained dog. If any of the orcs saw this, their eyes would fall out of their sockets and he would lose every ounce of prestige and respect he had.
Vera finally stepped up. She glanced at Leguna ambivalently.
"I have to say something, Ley."
"I'm listening," the kid nodded after a moment of silence.
"We said what we wanted to say, so we'll be off!" Kurdak interjected and shoved everyone out of the room before leaving himself.
Of the two participants in the arena, one was Vera's biological brother, and the other a dear comrade that might as well be her brother. This duel was heartrending for her. It was only right she be given some time alone with Leguna.
He glanced at her as he closed the door. They had agreed that, no matter how she may feel about the fight, no matter how much she may want Leguna to spare her brother, she would not do anything that would interfere with the kid's resolve to do what needed to be done to save the girl most important in his life. If she tried to interfere in this duel in any way whatsoever, Kurdak would have nothing to do with her ever again.
She nodded back at him.
"Big Bro, remember your promise!" Innilis yelped through the door, unwilling to leave.
"Don't worry, I'll be back in five days. Liars are dogs!"
"Liars are dogs!" the girl echoed before trudging down the hall.
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