"I say, you've been giving me that long face for the better part of the journey. Can you at least try to look better? You look like a walking ghost!" said Kurdak when he looked at Leguna glaring at him from the corner of his eyes.
"I was forced to come with you for a one-hour trip for no good reason. Did you think I would look at you with a smile?"
Leguna didn't bother to mask his attitude, stomping with each step, making the water in the flask hung on his neck swish about.
"I just want you to have more training. Vera agreed as well." Kurdak attempted to explain.
"I can believe Sis wants me to be better trained. But you," Leguna muttered, "Don't think I didn't see the look on your face before we left. I could see the grudge in your eyes and I bet it's far worse than my face looks like."
"Sigh, forget it. I can't be bothered to explain this to you. A good man won't grumble with his inferior."
"Drop the act. Aren't you the slightest bit embarrassed? Hmph, you and all your bullshit... Just look at Cyranos. He's always reliable and grounded, unlike you. I really don't know what Vera sees in y..." Leguna hurriedly shut up before he let the truth out accidentally.
"What?!" Even though Leguna didn't finish his sentence, Kurdak had already heard all of it and guessed what was coming next.
Tugging on Leguna's hand, he said in the friendliest manner possible, "Then, does that mean Vera has her sights on me?"
"I didn't say anything!"
Leguna tried to refute everything he said. He was even willing to fight the crimsonblood bear alone rather than face Vera's anger.
"Ah, that's right. Ley didn't say anything and I don't know anything either," Kurdak said in cooperation, before he continued happily, "Hmph, I knew a kid like Cyranos couldn't compare to a handsome, tough, and tantalizing man like me, the amazing Kurdak."
"I've finally gotten to see a shameless person for the first time," commented Leguna after he took a look at Kurdak's bear-like figure, wide nose, thick lips, and thin eyes before comparing it with Cyranos's handsome visage.
"Then again, Cyranos has never actively competed with you. Why do you take it so seriously?" asked he, not forgetting to stand up for Cyranos.
Kurdak was surprised. After some thinking, he realized that, even though Cyranos treated Vera rather well, there was no clue as to whether he felt anything special for her or not. Perhaps, he was just trying to be nice to her as he would others.
Then again, Cyranos has always been a quiet but attentive man. He's nice to Leguna and me as well, right? I guess I must've gotten a little too paranoid from feeling his kindness would be a threat to my relationship with Vera...
"So? You have nothing to say, do you?"
Even though Leguna wanted to say something else, Kurdak muffled his mouth.
"Quiet. Do you smell something?" asked Kurdak with a low and solemn voice.
Leguna's nose twitched slightly. He instantly smelt the scent he remembered so well from the last two days.
After a quick search through his memories, he identified the smell as something other than Vera's pleasant odor, it wasn't honey either. It was a smell that sent chills down his spine. He had smelt it for the first time when the crimsonblood bear was killed. It was the smell of blood that had almost made Leguna vomit.
"Boss... Boss," mumbled he palely.
They were only a hundred meters from the campsite. He wasn't stupid enough to believe the smell didn't have anything to do with Vera and Cyranos even if someone told him so.
"Don't panic. Let's verify the situation first. Approach slowly and quietly," said Kurdak with a troubled look.
He suppressed the desire to rush back to the campsite and gave Leguna an order.
The two of them sneaked between the branches under the shades, out of the moonlight's reach. As they approached the light of the campfire, it got stronger. The moment Leguna realized that a cold dread crept up his spine like so many wet snakes.
Leguna deeply hoped that the two would be fine and that Vera would comment on how he was arguing with Kurdak with Cyranos looking quietly at them with a slight smile on his face.
But the overbearing smell of blood told him the fantasy wasn't to be. He had already prepared himself mentally for the worst, but, even so, he almost fainted when he saw what awaited him in the camp.
There was no movement. The fire was kicked apart, only a couple of the branches laying nearby still had small tongues of flame licking at the air. A corpse lay nearby, charred by the flames. The sickly-sweet smell of cooked human flesh hung thick in the air. Leguna had no appetite despite the smell, the stench of blood dominated his nose too much.
Apart from the charred corpse, there were four other corpses around the camp. They did not belong to humans. They were humanoid and had larger physiques. They all had greenish-yellow skin and thick body hair. Leguna instantly knew they were orc corpses.
Kurdak couldn't resist the urge when he saw Cyranos collapsed on the ground and rushed out of cover. Leguna followed closely behind. His head spun the moment he saw Cyranos. His stomach had been bisected by an orcish stone axe. His innards littered the ground around him. Apart from the injury to his stomach, he had a wound on the left of chest, presumably made by a huge blunt weapon. His sternum was completely obliterated.
"Leguna! Where's the potion?! Quick! I need the potion!"
Leguna hurriedly handed a potion bottle over and took out another bottle to be mixed with some stimulant before rubbing some on Cyranos's temples. Cyranos gradually regained consciousness but he was already at his limits. Kurdak's hands were stained with blood as he fed the whole bottle to him like it cost nothing. After ingesting some potion, his face regained some clarity. Kurdak had already taken the other bottle from Leguna and was preparing to feed it to him as well.
"There's no need to waste it, Kurdak," he said weakly, his head making a barely perceptible shake, "My heart's... crushed."
"Don't speak, brother. You'll survive," said Kurdak as he touched Cyranos's face with his mud and blood-covered hands, dirtying Cyranos's handsome face considerably.
Cyranos's lips shuddered, but he made no sound. He suddenly seemed incredibly excited.
With a final burst of energy, he said, "Quick, go save Vera! Tens of orcs captured her. They headed east! Save her!"
"Vera's alive? Where is she? What happened?" asked Kurdak in a quick flurry.
"We were... attacked by some orcs... Ve... brought... away... save..." his voice faded away.
He stopped moving altogether.
Even though Kurdak could feel the last of his life slip away at a staggering rate, he could do nothing but feel helpless. Cyranos's state was already beyond treatment, only a mythical priest could resurrect him from the dead. Whether such a priest existed on Lance was unknown, and encountering such a person in the middle of the wilderness was far more unlikely than using a single potion to save his life. Kurdak could only hold his comrade, his brother, his life-saver in his arms. A single drop slid down his cheek, then another, and another, and another… Soon the huge man's eyes were fountains spewing forth rivers of salty water.
Leguna had teared up long ago. Even though he couldn't be considered well-acquainted with Cyranos given the little time he had spent with the party, it was only because of the latter's quiet personality.
He knew Cyranos's care for him was no less than Kurdak and Vera's. He recalled the time Cyranos took care of his injuries and tended to his medical needs after their encounter with the quickshadow drakes, as well as the time he gave him pointers when he was sparring with Vera. He remembered the time when Cyranos jumped off the tree at the bear without care for his own life when Kurdak was struck flying.
Cyranos was a quiet man who should've been rather easy to miss at times. But, despite his silence, he played an important part in the lives of those around him, one would only notice how much he did when he was gone.
Some people are like mug handles. On normal days, you wouldn't even be aware of its existence. But once the handle breaks you felt your hand burnt by the mug. It was only then that you would understand the handle's true importance.
Leguna cried, he grieved. What else could he do? The person who had taught him patiently, who had carried his bag when he was tired, who had changed his bandages patiently when he was injured, was no longer with him.
"I pray the brightest stars in the night sky will guide your soul to the promised paradise, my brother," said Kurdak as he closed Cyranos's glassy eyes gently.
He forced himself to toughen up. He still had something to do. Vera was waiting for him. He gradually stood up and checked his equipment before picking up Cyranos's bow. After making sure everything was ready, he looked at Leguna.
"Stop crying, Ley. Let's go save Vera."
Leguna's crying intensified as he tried to speak.
"B-boss... I... I... I don't have the courage... to go! Waaaah!"
Chapter Title: Cyranos' Death
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