"Since you guys have caused enough trouble, I wonder if it's our turn to act?"
The Association's guards had long taken note of the situation when Leguna first struck. But according to their regulations, they didn't interfere and try to keep it from escalating. They watched on with indifference. When they were certain the matter had concluded, they began to consider the punishment based on the amount of trouble caused.
While Orwen did attempt to kill during the fight, thanks to Annelotte's timely interference, no lives were lost nor were the Association's facilities damaged. Leguna was the only one who hurt his left arm slightly, so the punishment wouldn't be severe.
"I believe the onlookers, even Kurdak, can't deny it was this youth who struck first. This fight started because of him. I was only defending myself."
Orwen shifted the blame to Leguna without hesitation.
"I've seen underhanded men before, but none as shameless as you! You were defending yourself, you say?! You almost killed Leguna!" Kurdak barked through gritted teeth before he turned to the guards and explained, "Actually, this youth didn't have much to do with this matter. It all started between Orwen and me."
"Did the boy lash out first?" All the guard was interested in was who made the first move.
Kurdak attempted to explain, but the guard waved his hand to cut Kurdak off.
"Alright, since it was the boy who started this, he'll come with us. We'll deal with the rest here."
"Please wait, this matter doesn't have much to do with him! It's all because of me!" said Kurdak as he stood to block the guard.
Furrowing his brow, the guard glared at Kurdak.
"Get out of the way."
"The boy has the least to do with this. I also fought. You should just bring me away," said Vera.
The guard looked at Vera and back at Kurdak before his expression darkened.
"Are you trying to obstruct the Association?"
"No matter what, you can't bring him away like this," said Vera as she shook her head.
While she didn't say it loudly, her words were filled with resolve.
Leguna looked at the two and sighed before he pushed them away.
"Take me away. I was the one who started it all."
"Shut up, Ley!" barked Kurdak as he tried to hold the youth back.
While a newcomer like Leguna didn't know about the Association's regulations, experienced mercenaries like Kurdak knew them all too well.
Even the rowdiest and crudest men left the Association behaving like an obedient girl. While they were forbidden to speak of what the Association had done, a tinge of primal fear could be seen in their eyes whenever they recalled it. That was why Kurdak wasn't willing to let a boy half his age be taken away by the Association no matter what.
"Boss, don't worry," Leguna said as he agilely dodged between the two to arrive in front of the guard, "If I follow you, those two will be fine, right?"
Seeing the youth taking responsibility for his actions despite his age, the guard couldn't help but inwardly praise his character. He nodded.
"Yes. Since you're the one who started the fight, as long as you accept your punishment, they will be let off with the fine of a few gold coins."
"Then, let's go," said Leguna with a nod.
"Ley, you better get your ass back here! Who said this decision was yours to make?!" bulked Kurdak.
He stretched out his hand only to have it caught by the guard.
"Hey there, calm down. Just look at the current situation. If you really try anything, this matter will really escalate further," warned the guard softly as he gave the other mercenaries around a sweep of his gaze.
"Then, what about him..."
Kurdak knew that, given the presence of so many people, if he really did cause more trouble, and if Orwen fanned the flames even more, his whole party might be doomed.
"Don't worry. Since this matter isn't that serious, all we will do is to give him a beating to teach him a lesson. Won't you trust me?" said the guard in an attempt to calm him.
Looking at the guard, Kurdak acquiesced.
"Alright, I'll trust you this time. But if anything happens to the kid..."
"What will you do? It's not like you can defeat me," said the guard as he rolled his eyes at Kurdak, annoyed.
"Kurdak! Calm down. This is already the best we can hope for."
Kurdak gave Leguna a glance and saw the latter nod before he left with the guards.
"Oh, I really hope the kid can come back alive. Joke's on him for being so rash," said Orwen in his irritating voice.
"Orwen!" growled Kurdak as he cracked his knuckles.
The sound of bones cracking was audible even through the gloves he wore.
Taking them off, Kurdak flung them at Orwen's chest.
The people around them were discussing the incident and what Kurdak had just did caused an even bigger commotion. He had just demanded a duel! While Starfall wasn't a place where the empire's laws were enforced, the Federation of Nine Cities prohibited violent conflict in public areas. The citizens on Lance were not like the common folk of Chino. Even the owner of the bakery opposite Shining Star had impetus of the second stratum. In a city filled with fighters, most of the folk saw dealing with others by the power of the law humiliating. Not only that, the federation's laws were filled with loopholes and failed to protect the rights of many. Dueling had become an accepted method of resolving conflict as a result. When someone threw their glove at another, they were demanding a duel. If the other party picked the glove up, they had accepted the challenge. The challenged was the one to suggest the place and time and any additional terms. When both parties came to an agreement, the duel was official.
Orwen didn't look the least bit surprised, this was what he was aiming for the whole time. Strictly speaking, he didn't have a grudge of any sort with Kurdak. But somehow, he hated the huge man ever since they met and would not shy away from a chance to get rid of him for good.
"Kurdak!" cried Vera, surprised.
She didn't think Kurdak would be so rash, given how obvious it was from the fight that he was slightly weaker than Orwen. Kurdak didn't say anything. He just only gave her a comforting smile.
Orwen laughed as he picked up the gloves.
"The Association shall bear witness to the duel. It will take place three days from now at the east gate and any weapon is allowed," said he disdainfully.
"You can't coat your weapons in poison either!" added Vera.
Even though she still wanted to stop the duel, Orwen had already accepted it. Should Kurdak back out now, he wouldn't be able to live in Starfall any longer. All she could do was negotiate better terms.
"No problem!" Orwen agreed confidently, knowing Kurdak's strength roughly, "As for the victory condition..."
"It's a fight to the death!" barked Kurdak.
Even though he had tried to resist Orwen's former provocations, Orwen's most recent attempt made the rage in him well up to the point he could no longer stand it.
"No problem!" Orwen's expression changed to that of a hateful, insidious smile.
"You're insane!" cried Vera.
She was already worried about Kurdak's chances, and, given that Orwen was a member of Moonshadow, he definitely would have more tricks up his sleeve than could be counted. A fight to the death was rather dangerous for Kurdak. She hurriedly held him.
"Don't joke around! Don't forget who he is!"
Leguna was still nearby. He had stopped when the crowd clamored after Kurdak threw his glove to issue the challenge. His mind blanked out completely when the man had asked for a death match.
He knew how dangerous it was after experiencing Orwen's mysterious movement ability. Had Annelotte not interfered, he would've been a cold corpse by now. While he was confident in Kurdak's chances in a normal duel, he had to stop the deathmatch no matter what.
"Boss! Boss!" Leguna rushed over after he informed the guard.
"What are you doing? Didn't you ask me to think twice before I act days ago? Why are you betting your life all of a sudden? You don't have to go this far!"
"Go away, kid. I was teaching you a lesson for your own good. I will do what I want. This is a different matter entirely," said Kurdak as he tried to fling Leguna, who was clutching his arm, away.
"Boss, calm down! Haste makes waste!" cried Leguna.
"Go and take your punishment! Stop bugging me!"
Kurdak couldn't be bothered to hear his nagging.
"Boss, he's far too dangerous! You got to calm down!" cried Leguna as he was hauled away by the guards.
"Do you have any other requests? Anything you'd prefer I not use in our duel?" asked Orwen mockingly.
Kurdak shook his head.
"Well then," said Orwen with his face sinister, "I'll come claim your life in three days."
Kurdak merely humphed without retorting and left with Vera.
"You're really too rash," said Vera worriedly.
"I'm confident in my chances against an underhanded person like that," Kurdak said with a smile, "And Leguna's not the only one who improved either. I'm already in the ninth stratum."
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