"If you're trying to puzzle me with nonsense, I advise you to stop!" Alfreid seemed rather annoyed by the sight of Kurdak's intense pondering.
Even though he had many questions about Balor, Kurdak knew that there were more important things to discuss. He organized his thoughts and said, "Then, let's hear your real goal."
"My goal is simple: to eliminate you," Alfreid said without hesitation.
"If that really were the case, there'd be no sense in talking to me like that," he said, unmoved.
"Smart. I was only trying to set the mood with that," he said with a rare smile.
"Alright, then. Tell me. What do you want to let Vera, and perhaps even me, go?" Kurdak wasn't humored by Alfreid's joke. He seemed rather annoyed by it, in fact.
"Let you go?" Alfreid smirked, causing a few visible wrinkles to mark his face. "Do you think I would let a nemesis whose family I exterminated go?"
"The one you're talking about is the young master, Kohler Smith, later known as Cyranos. If your goons aren't incompetent, you should know that he's long dead, right? Cyranos died a few years ago. There's nobody left in the Smith family to take revenge against you," he said expressionlessly.
"But isn't Ironblood Greatbear Kurdak a sentimental and loyal fellow? I'd expect you to help someone you got along so well for two decades to exact revenge."
"I almost killed Leguna a few days ago, you know," Kurdak reminded.
"You can fool others with this, but not me." Alfreid didn't give a reason as to why he believed that.
"Fine. Sheesh, negotiating with old foxes like you sure is a pain. Then, tell me what you want me to do to let Vera go," Kurdak said, rolling his eyes, "Cease this pointless banter. Just name a reasonable price we both can be happy with."
"It's simple. I want Sir Dark Requiem to stand on my side," he said.
"Are you an idiot? Ley and Geoffrey famously don't get along. Do you think he'd ever help him?"
"I never brought His Highness up even once," he said with a sly smile, "I mentioned my side."
Kurdak felt a chill down his spine. So Alfreid doesn't want Ley to help Geoffrey, but him? What does he want him to do? What are his plans? Is he really going to…
"What in the world do you want?!" he growled.
"Don't be so tense, young man."
By now, the gap between Kurdak and the premier became painfully obvious. Even when he was talking about a possible coup, Alfreid's expression didn't change in the slightest. Kurdak, on the other hand, left his nervousness plain for all to read on his face. What kind of mental strength did that old fox have?
Alfreid shrugged casually. "Everyone has their own plans, you see. I only want to get something for myself."
"Don't you worry I might let others know about this?" Kurdak threatened.
"By all means, go ahead." Alfreid shrugged without a care in the world. "Well, there are a few problems with that, you see. First, you can't leave here. Second, even if you did, who would believe you? You're just someone who betrayed everyone. You'd only be seen as a rambling madman."
Kurdak didn't respond. Alfreid was right. Apart from Leguna and the rest, there was nobody else who would believe him. Even if it had something to do with Leguna, Kurdak couldn't tell him about it. It wouldn't matter even if he did. He had no direct proof. Mere rumors weren't nearly convincing enough. Alfreid was the premier of the empire and it wasn't uncommon for rumors about him to pop up from time to time.
"What happens if I refuse then?" Kurdak asked, "Do Vera and I die?"
"Are you saying you aren't going to cooperate no matter what?" Alfreid asked.
"Based on what you're letting me know, I can't accept," Kurdak said with a firm shake of his head. "I have to admit. You're dangerous, very much so. However, Ley isn't that much of a schemer. Without Annie and Arikos's help, that brat couldn't have gained control over the bureau in the first place. So, I definitely won't let that fool join your side. You'd just cast him into the fiery pits."
Alfreid looked a little disappointed. "Actually… you're the one who's pushing him into the pit of fire. Everyone in the empire knows that it pays better to be my friend than my enemy."
"Then prove it to me," Kurdak said with a glint in his eye. He believed Alfreid was hiding something from him. Perhaps he could change his mind if presented with more information. He wasn't just deciding for Leguna's sake, it was also for his own and Vera's. Why wouldn't he do what Aflreid said if it meant the two of them could survive?
Alfreid considered it but shook his head in the end. "No, I can only tell you so much. You have to make your decision based on this alone."
Kurdak hesitated for a moment. He recalled what befell Cyranos's family. He knew that Alfreid was a dangerous person both to his enemies and to his friends. In Leguna's case, it would be far better for him to stay enemies with Alfreid than end up getting backstabbed by an ally. Ironically, Leguna, the assassin, should've been the expert in backstabbing.
Kurdak shook his head firmly. He would never kick Leguna off a cliff for his and Vera's sakes. He couldn't bring himself to do something like this!
"Impossible! I definitely won't convince him to join you! That's just playing with fire!" Kurdak said firmly. He was already prepared to see Vera's cold corpse. One was his lover and the other his brother. He would rather lose his lover than be a burden to Leguna, and he believed Vera would choose the same too. After all, she was his woman!
"I had told His Highness that it wasn't possible from the get-go…" Alfreid sighed with disappointment and left without a word.
"Hey! What are you going to do to Vera?" he yelled with his hand around the bars.
Alfreid turned around with a teasing, contemptuous expression. He looked like an observer watching fools being bewildered by a maze. It only served to infuriate Kurdak further.
"If my guesses are right, you must think I'm acting against you because I figured out who you were and your ties to Smith Merchant Guild, right?" Alfreid asked in a mocking tone.
"You're telling me it isn't?" From his perspective, his real identity was indeed rather dangerous and sensitive.
"Fool! Your looks might've fooled me, but I see that I've overestimated you! You're nothing but a snot-nosed brat who can't see beyond what's in front of him!"
"Are you indirectly calling me old?!" Kurdak spat. Somehow, over the past few years, he was affected by Leguna's contagious non-serious personality.
Alfreid simply said, "Your luck is pretty good. At least, this time around, it is. But I have to warn you on account of some people… It's best if you leave here. Go back to your simple continent of Lance! This place is not for a dimwit like you!"
"What the?! You insult my intelligence too?! Come here! I'll give you some math problems even you'll have a hard time solving!"
Alfreid ignored the crazy man and left with the torch, leaving Kurdak in the dark.
Kurdak continued his cursing a little more and stopped after he was sure Alfreid had left. He sat back on the straw bed and wracked his brains, but wasn't able to figure anything out.
However, there was one thing he was certain of. Since Alfreid asked him to go back to Lance, it seemed like he and Vera weren't going to die after all. What was Alfreid trying to achieve by going about the whole thing in such a roundabout manner?
He felt really uneasy being kept in the dark like that, but it didn't supersede the pain he felt for Londo's death. If Alfreid wasn't even trying to kill him in the first place, wouldn't Londo's death have been in vain?Previous Chapter Next Chapter