"You still came in the end, huh?" Kurdak said to Leguna, "I know it's about time you gave me a kick when I'm down. Come on! I'll never bow my head to you!"
"Tell me the truth," Leguna expressionlessly said.
"The truth is as you see it. Do you still doubt it right now?" Kurdak looked as if he didn't know what Leguna was talking about.
"Tell me!" he said in a low growl. He felt like people were always lying, friend or foe alike. Kurdak on the other hand always tried to take on the burdens himself and shielded Leguna from all troubles.
Sometimes, he was really thankful for that. But always being kept in the dark or protected frustrated him greatly. How could he, the head of the bureau, be the most clueless person in the whole thing?
The reason it happened in the first place was due to the loophole in Fort Kesta. To make up for it, Leguna invested most of his efforts and attention in it. Coupled with the southward movement of the barbarians, Leguna had no time to check on an adjutant of a commanding officer in the southern battlefield.
Yet, it was precisely the disappearance of this adjutant Vera that caused the chain of events to unfold. Currently, the whole of Hocke, not just its military, was riled up by the matter.
Seeing Leguna's temper, Kurdak guessed that he already knew the truth. It was surprising. It was already rather amazing he managed to fool him with the show he put on the first time and he wasn't counting on it to keep him in the dark forever.
"If you already know the truth, why make me repeat it?" he asked with a sigh, knowing that further acting was pointless.
"I want to hear it from your own mouth!" If gazes could kill, Kurdak would be dead by now.
Kurdak merely shook his head wordlessly.
"Why?!" Leguna raised his voice and asked, "Why hide everything from me? Why didn't you let me know and help? Am I your brother or not?"
Kurdak calmly listened to the voice that echoed between the walls. The voice seemed like it was criticizing him nonstop for his actions. Even so, Kurdak had never thought of his actions as mistaken.
The echoes finally faded, but the cell didn't fall silent. Leguna looked like he was hyperventilating from his rage, filling the surroundings with the sound of him breathing.
"I've lived for more than twenty years," he said after giving Leguna a solemn look, "and there are two brothers most important to me."
"The first is my young master, Kohler Smith of the Smith Merchant Guild, later known as Cyranos. But he's dead…"
Leguna kept silent.
Kurdak thought back at the sight of Cyranos's brutalized body. "That kind of feeling… isn't something I want to experience the second time."
"That's why… that's why I had to make sure this doesn't happen again by making sure my other brother doesn't get involved. No matter how angry, confused, or sad he gets, he can do whatever he wants. But no matter what, I won't let him die on my watch. Call me selfish, I don't care. Even if I have another chance, I would do the same thing to my brother all over again. And that person… is you, Ley."
"Boss…" Leguna finally addressed him the way he usually did. It was the only thing that felt right, even after Kurdak's alleged betrayal.
"Ley… I'm sorry…" Kurdak sincerely apologized.
"Boss!" Leguna's frozen heart began to thaw.
"Alright!" Lamir called out from behind. She cut them off and looked at them oddly. "Why does your relationship look so gross?"
"What do you know? It's something only men would understand!" Kurdak and Leguna retorted at the same time. Despite all that happened, their synchronicity was as high as ever.
"Enough! It's not time for you two to fool around!" Lamir mercilessly shut them down and turned to Kurdak. "Kurdak, do you understand your current situation?"
"I'm doomed," Kurdak summarized, before using a tone of a normal greeting to say, "Oh, why are you here?"
"How are you so casual despite knowing you're doomed?!" Lamir's brain-piercing voice was not inferior to Vera's in the slightest. She pointed at Kurdak's nose as she teared up. "Just look… What kind of state are you in? What have you done? Is it really worth it for that woman?"
Kurdak mulled it over in silence before countering with a serious question of his own. "Do you believe I'd do the same thing even if that woman was you?"
"I do," Lamir said without hesitation. If she didn't, she wouldn't have ignored everything and slipped out from Manhattan's control. It wasn't because she had much of a relationship with him to speak with at that time. It was only because of the promise he gave her. With that around, he would do many things.
Lamir's frankness caused Kurdak to blushed. He looked at Leguna awkwardly and saw him staring at him with a respectful gaze. The huge man had been incredibly smooth.
"So…" Lamir said after rubbing her eyes, "Before I left, I asked my grandfather to save Vera and you no matter what."
"What did you say?"
"I asked my grandfather to save the two of you!" Even though she was really ashamed of asking her grandfather for a favor, it seemed like the only way.
She said that she had Eibron let her go and she went to Seatide immediately where Manhattan was stationed. She then pestered him for his help and only rushed here to contact Leguna after that.
If Manhattan stepped up with Leguna helping from the side, saving Vera and Kurdak shouldn't be too hard. At least, that was what Lamir thought.
However, Kurdak fell silent after hearing about it.
Even though Seatide was a southern city, as it was near the coast, the temperature there was quite cold during winter thanks to the sea breeze.
However, that wasn't something Manhattan was worried about. As the commander-in-chief of the Hockian army, he had a comfortable and warm tent to himself.
"Sir, the hot water is ready. You may bathe any time," his adjutant said.
"Thank you." Manhattan put the book in his hand down and nodded.
However, his adjutant didn't leave.
"What is it? Tell me. You've been with me for more than two decades. Surely you understand me well enough by now."
"Sir…" the adjutant grit his teeth and whispered, "Are you… really going to do this?"
"If I don't, what will happen to Kurdak? Lamir would no doubt throw a tantrum at me until my old body finally expires!"
"But… that isn't fair to you, Sir! You've done so much for the sake of the duke and the empire, and now, you have to give up on everything for such a laughable reason! I… I can't understand it!"
"There's nothing to understand." Manhattan smiled and didn't blame his adjutant for speaking beyond his station. He calmly said, "What I'm doing now has nothing to do with my past relationships or the empire. I'm only doing this as a grandfather trying to help his precious granddaughter."
"But… If you let Alfreid do what he wants, he definitely would…"
"That old fox isn't someone who doesn't understand limits. If I do this, he wouldn't do much. Even if he was shameless, the empire isn't," Manhattan said, "I admit that I want him killed, but I haven't had the chance, not over the course of 20 years. Since that's the case, it's better to just give up."
"Why?" The adjutant didn't understand. Was the grudge of losing his son something that could just be laughed off?
"Child," Manhattan said with a pat to the adjutant's shoulder despite the latter already being in his forties, "If you have a person on which all your hopes lie, you can give up many things for their sake."
"Yes. I owe Lamir many things. I wasn't a good grandfather and had never given her a proper family. If there's someone who can make up for my mistakes now, I'm more than willing to make it up for him."
The adjutant knew that Manhattan had made up his mind, and he knew that was set in stone and couldn't be changed. So, he stopped trying to convince him otherwise, but he still stood there without leaving.
"Don't feel bad for me," Manhattan consoled, "If it wasn't for the sake of fighting that old fox, I would've long retired. Since something like this has happened, it's the perfect excuse for me to step down. I need to rest properly after working at this for decades. I'll also be accompanied by my granddaughter's new family too."
"As for Alfreid--" A cold glint flashed across his eyes upon mention of that name. "--That old fox isn't someone to be trifled with, but he made a mistake."
"He offended someone he shouldn't have."
"Well, while that person isn't that smart… He's really lucky. He's so lucky that it had made him invincible." Manhattan recalled the happy-go-lucky youth during their first meeting. What did he do to make so many terrifying people stand on his side?Previous Chapter Next Chapter