A Payout of Five to One!
In the following two days, Leguna recovered from his injuries at Annelotte's place. As he had already told Kurdak he would be off on a mission, his two companions didn't wonder where he was. He also didn't want to worry them about his injuries lest it disturb Kurdak's preparation for his duel.
As Annelotte was the one that suggested he stay while he recovered, he began to see the glacier girl in a different light. He didn't think she was actually such a warm person.
He soon realized he was mistaken. She had indeed been caring when she invited him to stay, but she was by no means warm. While the girl wasn't as quiet as Cyranos, she didn't do small talk like Kurdak or Vera at all. If there was no necessity, she wouldn't say a single word. It made Leguna feel awkward way too often for his liking.
Though she didn't display the hospitality a host should, the medicine she used to treat him was pretty good. She used a greyish-white powder that accelerated his recovery greatly, probably even more than the elementary healing of priests! The powder was probably something fashioned by the mysterious alchemists.
By the end of the first day, his cuts scabbed. By the second the scabbed fell off and revealed brand new pink skin. He left that night out of worry for Kurdak's duel the next day. After bidding Annelotte farewell, he returned to Shining Star alone.
That night, he had a good, long talk with Kurdak and Vera. They came to the conclusion that Kurdak must do his best to survive the duel. Whether he defeated Orwen wasn't important, so long as he was able to walk away alive. Kurdak expressed confidence in being able to do so as Annelotte had already sent him detailed information on his opponent.
While the other two believed everything Annelotte had said, she wasn't able to trick the experienced Kurdak. She had been incredibly forthright when she confronted him in a secret meeting in the afternoon she had made her request to join the party. Not only did she admit she was a member of Moonshadow, she also handed him some documents on Orwen she had prepared.
"Orwen is a member of your guild, right? Why would you help me?" he had asked, confused.
"I admit he is pretty useful when with regards to missions. But his bloodthirsty temperament is too difficult to control. The guild doesn't like things we can't control. We don't lose much in erasing him," Annelotte had replied.
Realization had flashed across Kurdak's eyes.
"Don't lose much? Could that apply to Leguna as well?"
"You're free to make your own conclusions."
Annelotte had only dropped an ambivalent answer before she turned and left.
The next morning, a good number of people gathered near Starfall's eastern gate.
Word of Kurdak and Orwen's duel had been spread all over in the past two days. Even though the four factions and some larger merchant guilds didn't pay attention to the commotion, the duel was quite the topic of discussion among Starfall's casino dwellers.
Kurdak, a warrior of the 8th stratum, had been taking missions with Cyranos in Starfall since their arrival eight years ago. Due to his friendly attitude and incredibly high efficacy, he was well regarded in the Association. Given the inseparable nature of him and Cyranos, some knew them as Starfall's twin mercenary heroes.
Kurdak's leadership skills made him incredibly suited to serve as a squad leader. The Mercenary Association tried on numerous occasions to recruit him into their inner circle. However, every time they were refused with, 'I am used to lazing around at my own pace,' as an excuse. At first, they thought he refused because they hadn't made a good enough offer. However, even after promising to let him take over a whole company, they were still refused. In the end, they came realized he really did mean what he said and stopped trying to recruit him. While Kurdak wasn't a member of the Association's inner circle, it appreciated his wide network among the mercenaries, so they had treated him rather well over the years.
Orwen wasn't as good with people as Kurdak. Despite that, his reputation was probably far more widespread. Ninth stratum assassin Orwen was a member of Moonshadow Thieves who occasionally undertook assassinations to make some extra cash. His reputation soared following the 'Brisonis Incident' that had transpired a year ago.
Brisonis was one of the toughest strongholds built by Hocke on Lance. As most of the continent's inhabitants were exiles from Chino, they didn't hold much of an opinion about the empire. Both sides experienced conflict of varying scales in Silvermoon Forest and Pyros Fields, located east of Silvermoon Forest. The most recent one had come to be called the Brisonis Incident.
Even though the two sides clashed often, it didn't stop trade between the two. However, the noble who held Brisonis Outpost was insidious and greedy, having once withheld a large amount of Pangdor's goods. It forced the merchant guild to hire an assassin from Moonshadow in desperation to get rid of the noble and recover their goods. The one who executed the mission was none other than Orwen.
While killing an opponent of the same stratum wasn't something too difficult, Orwen managed to sneak into the noble's mansion undetected and killed him without anyone noticing. Even though nobody knew the details, it was obvious from the state of Brisonis that the noble had indeed died in the night. It didn't help that his twisted personality and ambitions were bolstered by his rising reputation.
He didn't shy from doing any evil deed given the fear others had of him because of his reputation. He had once set his sights on a farmer's daughter. Not only did he sneak into her residence to violate her, he even killed everyone there to silence them. There were also occasions when Orwen tortured beggars to death to sate his sadistic desires. He had developed a grudge for Kurdak because the man had stopped him from raping the daughter of a shop owner once.
While he could be described as a crazed madman, he was so meticulously careful that many of his crimes went unpunished due to lack of evidence. Even Starfall's enforcers couldn't do much to him. It only served to inflate his infamy, nobody dared to offend him.
Today, Kurdak was going to fight that infamous assassin from Moonshadow to the death. It naturally attracted the attention of many Starfall citizens and mercenaries.
Most were in favor of Kurdak, whether they were good-natured mercenaries or fearful commoners. They all hoped he would rid the city of the pest Orwen.
However, there was still a significant group that supported Orwen, most were hardened, twisted criminals. His amazing crime skills were exemplary to those criminals, some of whom studied the incidents Orwen was allegedly involved in meticulously like they would a textbook. Orwen was these people's idol.
Regardless of the people that supported Kurdak, most would agree he wasn't Orwen's match. After all, Orwen was the assassin who managed to kill the noble in Brisonis. The namesake was far more impressive-sounding than Kurdak's.
"Boss, why did you borrow money from me yesterday?" asked Leguna.
He thought Kurdak wanted to buy some gear to prepare for the duel, so he lent him the gold without hesitation.
However, he couldn't find anything different in his outfit. He couldn't help but wonder where the money had gone.
"What? Oh, I invested it!" said Kurdak cryptically.
"Huh?" Vera shot Leguna a glance because Kurdak had also asked her for her savings.
Neither knew what he had with the money.
"Do you know how much the payout at the underground casino is for my victory?" asked Kurdak.
The two looked at each other again and started to consider an unpleasant possibility which they weren't willing to express.
"Five to one! If I win, the payout will be fivefold! Those blind fools don't think I'll win at all... Hmph, I'll show them. I took out all our party savings and the money you lent me to bet on my victory. A total of 580 gold. Hehe, just imagine how much we will get! We're going to earn 2900 gold today! Hahaha! We're gonna be rich! Hahahaha!" laughed Kurdak heartily when he gradually caved from the excitement and anticipation.
While Kurdak's smile was warm as spring, Vera and Leguna's expressions turned dark as ink the moment they heard what had happened to their money.
"Darn it, you actually dare spend my hard-earned gold on a bet?! You can forget about your duel with Orwen! I'll kill you myself!" cried Vera as she twisted Kurdak's ear a whole 180 degrees.
He cried out in pain. It hurt so much he wanted to do a somersault to get his ear untangled.
"Give me back my money! Otherwise, I'll paint your name all over the inn!"
Leguna was also flipping mad at what Kurdak had done. Though he had just joined the party, he already had tens of gold coins saved. It was the first time he owned so much money in all his life.
He had lent it with great reluctance in consideration for Kurdak's life. He didn't think the man would actually bet it all away.
From the moment Kurdak revealed the truth, the two rebuked and slapped him all the way to the venue. When the audience saw he was already on his last breath, they secretly cheered for having made the right bet. Given that Kurdak didn't seem to stand much of a chance against Orwen in his prime, his loss was even more certain given how badly beaten-up he was.
"Oh, you're here. I thought you turned tail and ran in fear," mocked Orwen with a snicker when he saw Kurdak.
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