Spoils of the Duel
By the time Leguna returned to the inn, Kurdak had already awakened and was chatting with Vera.
"You're quite the idiot, kid," mocked he the moment he saw Leguna.
Apparently, Vera had just told him about how the kid didn't understand what she was trying to do earlier.
"How would I have known," Leguna mumbled as he scratched his head, before he added, "Well, I made up for it."
The two stared at him with gossipy eyes.
"Didn't I walk her home?"
"And then... I came back here," said Leguna confidently.
"No, we want to know what happened before you reached her house," said Vera, slightly annoyed.
"Before? Well, I walked her home," answered Leguna, a little dazed.
"Sheesh, why is talking to you so tiring? I was asking about what happened on the way back!" Vera screamed before she looked at him anticipatorily.
"Sis isn't counting on you to be smart. But you see... A young man and woman walking on the streets in the middle of the night, improving their relationship by talking about their worldviews and thoughts... Do you get what I'm trying to say?"
"Ah!" cried Leguna with an expression that spelled 'why didn't I think of that?!'
"Idiot! I knew I couldn't count on you!"
The moment the two saw his expression, they couldn't help but sigh. Leguna looked at them, unable to say a word.
"Whatever. I didn't hold much hope for you in the first place," sighed Kurdak as he looked at the kid's crestfallen face.
He couldn't bear to say any more.
After some consideration, he said with a serious tone, "Ley, we were just messing with you. Now, I have some proper advice."
"Annelotte... Her background isn't simple. It's best you don't overthink this," explained Kurdak gingerly.
"Boss, I know, I'm not overthinking anything. But, she did save my life..."
"That could be because she had some other goal in mind," said Kurdak while he mocked himself secretly.
Did I have any ulterior motives when I rescued Leguna back then?
"I just hope you'll be a little guarded," warned he conclusively.
Leguna kept silent, he nodded stiffly. Seeing him looking so unwilling to accept his advice, Kurdak could only shake his head helplessly. While the youth was rather wary of strangers, he still hadn't shed his naïveté. He trusted anyone who had shown even the smallest kindness towards him without question. Kurdak was really worried that this naïve kid would be manipulated by others easily, but seeing he was deaf to advice, he didn't say much. He vowed to look out for his little friend in the future so he wouldn't be taken advantage of too much.
"Boss, are you fine?" asked Leguna, trying to change the subject.
"More or less," said Kurdak as he flexed his muscles.
Since the blade didn't injure his heart, he would recover in another two to three days given the adept healing techniques of the priest that had tended to him.
"That quickly?" exclaimed Leguna, surprise.
He'd seen Kurdak's wound and knew Orwen's dagger had pierced all the way. Not only did it cut his flesh, his impetus also heavily damaged his innards. Yet, he said he would recover in just three days with nothing other than the priest's healing?
"Well, it's all thanks to Moonsink Cycle. I've experimented with opening a wound on my hand. It didn't even take five minutes to heal completely," said Kurdak with a laugh.
"That doesn't mean you can count on it during your battle! Turning away before the battle ended? You were practically asking to be backstabbed!" complained Vera.
The things that transpired during the duel had shocked her greatly.
"Hehe, I didn't think Orwen would be that dastardly," confessed Kurdak embarrassed.
Kurdak had actually done that so the crowd wouldn't think him a cold-blooded killer. While killing during a duel wasn't against the rules, if he'd really killed Orwen -- who was no longer able to resist -- it would no doubt have revolted at least part of the audience. It would ruin the reputation he'd spent so many years building up. So, he left the choice to Orwen. If he left just like that, Kurdak naturally wouldn't have stopped him.
He wasn't too worried about Orwen's vengeance either. After their duel, Kurdak learned that Orwen was just a twisted madman slightly stronger than the rest. Since Vera was always by his side, she wouldn't be in danger. As for Leguna, with Moonshadow secretly protecting him, the guild wouldn't let someone they paid so much attention to die by little Orwen's hands.
And, if Orwen did attack even after being spared, he could kill him without worry for his reputation. Not only would he feel more relieved that he no longer had to worry about such a troubled person, he could even improve his reputation by removing such a pest on behalf of others. It was killing two birds with one stone.
According to his understanding of the guy, he knew he would retaliate nine out of ten times. So, he paid attention to his back the moment he exposed it. He just didn't think he would be that fast. So fast that Kurdak almost lost his life. Fortunately, Moonsink Cycle allowed him to remain mobile after taking the hit. Otherwise, he might not have made it out of the predicament alive.
If it were before, he would naturally not worry about the views of some adventurers and go out of his way to bait Orwen. But ever since he consumed the odd potion, even though he didn't show it on the surface, it had become a major worry. He knew there wasn't much time left for him, and, while he didn't think much about dying, it pained him to have to leave his two companions behind.
Even though Vera acted tough, she wasn't nearly as reliable as she wanted others to think. Leguna, on the other hand... Kurdak wasn't confident on the reliability of a kid that can't even flirt with a girl properly. Given that Cyranos had left this world, Kurdak couldn't help but worry about leaving his two unreliable teammates to survive on their own in such a dangerous world.
So, he came up with a way to ensure the two would have an easier time once he left. The reputation he intended to build was one of them. The Mercenary Association would definitely watch out for the two on account of his legacy.
The other was money. He was incredibly confident in his chances in the duel, so he bet all the money they had. He had actually bet 800 gold instead of just 580. With Cyranos's death, the party funds had fallen to Kurdak. He had secretly pawned Cyranos's valuables behind the others' backs and got another 200 gold to bet. While he felt a little bad for Cyranos, he had to base his decisions on the ones still alive instead of brooding over the dead. Even if it would incur the other two's wrath if it were leaked, He would still make the same choice. And, in some way, he felt thankful to Orwen for that. He had already come up with that idea the moment Orwen tried to provoke him, and Annelotte's help reassured him of his chances.
Now, not only had he eliminated an enemy that had a grudge against him, he also got the public's acknowledgment and earned 2000 gold. He'd really outdone himself this time. Having earned so much from a single duel, he couldn't help but be tempted by the prospect of betting on himself after challenging other people. At first, Vera had wanted to lecture him a bit more, but seeing his pale face, she forced the words back down her throat and thought of something consolatory to say instead.
Knowing that Vera didn't like to reveal her soft side, he thanked her warmly. He didn't dare tease her. If he really did in his injured state, he might really make her commit manslaughter.
Kurdak remained bedridden in the inn, but he didn't get Vera to claim the gold he won on his behalf. He felt it was something he should deal with himself and that it was better to hide the whole business from her. What made him wonder, however, was how Leguna didn't spend much time at the inn because of the missions the guild had given him, and how frequently Vera went out without bothering to care about a sick man like him, much to his displeasure.
Actually, Vera was actively seeking out news about treasures that could extend one's lifespan. Ever since Annelotte had reminded them of Kurdak's condition during the meal, she had been fraught with worry. She checked on him every morning as if she was worried he would pass away without anyone noticing. Every time she saw his face, she reaffirmed her resolve to find something to extend his lifespan. She had been going out early in the morning to visit places all over the city to seek out information. She could be seen in places like casinos, black markets, shops, inns, and guild plazas.
Kurdak soon discovered this fact and felt all the more moved when. Though he tried to tell her to calm down and take her time, she didn't let up. She even had a fight with him over the matter. Unable to do anything, Kurdak had to leave her to her own devices. He prayed she would cool down soon, though.
He used the little free time he had left and visited the casino to claim his 4800-gold reward, which he used to buy back Cyranos's items he'd pawned. He spent the rest of his rest days doing some light exercises before he turned to drool at the pile of gold coins.
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