Actually a Little Cutie
Leguna's face twitched as he spoke.
"Boss, are you messing with me?"
"That's not it, Ley," Kurdak said seriously, shaking his head, "I really want you to join us. However, I have to be responsible for my party members as the leader. If you're only cooperating with us in the short term, then there's no need to worry about it. But since you're joining us for good, I have to make sure you're not a freeloader. That's why I want to give you a test. If you can complete the test, you will gain the recognition of the entire party. We can only trust each other if we recognize each other's abilities and trust is the key to a party's survival. I also need to have a grasp of your abilities so I won't give you instructions you can't carry out. If I did, it wouldn't just be bad for you, but also for everyone else in the party."
"Then," Leguna prodded carefully, "What if I don't pass?"
"Well... I can only apologize for not letting you join," Kurdak said blankly.
"I knew it, you're messing with me," said Leguna as his facial muscles tightened.
"Come on, a young guy like you should have more confidence in yourself! Kurdak won't intentionally make it hard for you. Don't worry!" said Vera as she patted on Leguna's shoulders.
"Hey, let me get this out first. If you can't pass the test, I definitely won't let you join the party, alright?" said Kurdak smiling.
"Tch, you're just putting up a front. I don't believe you'll actually stop him from joining," commented Vera softly without Leguna hearing it.
"When is the test?" asked the boy sourly.
"Let's do it tomorrow. You'll wash up today, get some clothes, and rest. I'll tell you about the test tomorrow and get you some necessary tools and equipment while we're at it," Kurdak said after some thought, "Oh, and, are your injuries fine?"
Leguna moved all his limbs before he nodded.
"Just about," said he.
"That fast?" Kurdak asked, a little surprised, "But your wounds were sewn together just days ago!"
"Perhaps it's because I was beaten frequently since the first day I can remember," Leguna smiled bitterly, "I've been pummeled worse than this but no matter how bad it was, I was always fine after two weeks. The medicine Cyranos gave me worked great. I managed to heal in just a week."
"Oh, poor Leguna," said Vera as she ruffled the boy's hair.
"What a weird one you are," Kurdak muttered, "Come on, follow us. We'll make you more presentable so others don't think you're some feral pet we picked up."
You're the one that looks like a wild bear! commented Leguna under his breath as he struggled to get away from Vera's hand.
"Hey, I already bought the clothes and put it on the table near the door. It should more or less fit, so wear them for now. Seriously though, are you made of mud or something? This is the third bucket of water and you're still not completely clean!" said Kurdak through the steamy room.
"Hehe… I haven't been able to clean up properly," said Leguna, a little embarrassed.
Strictly speaking, he should've omitted the word 'properly' from his sentence. It was his first time bathing. It took him quite a while to figure out how to use soap nuts to wash his hair. He was quite embarrassed at how the first bucket turned completely black so quickly. He had to ask for another bucket after just a few moments. When the second bucket turned dark just as quickly, Kurdak asked the inn owner to send up one more bucket.
After going through three whole buckets, Leguna was finally clean. The clothes Kurdak bought fit rather nicely. They were neither too big nor too small.
"Hah! Before, you looked like a muddy monkey, but now you're all cleaned up, you're starting to resemble a decent human being! I have to take back what I said before. I think you might stand a chance at adoption right now," said Kurdak as he looked at the youth and nodded with satisfaction.
Vera's reaction was far stronger than Kurdak's.
"Wowowow! What a beautiful little boy! Leguna's actually a little cutie, isn't he? Come on, let Big Sis have a hug!"
She walked over and gave Leguna a suffocating bear hug as she spoke. It was hard to say whether he was worth envying or pitying. Given his short stature, he didn't even reach up to the tall Vera's chin, even when he straightened his back completely. Vera was also wearing tall leather boots so she would look more attractive, which only added to his predicament.
It ended with Leguna's head stuffed into Vera's full bosom. He had to struggle just to breath. Vera, on the other hand, had no self-awareness. She saw nothing but a cute little boy. The more she looked, the cuter he looked, and it made her hug him even more. She didn't want to let go at all. Leguna, on the verge of passing out, was only released once Vera noticed Kurdak and Cyranos' odd gazes.
"Huff... I'm not a little kid! Puff... I only look a little young for my age! Agh... If you do this again... I'll get mad!" protested he, his face completely red.
No one knew whether his current complexion was because of arousal or asphyxiation.
"Come on, Big Sis is just fooling around with you. Don't get mad," said Vera casually.
She found the youth more interesting as time passed.
"Tch, now you're acting like the good kid after enjoying the goods!" snapped Kurdak.
Leguna turned to look at Kurdak and saw two words that might as well have been written on his cheeks: envy and jealousy. The word 'hatred' was also almost visible on his forehead. Cyranos, on the other, hand merely looked at him oddly.
"I'm just a kid. There's no way I can compete with real men like Boss and Cyranos."
Leguna's expression quickly changed into one of a cunning merchant. His smile didn't come anywhere near his eyes.
"I can't be bothered to talk bullcrap with you! Come over and tell me of what you're capable. I need to know so I can come up with a fitting test," said Kurdak, not bothering to show him any kindness.
"Huh? I thought you already had something in mind!" exclaimed Leguna, confused.
"Idiot! If I'm going to test you, it's going to be on how far your capabilities extend, right? If you're a magus, would it make sense for me to test your strength?" barked Kurdak.
Leguna wiped Kurdak's saliva off his face and flattered, "Oh, Boss! You're too profound for me. You are very wise!"
"Of course. How would I be the party leader otherwise?" Kurdak said with a satisfied look, "So, tell me what you can do. Tell me about the things at which you excel."
"Umm... Does eating a lot count?" asked Leguna after some deep thought.
"No way in hell!" Kurdak retorted, sending another wave of saliva sputtering on Leguna's face, "Please take this more seriously. Are you tough in fights? Fast? Can you sneak around well? Do you have good eyesight? Tell me something useful!"
"Umm... Boss, I wonder if this counts as a skill," said he as he showed off the thing in his hand.
"What?! Sheesh, Leguna! When did you take my money pouch?!" exclaimed Vera.
Leguna rubbed his nose embarrassedly.
"It's a habit of mine. I couldn't help myself when it was practically asking to be taken. Don't blame me."
Vera snatched the pouch and stowed it hurriedly.
Vera put the pouch away without counting the coins inside. Leguna couldn't help but feel a trace of joy scratch at his throat when he noticed.
"Of course! That's one skill. What else?" asked Kurdak as he nodded.
"Well, I can pick locks pretty well... I managed to earn quite a bit back in Chino with only two iron needles," Leguna said before he paused in thought.
"Even though I've never really tried it before, I think I'm rather good at blending in and not being noticed."
"Looks like you're a born thief!" said Kurdak.
"I had no choice... I had to do this to survive," said the boy uncomfortably.
"So, you're basically a rogue? Hmm, a rogue... Alright, I got it," answered Kurdak after some thought.
After making sure the child was asleep, Kurdak and the rest met up.
"I really don't understand... Why are the folks of Moonshadow doing this? Ley isn't here to harm us, is he?" asked Vera as she furrowed her brow.
"Are you an idiot?" Kurdak glared, "We've never done anything to antagonize the Moonshadow Thieves' Guild. They have no reason to harm us. Also, if Moonshadow really wants to get rid of us, all they have to do is send someone to capture us and do their worst back at their base. It makes no sense to do something so overly roundabout like sending someone to join the party."
"I agree with Kurdak," nodded Cyranos.
"That's why," Kurdak said as he shrugged, "We don't have to care too much about the details. Let's just treat this like any other mission. Since we've received the payment, we'll just do as they say. There's no point in pondering too much."
"You're right, Mister Kurdak. You're smarter than you look, you know?" said the voice of a stranger.
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