Kurdak and his Father-In-Law
"Vera, is it really you?"
The middle-aged man struggled to stand up but was ultimately unable to, given that both his hands and feet were bound.
Noticing that something was off, Leguna hurriedly used his dagger to sever the ropes binding the man's legs. While Vera had already made the identity of that man known, he didn't release the bindings around his hands as a precaution.
"Father!" greeted Vera as she cut off the ropes binding his hands without hesitation.
She observed him closely. Nine years had passed and the man was no longer as glorious and tough as he had been back then. His hair had also whitened considerably.
"Vera... You... Didn't you..."
The man stuttered as he tried to ask whether Vera was dead. But he didn't dare say it, as if the act itself was a curse that would make it become true. Understanding what the man meant, she shook her head.
"No, back then, Big Brother stopped the orcs and allowed Balor and I to escape."
"Balor's alive?" asked the man as excitement flashed through his eyes, "Where? Where is he?"
Vera was initially speechless, but she steeled her courage in the end and told her father everything.
"So that's what happened," said the man with a nod.
Looking at Vera's eyes, red from crying, he consoled, "It's not your fault, my child. I'm already thankful that you, my sole kin, are still alive and well."
But you actually have two... thought Leguna. He was tempted to tell them the truth when Vera was recounting her experiences, but he managed to suppress the urge after much hesitation.
Seeing how apologetic Vera looked, the middle-aged man didn't want to dwell on the past any longer. So, he changed the subject.
"What happened afterwards? Where did you go and how did you end up here?"
Vera wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes.
"After that, I escaped to Starfall and met two mercenaries. I joined their party and have been with them ever since. Just recently, Eye of Arcana offered a bounty in exchange for orc ears and the flatlands have become a warzone. That's why we're here. What about you, father? How have your years been?"
The middle-aged man nodded.
"Back then, I set out to hunt and encountered a rather decent prey. So, I followed it a little further than I usually would. But when I made it back home, I saw that horrid scene. I was so desperate I went all over to look for you, but I could only find your mother and elder brother's corpses in the end..."
The man paused from the anguish he felt at recalling what had happened. After regulating his emotions, he continued.
"After that, I buried the two and set out to look for the two of you. But after a year of fruitless searching, I despaired and gave up all hope. So, I brought my belongings and barged into orcish territory and started killing everything in sight. That's how I've spent the last eight years."
His audience was shocked. Vera's father had survived alone inside the orcs' territory for eight years! They couldn't imagine how he'd spent all that time. How did it feel for him to be able to resist the endless loneliness and fear that came with surviving alone in orcish territory?
The middle-aged man smiled warmly before a trace of hatred flashed across his eyes.
"They took everything from me, so I wouldn't let them rest peacefully even if it cost me my life."
"I am a bad daughter for having let you suffer all this time," muttered Vera.
She appeared on the verge of tears again.
"I am the one who's failed my responsibility as a father. I couldn't even protect my family..."
Tears could be seen welling up in the corner of the old man's eyes. While he had wanted to hug Vera and cry together to vent his pent-up feelings, he didn't feel it was appropriate after noticing the two spare wheels staring at them dumbstruck. Looking at the two jokers, the man humphed and said in a mocking tone.
"So these're your two mercenary friends? It seems that they've saved my life too!"
Since Vera didn't know what happened before she came over, she thought her father wanted her to introduce them to him. She pointed at Leguna.
"This here is Leguna, our party's assassin. While he looks rather petite, he's rather strong and reliable."
"Nice to meet you. I'm Leguna, 11th-stratum assassin," replied the kid as he stretched out his hand.
Since the man was Vera's father, someone he absolutely could not offend, he quickly forgot about the displeasing interaction they'd had before and offered his greetings.
The man wasn't one to hold grudges either. However, after suffering the torturous treatment of the orcs for the last couple of days, he was in a rather bad mood. Given how Kurdak had accused him of being a spy for the ones he hated so much right after he regained consciousness, it was no wonder he lost his cool. Seeing Leguna acting friendly, he thought a senior like him shouldn't concern himself with the previous transgression.
With a smile, he said, "Nice to meet you, kid. I'm Ferd. Ferd Trikel."
Just as Ferd was going to shake Leguna's hand, Kurdak stepped in and made his move.
The hunk towering over 1.9 meters knocked Leguna flying two meters to the side.
"Ahahahaha! So you're Uncle Ferd! I've long heard about you. Vera brings you up often when we talk! She often tells me about how heroic you were as well as your magnificent archery skills. Now, I finally get to meet the legend himself! Oh, look at how rude I'm being. Let me introduce myself. I'm Kurdak, 24, 1.9 meters and 104 kilograms. With decent features and a great personality, not to mention having nothing to do with drinking, smoking, gambling or prostitution, I consider myself a man among men! Ahahaha! Also, I should mention that while Leguna was the one who saved you this time, I was the one who arranged it! I heard not long ago that a human was taken captive by orcs, so I sent him to make a rescue. But never would I have imagined that it would be you! Just look here..."
Kurdak shook Ferd's hand in the warmest manner as he blabbered on. His look practically spelled.
'Uncle, I am one of the best men out there and nobody else will be any competition when it comes to the position as your son-in-law!'
Rather disoriented by the furious shaking, Ferd turned to Vera and gave her a look of confusion.
Vera explained in an embarrassed and annoyed tone.
"This is Kurdak, our party leader. He was the one who took me in back then."
While Ferd had traveled alone for nine years, he was a man of rich experience and had instantly realized the deeper implications of the situation. He gave Kurdak, who was blabbering about like a madman, a blank stare and turned back to Vera.
"My daughter... You have such... an odd taste in men."
Vera's face flushed before she gave the incessantly yapping Kurdak an angry punch. Seeing his boss knock him flying and act so friendly with Ferd that he almost seemed like he wanted to kiss him, Leguna couldn't help but feel ashamed.
He went forward and grabbed hold of Kurdak's arm.
"Boss, Boss, control yourself. I bet you were never that nice to your own father, right?"
"Scram!" barked the man as he swung Leguna away before hissing, "It's not like I'll get a wife by sucking up to my own father!"
Just as the rest were about to get sick of how gross Kurdak was being, something moved in Annelotte's tend.
"Come, Father, here's another one of my comrades. She's Annelotte. We usually just call her Annie," said Vera as she interrupted Kurdak to introduce her father to the new presence.
Ferd looked at the young maiden and couldn't help but gasp. During the past two years, Annelotte had only grown to become even more beautiful. Her snowy skin looked so delicate it might crumble from a puff. Her refined features had also shed their childish air and looked alluring with a hint of energy. Due to Leguna and the others' influence, her demeanor had changed quite a bit. While she still retained her cool air, she felt more clever and cunning than she used to.
What left the deepest impression on Ferd, however, was her long and gentle, icy blue hair. As she had just woken up not long ago, two strands of hair stood unkempt atop her head, giving her an extra airheaded charm.
"What a beautiful girl!" Ferd exclaimed, "It's my first time seeing someone as pretty as you in my long life. Nice to meet you, I'm Ferd, Vera's dad."
Annelotte analyzed the surroundings in two seconds before she shook Ferd's hand.
"Nice to meet you, Mister. I'm Annelotte."
The simple introductions soon concluded. As Ferd was still rather badly injured, Kurdak generously provided two bottles of healing potion. Ferd didn't have any trouble accepting the bottles. After all, his daughter was already Kurdak's, so two meager potions were nothing much. As it was still rather difficult for Ferd to move freely, the lot decided to return to Starfall. After all, Leguna had netted them quite a few orc ears last night and their excursion was already more than worth it.
Just as they were about to depart, a few silhouettes appeared on the horizon.
"Hey, heads up. There seems to be a situation," warned Kurdak.
It was a human party roughly 20 men strong led by a young, chubby magus clad in a brownish-yellow robe. They were headed for them.
"Oh, it's Young Master Farsi from Eye of Arcana," said Kurdak with a smile.
He was one of the Eye's main targets for development and it was rumored he was a fire guide. Despite his young age, he was already in the 14th stratum.
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