Balor and Farsi
The small red hand mark on Leguna's face was still visible when Kurdak saw him but he wore an ecstatic smile. Behind him was Annelotte with her usual immutable expression: ice cold; it wouldn't melt even after a millennium in the sun. It was a rare sight to see her eyebrows slightly raised. It betrayed the anger and astonishment she currently felt. It combined with the eye-catching pink tint to her cheeks to take on a completely different flavor.
Though lovers should only have eyes for each other, Kurdak had no choice but to admit the beauty Annelotte currently radiated wasn't something with which Vera could hope to compare. Upon seeing the sight, he tried to imagine what had happened between the two. A few seconds later, he gasped with surprise and gave Leguna a wholehearted thumbs-up.
"Hehe... Hehehe..." laughed the kid softly.
He didn't dare laugh out loud after feeling the chilling killing intent from the girl behind him.
"If this happens again, I'll kill you."
Annelotte used the exact words Leguna had said to Farsi.
Leguna turned around and nodded furiously.
"It was just an accident... My body moved without my permission. Don't be mad, okay?"
The girl couldn't be bothered to deal with the shameless youth. She just gave him a furious glare before leaving.
As they had fought through the night, the squad rested until noon. They only discussed the rest of their trip once afternoon came round. Kurdak felt they had earned quite a bit, and, given the released orc captives had made their presence known, it was about time they left. But Farsi didn't agree. The orc captives would only know where they had last seen the squad. There was no way they could be certain where they would go; it wouldn't be a problem. He also felt merely taking care of an orc company and settlement wasn't a result good enough to bring back. He wanted to take a spin around other parts as well. Given that they had a rather detailed map, it wouldn't be too much trouble either.
Since Farsi had already made the decision, the mercenaries tagging along didn't say anything. They spent the rest of the afternoon traveling and set up camp at nightfall. They would arrive at an orc-controlled iron mine the next day. If they could occupy it, Farsi would have more than enough results to show for his excursion.
When night fell, the fatigue built up over days of traveling and fighting caught up with the group. Apart from a few ordered to stay up for night watch, everyone was snoring away in their tents. The ones watching the camp looked all over in boredom, completely missing the dark silhouette that flashed in front of them into the camp's largest tent.
Farsi was in light meditation. His eyes snapped open as he looked alertly at the tent's entrance. There stood a human youth. He bore a striking resemblance to Ferd and Vera.
"Mister Balor… Do you require anything of me?" asked Farsi coldly.
Though he knew Balor was an assassin even more terrifying than Leguna, he didn't feel the slightest anxiety facing the shadow dancer. He held no fear of Balor at all, he was just alert.
"I wanted to know your decision, Mister Farsi," said the youth cryptically.
Farsi looked at him with an unreadable expression. In the end, he nodded.
Balor nodded without the slightest hint of surprise.
"You just made a very wise decision. But, I'm still curious why you chose me."
"It's simple," Farsi said as he pointed his chubby finger at him, "As you've said, that Leguna is very unpredictable. Scary, even. While he doesn't seem like much on the surface, I don't doubt for a moment he will become Moonshadow's most fearsome weapon in the future."
"Since he's so scary, why didn't you pick him as your ally?"
"Because I can't get a read on him," Farsi replied, "As long as I give you enough benefits, you will remain a loyal ally. But I don't know how I can achieve the same with Leguna. He almost lashed out at me for the sake of a few orcs. You're far more reliable an ally than such a fearsome fellow, Mister Balor."
"Also," Farsi continued after a short pause, "I have a feeling my guild would rather you become the successor of Moonshadow than that kid."
"Even though you picked me, I can't really feel happy about your assessment," said Balor with a smile.
Farsi's meaning was clear: Balor was far from comparable to Leguna. Balor didn't mind it, though.
So what if Leguna's potential is a hundred times mine? He's gonna die in two days anyway.
"Now it's my turn to ask a few questions," Farsi said, staring at Balor, "If I help you get rid of the kid, what will I get in return?"
"Dealing with a huge potential problem in the future for you and my friendship isn't enough?"
Farsi shook his head.
"Usually, it would be. But this time, I risk facing your teacher's, Sir Wayerliss's, wrath. The risk far outweighs the reward."
"You can rest assured that. Leguna and I are in a competitive relationship. If he dies in the middle of all this, it means he was inferior to me in the first place. All you will do is help my teacher solve the problem of picking a successor instead of harming his successor. My teacher won't be angered."
"In other words, the fact that you were able to work together with me to get rid of Leguna is a sign that you are stronger than him, and since Sir Wayerliss only wants the stronger of you two, he wouldn't be concerned with the one who loses?"
"Exactly. Naturally, if you kill both me and Leguna, you should be worried about my teacher's wrath."
"Alright, I understand."
Balor took a scroll out of his robes.
"Here's some information I collected on Leguna and Annelotte. I believe you will find some use for it."
"Naturally," said Farsi as he accepted the scroll.
"Then, we'll carry out the plan as discussed," said Balor before he turned and left.
The next afternoon Farsi led the squad to the iron mine. On the desolate flatlands where the soil was poor, metals were not all that uncommon.
Perhaps due to the orcs having limited metallurgy techniques, most of the ore veins were left untouched. Though they had vast reserves of metals, they didn't know how to use them. That was why a large number of the orc empire's warriors still used wolf-toothed clubs, stone hammers, and other crude and outdated weapons. Steel axes and iron swords were considered exquisite equipment reserved for the most elite warriors.
Just like Farsi had said, there were only a few hundred unarmed laborers and a hundred other supervisors there. Under Farsi, Daver, and Annelotte's bombardment, the battle soon came to a close. Given the hate between the two races, a good number of laborers rushed at the humans without the slightest hesitation in spite of being unarmed. Unsurprisingly, they were quickly killed. Several managed to surrender in time, though. Though they were physically strong, they had no choice but to submit under the threat of death.
Given how it had turned out the last time, the rest believed Farsi would choose to spare the laborers. But, to everyone's surprise, Farsi instantly had them slaughtered. To accelerate the process, he even launched a fireball at the captives. Before anyone could react, the captives turned into lifeless corpses.
"Farsi! Don't you remember what I said?!" questioned Leguna angrily.
While he didn't mind killing, meaningless slaughter disgusted him greatly.
"This is unacceptable. Our cooperation is over. Here, take your money, we don't want it."
Kurdak couldn't stand it anymore either and tossed the bag of coins back at Farsi with a glum expression.
Farsi looked at the money pouch on the ground and laughed mockingly.
"I will kill anybody I wish. Who do you think you are to boss me around? Do you want to bet I'll kill you as well? Oh, I think I'll have some fun with the two beauties in your party first before killing them. Otherwise, it's far too much of a waste."
Farsi finally revealed his true colors as his expression contorted to one of arrogance.
"Dammit, to hell with you!"
Leguna's killing intent soared and he rushed forward immediately. But a throwing knife came flying from behind Farsi and successfully stopped him in his tracks.
"Hi, junior. This should be our first proper meeting. I'm Balor," said a figure as it suddenly appeared behind Farsi.
When Kurdak looked around to assess their situation, he realized quite a few people now stood guard on the upper ledges of the pit, bows in hand and glaring at them with unveiled killing intent.
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