The veil of night gradually blanketed Azurewater. Leguna looked at the rising moon, having nothing better to do, and let out a sudden sigh. For some reason, he had felt rather restless since their departure. They had prepared to return to Starfall immediately after departing but didn't rush on account of Kurdak. Instead, they found a quiet corner in Azurewater to set up camp.
"Annie, we're relying on you tonight," called Kurdak.
Tonight was a full moon. Thanks to Moonsink Cycle's effects, Kurdak would once again turn into a werewolf. Both Vera and Leguna were initially rather troubled every time the full moon came. But they had been experimenting since the magus girl had joined the party and had come up with an efficient way of dealing with things. It was rather simple.
Annelotte would use a slumber spell to make the werewolf Kurdak more docile. Though it didn't guarantee he would fall asleep, he wouldn't go berserk at the very least. Vera would be in charge of regulating his feelings and making sure he remained calm.
Kurdak was very alert and hostile towards both Leguna and Annelotte when he was transformed. The only one he accepted, even if just partially, was Vera. He wasn't as docile as a sheep in front of her, but she could approach him and interact with him to some degree. After some prodding, they came the conclusion that his werewolf-self was like a second personality. He could think and feel, but bloodlust and rage usually occupied his thoughts. The most crucial thing was that the werewolf Kurdak and the human Kurdak seemed to share certain memories: those of Vera. That was why, even though the werewolf Kurdak would attack any other human across whom he came, he had never done anything to Vera. That was also the reason Vera could keep him calm. Leguna's only reaction to such a phenomenon was harping about how great the power of love was. And every time he did, he would receive a beating from both Kurdak and Vera.
Naturally, the lull and calm technique didn't work every time. There were occasions when the werewolf got out of control. At those times, Vera couldn't calm him down, no matter how hard she tried. It would then be up to Annelotte to use force to suppress him. Though Kurdak had incredible physical abilities as a werewolf, it was still not enough in front of a water swayer. As long as she was willing, she could easily subdue him -- especially since he didn't use any tactics when he fought in that state. Though the werewolf would suffer some harm, it was nothing compared to the part's safety.
When Leguna thought about the matter this night, he started feeling troubled abruptly. He pulled out some grass with his hand, hoping it would help him vent.
"Bothered?" Annelotte looked at him.
While the girl appeared ice cold most of the time, she was the one who cared most about Leguna.
"Somewhat. I don't really know why, but I can't settle down."
"Do you need a pacification spell?"
His head shook.
"Forget it. I'll just go train somewhere. Thanks, though."
Annelotte nodded silently.
Leguna rummaged around in his backpack and recalled Lighteater had been borrowed by Kurdak two days earlier to cut firewood.
"Boss, where's my sword?"
"Why'd you ask me?"
"Didn't you borrow it to cut firewood two days ago?"
"Ah," Kurdak mused, stunned, before he muttered, "I think... I left it in Jaehart's kitchen..."
"You're really something..."
Seeing as it wasn't too late, he stood up.
"I'll go back and get it. You three will be fine for the night, right?"
"Alright. Take the contact crystal along. Come back quickly."
Kurdak didn't stop him since they weren't going anywhere.
Leguna equipped his gear before leaving. Lighteater was really important to him, but he usually didn't travel a few hours in the middle of the night to retrieve it. The thing pushing him back to York was his strong feeling of unease. He had a feeling something was going to happen to Jaehart's family, so he couldn't wait to go back and check on them. The feeling of unease only get stronger, he unconsciously increased his pace. He had brought only his weapons, so he managed to travel rather quickly. The journey that took the group five hours in the afternoon, took him only three. He arrived in the dead of night. He heaved a sigh of relief when he saw the town was still as peaceful as he had left it.
I've been overthinking this, thought he.
He wanted to sneak inside and leave with Lighteater. He didn't intend to greet the three. After all, if the two girls saw him, they would have to suffer the pain of parting a second time. He made his way to the rear of the house and pushed the kitchen window open quietly before slipping inside.
Jaehart's house was clean as usual. The lights in the lounge were still lit.
I don't recognize this voice. Is it another guest? I should be quieter.
He quickly spotted Lighteater in the corner. It lay quietly, glinting heart-chillingly.
"Done, let's leave," mused Leguna as he nodded.
Just as he was about to go, however, the stench of blood flooded his nostrils. His face contorted. The smell came from the lounge!
"Sir, what do you think we should do with them?" asked Kratt.
Though he didn't quite approve of Nabir's methods, the latter was their leader, so he thought it best not to go against him.
"Find somewhere to burn them," said Nabir with a furrowed brow and an expression that spelled 'do you even have to ask?'.
"Such a shame," he muttered, "I didn't get to play with the little ones before they died."
The once-clean lounge had been turned into a bloody hell. Minnie lay beheaded by one of Nabir's frost blades. The look of terror and rage still clung to her face, but hidden in her eyes was a spot of hope. Jaehart's heart had been replaced by a piece of solid ice. His left arm lay nearby, unattached. His right arm clutched his chest and he wore a venomous expression, like he was howling furiously. Innilis was in a far better state, though not a good one by a long shot. She had a single gauge across her abdomen, the innards visible. Her eyes were closed and her chest, whilst moving, was not doing so as a normal chest would.
Leguna didn't look at the men. He walked up to Minnie silently and placed her head against the stump of her neck. His face appeared solemn, but calm, not at all similar to the inside of his head, which was writhing amidst a storm of emotion. His hands trembled incessantly.
'Big Bro Leguna's the richest! He buys us desserts every day!'
The words echoed in his mind, the girls smile ghosted in front of him. He could suddenly smell the fragrance of her breath on his cheek, like she had just kissed him as she had when they had said goodbye in the afternoon.
He shut the head's eyes and tried to imagine how she must have felt right before her death. He saw fear, but no despair. The hope lingered powerfully in her eyes.
She had clung on to hope… hope, that someone would return at the crucial moment and defend them. Hope that someone would teach their attackers a lesson. The two girls had been unable to resist giggling when they heard what had happened to Riddie. At that time the one who had stood up for them had promised to teach any of their bullies a lesson. The girl had believed firmly that he would return and teach these horrible people another lesson… teach them never to mess with her or her sister again.
The man she hoped for returned… too late.
If I had come back sooner… If I had been 20, no, just ten minutes sooner… I could've saved them, I could have put a stop to this! I'm late… it's too late… I should've been here sooner… sooner… I should've been sooner! Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! Damnit damnit!
The storm raged in his head. His face was calm. Tears streamed down his cheeks like waves spilling over a wave-breaker. His face, however, was frozen expressionlessly. His chest rose and fell calmly, rhythmically. He cleaned the girl up before turning to look at Jaehart.
'I made it through these two years in part because of you and your mindset, and partly because of these two.'
'They cried so much when mom and dad died. They kept saying we now had no one who'd take care of us. I told them I would be there for them. I promised myself that no matter how hard life was, no matter how many people put me down, I won't let them have it hard. They are the only reason I keep on going.'
You really did protect your sisters to the very end! There are many things in this world that fighting to the death won't accomplish... That's because... You're too weak!
Leguna took care of Jaehart's corpse as well before turning to his favorite, the youngest, Innilis.
His hands gently held her small hands and placed them against his face. Seeing that there were no signs of breathing, he despaired. At that moment, the girl's hands twitched, as if she had seen Leguna cry and wanted to wipe his tears away.
Finally, the expression on his face shifted. And did so radically.
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