“Yep. Even though I was an orphan, I had quite a bit of luck and was cared for by this old guy. If not for him, I wouldn’t have survived until I met you guys.”
“Was that old guy… your grandfather?”
Leguna thought for a few moments before he shook his head.
“He shouldn’t be. I don’t know his name, but I heard he used to be some rich guy in Melindor that loved to help others. Somehow he managed to get on the bad side of some powerful man and ended up badly. Even though he managed to survive, he lost everything he had and lived in the slums. He picked me up just after he moved to the slums and raised me. He taught me how to read as well. His health wasn’t too good. He passed away when I was about eleven. I lived alone ever since.”
“Ah, so that’s how it is.”
“Even though that old guy was rather strict, he definitely treated me very well. I would’ve starved if not for him,” Leguna explained with a pained expression.
Kurdak patted his shoulder consolingly.
“What’s passed is past. Let’s not dwell on it.”
After a pause, he continued, “Is that why you wanted to help Jaehart? Just like that old guy helped you?”
“I guess you can say that. I feel Jaehart is rather similar to how I was back then, he has a similar personality and background. I know how he feels.”
Leguna looked at Jaehart’s tent as he spoke.
“Personality?” Kurdak mused, “That kid’s personality is kinda like a rock in a lavatory: stubborn and smelly. He’s also rather cruel. How can that compare to your happy-go-lucky and dastardly self? I really don’t see much similarity there.”
Leguna didn’t take Kurdak’s words to heart.
“Actually, I was just like him when the old man died, silent and cruel. I was just a kid no one cared for. It’s no surprise I became twisted after being looked down on like trash by most people.”
“What happened?” Kurdak asked, “How did you become who you are now?”
“Well, it took me quite some time. As for when it started… It should be when I first met Eirinn I guess. It’s a rather long story, though.”
“I’d like to hear it. I’ve nothing better to do and you don’t exactly feel like sleeping,” said Kurdak.
Leguna strove hard to crawl to the pile of trash. He had already gone hungry for four days and his only hope was to find something he could eat in the trash. Would he be able to find any wasted food? It was really hard to come by in the slums.
He dug in the pile for half a day nevertheless. He didn’t find anything. He was already so hungry he couldn’t move. His vision began to spin as he felt his surroundings dim. The pain tortured his nerves. He had just been beaten by the shop owner he attempted to rob of some food. The smell of rot in the trash couldn’t help but remind him of death.
A stray dog stood next to him. It looked at him with a mouth full of drool.
Am I going to die like this? I lived for just 12 years but I’m going to become a stray dog’s shit just like that?
His eyelids felt heavier than ever and he knew the moment they shut would be his last. Just as he was about to give up and stop resisting, the stray dog left, probably scared away by someone.
He turned his head. A nightmarish face entered his line of sight. It was a young girl. She had suffered heavy burns to her face. There wasn’t a single piece of unscarred skin anywhere. Her nose angled slightly to the left and seemed to have been turned inside out, while most of her left eyelid was burned away. Her eyeball seemed like it would pop out at any moment.
‘silver-haired demon’ was the first thought that appeared in his mind.
He didn’t know what the abomination was called, but it didn’t stop him from bullying her. After all, her adoptive father, a well-muscled coolie, scolded the old guy to the point he often suffered coughing fits. That was why Leguna frequently joined in with the other orphans to stone the monstrosity. They even gave her the moniker of ‘silver-haired demon’, by virtue of her horrendous-looking face and uniquely colored silver hair. Nobody knew what kind of curse she suffered to end up with looking like that.
At that moment, the silver-haired demon was looking at him. He stared back harshly. He realized the girl’s unburnt right eye was surprisingly pretty and carried a hint of clarity.
“Even if I’m going to starve, I won’t let you pick on me!” Leguna grabbed a rock and tried to hurl it at her, but he no longer had enough energy, much to his frustration.
The rock merely landed on his leg lightly.
The silver-haired demon’s expression seemed to change before she quickly dashed away. Leguna looked at the sight and breathed a sigh of relief.
If the last face I see is that abomination’s, I’m probably going to hell. Go, scram! Don’t show up in front of me again!
But things didn’t turn out as he had envisioned. After a few moments, the frightening face appeared again. This time, however, she brought a piece of dry and hard black bread.
“I stole this from home. Eat it quick. Dad will beat me if he finds out,” said the silver-haired demon as she handed it over.
In stark contrast to her looks, her voice sounded surprisingly pleasant and smooth like a crisp mountain stream.
Leguna looked at her disbelievingly. He didn’t understand why she would treat him this way. He had played a part in making her cry quite a number of times.
Even though he had already turned numb to his hunger, he couldn’t help but regard the piece of black bread like a merchant would the rarest black pearl in the whole ocean. He knew his survival counted on the piece of bread. He grabbed it and started chomping away. He even bit his tongue on his first bite, but he didn’t mind the pain. The fragrance of the bread coupled with the iron-like taste of his own blood was still incomparably delicious to him.
As his strength gradually restored, his mind began to clear. Even though he couldn’t exactly feel how full he was, the bread still gave him some hope. He gave the demon a look. The silver-haired demon couldn’t help but smile the moment she saw him move again, but the expression seemed horrifying on her face. Seeing him stand up without saying anything and stumbling away from the pile of trash, the girl left joyfully as well.
In the following days, Leguna left the slums and worked various chores for multiple different shops. Even though he didn’t earn a single copper for his work, the bread given to him kept him well fed. He also made sure to keep a piece of butter-covered rye bread for the silver-haired demon.
The moment he saw her, he realized the various bruises on her already ugly face. He realized her father must have found out and beat her.
“Hello, I’m Leguna. This bread is for you. Thanks for helping me,” said he apologetically as he carefully handed over the bread.
If he had to hold onto it any longer, he would no doubt begin to salivate.
“Hi, I’m Eirinn,” said the girl, smiling ever so brightly.
No trace of angst was visible over her looks.
Eirinn looked at the piece of rye bread in his hand for a moment before she shook her head.
“I have mommy at home and don’t really get hungry. It’s better if you keep it.”
Leguna tried a few more times to make her take the bread, but she wouldn’t agree no matter what. It ended with them coming to a compromise and sharing the delicacy.
As time passed, Leguna began to understand Eirinn more and more. He realized the girl, for all the horrors of her appearance, had a diamond heart. She was gentle, kind, and optimistic. She always wore a smile on her face, no matter how much it made her look like a snickering demon.
Leguna and Eirinn soon became good friends, and, thanks to her influence, he began to change from a savage young boy to an optimistic, happy-go-lucky youth. He had learned kindness and tolerance from her, and she had gained her first ever friend. She no longer cried as much.
Even though the other kids still called her silver-haired demon and threw stones at her, Leguna would never hesitate to pummel them while crying out, ‘I won’t let you bully her!’
He began to consider himself her elder brother and protected her with a sense of pride. As he saw it, the optimistic girl was the sole beacon of light in his life. She gave him hope and returned a smile to his face.
“What happened? Is she still there, now that you’ve left Melindor?” asked Kurdak.
“Well,” Leguna said with a pained smile and a trace of frustration, “In some way, she was the reason I had to leave Melindor.”