Some time passed and dinner was finally over for the two. It was time to discuss the matter behind Kurogane's presence in the old man's house.
They were now sitting at the table on opposite sides with a mug of tea on their hands.
"Sir, can you tell me what you know about those black-robed people… the ones with those red symbols on them?"
"I told you to call me Reo, young man. But hey, whatever suits you my friend."
Reo then took a deep sigh and continued talking.
"Anyways, assuming it's who I think it is, they are no ordinary beings. As you would imagine, they are very dangerous, and if I were to be honest with you, I wouldn't advise getting anywhere near them."
"I'm aware sir, they do seem very powerful.. but those disgusting people… I can't forgive them for what they did. They took everything away from me, including my loved ones. My entire village was destroyed by them."
As Kurogane said this, his hands began to quiver.
"So that's how you had it huh? Hmm, I don't blame you there, kiddo. Must have been as awful as it can get. These individuals.. they call themselves the 'Orochi Alliance.' They have been around for well over a decade."
"'Orochi Alliance?' Orochi as in the eight-headed dragon?"
"Yes, that is exactly it. The clan has many trained killers serving under them, the strongest being the "eight heads". Each one has the same symbol on them as a representation of their greed and passion to shed endless blood and misery over their victims.
"So then… one of them was the killer from back then..."
"I would very much agree. To me, their goals are quite clear – they see everyone around them as useless objects to the maximal state of inferiority. They will either use or dispose of anyone they encounter as they strive to overthrow and dictate humanity under their reformed, demented views of a 'new world'. As we speak, recent reports say that they are actively corrupting and ruining other villages and cities far away from here."
Upon hearing such a statement, Kurogane angrily stood up with his eyes widened as he placed both hands on the table in pure shock.
"As we speak? Are you out of your mind!? Why isn't all of this widespread? Why is everyone so quiet about it?! Where is the concern?!!"
"Calm down young man, no need to be so aggravated. It's not what you think it is. A good number of citizens indeed know about these people, along with the royals and their guards. However, they try not to speak of them or to have any involvement whatsoever.
"What a bunch of cowards… that's just pathetic and shameful."
"Look, Kurogane, they all have a good reason to be terrified. Anytime a kingdom got involved and tried to do something about it, they would lose far more than they would gain. Finding them alone proved to be extremely difficult, and when search parties were sent out, they wouldn't return. It's as if they always know what is going on and what is being planned. It reached a point where if they were to keep sending more people, they would eventually run out of men to guard their own city."
Upon hearing the details, Kurogane frowned out of concern.
How is this city left as is? Were private search parties not deployed from here in the past?
"Correct. Varsilis, despite having a skilled, heavily equipped militia, also failed in the same way. I can only imagine that this city will be targeted soon once they're finished with the others.
"Unbelievable.. what about the adventurers? Why don't they work together to stop them?"
"The situation isn't much of a difference for the adventurers. Groups were made, and little to no none would end up returning. This also shattered their confidence and as a result, most of them bury themselves with other quests for money and luxuries to forget about it all, with very few being concerned at this point."
After coming to a realization of the severity of what was going on, Kurogane slowly sat back down.
(This is far worse than I thought. There are people out there losing their families right now like I did. Many already went out and never returned…)
"I apologize for losing control earlier.."
"No problem, I'm glad you understand things better. People try to not talk about them or plan against them, as those cities or villages would usually be better off. I can't help but say that this alliance has ears and eyes everywhere… They're like a plague – the kind that infects its victims slowly but steadily with no actual method to repel with. Adventurers and citizens alike do their best to live their lives as if they don't exist, but there's no telling who they will target next and when it will happen."
Kurogane placed his hand on his forehead, more concerned than before as he looked down – the tips of his fingers pressing against his face.
(My ignorance and seclusion from society… left me as clueless as a stray dog.)
Reo nodded before adding onto what he just said.
"Without a doubt, they have been taking their time for sure – willingly and patiently making their moves without haste. However, I fear they may be waiting for the right moment to unleash something they may have been hiding this entire time. Honestly, there's still so much we don't know about… which makes the situation more terrifying than it already is."
There was a slight pause before Kurogane placed his hand down and looked straight into Reo's eyes.
"I understand everything you said, but won't just sit here and let those monsters do as they please. I don't care if this costs my life. I refuse to spend the rest of my time living and rotting away while knowing that the killer of my loved ones is out there, living and breathing!"
Reo stared into the young man's face before closing his eyes and frowning as he thought to himself.
(Despite all that I said, his vision remains the same.)
He took a deep breath and sighed before looking back at Kurogane and speaking again.
"I sense an overwhelming amount of determination within you. Even if I wanted otherwise, I most likely wouldn't be able to stop you now."
Reo got up from his seat and gazed intently down at Kurogane.
"I'll do what I can to assist you, but you'll be on your own for the most part. Once you get involved with them, there's no turning back. Are you absolutely sure that you have the resolve for this?"
"Yes, this is what I desire, regardless of the cost."
Reo then turned around and stood for a brief moment.
"Very well then. Wait here."
Reo went to one of his shelves and brought back what appeared to be a map of neighboring countries and cities, unfolding and explaining it to Kurogane.
"Right now, we reside in Varsilis, a city on the eastern coast of Rifjor. I would advise that you go over to Furren, the closest city west from here. Be sure to resupply there before leaving. From there I would suggest that you go over to Kardirie, as I've recently overheard several guards rumoring that a head from the Orochi Alliance is residing near that city. This will be a few hours from the western coast of Rifjor."
"I see…but what would have to be done afterwards?"
"If things go well for you, I would eventually take a boat from the city harbor and go over to Martinia. Near the peninsula, you can visit my old friend, Kenchirou. He'll be able to help you far more than I can."
"In that case, where would I be able to find him in Martinia?"
His house will reside somewhere in the mountains, and if you're lucky enough to get a hold of him and meet his demands, he could forge you some nice, unique equipment and provide upgrades to your combat status. Be careful though, it's usually snowing pretty hard there. Make sure you go prepared."
"Alright. I'll keep that in mind. Once I leave this place, I'll be sure to do as you planned."
"Good, as long as you do so, your chances of succeeding will be greater. That wraps up just about everything I have to share."
Reo began to fold the map back into a scroll but suddenly paused.
"Kurogane… whatever you do, don't go out there throwing away your life. Strong determination and the thirst for vengeance aren't nearly enough to accomplish this dangerous task. I know people have judged you and treated you wrongly here in many ways, I've seen it. But there will be others out there that can be trustworthy and helpful to you and your goals. You may even share the same ambitions, so be mindful of that. I've experienced it in my life at one point, so I can assure that you will as well."
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Kurogane looked down in a depressed manner, not knowing what to say – as he never really knew what it was like to have someone join him and not abandon him eventually.
Upon noticing his reaction, Reo understood how he felt and went on to change the subject.
"Well then, I do have some extra bedding. You should stay the night before leaving tomorrow."
"Thank you, sir.. I really appreciate your help."
"Ah, cut the formal talk, you're making me feel all fuzzy inside!" said Reo, chuckling and slapping Kurogane's back, startling him in the process.
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