“Gahrona’s Heart?” mused Leguna, surprised. Though he didn’t really know what it was, given the name and Oljharok’s pained expression, it seemed something really good.
He had heard some things about Gahrona before, but they were mostly legend. Gahrona Shadowedge was a female orc assassin who had left behind a fearsome reputation centuries ago. She was born in the Bladedge tribe. Orcs from this particular tribe mostly had slender builds. Precisely because of that, while Bladedge didn’t produce many berserkers, they managed to nurture an immense number of lethal assassins generation after generation.
Gahrona was the most outstanding assassin the tribe had produced in several centuries, as well as the only one to have made it to the saint realm. Before she became a saint, she could stealthily assault Breakskull’s personal bodyguard on her own, taking the lives of four high-order warriors and one high-order witch doctor. During Blood-colored Warsong’s invasion of Bladedge, she managed to assassinate the tribe’s chief despite his meticulous defenses and protection.
Her fame skyrocketed as a result. Her protection allowed her tribe to flourish peacefully for decades. When the orcs began pushing south into human territory, she assassinated Quasi-saint Doens, a division commander of the Mercenary Association. Their defenses crumbled as a result. It was considered one of the greatest contributions a single individual had made during the entire war.
“Gahrona Shadowedge” became words that even the bravest warrior trembled upon hearing. Far-fetched rumors about her exploits abounded. Even the mountain dwarves, who lived in Redmetal Mountains to the east of Azurewater, claimed their king was assassinated by a female orc. The assassin had lived on Lance for decades. In her active years, she was hailed as the entire race’s heroin. She even had human assassin worshippers.
Time, however, claimed everything, even the most beautiful of stars must wither and die when their time comes. She eventually disappeared from the world of the living, leaving behind a century’s worth of exploits to become legend.
“Yes. Gahrona’s Heart. I’m sure you’ve heard of her before. There’s no way you couldn’t have. Gahrona’s Heart is the crystallization of her power in her last moments. More importantly, she was also a shadow dancer.”
Leguna heart jumped and beat wildly.
A shadow dancer! Another shadow dancer, an orc saint at that! I can’t even imagine how much that would benefit me!
“How Gahrona fell… we don’t know. We’ve had countless seers appraise Gahrona’s Heart, and they’ve all, unanimously, concluded that it is hers indeed. That’s why we named it as it is named,” Oljharok explained, “As compensation for your help, I will give you Gahrona’s Heart and help you inherit the power it gives. How much you can absorb will depend on you.”
“I don’t think anyone would turn this down. So why me?”
Indeed, why him? This was the most tempting offer you could make to an assassin, even Wayerliss would be moved. And killing Hladik wouldn’t be difficult for him either.
“Because you’re a shadow dancer. It’s not that we didn’t try to give it to others before. But every time we tried, it failed. We think only a shadow dancer can inherit its power.”
“Ah, so this might not even work,” Leguna said awkwardly, “How’s this different from giving me nothing but a bad check?”
“You can at least cash the check in, right?” Oljharok said, “And this is the only thing I can help you with.”
“Alright, let’s hope it’ll work,” sighed Leguna. “When will the ritual begin?”
“…Tomorrow,” the orc responded after a moment of silence, “I need a day to prepare, and you have to rest and recover your strength. We’ll move forward tomorrow.”
“Alright, as fast as possible. I have less than two weeks to the next full moon.”
“Don’t worry, I can’t wait to have Hladik’s head in my hands either,” smiled Oljharok.
The two talked for a little longer. Leguna left with an orc servant once everything was sorted out and went to meet up with his two female companions.
Oljharok thought for a moment after the kid left. He reached for a contraption beneath the table in the reception hall. A stone door suddenly opened up on the wall opposite him. It rumbled open slowly. Behind it was revealed a simple, spacious room. The great chief stepped in and the door rumbled closed behind him.
He slowly dictated a spell, causing the magical screen on the altar in front of him to light up. A face appeared on it. It was the face of a middle-aged man, or — more accurately — a middle-aged elf. Leguna, had he been present, would have recognized it as Elder Eiron’s.
“Teacher,” mumbled the great chief, bowing slightly.
Eiron smiled warmly. The gaze he shot the orc was not one of the arrogance or disdain with which elves regularly regarded other races, instead, it was one of admiration and pride.
“The matter is settled?” asked he.
“Yes. The kid will receive the legacy,” answered the great chief. His mouth opened to say something more, but he hesitated.
“Do not blame yourself, child. Every living being desires, wants revenge, and acts in self-interest. It’s already impressive that you could control your hatred and lead your people down the right path. There’s nothing wrong with giving in to your reckless side once in a while.”
“But teacher,” Oljharok said, a hint of shame in his voice, “my selfishness might put the kid in grave danger. You said he’s crucial for resolving the calamity still to come. My actions disregard the entire world’s well-being.”
“Not at all, child. It is just one of my prophecies. It’s true the kid may be crucial. But he could also just be another passer-by, just one of the millions that live in this world. Nothing is set yet. If he’s really what I prophesied, then he wouldn’t die in something so trivial.”
Oljharok nodded, but bowed and apologized again.
“I’m really sorry, teacher. Vengeance has burned in my heart for decades too long. I just couldn’t hold myself back any longer.”
“Alright, child. The darkness I foresaw comes. That said, both Gahrona’s Heart and his upcoming life-and-death experience is important for little Leguna. He has to be powerful enough before the torrent arrives. He has to be able to swim against the current. You have done nothing wrong.”
“Then, I will do my best to complete the inheritance ritual tomorrow. Please don’t worry, teacher.”
“I’ve always trusted you implicitly,” Eiron smiled as the screen slowly faded.
Oljharok looked at the screen, shock and doubt running amok in his mind.
Is that brat really so important? Could Teacher’s prophecy be wrong?
As he pondered his doubts, prospective savior Leguna was still filled with anger. His target? Annelotte, whom he loved and feared so much.
He knocked on the door lightly. Knowing that the girl’s injuries made it inconvenient for her to walk around, he stepped into the room immediately afterward.
“Is your leg feeling better?” he looked at the girl eating some roast meat. He didn’t know how he should ask about it, so he started with another topic.
Annelotte wiped her mouth with a handkerchief.
“Much better. The witch doctor the orc called over was skilled.”
She went right back to eating the moment she finished speaking. Actually, Annelotte was quite the food enthusiast. Good food was quite tempting. But due to her personality, she seldom let herself enjoy her food. However, the days of lacking proper food had made her quite hungry. The moment she smelt roast meat, she couldn’t help but lose control just a little.
Leguna observed the girl silently, hesitant to say anything.
Luckily Annelotte realized something was off pretty soon.
“Speak your mind.”
Though the girl had a good idea what Leguna had to say was going to make things between them even more awkward, the silence was even more frustrating. While the previous situation had indeed been rather awkward, she wasn’t angry. She was embarrassed and slightly happy, instead, happiness she stubbornly denied feeling.
Leguna moped about for a while. After mustering his courage, he finally spoke. But what he said had nothing to do with their relationship, contrary to Annelotte’s expectation.
“Boss’s bloodline has been exposed. He and Sis are locked up in the Eye’s anti-magic dungeon.”
Leguna tried hard to act as if nothing was amiss and asked casually, “Do you know anything about this? Or do you already know about it and just weren’t planning to tell me?”
Annelotte froze for a moment before she stared at the boy, whose gaze couldn’t stay still. With a soft voice, she asked,”Do… do you distrust me?”