A long, deep ravine cut straight through the mountain, its walls gleamed in the sunlight, smooth as glass. All signs of Ragnar, who’d been standing where it was, had vanished; only Greyvern knelt before it on the rocky ground, leaning on his sword for support. He didn’t have the strength to move or the will to speak. Even breathing felt like a tedious chore. He looked dried, almost mummified. A left-behind husk with such deep exhaustion, it squeezed each ounce of strength from every cell in his body.
A soft hand landed on his shoulder. A curtain of long, black hair fell, blocking the midday sun, preventing it from scorching him further. Gathering what strength he could, Greyvern drew a quivering breath so shallow it was barely there before looking up. Bloom stared back at him, her warm brown eyes full of concern.
“Are you…” she left the question unfinished. Of course, he wasn’t ok. How healthy people looked, she had no idea, but it sure as hell wasn’t like that. The state of the old man seemed… wrong. And the bar over his head only proved her guess. It was only 5% red. Worst, it was shrinking little by little.
A bitter taste filled Bloom’s mouth. So Marcus wasn’t the only one she failed to save.
“Help me sit,” Greyvern wheezed, just audible enough for Bloom to catch. She nodded, helping him lean on a boulder behind him. He was light, she noticed.
“Is… is there anything I can do?” she asked him.
Greyvern slowly shook his head. “I have little time,” he said. Taking a deep breath, he raised his sword. The grey steel had begun cracking and wilting, peeling like dried skin. Bit by bit, its edges turned to dust, scattering in the wind, until all that was left was a piece of ivory white wood. Its cylindrical, 10-inch long body reminded Bloom of something.
Greyvern flicked his other arm, and a few items appeared above it; three books, and a red marble-sized ball. He put the hilt above the books, just beside the small ball and extended them towards Bloom.
Bloom hesitated. Should she take it? She didn’t accept the quest for any promise of rewards. She didn’t even think about it. And… did she even deserve them? Not like she could help the old man any.
“Take them!” Greyvern spoke again, a bit forcefully this time. Bloom bit her lips, staring at him. A flicker of hope still sparkled in those sunken, deep-set eyes. He really wanted her to take those things, didn’t he? She sighed as she reached out, lifting them off his hands.
Her hands sunk towards the ground, giving her a fright. She quickly tightened her grip to stop the items from slipping out of her grasp. For a few books and a piece of wood and a marble, that weighted like a ton!
Well, not really a ton, but that still caught her off guard.
[Item received: Skill Book of Flash Swordsmanship]
[Item received: Skill Book of Split Moon]
[Item received: Skill Book of Rend Earth]
[Item received: Piece of wood from Arclight Tree(Locked)]
[Item received: Piece of Ardurium(Locked)]
[You have levelled up]
[You have levelled up]
“[Split Moon] and [Rend Earth] are two of the four Imperial sword skills of our Therusen empire,” Greyvern mumbled as if speaking to himself. “Choosing to learn them is a grave responsibility, the responsibility to search out and unify the four imperial skills, the responsibility to revive our fallen empire. It’s a destiny those with the skill cannot avoid, but they may pass it on to someone worthy. By rights, the responsibility should have gone to Marcus, but…” He fell silent for a moment, quietly staring at the sky. He didn’t explicitly state it, but did he want her to take the fulfil them?
Bloom frowned. Why would he? They’d just met, like, yesterday. Besides, reviving an empire...
It isn’t something I...
“Anyway,” Greyvern let out a long sigh, touching one of the books in her hand, “Flash swordsmanship is a technique of my personal creation. If you wish, you are free to learn it. And- Cough- Cough! Cough—”
An uncontrollable coughing fit took him over. He tried speaking through it several times, but it just wouldn’t let up. Calming himself after some difficulty, Greyvern took a deep breath and began, “And next—”
“Enough!” Bloom put up a hand. The way the old man gasped and wheezed, talking must take a lot out of him. “You’re in no shape to talk. Just relax and…” She took a brief glance at his health bar, her nails digging into her palm.
Only 3% left.
“And I’ll get you home.”
“Home…” Greyvern smiled, shaking his head. The place he could call home, he had lost it a long time ago. Besides, there were several necessary things he must inform her about, things more important than his failure of a life.
A worthless life that couldn’t save the one it swore to protect.
“I told you I don’t have…” he trailed off when he spotted the look of determination in Bloom’s eyes. Did she plan to shut him up forcefully? Greyvern gave a chuckle between exasperation and amusement.
“Ok, I won’t say much. You know Thoringar the blacksmith, right?” he asked her.
“Yeah.” Bloom nodded.
“Talk to her about the other two items. Also,” a scroll appeared in Greyvern’s hand, “give it to her. Tell her what happened here, tell her…” he gulped, his eyelids trembling a bit. “it might be related to the Primevals.”
The sky overhead was clear, but a sudden sound of a distant rumble of thunder shook through Bloom's heart. A chilly wind grazed her skin. It crept up her spine, raising goosebumps all over her body.
[An ominous air surrounds you]
[Luck decreased by -5 for the next 5 hours]
A strange silence fell as Greyvern clenched his jaws, looking around them. He knew this would happen, but...
“Sorry for bringing bad luck upon you,” he said to Bloom. “I guess I wanted to rebel one last time. I’ve heard only immortals can say the name freely.” He smiled as he handed the scroll over to her. “Tell Thoringar. She should know what to do.”
Bloom looked at the item. It was the same one Ragnar gave to Greyvern. It even had a nice little name like [Scroll of a shady deal].
An Unwelcome News
The Cult of Prime Evil: 1st part(Chain Quest)
Quest difficulty: F
Quest limit: N/A
Deliver the scroll containing the proof against Vogan to Thoringar and inform her of the conversation between Greyvern and Ragnar.
- Deliver the scroll to Thoringar.
2. Inform Thoringar about the deal Ragnar talked about
25 affinity with Thoringar
10% discount on merchandise from Thoringar
Do you wish to accept this quest? YES/NO.]
Prime evil… Primeval! So they are the monsters Ragnar talked about.
[Yeah. And you have no idea how big this is.]
‘Big’, huh! Bloom juggled the word in her mind for a moment as she nodded at Greyvern. “Ok, I’ll do that,”
“Good, I—” Greyvern’s face turned red and another violent bout of coughing forced his words back. His body shuddered, the red bar above his head began blinking. It dipped to two percent as he finally calmed down. Bloom fidgeted, opening and closing her fingers. She had to do something!
But what? What can you do?
She had no answer. Frustration and helplessness chained her mind in their thorny grip. She hadn’t known the old man for long. Then why did she feel like crying now?
“You- you need help!” she croaked, her voice shaking.
Greyvern shook his head. “It’s fine,” he said. “This is something I want. With this, I’ll finally...” Greyvern fell silent, gazing into the distance as images only he could see passed before his eyes. The village he grew up in, his recruitment as a normal soldier of the empire, the hundreds of battles he fought in, and the day he stood proudly in the arena after defeating all other imperial knight candidates…
Then a different set of images came into play. Two colossal shadows trampling through the blood-soaked lands of the empire, bringing death and destruction wherever they went, the futile resistance, the perilous escape that gave them the curse, the death of the princess…
The bittersweet smile changed, little by little turning sombre, until, when the last image came into being, it twisted into an ugly grimace, disfiguring his corpse-like appearance further.
Greyvern convulsed, hunching over, wheezing.
Is he gonna cough again? Bloom reached out reflexively, holding a thin, bony palm in her hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. It calmed the old man down somehow. Again, he leaned back against the boulder with her help.
“What’s wrong?” the teen asked. A silly question. What else could be wrong besides… everything, but she couldn’t help it. She didn’t know what else to say.
Greyvern took big gulps of air as he stared at the stark blue sky with a vacant, far-off gaze. Regrets littered the path he’d walked until now, but none of them had struck so deep.
“Marcus... he wasn’t my son,” he mumbled distractedly.
Bloom’s grip tightened further on Greyvern’s hand. Yeah, she’d heard the conversation he had with Ragnar. Marcus was a prince. A village boy and a prince, just like in those fantasy stories. But unlike them, he didn’t survive. He didn’t get to go on an adventure, defeat the dark forces, take back his throne...
Marry his love...
Bloom gritted her teeth. She didn’t say anything. Couldn’t say anything. The old man, even with her sense of touch, she could barely feel his pulse. A faint smell like rotting wood hung around his emaciated body.
The smell of death.
“But I saw him grow up, nurtured him…” Greyvern mumbled on weakly. “The princess entrusted him to me. He was…” drops of tear flowed from his eye sockets, trickling down through the wrinkle on his cheek like a miniature rivulet.
The one person who shouldn’t have died.
“I failed him! Failed all of them! Failed...” he trailed off, mouth moving wordlessly. He wanted to say so many things, but the words, he couldn’t remember them.
Bloom grit her teeth. She just couldn’t watch him like this.
“It’s...” She cleared her throat, trying to get rid of the painful lump inside. It didn’t work. “It isn’t your fault, it’s—”
“Why was it him?” Greyvern interrupted. He turned towards her with a sudden, renewed intensity. His pulse flared up, the desperate fire burning in his vacant eyes sent Bloom reeling back. “It should’ve been me. He didn’t deserve this,” he stopped for a breath before continuing in a scratchy voice, “He shouldn’t have died before me. Never—”
Something cracked inside Bloom. Her hand shot up, clutching Greyvern’s shoulder. The sudden pain snapped the old man back to focus as he stared at Bloom’s scowling eyes.
“What d’you mean?” Bloom growled. “Do you think it’s ok for…” she gulped, a screech ringing inside her head. The screech of a car that still haunted her dreams.
She shouldn’t have come!
Her grip tightened further.
It should’ve just been me!
“Do you think Marcus would be happy if you...” A wince from Greyvern stopped the rest of the words in her throat. Her pupils shrunk as they travelled down her arm. And when it fell on the white knuckles of her fingers around the old man’s thin shoulders, Colour drained from her face. Her hand lurched back as if she’d touched something scalding.
“Sorry, I…” She fidgeted, looking here and there, anywhere but at Greyvern. What the hell was she thinking? She nearly killed a dying man!
Greyvern studied the panicking girl. Maybe because of the looming death, his mind had gotten cloudy. But that sudden bout of pain jolted him away from that never-ending nightmare. Passing away like that might’ve been fine for an ordinary man.
But he was a knight.
Even until his dying breath, he preferred to keep his wits about him.
But why did the girl...
A contemplative frown appeared on his face. Had she lost someone?
“Sorry,” Bloom began again, but Greyvern put his hand on hers and shook his head.
“It’s not your fault,” he said, sighing. “I was being too muddle-headed there. Thank you for waking me up.” His face brightened, somehow looking much healthier than the mummified husk he was. “The journey’s been too long for me. Would you do me the honour of resting me beside my son?”
“Greyvern…” Bloom opened her mouth, but nothing came out. The old man turned his face towards the sky, gazing directly at the blazing ball of fire shining there. The eye-searing intensity failed to affect him. A smile floated on his weary face as if seeing a lifelong companion.
“The sun is so brilliant today…”