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A note from MelasD

Shoutout to Sieley's The Last Orellen! Check it out!

According to prophecy, the ninth-born child of Lord Orellen will have the sort of power that changes the world. But in a land ruled by mage families, no one welcomes the possibility of a dangerous new player. Fearful even of their allies, the Orellens come up with an extraordinary and deadly scheme to protect themselves.

If the most powerful sorcerers in the world wish to kill the ninth-born, they will have to find him or her first. And that's not going to be easy when the Orellens have called upon dark magic to create hundreds of heirs. The boys and girls are given new bodies, new names, and even new magical talents before they are scattered across the continent. Only one among them is the real ninth, but all of them will have to grow up in a world where they are fugitives.

Kalen, once fated to die, is now an Orellen heir in hiding. And he is determined to survive, even if he has to master his strange new powers to do it.

The Last Orellen (An Epic Progression Fantasy) | Royal Road


231. Interlude - Daniel's Destruction Part 1

The Harrowed Vindicators.

They were an elusive assassin group which employed [Warriors], [Mages], [Archers], [Rogues], [Alchemists], [Blacksmiths], [Bartenders], [Innkeepers]— any Class possible— to fulfill their goals. And their goals were always simple: kill a target, make some money.

It seemed intuitive since they were, after all, assassins. And they were out for Daniel.

The young man had thought they’d give up eventually. He had not known how long their contracts lasted, or how they worked. He assumed their dedication in killing him was just a result of their reputation as one of the most elite assassin groups in the world. But now, as he spoke to Amanda, he understood that that was not exactly the case.

“The Harrowed Vindicators are hired to put up a bounty on certain individuals. Not all of us will take up the contracts. We’re not fools. We know which target to pick and which target is too much of a risk. But for the right price, sometimes, we’re willing to take a chance.”

The brown-haired woman sat before him, back hunched and knees hugging her chest as she spoke. Her clothes were torn and cut, and the wounds and scars she bore, while recently healed, were still fresh marks on her skin. She was an assassin— one of the ones who’d be sent to kill Daniel. But he defeated her and kept her alive, only for another assassination attempt on his life to leave her close to death.

He offered her a chance: he’d save her only if she helped him. He was in search of the Harrowed Vindicators because they threatened his life and the life of his friends. And Amanda chose to live. So, she spilled everything.

“The reward they offered was too little in the past. Not for a [Hero]. Not for someone from another world. We didn’t act. Not until you hit Platinum. But by the time they raised the bounty on your head, you were gone. You’d left for the Plaguelands. A few assassins were foolish enough to seek you out, but they never returned. It was a Diamond Ranked area, after all. We thought you’d died there. But you returned as the Liberator of the Plaguelands.”

“And you thought it was a good idea to come after me?”

Daniel crossed his arms. The logic made no sense to him; if he’d done what few or none of their assassins could do, why would any of the Harrowed Vindicators seek out his life?

Amana laughed bitterly.

“No. No one thought it was a good idea. No one except for the higher ups.”

“What does that mean?”

“Things changed, Daniel Song. I don’t know why and I don’t know how, but things changed starting from three years ago. Our leadership started to order us around. No longer were we paid assassins, contracted for jobs. We were… minions. Or at least, the lesser assassins were. I ignored it. We ignored it. Those of us at the higher levels. We thought it was odd, but we believed it wouldn’t affect us.”

“Why not?”

Frowning, Daniel took a seat from across Amanda. The pair were in the back of a wagon, headed out of Roguehollow. A city in the Inoria Empire. She sighed.

“We’re not laborers or farmers. What were we supposed to fucking do? Start a union? Are you a moron?”

His brows creased, and she shook her head.

“Well, maybe we should have done that. It’d have been stupid and embarrassing, but it’d be better than what happened.”

“And what happened?”

“What did you think?”

She snorted.

“The higher ups started to give us orders. They commanded us to obey them, and when we didn’t listen, they purged us. Those who failed to obey mysteriously disappeared. The message was clear. And I fell in line, along with the rest.”

“I see.”

Daniel leant back, narrowing his eyes. If what Amanda was saying was true, then that meant she’d been forced to kill him. It made him feel slightly bad for the way he’d treated her. But that was a big if.

She was an assassin. She killed innocent people for a living. And if she were lying, this wouldn’t be the first time she tried to manipulate and trick him. So, for now, he took what she said with a grain of salt. It wasn’t like she’d be able to do much anyway. She was still bound by enchanted shackles, and he could easily overpower her.

Pulling his hood up, Daniel cast his gaze out the back of the wagon.

“If what you say is true… well, it won’t be much of a worry.”

“Oh?”

Amanda turned to him, raising a brow.

“And why’s that?”

“Because…”

He took in a deep breath, meeting her gaze.

“I’ll end the Harrowed Vindicators once and for all. Simple as that.”

After all, with Amanda’s directions, Daniel was now headed to the headquarters of the Harrowed Vindicators. To, for once and for all, put a stop to their activities. Yet, the brown-haired woman snickered.

“That’s a bold plan. Now, I wonder how that’ll play out for you…”

He didn’t know. He couldn’t lie and say he wasn’t nervous about it. But he had to. For the sake of his friends. He’d do anything.

Perhaps I’m finally starting to be a [Hero], huh? Daniel chuckled as he watched Roguehollow vanish behind him.

—--

According to Amanda, the headquarters of Harrowed Vindicators was located underground. Most of their hideouts were. And there were familiar markings— some kind of symbols which only their members would recognize— to always indicate if a hideout was nearby for any assassin of the group to visit.

But the main headquarters was not indicated in any such way. It wasn’t filled with regular members. Only those higher up like Amanda even knew it existed. And apparently, it was always moving, always changing, and always shifting.

“Those at the top of the Harrowed Vindicators are higher-leveled than you, Daniel Song. All a [Mage] at that level has to do is snap their fingers, and the earth bends to their will.”

“Is this the excuse you’re giving?”

He turned to her as she shrugged. They stood at the top of a mountain, right before a collapsed cave entrance. Amanda had led him here, and he found nothing but rubble and debris.

“I’m not going to buy your lies, Amanda.”

Drawing his sword, he swung it for her neck, stopping only an inch away from her skin. She didn’t flinch, but met his gaze.

“Believe what you want, [Hero]. I have only told you the truth. Or do you think I do not value my own life?”

She spat, and he scowled.

He had trekked many miles to even get here. He’d been dubious of her intentions— it could’ve been a trap, for all he knew. But it just turned out to be a dead end.

“Stop wasting my time, Amanda. I fulfilled my end of the bargain. Now fulfill yours.”

“Your end of the bargain? You would’ve just let me die like the noble fucking [Hero] you are.”

He bit his lower lip, and she laughed.

“No— I will fulfill my end of the bargain.”

She squatted down, taking in the fallen rubble that blocked the cave entrance. Then she turned to face the nearby city. Aysgarth. Right at the edge of the Inoria Empire. Technically, they were in Elutra right now, but this territory had been taken over by Inoria just two years ago. The fact that the Harrowed Vindicators were headquartered here clued Daniel in on one of the many reasons why Elutra fell.

Amanda sighed.

“There’s another hideout nearby, Daniel Song. Perhaps you can find those more wise than me in the matter there. But be aware, you’d be thrusting yourself in a room full of enemies, and there’s nothing I can do to help you.”

His eyes snapped to her shackles as she gestured at them. Daniel felt tempted to remove them and ask for her help. However, his rational side won and he shook his head.

“Just lead the way, Amanda. Don’t get any ideas.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Shame. I’d have hoped you were more foolish than that.”

They traversed back to Aysgarth, heading to the north of the small city where the land was flat and filled with farmland. There was a large farm that looked abandoned— and it was there where Amanda said a hideout for the Harrowed Vindicators could be found. She brushed aside some markings on a wooden fencepost, gesturing at it.

“Look, this means there’s an entrance to this hideout right there. Remember, it’s not the headquarters of the Harrowed Vindicators, so don’t rush in sword-swinging. You can be discreet, can't you?”

He nodded, still wearing his hooded cloak.

“Come on.”

They entered the barn and searched the basement until discovering the secret entryway to the hideout. The smell of alcohol and drugs escaped from the entrance, filling it with smoke as they made their way inside. Daniel tugged a hood over Amanda’s head.

“Keep your head down, and don’t say anything.”

He kept her close, making sure she was next to him with her bounded hands hidden beneath the cloak. There was a bar inside with tables and chairs scattered around the room. It was reminiscent of an Adventurers Guild, except with hooded figures and what was almost like a shadowy spell cast and blanketing the area.

Daniel glanced around, seeing figures walk by him. They were silent, not chatting or making conversation as they would in an Adventurers Guild. Instead, they kept to themselves, speaking only to the [Bartender] as they grabbed a job or a drink.

“See anyone you recognize who may be able to help us?”

He whispered to the woman. Her eyes flickered in recognition. She pointed at a man sitting by himself.

“Yes. He’s Ivan the Deathtouch. A deadly [Alchemist] whose concoctions can kill you just by coming in contact with your skin. Recently reached Level 100. And someone who could help us find their headquarters.”

“Alright.”

Daniel glanced over at Amanda. He was sure she’d try something, but he had no other choice but to bring her there. He tightened his grip around his Primordial Longsword and shook his head.

“Stick close to me, don’t say a word, don’t move, and don’t even do anything.”

She chuckled.

“My, you’re quite possessive aren’t you?”

He glared at her but said nothing else. Dragging her over to the table, he nodded at Ivan and pulled up a seat.

“Is this seat taken?”

The assassin had a black tophat and a thick trench coat. He grunted, looking up at Daniel from a pair of goggles.

“No, it is not.”

Daniel waved at the [Bartender].

“A drink, please, for the both of us.”

The [Bartender] snapped a finger and two mugs floated down to them. Ivan leaned forward as Daniel offered him the mug, his lips twisting into a smile.

“So, what do I owe the pleasure of having both my targets approaching me?”

Daniel froze. He glanced over at Amanda, and she blinked.

“I did not do anything.”

She quickly said, and he scowled. He turned his attention back to Ivan.

“You know who we are?”

“Of course. I recognized you the moment you came in.”

He adjusted his goggles. There was a glint from inside of it. Daniel gritted his teeth as Ivan spoke.

“With a single word, I can turn every assassin in this room against you. The both of you have been marked for death, after all.”

“What do you want?”

“Oh?”

Ivan relaxed in his chair, smiling.

“And why exactly do you assume I want something?”

“Because you could’ve attacked us the moment we came in. You waited for us to come here before saying anything.”

The [Hero]’s eyes darted around the room. No one was paying much attention to them. Which was good. He had a thought. An idle thought. A hunch, actually. What Amanda said earlier stood out in his head— the assassins didn’t truly want him dead. Only the leadership did. They threatened their assassins to act.

That had to be why Ivan didn’t attack Daniel or Amanda. He clenched his fist. He had a few cards under his sleeves. Cards he didn’t want to show. But now was the time. It was a gambit, but one he had to make. He leaned forward, meeting Ivan’s gaze.

“If you help me, I’ll help you. Come on, [Let’s Make a Deal].”

After all, that was Daniel’s second Class. He’d been tired of constantly fighting. Of always having to brute force his way through things. Also, he liked money.

That was why he became a [Trader].

 

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MelasD

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