Book 3 Chapter 174

Gahrona's Rebuke

Over the next couple of days, Leguna felt the already prosperous Melindor become even busier. All sorts of mercenaries and adventurers, even Stokians, made their way to the capital in droves.

The tournament's champions would get ten thousand gold coins, a sum attractive to even elder mid-order magi. It brought countless people to the city like flies to fresh shite. Naturally, many didn't really think they could rely on their strength to get first place. A few with high self-esteem tried to run side gigs here and there. Some took bets, others toyed with their would-be opponents, and yet others tried to make the strongest disappear.

In just three days, dozens of attempted murders were recorded, seven successful. Most victims were reputable people on the continent, killed because they had too big a chance of winning. Of course it was always possible this was just comeuppance for an old grudge. The constabulary was stretched to the limit and had to turn away countless cases to focus on the more pressing issues, which pissed off the emperor. It eventually got so bad the big man brought the city guard in to help keep everything under control.

{Why aren't you anxious? Look at those two. They've been training non-stop,} Gahrona asked.

{Well, I wasn't planning to get first place. I just need to make it far enough to meet Annie. I don't care about winning,} Leguna answered lazily.

Even Eirinn and Innilis could tell he didn't really care about the competition.

{What kind of shit attitude is this? You're my disciple!}

{There'll be a lot of people watching. I can't expose my gifts, right?} Leguna rolled his eyes, {I'm not confident I can go very far without Host of Darkness, so why pine for it?}

{So you finally know how weak you really are, huh?}

{What?} Leguna froze.

{You finally realize you're nothing without Host of Darkness.}

Leguna didn't know how to respond.

{You've been relying on your gifts in every battle since Innie's trouble. Isn't it convenient? To be honest, I've not seen you fight a single battle on your own strength. I don't even know if you have any strength, is it all just Host of Darkness?}

{I… It's true, though; my abilities are weaker than those guys'.}

{Uhuh?} Gahrona smirked, {Your gifts are strong, yes, I'd put them among the top three most powerful I've ever come across, but they are just perks that augment already existing strength. They can only do so much. You can't rely on them to be your answer to everything. If you just keep relying on them, and you never polish your own skill, you'll never get anywhere. You'll certainly not break through to the high order easily, and you'll never make it to saint level.}

{R-really?}

{Hmph, there may not be many gifted compared to normal people, but there are a hell of a lot of normal people.}

{You think they're that few?} Gahrona pushed when Leguna didn't respond.

Again Leguna was silent.

{Relative numbers are just that, relative numbers. How many saints and myths do you think there are?}

{Twenty or so?} Leguna guessed.

Saints and myths were few and far in between, but Leguna had still met several in his short life, saints, at least. Kreighdon, Wayerliss, Marolyt, and his teacher, Gahrona were all among their number. He expected that myths had to be even fewer.

{Twenty? You humans are on the top right now, but you're far from insurmountable. I'd be flabbergasted if there were more than ten! Now guess. How many are gifted?}

{I... don't know...}

{Half of them at best! Gifts are just small boosts, nothing more. They'll get you nowhere without hard work, dedication, and self-reliance. All the strong rely on their own talent and determination to reach their heights, gifted or not. How did I evaluate the three saints we've come across so far?}

Leguna brooded silently. He had asked Gahrona about the three saints once when he had nothing better to do.

{Well, I guess Wayerliss is a rare genius. But he became a saint on luck more than fate. If everyone had his fortune, saint-ranked experts would be as common as dog hair. He is the weakest of the four. Marolyt is crazy, but he is very strong. I would have to work hard to fight equally with him. And if we both used our gifts, I'd be fighting an uphill battle. If I catch him by surprise, however, he'd die every time. Kreighdon… he's a rare miracle orc. I'm no match for him even if I take him by complete surprise. At best I could wound him. He is worthy of his title.}

Including herself, Kreighdon would be the strongest, then she, followed by Marolyt, and finally Wayerliss. The last didn't have any gifts, but the same was true for the first.

{Gifts are strong, but can do nothing on their own. If you want to rule the world with them alone, you'll die a horrible death in some gods forsaken alley. And don't forget the cost your gifts carry. It's even started affecting your psyche.}

A chill ran down Leguna's spine. He'd talked things over with Gahrona and decided he wouldn't use Host of Darkness's power for a while. When he stopped, his temperament returned to normal quickly, it was clearly a side effect of his ability.

It made him both happy and sad; happy to know it wasn't just him changing, but sad because he could not use the biggest source of his strength as he wished.

{Ley. I hope you understand now. You cannot afford to rely on your gifts. You'll lose everything if you do.}

{Teacher's right,} Leguna admitted, {I've relied on my gifts too much.}

{I can't blame you too much, though. You've had little choice to stay alive. You've gone up against too strong enemies too early. You wouldn't be alive now if you hadn't relied on your gifts,} Gahrona consoled.

She had spent several months with the kid by now. She knew his story. His fate was fraught with hardship. He could not escape or change that, but he could change himself. Gahrona didn't count on him to do it on his own, so she'd give him a little hand.

She hoped he could live a decent life before his fate finally caught up with him. She'd wanted to do that with her own life, but she couldn't. She just hoped Leguna didn't die with the same regrets she did.


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