45 Garth“s Reques
Sphinx teleported Astrid to the Black Rose guild headquarters. They were back at the sandy beaches of the guild's private instance field. He led her to Garth's room where Pio was serving the guildmaster some hot soup.
Garth looked sleepy as usual. He was covered in bandages, enough to hinder his movements. After Sphinx and Astrid entered the room, he turned to the priest. "Pio, can you give us a moment alone?"
Pio nodded. "Sure."
The guildmaster faced the male assassin. "Sphinx?"
"Sure thing, boss." Sphinx followed Pio out of the room.
Once Pio and Sphinx were out of the room, Garth sat up and leaned back against his pillow. He still looked like he needed more sleep, but he spoke anyway, "Astrid, I had a feeling something like this would happen. I never imagined that I would fall victim to it."
Astrid sat down on the chair beside him. "Garth, can you tell me what happened?"
He took a deep breath and filled her in on the details of how Tank's attack injured both him and Sed.
Astrid couldn't believe it. Tank himself using cheat codes? Even though he asked Luna for help on catching a hacker...
"Do you think he's really a hacker?" Astrid asked.
"I can only think of two possibilities. It's either he really is one or he was framed," Garth replied. His face showed how deeply troubled he was that a good friend of his was suspected for hacking.
After a few seconds of silence, Garth looked at her in the eye and opened his mouth again, "Astrid, please win this competition for us." His expression was serious and full of conviction. It was a look she couldn't say no to.
Astrid paused to analyze the chances of Noctis Noir winning. "I can't promise a win, but we'll definitely do our best."
"Thanks." He tried to get off the bed, but suddenly felt dizzy as he did so. Astrid caught him before he fell forward.
"Maybe you shouldn't push yourself," she said with concern.
Despite Astrid's worried look, he was still determined to stand up and walk to the nearby closet. He opened it, revealing a full equipment set that appeared to be for an assassin. "This was Wen's old equipment. Before his disappearance, he upgraded his equipment and left this here. I suppose he was reserving it for a deserving Black Rose assassin to wear. I would have given it to Sphinx, but I wasn't sure if Wen would have wanted it."
He removed the locks of the glass case that contained the equipment. "With this, you'll get even faster and stronger. Please use it and win." He removed the equipment and passed it to Astrid.
She was surprised by the sudden gift. "Garth, are you sure? I'm not even a Black Rose assassin."
"You're not, but you're going to win for our sake. No, it's not simply for our sake, but for all the guilds who play fairly and avoid relying on illegal codes. At this moment, Black Rose is in no shape to continue the fight against hackers. Moreover, the guild has been tainted by one member who uses hacks."
Astrid nodded. "I understand."
"I'm letting you borrow the equipment for the final round, but if you win, I'll let you keep it. Deal?"
"I can't just keep your brother's equipment without his permission."
He smiled. "I'm sure he'll be fine with it." He went back to his bed and sat down. "One more thing, Astrid."
"What is it?"
"This whole mess involving the hackers has taken a dangerous turn. I apologize for involving you in it. From now on, please stay out of the investigation. I don't want you or any of your guild members harmed. Please focus on the competition. We'll handle the investigation ourselves."
Astrid nodded. "I understand."
When Astrid left the room, Pio stopped her. "Astrid, please give this to Lyria." He handed her a mace. "She'll find it useful for the final round. Good luck to you girls!"
Sed followed after Pio. "Please give these greaves to Luna. They've been sitting in my inventory collecting dust since I changed my equipment. It could boost her damage." He gave the greaves to Astrid.
Astrid smiled. "Thanks guys."
Sed placed a hand on her shoulder. "We got your back. Please win the finals for us."
"Yeah. We'll do what we can to support you." Pio placed a hand on her other shoulder.
"I don't have any extra equipment because I gave them all to Pio, but would you like spiced wine?" Yaya came out of a room carrying bottles of wine she took out from her collection. Her feet wobbled a bit, but she managed to keep her balance. "I have all the available spiced wines in stock! The Mir version, the Lamont version..." She laid them all out on a nearby side table.
A drop of sweat trickled down Pio's cheek. "No, Yaya. I don't think wine will help them win."
Jasmine walked into the hallway rubbing the back of her neck. "Garth already gave all the useful equipment, so I can't find anything else helpful." She pulled out a coupon. "I have this discount coupon though for the Lamont Café."
"Jas! Seriously?" Pio shook his head in disbelief.
Jasmine placed her hands on her hips. "Hey! At least I found something useful, Pio! I had to search long and hard through my inventory!"
"Were you even trying?!"
Sphinx suddenly appeared beside Astrid and handed her two cards that increased mana recovery. "Your bard and mage could use these."
"Thank you, everyone." Astrid smiled and looked at the Black Rose members around her. She was happy about their eagerness to help. "We will do our best to win."