In Herrera's room.
Link started his story from his arrival in River Cove Town, to his cooperation with the Flamingo Band of Mercenaries because he was desperate for money and finally to when they defeated the Dark Brotherhood and killed Viktor-which was where he got the Occultic Rune from. Link explained all that transpired in detail to Herrera without leaving anything out.
"It is almost indestructible," said Link, pointing to the Occultic Rune. "It is a sacred gear of the demons which undoubtedly contains a wealth of knowledge about black magic. My initial plan was to secretly study it, hoping to obtain power from it. But recent events have told me that I was too naive to believe that I could attempt that."
"I wouldn't blame you," said Herrera, shaking her head. She was full of relief. "Curiosity is a quality that any Magician worth their salt would have. In fact, it is the thing that drives a Magician forward. You were able to control your curiosity instead of letting it control you, and that is commendable!"
She then circled the Occultic Rune and her eyebrows creased more tightly.
"It has an ominous aura," said Herrera, "This is a serious matter, I must report it to the dean. Link, you should come with me."
"Of course," Link nodded.
Herrera then put the Occultic Rune inside a magic-sealing box then brought it with her as she and Link headed towards the Heaven's Thorn where Anthony resided.
They reached without any incident, and they found the Level-7 Magician in the alchemy laboratory of the Mage Tower, meticulously cleaning a potion pot.
"What's the matter, Moira?" Anthony was obviously glad to see his favorite disciple as the severe lines on his august face softened when he noticed her.
There was no one else in the alchemy laboratory, so Herrera closed the door behind her. She then took out the wooden box, opened it, and put it on the alchemy counter.
The moment Anthony had a glimpse of the sinister object he stood rooted to the spot with his mouth agape.
He then slowly put down the crystal potion bottle in his hands, walked a few steps towards the alchemy counter, picked up the wooden box, and carefully examined the demonic object.
Judging from his expression, he was shocked at first, then pensive, and then slowly he became more and more fascinated as he seemed to sucked in by the Occultic Rune. After a long while he jolted himself back to reality and pulled his attention away from it.
Anthony then closed the box tightly and heaved a long sigh. For some reason he seemed to have aged quite a lot since Link last saw him. It was as if the act of closing the box had exhausted all of his strength.
After a while, Anthony put the wooden box back on the alchemy counter, though he seemed to be doing so reluctantly.
It was only a while after that that he spoke up.
"This object is the wellspring of knowledge in black magic. It is very evil and yet at the same time very enticing. Moira, you should put it away quickly."
Herrera had been worried as she observed her tutor's reaction to the Occultic Rune. She stepped forward quickly to retrieve the wooden box and stored it in her storage bracelet.
"Tutor, are you alright?" asked Herrera with genuine concern.
"I'm fine now," answered Antony as he took a deep breath in relief, "Where did it come from?"
Herrera glanced at Link and he nodded to her. Then she related the events that had brought about Link's discovery of the Occultic Runes to the dean without leaving anything out. Anthony listened attentively and waited for Herrera to finish. He turned around and stared at Link in suspicion.
"Why did you decide to hand it over?" asked Anthony. "You could've kept it to yourself and studied it in secret-no one would find out."
As he was speaking, the dean scrutinized Link from head to toe. He was both wary and suspicious of this young man - wary because Link had kept the existence of the Occultic Rune hidden from them for quite a while, and suspicious because of his choice to reveal it and give it up now.
The Occultic Rune contained enough secret knowledge in it to make even a Level-7 Magician like Anthony lose his mind. If Anthony had been in the same situation as Link, he would have probably kept it to himself and hid it well, all while continuing to secretly study it. In the brief moment that he came into contact with the object, he experienced first-hand the strong temptations that it drew out, and this made Link's decision even more perplexing to Anthony.
Link's recent achievements had caught his attention, so he had been observing this young man lately. From what he saw, this man's obsession towards magic was in fact even stronger than his, so the charm of the Occultic Rune should have had more effects on Link than it did on him.
"Is that so?" said Anthony, unconvinced. Even so, he couldn't detect a trace of dishonesty in Link's expression.
"I remember the saying, 'Do not stare into the abyss, because the abyss will stare back at you. Do not meddle with the darkness, lest the darkness will pollute your soul'. Sir, I am but a mortal; I don't think I have enough willpower to withstand the abyss' gaze. To be perfectly honest with you, I'm, in fact, still very much interested in this enigmatic object, but...but I am afraid."
He was afraid! Those three words alone contained in them a vast amount of wisdom and humility.
The Occultic Rune was like a glorious mountain of gold with a bottomless abyss at its foot. Most people chose only to focus on the gleaming mountain and ignore the darkness of the abyss, and eventually none of them could escape the fate of getting sucked into the darkness, paying for the promise of glory with their own lives.
After hearing Link's words, Anthony kept silent for a long time. He looked directly into Link's eyes and saw a pair of dark pupils, deep and clear, radiating with both childlike innocence and bright wisdom.
Herrera did not speak either. She was still impressed by Link's words and she found that she had underestimated the young man. He was not without his own flaws, of course, but he had always been trying to use his wisdom to continuously improve himself.
After all, the gods never chose anyone based only on their physical strength and power - and Link was the perfect embodiment of the fact.
For a time, the alchemy laboratory was as silent as the grave. Finally, it was Anthony who broke the silence with his hearty laugh.
"Yes, what a great way to put it -'I am afraid!' It's true, I'm afraid, too. In fact, I wouldn't be able to resist the temptation of that evil thing. If I was to be left alone with it, there would be no stopping me from trying to glean as much secret knowledge as I could. I think the best thing to do would be for all of us to face the Occultic Rune together."
"Moira," said Anthony, "You've always been shrouded by the blessed aura of the God of Light. Though you've never mentioned it before, your true identity has always been clear to me. Thus I am sure that among the three of us, you're the only one who can completely resist the evil force of this object, so you should be the one to guard it!"
"Yes, tutor," nodded Herrera.
"But don't let your guard down just yet," Anthony continued, "Even the sun does set beneath the horizon, even the day gives way to the night. There is no saying that the glory of light will be unchallenged forever. Anything can happen in the future. Link and I will be keeping an eye on you, and both of you must keep an eye on me as well. No matter what reason I give you, you must never let me touch this evil thing ever again! And neither should you have any more business with it, Link!"
Anthony's tone was fierce and impassioned as he spoke. He was evidently fearful of the evil powers of the Occultic Rune.
Mortals tended to be at their most vulnerable when they were left alone after all!
A man alone, without any guidance or supervision, was capable of doing anything. This was the reason why Anthony wouldn't trust himself to guard the Occultic Rune alone and instead chose to have all three of them mutually preventing the other two from ever touching the evil crystal again. He was confident that this was the most secure method to prevent anyone from misusing the powers that the Occultic Rune contained.
Link still had one last cause of qualm, though.
"But sir, may I ask why you would trust me to guard it too? Wouldn't the academy's high council be more suitable as the guardians of such a portentous object?"
Although Link was now officially a Level-4 Magician and could hold his own in the battlefields, Link was aware of how much he fell short in the actual understanding of the theories in magic compared to the Master Magicians. He doubted if he could be trusted to guard the Occultic Rune together with Herrera and the dean.
"Don't belittle yourself, young man," said Anthony with a smile, "It would be a terrible idea to let more people know of the object's existence. And those graybeards in the council might even try to get you expelled from the academy."
Anthony raised his hand and interrupted Herrera as she was about to protest.
"I know, it may sound outrageous, but it is the truth. The masters of the high council are old and obdurate. The only things they care about are the rules."
As he finished his sentence, Anthony then took out his wand.
It was an imposing looking wand called the Dean's Decree. It was a sacred gear that was passed down from one dean to the next. It was similar to a king's scepter in appearance, except even more elegant and delicate. Legends had it that the wand was made of the branch of the World Tree from the Elf kingdom. The gemstone on its tip, on the other hand, was called the Rainbow Moonstone and it was a precious gem found in the heart of Mount Chalfield - the highest mountain in the Rocky mountain range. All the world's most gorgeous gemstones would be eclipsed by the Rainbow Moonstone's brilliant gleam if they were presented next to each other.
As Link gazed at the wand a notification appeared on the interface.
The Dean's Decree, the Guardian's Wand.
First Effect: The wand holder's spellcasting speed will be increased by 100%.
Second Effect: The power of the wand holder's spells will be boosted by 150%.
Third Effect: The Mana recovery speed of the wand holder will be increased by 200%.
Fourth Effect: Because of the magical properties of the World Tree, the wand holder is able to use a Legendary spell that would resurrect a corpse that has been dead for no longer than a day. This spell is only limited to once a year.
(Note: This is the Legendary Magician Bryant's magic staff, formerly known as Fiona's Hug.)
Link was filled with wonder as he read through its description on the interface.
Tsk tsk, that is quite a list of effects for a single wand!
Anthony then pointed the wand to an empty space beside him, where a black hole then emerged out of thin air. He reached his hand into the void and took out a beautifully decorated notebook.
"Young man, this is my gift to you." He then handed Link a notebook.
"But tutor," exclaimed Herrera, "This is your lifetime's worth of effort!"
"Yes, of course. It's precisely because of that why I must carefully select a successor who will receive this notebook of mine. Moira, please don't tell any of your brothers, or they might get green-eyed with envy."
He then turned around and focused his gaze on Link.
"In this notebook I've recorded everything that I have learned ever since becoming a Magician. I had planned to leave it to Moira after my death, but I'm giving it to you now. And once you're done studying it, you can pass it to Moira then," explained Anthony.
Link's heart almost burst with happiness knowing that Level-7 Master Magician's lifetime's worth of knowledge was going to be handed down to him. The value of this notebook far exceeded that of the Occultic Rune. It seemed he had made the right choice in revealing the truth to Herrera!
He then took the notebook from Anthony very carefully with both of his hands as though it was as fragile as glass.
"I will not let you down, Sir," he said solemnly.
"I have faith in you," said Anthony, nodding. He then suddenly tapped his forehead with his wand, as if considering something.
"Oh, by the way, young man," he said, "I've heard that you are a nobleman's son. Would you be interested in joining the army as a knight?"
"Me, in the army?" Link couldn't quite follow the dean's train of thoughts.
"Yes, you, in the army. The kingdom's army has now advanced far to the North, but I fear they still lack an experienced Battle Mage. If you are interested, I can recommend you to the army and you may join as a deputy commander. You don't have to give me an answer now. There's still time before the army reaches the northern border, and even then, there'll still be many preparations to make. You have two months to think about it."
Link fell silent. He took the matter seriously and took his time considering it.
"Since there is still so much time left," said Link finally, "Then I'd better sharpen up my magic skills now and learn as much as I can before the time comes."
"Go on, young man," said Anthony. Herrera was slightly taken aback by the kindly smile that lit up the dean's face. In all these years as his disciple, she had never seen such a joyful expression on Anthony's face before.
Afterwards, when Link and Herrera were on their way back from the Heaven's Thorn, Link seemed to be deep in thought.
"I still think that something must be done about Felidia soon. The Dark Elf could be working on an evil plot right as we speak. I must take a visit to River Cove Town."
"You've got a point," said Herrera, "Go ahead, then. Be careful on your way, and don't take any brash actions if anything unexpected occurs. Use this to contact me." She then handed him something that was shining brightly.
After examining it closely Link discovered that it was a white feather. He wasn't so surprised because Celine had once given him a similar feather as well. He took the feather then carefully kept it inside his storage pendant.
"Understood," Link nodded.
He did not return to the Mage Tower after that but went directly to the academy stables instead.
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