123 A Challenge from the Drifting Magician (Part 1)

 Cypher Scrolls - these were the common means of communication used by the Dark Elves. They often appeared in the game in Link's previous life, but these were just worthless gray items because the messages on the scrolls were undecipherable, rendering them useless.

Link inspected the Cypher Scroll in detail. What he could deduce from it was the fact that it contained about a thousand words written in Dark Elven letters, although their meaning remained impenetrable to him.

With the help of the gaming system, Link could understand the meaning of each individual word, but a string of words was still incomprehensible. For example, there was a sentence that went the banana peel is bigger than the banana fruit. Link was at a loss as to what these words could actually mean.

This looks like a command letter, Link thought, too bad I don't have the key to unlock this code!

Link then tried to decipher the scroll word by word. But after more than 10 minutes of fruitless efforts, he finally gave up.

Forget it. Maybe I'll have better luck next time, thought Link in frustration. He then put the scroll in his storage pendant.

"We'll stop our investigations into the Cliff of Howling Winds here," said Link, "But you must still pay close attention to any movements in Girvent Forest. If there's any sign of the Dark Elves or if you notice anything out of the ordinary at all, inform Lucy immediately and she'll write to me."

Felidia was a cunning elf. He must've been jolted into action by the mercenaries that Link had hired to investigate him earlier. It wasn't hard for a clever fox like him to come to a conclusion that his identity had been revealed by the raiding of the Syndicate's lair-that must've caused him to hastily retreat.

Link wasn't too worried about the fact that he escaped, though. What he must prevent from ever happening was Felidia's freeing of the demon Tarviss in Girvent forest.

As soon as Link came to that conclusion, a message popped up on the interface regarding the mission to investigate the Cliff of Howling Winds. The dialog box turned red, indicating a failed mission, which meant that the rewards were gone too.

Link could do nothing but concede. He saw no point in beating himself up over it. If he devoted all his time and effort to pursue the rewards from the gaming system, there would be no time to focus on his own progress. Besides, he had no intention of becoming a mere puppet of the gaming system.

Moreover, he was in no shortage of Omni Points. He'd obtained 50 Omni Points from capturing Bale, 20 Omni Points from creating three Supreme Magical Skills, and 60 Omni Points for having truly mastered Flame Blast and becoming a Level-4 Magician - all totaling to 130 Omni Points, which was already an ample amount for him at present.

Jacker noted Link's orders and was ready to obey them unquestioningly. Then, one of the mercenaries came over and was waiting to report something to Jacker.

"Go ahead," said Link, "I won't disturb you anymore. Oh, by the way, tell Rylai to come see me, won't you?" Since he was here now, naturally he'd want to check on his disciple's progress.

"Yes, my lord," answered Jacker.

He had expanded the Flamingo Mercenary Troop and strengthened them so that they would become his powerful ally. But a truly powerful mercenary troop shouldn't just have strong Warriors, it needed a Magician as well. Magicians tended to be proud, though, and most of them would not deign to serve alongside a troop of mercenaries, so Link decided to train one himself.

And that was why he had to pay special attention to Rylai.

Jacker had now left the hall. A while later, Rylai came in. Her overall countenance seemed to have improved since last week. Her cheeks had grown fuller and the water element aura around her body had become more pronounced now-it seemed as if she was glowing. Her eyes were especially bright, but at the same time they still projected her shyness and timidity as well, so anyone looking at her couldn't help but adore her.

But this was only her outward appearance. The moment Rylai appeared, Link could sense that her Mana was much stronger than when he last met her. Only a week earlier, her Mana had only just been awakened. In fact, he had to touch her to perceive its existence then. But now, her progress was so obvious that he only needed to be in the same room with her to perceive it.

"Very good." Link nodded, visibly pleased.

"Tutor," said Rylai meekly, though she was elated by the sign of her tutor's approval, "I've also managed to learn a spell."

"Oh, what spell is it?" asked Link, pleasantly surprised.

"It's Dewdrops," she answered.


Level-0 Spell

Effect: Condense the water elements in the air into beads of dew.

"Show me, then," urged Link. Although it was just a Level-0 spell, Link was still impressed that the girl could master it in seven days without any guidance or supervision. This was undeniable proof of her talents and potential.

Rylai nodded then pointed her wand at the surface of the table. She took about three seconds to focus her mind before the tip of her wand lit up, shining a ray of light onto the table's surface. A second later, the light disappeared, and dewdrops covered a palm-sized area on the table.

It was indeed the Dewdrops spell.

"Excellent job," said Link. He realized he'd found a bona fide talent in Rylai and it would be a huge waste of her gifts if she were to stay in here with the mercenaries.

It's time for her to enter the academy. Link thought there was no use in dilly-dallying, so he jumped straight into action.

"Go pack up your things. You'll go with me to the East Cove Magic Academy tomorrow morning."

"My lord?" cried the girl in surprise and disbelief.

It was exactly what she had anticipated hearing ever since Link arrived. She had been restless for fear that Link might not be satisfied with her progress. Heaven knew how desperately she had been working on her magic skills in the last week. She knew that this was the only way she could be useful to anyone. And now that Link had agreed to bring her with him to the academy, she knew that her efforts had all paid off.

Oh God of Light, I am going to the East Cove Magic Academy! That's one of the most sacred sites for Magicians!

Although the girl managed not to jump up in joy, her eyes betrayed her excitement with their extraordinary brilliance. Link couldn't help but smile at the sight of the girl's apparent delight.

"You heard me," said Link as he nodded in confirmation. "Now go on and get ready."

"Yes, tutor." The little girl then sprung out of the hall like a deer.

Lucy came back later in the evening. Now only Gildern was still held up by some business outside.

Lucy was naturally delighted to see Link. After the customary greetings, she rushed to the kitchen and prepared a special meal for him herself. She then laid the silverware that were reserved for when Link came back out on the dining table.

But when they all gathered at the dining table, everyone was cheery and relaxed except Lucy. She was the only one who knew that Link had returned all the gold coins he was given and had even added 500 more gold coins to it. She was worried that Link had sacrificed too much for the sake of the mercenary troop and wished he would take the gold coins back with him.

Link was enjoying the sumptuous meal and the company, but when he saw how distressed Lucy seemed, he took out a small lump of Mithril and put it on the table. In front of everyone, he used his skills of enchantment to transform the Mithril into an elegant bracelet in ten minutes. He even fixed Guarding Barrier on it so the wearer could activate the spell three times with the bracelet.

"Here's a gift to you, Lucy," said Link with a smile as he thrust the bracelet towards her. "Will you stop worrying now?"

Link's show of magic skills had left everyone there awestruck. The bracelet could fetch 700 gold coins based on its function alone without taking into account its delicate handiwork and elegance. It wouldn't be surprising at all if someone would buy it at a price of 1000 gold coins!

Rylai who had been witnessing the whole creation process of the bracelet was simply fascinated. She had learned some basic magic skills, so she knew how hard it was to produce such a magnificent object. At that point she truly appreciated how unbelievably powerful her young tutor really was.

"My lord," said Jacker jovially, "It seems you've gotten much more powerful now!"

"Still, you mustn't forget to take good care of yourself, my lord," said Lucy in a stern voice after putting the bracelet away carefully. "I think your health is a little worse than it was the last time you came back."

"I will," said Link with a forced smile, surprised at how perceptive Lucy was for being able to see the remaining effects of Mana potion poisoning in his body.

After that, they all wined and dined merrily and all the core members of the mercenary troop were enjoying each other's company. Then, just as they were about to turn in, a troop member rushed into the hall. He knew that Link was the true leader, so he addressed him directly.

"My lord, there's a Magician outside waiting to meet you. He said he was from the South and that he'd come to...to see if you're as good as you're rumored to be."

Jacker's face darkened as soon as he heard this.

"What audacity!" he bellowed out as he rose abruptly from his seat. "I must go out and teach him a lesson!"

"I want to see how good you really are" was a common line used to challenge someone to a duel. It was a trick typically adopted by people who wished to make a name for themselves, because the challenger had nothing to lose by challenging an opponent who was renowned to be powerful. If he lost, then it would only be a testament to the opponent's formidable strength, not his own weakness. If he got lucky and won, then not only would he win the bragging rights, but it would also give him the chance of a lifetime to gain fame and fortune.

This Magician had come to challenge Link's ability himself, possibly because Link's reputation had spread widely. He saw a chance to ride on Link's coattails and move up in the world.

"Calm down," said Link to Jacker as he rubbed his hands together. He then turned to the others and said, "Let him in, and invite him to dine with us. We'll talk about magic skills later after the meal."