125 A Challenge from the Drifting Magician (Part 3)

 Although still in a confused state, Carrido sat down at the table where a shiny silver plate was laid out in front of him. On the silver plate was a mouth-watering piece of steak and the aroma that wafted from it was so appetizing that he could no longer hold himself back from tearing voraciously into it.

"How is it? Isn't it good?" asked Link with a smile, "Lucy prepared it herself, it's the best steak you can get in River Cove Town."

"It's delightful!" exclaimed Carrido, "It's the most delicious piece of meat I've ever had!" Grease was dripping down his chin as he munched on the food. A few moments later, he realized how rude he must've been, so he slowed down his eating speed a little.

After hearing this sincere praise of her food, Lucy began to warm up to Carrido and the severe expressions on her face began to soften. Jacker breathed a sigh and relaxed as well. The anger that distorted his face gradually dissipated, which calmed down the highly-strung atmosphere in the dining hall.

Seeing this, the girl Rylai could start to breathe easy again and she was finally calm enough to return to the half-eaten food in front of her. It was, after all, her favorite roasted steak that Lucy had prepared herself, so she wasn't going to waste a single bite of it!

Mmm, you really can't find a better tasting steak anywhere else! Lucy then put another bite into her mouth and slowly chewed it to savor the taste for as long as possible. After a while, she looked around again and saw that everyone was now in a good mood, so she went back to enjoying the food without any more worries.

Meanwhile, Link would chat with Carrido from time to time. He would bring up general news and gossip that was commonly talked about, never touching the subject of magic. Carrido himself didn't want to bring up the matter as it would be rude to do so to someone who'd received him so graciously as a guest-all he did was respond to Link's remarks with polite small talk and the atmosphere gradually became more convivial as time went on.

When the meal was over, Link and Carrido were already on friendly terms. Nonetheless, Carrido hadn't forgotten his original intention in coming here. There was no use in delaying the matter anymore, so he decided to bring up the challenge now.

"Mr. Link," he began, as he wiped his lips and chin clean with a napkin that a servant handed to him, "Well, you see, I was here to..." He found that he was too embarrassed to continue, as Link had been treating him so well this far.

"I understand," said Link with a smile, "You're here to see how good my magic skills really are. Well, I guess I'll show you then."

He then stretched both of his hands out and placed them on the table with his palms facing up.

"Aren't you going to use a wand?" asked Carrido.

Link smiled and shook his head.

"Have you ever seen anyone bring their wand to the dining table?" replied Link.

Carrido now realized how rude he had been just barging in here so suddenly when it was obviously not the most convenient time for the young Magician at all. He reprimanded himself for not choosing a more suitable moment to challenge the young Magician.

"Just keep your eyes peeled, Mr. Carrido!" assured Link.

Just as he finished the sentence, the smile on Link's face disappeared instantly and his eyes looked cold and piercing. In hardly a second later, a Level-1 Whistle appeared above Link's left palm, and a Glass Orb appeared above his right palm.

These two spells appeared almost simultaneously to Carrido's eyes, and what was even more frightening was the fact that they were cast in what felt like less than a second!

In this simple move, Link had demonstrated two skills that Magicians coveted the most - the simultaneous casting of different spells and high-speed spellcasting!

Why did Magicians covet these skills the most? Because they meant raw and unadulterated power!

Carrido's jaw almost hit the floor by now. His eyes were fixed on the spells that emerged from Link's two hands and beads of cold sweat began to form on his forehead. The rotating metal spike and the dimly glowing solid fireball were nothing like what he'd ever seen before-this meant that they were no ordinary spells. These spells were modified by Link's own Supreme Magical Skill and that spelled one thing out loud and clear-Link was an unimaginably powerful Magician!

He's a master! A terrifying Master Magician! Carrido's heart almost jumped out of his throat. He knew now that if he were to face Link in a duel, he would be sent to the next life in a blink of an eye, before he could even lift a finger to attack this young Magician!

Moments later, the two spells disappeared and Link turned to Carrido with a smiling face.

"So, what do you think of my magic skills, Mr. Carrido?" he asked.

"Amazing! You're no ordinary Magician! I must concede to your superior skills!" said Carrido, but not without shame and regret. Still, he knew that it was the safest thing to do anyway. He wouldn't want to go up against this young Magician now that he'd seen his power!

Carrido then rose from his seat and was about to excuse himself, but Link stopped him before he could open his mouth.

"Mr. Carrido, I can sense that you are a gifted Magician yourself. Our troop needs someone like you. Would you like to join us?"

Link knew that Carrido was not a bad person by nature and he was not without talents. He was just unlucky enough to be born poor, so he was unable to receive any formal training in magic. When someone like this was given enough training and guidance-he could one day be a helpful and prominent figure in the mercenary troop.

Carrido hesitated for a while, then shook his head.

"No, I'm used to freedom," he replied, "So I don't like to be bound to anyone."

He didn't think that joining a mercenary troop was a terrible idea at all, only that this particular troop seemed a little unpromising. He still had his pride as a Magician, after all, and when he considered it more carefully, he realized that the troop was just too new and too small. He could see that their headquarters weren't too impressive and that apart from a handful of core members, the rest were equipped with very basic gear and weapons.

If he decided to attach himself to such a troop, he feared that there wouldn't be much of a future in store for him.

Link actually understood Carrido's thinking and didn't expect that he would agree to join them the first time he asked anyway. He knew not to take offense from the rejection, but he wasn't going to give it up that easily.

"Oh, I understand. But if you had any problems that I may be able to help in the future, you can always come find me here. By the way, I think you'll find this helpful."

As he spoke, Link used the Magician's Hand to thrust a textbook titled The Magician's Path to Carrido. He knew that the drifting Magician only knew a few spells. Though he seemed to have mastered those few quite well, Carrido still lacked a strong foundation of magic theory knowledge, which was fine if he didn't wish to make much progress. However, if Carrido wanted to improve himself and become a better Magician, he would need to study the underlying theories and structures of magic spells.

Carrido quickly picked up the book, but his hands shook the second he noticed the book's title and author. It was a classic magic textbook written by a Level-7 Master Magician of the East Cove Magic Academy more than a century ago! The difference between this book and the other book he'd spent 5 gold coins on was like the difference between heaven and hell!

He flipped the book open and skimmed through it hastily. Now his whole body was shaking as he could discern how each sentence was packed with wisdom, with not a single word wasted on its pages!

He was sure that after reading this textbook, there would be a big leap in his understanding of magic!

"I...I...can't...it's too precious..." mumbled Carrido incoherently.

Carrido was aware of how the deepest and most profound knowledge in magic was locked up within the walls of the few ancient and reputable magic academies in the Firuman Continent. This wasn't a result of any deliberate conspiracies among a tight circle of Magicians, but was in fact caused by the long-term accumulation of textbooks in the libraries of these academies.

Each magic academy invested a great fortune in creating the ideal environment to promote the research done by their Magicians. Once these the research yielded results, the Magicians would naturally record all their findings in their notebooks, which would then be stored in the academy library as textbooks. As time went on, the academy would house an accumulation of invaluable magic knowledge within its library walls.

Thus, these magic textbooks were among the most treasured objects in these magic academies, so they wouldn't just lend it to anyone. The textbook that Link had just offered Carrido, for example, could not be bought with any amount of gold coins, but could only be borrowed by the apprentices and Magicians of the East Cove Magic Academy.

For this reason, the dream of becoming a Magician was an almost impossible one for commoners. Even a rare genius like Eliard had stumbled upon some almost insuperable hurdles before he could enter the East Cove Magic Academy. So, it's no wonder that a Magician with average talents like Carrido would have to walk a treacherous path just he could reach this point.

"I can only lend it to you for one night," said Link with a smile, "So please return it to me tomorrow morning." There was a magic stamp on the textbook that would transmit its location, so Link wasn't worried even if this drifting Magician decided to run off with it.

"Thank you, thank you very much," said Carrido earnestly, "And I'll give your invitation to join the mercenary troop some serious thought." Carrido bowed deeply at Link and gently pressed the textbook to his chest. He then turned away and left the cabin.

Even when he was already out of the Flamingo Mercenary Troop's headquarters and was walking on the road heading back to River Cove Town, the image of the dark-haired Magician still floated in his mind.

He was born a lowly commoner and the only life he knew was the miserable life of a peasant; he knew nothing about honor, chivalry or courtesy. But he knew that the young Magician had treated him with kindness and respect, and that he felt at ease and relaxed when he was around him.

Link had seen through Carrido's situation in a glance, but he never mentioned it aloud or mocked him. Though he had the right and the opportunity to demean and humiliate him, Link had chosen instead to treat him with generosity, as if he were a friend.

It's hard to believe that someone with such a formidable power would be so humble at the same time. Carrido had certainly never met such a person before in his life.

Carrido had a vague premonition that in a few years, the young man would be a bright shining star who would stand a head above all the Magicians of the Firuman Continent.

Have I just met a Legendary Magician in the making? Carrido sighed gently and began to seriously consider joining the Flamingo Mercenary Troop.