After returning to the magic academy, Link naturally arranged for Rylai to stay in Herrera's Mage Tower as well.
When Eliard and Link tried to enter the academy in the past, they faced many difficulties. Not only did they had to pay exorbitant school fees, they were also rejected many times because of their perceived inadequate magic talent. On the other hand, Rylai got the opportunity to study magic at the academy without any difficulties as she had Link to pave the way for her.
Rylai's journey in learning magic was indeed smooth sailing.
Link had also returned to his daily routine back at Herrera's Mage Tower. He experimented with new Supreme Magical Skills, learned new spells, and most importantly, began crafting his new wand. Link was prepared to use up all the rare materials he had, such as the Perilla wood, precious thorium, fine gold and even the Domingo Crystal into crafting this powerful wand.
As Link was focusing on the creation of his new wand, Anthony and the Master Magicians from the six-man council had completed sealing Bale's magic powers. As planned, Bale would be sent to the Tower of Azura straight after.
Bale was forced into a sealed carriage which was escorted by four Magicians, at least Level-3 in strength, to the prison in the northwest corner of the valley.
As they were still under the real-time surveillance of the academy's magic eye, the four escorts were extremely relaxed. No one would dare to cause a ruckus in front of such heavy surveillance.
The four of them walked and chatted along the way; their conversations had nothing to do with Bale. In fact, they were merely fulfilling the orders of the six-man council, and had no idea the exact identity of the prisoner in the carriage.
The carriage traveled uphill along the narrow winding paths of the mountains for about five minutes before reaching an empty field at least a thousand square feet in size. In the center of this open field was a pristine white tower. The tower was not tall, only consisting of three floors and about 30 feet in height. From its exterior, it looked just like an ordinary tower and was inconspicuous. However, it was actually home to all the demons, beasts, evil creatures and dark Magicians the East Cove Higher Magic Academy had caught and sealed over the past centuries.
When the carriage arrived, the door to the first layer opened. A masked Magician clad in a white robe walked out of the tower and rumbled, "Bring the prisoner to me."
This Magician was the guardian of the Tower of Azura and was known to be extremely powerful. His power was equivalent to that of a Level-5 Magician. The four Magician escorts wasted no time and obeyed his orders immediately. They unsealed the carriage and dragged Bale, who was clothed in a hooded black robe, out with force.
Bale kept silent the entire time. He did not show any resistance and was almost like a corpse.
He knew that he was going to spend an endless amount of time in this prison and experience extreme loneliness. The group of so-called masters in the six-man council were simply cowards. None of them dared to personally deliver the capital punishment on him in fear that it would sully their prestige. They thus resorted to such torturous means which kept him alive but bound him to an eternal life of suffering.
But what could he do? He had already lost his magic powers as well as his status. His half-converted body was even weaker than an ordinary old man. He was simply waiting for the grim reaper to knock on his door.
Bale sighed. His mind was now blank and numb to the outside world, passively awaiting the torment of his remaining years.
At this moment, Bale felt a tight squeeze on his hand by one of the escort Magicians who was supporting his body. This action felt unusual-it seemed to be a hint that something was going to happen.
What's going on? Bale was shocked.
Following which, Bale felt an object being stuffed into his palm. The object was the size of a thumb and was extremely hard, much like a small stone. The Magician escort then clenched his hand into a fist, obviously signaling for him to hold on to the object tightly.
Bale was puzzled as to who would help him. He obeyed and clenched his fingers around the small stone.
The white-robed Magician took out his wand and pointed it at Bale. Bale immediately floated into the air and slowly drifted into the Tower of Azura, following behind the Magician's footsteps.
Bale felt the tower door close behind his back. From then on, his ties with the outside world would be completely severed.
Due to the failed transformation process, Bale had become blind and was unable to perceive his surroundings. He could vaguely feel that he was being led downward into an underground chamber.
After a full five minutes, Bale once again heard the voice of the white-robed Magician, "Master, this is your room. The walls are enchanted with a restrictive magic formation. If you don't wish to be hurt, please do not touch them."
Bale then felt himself being lowered onto the ground and a cool breeze on his back. Following which, he heard the sound of distant footsteps, which only lasted for around three seconds before his surroundings fell into absolute silence.
"The room is now completely sealed." Bale sighed. He was still clenching the mysterious stone tightly. To be safe, Bale waited a full hour before releasing his tight grip on the object and stroking it gently with his fingers.
The stone was warm to the touch and the intricate carvings on it could be clearly felt. It should be a type of magic rune. Bale groped these carvings slowly, trying to figure out what type of magic rune this was.
His sense of touch was not as sensitive as before. It took him an hour to finally come to a conclusion, "This is a communication rune stone!"
His magic power had already been sealed and he was unable to utilize the power of his Mana. However, this magic rune could be activated even by ordinary humans.
After fiddling with the rune stone for a while more, Bale found the location of the trigger. He quickly erased the restrictive rune on the stone which caused minor fluctuations in the magic fields. Following which, a voice sounded in Bale's head.
"Is this master Bale?"
"Yes, I am, who are you?" Bale replied in his mind.
The voice disregarded his question and asked, "Do you wish to attain freedom and regain your magic powers?"
This was Bale's Achilles' heel. He immediately dropped his previous question and hastily asked, "You can help me?"
"Do you think I am wasting my time now?" The voice sounded like it was smirking.
"But I do not have any magic powers now. Anthony and five other Master Magicians collaboratively cast a restrictive spell on me. No one in the Norton Kingdom will be able to dispel it. Furthermore, what is the point of being free if I do not have my magic powers?" Bale sighed.
"Who told you it cannot be dispelled? And who says that I am a Magician from the Norton Kingdom? As long as you believe in me, anything is possible." The voice became slightly muffled, even to the point of being bewitching.
Bale fell silent. He then realized that his situation was truly the worst-case scenario. Even death would be better than the state he was in, thus, any changes could probably only go in a better direction. If that was the case, there was nothing to worry about.
"What do I have to do?" Bale asked.
"You are going to have to..."
The voice whispered in Bale's mind. As Bale listened, he became increasingly horrified. By the time the voice was done explaining, Bale was already shaking his head subconsciously.
"No, this would ruin the entire academy!"
"Do you really still care about the academy? The institution that imprisoned you and took away your magic powers?" The voice rebutted.
"I..." Bale was speechless. He was now a disgrace to the academy. The academy wanted to wash off any connections they had with a Magician who had fallen to the dark side. Even if the academy were to be utterly destroyed and the Magicians killed, it did not matter anymore.
"Do it, Bale. Put aside the friendships, morals and regulations binding you. They are merely hypocritical things that are restricting your freedom. You have to break the chains that are restricting you!" The voice grew louder and more passionate.
Bale kept silent for a long time. At last, he asked, "Who exactly are you?"
"I am the messenger of darkness, muahaha." The voice gradually became lower and Bale felt the stone tremble in his hands before it turned into a fine powder.
In the lonesome cage of claustrophobic darkness, Bale lay motionless on the ground. No one could tell what he was thinking about.
In the woods just outside the East Cove Higher Magic Academy, a black-robed Magician was hiding in the overgrowth, standing in front of a magic circle. He seemed to be protected by a blurred figure standing beside him. In the middle of the magic circle was a bright rune stone shooting a faint beam of light towards the sky.
Around half an hour later, the beam of light faded and the rune stone shattered into smithereens. The magic circle had also ceased its operation.
The dark figure immediately complained, "Felidia, do not make me do these things again. Infiltrating the academy was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life!"
"But it worked, didn't it?" This Magician was Felidia, the genius dark elf who once crossed swords with Link.
"It's still too early to determine our success. Who knows if the council idea will really work out? Furthermore, we cannot be sure that the idiot in the tower will follow our instructions."
"Relax, the chancellor is a Level-8 Magician. Even Anthony is not that strong. We have already sown the seeds of despair. All that's left is to wait."
"I hope so."
At the same time, Link, who had been staying in the Mage Tower, received a letter from Jacker. From the illegible handwriting, Link could determine that the letter was definitely written by Jacker. He tried hard to make out the message, squinting his eyes at every word. It seemed to be relaying a message from Royal Knight Anthony, complaining that Darris' carriage never arrived.
Link was shocked and immediately went to find Herrera.
Herrera, on the other hand, had already gotten the news some time ago. She had a serious expression.
"Darris is indeed missing. The academy has already dispatched investigators. I believe we will have some leads in the next few days."
"Why was I not informed?" Link had a hunch that this was the work of the Dark Elves.
"You have been busy with your new wand and I didn't want to interrupt your progress. Don't worry and wait patiently for the results," Herrera comforted.
That was true. Link was not godly and could not attend to every single issue in the World of Firuman. He had to spend time improving himself as well...he wished he had more time.
Please let it not be the tide of darkness...not now...
The only thing Link could do was to become even stronger in preparation for the calamities to come.
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