In the heart of a busy square on Jade Street.
Prince Phillip swept his gaze across the fascinating sights all around him. There was a variety of magic materials laid out in the roadside stalls and the merchants' shouts filled the air while human Magicians dressed in vibrant robes roamed the streets.
There wouldn't be such sights to behold in the Isle of Dawn. Although the island had an area of about 500 miles, its population only consisted of less than three million High Elves, all scattered throughout the island. The island was also rich in natural resources, so its inhabitants had no need to work very hard to get their food and drinks and other necessities. This condition had made the island extraordinarily peaceful and serene.
This was all well and good if you were a life-worn, middle-aged man looking for a quiet place to settle down in. But for a young man full of life like Prince Phillip, the Isle of Dawn was nothing more than a prison.
It wasn't a surprise then, that he was infinitely grateful to escape the island for a while when he was sent to the Norton kingdom on behalf of the Isle of Dawn's royal family. He had to discuss the matters of material aid that his kingdom was going to provide the Norton kingdom as an ally in the war against the Dark Elf kingdom of Pralync.
He had some free time today, so Prince Phillip decided to take the chance to visit the Magician's Fair he heard was going on in Springs City. He saw so many things he'd never seen in the Isle of Dawn here. Although the captain of the guards, Ayrie, who was accompanying him regarded the coarse manners of the humans on the streets with disdain and contempt, Prince Phillip was instead entranced by the passion and lust for life that these people showed.
These humans went about their business with a fire in their eyes. They clearly knew what they wanted and pursued them with steely determination. This was something he admired and had never seen in the High Elves back home. All his kind ever did was repeat the lives that their ancestors had led before them day after day with so much leisure and idleness in their lives that their fragile bones would crumble at the slightest fall.
"I like it here," said Prince Philip, his eyes shining brilliantly as he drank in the dizzying sights before him.
"Your Highness," said Ayrie, the captain of the royal guards, "I think it's time we go back. It's getting too chaotic in the streets right now."
"Let's stay for a little bit longer," said the prince who was still so intrigued by the sights and sounds of Springs City. "We've only been here for half an hour." He dreaded the thoughts of going back to the dull and stuffy palace.
While Prince Phillip was strolling the streets without a care in the world, Link, on the other hand, was sensing a very strong murderous intent in the air!
There was a very subtle fluctuation of elements in the air. If Link hadn't increased his vigilance, even he wouldn't have been able to detect the slight changes he sensed right now. Judging from the movements of the elements, he was sure that a Flame Blast was going to be detonated in a few moments!
But the atmosphere of the street was just too chaotic to pinpoint the location of the looming Flame Blast. He tried to focus all his attention on the slight elemental fluctuation he sensed, but still failed to detect its whereabouts.
In that case, all I can do now is protect myself!
Within seconds, he entered the calm and focused state of mind of spellcasting, in which the flow of time almost came to a stop and the noises of the bustling street quieted down. Even Eleanor's voice who was approaching him seemed to come from miles away. Right now, in his mind, the only thing he focused on was that vague aura that contained traces of Mana, of elements and of some sort of hidden powers. When he focused on it a little longer he began to hear whispers of the soul too.
By concentrating on this bizarre aura, Link could finally locate the source of the incoming Flame Blasts. They were not coming from the surrounding shop houses, nor were they coming from the crowds. Instead, the Flame Blasts were coming from the underground - or to be exact, their exact point of origin was the sewers underneath the fountain in the heart of the busy square!
He was sure that there wasn't just one Flame Blast, but three, and it had managed to be triggered so sneakily without causing any major Mana fluctuations because the caster had used magic scrolls and a Domingo crystal!
Yes, he was sure it was a Domingo crystal because he was very familiar with the pattern of the surge of fire elements that were stored in a Domingo crystal.
Three Flame Blasts aided by the use of the Domingo crystal detonated in the sewers right under the square grounds - that would be as dangerous as a mine buried under the ground, and its impact would level everything that was within a hundred feet flat to the ground!
There was no time for Link to do anything other than cast the defensive spell stored in his ring to protect himself. He had fixed a Level-4 Edelweiss to the ring, and it should be enough to shield him from the brunt of the force coming from the Flame Blasts.
Eleanor was still oblivious to the looming danger. She waved her lily-white hands in front of Link's eyes in an attempt to wake Link up from his apparent stupor.
"Hello, anybody there?" she teased. "What is wrong with you?"
Link had no time to explain. The explosions will reach them any second now. Right at the moment he triggered the spell Edelweiss, he reached out his arms and clasped Eleanor tightly to his chest. They weren't exactly close friends then, but Link still couldn't just watch her be consumed by the fire of the incoming Flame Blasts right in front of his eyes.
"Hey, you rascal!" she shouted. "What are you doing?" Eleanor was completely taken aback by Link's sudden movements. She had lived more than a hundred years and was never treated in such a way, least of all by a seventeen-year-old boy! She actually found it...interesting.
She had no time to come to terms with that feeling though, as the thundering explosions hit them right at that moment.
An explosion that rumbled the earth erupted in the heart of the square. Flames burst outward like a demon from hell, devouring and destroying everything that came in its path. At the center of the square, the Elf Guard Captain Ayrie activated a defensive spell at the last possible moment, but instead of saving his own life, he used the shield to protect Prince Phillip.
As for the others in the square - the Warriors, the guardsmen, the merchants, even the Magicians who were passing by - all were swallowed up by the blistering flames of the explosions.
Some powerful Magicians managed to react at the very last second by casting a defensive spell around them, though none managed to do so before the flames had claimed parts of their bodies. These unfortunate people were now wailing and howling in pain.
Elemental spells contained the highest destructive power among all types of spells, and spells that utilized fire elements were the most explosive of all elemental spells. Moreover, Flame Blast was, in fact, one of the most terrifying spells among fire element spells. Right now, three consecutive Flame Blasts were detonated - the resulting power of this move would exceed even that of a Level-5 spell attack!
There was a Level-5 Magician who happened to be in the square, but he wasn't able to protect himself in the face of such an attack as it was too sudden, and it left no time between each Flame Blast. What was worse for him was his location right in the center of the explosion, so even the Level-4 defensive shield that he managed to cast just in time had lasted only half a second before it burst like a bubble and exposed the Magician to all the elements.
In other words, even a powerful Magician was only able to survive half a second longer than the others.
Because there were two rows of shop houses that blocked both sides of the street, the flames of the explosion surged against them like a powerful tide coming in to shore and it reached a hundred feet inside these buildings before it stopped. The impact of the explosions was weaker in the shop houses and the Magicians inside had time to react, so many of them did survive, but most were seriously injured and suffered terrible burns.
The terrifying flames from the explosions lasted for six long seconds. When the fire died down, the formerly boisterous street had turned eerily silent.
Dust and gravel covered the whole area and pieces of charred body parts were scattered everywhere. The remnants of the surrounding buildings flailed flimsily as they were hit by the shockwaves. Terrible cries of pain were heard from spots further away from the point of explosion.
There were, in total, three Flame Blast explosions in those six seconds and they had completely leveled the initially lively and bustling Jade Street into a scene of hell on earth.
Surprisingly, though, in the midst of the scene of total destruction, three people managed to survive.
The first was Prince Phillip, who was enclosed in a shroud of emerald shielding. He was slumped on the ground, dumbstruck by the sheer impact of the explosions and staring blankly around him at the hellish sight of the remnants of the busy square.
The captain of the guards Ayrie, had cast a very powerful defensive spell - equivalent to a Level-6 spell - although it wasn't out of his own powers but was, in fact, from a magic gear that the queen had given him in case of emergency.
The other two survivors were Link and Eleanor. They were right at the edge of the Flame Blast's fiery tongue and were protected by Link's Level-4 Edelweiss. They were both flung 60 feet away by the shockwaves of the explosions and were hurled into a shop near the edge of the square. Apart from slight injuries and dizzy heads, they both had managed to escape practically unscathed.
As they lay on the ground in the shattered house, Link tried to get up and activate the Mana in his body. Then, aided by the additional Mana in the ring on his finger, he managed to cast a new Edelweiss around himself and Eleanor.
The use of magic gear like his own ring could speed up spellcasting, but it would also reduce the power of the spell because of the anti-magic properties of the material that made up the magic gear. Still, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages in this case.
Eleanor, on the other hand, was still shaken up by the swift and violent assaults of the Flame Blasts. She was still dumbstruck and was hiding in Link's arms, her eyes darted around uncertainly and her whole body trembled uncontrollably.
It would be unfair to say that her reactions were because she lacked courage, though. It was just a natural response of someone who had realized that she had just escaped the claws of death by the skin of her teeth.
If she hadn't noticed Link's odd behavior just now and decided to come over and greet him, she would no doubt have ended up as some of these mangled pieces of dead bodies strewn all over the square right now.
While it might be true that she was a Level-6 Magician, she had specialized in secret spells. She was unequipped in facing sneak attacks and lacked the understanding of the effects magic spells had on the soul. Needless to say, she was practically defenseless against the Flame Blasts just now.
Link helped Eleanor up to her feet. He peeked through the gaps of the broken wall and saw an emerald-hued aura enshrouding the High Elf prince in the middle of the now empty square. Then he noticed a group of shadowy figures sneaking up on the prince. There were six of them - some of them were Magicians and the rest were Warriors. They all seemed to be humans and each of them was at Level-3 and above.
They were all heading towards the middle of the empty square - towards the High Elf prince!
They're going to kill him! Link realized. No, there's more to this. The Flame Blasts just now were aimed specifically at the High Elf prince. This must be the Dark Elves' doing. But why would they target the prince?
After a moment's thought, the motive became clear to Link.
They're trying to put a wedge in the relationship between humans and the High Elves!
In the game, the High Elves of the Isle of Dawn had always been a constant and reliable ally of the human race. When the humans and the Dark Elves declared war with each other, the High Elves sent their princess Mirda to Norton kingdom as the special envoy and had even dispatched tens of thousands of High Elf Magicians to join the army. Without the aid of the Isle of Dawn, it was impossible for the humans to face the Lord of the Deep, Nozama.
I'll never let the Dark Elves succeed! Link vowed.
Right at that moment, a notification popped up on the interface - a new mission!
Mission Details: Firstly, save the High Elf Prince Phillip's life! Once that is achieved, investigate the parties involved in this murder attempt.
Mission Rewards: Player will receive 60 Omni Points once the High Elf prince's life is saved, then once the investigation results in a conclusive finding, player will receive a Soul Glyph.
Hmmm? That's an unusual kind of reward. Although there were questions in his mind about this strange new reward from the gaming system, Link had no time to think about it now because those humans were now closing in on Prince Phillip. What's clear as day was the fact that those dying guards around the High Elf prince couldn't possibly fight off those Assassins!
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