147 The Flaming Hand (Part 1)

 Alina's lifeless body was set on fire and burned to ashes. Link then spread the ashes across the surface of the stream in the middle of the forest and let her remains flow away with the course of the water.

And that was the end of the Three Musketeers of the Silver Moon.

Her sword was made of solid gold and the magic seal on it contained a lot of thorium, so Link used his enchantment skill to isolate these elements and divide them equally between Eleanor and himself.

From there, Link now had ten pounds of gold and another ounce of thorium, which in total was worth the eye-watering amount of 20,000 gold coins.

Once everything was settled, Link and Eleanor then parted ways at King's Lane near the Girvent Forest.

"I've repaid my debt to you for saving my life with the Scroll of Enlightenment. I've even helped you in deciphering the code in the original scroll and found Alina - don't you think you should show me a bit more gratitude?"

Link thought she had a point there, he never expected to have gained so much by acquainting himself with a person he had assumed to be evil. The Scroll of Enlightenment, the Glyph of Soul, the secret code document-Link had acquired all this with Eleanor's help and they were all extremely useful items!

His skills in enchantment were something he was proud of the most right now, so he made Eleanor an offer.

"I'll make you another magic gear then," he said.

"Good!" replied Eleanor. "My left arm feels a bit empty at the moment, I think another bracelet there would be nice, but I don't feel like forking out the gold coins for the price of the materials."

"Alright, I got it," said Link. "I'll start working on it the moment I get back to the academy. Write to me when you want to get it and I'll send it to you."

"It's a deal," said Eleanor. "Make sure this new bracelet of mine is as exquisite as my Phoenix bracelet, or I won't forgive you for it!" She caressed the beloved Flame Blast bracelet on her wrist lovingly as she spoke, although she had now renamed it as her Phoenix bracelet.

"I will try my best," said Link with a pursed smile.

They then waved goodbye to each other and Link turned down King's Lane. Eleanor stood in the forest watching Link's figure disappear gradually.

"Link, my name is Eleanor!" she shouted when Link was almost out of sight.

Link didn't turn back around but waved his hand to indicate that he'd heard her. He walked on until finally his figure was blocked behind a tree and disappeared completely.

Eleanor sighed softly as she turned around and headed into the depths of the Girvent Forest.

Now I'm alone again, she thought.

Meanwhile, Link walked along King's Lane alone. He could encounter someone anytime on the road so he didn't summon the Wind Fenrir to avoid alarming a passer-by, so he continued to walk all the way back.

After about ten minutes of walking, an oxcart came up behind him. He gave the peasant driving the oxcart a silver coin and hopped on it. The oxcart moved sluggishly, so he only reached the academy late in the afternoon.

It was winter at the time and the weather hadn't been so good on that day as well. There were even some snowflakes drifting in the wind. Once he stepped down from the oxcart, Link gathered his sleeves and pulled up the hood of his robe and entered the academy.

It had been such a cold day, in fact, even Vincent was absent from his usual spot in the garden. He had kept himself warm inside the cottage instead. When he heard someone's footsteps at the gates, he opened the window to take a look outside. Once he discovered it was someone wearing the Magician's robe of the East Cove Magic Academy he decided there was no threat to be found and closed the window.

As he treaded the snow-covered path in the chilly wind on his way back to his Mage Tower, Link suddenly thought of his mother again.

Her name was Lilith. She was 40 years old this year and she was a woman so kind and gentle that one might think she was weak. Link wondered how she was getting along now in that small cottage in the countryside.

There were always shortages of all kinds in that cottage, thought Link. I wonder if she had enough coal and firewood to protect her from this cold. How are the servants treating her? Does she even have enough clothes or food to survive this season?

Although she was just the mother of this body that his soul inhabited and was not his actual blood relation at all, the memories of her still remained in his mind, making it hard for him to bear the thoughts that she might be suffering a hard life right now.

I've refused the offers from the dean and the king to join the army, so there shouldn't be any reason blocking me from visiting her. Pufferfish County isn't so far away from here, anyway. I'd better pay her a visit.

As he came to a decision Link's footsteps began to quicken. He reached the Mage Tower right when Herrera was giving a lecture to the apprentices in the hall on the first floor. When she saw Link, she nodded at him and continued her lecture. Link took a seat in the hall and went on to study a magic textbook there.

Half an hour later, Herrera's lecture was over. She then walked over to Link.

"Is everything in the capital city settled?" she asked.

"Yes," answered Link. "I've gotten hold of some things that I must inform you of, but I can't do it here." Link was using the softest voice possible to prevent anyone from overhearing him. He was talking about the secret code document that Eleanor had given him. He knew that the authorities would find it very useful.

"Let's go to the top floor," Herrera said.

Once they reached the top floor, Link took out the cypher scroll and the secret code document, although the secret code document wasn't the one Eleanor gave him but was a copy that he made on the oxcart. He did this to protect Eleanor's existence from the authorities.

Herrera was oblivious to this small detail. She examined the scrolls for a while and discovered that they were indeed very important documents.

"Where did you get these?" she asked full of shock.

"One of my followers accidentally discovered this cypher scroll at the Cliff of Howling Winds," explained Link. "While the secret code document was given to me by the black dressed woman." It was too late to conceal Eleanor's existence, but he decided that he wouldn't reveal the friendship between them just yet.

"Black-dressed woman?" asked Herrera, more and more confused now. "Do you mean that mysterious Magician?"

"Yes," answered Link. "She was at Jade Street when the Flame Blast explosion happened and barely managed to escape death because of it. I guess she gave this to me because she believed that I could somehow defeat the Dark Elves who had almost killed her." It wasn't the whole truth, but Link sounded convincing when he uttered it because he believed it was a necessary lie and his conscience was clear.

As expected, Herrera believed him. She put the cypher scroll and the secret code document side by side and began to compare them. She did this for a few minutes before her eyebrows furrowed and she turned her gaze up to Link.

"It says here," she began with a grave tone, "that the Dark Elves are planning something called the Black Moon Conspiracy... and they mentioned a Dark Elf called Felidia... But there was no mention of what the plan was about and who was going to be involved..."

Link hadn't found the right time and place to translate the codes himself, so he started doing so now. He discovered that the information on the cypher scroll was short and simple. Apart from the words Black Moon Conspiracy and the name of the now dead Felidia, the only other key information on the scroll was a date - April 4.

It was now January 3, about three and a half months away from the date mentioned. Although it wasn't stated explicitly on the scroll it was very likely that the date was to be the operation date for the Black Moon Conspiracy.

Nevertheless, a date was far from enough information. They still had no idea what the Black Moon Conspiracy was or which part of the Norton Kingdom would be targeted.

"We need more information," said Herrera. She suspected that something terrible was going to happen, something that would eclipse the tragedy that happened on Jade Street recently.

"Tutor, don't you think we should hand these documents over to the MI3?" suggested Link. "They've always dealt with the Dark Elves in the Death Hand, perhaps this would provide them with vital information."

Link realized that the course of history had deviated from the original version in the game more and more now that he could no longer predict the future. There had never been such a thing as the Black Moon Conspiracy in the game so Link guessed that it might concern the East Cove Magic Academy, although he decided to keep quiet about it for now as it was only a speculation.

"You're right," agreed Herrera after thinking it over for a few moments, "we should hand it over to MI3." Herrera then gathered the scrolls in her hands and was ready to leave. "We are in a dire situation. I must report this to the dean right away. Only he has enough power and authority to take the right steps quickly."

Link nodded in agreement. The dean's help would be crucial right now.

"Tutor," said Link before Herrera left, "in five days, it'll be the Winter Veil Festival. I'd like to visit my family and spend half a month with them. I'll be on my way soon."

The Winter Veil Festival was the most important festival in the Firuman calendar. It was the occasion when everyone who had ventured out of their hometown would journey back for a reunion with their families.

Herrera was slightly taken aback by the sudden change of topic, but eventually she nodded.

"Be careful on the road," she said. "And don't forget to study and practice!"

"Yes, tutor," answered Link.

Link then went back to his room and packed his luggage. There wasn't much packing to do as he didn't have much to bring, plus he could just put everything inside his storage pendant. A few minutes later, he was done and ready to go, so he bid farewell to Eliard and arranged some studying plans for his disciple Rylai. He left the academy early morning the next day, heading north to the Pufferfish County.

It was still peaceful and quiet in the Girvent Forest when he was traveling through it along the King's Lane. But unbeknownst to Link, ten miles away three Dark Elves in disguise were entering Springs City.

Of the three, one was a Magician, one was an Assassin and the other was a Warrior. All of them were Level-5. They were the retainers of the Norigan Familia who had come down south in the Norton Kingdom to rescue the clan leader's beloved daughter - the swordswoman Alina.

Link was oblivious to all this as he was engrossed in an advanced magic textbook in the carriage. It was titled The Flaming Hand and its content was devoted to the eponymous spell.

The spell caught his attention because even though the Level-5 Glyph of the Soul would allow him to engrave any spell that was lower than Level-5, it would be a big waste to do so. The only way to make use of such a priceless reward from the gaming system was to engrave a powerful Level-5 spell on his soul with it.

The Flaming Hand was a Level-5 spell with a frightening power. Apart from that, when mastered the spellcaster would be able to accurately control this spell to cause devastating effects. It was indeed a terrifying weapon when used in a battle.

Naturally though, because of its powerful affects, the rate of Mana consumption was abnormally high as well.

It was unlike any other spell Link had mastered so far in the sense that it consumed Mana continuously, not just at the moment of casting like the rest. When there was no opponent present, the spell would consume 10 Mana Points per second to sustain it. When facing an opponent, the rate of Mana consumption would increase the higher the opponent's level was. For example, when fighting against a Level-5 opponent, the spell could consume as high as 100 Mana Points per second. If the opponent was a Level-6 Magician though, then the spell would be virtually useless since the Mana consumption rate would be so high that the opponent would be able to defeat you in one move.

Link couldn't afford this rate of Mana consumption in the past, but he now had 200 Omni Points and a 1900 maximum Mana limit.

It was a mystery to Link, but ever since receiving Herrera's angelic blessings, his Mana had recovered rapidly, especially when he basked in the sunlight. In slightly more than a month, his maximum Mana limit had increased from 1800 to 1900 points.

Link thought this must be the side effects of receiving the blessings from an Angel of Light.

Since his Mana wouldn't be a limitation now, he naturally wanted to begin mastering the extraordinary spell immediately.