149 The Flaming Hand (Part 3)


 On King's Lane.

Link was completely unaware that he was being watched. He had now reached the outskirts of the Pufferfish County - the estate of his father, the Viscount Hamilton Morani.

In front of him was the Clearwater River, which was a river of about 300 feet wide where various types of ships frequently sailed. After traveling along the King's Lane for a few hours, Link was now approaching a great bridge.

The bridge was called the Great Hamilton Bridge. It was built by the Viscount and had always been a source of pride for him. The toll tax collected from the ships that sailed pass this bridge on Clearwater River was about 500 gold coins per year, and it was the main source of income for the Morani family.

It could be said that this bridge had provided the whole of the Morani family with all their necessities and luxuries.

Link's carriage was now on the Great Hamilton Bridge. He looked out into the distance and saw a castle on the hillside. This was the Morani Castle where Link's physical body had spent his first fifteen years.

It's been two years now, thought Link. I wonder if my eldest brother is still as bossy as before. Is my second brother's lust for women constrained now by any measure? I hope my sister didn't get bullied much.

Link's elder sister was his only full sibling, so they were very close with each other when he was still living in the castle. When he was little, his sister was always there to protect him and take care of him, but as he got older Link turned into a quiet and reserved young man while his sister became more and more worried about her own future, so they weren't as close as they used to be now.

Link didn't dwell on these thoughts about his family for long, though. Soon enough his attention was focused back on the magic textbook in his hands.

The Pufferfish County was about a hundred miles away from the East Cove Magic Academy. He started the journey yesterday morning and stayed at an inn by the road for a night. It was now the evening of the second day; Link had been continuously studying the Level-5 spell, the Flaming Hand. By now, every minute detail of the spell's structure had been firmly planted in his memory.

He'd never practiced it in the Elemental Pool though, so Link didn't dare to use it indiscriminately yet. This was a Level-5 fire element spell, not only did it contain a frightening amount of power, the fire elements that made up the spell were also notoriously difficult to control. This meant that the slightest mistakes he made might result in a cataclysmic explosion!

This is a powerful spell that needs to be controlled very precisely, Link pondered. It would make a good weapon to attack opponents with and an excellent defensive spell. Maybe I should engrave this spell on my soul with the Glyph of Soul.

Once the spell was engraved on his soul with the Glyph of Soul, he could then cast the spell without constructing the spell structure in his mind. All he had to do was trigger his Mana and wait for the elements to converge and condense and the spell would take form perfectly every time - how simple would that be?

But this is just the regular version of the spell, thought Link. If I'm going to engrave a spell with the Glyph of Soul, I'd better modify it with some Supreme Magical Skills first to make the best of it.

With his fast thinking speed, Link managed to study The Flaming Hand from cover to cover in a single day. This meant that he had a whole day left to ponder on how to improve the spell with Supreme Magical Skills, of which he now had some rough ideas.

The inspiration for these ideas came once again from the space-time thesis that he had been working on. At present, Link had developed his thesis to a point where he had hit upon the profound layer of the truth fabric. It had yielded him with unexpected insights that led to his extraordinary innovations which had helped in gradually enhancing his strength and power.

It was no exaggeration to say that this thesis had become a treasure trove for Link where he could pick out invaluable pieces of knowledge from it every once in a while.

Too bad there isn't any Elemental Pool here so I can't test the spell yet. Link was itching to try out the spell now, but he knew that it was a taboo thing among Magicians to test out new spells in public. He wasn't planning on becoming a laughing stock among the Magicians just because of some slight mistakes he might make in trying out a new spell.

Just as he was about to put down the textbook The Flaming Hand and was going to turn his attention to Bryant's Scroll of Enlightenment, a notification suddenly appeared on the interface.

Link found the notification slightly odd. It was one that he'd never seen before.

Would you like to simulate spellcasting?

"Simulate spellcasting?" Link was surprised. "Explain to me what it is."

The gaming system can assist the player by simulating the process of spellcasting in the realm of consciousness. This way the player can verify the feasibility and effectiveness of a spell.

"You can do that too?" asked Link, bewildered. "Why didn't you tell me earlier?" Link had to wait for his turn to use the Elemental Pool to learn the spell Flame Blast. Had the gaming system told him about such a magnificent feature that he could take advantage of, it would've saved him so much time.

Player's soul strength was not strong enough in the past. The simulation might cause some damage to the player's soul.

"Is it strong enough now, then?" Link asked. "When did it get stronger? Why didn't I notice it?

When you confronted the Necromancer Shade, you surpassed your own limit. Then when you received the blessings of the Angel of Light, there was an ascension in the strength of your soul.

Link understood it now. He had broken through his own limits as he was fighting against the undead, that was why he had such a splitting headache then. Then Herrera had sacrificed parts of her own soul to help heal his soul, which made him recover not only to his previous strength but made it even stronger than before.

Seeing that it would take more than an hour to arrive at the Morani Castle, Link estimated that he would have enough time to master one spell in the meantime.

"Start spellcasting simulation now," he instructed the gaming system.

As soon as the words came out of his mouth, the spell structure of the Flaming Hand appeared right in front of him.

This was a Level-5 spell, so its spell structure was complex and intricate, much more than that of the Level-4 Flame Blast. The Flaming Hand was another spell that was based on runic light wheels. It contained five light wheels and there were more than a hundred runes on each wheel. If he used the same spellcasting technique as the one shown in the simulation earlier, Link estimated that he would spend 4 seconds on spellcasting even when he had already mastered it.

In real battles, taking four seconds to cast a spell was enough to create an opening for an Assassin or a Warrior to kill him more than ten times.

Then, Link saw clouds of red gas flowing from all directions into the bright red frame of spell structure, creating a giant Flaming Hand of which each finger was thicker than an elephant's leg. The hand was glowing white and there were spirals of red-hot flames surrounding it while its surface was roiling with heat waves. By the looks of it, if the hand was holding a man inside its palm, it could completely vaporize the man in less than a second.

In the field of vision, Link saw a red-colored atmosphere flowing in from all sides into this red magic structure, forming a large flame giant with a finger two times larger than the elephant's leg. The color of the hand was incandescent and surrounded by a red fire. The flame, on the outside, was a billowing heat wave.

"It's not bad, but it's just the regular version," said Link in his own realm of consciousness. "I'll modify it."

As soon as he had the idea, the Flaming Hand in front of him disappeared and turned into its basic spell structure. Link then began to modify it based on the ideas that he had when observing the regular version earlier.

He had been playing with the ideas of ways to modify the spell a dozen times in his head, so he took less than five minutes before a completely new spell structure was created.

After checking it one last time and confirming that there were no defects, Link said, "Simulate spellcasting."

The spell structure began to oscillate, and the red flames began to pour in. Soon afterwards, the Flaming Hand began to take shape and was about to come into its perfect from when suddenly there was a flash of light and the Flaming Hand scattered and collapsed.

Simulated casting failed. The new structure was flawed.

Link was not discouraged, though. He knew that it would take more than one trial to succeed.

"Can you repeat the process?" asked Link. "And make it slower too."

Yes.

And so, Link once again observed the whole process when the Flaming Hand collapsed. The speed was slowed down by 5 times so Link could very clearly see the whole process unfold and identify where it had gone wrong.

Link finally spotted all the flaws after a few seconds. He pondered on a solution for about three minutes, then started to make slight alterations. This time, he spent about ten minutes on it. After making sure that everything was in place, he once again said to the gaming system, "Simulate spellcasting."

The red gas flowed into the spell structure once again, but this time no accidents happened. The giant hand appeared, although its appearance slightly differed from the regular version. Its surface was still an incandescent white, but it was glowing very dimly and the roiling waves around it were now controlled. The barrier between the Flaming Hand and the air around it was now clear-cut. Additionally, there was a transparent force field around the giant hand.

This force field wrapped around each finger of the Flaming Hand. Under the influence of the fire elements on the force field, red rings of fire appeared around these fingers.

The texture of this novel Flaming Hand was similar to that of Link's Glass Orbs. The reason being that both spells condensed all of their fire elements tightly inside their cores.

Splendid, Link thought. Now I can completely control the flame and direct it to explode at the exact time that I wish it to. There are still some flaws here, though. The control of the flame's energy is still imperfect, but I can change that.

Link liked spells that he could control, which was why he had developed the Flame Blast with high target accuracy and the Glass Orb with almost all of it fire elements constrained inside the orb. Right now, he wished to create a modified version of the Flaming Hand of which he could completely tweak its surface temperature to his desire.

After the completion of its basic structure, he now began to make the final improvements to the spell.

It took him more than half an hour this time. After modifying it five times, Link was finally content.

Though half an hour might seem like a brief period of time, Link had actually spent more time because he was in the realm of his own consciousness. Because Magicians usually possess fast thinking speed, one second in the real world was like a hundred seconds in their realm of consciousness. Link, on the other hand, had such a lightning fast thinking speed that one second in the real world could be as long as 200 seconds in his realm of consciousness. Combined with the boost he received from the gaming system, that was how he managed to modify a spell in less than an hour.

"Now," said Link, "imprint this spell onto the Glyph of Soul."

Are you sure?

"Yes."

As soon as he made the reply Link felt as if something was slamming against his head. He could almost hear a clanging sound in his head, as if someone was hitting on a big brass bell. He had a throbbing headache when he finally regained consciousness. Nevertheless, the Flaming Hand's structure had been clearly imprinted in his mind and he could recall it with all its minute details in no time at all.

He had a feeling that as long as he triggered his Mana he could construct the structure of this Level-5 spell instantaneously. Then, a notification popped up on the interface.

Player acquired a new soul spell. Please name the spell.

"Call it... the Vulcan's Hand", replied Link. He had wanted to call it the Buddha's Palm but he thought it sounded too grandiose and arrogant to name a spell he created himself something like that.

Player successfully created a new Level-5 spell - the Vulcan's Hand. Player receives 10 Omni Points and now has 210 Omni Points in total.

Link took a quick glance at the notification then made it disappear. He rubbed his throbbing temple and closed his eyes to rest for a while. About ten minutes later the carriage gradually slowed down and came to a stop.

"Mr. Link," said the coachman, "we're at the castle gate now."

Link opened his eyes and peered out of the carriage window and discovered that he was now at the Hamilton family's castle gate. By now the guards on the castle wall had noticed the carriage approaching the moat, though they made no move to lower the bridge.

"Who goes there?" shouted one of the guards. "Report the name of the gentleman in the carriage!"

"Tell them it's Link Morani," said Link to the coachman, who then shouted the reply.

The guards on the castle wall were taken aback by the name given by the coachman. They knew that the Viscount's third son had left the castle to study magic a long time ago and were surprised at his sudden appearance now.

Why did the young master come back so suddenly? Did he hear that the old Viscount was sick in his bed and rushed back to make sure he got his share of the inheritance?