Overall, the atmosphere during dinner in the Morani Castle on the second day of Link's return was quite pleasant.
After the meal, Link went back to studying the Scroll of Enlightenment in the privacy of his room and even managed to use the materials he had brought with him from the academy to create a rechargeable defensive spell magic ring. This ring would allow the insertion of the same spell into the ring even after it had been used.
And so, the night passed with Link spending his time in solitude and hard at work.
By nine in the morning the next day, the funeral for the old Viscount went on as planned. His body was then put to rest under the ground around noon while the priest chanted holy readings. And thus, the whole matter was settled.
Soon, the carriage from the East Cove Magic Academy was ready as well. Luckily the coachman was a perceptive man who went into hiding the moment he felt there was something awry last night, and so he survived the Dark Elves' attack unscathed.
Before they set out, Lilith and Molly went to their rooms to pack up their things while Wharton and Clyde stood in the courtyard to bid farewell to their brother. As they were waiting for Link's mother and sister, Link handed the ring he created last night to Clyde as a parting gift.
"I've just made this defensive magic ring for you," Link told his brother. "Wear it on your left forefinger. When you want to use the spell, just firmly press the surface of the ring with your thumb and you'll be good to go."
The ring was made with Mithril and it looked outwardly plain even though its inner workings were complex and intricate. Link had produced it with the utmost care to ensure that it was of the highest quality that he could manage, though he didn't want to make it look too expensive to avoid attracting petty jealousies from the other knights which might cause his brother trouble.
Clyde beamed at the mention of a magic gear. He put on the ring and thought it felt just right - it was neither too tight nor too loose, while the ring itself was not too big and fancy that it might lure any unwanted looks.
"Try the spell," said Link.
Clyde then went on to press his thumb on the surface of the ring and immediately a shroud of faint aura enveloped his body. It was the defensive spell that Link had added his own Supreme Magical Skill modifications - the Edelweiss.
Level-4 Edelweiss was a bit too complicated to be fixed into the ring, so Link was forced to use the Level-3 version of the spell. Once he was sure that Clyde knew how to release the spell properly, Link then waved his wand over the ring and recharged the ring with his Mana, while at the same time explaining the spell to his brother.
"This is a defensive magic ring," he told Clyde, "and it will protect you from any attack that is Level-3 and below, whether it's a magic spell or the blade of a sword. It can also decrease the power of Level-4 attacks to some degree. You can use the spell five times. After that, just find a Magician who accompanied the army and tell them to direct their Mana into it and it'll be just as good as new."
Clyde knew instantly from Link's explanation that this ring could mean the difference between life and death for him in a battlefield. He was sure that the ring must be worth more than a thousand gold coins. Clyde was immensely grateful to his little brother, yet he just couldn't find the right words to say. In the end he just stayed silent and vowed to himself that he must now work hard and become an outstanding knight in the army so he wouldn't let his brother down!
Meanwhile, Wharton was watching his two brothers on the side. His eyes were green with envy for the ring on Clyde's finger, but he knew that he mustn't expect Link to show the same courtesy to him as he had treated him poorly in the past.
To his surprise though, Link suddenly walked up to him and handed him another Mithril ring that looked identical to Clyde's.
"Regardless of what had happened in the past, you are still our eldest brother," said Link. "This ring is just like the one I gave Clyde. Use your thumb to activate it. You can use it five times as well. I won't bother to explain the rest." Link had no intention of pleasing Wharton with the gift, he merely wanted to make sure that Wharton would have no cause of jealousy or displeasure, which might in the end bring trouble to Link in the future.
Wharton stood there motionless and unsure of how to respond. He wanted the ring more than anything else, yet he feared that Link might be playing some kind of a magic trick on him, so he hesitated to reach out his hand and take the ring.
"What are you waiting for? Just take it!" said Clyde, annoyed at Wharton's distrust of his own flesh and blood.
Wharton finally came to his senses. He reached for the ring and clutched it in his hand tightly, afraid that Link might try to take it back.
Link had no time to entertain Wharton's behavior so he turned his back from his brother the second he took the ring and walked away without saying another word.
Wharton noticed Link's cold manners and suddenly felt embarrassed of his own narrow-mindedness.
"Have I really been that cruel to you in the past?" Wharton suddenly asked.
Just then, snowflakes started to fall from the sky. The bitingly cold, winter breeze whistled across the courtyard and the cold pierced through the skin like little blades of knives. Lilith and Molly were both ready now and had reached the entrance of the castle's great hall with their luggage. As they came out, a gust of wind blew against them, causing both of them to shiver like leaves.
Link looked over and noticed that while the clothes his mother and Molly were wearing looked quite thick, they were made of cotton from the South which couldn't protect them from the cold in the least.
Such clothes couldn't be worth much more than five or six silver coins. Even merchant families with a little more affluence in the River Cove Town wore better clothes than that. Come to think of it, even the coachman's livery was made of much better materials than his mother and sister's clothes, yet they were the Viscount's wife and daughter!
Obviously, this was another one of Wharton's doing.
Link turned to Wharton with a frown. He really couldn't be bothered to say anything more to him now. Forget it, he thought. Mother and Molly won't be coming back to this oppressive castle again anyway. Once we reach River Cove Town, I'll just buy them the nicest and thickest clothes I can find. It won't cost me more than 100 gold coins.
Wharton felt Link's sharp gaze and moved his lips as if to say something, yet the normally loquacious Wharton suddenly found himself tongue-tied and unable to find the right words to say. For the first time in his life, he felt so ashamed of himself that he wished he could burrow a hole in the ground and hide in it.
"Mother, Molly, let's get in the carriage," said Link. The East Cove Magic Academy's carriage was equipped with a warming magic seal where it was comfortably warm as spring in there all year round.
The two ladies were still quivering from the cold as they rushed towards the carriage. The both gasped the moment they entered it and were immediately enchanted by the wonders of magic.
Link then waved goodbye at Clyde and followed his mother and sister into the carriage as well.
Once they were all settled inside, the coachman cracked his whip and the carriage slowly drove out of the Morani castle.
Clyde stood there in the castle courtyard watching the exquisite blue carriage slowly disappear out of sight. He then let out a long sigh and turned to his elder brother beside him.
"I don't know if you've noticed it, Wharton," said Clyde, "but it's obvious that sooner or later Link's reputation and fame will spread across Firuman. The good name of our family will rise to glorious heights because of him. If all you wanted to do with your life is to stay cooped up in this measly castle, then just ignore what I'm going to say. But if you want to rise to a higher station in life and see more of the world, then it's time to think of a way to patch things up with Link, dear brother!"
Clyde had seen in the past two days how exceptionally powerful his little brother really was. He'd seen so many young men touted as the next big thing or the young genius in the army, yet none of their skills could compare to his own little brother!
Once he'd said all he had to say to Wharton, Clyde walked quietly back to the great hall of the castle.
Meanwhile, his brother Wharton stood there with his mouth agape, unable to make any response. He rubbed his head gently while his other hand was holding the magic ring from Link. It was clearly a ring with a smooth surface, yet somehow, he could've sworn that it felt prickly in the palm of his hand, as if he was holding a sharp needle in his hand.
The carriage moved swiftly and in no time at all, they'd left the Morani castle far behind.
"Mother, Molly," said Link, "the Ferde Wilderness is too desolate to inhabit right now, and I haven't settled into the place yet. But I do have a cabin that acts as the headquarters for my troop of mercenaries in the Girvent Forest near River Cove Town. Would it be alright if both of you stay there while I make my estate more hospitable?"
The late Viscount and his eldest son had ruled over her life like tyrants for the past couple of decades now, and naturally not once did they ever ask for her opinion on any matter. She almost shed tears of happiness when she heard her own son asking for her opinion with such a gentle and respectful tone.
"Of course it is, dear," said Lilith. She had just turned forty years old recently, yet her face was already covered in wrinkles and lines. It was a testament to the hard life that she had to endure ever since she married into the Morani family. But she had been intensely happy ever since Link returned to the castle two days ago. Finally, she could smile earnestly from the bottom of her heart, and it made her face bloom like a flower as she now looked much younger as well.
Link's elder sister Molly nodded her head as well. She would turn 22 this year, yet she had never set foot outside the Morani castle before. Both her father and her eldest brother had treated her as if she was another one of their belongings to be traded as they saw fit and never shown a trace of respect for her as a human being. This kind of life had made her self-esteem very low and she grew up to be a shy and timid young woman.
But Link was radically different. Her little brother had spoken to her in a gentle tone, he was respectful to her. Even when Link was being harsh to her, it was all because he cared and was worried about her. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Link had given her a new lease on life.
Molly could never have foreseen how her 22nd year would turn out to be the most blissful year of her life so far.
Lilith had been the fairest maiden in Pufferfish County when she was young. That was the reason why the old Viscount had noticed her and asked for her hand. Unfortunately, Link had inherited none of her good looks, unlike Molly, who looked almost identical to her younger self. Molly had a head full of black curly hair, her eyes were onyx black, her skin was as smooth as butter and her figure was youthful and lithe. The warmth in the carriage and the happiness and relief she felt to have escaped from the clutches of her father and elder brother had now brought back the color to her face and made her look positively angelic.
Link sighed gently as he thought of his mother and sister's fate. They were both normal people with no talents or abilities, and they'd suffered through so much bullying inflicted on them by his late father and Wharton. Link vowed that from now on he would provide them with a safe and happy life where they would be free of any worries.
He then promptly took out two silk pouches and filled them with 50 gold coins each, which he then gave to his mother and Molly.
"Both of you take these gold coins," said Link. "Use it to pay the servants once we reach River Cove Town. Then I'll buy you some new clothes, jewelry and the like later."
Lilith accepted the gold coins without any questions. She knew that Link had given them more than they needed, but she could just save them for Link in case he needed them later.
For Molly, though, it was the first time she'd ever seen that amount of money and she was hesitant to accept it.
"But Link," she said, "this is just too much! I don't think we'd need this much to pay the servants. Besides, don't you need them to build your new estate? Shouldn't you save these gold coins for that instead?"
"Stop worrying so much and just take the money," Link said to his sister. "I'll find the way to build my estate, so you don't have to worry about it. Right now, you must focus on adapting to your new life."
"Alright, then," replied Molly. She then took the money pouch from Link with a light and gladdened heart. She never knew how good it felt to be spoiled by a family member who cared for her happiness.
For the rest of the journey, Link didn't even read or study his magic textbooks as he usually did. All he wanted to do was chat leisurely with his mother about what he'd encountered and experienced out in the world. Molly was listening to them quietly at first. Then she gradually loosened up and joined in the conversation occasionally. All in all, the three of them had a pleasant journey to the River Cove Town as everyone was finally relaxed and happy.
As Link was bringing his family back to River Cove Town, a carriage with a green leaf emblem was entering the East Cove Magic Academy. Inside was a middle-aged man with plain looks but magnificent clothes who was holding a Mithril necklace in his left hand and a magic bracelet in his right hand, both with an exquisite flying bird mark on them, signifying that it was made by Link. The man's name was Warter. He was the owner of the prosperous Green Leaf Merchant Firm.
As he stepped into the academy, Warter was immediately confronted with the awesome sight of tall and pristine Mage Towers reaching up into the clouds. Yet there was only one thing in his mind.
This Magician Link has been creating piece after piece of magic gear that could even put the old masters to shame, thought Warter. If I could somehow persuade him to work with me, my fame and fortune would no doubt spread throughout the kingdom!
As a consummate merchant, the wonders of magic and spells meant nothing to him, and neither did he have any real respect for Magicians. There was only one aim in his mind, and that was to get all the money there was on the Firuman continent into his pockets.
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