159 Monetary Incentive (Part 2)

 Warter's ears pricked up the instant he heard Rylai uttering the word "tutor". A friendly smile appeared on his face and he instantly bent his head forward and rushed up towards the figure the girl had just addressed as tutor.

"Sir," he said reverently, "it is such an honor to meet you."

Warter glanced at the man before him as he spoke. What he saw was a very young-looking man with black hair and black eyes whose looks were plain and unremarkable. Had it not been for the ink-blue Magician's robe he was wearing and the wand in his hand, Warter was sure this young man could disappear on a busy street full of people. The only striking features on this young man were his eyes.

His eyes were exceptionally dark, yet they were so clear that they seemed to glow. At first sight, Warter thought they shone with the innocence of a child, but after getting a closer look, he realized that they were, in fact, as deep as and as dark as the night sky. They were so deep that one could never fathom the bottom of their depths no matter how long they stared at them.

Just then, Warter suddenly felt a certain kind of frightening pressure exerted by the eyes on him. He was taken aback by the mysterious power this young man exuded and was forced to look down to avoid those terrifying eyes.

I guess the rumors were right, he thought. Magicians do indeed have powerful souls that could shatter a weak-willed spirit with a glance.

As a merchant, Warter had, in his younger years, been a traveling salesman who'd journeyed all around the kingdom. He'd seen many things in his travels, so he realized how mistaken he had been in underestimating Link just because of his young age.

"Who are you?" asked Link, slightly puzzled at the presence of a stranger in the Mage Tower.

"Oh, forgive my manners. I'm Warter," he said. "I own the Green Leaf Merchant Firm, and I've come to discuss matters of business with you." As he spoke, Warter slid out the Mithril necklace in front of Link. He could guess by Link's reaction that it was indeed his creation.

Link could see through Warter's motives for coming here in a heartbeat. He must've been attracted by his own enchantment skills and wanted to use them to attract more gold coins into his pockets.

For what it's worth, this man is shrewd, thought Link. But even though he was impressed with the man's cunning, he would still need to prove his sincerity to Link before he would agree to cooperate with him. Besides, Link was in a rush to meet with his tutor on urgent business right now, so he had no time to entertain the merchant's proposals just yet.

"Follow me," said Link.

"Ah...yes, sir." Warter saw that there was hope so he acted even more reverent now and followed closely behind Link into the Mage Tower.

Rylai kept talking to Link all along the way, telling him about the recent happenings in the academy, then asking him questions about magic. Link replied now and then with a smile constantly on his face. He listened intently to Rylai's retelling of what occurred in the academy while he was gone. As for her questions, Link managed to answer them all in short and clear replies while Rylai listened to him with bright shining eyes, her face showing the utmost respect for her tutor.

Once they reached inside the Mage Tower, all the apprentices they walked past would immediately bow at Link no matter what they were doing at the time. On their faces Link saw a hint of respect and awe that hadn't been there before. Link found this change curious, although he didn't get to ask the question before Rylai offered the answer herself.

"Everyone heard of what happened in Jade Street, tutor," she said. "You saved the High Elf prince's life and even defeated three Dark Elves! All the Magicians in the academy were impressed with you - even Dean Anthony had lavished praise on you himself!"

Two days ago, the king had sent special envoys to the academy to deliver Link's rewards and publicly announced his contributions to the kingdom, so the matter was public knowledge now. Naturally the Magicians in the academy could understand the significance of Link's achievements even more than lay people as they were more rational and had more knowledge of what went on in magic battles.

Three Dark Elves - one was a Level-5 Warrior, one was a Level-4 Magician, and the other one was a Level-4 Assassin - made up the infamous Three Musketeers of the Silver Moon. They were the leaders of the younger generation of Dark Elves in the Black Forest and were feared all over for their formidable power. And yet, Link had single-handedly killed two of them and forced the remaining one to flee for her life - how could anyone possess such a mighty force?

The Magicians were proud people, especially among their peers. Regardless of their talents, they would always be driven to compete with each other. But this time though, Link's achievements were just too exceptional that they knew there was no way they could ever compare. Magicians of the same age as Link were still competing to see whose magic scrolls were better and who could produce more of them. Meanwhile, Link Link had already reached the point where his talents had eclipsed that of the notorious Three Musketeers of the Silver Moon and were acknowledged by King Leon himself!

How could they not respect such an exceptional figure?

The Magicians outside Herrera's Mage Tower were somewhat more reserved in their show of respect to Link. But everyone knew him well here inside the Mage Tower; they even took pride in the fact that a godlike powerful figure had emerged in their own Mage Tower, so they weren't shy at all in showing him the utmost respect that even bordered on reverence.

This was just human nature, although, in Warter's eyes the sight was quite a bit more astonishing. He grew ever more worried now about the future that might be in store if he ended up cooperating with such a prominent figure.

Has he achieved such a degree of fame and reputation already? Warter mused. What kind of ridiculous demands would he make of me?

Although Link was proud of the respect he earned from the Magician's Apprentices in the academy, he was quiet and introverted in nature so there was not a trace of arrogance in his expressions. He even bowed slightly in return to all those who bowed at him along the way.

Warter immediately sighed in relief at this sight. He seems like a humble young man, he thought. He shouldn't be too difficult to deal with if we do end up working with each other.

With those thoughts in his mind, Warter followed Link right up to the second floor of the Mage Tower. Once they reached the top of the stairs, Link turned around and addressed Warter with an apologetic tone of voice.

"Mr. Warter," he said, "there is an urgent matter that I must report to my tutor without delay, so I must leave you for a moment. Would you mind waiting in the hall?"

"No, no problem at all!" Warter hurriedly shook his head in reply.

"Rylai, please take care of Mr. Warter while I'm gone," said Link.

"Leave it to me, tutor," replied Rylai. She then smilingly turned to Warter and said, "This way, mister. You should try a popular beverage here in this Mage Tower, it's called 'Living Bubbles' and it's amazing. I'm sure you'll love it when you try it!"

"Um... yes, I'll try it. Thank you," replied Warter reluctantly. He didn't have the heart to refuse the offer. He wasn't sure if the young girl was right in guessing that he would like it by the sound of the name given to this drink.

Meanwhile, Link was already climbing up the stairs towards the top floor. He could hear the sound of the Elemental Pool being used as he passed it. Link knew that it must be Eliard inside working hard as always.

Once she reached the fourth floor, Link took out his wand and activated the runes on Herrera's door. He was lucky this time as the door opened after a few seconds. Voices could be heard coming from the sitting room which got Link curious as he didn't expect Herrera to have company. He quickened his footsteps slightly and rushed up into the sitting room.

The moment he made the turn around the wall between the door and Herrera's sitting room, Link was met with the sight of two people there - well, to be exact, there were actually a human and a young female dwarf there. From the way she dressed, the dwarf seemed to be a Magician as well.

Link focused all his attention to sense both of their Mana energy. In seconds, he could see that his tutor, Herrera had reached the early stages of Level-6, while that dwarf was already at the pinnacle of Level-6 and would break through into Level-7 soon. This meant that she was even more powerful than Herrera!

Link was shocked by this knowledge. What was going on now? Was Firuman so full of young gifted Magicians that they could be found anywhere? This dwarf girl couldn't be more than 18 or 19 years old! How could she possess such powerful Mana?

The two people in the room turned their heads towards Link immediately as they heard his footsteps.

"Speak of the devil," said Herrera with a gentle smile on her face without a hint of surprise at all. "Here you are."

The dwarf girl, on the other hand, showed great curiosity in her expression as she looked Link up and down. She was slightly more than three-feet-tall, just around the same height as an eight or nine-year-old human girl. She had a face that looked noble and dignified and her skin was as smooth as the surface of a vase. What stood out the most, though, was her light blue eyes that looked so bright and pure that they could even make someone think of gouging them out and treasure them like a pair of jewels.

"So that's your favorite disciple, huh?" said the dwarven girl with a chuckle. "He looks so plain and ordinary." Her voice was crisp and somewhat similar to a human child in its innocence, yet it was mixed with a more mature depth as well, giving it a quaint and unforgettable quality.

Herrera knew that she was just joking, so she made no response to her jibes and went on to introduce her to Link.

"Link, this is Elin," she said, "the Lady Fortuna of the Yabba race."

The Yabba race was the official name for the group of people humans commonly called dwarves, admittedly with a hint of ridicule and contempt. Lady Fortuna on the other hand...Link shuddered at the mention of these two words. Now it was no wonder that she was exuding such strong Mana.

Lady Fortuna of the Yabba race was a genius Magician born of the power of mystical destiny. Her most powerful talent was in the secret spell of prophecy, and because of this the Yabba people held her in very high regard.

In his previous life, Link encountered Lady Fortuna eight years after the release of the game. By then, the Yabba race was almost completely wiped off of the face of the earth by the Dark Elves and the Army of Darkness. Their Lady Fortuna was completely different from the innocent little girl in front of him. She had suffered through unspeakable torture by the Dark Side and had been so disfigured that she hid herself under a thick cloak.

"The glory of light is dead. Darkness has descended. All I see in the future is a world completely covered in pitch-black darkness." Those were the words players would hear from Elin as they first chanced upon her, and she would utter them in a voice that was steeped in sorrow.

Link had once completed a series of tasks Elin had issued in the game which involved the searching and collecting of magic materials. Once all the materials were gathered Elin would reveal the very last prophecy in her life.

In her prophetic vision, the Lord of the Deep Nozama and his army had descended upon the Realm of Light and the human race was on the verge of annihilation. All the ten thousand Magicians in the High Elves Magic Legion were killed in battle. The entire Realm of Light had entered the apocalypse.

After seeing this final vision, it was as if Elin's Mana was exhausted of its limits and her soul had reached a breaking point. She would then sacrifice the remnant of her soul to the player and give them an eternal blessing to always uphold the virtue of the God of Light.

"I give up, forgive me."

Those were the last words Elin whispered before she collapsed and died. Her black cloak fell away and revealed a body so mutilated by torture that it was a miracle she hadn't shattered to pieces long before.

This was one of the top ten most harrowing and heart-breaking missions in the game. Countless female players shed bitter tears for Elin's tragic death and went on to swear with fire in their hearts that they would save the world.

Link himself had been deeply shaken by the incident. He could clearly recall how he vowed to himself that he would not rest until Nozama was defeated!

But that was another world in another life, things might turn out differently here after all. Link immediately shook his head to wake himself up from his brooding and bowed respectfully at Elin.

"It's an honor to meet you, Madam," said Link.

"No, no, no!" interjected Elin jokingly while shaking her head. "Don't call me 'Madam'! I'm only a 25-year-old little girl!" The Yabbas usually had a lifespan of up to 150 years old and they only reached adulthood at age 30, in which case Elin was in fact a girl and not yet an adult.

Link's face almost turned crimson with embarrassment as he noticed the faux pas he'd just committed.

Herrera noticed how awkward things were getting, so she swooped in to the rescue.

"Stop it, Elin," she said. "Didn't you come all this way just to meet him?"

"Alright, Winnie, I'll stop teasing your favorite disciple," said Elin. (Winnie was the name Herrera's closest friends called her by.)

"Winnie wrote in her letter to me saying she'd found the Lord of Light's Chosen One," said Elin, her playful expressions now all gone and replaced with a serious one. "I have to admit that I didn't believe her at all. That is why I've come here - to meet the person who'd won such high praise from Winnie."

By then, Link had managed to calm himself down. He walked slowly to a chair nearby and took a seat.

"But the God of Light works in mysterious ways," Link said, smiling. "How would mortals like us ever manage to see through his schemes? I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I don't know how to prove to you if I'm really the Chosen One."

"Don't worry," said Elin, "I have my own method." As she spoke, Elin took out a stack of cards that seemed to be of pristine quality. The cards even shone slightly with the aura of magic, giving it a mysterious air.

As Link stared at the cards a notification appeared on the interface.

Tarot Cards of the Soul

Quality: Epic

Effects: A tool of divination created with the power of Lady Fortuna's soul. There are a total of 66 cards, and this tool has a strong prophetic power.

(Note: This is an item exclusive to Lady Fortuna.)

"I need a drop of your blood," said Elin as she laid out the Tarot cards one-by-one on the table.