"Oh, by the way," said Herrera, "this is your reward from the dean."
Upon returning to the Mage Tower, Herrera took out her storage bracelet and handed Link his reward. Link immediately gasped after catching sight of the reward.
"Why is the dean so generous with me?" asked Link. "He'd just given me a golden ore, and now I get 20,000 gold coins as well?"
By rough estimations, Link discovered that the gold in the ring and all its other components and the fragments of the Dark Elves' weapon would wipe out his funding problems immediately.
"The dean thinks highly of you," said Herrera with a smile. "You mustn't let him down."
"Of course," said Link.
Link had defeated and killed three mighty Dark Elves, plus he'd even brought back the important information about the Black Moon Conspiracy, so Link felt that he had indeed made a great contribution to the academy. Thus, he accepted the rewards and kept them in his storage pendant with good conscience as he knew that he had earned them.
"What did the dean say about the Black Moon Conspiracy and the demon, Tarviss?" asked Link.
"The dean said that the academy's defense is impenetrable," answered Herrera immediately. "Besides, the location of the seal of the demon, Tarviss has long been forgotten, so even though he will keep an eye out for the Dark Elves, there was really no need to be too worried about the Black Moon Conspiracy."
Link's eyebrows creased intensely as he heard Herrera's reply.
The incident of the demon, Tarviss' escape had really happened in the game, so it was obvious that the Dark Elves knew of his location. Even though things were slightly different now in this world, the Dark Elves' ability to release Tarviss was unquestionable.
The demon's destructive power was unparalleled and not to be trifled with. In the game, even Anthony's powerful spell that he cast by burning parts of his soul had only managed to injure the demon and force it to flee. Now with the information in his hands, he chose to ignore the threat of the Dark Elves' plot and say that the defense of the academy was perfect and impenetrable?
That is just a tad too ridiculous!
Seeing Link's reactions, Herrera felt the need to say something in her mentor's defense.
"The dean is very busy lately," she said. "He's fully preoccupied with the matter of the war going on in the North. He's always in the academy anyway, surely the Dark Elves wouldn't attempt anything too bold as they would be facing him."
Herrera was extremely respectful of the dean. She fully trusted his wisdom and strength, so if he told her that there should be no reason to worry too much about the Dark Elves' secret plot, then that meant that they really didn't pose that much threat. Her own fear and anxiety over the matter had reduced accordingly as well.
Link was a little worried with how relaxed Herrera seemed about the dangerous plot, yet he stopped himself from trying to argue about it with her.
Both Herrera and Anthony were natives of the Firuman continent, so their perspectives were radically different from Link's. Herrera and Anthony had never received any external information other than what they'd seen and heard in their lives, and they'd spent most of their lives in this academy after all, so it was no wonder that they would regard the academy as the safest place in the kingdom. If Link had been in their shoes, he was sure that he would agree with them too. The only reason Link knew any better was because he'd witnessed the catastrophic release of the demon himself in the game.
When he thought of it that way, Link completely gave up his urge to persuade Herrera otherwise. The lines of worry on his face gradually faded as well, and he finally managed to nod at Herrera's remarks.
"If that's how the dean sees it, it must be no problem then," said Link. "Excuse me, tutor, but I've just remembered that there are some things I must go deal with now."
"Go ahead," replied Herrera, relieved that Link didn't try to press the matter of the Dark Elves.
Link then turned around and walked away from Herrera.
Link and Herrera had met in the corridor on the third floor of the Mage Tower, so Link continued walking down the corridor while he mused about the next course of action that he should take.
Tutor and the dean both can't see just how much danger we are in right now, he thought. But how should I convince them? I must find evidence... but where could I find such a thing?
Just as Link was still deep in his thoughts, trouble arose.
Link came to the East Cove Magic Academy often in the game in his previous life, so he used to be very familiar with this place. Even so, the game and reality were different. The real East Cove Magic Academy was many times bigger than the one in the game, not to mention that there were many more minute details here as well. Link hadn't been here for more than a few months, and he spent most of his time studying in the Mage Tower, so he was still quite unfamiliar with the real East Cove Magic Academy at this point.
Not only was the place still quite foreign to him, he hadn't even known many Magicians in the academy as well.
Still, he walked on while thinking about the problem. He walked all the way from the third floor to the first floor, then out of the Mage Tower, walking aimlessly through the academy.
Just take a walk if you feel you're at a dead end about something - that was the habit he developed when was working on his thesis.
Without knowing it, Link had been walking for ten minutes now and he'd reached Bryant's Inspiration Courtyard. Although it was still winter now and the snow still blanketed the ground, the flowers in the courtyard were still in bloom under the influence of a magic seal.
Link walked up to the willow tree where he often discussed magic with Eliard and sat down on a stone bench there. He looked at the leaves wafting in the wind idly for quite some time while he brooded about the problem. Yet, after half a day's time had passed and he made no progress at all. He even started to feel discouraged for the first time.
There are just too many things that I don't know, he thought. Must the academy embark on its old path to destruction? Can it be that it is fate and I can't do anything about it?
Link caught himself mere seconds after the idea arose in his head. He stamped out such a frustrating and fatalist thought out of his head immediately.
I've become hotheaded, he thought. There's no point in brooding about this now, the Black Moon Conspiracy is going to happen on April 15, so I still have nearly three months. Even if I can't find out the exact details of the plan, I can still muster up enough power to fight the demon Tarviss in three months' time, can't I?
Link's eyes lit up the moment this thought occurred to him. It felt as if the clouds had given way to the clear and bright sunlight now.
Yes, I must defeat the darkness with light! Link realized. If the Dark Elves planned to release Tarviss to destroy the academy, then I'll just kill him when his chains are unshackled! If Tarviss was a Level-8 demon, then I must learn spells that are at least Level-8 as well.
Link then had a thought of checking his own status, and in a blink of an eye the gaming system displayed it on the interface.
Link Morani (Hereditary Baron)
Level-5 Elite Magician
Mana Recovery Rate: 110 Points per Hour
Maximum Mana Limit: 1910
Current Weapon: Starcatcher Wand
Current Omni Points: 210 Points
Link then had a thought of checking the list of Level-8 spells. Immediately afterwards the interface displayed rows of bright shining cards of Level-8 spells, of which Link thoroughly examined one by one.
The Glorious Annihilation consumes 4600 Mana Points, the Flaming Sky, 4800 Mana Points, the Frost Dragon requires 4900 Mana Points to summon. Time Cage would consume 4800 Mana Points, the Holy Dragon's Blessings, 1300 Mana Points... But auxiliary spells like some of these are useless against the demon, and they consume so much Mana!
The higher the level of the spells, the greater the difference of Mana consumption between each spell. As a general rule, auxiliary spells would consume far less Mana than attacking spells.
This was so among the Legendary spells as well. Link's Legendary spell Dimensional Jump only consumed 1800 Mana Points, yet any attacking spell of this level would require at least 9000 Mana Points!
The demons were a race of fighters, they had very high resistance to magic attacks and exceptional strength and vitality, not to mention almost indestructible armor. Once Tarviss got released from his chains, he would instantly raze the whole academy to the ground like an invincible war chariot.
For such a strong opponent as Tarviss, the weak attacks of auxiliary spells were basically no threat to him at all. The only way he could be defeated was to attack him instantly with the strongest offensive spell in the arsenal without giving him time to breathe.
But the demon's resistance to magic is extremely high, thought Link. Even if I modify a Level-8 spell with Supreme Magical Skills, I wouldn't be able to strike him down in one move anyway. And Level-8 spells consume so much Mana that I won't be able to increase my maximum Mana limit to accommodate two Level-8 spells in three months... As a matter of fact, I don't think Tarviss would give me any chance to cast two Level-8 spells anyway.
Link then discovered many key details after further consideration. For example, if he wanted to cast two Level-8 spells, he could cast the first one as an ambush attack, then the second one would have to be a direct attack on Tarviss. A Level-8 demon like him would have lightning-fast responses, so if Link wasn't able to cast the second spell quick enough than he would be dead. Even the Legendary spell Dimensional Jump wouldn't save him then. The only reliable plan, then, was to master a defensive spell able to protect him from spells up to Level-8, which meant that Link must now increase his maximum Mana limit to accommodate three Level-8 spells to be able to fight against the demon Tarviss.
But instead of wasting his Mana on three Level-8 spells, wouldn't it be better for him to master a Level-9 spell?
He then checked the list of Level-9 spells on the interface. But then he almost jumped out of his skin when he took the first glance of the list - Level-9 attacking spells required a minimum of 7000 Mana Points! Not to mention how difficult it would be to try to master a Level-9 spell in three months! Thus, Link began to lose hope in this plan.
The higher the spell level, the more complicated it is, plus there were some other major hurdles as well, and that first hurdle was at Level-6. Typically any Magician who'd managed to surpass the Level-6 barrier would be called a Master Magician.
Because there was a drastic increase of difficulty in Level-6 spells. Link had seen the spell structure of some Level-6 spells, and he knew that even while he could master the Level-5 Flaming Hand in two days, he wouldn't be able to master these in at least half a month, and even then he would have to forego meals and sleep and devote himself solely to the spell!
There were now six Level-6 Magicians in the East Cove Magic Academy, and Anthony was the only Level-7 Magician here. It had been this way for the past ten years, in fact there were only two Level-7 Magicians in the whole kingdom, with the other one right now stationed in the royal palace.
Meanwhile not even one Level-8 Magician could be found in the whole human world. There was one Level-8 Warrior, but the power of a Warrior was far beneath that of a Magician, so they couldn't be compared at all.
And now Link was hoping to master a Level-9 spell within three months - if he ever let anyone know of this intention of his, they'd surely think he'd gone crazy.
If he used the gaming system to spend 90 of his Omni Points to purchase a Level-9 spell, he'd still be unable to afford the 7000 Mana Points needed for it. Moreover, that spell would only be the regular version without any modification at all. If he used that spell to fight against a peerlessly powerful and almost invincible demon, then he might as well just jump off a cliff because it would give him the same result anyway.
Even mastering a Level-8 spell would be tricky in just three months' time, I couldn't believe that I would master a Level-9 spell in that time myself! Link then smiled cynically and shook his head in near exasperation.
Nevermind, I'll stop worrying about this for now, thought Link. I'll just do what I can and work as hard as possible. Whatever happens, at least I've done my best. Link's face showed a steely determination as he stood up and was about to head back to the Mage Tower. There wasn't much time left, so he must start working now.
But just as he was on his way back to the Mage Tower, Link noticed something he never could've expected.
It was a familiar figure among the willow trees not too far away from where he stood. He blinked and squinted to try to see the figure better and discovered that it was Eliard's lover Elena.
It wouldn't have been such a strange sight to see Elena around the academy, but she was standing in a remote area of the willow grove where most of her body was concealed behind the tree trunks and the shrubs. Had Link not accidentally looked in that direction, he wouldn't have known that she was there.
And what's most perplexing of all was the fact that she wasn't there alone. Right there beside her was a man.
The man was dressed in a luxurious fur coat and seemed to be a man who's well-to-do. He was most probably a merchant from Springs City. He was standing very close to Elena, it was a distance that was too intimate; Link got very suspicious of them now. He took a few steps back and hid behind a willow tree and began to listen in on their conversation.
Because of the distance, Link could only hear the tone of the voice but couldn't make out exactly what they were saying. He didn't dare to use any magic spying device either as he was afraid that they might be able to sense the Mana fluctuations.
Link thought Elena's tone was poles apart from the one he often heard when she was around Eliard. Her current tone of voice was cold, haughty and even tinged with a slight sense of guilt. It sounded to Link as if it was the voice of a graceful and noble queen. Meanwhile, the merchant's voice was soft and gentle, and despite looking like a successful and wealthy merchant, his voice sounded very submissive and humble when he addressed Elena.
But isn't Elena just the daughter of an average merchant family? Link wondered. Why would that rich merchant treat her as if she's the queen?
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