179 The Looming Crisis

 At the Azura Tower of the East Cove Magic Academy.

The squat, white tower was like a silent old man, standing there soberly on the hillside overlooking the entire East Cove Magic Academy.

It was a place where those that were wicked and evil were cast away from the outside world since time immemorial. Over the course of centuries, countless secrets were buried in the tower where even the dean of the East Cove Magic Academy couldn't possibly unearth.

What went on inside the white tower? What did the prisoners inside think, plan and do? No one knew.

Bale sat cross-legged inside his cage in the white tower. Outwardly it would seem that he sat there motionless, doing nothing. The guards in the tower who were responsible for maintaining the prisoners' elemental balance walked past him without batting an eye.

Yet they didn't realize that Bale was very much active on the spiritual level. He was communicating with some of the prisoners kept in the tower's dungeons deep underground.

"Did you expect me to believe a sock puppet like you?" a gloomy voice rang in Bale's head. "Did you really think that I'd believe you could help us escape?" The owner of this voice had been imprisoned in the dungeons for 300 years, so the 70-year-old Bale was, in his eyes, a little boy still playing house.

"I guarantee it with my soul," Bale vowed. "I will find a way for us to escape."

"Ha! To hell with your soul! It's probably worth a few coppers!" sneered another voice. "Still, your plan doesn't sound half bad. If Tarviss was released, then the whole East Cove would surely be brought to ashes."

"So what if the East Cove was brought to ashes? That's got nothing to do with me," this voice was exceptionally brutish, as its owner was a magical beast with a high level of intelligence. "That pathetic group of people who call themselves Magicians locked me down here for two hundred years! I can't wait to go out and eat them all!"

"Of course the academy has nothing to do with you, you're just a wild beast!" replied another voice. "But I'm a member of the academy, those who'd locked me up are all gone, so I have no more reason to hate the academy."

"That's right," rang out a chorus of voices, "I won't trust a plan with a wild beast in it!"

"Who are you calling a wild beast!" the magical creature's voice boomed. "When I get out I'll bite off all of your heads!"

"You motherf*cking animal!" another voice responded immediately.

For a time, the group of monsters who had been locked up in the tower for decades or even centuries began a war of words with each other in Bale's mind. They'd all forgotten the reason why they were having a discussion in the first place.

Bale's head was about to explode at the chaos that erupted. It wasn't the first time he'd used the Spiritual Nexus to communicate with the prisoners of the Azura Tower. Yet, every time these monsters got together they always ended up in dispute, so they never really came to any kind of agreement.

He then ended the Spiritual Nexus spell, and all the voices in his head disappeared immediately. The world was coldly silent again.

What should I do? thought Bale while he massaged his temple. He had recovered the Mana in his body up to 70% of his former strength and even his eyes had restored its function. This was undoubtedly good progress.

With this level of strength, he could probably cause a bit of ruckus in the Azura Tower, but nowhere near collapsing and destroying it. Right now, he probably couldn't even defeat the tower guards who walked past his cell every day. Their attack strategy was very simple, all they did was continuously shoot an Elemental Arrow, which moved at an incredible speed and contained the power equivalent to a Level-6 spell.

Once you were surrounded by a large group of guards attacking you with various types of Elemental Arrows, it didn't matter how high your level was or how powerful you had been. In fact, even the dean Anthony himself wouldn't be able to escape unscathed under these circumstances.

There was only one way to destroy the Azura Tower and escape from here, and that was to release the demon Tarviss. And the only way to do that was to unite the powers of all the prisoners in this tower, but these prisoners...well, they all came from different places and different backgrounds, so it was tricky to keep them on the same page, to say the least.

Just as Bale was brooding hard on the matter, he felt a shake in his consciousness. Immediately afterwards, he thought he saw a burst of white light in the depths of his mind, and the burst was so intense that all he could see was the bright white light.

He then completely lost consciousness.

After a while, Bale opened his eyes again. These were the eyes of a Lich which looked like a pair of faintly burning green flames. This light was different from before, though, because the body was now inhibited by someone else.

Not bad, thought the new Bale. The old geezer has been working hard. His strength has recovered so much in just a matter of months.

Bale didn't understand what happened before he was knocked out, but it was actually related to the communication runes earlier.

The Dark Elf Silver Moon Council leader Manrod, a Level-8 Magician with unparalleled skills, was so far the strongest of all Magicians, second only to the Queen of High Elves.

With communication runes, Manrod could send voices into Bale's mind. He could also naturally transmit other things into his mind as well, including, when the situation warranted it, a direct telepathic control of Bale's body.

But this kind of control over Bale's body came with great limitations as well, the most important one of which was time. It wasn't that Bale's body couldn't withstand this method, instead, it was Manrod's own soul that wouldn't be able to tolerate the enormous load that this method would exert on him. If he ever exceeded his limits, his soul would immediately collapse.

I can only stay here for three days, thought Manrod. But the success of the Black Moon Conspiracy hinges on this plan, so I mustn't waste it.

There was originally no need for him to undertake such a high-risk mission, but the plans had changed since the Norton Kingdom's army had turned out to be so strong. The Dark Elves had suffered several consecutive defeats and lost many strategic advantages. If the war dragged on this way, it was possible that the Pralync Kingdom could never be saved even with the activation of the divine gear.

And so, here he was.

He combed through Bale's memories and quickly grasped the situation in this prison tower.

It's full of a bunch of idiots, Manrod thought with a bitter smile.

There was no use in talking reason with such idiots. What would've worked best was a show of superiority, power and confidence. They would quickly trust you if they're convinced that you possessed these things, then they'd start to believe that you really could get them out of here.

Unfortunately, Bale lacked the strength to do this, so he was stuck with using reason to convince these idiots, which naturally would always result in bickering.

Manrod then checked the power that Bale's body possessed, then he chose to once again cast the secret spell-Spiritual Nexus.

Spiritual Nexus

Level-6 Secret Spell

Effects: Constructs a very secretive communication network by connecting the spellcaster with the souls around him through mysterious Mana energy.

(Note: Do you want to communicate with people covertly? Then learn this spell.)

As soon as the spell was cast, Manrod noticed spots of light all around him. He knew that each of these light spots was a soul, and these souls were all of the prisoners in the Azura Tower.

These souls were connected to the network one by one, and each of their voices started to ring loudly in Manrod's head.

"You bastard!" said a voice. "I was just in the middle of my sentence, why did you stop the damned spell?"

"You little bastard," said another voice, "can someone like you really get us out of this shithole of a place?"

"Kid, I'm telling you," said a different voice, "I can promise to cooperate with you, but if it involves releasing Tarviss, then I'm out!"

The voices all mingled together into a buzzing noise, but Manrod still stayed silent calm and only waited for the voices to settle down a bit before he chimed in.

"I won't say much," he finally said, "just take a look at this magic seal plan." As he spoke, he transmitted the magic seal plan to each and every mind of the souls there.

"What is this damned thing?" said the ferocious magical creature. He only had faith in his fangs and claws, so he never cared about any magic seals or whatever this thing was.

The others were different, though. Most of the prisoners in Azura Tower were Magicians. The moment Manrod sent out the magic seal plan, these Magicians only had to take a glance at it before they understood its substance and gravity. In just a few seconds they all sank into a deep silence.

Yes, before they were captured and locked away in this cursed tower, most of these prisoners were the strongest and most gifted of their time. You could find Level-6 Master Magicians everywhere in this tower, there were even some Level-7 Master Magicians, although none of them were at Level-8. Still, the moment they saw the magic seal plan, most of them were dumbstruck.

For a long time, the noises in Manrod's head were reduced by 90% as most of them stayed quiet.

About half an hour later, one Magician finally spoke up.

"With this thing, I'm sure we can finally get out of here," he said.

"But Tarviss would still be released..." replied another.

"I don't care about the academy," said a different voice. "All I care is to get out of here!"

"I'll participate in the plan!" said one eager prisoner.

"Hey, what the hell are you guys talking about?" asked the magical beast. "What are you participating in?" He could feel that this time they had a real plan that had a chance of success. This was an opportunity to regain freedom and roam the world again. As a magical creature with high intelligence, there was nothing he desired more than to breathe the air of freedom again. He could still remember the little female beast with her beautiful fur in the warm forest of the south. That soft body, that charming roar-he remembered every little detail even after centuries of imprisonment.

Manrod ignored the wild beast and continued to address the Magicians.

"If there are no objections," he said, "then we'll begin the operation tonight. Any questions?"

It was all silence for a moment in Manrod's mind, then someone finally replied.

"Yes," the voice said, "it would be best if we do this at night."

"Agreed," replied a chorus of voices.

"Hey, don't forget about me!" said the beast. "Take me along with you, I'll participate as well. What are we going to do? Hello?" The beast's voice had lost its fierceness and became quite anxious now. It sounded as if everyone was leaving without him. He didn't want to be left in this sodden place!

Even though they'd been fighting and bickering all along, they were still together for centuries now, how could they just leave him out of such a nice-sounding plan? That's just cruel!

Still, no matter how hard he tried to voice his opinions, nobody paid any attention to him.

Then, suddenly, a hoarse voice rang through Manrod's head.

"I won't do it," said the voice. "I'll stay here. It's not too bad in here, anyway."

"Ha! Are you sure?" Manrod didn't understand what the owner of the voice could possibly be thinking in making that decision.

"Yes, I'm sure," said the voice, calm and resolute. He then added, "All of you do realize that this plan will annihilate the entire East Cove Magic Academy, don't you? No, not only that, but after Tarviss is released, the whole Realm of Light would be turned to ashes and dust. I, Vance, may have committed more than a few crimes in the past, but I will never take part in a plan this evil. And you, are you sure you're the same Bale that we heard before? You sound like two different people. What exactly is going on-"

Before Vance could finish his sentence, Manrod broke the connection of this soul to the network, thus his voice completely disappeared from everyone else's minds.

"We'll be fine without him," said Manrod. "I for one want to get out of here. Who else is with me?"

"I am!"

"For freedom!"

"Hey, what about me?" the magical creature chimed in again, but still no one took any notice of him.

"Very well, then," said Manrod. "We'll begin the operation this midnight!"