193 Dark Undercurrents in the Opal City

 In Opal City.

After entering the city, Link found a dark corner to change into another attire. He took off the Flame Controller Magician's robe and the ice bear cloak and changed into a very plain-looking gray long robe. He then used a non-toxic alchemy potion to dye his hair brown, then tied a plain cloth around his head. Added to his already unremarkable looks, Link had now transformed from a Master Magician into a plain pedestrian.

Once that was done, Link began to snoop around the city for any news of unusual events that recently occurred. He'd spent a hundred gold coins within half an hour doing this, after which his understanding of the underworld in Opal City had deepened. He'd also gathered much information about Celine's current plight.

Celine must now be hiding somewhere in the downtown area, Link surmised. There are still three demons here, and they had the aid of the Syndicate. This isn't good news for Celine at all since the downtown area is where the Syndicate's influence is overarching. At the same time, the Magician's Alliance placed many of their people in that area. The moment Celine appeared she would instantly be traced by both the Syndicate and the Magicians Alliance there.

This was the information he gathered so far. In this situation, even if Link actually found Celine, he would still have no idea where to hide her. The walls and the streets were full of spying eyes all waiting to catch her in their traps.

Link then quietly contemplated the matter for ten minutes after considering all the information he'd gained.

He had a plan.

Link immediately put his plan into action. He circled and wandered aimlessly through the downtown area for a while. He went into the big streets and small lanes, and each time he stopped at a crossroad, he would stop in the middle and write down some special runes in the hidden corners of the wall using his specially created quill pen and invisible ink.

The pigment of the ink was a special invention made by the master alchemist, Grenci. It was great for quickly jotting down secret runes. Link had found this in Master Grenci's notes and thought it might come in handy someday.

The shapes of the runes Link jotted down were somewhat complicated, but Link could jot it down perfectly in about three seconds. Once that was completed, the invisible ink would penetrate into the stone wall and leave no trace of the rune to be detected from the outside.

At every large intersection, Link would leave about eight to ten runes on the wall, spending a total of one minute doing it. At any small intersections, he would leave about two runes there, spending no more than ten seconds there. Then, Link would continue to walk down to the next junction before anyone could suspect that there was anything amiss about him.

The entire downtown area of Opal City was a circle of about half a mile wide, with six main streets comprising of 3 vertical streets and three horizontal streets. There were also more than ten small lanes and alleys and about a hundred intersections. Link had left runes at every one of these intersections without a single omission.

Then about an hour later, when Link had walked through half of the downtown area he suddenly came across a shop called Little Fish Pawnshop from which he could sense a dark abysmal aura.

So this is where you bastards are hiding, huh? Link jeered. Not bad at all, I must say.

It would be nearly impossible for the average Magician to detect this very faint aura through the hustle and bustle of the busy commercial area of the city. But to Link, the strength and power of the demons were as clear as a flaming torch under a black moonless night sky. He could easily sense the presence of the demons from about three hundred feet away.

One of the reasons why he was this perceptive of the demons was his strong soul which had been boosted by the God of Light. The other reason was because he had dealt first-hand with a demon before, so he had become familiarized to the aura and presence of the demons from the abyss.

Link circled around this pawn shop and left more than 30 secret runes there as he did so. When he had completed a circle and was once again at the shop entrance, he saw a figure clad in a loose black cloak entering the shop.

So you're here as well huh, Andrew? Link thought. You're quite fast!

Link had managed to arrive so quickly because he had the Wind Tiger that could cross the distance of a hundred miles in two hours. Andrew was only an hour later than him, which meant his speed was quite impressive. (Note: Because the flying spells were too conspicuous and were very likely to incur dangerous accidents, they were not the most efficient mode of transportation and were rarely used by Magicians. The Wind Tiger, on the other hand, was quite safe and could reach a destination a speed that was only second to teleportation.)

Link turned away from the pawn shop and walked down towards the next block to leave more secret runes. Another hour had passed when he'd almost drawn secret runes at every intersection of the downtown area. Link reached a place near the city gates where he saw a group of Magicians at the entrance.

Is that the demon-catching team from the Magicians Alliance? Link wondered. It seems that they've begun their operation. Have they sniffed out the demons' hideout? Or did they find Celine?

Link was deeply troubled by this possibility. He observed the thirty-strong group of Magicians closely and slowly took a step back to blend into the crowd. He then quickened his pace and rushed towards the merchant bank in the downtown area.

He'd noticed earlier that the bank was the tallest building downtown; he could observe the whole area from its rooftop.

Link reached the bank very quickly, and he cast a high-level invisibility spell on his body. He then walked into the bank as if he had stepped into his own house, not worrying about concealing his presence at all. He then headed towards the staircase inside and finally reached the attic within half a minute.

The attic was occupied. There was a small bed, a tiny desk, and various other daily necessities. Most importantly, there was also a young man writing at the desk. Link walked up behind the young man and glanced at the words he was writing. He discovered that he was a novelist busy at work. Link read a few lines of what he'd written and found out the hard way that this young man wasn't in the process of writing the next literary classic at all. He was, in fact, writing a vulgar erotic novel that involved the depraved act of bestiality between a man and his mare.

The Magician's Alliance team was fast approaching the area, which meant that Link had no time to waste now. He pointed his wand at the young man's head and chanted, "Slumber."

The young man's head slammed into the desk, and he fell straight to sleep. Link hurriedly closed the door and made sure that it was locked. He then canceled the invisibility spell and walked to the front of the attic window. There, he turned around and pointed his wand at the floor and chanted, "Clean."

The stains and dust on the stone floor were immediately cleared out and what was left was a clean, polished floor that shone as new. Link took out his magic quill pen and started to draw a magic seal on the floor. He didn't use the invisible ink for this magic seal but had opted instead for silver ink. One by one, the almost perfectly drawn runes appeared on the floor. After about three minutes, Link had successfully drawn 246 magic runes which created a complete magic seal.

After that, he put the wand away and sat cross-legged in front of the magic seal.

He pointed with his finger at the controlling runes. Mana started to flow into the seal and lit up the runes in the magic seal one-by-one. Once Mana had filled up the magic seal, a layer white silvery light appeared on top of the magic seal. It was as clear as water, and its form altered rapidly. After five seconds, the scene of the whole downtown area was represented there on the surface of the magic seal right in front of Link's eyes.

There were a few moving spots in this real-time map. Each spot was of a different color-some were red, others were green or blue, and there were also black smoky light rings. These all represented four different important classes of strengths: professional fighters below Level-4, Magicians, demons, and Warriors.

This spell was called Heaven's Eye, and it came from Anthony's notebook.

Heaven's Eye

Level-4 Secret Spell

Mana Consumption: 420 Points

Effects: Through the remote interaction of the magic seal and detecting runes, the spellcaster will be able to see everything that happens within the area where the secret runes have been left. The spellcaster can also communicate with a target who is within the area through telepathy.

(Note: This is a highly covert spell, but it also requires the spellcaster to have an immensely robust soul.)

There would hardly be anyone else whose soul was more suitable for this spell than Link. He was currently using the spell to observe a vast area of a city, which was something that had never been attempted before. Had Anthony known the scale that Link was utilizing his spell, his eyes would've popped out of their sockets as it was far beyond the spell creator's own imagination!

Link scanned quickly through the entire map and finally found an extremely restrained black orb that just lay there unmoving in the attic of an ordinary city-dwellers house. Link instantly recognized this aura as none other than the Demon Princess Celine Flandre!

I've finally found you, Celine. A smile cropped up on Link's face, although it quickly dissipated as Link noticed that the group of Magicians he saw earlier weren't heading for the lair of the demons. Instead, they were now surrounding the area where Celine was hiding. By the looks of it, they must be spreading out in order to block all the possible escape routes that Celine could use.

In other words, these Magicians had begun their operation because they'd found Celine's exact location.

If things went on like this, in ten minutes all of Celine's possible escape routes would be blocked, and she would have nowhere to run. If that happened, the only way Link would be able to save her was to attack the Magicians Alliance head on. If he did that, although he might be able to save Celine, trouble would follow him. He might even be expelled from the Realm of Light!

No, that wouldn't happen. He still had time; he could still save Celine now.

Link took a deep breath and focused his eyes on the black orb that represented Celine. He directed his Mana to the black orb and began to speak in his mind.

Celine, it's me, Link.

Immediately afterwards the black orb showed intense fluctuation, and soon enough, a pleasantly surprised voice emerged in Link's mind.

Is it really you, Link? Celine asked. Where are you?

There's no time to explain now, replied Link. You're in grave danger. You must listen to me and do as I say. Leave the attic now by jumping out of the back window. That's right, jump out now!

From the lights on the map, Link saw how Celine had done exactly as he told her to immediately and without any hesitation. He sighed in relief at this. Now that he knew Celine trusted him, there was a higher chance now that he would be able to take her away from Opal City.

At that moment none of the members of the Magicians Alliance team noticed any changes in Celine's actions. They continued to close in on her previous location and tried to block every possible path which she could use to flee.

However, somewhere else the Syndicate had detected the anomaly. Five minutes later, Bren received a report from his underling.

Signs of the Princess' movements discovered.

Bren creased his brows in confusion. He thought that it must be a mistake. Link hadn't yet appeared, so why did the Princess make a move without him?

"Lina," he instructed a High Elf Magician beside him, "check the current movements of Princess Celine."

"As you command," replied Lina plainly.

She then took out a clear crystal ball of about six inches in diameter and grasped it in both of her palms. A moment later, the crystal ball lit up and inside it was a scene of the downtown area.

The scenes changed several times until it stopped at the scene where a blonde-haired girl appeared.

"That's the Princess," said Lina after taking a glance at the girl. "She must be in some kind of disguise, but she can never trick my eyes."

"Do you recognize the area?" Bren asked the demon, Ballie. "Prepare for action now, and head to the place immediately. Don't ever let the Princess die at the hands of that group of Magicians. But remember, if Link doesn't appear then you don't appear as well, except as the very last resort."

Ballie stood up and waved his hand impatiently at Bren.

"You didn't need to say anything," he said. "I know what I should do."

He then turned to his two underlings and ordered, "Let's go!"

"Master," said Bren to Andrew once the three demons had left. "To be perfectly honest, I don't trust the demons. They tend to be so impulsive. Didn't you see how they barged out just now..."

But Bren had forgotten how smart and careful Andrew was.

"I'll be watching over their actions," he said as he got up to his feet. "I will never allow those idiots to drag the Syndicate into the dumps."

Bren nodded. How could he forget that Magicians were smart people after all?

At that point, Opal City's downtown area still looked calm, and everything went on as usual. The streets were crowded with people, and merchants and customers were busy buying and selling. None of them seemed to notice the dark undercurrents that were roiling in the underbelly of the city.

The Magicians were then busy setting up their nets and were getting ready to pull in the big fish. The Syndicate was preparing to be ambush the predator that lurked in the dark and was getting ready to pounce at the very last moment. Celine, who was the prized prey in this situation, was moving quickly but stealthily through the streets of the downtown area where they were densely packed with people.

By this point, some Magicians had noticed that there was something wrong and began to change their directions towards Celine. All the possible escape routes that could save Celine were rapidly blocked off, though Celine remained oblivious of the fact. There would be no point in knowing it anyway, because all she had to do was listen to the voice that was guiding her in her mind.

Celine trusted Link with all her heart.

But who would emerge as the winner ultimately?

Nobody knew. Even Link who was safely hiding in a secret spot was in a cold sweat. All he could do now was to trick the two powerful forces to play a dangerous game against each other.