A flash of light suddenly appeared out of thin air with a buzz in the forest on the outskirts of Opal City. From that point of light, two people emerged and fell to the ground from the height of six feet above the ground.
It was Link and Celine who had escaped here with the help of the spell, Dimensional Jump.
To prevent from being transported to the top of a big tree, Link had set a good destination point in advance before he entered the city. It was slightly above a nice clearing in the forest where he had parted ways with the Wind Tiger earlier.
Link and Celine had fallen on a bed of soft grass, so neither of them were badly hurt. They were both still in a daze which was a common side effect of the people who had just been through Dimensional Jump.
Celine was a strong Warrior, so she felt nothing from the fall at all. Link, on the other hand, wasn't much stronger physically than a layperson, so he was still seeing stars for a while after the fall.
As he lay on the ground to recover, Link felt a weight pressing on his body and the light that was streaming into his eyes got blocked. He opened his eyes and saw that Celine was half leaning on top of his body and was looking down at him. The distance between their two pairs of eyes was no more than eight inches.
Link noticed how even at such a close distance Celine's face still looked smooth and delicate like the surface of jade stone. Her black eyes were clear as crystal and as vivacious as young fawns in the forest. Her arched brows gave off a flirtatious charm, and her lips were as red and shiny as red pomegranate seeds.
It's no wonder that she was one of the top four most beautiful characters in the game! She looked perfect no matter which angle you look at her from.
"You saved me this time, Link," whispered Celine. The gentleness in her voice echoed in her eyes as she looked straight into Link's eyes.
Link almost fell into a trance and had the urge to reach out his hand to caress Celine's cheek but was afraid that it might be inappropriate. Although when he thought about it, wasn't it the perfect moment for at least a kiss?
But reality never turned out to be as perfect as imagination.
Just as Link was enjoying the moment, a rough and crude voice suddenly rang out near them. It was the Wind Tiger.
"What are you waiting for, Link?" shouted Dorias. "Your woman is ready to mate with you!"
The voice had appeared so suddenly that it gave Celine the fright of her life. When she turned around, she saw the green-furred giant tiger who just jumped out of the forest. She quickly jumped away from Link and pulled out her blue crystal sword.
"What's up with the beast, Link?" she asked.
By that point, even Link himself was a bit annoyed at the tiger.
"That's Dorias," he answered as he sat up. "It's a Wind Tiger. It was the one who had brought me here to the South."
"This is Celine Flandre," Link then told Dorias. "She's my...good friend."
"Oh!" replied the tiger. He then stared at Celine with keen interest and even circled around her. Suddenly he turned up his nose and turned back to Link and asked him, "Argh! Why do I smell dark energy from her?"
Celine's face darkened as soon as she heard those words. She had always regarded her true origin the greatest shame in her life. Still, her aura and inner force were things that she could not conceal, and they were the things that anyone who'd encountered her would point out without fail. Although they didn't always mean it as an insult, it still caused her to be upset.
The perceptive Link knew instantly what Celine was feeling and thinking the moment he saw Celine's eyes darkened. But he didn't think he should evade the subject this time, so he decided to explain the matter plainly and honestly to Dorias.
"Let's get moving," he told Dorias immediately after getting up to his feet. "We must make for the North now; I'll explain everything about Celine on the way."
"Fine, then." Dorias took another glance at Celine and realized he must've hurt the girl's feelings, so he stopped pressing the matter entirely and crouched down to let Link climb onto his back.
Link then signaled to Celine to climb up as well. Once they were both safely settled on the tiger's back, Dorias then promptly headed towards the North.
"Celine's father is the Lord of the Deep, Nozama..." explained Link.
Dorias was so shocked its feet almost got tangled and lost its balance.
"What did you say?!" he exclaimed. "The Lord of the Deep Nozama? You're not jiving me, are you?!"
Even though Dorias was a magical beast who had lived for over 400 years and had lived to witness countless powerful figures, Nozama still remained-after all these years and all that he'd seen-one of the top three most fearsome figures in the whole wide world.
To Dorias, Nozama was the kind of powerful figure who could topple the whole Firuman continent upside down with a flick of his finger! Even 300 years ago, in the time of the legendary Magician Bryant, Nozama was infamous throughout Firuman for his frightening power, and the demon Tarviss was, in fact, his underling!
Although the demon couldn't descend upon the Firuman continent himself, legends said that he would transform himself into an ordinary human form and walked the earth, leaving many half-blood spawns behind.
Of these descendants of his, some possessed mediocer talents with only a low level of dark energy in their bodies, while some were said to be extraordinary geniuses who could each set off a wave of terror and destruction throughout the continent. When he thought of this point, Dorias sneaked a look at the girl on his back. He thought the legends must be true and that the girl riding on his back must be one of the most talented descendants the Lord of the Deep had ever had.
"Celine's father had always tried to capture her and bring her back down to the deep abyss," Link continued. "He'd even sent some demon minions of his here to do so. The reason I came down here was to rescue her from them."
"But, how will she escape a powerful figure like the Lord of the Deep for the rest of her life?" asked Dorias.
Celine noticed how Dorias showed neither scorn nor hatred towards her, so she began to relax. She then shook her head gently in reply to the tiger's question.
"If I fail in the end," she said, "then I would rather choose to die by my own hands."
"You truly are a tenacious girl!" replied Dorias. He then continued without thinking. "It's no wonder that Link likes you!"
Celine blushed and turned towards Link. She saw that his face was full of smiles and that, for some reason, cheered her up immediately.
"Still," Dorias continued, "the problem of Nozama will still loom over us like a big dark cloud. Link, have you thought about how you're going to deal with his demon minions?"
Dorias wouldn't worry about any other people, not even the Level-7 Necromancer Andrew, because he had faith that Link would have no problem in defeating them. Nozama, though...Just the mention of his name was enough to make Dorias' knees buckle and the courage drain completely out of its body. In fact, Dorias found that he was shaking at that very moment!
This was a very real problem indeed. Celine half-turned her head and glanced at Link herself. She was surprised to find that the smile still lingered on his face.
"Nozama isn't as frightening as you might imagine," said Link calmly.
"Don't be stupid, Link," said Dorias in disbelief. "Nozama? Not frightening? You must be joking!"
Link remained unperturbed by Dorias' reply.
"Right now," he began to analyze, "I'm already able to fight against a Level-8 demon, and I'm still very young. My strength still has a large room for improvement. In a year or two, I might even face a Legendary-level demon. Moreover, this isn't a battle that I will fight alone. Right now, I'm building my estate and my own army. If Nozama dared to send his demon minions, then I will kill them all. I believe that after ten years, even if Nozama came here himself, I will still face him without any fear."
Link had said those words with full confidence, and he knew that the confidence wasn't misplaced or just an illusion of grandeur on his part.
One very simple reason was the fact that the deep abyss where the demons came from was of another realm. The demons must expend a huge amount of energy just to enter this world. According to legends, in order to send the demon Tarviss into this world, a total of 1000 souls of high-level demon Warriors were sacrificed. Such a high price was something that even the great Nozama could not afford to pay easily.
In other words, merely one talented daughter was not worth such a sacrifice.
Dorias was sure it would burst into maniacal laughter had these words been spoken by anyone else. It might even bite their head off afterwards for being so conceited. Still, because they had come from Link, the mighty Magician who had recently killed Tarviss the Level-8 demon, he felt that those words carried much weight and credibility and deserved to be taken seriously.
"Alright, alright, I get it," said Dorias good-humoredly. "I know you're a powerful figure yourself!" He then said nothing more and kept on running.
Link was sitting comfortably behind Celine on the tiger's back, his arms hugging the surprisingly slim waist of the demon Princess. Celine had made no protests at his gesture, making him enjoy the ride back to the North with an unimaginably gladdened heart.
After a while, he decided to break the truth to Celine of his motives.
"Celine," he said, "I need your help to do something once we've reached the North."
"Go on," responded Celine with a smile. Although it was true that Link had made a great leap in improvements since she last saw him, she was still at Level-6 herself and was far from useless dead weight.
Link then explained everything from the events leading up to him being awarded a piece of land by the king and his need to change the climate of his estate, up to his meeting with the Lich Vance, and how he promised to help him reclaim his underground palace.
"The underground palace is a complex labyrinth," said Link finally. "I need the help of a Warrior with outstanding skills, so I thought of you."
"Then you've found the right person," said Celine, clenching her delicately pinkish fist in the air keenly. She couldn't be happier to help Link.
Dorias shook his head as he heard Vance' name and the description of this figure.
"I know the bastard," said the tiger. "He was the only one in the Azura Tower who refused to leave. He was even less willing to take part in releasing the demon Tarviss. Had it not been for the fact that the tower had been blown up into pieces, I'm sure he'd still be there wasting away in that damned rotten place."
"What? Is that true?" asked the surprised Link. He was glad to hear of this account of Vance because he had been suspicious of the Lich. But after hearing what Dorias had to say about him, he felt he knew more about the Lich now and started to reconsider him in a new and more positive light.
By the looks of it, Vance might actually be a decent person who was worth cooperating further with. After all, the Lich was the man who had founded the studies of Battle Aura and Battle Art. So, who could be better in helping Link to develop a special Battle Art that could be practiced by everyone in his troop of Warriors?
Meanwhile, Celine was curious about this figure herself.
"Did you say that this Vance is a Lich?" she asked.
"A Lich my ass," replied Dorias. "He's just a skeleton!"
Celine turned around to face Link and smiled at him.
"A Lich, a magical beast, and now me, a demon," she said. "Link, aren't you afraid that we'd get you into trouble?"
"Hahaha, don't worry," replied Link with a smile. "It's no big deal. I can handle it."
Link's remark wasn't out of arrogance; it was only out of the self-confidence and the faith that things would all work out fine. In the past, he'd been afraid to come into contact with anything or anyone associated with dark magic, and these people were, to the average Magician, just the kind of people that he must avoid like the plague. Yet now, he'd seen through the situation and the consequences that everyone was in much more clearly.
He had been afraid to associate himself with dark magic because he feared that he would be sucked into the darkness and had his wisdom and judgment affected by the darkness himself. He also wanted to protect his resolve and his principles so that he might never deviate from the main purpose that he had been sent here in the first place.
He didn't want to associate himself with the Magicians who practiced dark magic or to any creatures who had been involved with dark energy, because he was worried of the public opinion and his reputation.
In the past, he was only an insignificant Magician's Apprentice of the East Cove Magic Academy, so such a negative reputation might indeed be unfavorable to his growth and progress as a Magician in the future. This was because he could easily be ousted and banned from the world of magic simply because he'd made one Master Magician suspicious of him. Even Herrera might easily discard of him and send him away had she found out that he was involved in less-than-savory things like dark magic.
But now, he had gained his own reputation and status and was no longer an insignificant weed on the ground. He was a mighty oak tree that stood proud and tall among the others. His words alone carried great weight and influence throughout the Norton Kingdom and maybe even the whole Firuman continent. By this point, he had little cause to worry himself about such petty matters as a little criticism from the public.
As the saying went, when the water was too clear there would be no fish. If he, as a lord in his own right, were too rigid with rules and too obsessed about towing the line there wouldn't be much hope in his future. The most important thing to do when attempting something important was to amass alliances and forces from as many areas as he could.
Now, it was the Lich Vance who was able to help him to transform the climate of his estate. He now believed that Vance deserved his full trust, so Link would cooperate with him without any hesitation or misgivings about the Lich's shady past.
It was as the popular saying went: a true hero did not concern himself with the past, only the present.
As long as Link knew the limits that he would never cross, even if the truth were exposed, no one would be able to punish him for anything. At most, someone might exhort him about the matter, and Link already had a way to deal with this-he would just ignore them!
Seeing how confident and calm Link had become now, Celine couldn't help but recall the events during that fateful night in Gladstone.
He was still a young boy then, she thought. But in a blink of an eye, he has now become a noble lord with a high reputation as a Magician across Firuman. Ah, how time flies, and how quickly he has changed. Celine wasn't too disturbed by these turn of events, though. She just settled down calmly and found herself a comfortable space right there in Link's arms.
The three of them chatted and laughed for the rest of the journey. Dorias' body had almost healed perfectly now, so his speed had improved and was as lightning fast as it had once been when he was in his prime. And so they headed to the North.
At the same time, Opal City had descended into utter chaos. The demons had appeared on the streets and were in a fierce battle with the Magicians. About 236 civilians were caught up in the scene, of which 127 were dead. It was simply a massive disaster!
Soon, the whole city was overcome with panic. The people were in fear while the leaders pointed their fingers at the Magician's Alliance and accused them of misusing magic. The Magician's Alliance, in turn, retorted that it was their duty and highest priority to exterminate the demons and that the deaths of the civilians were unintended but inevitable. While it was a pity that many innocent people were caught up in this event, the Magician's Alliance had promised to make compensations to the families.
The leaders of the kingdom then replied that human lives could not be measured by gold coins. The Magician's Alliance had been too rash and allowed too much power, so there must be an established royal decree that would limit the activities of these Magicians. This statement received widespread support from the people as soon as the word spread out.
The people didn't care whether there had been demons or not; what they knew and clearly saw was that the unlucky people had died horribly, or they were heavily injured because of the Magicians.
At last, the Magicians Alliance had to relent and give in to the pressure from the authorities above and the common people below.
Meanwhile in the underworld, as the highest authority of the Leo Kingdom's branch of the Syndicate, Bren was not happy of their limited success in constraining the Magician's Alliance at all. His face was as dark as the blackened bottom of a pot because Princess Celine had once again slipped through their fingers. Furthermore, all three demons were now killed by the Magician's Alliance, so he no longer had the aid of the Lord of the Deep, Nozama anymore.
Overall, everything had been an utter failure!
It was true that he knew where Celine had fled to, yet he couldn't think of a way to pursue her in the North. Besides, Bren knew that it would be crazy to attempt to recapture Celine from the hands of that bastard.
The members of the Syndicate knew how stormy Bren's mood was at the moment, so they all avoided him the moment he approached.
Meanwhile, the Necromancer Andrew had gone out every day and wouldn't come back for about twenty hours. He'd wear a maniacal smile on his face every time he returned-only heaven knew why he would act so bizarrely.
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