197 The Mad Genius Vance


 One week's time had passed in a blink of an eye. Meanwhile, Link was cooped up in his wooden cabin creating magical gear all along.

Once he'd received the notebooks from the Magicians of the East Cove Magic Academy, Link's enchantment skills had now broken into a whole new realm. Within a week, he'd managed to create two epic quality magical gear, comprising of one Level-5 wand and another Level-5 bracelet fixed with a defensive spell.

The bracelet was for Celine, of course. It was so exquisitely made and Celine adored it so much that she couldn't put it down for a second.

Afterwards, both of them then headed to Shark Bay to meet up with Vance.

The passage into the underground palace would be too narrow for Dorias to pass through, so there would be no point in him following them. Thus, the tiger remained in a protected area specially built for it in Scorched Ridge. Link had also fulfilled his promises to Dorias and ordered his people to feed him, groom his fur, clean his teeth and polish his claws. He'd even dispatched people to find a female Wind Tiger across the continent.

Shark Bay was only about five miles away from Scorched Ridge, so even as Link and Celine strolled casually, it only took them half an hour to arrive.

Celine's eyesight was as sharp as an eagle's; she saw a white skeleton lying on the surface of the stone cliff from afar. The skeleton seemed carefree and nonchalant as he lay there, even the Mana it emitted was very faint and weak while the eye sockets were dark and hollow with no signs of the ghostly flames. To put it simply, the skeleton looked exactly as if it was a dead body that had been there for decades and decomposed there.

"Is that him?" asked Celine uncertainly. "Doesn't he look too...laid-back?

"Yes, that's him," answered Link, nodding. No one else could have such a smooth and shiny jade-like skeleton.

Once they approached the skeleton, Vance still lay there and made no attempt to get up. The only response he made was lighting up the ghostly flames in his eye sockets, but even then, only faintly.

"Oh, you're here," he said. "You're earlier by a few days than what I'd expected."

"Are you hurt?" asked Link as he stared at him suspiciously.

"Hurt? No!" replied the Lich as he folded his bony hands above his chest. "No, I was bored and had nothing to do, so I lounged around for a bit."

Vance still lay there as if he was never going to get up.

Link furrowed his brows slightly when he heard Vance's response. He could feel a thick sense of apathy from the Lich. If he could fall asleep so calmly on a cliff in the wilderness, wouldn't he sleep for years and years once he'd reclaimed his underground palace?

Link then took out the wand with the Magician's Hand out from his robe and handed it to Vance.

"Here," he said, "it's your wand."

The flames in Vance's eye sockets turned much brighter again, and he sat up and took the wand into his hand. He thought Link's enchantment skills had turned out to be pretty good as he noticed the subtle details on the wand that displayed its exquisite quality.

"Tsk tsk, your basic skills are quite solid," said Vance. "You've even thought to use thorium, that's not a bad material at all. Oh...and the Mana structure is...Ah, wonderful. Quite wonderful!" His tone had become livelier and more impassioned now, and the languidness in his aura was reduced by half.

Vance stood up and tested the new wand by casting a Level-1 dark magic spell called Ball of Decay on the cliff stone. As the Mana fluctuated, a fist-sized gory green orb appeared and hit the surface of the cliff. A buzzing noise followed, and a basketball-sized pit then appeared on the stone surface.

"So, it works very well with dark magic too!" praised Vance immediately. "I must ask, kid, have you learned dark magic before?"

Link shook his head in reply.

"That's not it," said Link. "I've only just come to learn the basics of secret spells from the Master Magician, Eleanor, so I thought I might incorporate it into the wand."

"Ah, no wonder, then," said Vance. "Does it have a name?"

"Gray Flame," replied Link. "Gray to signify its support of secret spells and dark magic. Flame because it is specialized in attacks and offensive spells." In his eyes, these were the strongest aspects of the wand.

Gray Flame

Quality: Epic

Effect 1: The speed of Mana unleashing is increased by 80%.

Effect 2: The attacking power of elemental spells is increased by 60%. The attacking power of secret spells is increased by 80%.

Effect 3: Fixed with one Level-5 spell-the Flaming Hand. (There is a Mana channel in the wand where a small number of dark elements could be mixed into the spell, forming a more powerful attack of the Gray Flaming Hand.)

(Note: This is a gift for the Lich Vance.)

"Excellent," said Vance, very satisfied with his new wand. "It's only slightly less powerful than my original wand." He then turned towards Celine and glanced at her for a few seconds then furrowed his brows.

"A demon Warrior?" he asked.

Compared to the past, Celine had now been able to adapt to this kind of attitude. As long as Link didn't mind her true identity, though, she couldn't care less what other people thought of her. She also had no intention of worrying herself sick about leaving a good impression on those people who treated her with this attitude.

Celine then squinted her eyes and addressed Vance with a menacing tone.

"You might like to know, Lich," she said, "that I am very good at cracking bones."

"Now, now, calm down," said the Lich with a grin. "I was only stating the obvious. I've got no problem with it if Link trusts you." He then clapped his bony hands which made a rattling sound.

"Let's go!" said Vance. "Time is of the essence!"

"You lead the way, then," said Link as he stepped aside.

"No problem," replied Vance. He took a few steps forward then leaped down the cliff. He didn't use any flying spells or even floating spells as he jumped.

Sure enough, three seconds later there was a crackling noise of crunching bones on the white sandy beach down the cliff. Vance had disintegrated into a pile of bones on the ground.

"..."

Link and Celine looked at each other with horror. They couldn't figure out what kind of tricks Vance was playing on them. Did he just commit suicide?

Just then, the scattered bones began to move and gathered together, finally reuniting to form the immortal Lich again. He then climbed up to his feet and waved at them.

"What are you waiting for?" he shouted. "Come on down!"

That was indeed a shocking behavior. Link couldn't figure out why the Lich had to act in such a way. Although his body might be invincible and able to re-form into its original state, would it hurt to cast a simple floating spell? Wouldn't that save more time ultimately?

Anyway, Link didn't think it necessary to bring up the point as Vance had turned out to be fine. He then cast a floating spell on himself and was about to do so on Celine as well when he saw her open up her own wings and jump down the cliff. And so, he followed her and jumped down as well.

Soon, they were all on the beach under the cliff.

"Now we'll just move south along the beach," said Vance, leading the way as Link and Celine followed him from behind. It was going to be a long journey ahead.

"Vance," said Link, "what are your plans once we've reclaimed your underground palace?"

"What else can I do?" answered the Lich. "There's an ice stone coffin in there, so I'm just going to lie down in it and sleep."

"..." Celine found Vance's logic very odd indeed. "If that's all you want to do, then why bother reclaiming the place? Wouldn't anywhere be fine to sleep in?"

"You don't understand," said the Lich with a smile.

Link said nothing, although he felt that he could understand the Lich's reasoning somehow.

This person had once been a mad genius in the past. In his pursuit of the truth, he had tried every method possible without spending a thought for morality or ethics. And yet, he was not an evil person by nature, so he regretted his past crimes. Although he was mad, he had, in fact, lived and survived long into the future.

Still, he was now a Lich and had been imprisoned in the Tower of Azura for more than 400 years. His passions had all been exhausted, and he was now only a ghost of his past self. Dorias had mentioned that he didn't even want to come out of the tower, which meant that this person was not much different from a walking corpse.

Then why did he want to return to the underground palace so badly, though? Could it be to recapture a lost memory? Or was it just because he wanted a safe place to sleep forever? Who knew?

Surprisingly, the Lich smiled and spoke up once again after a period of silence.

"Young lady," he said, "you're right in thinking that I could sleep anywhere. I could sleep right there on that cliff for a hundred years without moving. But there are too many precious things in my underground palace that it would be a waste to just let it rot there. Someone must take them out and use them."

After that, Vance looked at Link and smiled.

"You, boy," he said, "you still lack a proper Mage Tower. But don't worry, once we've got my underground palace under control, you can take anything you want in there. There would be enough in there to help you build a grand Mage Tower. I must advise you not to ask the help of anyone from the East Cove Academy in building it, though. Those Magicians just won't do; they'd waste too many materials. To build the perfect Mage Tower, you must find a High Elf."

Link was speechless as he heard Vance's words. Did the Lich just say he could take anything he wanted from the underground palace and that he was looking for a place to go to sleep? There was something odd in those words; it was almost as if Vance was relaying his last words.

Link couldn't hold his tongue any longer.

"You don't really want to reclaim your underground palace, do you?" he asked.

"Why that's absurd!" answered the Lich with a smile. "Why wouldn't I want to? How can I stand by doing nothing while those barbarians stomp around my palace with their dirty feet?"

Even so, there was still something odd and unconvincing in his voice, as if he was still concealing parts of the truth.

"I feel as if the Lich no longer wants to live," whispered Celine. "How long had he been alive?"

There was lethargy and guilt that Celine could sense clearly from this Lich. It wasn't the kind of urge for relief from suffering that she herself felt from being constantly hunted down and oppressed. Instead, it was an indifference to life that was caused by having lived for too long and experienced too much until all passions and interests had been extinguished and exhausted from the heart.

"He's lived for a thousand years," answered Link with a frown. He'd wanted to ask for Vance's help in guiding him to create a Battle Art that could be practiced by anyone in his troop, but now it seemed his dreams were too big.

"So he's a thousand-year-old Lich..." murmured Celine, stunned by the revelation. "No wonder..."

Meanwhile, Vance waved his hand at the two to urge them to move along.

"Stop chatting and hurry up, both of you!" he shouted. "We're almost there. Those Necromancers aren't that easy defeat!"

Link and Celine said nothing; they just quickened their paces and caught up with Vance. They walked along the beach for about 15 miles until they encountered a big pile of rocks. Vance glanced at it and immediately cast a spell.

"Traceless!"

Traceless

Level-4 Master Spell

Effects: A group invisibility spell that can also almost completely mask the sound and scent of the targets.

(Note: An original spell invented by Vance.)

A sheet of water-like, translucent aura flowed out from Vance's wand and scattered out to enshroud all three of them. In that instant, an outsider looking on would see that they suddenly disappeared into thin air.

"What's going on?" asked Link. He stared at the pile of stones but didn't notice anything suspicious.

Vance then pointed to a black beetle crawling among the heaps of rocks.

"Do you see that bug?" asked Vance.

Link and Celine looked over in that direction and saw a small beetle the size of a thumb. Its outer shell was glowing and very eye-catching, although it was otherwise a common-looking bug. It was seemingly indistinguishable from any other bugs while also not emitting any Mana or magic aura. Had it not been for Vance, Link would definitely walk past it.

"What's wrong with it?" asked Link humbly. In the area of black magic, Vance was definitely a much superior Magician to him.

"This is a Death Beetle created by a secret method," answered Vance. "It's a high-level detecting device used by high-level Necromancers. This looks like a very active beetle; it can't have been released for more than an hour, which means that there's another guest in my underground palace now."

"What should we do with the beetle?" asked Link.

"Let's just crush it," said Vance. He then turned towards Celine. "Young lady, I need a drop of demon blood for my spell."