2 The New Moon Wand

 How could one get strong fast in the World of Firuman?

Well, there were three ways: gear, potions, and buffs.

The Apprentice's Dorm lodged only Apprentices. Their magical abilities were so low that he didn't even need to think about buffs.

Link didn't bother much about potions either. There were no alchemy laboratories in the Apprentice's Dorm. More than 150 feet lay between the Apprentice's Dorm and the closest alchemy laboratory-an impossible distance to cover in the dark, with Assassins at every turn waiting to strike.

The last and only viable option was gear.

What was the most important gear for a Magician? A tool to compress Mana!

In layman's terms, a wand.

A Magician could use magic without a wand, but Magicians had frail bodies. Unable to concentrate Mana strongly within their bodies, the magic they used would be very weak.

This made it necessary to rely on outside help. That is, wands.

For example, a Level-0 Fireball, cast by a Magician's Apprentice, would be roughly equivalent to a firecracker. But if the Magician's Apprentice were to use a wand, even a common one, he would be able to do much, much more. The firecracker would become...a large firework, perhaps even a grenade.

And there would be no change in the Mana consumed. The secret was all in the wand. It simply compressed the Mana.

If one were to liken magic to a bullet, wands would be guns. The quality of the gun determined the impact of the bullet.

Wands were extremely expensive. The cheapest wand cost 100 gold coins. Link was just a small noble and the youngest son in his family. He had little talent in magic and had no way of getting his hands on a luxury item like that.

He didn't have one, but others in the dorm certainly did.

There were more than 50 Magician's Apprentices in the Apprentice's Dorm, most of whom who were loaded. At least twenty of them had wands, the best of which belonged to an Apprentice named Grant.

Link knew that the wand was called New Moon. It was one of the earlier works of the Wand Master Hermira, and was worth more than a thousand gold coins. It had been Grant's coming of age present from his father, a duke, to his beloved son.

It was rumored that Grant loved his wand so much that he even hugged it to sleep.

Link's target was the New Moon Wand.

He acted immediately.

Link put on the clothes by the bedside. He froze halfway. These were the Apprentice Robes given out by the Magic Academy. The material and design were unique. His identity as an Apprentice of the Magic Academy would be obvious to all who saw the robes. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem. But tonight, the more eye-catching he was, the faster he'd die.

Throwing off the Apprentice Robe, Link opened the chest and dug out a gray robe. It was his own. There was nothing special about it. Wearing it, he would be able to blend into any crowd without standing out.

Link set out after putting on his shoes.

Most Magicians liked towers. The Apprentice's Dorm was a tower with five floors, each of which had 10 rooms arranged in a circle.

Walking out, Link found himself in a round hall about 30 feet in diameter. It was dimly lit by a ball of light that floated above the hall. It was 9:45. For Magicians, who tended to sleep early, it was already bedtime.

Following the spiral stone stairs to the second floor, Link found his way to Grant's room and knocked on the door lightly.

There was no response. Grant was probably fast asleep.

Hesitating, Link stopped knocking. It might wake the other Apprentices. Considering what he had in mind, that wasn't a good thing.

Reaching out, he laid a hand on the lock. Link activated The Magician's Hand.

The Magician's Hand

Mana consumption: 0.2 points

Level 0 Trick

Effect: Move objects without physical contact (A technique Magicians often use to show off.)

The Magician's Hand had been the only magic that the original Link had known. It was very simple and cost only 0.2 Mana Points.

The Apprentice's Dorm used standard locks. Opening one with The Magician's Hand was as easy as pie. Five seconds later, the door opened with a click.

The wooden door let out a slight squeak as Link gently pushed it open. For someone stealing for the first time in their life, the noise would be extremely jarring. But not for Link. As someone who had managed to become the first Archmage in the virtual-reality game, he was, mentally, as strong as a rock.

Without flinching, he pushed the door open, walked in and closed the door with a light hand. He did all this as naturally as entering his own room.

The interior was very dark, the arrangement similar to his own. However, the furniture was much more ornate than those that Link owned. The academy didn't provide its pupils with furniture. Grant had bought these himself.

Grant laid on the bed, fast asleep. The rumors had been true; he loved his wand so much that he clasped it tightly even in his sleep.

It would have been a difficult situation for a real thief. But not so for Link. He knew that the massacre would effectively erase anything else that happened in the city. No one would care about anything else.

There were no repercussions for him to fear.

Walking up to Grant's bed, he swung his hand at Grant's handsome face. The slap landed heavily on Grant's face with a resounding smack.

That was for the original Link. This Grant had often picked on the original Link. Once, he had even pulled a prank that caused Link to break an arm.

Grant's father was a duke, so the young man had chosen to suffer in silence. But the Link now would never do that.

With that slap, Grant woke up, startled, and jumped up from the bed. Pressing a hand to his cheek, he looked around, yelling, "What's going on? What's going on?"

He was still hazy from sleep, not fully understanding the situation.

During all this, he relaxed his grip on the wand in his hand.

Quickly, Link snatched the intricately-made wand from him. Then, he lifted an arm. Before Grant managed to get a grasp of what was going on, a karate-chop landed heavily on the back of his neck.

Grant's eyes rolled back and he fell back onto his bed, unconscious.

He had no idea of what had just happened.

Link had the wand!

Link admired the wand in his hand. It was 15 inches long, with rings of magic-imbued gold inlaid along its length. Tiny magic runes had been engraved throughout the wand, a new moon embellishing its tip.

A virtual box appeared beside the wand as he admired it. Glowing text flashed through the box.

New Moon Wand

Quality: Fine

Effect: Offensive spells gain +20% power

(Note: Coming of age gift from Duke Gridan to his second son, Grant)

Link smiled. The God of Light made this gaming system really well. It has a true audio-visual feel to it, he thought.

He had gotten the New Moon Wand. Taking out his pocket watch, it was now 9:50, he still had forty minutes left. There was more than enough time. He walked out of the room and placed the tip of the New Moon Wand against the door lock. Activate-The Magician's Hand.

With another click, the bolt of the lock was destroyed. With the wand, The Magician's Hand had become much more powerful! No one would be able to open the door now, whether from the inside or from the outside. Even if Grant woke up halfway, he would have to find a different way to get out of the room.

In another forty minutes, no one in the academy would care about anyone else's affairs.

He had the wand. That was the first step.

Link made his way to the first floor of the Apprentice's Dorm. On the first floor, there were a few display cabinets. One of them contained a magic bracelet called The Band of Protection. It was a low-level magic item. The one who wore it could use the Level-2 defensive spell, Guarding Barrier.

Link had to have it.

During this period, because of the low Mana density, there were less powerful people around as compared to the future. A Level-2 defensive spell was already considered to be very strong. Used well, it might even save his life.

As the war progressed, powerful forces clashing caused dimensional cracks to appear across the Firuman Continent. As a result, the Mana density of the world would increase, and along with it, the number of combatants. By then, Level-2 Spells wouldn't do much at all.

But his problem now was that a fully-fledged Magician lived on the first floor-Madame Fairfax. This kind old lady was a Level-1 Magician who was also the dorm supervisor.

She was a light sleeper and woke up at the slightest noise. It would be much more difficult to steal the bangle with her there. But Link had a plan.

He walked towards the stairs, but his footsteps paused before another door. Sentimental feelings welled up within him.

Link blinked. The young man's memories replayed in his head.

The Apprentice's Dorm was a mixed dorm. An Apprentice called Celine, a commoner, lived in the room. She studied in the Magic Academy on a full scholarship thanks to her exceptional talent in magic. Within just three months, she had mastered three Level-0 Spells. Her future was bright and unfettered.

According to his memories, Celine was a very beautiful girl. Even without makeup, she was the uncontested first beauty of the Magic Academy. But that wasn't the reason for his feelings. It was because she had been a great help to the original Link. When Grant had broken his arm, Celine had helped to look after him for more than a month, giving the excuse that she held some responsibility in the incident.

Link was introverted and had almost no self-confidence. He had virtually no friends in the academy. He easily developed strong feelings for Celine within that month.

"Haha. Kid, is she your puppy love?" Link chuckled softly to himself.

He wasn't willing to stick his nose in. He would be lucky just to make it out on his own. With one more person, the danger he faced would increase exponentially.

Turning to leave, he took a step, then a second, and then a third. On the fourth step, he froze.

He found that the sentimental feelings within him had become much stronger, so much so that he could no longer go on ignoring them.

"Fine, fine. Since it's your last wish, I'll do it. After all, I did take over your body."

It was inexplicable. But when Link made that promise, those feelings vanished. He felt lighter, as if a burden had been lifted from his chest.

Link knew that the original owner of his body had disappeared forever.

What a besotted fool, Link thought, shaking his head.

He would take this Celine away, but not now. Now, he had to steal... no, take The Band of Protection.