Once he returned to his own estate, Link was welcomed by two familiar figures from the East Cove Magic Academy. The first one was his good friend Eliard who he hadn't seen for a long while now. The second was Rylai, the lovely girl who was his disciple.
Eliard was about to approach Link the moment he saw him but stopped in his tracks as he was shocked by the sight of the giant tiger. Dorias scowled when he noticed this.
"What a coward," he scoffed.
Once Link had hopped off his back, Dorias then raised up his head high and proud as he strode haughtily towards his own shed.
Well, there were so many strangers today so he must act his best to impress them!
Meanwhile, Link approached Eliard with a big smile on his face.
"How did you find time to come visit me this time?" asked Link, patting Eliard's back.
Eliard had been greatly motivated to dive his nose back into studying magic when he heard that Link had defeated the demon Tarviss with a Level-9 spell. Once he got back to the academy, Eliard began to study with the same obsessive single-mindedness that Link had once shown in the past.
Eliard chuckled in reply and pointed at the giant magic puppet next to him and pulled Rylai over.
"I heard you spent 15,000 gold coins ordering this big guy from the academy," Eliard said, "so I came here to see whether you got your money's worth or not. Besides, Rylai wanted to see her tutor, so I brought her with me too."
Rylai stepped forward and respectfully bowed to Link.
Link realized that he'd basically let his disciple study on her own and entrusted her to Herrera all this while. He suddenly felt guilty for neglecting her.
"Why don't you stay here for a few months?" suggested Link to Rylai as he patted her head gently. "I'm in the process of building my estate now, so there'd be much for you to see and learn."
"Yes, tutor," replied Rylai. She had been concerned that her visit would be an intrusion upon her tutor's time, but now that she'd heard from his lips that her arrival was welcomed, all the anxieties she felt disappeared from her mind and a sweet smile cropped up on her face.
"You may go explore the place now," said Link, patting the girl's shoulder. Rylai then began to wander around the Scorched Ridge camp.
There are so many interesting things to see here! Rylai thought with excitement. Like that giant talking cat, for example. What a funny creature!
Eliard looked around Scorched Ridge and turned back to Link.
"You've really become a land-owning lord now," he said earnestly. "And you're only the same age as I am, yet you seem so much more matured and have so much more charisma than I do."
"These are just superficial things, though," replied Link with a smile. "They don't mean everything. Come on, let's go see the Plowing Magic Puppet."
They both then walked up to the magic puppet, and Link circled around it, carefully observing every detail.
The magic puppet was about 15 feet tall and had a humanoid upper body while two huge iron plows made up its lower body. Its whole body was made of anti-magic clay, and it looked as if it were made of ceramic. The whole surface of its skin was covered in magic runes, while a big magic crystal lay in the middle of its chest-this was its Mana core.
Link made sure to examine every detail of the magic puppet. He nodded occasionally and sometimes furrowed his brows slightly as he inspected the magic puppet. It basically met his requirements, but the artistry that went into it wasn't as delicate as he'd hoped. Because of his perfectionist nature, Link was slightly disappointed by this, but then he knew that this kind of working magic puppet need not be perfect in its structure. He decided not to voice this minor complaint he had.
Meanwhile, the Magician's Apprentice who was responsible for the delivery of the magic puppet stood by nervously.
"This Plowing Magic Puppet can plow five feet deep into the soil," he started to explain. "As long as it is continuously supplied with Mana, it will be able to work 24 hours a day non-stop for at least a year."
"How efficient is it?" Link asked.
"In the case of Ferde Wilderness," he replied, "if it is working a flattened plain, then it can plow 100 acres of land in 24 hours. If it's working in a sloped area, then it will manage more than 80 acres a day."
A hundred acres in 24 hours-that meant 3000 acres a month, and 36,000 acres per year. It sounded good, but it would still be too slow due to the vastness of Ferde Wilderness.
Link decided to keep the magic puppet and see how it worked out. If he were satisfied with its work, then he'd order a few more of these.
"It satisfies my requirements," he finally said to the apprentice. "Please send my thanks to Master Weissmuller. He's solved a big problem for me."
Judging by his Mana and his attire, it seemed that the man was a mid-level apprentice and an insignificant figure in the academy. Once he'd heard Link's response, the apprentice then gave Link a reverent Magician's bow.
"We are pleased and honored to help you, Master Magician Link," he said. "Since you are satisfied with the magic puppet, then I must excuse myself and return to the academy."
"Wait," Link hurriedly replied. "I am planning to build a large Mage Tower on my estate. I've prepared all the gold coins needed too. Please bring this news back to East Cove Academy."
Although the old Lich Vance had advised him to get the help from the High Elves to build his Mage Tower, Link must disagree with him in this regard. That's because Vance had approached the problem purely from a scholar's perspective, while Link was not merely a Magician now but a liege lord as well.
Because he had been trained in the East Cove Magic Academy and achieved his fame and reputation there and was even considered as a candidate for the future dean, he couldn't just ask for someone else's help when he was building his own Mage Tower. If he did that, it would be as if he'd cut his ties with the academy.
Not only that, the relationship between him and the academy would then run a risk of turning sour because of that.
Link couldn't afford to lose such a powerful ally as the East Cove Magic Academy.
Yet, to be frank, the High Elves did indeed possess a great understanding of magic, and their skills were truly invaluable in building Mage Towers. So what should Link do?
Link thought that the best way for him to go about this was to let the East Cove Magic Academy to help him build the main structure of the large Mage Tower but still leave a lot of room for future expansion and upgrades. Then one day, he'll find the opportunity to get the help of the High Elves to modify his Mage Tower.
That's what a wise lord would do.
Meanwhile, as soon as they heard the news that Link was going build a Mage Tower, and a large one at that, the apprentice's eyes shone with envy and admiration while even Eliard showed deep respect for his friend's achievement.
Building their own large-scale Mage Tower was any Magician's loftiest dreams!
"Don't worry, Master Magician Link," said the apprentice, "I will bring this news back to the academy immediately."
"Good," replied Link. "Here's your reward." Link then handed over a coin pouch to the apprentice.
The apprentice knew the moment he took the pouch that there were at least 20 gold coins in it. That was more than what he got for working hard in the Mage Tower for a month! He thanked Link with the gladdest heart and rushed back to the East Cove Academy immediately.
"Tell Magician Carrido that I'd like to see him," Link ordered a guard nearby.
"Yes, my lord," said the guard. He then swiftly turned around and rushed to get the Magician.
Soon, Carrido arrived.
"This is the Plowing Magic Puppet," Link told Carrido while pointing towards the magic puppet. "It can plow as deep as five feet into the ground, and its operation is very simple. Take it to the flat plain in the southern part of Scorched Ridge and test how efficient it is."
"Yes, my lord," answered Carrido. He circled around the magic puppet once to understand the general operation of the magic puppet. Then, he activated it and brought it away.
Only then was Link free enough to talk to Eliard, who was waiting for him at the side.
"I'm sorry for making you wait," he said. "Let's go inside."
"Not a problem at all, Link," replied Eliard. "You've always been busy even when you're in the academy. I'm used to it."
The two then chatted freely as they walk into the wooden cabin. Suddenly, Eliard noticed a dark-haired woman with a fascinating air about her walking out of the cabin.
"Who's that woman?" he asked, slightly surprised.
Celine stayed here on the pretense of being Link's apprentice. Still, her unique aura and temperament naturally set her apart from other people, so she was apt to be noticed as soon as she appeared.
Noticing that Celine was wearing her camouflage pendant, Link didn't need to worry that Eliard might notice anything odd about Celine.
"Her name is Celine Flandre," said Link with a smile. "She's a...good friend of mine, and she's staying here to learn magic with me."
"A good...friend of yours?" said Eliard confusedly. He then noticed the twinkle in Link's eyes and was even more surprised. He'd always thought that his friend had no interest in women. It turned out that he'd just never met the right person after all!
"Ah, I get it now, Link" he answered with a good-humored laugh. He said nothing more about the matter and continued to talk to Link about magic as they usually did.
Once they'd gotten inside the cabin, Eliard took out his own magic notebook and consulted with Link about the questions and problems that he encountered recently. Link gave his answers and guidance clearly as he always did, and Eliard reaped many benefits from their discussion.
Time flew by quickly, and the two Magicians slowly changed the subject of their discussion from magic to the war in the North of Norton Kingdom. Link didn't know as much as Eliard on this subject, so he was basically just listening while Eliard was the one talking most of the time.
"Ah, it seems that the war has gotten into a deadlock," said Eliard.
"What do you mean?" asked Link intently. He'd been busy all this while with his own affairs that he was relatively clueless about what was happening in the North.
Eliard gulped and let out a long sigh before answering. He looked more than a little worried about the war.
"Two big battles happened recently, and they were both violent and terrible," Eliard began. "It is said that 20,000 Warriors had died in those battles. Even some of the Battle Mages had suffered great injuries-many had even lost their limbs. Some of them returned to the academy, and I went to visit them. Many of them lost their legs and arms, and one of them got his chin cut off! They said it was because the Dark Elf Assassins were trying to slash the Magician's throat, but he was fortunate enough to lower his head in time and escaped with his life...How brutal!"
Eliard shook his head again and again, his face full of sympathy and regret.
Because of his outstanding magical talents, Eliard was relieved of his military service and was able to concentrate on learning magic in the academy. Although he was grateful for this, he couldn't help but feel guilty that he was hiding in safety while the kingdom was at war. To combat that feeling, he dove into his studies even more obsessively so as to relieve that guilt.
"With 20,000 Warriors dead and even more wounded," said Link with a deep frown, "doesn't that mean that the kingdom is losing the war?"
"Not exactly," replied Eliard. "It's more of a mutual defeat. The Dark Elves have suffered serious losses as well, but their resistance had gotten much more intense than before now. Every battle was fought fiercely and harshly that countless lives were lost and even more blood was shed with every mile that we advance to the North."
After that, the two friends fell into deep silence for a while.
"Maybe the king has gone too far," said Link finally. "The best thing to do now would be to stabilize and strengthen the line of defense. We shouldn't advance north anymore."
"While that is true," said Eliard with a bitter smile, "now that blood has been shed, everyone has one thing in mind, and that is to kill. The ball has started rolling, and it's very hard to stop it. I heard that the army is obsessed with the thought of chasing the Dark Elves back into the dark underground where they came from. Any suggestions of stopping would be instantly silenced."
After speaking, Eliard seemed to sink into deeper misery.
"You haven't seen how things are in Springs City recently, Link," he said. "When I was there, I saw how the townspeople had been spurred by the victories in previous battles that they were stunned by recent setbacks. Now all they wanted was revenge. To be honest with you, Link, I'm really scared..."
The people had been blinded by rage and wanted nothing but to shed more blood now. That's the scariest thing that could happen when a kingdom went to war.
Once the people wanted nothing but to bleed the enemy, things could get to the point where they'd fight until their enemies died or until they died themselves. When a kingdom got to this point, the people would get so fanatic that they'd forget the wisdom of taking a step back to save themselves. It would make it much easier for the enemy to break in through the cracks then, and there would be a high possibility that the whole kingdom would collapse. (Note: refer to the history of World War II Germany.)
There's nothing much that Link could do in this regard. The royal army was composed of aristocrats, and the more military power a certain noble house provided, the more power they had. Link had little to no power right now. Moreover, he hadn't contributed much to the war in the North, so he basically had no right to speak about the matter.
The only thing he could do now was to develop his own strength and that of his troop.
"Let's not talk about this anymore," said Link. "Why don't you stay here for a few days? We still have much to talk about."
Link was the pride of East Cove Magic Academy now, so naturally, the academy would put his matter as their priority. Which was why only four days later, the academy had sent a Mage Tower construction team consisting of two Master Magicians, eight high-level Magicians, and 25 mid-level Magicians to Scorched Ridge.
Hence, the construction of Link's Mage Tower formally started.
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