The Ferde Wilderness had become extremely muddy due to the continuous rain in the past few days.
A carriage from East Cove Higher Magic Academy was traveling unsteadily on the muddy road. Despite the added stability from a wind elemental balancing spell, it was not enough to fully offset the turbulence from the journey. Along the way, many Magicians who were physically weaker or had motion sickness threw up from the discomfort. This continued for two whole days before their destination finally came in sight. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief.
Master Grenci and Master Ferdinand sat in the first carriage. Amongst the six-man council, the two of them were the youngest, with Master Grenci at 58 years old, and Master Ferdinand at 54 years old. They were considered to be prodigies of their era and had attained the status of Master fairly early in life. Even so, this journey had proved to be a painful one for them as well.
As he looked at the barren camp from the window of the carriage, Grenci sighed, "I feel that the king should not have given Link this territory. A title would have been enough! A genius like him should stay in the academy and put all his energy into magic research."
Ferdinand had a more jubilant character and was generally more open-minded. He laughed, "I don't mind it actually. I just find it amazing how many stones there are on this land."
"I feel you." Grenci stared at the barren land where not even weeds were able to take root and once again complained, "This will be my first and last time stepping foot onto this land."
If he had to make another trip here, he might not survive the turbulent journey.
Ferdinand smiled and said, "Old fellow, we are entering the camp soon. Please watch what you say when we meet Link. Don't put him down while he is at the peak of his enthusiasm."
Grenci was extremely grumpy from the uncomfortable journey and immediately retorted, "Why can't I say anything? Not only will I comment on this barren land, but I will also persuade him to return to the academy. It will be a complete waste of his talent to stay in this hellhole."
"Alright, alright, do what you see fit." Ferdinand knew exactly how stubborn his friend was and left him to cool down.
The carriage wheels made clacking sounds as it grazed onto the gravel. Under the monotonous rhythm, the carriages entered the Scorched Ridge.
The roads within Scorched Ridge had been treated and smoothened out upon Link's orders. It was thus a lot more comfortable to travel on. The moment the carriage entered the area, many onlookers gathered to welcome the army of Magicians. Among them, Link, who was wearing the Flame Controller Robe, stood out.
Rylai and Eliard stood beside him, while Jacker, Lucy, Gildern, Carrido and the rest of the mercenary band stood in an orderly manner behind.
The coachman pulled the carriage to a stop and Magicians walked feebly out of the carriage.
Before he alighted, Grenci whispered, "Look, he is still mixing around with those vulgar mercenaries. This is...How uncultured!"
Ferdinand was speechless. Although he knew that Grenci was a kind and caring person at heart, Grenci simply could not keep his mouth on a leash. He would often say hurtful words without first processing them in his mind.
This might be seen as being direct and sincere by some, but also offensive to others.
Upon alighting the carriage, Grenci attempted to restrain his negative feelings about this land and forced a smile on his face. As the strongest member of the six-man council, Grenci led the troop and walked towards Link. He then gave a reluctant expression and said, "Link, this place is way too barren. I have also heard that the weather is terrible. How long will it take to build a decent territory out of this wasteland?"
He still did not manage to keep it in, although he had toned it down greatly.
Link smiled apologetically and bowed. "It has been a tough journey, Master Ferdinand, and Master Grenci. I have already started the building of a road which would connect to the King's Lane. The latest completion date would be next year. Come, I've already prepared a place for both of you to rest."
It must have been a terrible experience for the two old masters to travel on the bumpy road. Link hence thought that it was natural for them to give negative comments at the start. He then turned around, signaling the Magicians to follow him into the wooden houses that they rushed to build these few days.
Along the way, Ferdinand walked towards Link and asked, "The dean had mentioned that you'd like to alter the climate using Mage Towers. Have you found an alternative?"
Link shook his head as he was not allowed to speak of the Storm Lord. He then pretended not to have a solution and said, "I have no idea as well. However, the climate these few days has been amazing. There was even spring rain yesterday! I feel that the bad climate here has been exaggerated by others. It is actually not as bad as one would think."
"Oh, that is good news." Ferdinand did not have a good understanding of the situation anyway and decided to simply believe Link.
Soon, they arrived at the wooden houses. The wooden houses had a very simple exterior. Although everything was brand new, the living conditions were still a far cry from the Mage Towers which the Magicians were used to.
Link knew this well and felt even more apologetic. "The accommodation is not very up to standard. However, I have already set up a temperature stabilizing magic circle in every room. I will also ensure that the room is kept clean. I hope everyone doesn't mind."
Grenci felt even worse after looking at the shabby wooden house. He knew though, that this was not meant to be a relaxing trip and simply endured the unsatisfactory living conditions.
Ferdinand, being himself, simply laughed, "This is already amazing. I am satisfied."
The moment he said those words, the Magicians around him could not voice out their opinions despite having qualms about the wooden houses. Furthermore, they could not possibly change their living conditions.
Everyone then entered the room to rest as they were extremely tired from the troubling journey.
Master Grenci and Master Ferdinand were assigned to an independent wooden house. This was probably the best building in the entire camp. It had two stories and was 210 square feet. It had two bedrooms, a living room, and even a balcony on the second floor.
Before he entered the wooden house, Grenci was filled with dissatisfaction. However, the moment he stepped into the house, he could feel a warm, soothing fragrance wafting into his nose. He was immediately rejuvenated, and the fatigue in his body was dispelled instantly.
He then looked at the interior design of the wooden house. It had wooden-tiled flooring, a small wooden table with a few chairs around it, and a small bookshelf. They were all brand new and delicately crafted. The room was also extremely clean as promised, going for a minimalist design concept which calmed the senses.
Grenci was a direct person. He looked at the room with satisfaction, and a smile finally appeared on his face. "This is pretty good. It seems like Link had put in some effort."
Ferdinand nodded. He had found the temperature stabilizing magic circle and was in the midst of observing it. He then commended, "This magic circle is the work of a genius! Look at this; it seems to be a Sorlen structure which can control the temperature of the room extremely precisely. I can bet that this was Link's idea."
Grenci curiously stepped forward. After half a minute, the feeling of pity once again overwhelmed him. "As I was saying, Link seriously should stop developing this barren land and focus on his magic research. What a waste of talent."
"Alright, alright, old guy. You have repeated that many times. Let's rest. We still have to find the geographical node for the location of the Mage Tower tomorrow."
After the group of Magicians had settled in, Link welcomed another unexpected guest. This person was none other than the head of the Green Leaf Merchant Firm, Warter.
"Why have you come here personally? I should have already sent you the magic equipment this month through Carrido. Am I right?" Link was perplexed and asked quizzically.
Warter laughed heartily. His merchant firm had made great progress in this period, and he looked a lot more refreshed and well groomed. He smiled and said, "I heard that you are preparing to go all out in the development of your territory?"
Link laughed, "You are truly well-informed aren't you. That is true. My harbor is almost complete."
The completion of the harbor would mean that sea trade could commence. Sea trade was a hundred times more efficient than land trade routes. Link could then import huge amounts of resources for the development of the Ferde Wilderness through the sea and also export his goods through the same way. It was all within his calculations.
Warter then said, "I have met many nobles in this period doing trade. They are all extremely interested in what you are doing. Here this is a list of the specialties in each of their territories. See if they have anything that you need."
Link took the list and saw the names of at least 40 nobles. Some of them were from the Norton Kingdom, while others were from the Southern states. Below their names, were the materials and prices that they were offering. For example, Duke Beverly in the North of Hot Springs City could offer more than twenty years supply of red beech wood. Duke Garland from the West of Girvent Forest could then provide granite. Many other nobles were then willing to provide food and water, some even willing to sell slaves as labor workers.
Link carefully perused the list and found many items that he needed. He could not help but be impressed by Warter's keen sense of opportunity.
He then passed this list to his secretary and said, "Warter, this is of great help. However, I am busy with the construction of my Mage Tower and probably cannot personally be in charge of this. Please approach Lucy to discuss more details."
"No problem at all."
"Oh, one more thing," Link suddenly remembered an important issue and exclaimed. His territory was in need of citizens. Within a hundred-mile radius of his camp, the indigenous people of the Ferde Wilderness added up to merely 2000 people. This was way too little manpower.
"Please continue," Warter immediately said. He had a hunch that this was going to be something big.
"My territory needs more manpower and a bigger population. However, the condition of the land is just too poor to attract anyone to come on their own accord..."
Before he could complete his sentence, Warter had understood the situation and continued, "You need to purchase slaves?"
"That's right, a lot of them. Do you have any connections?" Link smiled and asked. Warter was indeed a shrewd businessman. He was right when he chose to work with him.
"Do you have any requirements for these slaves?"
"Preferably young and strong."
"What about race and gender?"
"Human race would be the best. As for gender, preferably half of each...No, a bit more males than females. I need manpower for the development of my territory. I need males to do the physical labor." Another reason that Link did not mention was that he was hoping to recruit some soldiers from these slaves.
Warter fell silent for a moment before saying, "There are not many slaves present in the Norton Kingdom. Even if there were, they are all Dark Elves, which you probably would not want. However, the Southern Free Trade Alliance has loads of them. There is often friction between the nations and thus resulting in many prisoners of wars who are usually taken in as slaves. The nobles would probably be willing to trade them off for money. I will contact you again."
Warter was an extremely efficient person. He immediately left after all was done to find Lucy for negotiations.
Link was then alone in his study room, planning for the future.
He had to construct his Mage Tower, develop his territory and expand his territory's population. The gold coins required would definitely be astounding. He had to find more ways to increase his revenue.
It was probably time to bring out the anti-magic soil.
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