36 The Forest Bandits Ordeal


 The only way he knew to earn money was by utilizing his magic.

To use magic, Link would need a wand. Currently, there were two wands in his possession: The New Moon wand and the Fire Crystal staff. The former was a recognizable work of a Master Magician, while the latter was a bulky thing with obvious Dark Elf features. None of them were suitable to be exposed publicly.

After careful consideration, Link made up his mind to use the New Moon wand. But of course, he would first conceal the wand under the cover of camouflage.

He then decided to spend one Omni Point to purchase a new spell.

Transmutation

Level-0 Spell

Effects: A low-level enchantment spell. Transforms the appearance of one object into another without altering the innate nature and shape of the original object.

Once he received the spell, Link swathed the New Moon wand under layers of linen rags, completely covering the original appearance. He then foraged some rubber tree twigs and put the thickly covered wand on the twigs. He picked up the Fire Crystal staff and cast the Transmutation spell.

A rippling, translucent ball of light appeared at the tip of the staff; Link pointed it towards the New Moon wand. "Transmutation!"

The ball of light hit the wand. The brownish surface of the rags began to show minute changes as faint lines of woodgrain began to appear. But this wasn't enough. Casting the Transmutation spell once was not going to completely change the rags into a wooden stick.

"Transmutation! Transmutation! Transmutation! Transmutation!"

He rapidly cast the spell five times successively. Now the rags that covered the wand were completely transformed into a plain wooden stick. The stick had many pores, though, so it wouldn't affect spellcasting in any way.

Still, the surface was a bit too rough, so he smoothed it out with some grains of sand. Now, the once magnificent looking New Moon wand had completely transformed into an ordinary looking wooden stick.

There. Now I can use it.

As the wand camouflaging business was done, Link suddenly felt peckish, so he went to the inn hall and got himself, as usual, a long loaf of coarse wheat bread for five coppers. But he thought the occasion called for a drink, so he spent another ten coppers on a mug of ale.

He had been eating the same thing for half a month so his tongue might've forgotten how to taste. A mug of ale would certainly be a nice change.

"Hey, Link! What's the matter with you today?" the inn servant teased as he handed the young man a mug of ale filled to the brim.

Another voice called out from the other side of the room, "Link, you'll soon become as thin as a bamboo rod! You can't go on like that, you know?"

It was the drunkard Tormun. He was a regular of the inn who would spend the first coin he earned on drinks. Once drunk he'd go home and beat his wife. The two had been fighting over this habit of his for many years until his wife couldn't take it anymore and ran off with another man. This didn't stop Tormun from going back to his old habit, though. Alcohol was his true love, after all.

"Say, Link! You're cooped up the whole damn day in that little attic! What could you be doing in there? Come on, share it with us!" another regular chuckled.

He had spent half a month there, so everyone in the inn knew him. In fact, by now the whole town had heard rumors about the oddball at the inn.

Link's only response to these jeering questions was to tell the truth. "I'm a Magician, and I'm working on my magic skills."

To his surprise, laughter rang out through the entire hall in response.

"Ha! If you're a Magician, then I'm a wise Sage!" slurred Tormun the drunkard.

The rest of the hall joined in on the laughter. Link had been telling them the truth many times before, but no one ever took him seriously.

Because of River Cove's proximity to the East Cove Higher Magic Academy, its inhabitants were accustomed to the sights of Magicians from the school. In their eyes, Magicians wore magnificent robes, spent their money liberally, always carried sticks with them they called wands; there was a certain mysterious air about them too, as if they were fully shrouded in an enigmatic aura.

This Link, on the other hand, wore tattered rags for a robe (he had sold the grey robe for money), had a body as thin and frail as twigs, he had the pallor of boiled cabbage. In addition, no one had ever seen him do any kind of magic before. Only fools would take his claim of being a Magician seriously.

Link understood all that, and so he never argued. To him, what the townspeople thought of him was completely irrelevant. So long as they did not hinder him in his quests, the whole town could take him for a beggar and he wouldn't lose sleep over it.

He knew that it was all beneath him. An eagle never concerned itself over the opinions of chickens, so he never bothered with explanations.

And so, all Link did was laugh, then he carried his food to a seat in the corner and sat down and ate. He took a bite out of the loaf, then washed it down with a swig of ale. All throughout this scene, his spirits were calm and utterly undisturbed.

The inn hall's crowd occasionally threw some remarks on Link from time to time, but seeing as they got no reaction or response from him, they just mumbled something to themselves and moved on to town gossip.

Suddenly there was a sound of heavy footsteps from outside the door, as the light flowing into the inn was blocked. Darkness momentarily swept over the room, the change causing everyone inside to be silent. Every head turned towards the door.

Even Link did the same.

There at the entrance stood an enormous brute striding into the hall-he was almost seven-feet tall. His arms were bigger than Link's thighs, his hair was a netted mess, his face coarse and rugged, and his beard bushy and long. He was wearing grey leather armor with metal plates sewn over his heart and ribs. He was also carrying a war hammer on his shoulder made of pure iron. The handle and its head were eight inches long-it couldn't have weighed less than 150 pounds. But that wasn't the only thing the brute was carrying. On his back was a thick metal shield-it was at least two inches thick, also made of pure iron, and it couldn't have been easy to carry around either.

Link could guarantee that if he was ever hit by a gentle swing of that hammer, he'd be as dead as a doornail.

The brute walked into the hall as if he were a war tank invading enemy territory, each heavy step stomping loudly onto the floor's wooden planks. It was only when the brute was well inside the hall that everyone noticed the two people behind him.

One of them was an Archer, about 30 years of age. His robust physique was also completely covered in leather armor. The other was a woman, around 27 or 28 years old. Crowning her face was a full head of fiery, red hair. She wore a full-body leather armor suit that hugged her figure, revealing enticing curves on a body so stunning she could easily spike any man's hormones.

Every pair of eyes in the hall were latched onto them.

The wretched drunkard Tormun couldn't peel his eyes off of the woman from the moment she appeared. He didn't even notice the drool spilling out of his mouth.

This drunkard hadn't touched a woman for years, his eyes would've bulged out even if he'd seen a sow (female pig), let alone a beautiful woman like this.

The woman appeared to be a swordswoman, seeing that she had a one-handed sword on her back. She was extremely perceptive of her surroundings, easily sensing the drooling Tormun's gaping stare. Immediately she glared at him with her cold deep-blue eyes.

Tormun was frightened to his senses. "Ah!" he gasped, then dropped the drink in his hand. He didn't dare look up at her again.

The rest of the crowd in the inn was spooked as well, and none of them dared to stare anymore.

These three are definitely professionals, Link thought, There's a strong murderous aura emanating from that woman. She must've killed many people before. But I sense no darkness or evil coming from them, so I guess they must be roaming mercenaries undertaking missions in exchange for money.

Seeing that the inn crowd was completely intimidated by them, they ordered their food and began a discussion as if no one else was around.

They were boisterous and completely indiscreet, so Link could clearly hear every word they were saying.

"There's just no way, no way in hell we could ever fight him. This Viktor scum is a wimpy little wuss! He'd just hide in his little cave and never come out. It's too dangerous if we go in there, it's too small to fit my bow, so I can't aim right. It's just impossible," the Archer said in a tone of exasperation as he took a big bite of smoked beef.

"Hey, stop being so gloomy. Of course, it's a little bit more dangerous than usual, but don't forget how sweet the reward is going to be! And we've come a hundred miles! Are we really going to just give up now?" the woman responded. She then turned to the giant brute, "What do you say, Jacker?"

The brute had a craggy face, but his demeanor was surprisingly gentle. He carefully cut a piece of meat and put it in his mouth, then slowly chewed the food. Hearing the woman's question, he considered it for a while, then said, "We need a helper. Viktor is a Level-3 Assassin; he's also developed Combat Aura. Now that he's on his toes, he'll make a terrible opponent."

"Helper?" the Archer spat out with a laugh, "What kind of help can we get in River Cove? Unless...if we could get one of those Magicians in the East Cove Academy?"

"Gildern, are you out of your mind?" the red-haired woman immediately countered, "What kind of Magician can we afford? Even if we give up all the reward we get they might still not pay us any attention, and don't even think about them risking the danger with us!"

"I was only joking." The Archer pursed his lips, then lowered his head and concentrated on eating.

Afterwards, the three mercenaries continued talking. Most of what they said was about their mission and the mission's goal. The name Viktor was mentioned a lot. But even after half a day of discussion, they didn't seem to come to any solution.

But instead, the one who did come up with an idea was Link, who was listening intently their issue. He remembered exactly where he had heard the name Viktor before.

Viktor, the leader of the Dark Brotherhood, a band of rogues, robbers, and ruffians. The Brotherhood's most recognizable feature was their blood-red masks.

In fact, the bandits that attacked Eliard in the forest had belonged to this Brotherhood.

At that point in time, the Dark Brotherhood wreaked havoc in the western part of the Girventh Forest. It was the most powerful band of the underworld west of Girventh Forest, and Viktor was at its helm. His words held more power than the mayor of River Cove. If he wanted someone dead, one word and that person would not live to see the next sunrise.

But of course, like any underworld organization, the reason Viktor could get so powerful in a town so near to Springs City was that he had powerful political connections in the capital.

Link remembered exactly how far up the power ladder this connection was-the Iron Duke. It wasn't that the Iron Duke directly supported the Dark Brotherhood, but even so, he did receive part of the loot and treasure from Viktor, so he turned a blind eye to the Brotherhood's criminal activities.

Naturally, this made Viktor even bolder and more unscrupulous.

While thinking about all this information, he suddenly remembered a thing called Viktor's treasure trove.

As an underworld leader, Viktor naturally was paranoid about his own safety. He never kept his treasures in the banks of Norton Kingdom. He would instead hide them in a secret location, but he didn't hide all of his treasures in one place, though. Instead, like a squirrel, he would hide portions of his treasures in numerous different locations all over the Girventh forest.

In the game, if a player was lucky, he could have a chance of picking up a map to the location of Viktor's treasure trove. In fact, Link had picked one up once, and as he followed the path on the map, he eventually found 100 gold coins, which was equivalent to about 1500 dollars-indeed a substantial amount of money.

The locations of the treasures shown on the map were random, but according to the statistics in the game forum, there should at least be 20 or more locations where Viktor buried his gold coins.

If there were 100 gold coins in one location, then in 20 or more sites he would've collected enough money to pay the fees for the Academy!

For this reason, Link's interest was piqued the moment he heard the name Viktor.

His financial situation had become truly dire, so he had been listening intently and paying close attention the three mercenaries. Just then, he received a notification in the interface.

Mission Activated: Assassination

Mission Details: Kill the leader of the Dark Brotherhood Viktor!

Mission Rewards: 10 Omni Points

Ah, this is one mission I can't refuse!

He waited patiently for the three mercenaries to finish their meal. Once they got up to leave the inn, he swiftly stood up and followed them.

Once they were outside the inn Link hastened his footsteps and caught up with them. "Hey, wait up!" he shouted, "Is it true that you people are in need of a helper?"