38 Let’s Charge in!


 The Flamingo Band of Mercenaries had given in to Link, and once the Archer Gildern came to, they would be on the move at once.

Jacker had previously done some investigating for the mission, and their destination was the north-western part of the Girventh forest called the Cove of Echoes.

As they journeyed, Jacker briefed Link on the situation they'd be facing from the intel he gathered.

"Dark Brotherhood members will be guarding the cove entrance, patrolling the surrounding hundred yards. There's a cave in there, which, according to the information we gathered, is Viktor's usual hideout spot. Several bodyguards surround him inside the cave, each of them an elite member of the Brotherhood, highly skilled in combat."

"Do you guys know how many people we'll be facing?" Link asked.

"There should be at least 60 patrolling the cove. I'm not certain about the bodyguards inside the cave, but there shouldn't be less than 30 of them," Jacker explained, "We're only four people, so storming straight into the lion's den might be a bad idea. Our original plan was to keep watch at the cove mouth. Viktor is the leader of the Dark Brotherhood; people like that can't just hide in a cave forever. He must come out eventually, and when that happens, we'll ambush and kill him."

"Except we've been lying in wait for a fortnight and we haven't seen his shadow once." Gildern's hands were held out, his face a picture of dejection.

Link felt he was still left in the dark about some key things, so he asked the most eloquent one out of the three, Lucy, "What exactly is the story here?"

So Lucy explained every detail from the beginning to the end, and now things started to make sense to Link.

As it turned out, the Flamingo Band of Mercenaries had originated from the North, but ever since the Dark Elfs attacked the city of Gladstone, Jacker, who was the leader, felt it wouldn't be safe to stay there. There was a very high possibility that they would encounter the Dark Elf army, and those bloodthirsty creatures had never shown any sympathy towards humans before. They'd kill you the moment they saw you, no questions asked.

As things stood, they'd be sticking their necks out tempting fate if they stayed there, so they moved south.

Just 20 days' prior, the three reached Girventh Forest. They then later received a mission from the River Cove Town Hall. Afterwards, they nosed around for a bit and gathered roughly enough information and decided to keep watch at the Cove of Echoes.

But in the end, the ambush was a fruitless effort. For two weeks, they hadn't seen a single trace of Viktor.

Link tapped his forehead lightly with the tip of his wand. He thought deeply for a while, and not long after he came out with an idea. "It's impossible for Viktor to hide in the cave all the time. Since you've never seen him come out, it's possible that he's not inside the cave in the first place. Either that, or there's another passage out of the cave."

"Impossible. He's definitely in there, that's his old lair! All of the Brotherhood members we've caught said so," Jacker cried.

"That leaves the second option, then," Link tugged at his hands, "I have heard that cunning rabbits would dig many exits from its burrow. Viktor himself is a death-fearing cunning man, I'm sure he would never trap himself in the middle of the cove. If my guess isn't wrong, the other exit must be inside the cave."

As a matter of fact, in the game, there was a cave in the Cove of Echoes which was a duplicate, called The Silent Mine. The passages in the cave were a complex mix of many dead ends, like a maze. There were at least three different exits. Many players who entered the duplicate for the first time would get lost, wandering in there for half a day and they would still find no trace of Viktor.

And precisely because of that, the duplicate was commonly called the Silent Maze.

Now that this is a real world, the condition of the cave could only be worse.

What Link said made a lot of sense to the mercenaries, and they were all convinced. Lucy knitted her brows and said, "Then the secret exit must be Viktor's most important safeguard, only the most important members of the brotherhood would know about it. There's no way we could ever find it."

"That damned turtle, that cowardly mouse!" Gildern shook the arrows in his hands with fury. He thought of the wasted fortnight when they were waiting at the cove mouth like idiots, braving rain and cold for nothing, and that enraged him even more.

Jacker turned to Link. "Do you have any ideas?"

Jacker had gradually come to respect Link, firstly because of his power, and secondly because of his brains.

Link had long had an answer in mind, laughingly he said, "Let's charge in."

As he finished his words, the three mercenaries stood gaping. Jacker furrowed his brows. Gildern's face wore a baffled expression, if he hadn't learned his lessons earlier, he would've shot out a barrage of insults. But Lucy had a wry smile on her face. "Link, there are only four of us, they outnumber us thirty times over."

Link merely laughed at this and didn't reply. He was thinking of ways to spend his Omni Points.

He currently had 105 Omni Points.

According to the rules of Omni Point exchange, one Omni Point could be traded for 10 Maximum Mana points, but now that his magic was in a weakened state, the effect would be cut down by 90%. One Omni point exchanging with one Maximum Mana point might seem small, but he did have a decent amount of Omni Points after all.

After thinking about it, Link decided to exchange 75 Omni Points with Maximum Mana points, so now his maximum Mana limit was 99.1. He also brought along with him a bottle of low-level Mana potion that could quickly increase his Mana by 100 points. With one bottle, he could fully replenish his Mana, which meant that he had 198 expendable Mana points today.

One of his Glass Bead spells would use up one Mana point. As a result, he could cast 198 Glass Beads, plus he had three helpers, and one Glass Bead per one of the ruffians wasn't a problem. He could also complement his attacks with other spells and combat tactics so storming into the cave was, in fact, not an impossible task.

But Link didn't increase his Maximum Mana limit for this reason alone-he simply had no choice but to do it.

When he thought about it, one single Level-4 Spell like Flame Blast would cost him 320 Mana points. In his current condition, he couldn't even cast one Flame Blast, but after adding 75 points, and once the Ailing Mana effect had subsided, he would have 991 Mana points. Not to mention, his Omni Points would have increased substantially by then too, so he would be able to purchase Level-4 or even Level-5 Spells. What's more, he would be able to use them immediately instead of having to wait because his maximum Mana was too low.

Even if his Omni Points were not sufficient, he would still have one Flame Blast Spell left.

It also wasn't such a bad idea to leave some Omni Points on standby. There still were considerable risks involved in the storming of the Cove of Echoes. If his Mana ran out then he'd be in deep trouble, and if his Omni Points were depleted then he'd surely be finished.

So he decided to reserve the 30 Omni Points he had left for emergencies.

The whole process of increasing Mana points took place in Link's head. Just like that the whole process was all done. Then he smiled and said, "If it was just the three of you then it would certainly be a suicide mission, but with me, it's absolutely no problem."

"..."

Jacker and the other two stared speechlessly at each other. Those words did hurt their egos, but as they thought of the power that Link had demonstrated earlier they simply couldn't argue with him. They had only seen this young Magician use a Fireball spell, but who's to say he didn't have more tricks up his sleeve?

But still, this was just too outlandish!

The three still looked unconvinced, so Link waved his wand back and forth and said, "It's getting dark, we must decide now. I've got just one life myself, I wouldn't send us all to certain death, would I?"

That did make a lot of sense.

Jacker believed that such a powerful young Magician would not toy with him. "What exactly do we have to do, then?" he asked.

Link had a plan in his mind. First, he purchased a spell-Physical Avatar.

Physical Avatar

Level-1 Earth Element Spell

Effect: Creates a shadow avatar. The avatar can produce sounds of footsteps, can speak and emanate scents. It is indistinguishable from an ordinary person.

(Note: It cannot swim. Do not let it be exposed to rain if you don't want your cover blown.)

This trick wouldn't fool a Magician, but it could easily dupe every single one of those dim-witted goons in the Dark Brotherhood.

Once the spell was ready, Link started to plan their combat tactics as he walked.

The mercenaries listened keenly, their eyes twinkling in anticipation. When Link finally cast the Physical Avatar, producing a perfect double of Jacker, the three mercenaries had not a single thread of doubt left about the young Magician's plans.

...

Just as Link and the rest were preparing to storm the Cove of Echoes, in the Silent Mine, Viktor was meeting a special guest. The guest was wearing a hooded cloak and his hands were gloved-no part of his skin was exposed. The only thing that gave some information about the guest was the blue gemstone wand in his hand.

On the table in front of the two was a pouch and a crystal that emanated a blackish, purple light. Because of the crystal, the cave seemed shrouded in a mysterious darkness even though it was lit with many candles.

"Viktor, this pouch contains precious gemstones worth more than 500 gold coins. That's your reward. What you need to do is to find a way to bring this crystal to a Magician in the East Cove Magic Academy-any Magician who has expressed interest in black magic."

"Yes, my lord." Viktor's hand clutched the pouch tightly, his eyes filled with greed. All his life, the only thing he cared for was money. Once he received his money, he would hide the coins in a secret spot. Each time he kept his money away, his heart would be filled with a rush of satisfaction.

Truth be told, he would have no problems selling off his own kin if the price was high enough.

"Don't let me down, and don't let master down!" The black-robed person's voice was hoarse. Had Link been there, he would have noticed that the mysterious individual had used magic to mask his real voice.

"I will do everything I can." Viktor half-knelt on the floor to demonstrate his solemnity. As he raised his head up, the black-robed man was gone, just as suddenly as he had come.

Viktor was left in awe and respect. What a frightening skill.

He grabbed the pouch on the table and opened it. Under the candle lights, the gemstones in the pouch shone blindingly bright.

"Tsk tsk, a Cat's Eye Stone, Blue Gemstone, Fire Diamond... What beauties! 500 gold coins for a mission, my lord sure is generous," Viktor admired as he looked over each gemstone with detail. He was glad indeed.