Lucy wasn't the only one who noticed the red leather notebook, Jacker and Gildern had seen it too.
Jacker didn't think much of it. Gildern, on the other hand, laughed and said, "It wasn't that bad-I never expected Viktor to be that kind of a person, but I liked it."
Lucy glared at him for what he said.
Link just shook his head, "It's not that simple."
The three didn't understand what Link meant. "Mr. Link, did you notice something in the notebook?" Jacker asked.
Link nodded, then asked Lucy, "You found this notebook in Viktor's study, didn't you?"
"Yes, it was boldly splayed out on the table." Lucy nodded, even though she didn't understand why Link would ask that question.
Boldly splayed out on the table? Maybe Viktor was in such a hurry to make his escape that he forgot to take it. Either that, or he remembered every location of his hidden treasure and didn't need this notebook to remind him. It could also be that he was confident no one would be able to decipher the secret locations inside even if someone found it later.
Nonetheless, Link was sure that the notebook contained the maps to the hidden treasures because in the game, this was exactly what the notebook looked like. The notebook in the game, similarly, was filled with obscene details that contained secret messages about Viktor's hidden loot. But of course, in the game, the erotic details had been edited out, so it wasn't as exposed as the actual content here.
Link asked again, "Then I'll ask you a question. Do you think Viktor was a perverted man?"
The three stared at each other before shaking their heads.
From what they'd learned so far about Viktor, he wasn't a good person, sure, but he definitely wasn't a lecherous man. In the whole of the Cove of Echoes, there was not one woman in sight. In fact, the only rumored misdeeds of Viktor's were robbery, murder, extortion and so on, but as for women, they seemed to be of little interest to him. So why would he have such a dirty notebook laying proudly on his study table?
Link continued, "I think all of you have heard the rumor of Viktor's hidden treasures, am I right?"
Viktor had kept a large portion of his wealth hidden away, but secrets were always brought out by the wind of rumors. Anyone who knew anything about the Dark Brotherhood would have heard about it.
The three mercenaries nodded, their eyes full of anticipation and joy. They had guessed what Link was trying to say, but each of them stayed silent, waiting for Link to reveal his discovery.
So Link stopped dropping hints, he flipped open the first page of the notebook and began to read it out loud.
To be honest, this erotic diary was written well-it was rich with details, full of delicate and explicit descriptions and imageries of the women's characteristics. Each page was bursting with lust and desire, and each woman was brought to vivid life on paper.
When Link finished reading, Jacker's gloomy face had become slightly reddened, Gildern kept licking his lips, and Lucy was discernibly uncomfortable as she clamped her long legs together.
Link pretended he didn't see the mercenaries' reactions, then calmly asked, "Now, what do you think?"
Jacker felt too awkward to say anything, Lucy's face had by that point turned beet red, and she stayed silent too. Gildern chuckled and said, "That really wasn't bad at all, now I'm itching to go to the Red Mill brothel."
Link stared at Gildern, then asked, "Did none of you catch the obvious secret message in there at all?"
"Secret message? What secret message?" Lucy couldn't resist asking. All she caught was the salacious content inside.
Alright. Link was tired of giving them clues, so he explained it to them in detail, "If my guess is right, this notebook is a map of Viktor's many hidden treasures. You see, in the first entry, it says here he went to Springs City for a pleasure-seeking trip, but that was a front. The hidden meaning lay in this passage," Link flipped through the pages," Listen to this, Viktor said he stared at a small stream flowing between a woman's legs. In fact, he was probably referring to a small stream that flowed in the middle of Girvent Forest. He said beside the stream there were three erotic moles, I think these moles are his markings - maybe stones, maybe trees - though I think they're probably trees since trees would be more inconspicuous. It wouldn't attract unwanted attention."
The three mercenaries looked on keenly as Link continued.
"And lastly, he said he fondled the stream between her legs and discovered that something was protruding, what he meant was that at the position marked by the three big trees, there would be an islet in the middle of the stream, and that was where he buried his treasure."
When Link had finished explaining, something clicked in Lucy's mind. "Wait, I think I've seen that place before. Yes, it's about a mile from here. We've walked past the place before, I'd even remarked on how beautiful those three huge trees were. Jacker, Gildern, don't you remember that place?"
Jacker and Gildern simultaneously nodded. It was only two weeks ago.
"Then that must be it. Since it's just about a mile away, why don't we go there now and check it out?" said Link with a laugh.
The Cove of Echoes was a truly hidden place, there should be no worries of theft even if they left everything here unattended. The three mercenaries agreed with Link's view on this matter.
A few minutes later, the four reached the spot where the stream was marked by three huge trees. They dug the ground on the islet in the middle of the stream, and after a while, they finally found a chest box. When they opened the chest, it was full of gold coins. After counting, it was discovered to be 150 gold coins in total!
The three mercenaries felt their heart beating against their chests. This was only the first hidden treasure and they'd already found 150 gold coins! No less than half of that red notebook was filled with erotic escapades! The three thought of the potential gold coins they could gain in the future and got so their faces turned red.
"Link, why don't you tell us about the next hidden treasure spot?" Jacker asked. He had read the notebook but did not catch any hidden message in it at all. But in the eyes of this remarkable Magician, it turned into something else entirely. An erotic notebook had become a treasure map! That just proved how wise Magicians were-they really did deserve awe and respect!
Lucy and Gildern both nodded their heads in anticipation. To them, they both found this kind of treasure hunting interesting and exciting!
Link flipped through the notebook and counted 18 entries, meaning there were 18 hidden treasures. This was another difference between the game and the real world. In the game, you would randomly find pages of the notebook, but here, one discovery and you find all the locations where Viktor had hidden his treasures.
He smiled and said, "I will, don't you worry. Although this will be the last time I'm hunting hidden treasures with you guys. Right now, let's go back to the Cove of Echoes."
The first hidden treasure was easy to find, and it wasn't that far away either, but that was just their luck. The rest might not be so easy to find. They're called hidden treasures for a reason. Viktor must've hidden them in high mountains and isolated roads-places people wouldn't normally dare to go. Link wasn't planning on wasting so much time going on such treacherous quests.
So, they all returned to the Cove of Echoes once again, and the three mercenaries began to pack up their loot. They put them in linen sacks, then dealt with the bandits' corpses.
They had no means of digging a trench big enough to bury all of the bandits, so they burnt the bodies, including the smashed and destroyed body of Viktor's. He had been transformed by demonic magic and the mercenaries wouldn't be at peace until they burnt his body.
The three mercenaries had completely forgotten all about the rewards from the River Cove town council. Only fools would make it known that they'd defeated the Dark Brotherhood, though. It's best that they kept the whole incident to themselves. If news of their deeds spread, people would know that they had Viktor's treasure maps, and that would get them into a lot of trouble with people who wanted to get their hands on the map. And so they all agreed that this whole quest of theirs should be forever kept as a secret.
At this point, Link had deciphered all of the hidden messages in the notebook. Some of them were truly obscure and hard to decode, but for Link it was hardly any problem at all. He only had to read it a few times before Viktor's hidden message was clear to him.
Link wrote everything down and gave the notebook to Jacker, "If each of these hidden treasures contains 150 gold coins, then there must be at least about 2700 gold coins in total."
2700 gold coins. Add that to the 1400 gold coins they obtained previously, and that was 4100 gold coins in total-truly a fortune. Link knew that his father, although a viscount, would never be able to fork out that much money. Even if he sold all his properties, he would still have only about 1000 gold coins. The rumors about Viktor's great wealth was true indeed!
The three mercenaries' eyes widened. That was an amount of money they couldn't even imagine!
After a long pause, Jacker was the first to break the silence. "Link, how do you plan on dividing it?"
Lucy and Gildern both looked at Link too, their eyes were full of both anticipation and unease. They had nothing else on their minds right now other than the hope that Link would let them have a nice chunk of the share.
Link already had a plan in mind. He said, "I don't have the time to hunt for the hidden treasures, so I'll just rely on the three of you. Once you've found them, you could give me 1500 gold coins. Then when my magic skills are good enough, I would provide each of you with fine quality magic gear for free. Of course, you may choose not to give me those 1500 gold coins. In that case, I'll just take these 200 gold coins now, and we'll part ways from here." He was a nobleman's son-1500 gold coins were enough for his tuition fees.
Link remained as calm and composed as he ever was when talking about the matter of the share. He didn't seem to appreciate what a fortune 1500 gold coins actually was. It seemed that, to Link, it didn't matter whether he would get the money or not. He would be fine either way.
And that wasn't so far from the truth. Even if he had a treasure map, he wouldn't trouble himself with the task of hunting for those treasures. His whole focus right now was on his thesis of magic. He didn't want to waste a single minute not working on it, much less, devote so much time and energy to the pursuit of gold coins.
If it hadn't been for the tuition fees, he wouldn't have even bothered with the Dark Brotherhood in the first place. But now that he had completed the mission, he couldn't just give all the loot and rewards away, so he played a trick on the mercenaries, and used fine quality magic gear as the waiver.
In truth, integrity was, of course, important, but to let the success of a mission, especially one that comes with a lot of money like this one, hang upon the honesty of the people in your team was simply foolish and would most probably entice your team member's betrayal!
Integrity could be tested, but if it was tested with such alluring temptation, it might easily be broken too!
A really good plan would be to rely on people who were morally honest and then tempt them with rewards. That would guarantee a higher chance of success.
Link was sure that the three mercenaries were tempted by the offer of 1500 gold coins in exchange for three fine quality magic gears tailor-made by the Magician himself.
Tailor-made fine quality magic gear would definitely give them the upper hand in battles. This was an advantage that even money couldn't buy!
As for the question of Link's magic skills, Jacker and the rest had no doubts that he could, one day, be good enough to do it. He was such a powerful Magician even at such a young age. How much more powerful would he be years from now?
They'd fought with Link, so they had no doubts about his integrity. If he really was just after the money, Link could easily kill them off now with his spells and take everything for himself.
The three mercenaries discussed among themselves quietly for a while, then Jacker stood up and put the 300 gold coins and the 100 gold coins from the hidden chest into a money bag and gave it to Link. Then he promised, "Mr. Link, we promise you that we will send the 1500 gold coins to you as fast as we can!"
"I will be at the River Cove inn." Link didn't touch the money bag, instead, he used Magician's Hand to lift it for him because it was quite heavy.
"Farewell, then. And good luck." Link turned around and walked out of the Cove of Echoes, the money bag mysteriously floating a few feet away from him along the way.
When he exited the Cove of Echoes, the three mercenaries felt they had seen and experienced such bizarre and wonderful things in just one day.
"Jacker, are you sure it's a good idea to give him 1500 gold coins?" Gildern felt some hesitation.
Lucy immediately glared at him and said, "You idiot! That young man will surely become a powerful Magician one day. He may be short of money now, but that makes it the perfect opportunity for us to get on his good side! Or do you plan on being a mediocre mercenary for the rest of your life?"
Jacker nodded. "Lucy's right. We can't stay as a small Flamingo Band of Mercenaries forever. I want us to expand and become a big mercenary group, one that rivals even the Thorn of Glory Mercenary Troop from the North!"
"Fine, give him the money then." Gildern shrugged. For some reason, he still felt uncomfortable and was troubled by the loss of 1500 gold coins to the Magician.
On the other hand, the moment Link came out of the Cove of Echoes, he immediately put the money bag in his storage pendant. He only took out five or six gold coins to spend on his necessities. He was feeling jolly and was whistling while strolling back to River Cove town.
He believed in his own judgment, he was sure that the three mercenaries would send him the gold coins. Even if they didn't find enough gold coins from the hidden treasures, he was sure they would find another way to get them for him.
This was because he saw the fire he ignited in their eyes when he mentioned the magic equipment. He knew how much they strived to be better mercenaries!
With that, he was sure that the matter of his tuition was finally settled.
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