Half a month following the defeat of the Dark Brotherhood, Link had still been cooped up in the attic of the River Cove Inn.
The interior of the attic was plain and spartan, but Link wouldn't have it any other way. He wouldn't move to another room because there was a tranquility and a quietness in his current space that couldn't be found anywhere else in the inn.
He'd made huge progress in his thesis, but he still couldn't find a definitive way to advance it further. Everything he conceived might've been fascinating, but different lines of thought were all jumbled up together, resulting in an overall haphazard structure.
In other words, each part of Link's thesis did make sense, but it lacked a solid and distinct theme to hold it all together.
By now, the contents of Link's thesis had evolved into something so complex that it became inadequate to encapsulate everything under the Universal Law of Gravitation.
It felt as if he was feeling his way around in the dark; he had no idea whether he was trudging through a thorny bush or walking on a smooth road.
What mysterious knowledge will I uncover when I'm done? Link stared at the symbols that kept popping up in his paper, full of anticipation and excitement.
He wasn't feeling too inspired today, though. He had been wracking his brain for almost half a day and now his concentration was waning. So instead of mulling over it, he put down his quill, leaned back and put his hands behind his head. He rested both legs on the table and with half-closed eyes stared out of the tiny window, drinking in the wonderful view of the Girvent Forest bathed in golden sunlight.
Anxiety and confusion were then cleared away and peace and serenity took over him.
He didn't know how long it had been before he heard the footsteps outside. There were multiple, one sounded heavy but furtive and deliberately subdued as if it was afraid to disturb Link.
Link immediately recognized the footsteps' owner. He waited until they reached his door, then he pointed the New Moon wand at the wooden door and cast the spell, Magician's Hand.
Click. The door opened, and right outside stood the members of the Flamingo Band of Mercenaries.
"Come in," said Link.
Jacker was the first one to walk in. He was carrying a bulging linen sack. The attic room was both small and low-ceilinged, so Jacker had to hunch over to fit into the space. When Gildern and Lucy entered the room, the whole space was so cramped that it felt like it might burst at the seams.
"Mr. Link, you should find a better room to stay in," said Gildern. He didn't understand why such a powerful Magician would choose to stay in such a derelict and draughty attic room. It's not that he didn't have the money, after all.
Link replied with a laugh, "It's good enough for me. I'm used to it. In fact, it's a lot quieter and peaceful here, and I like that."
Then Link turned to Jacker and said, "So, my guess is, you've found the hidden treasures?"
Jacker nodded, then dropped the linen sack onto the floor. From the heavy thud it made, it was clear that this was a hefty sack. He untied the strings, opened the sack, and immediately a golden light shone out of the bag. It was full of gold coins!
"We've discovered all 18 hidden treasures that you described and found 2900 gold coins. Add that to the money we got from selling the loot and the total is 4000 gold coins - much more than we expected. Here are your 2000 gold coins," said Jacker with very low voice, afraid that anyone might overhear.
Heaven knows how anxious they must've felt carrying that huge bulky sack on the street. If anyone knew of the content of the sack, there would've been many bloodbaths over it.
Even so, Link's expressions remained the same, except for a thin smile. "But the deal was to give me 1500 gold coins, why did you bring me an extra 500 gold coins?"
What Jacker admired the most about Link was his stoic nature; it was as if nothing in this world could take him by surprise. Jacker explained, "You are a Magician, but you continued to stay in River Cove, so we guessed it must be because you're trying to enter the East Cove Magic Academy, is that correct?"
Link nodded, he could guess what Jacker's intentions were, but he waited for Jacker to explain it himself.
"We found out that the fees for East Cove Magic Academy are 2000 gold coins. I'm sure you can earn that much money sooner or later, but you'd agree that the earlier you could enter the academy the better it would be. For our current strengths, possessing this much money could be dangerous, and we don't know how to spend this much money anyway. So we thought, why not put the money to good use and give it to you instead?" explained Jacker.
To common folks, the value of gold coins was shockingly immense. If all you wanted was to buy food and drinks and other daily necessities, you could live comfortably on 30 gold coins a year. After giving Link 2000 gold coins, the three would still have 2000 gold coins left to divide among themselves, each of them getting 650 gold coins. That was still an outrageously enormous sum of money.
With this amount of gold coins, they would have more than enough to buy whatever they wanted but could never afford.
For instance, Jacker had now finally bought a full-body set of steel armor. Lucy, on the other hand, had bought a sleek rapier and made it her new regular weapon. She was also wearing new crocodile leather armor. Even Gildern was carrying a brand-new bow and had replaced all his arrows with steel, each one donning an eagle-feather fletching costing him 3 silver coins per arrow. That was a ridiculously expensive price. The three had even bought a small cabin in River Cove town and set it up as their temporary headquarters.
They never would have imagined that they would be able to afford any of these before.
They had fantasized about it, sure. Jacker, for instance, had always dreamt of founding his own mercenary troop. But though their dreams were beautiful, reality had always hit them in the face with hardships and disappointments. Their biggest constraint had always been, unfortunately, that they were not strong or powerful enough.
Jacker was a Level-3 Warrior and Lucy and Gildern were both at Level-2. For an independent band of mercenaries, that strength level was not too bad, but for a mercenary troop, it was vastly insufficient.
For example, even though they had the money now, they only dared to purchase normal gear and weapons. They would not even think about buying any magic equipment yet for a simple reason-they were afraid that they might get killed before they had a chance to use them. It was very likely that they might get mugged the same night they purchased the gear, then it would've all been in vain.
Jacker's reasoning convinced Link, so he nodded and said, "The extra money will be useful to me. Since you insist, I'll keep it."
The tuition for commoners was 2000 gold coins, but Link was of noble blood, so he should get a discount and pay less than that. Still, learning magic required a lot of money, so he didn't mind having some to spare at all.
Jacker smiled, but Lucy betrayed a sign of resentment in her eyes as she stared at the sack and Gildern had to excuse himself out of the attic. If he had stayed any longer, he might not be able to resist seizing the sack of money and running away with it.
After taking the money, Link suddenly said, "I don't think the news of the Dark Brotherhood's defeat can be concealed for too long. Did you notice anyone spying on you recently?"
Link had originally just thought of them as temporary comrades and planned to sever their ties completely after their mission was over. But now, Link realized how admirable Jacker's character was from his decision today to give him the extra 500 gold coins. Link thought he was an ambitious man and a visionary who was not afraid to take risks.
If such a man was given the opportunity, Link was sure he could soar to great heights!
Even though Link was flung into this strange new world by the God of Light, he never wasted time feeling sorry for himself. Since he's stuck here now, he thought he might as well make the best of it. Link still doubted if he could ever achieve such an incredible mission as saving the world. Whether it was to earn more Omni Points so he could get stronger and more powerful or to strive towards a better future where he wasn't perpetually hounded by the Dark Army-in the end, it all boiled down to the fact that he must work very hard to try to change the world he now lived in.
Fighting against the Dark Army was not an easy task. If he was to do it alone, failure was almost certain. He would need a helping hand. From what he'd seen, the Flamingo Band of Mercenaries didn't seem like a bad choice and they also seemed worthy of his trust too.
What Link suspected was true-the Flamingo Band of Mercenaries were facing some difficulties recently.
Jacker let out a long sigh and his brows furrowed slightly. "Lately the underworld around Girvent Forest has been in an uproar. We had to be especially discreet when we sold the loot from the Dark Brotherhood," he explained, "Still, these things are impossible to hide, and lately we have encountered many sleuths sniffing around."
Luckily, they were strong and powerful enough that they were not in too much danger. Otherwise, they might already be dead by now.
When all was said and done, their problem still revolved around the fact that they were not powerful enough. After all, they weren't actually responsible for the Dark Brotherhood's defeat, it was just their luck that they had Link on their side.
Jacker believed that they had been able to survive until now largely because those sniffing around hadn't figured out the truth yet.
The moment Jacker told Link of the tight spot they were currently stuck in, Lucy and Gildern both turned grave and sullen. It was obvious that they had all been under a lot of pressure.
Although they now had a lot of money, they had to tread each step much more cautiously than before because they might lose their lives before they got the chance to spend it. Being wealthy was the most desirous thing to them in the past, but now that they had money, they couldn't spend it for fear of being discovered. It was a cruel irony.
Link asked, "Then why don't you take your money and leave this place?"
Jacker laughed bitterly then shook his head. "But we haven't given you your money yet, so how could we just leave? It wouldn't make any difference anyway. The minute someone finds out about our money, our lives would immediately be in peril."
He didn't know why, but as he was uttering these words he felt a sort of premonition. He felt as if he were at a critical turning point in his life where he could transform from a commoner into a powerful Warrior.
And just as he suspected, the moment he finished his sentence, Link smiled. This time it wasn't the polite smile like before- it was full and sincere. "Very well. As my thanks for what you've done for me today, I will grant you a golden opportunity," Link said.
He now had 39 Omni Points. With these points, he could afford to purchase a secret mythical spell among the Level-3 spells.
It was considered mythical because this spell had an almost god-like power to alter the elements of a Warrior's body. It helped the Warrior to attain Combat Aura no matter who they were or what level they were at.
In its essence, a Warrior's Combat Aura was the precise application of various forces. That made it no different from magic spells.
For a long time, the Warriors' understanding and application of their Combat Aura were minimal, and the Combat Aura that they possessed was also very thin and feeble. Very few Warriors could surpass Level-4, and as for Level-6, 7 or 8, only peerless geniuses who appeared once in a century could achieve such heights.
But about a thousand years ago, there was a Magician named Vance who changed all this. He conducted extensive and detailed research on Warriors' Combat Aura. He was also an obsessive Magician. In order to obtain data and specimens for his research, he had hunted for and assassinated countless Warriors. According to legends, he even managed to capture a genius Level-8 Warrior and then dissected him alive!
After years of exhaustive work, he finally discovered Combat Aura's ultimate secret and pioneered the field of Combat Aura Studies - a branch of studies in secret spells.
The most common way a Warrior's Combat Aura was attained was by natural innate talents but one could also attain it through practice. This practice technique was categorized by the Magicians as another secret spell, but in the world of the Warriors, it was called Battle Art.
After a quick search, Link found this Combat Aura spell among basic secret spells in the spell menu.
Level-3 Secret Spell
Mana Consumption: 80
Effects: Alters the elemental composition of the spell receiver's body, and greatly enhances the spell receiver's potential. At the same time, it will insert a detailed instruction for the next day's practice into the spell receiver's mind, and through practice, the spell receiver can exponentially advance and increase their power.
(Note: Let this spell be my repentance of the countless murders I committed upon many gifted Warriors.)
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