There was a howling sound. It was the first sound that Link had heard since entering the realm crack. It sounded like a gust of wind blowing through a canyon.
In the next second, Link felt a sudden weightlessness. His body was now no longer under his control; he could not even move a single muscle. He seemed to be falling down a tunnel of sorts. Distorted images swam dizzily across the tunnel's four walls, giving him the impression that he was now falling through a kaleidoscope.
This was the first time he was summoned into a realm. It was an entirely new experience for Link. He was also apprehensive about it, as he had no idea what awaited him at the bottom.
He tumbled on for a few seconds down the tunnel. Suddenly, a blood-red streak of light shot out of nowhere. Link could not make out what it was at first. As it got closer, he strained his eyes to see what it was.
It was a cluster of souls wailing in agony!
The ball of light was more than 50 cubic feet. There were at least 3000 souls in it, and each of them was disfigured beyond recognition. It was as if someone had kneaded them into a misshapen mass of putty. What was even more terrifying was the fact that as soon as the cluster of souls drew closer towards Link, it quickly began to melt away like wax.
Argh... Help me... Oh god... I don't deserve this...
Link could hear a cacophony of agonized wailing coming from it, which grew louder as the clump of souls came closer towards Link.
When the ball of light finally came before Link, the souls inside it had melted completely inside it. Its contents were now a goopy blood-red mess. Link could not help but shudder at the sight of it.
The blood-red ball of light hurtled towards Link and finally collided against his dragon scales. Upon impact, Link could feel an icy sensation seeping into his body, all the way to the deeper parts of his body.
Throughout the whole process, Link's body remained motionless. His power was still sealed within his body by an unknown force. He could only watch helplessly as the ball of light invaded his body.
As he panicked, a line of words popped up in his field of sight. Entry of unknown energy detected, now setting up quarantine area for unknown energy... Quarantine process successful.
This was the first line of words from the game system. The icy sensation remained still within Link's body. However, it had stopped spreading inside his body.
After a while, a second line of words appeared before him.
Now examining composition of unknown energy... Examination complete. Unknown energy is determined to be soul energy, which is commonly used in Realm Summoning Contracts. Summoning technique currently in progress is a sacrificial summoning technique. Upon reaching the realm they are currently being summoned to, the player will be placed under the binding power of a summoning contract and will be prohibited from violating terms of said contract.
Link was now mentally prepared for this. May I know the terms of this contract? thought Link.
Examination in progress... examination complete. Player's current contract is a mutually binding agreement. The Summoned will assist the Summoner in completing certain tasks as required from them. Upon completion, the Summoned will be allowed to keep the soul energy of the Sacrificed that was used to carry out the summoning ritual. However, the Summoned will be subject to the Dimensional Rejection's influence once more after fulfilling the terms of its contracts. During the contract's duration, both parties will be prohibited from hurting each other.
Hearing this, Link asked, "Is there any way to break the contract?"
Attempting to dispel contract's binding power... Dispelling unsuccessful. Player has two options. First option is to reject the quarantined soul energy in player's body in exchange for his freedom. However, the player will receive the full brunt of the Dimensional Rejection. The player will have his power severely suppressed and will only be able to use Level-7 power as a result. Second option is to maintain current course. Player will remain under the contract's constraints. The Summoner will be forced to bear a portion of Dimensional Rejection the Summoned is subject to. The more powerful the Summoner is, the more Dimensional Rejection the Summoner will be required to take on. In consequence of this trade-off, the Player's power will not be suppressed as much.
After pondering it for a moment, Link decided to choose the second option. He was repulsed by the source of the contract's binding power. However, due to his current situation, he would be a fool to limit his powers any more than he had to.
Let's go with the second option, then.
As soon as he said this, his body trembled slightly. There was that cold sensation in his body again. He then realized that the sacrificed soul power had taken up one percent of his total power, while the remaining 99 percent was still his own.
Only one percent of my power seems to be affected by this magical contract. I'll probably survive whatever punishment it has reserved for me should I decide to violate any of its terms. This was even better than Link had imagined.
Soon, Link realized that he had stopped falling. He could feel his feet hit solid ground. The distorted imagery around him began transforming into a wall of fog, which then dissipated to reveal the scenery of the realm he had been summoned into.
Throughout the whole process, Link felt an irresistible power pressing against him. It was as if he was being compressed beneath the depths of an ocean.
He moved a finger slightly. He could feel an invisible resistance when he tried to cast the Magician's Hand spell. This resistance seemed to be inhibiting his physical strength and the power inside his body by about ten percent.
In other words, his power level was currently within the neighborhood of Level-10, which was a lot more than what the game system had predicted.
This resistance must be the effect of the Dimensional Rejection. It's a lot weaker than I had anticipated. My summoner must be taking on some of it right now. Judging by my current state, they must be quite the Magician.
At that moment, the distorted light show around him had faded away completely. Link now found himself in the middle of a canyon thick with grass and trees. The canyon was approximately 400 feet wide. Its two walls were around 200 feet high.
With his 360-degree vision, Link was able to take in his surroundings without turning his head.
He realized that he was standing in the middle of a 150-foot-wide magic seal which had been etched on the ground with fresh blood. The stench of blood wafted to his nostrils from every line of the magic seal. It was so pungent that Link's face contorted in disgust.
As a Magician, Link's trained eyes were immediately drawn to the structure of this bloody magic seal. He was stunned by what he saw. The seal seemed almost familiar to him. It greatly resembled the magical circuits that were found on the mysterious gear, the Astral Whetstone and the Book of Revelation.
This realm is within the mysterious gear's vicinity. Is there some sort of connection between them? thought Link.
At that moment, a hoarse voice called out to him, interrupting his thoughts.
"Ah, almighty dragon, we are most pleased that you have answered our calls!"
The voice was speaking in a foreign tongue. However, due to the contract in place, whatever it was saying was automatically translated in Link's mind.
Link followed the source of the voice and saw a wizened Magician with hair as white as snow in a black robe standing on one of the nodes of the bloody magic seal. Link was able to determine that the old man was a Level-6 Magician from the energy he was giving off.
He looks human. He also seems to know what I am. How fascinating. Link narrowed his eyes. The old man before him looked like any other human being from the Firuman realm. The only difference was that he had a wide forehead. His eyes were also especially small, and his features were primitive-looking.
The old man was not alone. There were six nodes on the magic seal. On each of them stood a Magician native to the realm. Every one of them looked human as well, barring a few differences such as their primitive facial features and wide foreheads.
The Magicians standing on the magic seal were marveling at Link, visibly excited about what they had summoned into their realm. The old Magician was practically on the verge of tears.
He bellowed, "Oh almighty dragon, we require your assistance. The army of Troym is at the gates of our kingdom as we speak. They are the sworn enemy of our great kingdom. We need your help to defeat them."
Troym? Army? Link blinked at him. He somewhat understood what this was all about. He raised his head high up in the air to inspect the magic seal beneath him and saw that the ground was strewn with corpses. There were 4000 bodies lying on the ground, whose lives had been sacrificed to conduct the summoning ritual that had brought him here.
The corpses' attire were different from the robes worn by the Magicians around him. Link figured that the ones who had been sacrificed were all prisoners of war from the Troym army.
In other words, these Magicians had sacrificed their captives in order to summon a powerful extra-dimensional presence like Link and hopefully turn the tide of war against Troym with the aid of said summoned presence.
Once he had made sense of the circumstances of his summoning, Link looked at the old summoner. He could clearly sense what the man was feeling at the moment, which was mostly excitement. He could also tell that his appearance had surpassed the old man's expectations.
They were probably hoping to summon something else when they were carrying out their summoning ritual. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It would also seem that I'm supposed to help them fight back the Troym army as part of the terms of my contract.
Everyone was staring at him with a mix of expectation and caution. Link remained silent. He then saw at least 5000 people outside the bloody magic seal. Most of them seemed to be military. There were also a few in their midst, dressed in resplendent garb. They looked royally important.
These Warriors must be the elites of this realm. However, most of them were only at Level-3, which was no more different than the time Link first entered the Firuman realm. Link would not be able to take on all of them at once if his power had been reduced to Level-7, as the game system had initially predicted before his entry into this new realm. However, with his Level-10 Pinnacle power, he figured he would be able to come out alright from a confrontation with them.
The Warriors looked at him warily, their nerves stretched taut as they waited for a reaction from him. Link could also see some of them trembling uncontrollably.
This was understandable. If Link had encountered a Level-10 Legendary master the first time he entered the Firuman realm, he would also be scared witless.
No mortal here would have any chance of surviving an encounter with a Legendary master.
He slammed his massive tail into the ground a few times. Boom! Boom! Boom! The earth quaked. Everyone in the canyon went pale. The important-looking people surrounded by their guards were completely petrified. Link could also see a few women fainting in their midst.
"Almighty dragon, do you agree to help us?" shouted the old Magician again. His voice was shaky. The circumstances of their summoning ritual were odd, to put it mildly. It had taken a peculiarly long time for them to complete the summoning process, and the thing they had summoned into their realm seemed to be more potent than anything they had ever encountered.
The old Magician had originally intended to summon a Level-8 or 9 presence. However, this creature before him looked exactly like the dragons as described in their legends. More than 100 feet long, it was as big as a small mountain. Its silver-black flawless dragon scales, its glittering eyes and that oppressive aura it was giving off were all telling him that he had summoned something with power beyond his imagination.
He was not sure if their summoning contract would even be able to restrain such a behemoth.
At that moment, Link was weighing his options. Should I accept the conditions of the summoning contract and help them take on an entire army? No, the contract's terms seem lax. I could easily find a loophole and wriggle my way out of this. Also, only a fool would take on an army he had never seen before on his lonesome!
Right now, Link was only a bit stronger than the Red Dragon Duke Isendilan, whom he had defeated with the help of the Beastmen back when he was still a threat. Even if he was confident that he would be able to take on the entire Troym army with his current power level, there was just no guarantee everything would go his way. Also, as soon as Link completed his contract, he would still have to deal with the Dimensional Rejection. At that point, things would become extremely awkward.
What should I do? thought Link. A few seconds later, he finally arrived at a solution.
He lowered his head, slowly swinging it towards the old Magician. When his dragon horn was only 20 feet away from him, the old man could not take it any longer. His legs were trembling so much that he collapsed to the ground on his knees. He then cried out tearily, "Great dragon, please forgive me. I did not mean to offend you. Please forgive all of us!"
When there was a huge difference in power between a summoner and the summoned entity, the binding power exerted on the latter by its summoning contract would be extremely limited, and the contract could backfire on the summoner himself if he was not careful enough.
Seeing the pathetic pile of sobbing mess the old Magician was reduced into, the entire army in the canyon immediately descended into chaos.
Despite not knowing how summoning magic worked, when the Warriors saw the old Magician in such a state, everyone knew that the spell had failed. No one could work up the courage to stand up to the winged monstrosity the Magicians had summoned.
At that moment, Link opened his mouth. Due to his expansive body, his voice came out loud and sonorous. "Mortal, are you the one who summoned me?"
The question was directed at the old Magician.
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