62 Psychological Warfare


 On the Summit of the Hill.

...

Two more Whistles were unleashed, and the last remaining elite members of the Syndicate were killed. Then, Link noticed a flash of light on the interface, so he glanced at the new notification that just popped up.

Pursue and Kill Mission Completed.

Player rewarded with 25 Omni Points.

Next Mission Activated: Assassinate Andy.

Mission Details: Kill the leader of the thieves, Andy.

Missions Reward: 40 Omni Points.

Link accepted the mission immediately. He now had 59 Omni Points and 38 Mana points. Link knew that Andy might not be the last he would see of the Syndicate, but he'd be content with just being able to kill him alone after seeing what he'd done. One thing did make Link pause, though-the mission's high reward.

Andy's strength isn't that impressive, so why is the reward so high? Is he really worth 40 Omni Points? Is there anyone else helping him or is there more to this than what it seems?

The reward was ridiculously high. The mission of saving Gladstone only got him 100 Omni Points, so why was he being rewarded with 40 Omni Points just for killing a single Assassin? Link realized that he had to be more cautious in planning his next steps.

"Jacker, stop! Stand still!" shouted Link as he rushed forward. He was now more than 60 feet in front of them.

Jacker halted abruptly, raised his shield and went into a defensive stance. Link and Gildern quickly caught up to him and they regrouped.

"Keep on walking, but slowly. Beware of sneak attacks," said Link. As he spoke, Link used the spell Aura Detection on himself again to scan the surroundings in detail as he walked. He could only detect normal auras around him, nothing looked suspicious or out of place, and there was no sign of anyone lying in ambush.

Had I thought too much? Link doubted. But one could never be too careful, so Link told Jacker to carry on as slowly and vigilantly as possible.

Link thought he shouldn't worry too much because the only opponent left was Andy anyway. He was just a Level-3 thief, so even if he escaped from his field of vision Link could still use a tracking spell to hunt him down based on the aura and footprints he left. It would be just like how the Magician Holmes had used an Earth Hound to track Link down in Gladstone.

Soon after, the three reached halfway down the hill and Link's Aura Detection still detected nothing out of the ordinary. Oddly enough, that ominous sense that Link felt became even more palpable now.

"Stop. There's something wrong. Something smells fishy here." Link's niggling worry worsened, and deep furrows appeared between his brows.

Magicians naturally had excellent intuition and Link's soul was boosted by the God of Light, so he was even more sensitive than average.

From before, Link had sensed that the way Andy behaved was odd and unnatural. It seemed as if the gaming system was giving him hints. Now, the further downhill they were, that foreboding sense of danger was getting even stronger, as if an electric current ran through him making his hair stand on end.

Jacker and Gildern stood wordlessly beside Link, waiting for his orders. The two were just normal mercenaries, and in a special battle like this where they faced such a powerful opponent as the Syndicate, they were as blind as a mole and couldn't see through the situation at all. All they knew was that they must obey Link's orders.

"Why is Andy just hiding behind the tree there and doing nothing? Has he been scared out of his wits?" asked Jacker.

When Link attacked Andy with his spells earlier, it seemed as if someone had warned him of the attack and told him to hide. And ever since then he had stayed behind the tree, not making any attempt to escape or attack them.

But Link had been in his spellcasting state of mind at that time, so he failed to take any notice of this peculiarity. Now that Jacker pointed it out, Link's intuition flared up again. It dawned on him how odd Andy's reactions had been.

He was oblivious to my attack and I should've been able to defeat him in that one strike, but he dodged it at the very last moment. If he had noticed my attack then, then he should've warned his underlings to scatter, but he didn't do that. He swerved suddenly, seemingly, without even understanding why or what he was evading...No, someone else must've warned him! The idea occurred to Link as he thought. But who could've warned him? Link used Aura Detection to scan left and right, trying to sniff out any hidden enemy in the forest, but as usual, he detected nothing.

This secret accomplice must have very high camouflaging skills. He could even see through my attacks and alert Andy to it. He must be a Magician. Which means that right now, a powerful Magician is hiding in this forest! This much Link was sure.

It was only when Link had reached this conclusion that all the odd puzzle pieces in the present situation began to fall into place.

Because Andy had an accomplice who was a powerful Magician, it was no wonder that the thieves had regained their confidence to fight back after they had fled from Link. It was also no wonder that Andy could escape from Link's attacks. And because the accomplice was a powerful Magician, he had no trouble remaining invisible under Link's searching eyes.

But where could the Magician be hiding? There were still some missing puzzle pieces that Link couldn't identify, but he remained level-headed enough to be able to think clearly.

This Magician must be of a much higher level than me, or at least his concealment skills are much better than mine. But he probably isn't superior to me in battles, though. Otherwise, he wouldn't be hiding from me...

Just as he was having these thoughts, he noticed some changes in the surroundings. It came from behind a tree at the base of the hill.

It was Andy, leaping and bolting out from his hiding spot.

"You damned Flamingos, I remember all of you! Just you wait, one day I'll make you wish you were dead!" shouted Andy in a heated rage.

There was pure hatred and vengeance in his voice, and the anger contorted his face so much that it looked grotesque. He looked exactly like a demon from hell.

"My Lord, should we go after him?" whispered Jacker, considerably shaken by the sight.

In his experience as a mercenary, psychopathic and perverted devils like Andy were the type of opponent he feared the most. These people were typically hell-bent on destruction and they didn't care if it meant that they would be killed in the process, much less if it would snuff out the lives of others.

Every time he was faced with this type of opponent, he would either run away from them as far as he could or just kill them swiftly and be done with it.

"My Lord, he's getting away!" urged Gildern. He had the same thoughts as Jacker.

The two mercenaries had been dazed by Andy's trick and were subconsciously falling into his traps. If Link's mind hadn't been strong enough, they would all fall into Andy's trap.

This was the reason why a war general's most important attributes when leading the soldiers into battle were his mental strength and clarity. Even though Link had never experienced real war before, the same pLinkiple still applied here.

"No need to rush, he won't be able to escape far," said Link, shaking his head. Luckily, Link could always maintain a clear focus and was not easily affected or duped by Andy's tricks.

Andy must've been trying to taunt us into following him. He's likely going to lead us into the traps set by the Magician... Yes, we had been following him all along, and that's just what he and his accomplice wanted. We must not fall into their traps!

Link began to piece together the hidden Magician's schemes now. Though he was taken aback by the sudden shift of events, he managed to make his own plans too.

"Chase him, but don't follow his exact route. We'll make our own path," ordered Link.

"Yes, my Lord!" cried Jacker.

Jacker nodded and turned away from the path used by the Syndicate's thieves. Then, using the steel armor on his body as protection, he pushed down the shrubs and overgrowths of the forest to carve out a new path. Link and Gildern followed behind him, moving at a speed only slightly slower than before. They marched on without incident or attacks, rapidly shrinking the distance between themselves and Andy.

In the middle of the hill forest, the black-robed Magician gripped the wand in his hand and creased his brows. He was frustrated that they had not been lured by his bait. His carefully set plans had been ruined.

"He's not an easy opponent to defeat. This is the Magician who killed Holmes in Gladstone, after all. I guess I'd have to exert some effort into this then!" He breathed in deeply and his eyes were focused. He had now entered the calm state of spellcasting.