Ever since he came to this world, Link had managed to master all sorts of powerful spells.
He was of the opinion that there was no spell in this world that he could not master without a bit of hard work. He grew even more confident of this after having mastered all the intricacies spatial magic.
However, he was not so sure about this anymore.
The reason was this: the Level-17 spell, "World of Ice and Snow," that the Snow Mountain Archmage had taught him seemed almost impossible for him to master. Originally a Level-19 spell, the Archmage had simplified it considerably in order to facilitate Link's learning process.
Even so, this less powerful version of the spell still resisted Link's efforts to understand it.
After spending half a day trying to master the spell at a riverbank near the edge of Girvent Forest, Link sighed, cradling his head in dismay. "Your Majesty, I fear I may not have the capacity to comprehend this power of yours."
Eliard, who had tagged along after Link to listen to the Archmage's teachings, already had a glazed look on his face. This did not mean that he had no intention of learning from the man. Eliard simply could not keep up with the Snow Mountain Archmage's train of thought. Every time he tried to force himself to listen to the Archmage's every word, he would always end up having a throbbing headache.
When Link had said his piece, silence fell upon the forest once more. The only sound they could hear now was the sound of water flowing down the river.
Finally, the Snow Mountain Archmage heaved a long sigh. "Maybe I'm expecting too much from you."
The enemies they had to go up against this time were incredibly powerful. Every one of them was a Level-16 master. In order to defeat them, Level-16 power would not suffice. Only Level-17 power and above would ensure their victory.
However, Link only had Level-14 power at the moment. Though his knowledge of the mystic arts was considerably more profound than the average Level-14 master, it was still not enough for him to make a three-level jump from his current power level.
When the Snow Mountain Archmage was done, the three of them once more sank into silence.
They all knew that if none of them were able to acquire Level-17 power right now, they would most likely be slaughtered by their enemies. The Archmage might be able to live just a little bit longer. However, he would lose the Shadow Divine Fragment in the process. It would only be a matter of time until death caught up to him.
The future ahead of them seemed so bleak and hopeless right now, it was almost suffocating.
"I'm just going to take a walk around here for a bit," said Link suddenly, breaking the silence in the forest.
The Archmage nodded. "Alright then. Try to clear your head a bit. We still have a few days left, so I really do hope you don't give up just yet."
The old man sounded almost optimistic.
Link nodded back at the Archmage without another word. Patting a despondent-looking Eliard's shoulder, he got up to his feet and began walking along the river.
The clear water flowed rapidly down the river with a tinkling sound. Oval stones polished by the flow of the river filled the riverbed. Green-feathered wrens flew about from treetop to treetop, warbling sweetly at the top of their lungs. It was springtime, and all manner of flowers were in full bloom to the celebrate the occasion.
The scene before Link was indescribably beautiful.
However, Link was not in a mood to appreciate the beauty of nature at the moment. The Archmage's magical teachings were still buzzing in his head as he strolled along the river absently like a zombie.
He had not yet given up. As he only had a few days left to master this absurdly difficult spell, the only thing he could do right now was to wrestle with it until he figured it out completely.
As he walked on, lost in his thoughts, all of a sudden, Link's ears pricked up to the sound of splashing water ahead of him. In a corner, he saw a 16-foot-high waterfall gushing down a slope. Beneath the sunlight, a small rainbow had appeared in the white mist which steamed from the foot of the waterfall.
Link came to a halt in front of such beautiful scenery, completely entranced by it.
Suddenly, a thought sprang up in his mind. "The Delas Space-Time Lock... the transformation of snow to ice... the Lafarsen Magical Conversion... the formation of a glacial realm... Hold on, I've got it!"
Inspiration struck him like lightning. The tightly knotted-up magical problems he had been wrestling with all this time finally seemed to loosen up a bit. He could now see the first glimmer of an actual solution for them.
Sitting down on a rock near the small waterfall, Link excitedly took out his magical notebook and began writing out his calculations.
Link soon lost track of time as he scribbled out his calculations. Every time he came across a hurdle or two, he could hear a disembodied voice whispering instructions in his mind. The voice served as a key to unlock the subsequent stages of his solution. Link was able to make further progress in his work by following its instructions.
The light around him gradually dimmed until night fell. Then, his surroundings brightened, and the sun appeared once more in the sky. It then set yet again, bringing the darkness of night back into the forest. Just as the birds in the forest twittered restlessly to greet a new dawn, Link finally set his pencil down with a long sigh.
He had diligently made his calculations in accordance with the concepts behind the Level-17 magic seal, "World of Ice and Snow." Though he still could not wrap his head around the spell, this did not mean that his efforts were all for nothing. In fact, he had invented an entirely new spell with immense power.
Behind him, a voice spoke out, "This Level-16 Pinnacle spell is incredibly powerful. However, it is not a spell that you'll be able to cast by yourself."
Link turned around and saw the Snow Mountain Archmage standing behind him with an intrigued look on his face.
The Archmage was amazed that a Level-14 Magician was able to decipher a Level-16 Pinnacle spell. Even though he had given Link a few pointers halfway through, the hurdles Link encountered were not that difficult to overcome. If given a bit more time, the Archmage was sure that Link would be able to solve them eventually. He had rarely come across such an affinity for the mystic arts in anyone, even back in his own realm.
It was such a shame that there were so many things going on in the realm right now. No one would be able to stand in Link's way if he were allowed to spend the next ten years honing his magical skills.
Unfortunately, to a Level-14 Magician like Link, this Level-16 spell was just beyond his grasp.
However, Link did not seem disappointed. He looked at the Snow Mountain Archmage and said, "You said that you couldn't bring back the divine fragment to Aragu in your current form... You need my help to do so, don't you?"
The Snow Mountain Archmage nodded. His main opponent was the Inferno Archmage. In order to prevent the Snow Mountain Archmage from laying his hands on the divine fragment, the Inferno Archmage had laid out a lot of traps in his path. The Snow Mountain Archmage could break through the barrier between realms with his current Level-10 form without drawing attention to himself. However, there was no way he would be able to bring the divine fragment with him on his way back.
"If that's the case, I don't think teaching me one Level-17 spell would be enough to compensate me for the risks I'm taking to help you," said Link with a faint smile. There was an inscrutable expression on his face. However, what he said was right. This was a matter of life and death. The Archmage would have to offer something of equal value in exchange for Link's help.
The Archmage remained silent. A few seconds later, he asked, "Do you really think I can help you increase your power level?"
"You should be able to help me reach Level-16... This shouldn't be a problem for a Level-19 Archmage like you, should it?" said Link, smiling.
He was not making such a demand on baseless assumptions, but rather according to what he knew about the Fire Sect. There were presently three Level-16 masters in the Fire Sect. Even Milda and Saroviny were still at Level-16. As far as he knew, there were no Level-17 masters in the Sect. This could not be a coincidence.
The Snow Mountain Archmage nodded with a sigh. He then shook his head. "The Inferno Archmage may be able to do such a thing, but I can't."
"Because I don't have a divine fragment with me to store the power of belief from my followers. If I were to help you increase your power level, I would require this power."
"The power of belief?" repeated Link, stunned. He suddenly remembered something about the Shadow Stalker Morpheus back in the game world.
After successfully killing Morpheus, the Shadow Fortress would drop at a certain rate a couple of mysterious black crystals for players to collect. These crystals were known as Shadow Crystals.
These Shadow Crystals were mission items. They served absolutely no use to the player and had no descriptions about their properties. However, the Legendary Magician Eliard who was already at Level-17 at that point would begin offering high-value rewards for any player who managed to gather these crystals for him. There was no limit to how many crystals you could give Eliard. The more crystals a player could give him, the better his reward would be.
Strangely enough, after giving out this quest to the player, Eliard's power began to increase steadily. Every time the game released a new expansion, Eliard's power would increase by a huge margin. When Nozama entered the scene, Eliard was already on his way to godhood.
Thinking about this now, Link suspected that the Shadow Crystals must contain the power of belief that Morpheus managed to accumulate in his lifetime. The Legendary Magician Eliard must have figured out a way to convert these crystals into power.
Link then asked, "If I provide you with an alternative source of this power of belief, do you think you'll be able to help me?"
The Snow Mountain Archmage raised a brow. "Yes, I may be able to give you the power you seek with the aid of the Shadow Divine Fragment."
Link was pleased to hear this. "Come with me. There's a place I need to show you."
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