68 The Clandestine Guardian (Part 1)


 Even though Link had a fierce battle with the Syndicate at the Red Leaves Cove, the news of the incident had not reached the people of the River Cove town yet, so life here went on just as peacefully as before.

Link, Jacker, and Gildern were on their way back to the cabin in River Cove town that the mercenaries had bought. When they reached there, they noticed that the front door was wide open with two Warriors clad in iron armor standing guard there. Three carriages stood waiting outside. Link recognized one to be that of Annie's, but he'd never seen the other two before.

Just as he was dwelling on the identities of the owners of the two carriages, a white-robed Priest walked out of the cabin.

Link knew this Priest. He was from the Temple of Eichrod, the God of Dawn, in the River Cove town. His name was Pytor, and he was Level-3.

Eichrod, the God of Dawn was one of the Gods of the Realm of Light and he represented the first ray of light to shine on the world, bringing the end of darkness.

Legends said that he was the son of the Lord of Light and the Goddess of the Hunt, Achyllia. He had a warm and tender temperament and Priests devoted to him possessed powerful healing magic powers.

Pytor looked exhausted, and the aura around his body was dim, evidently from having spent much energy using strong divine healing magic.

"Princess Annie has invited a healing Priest here, so I think we can stop worrying about Lucy now," said Link to Jacker with a gentle smile on his face, visibly relieved.

When the three of them got nearer to the cabin, Pytor had gone into one of the carriages and went away, so there was only one unknown carriage left. It was plain and unadorned, and there was no crest or emblem on it which Link found to be quite suspicious.

"Mr. Link." One of the guards had recognized Link as they were about to enter the cabin, so he formally bowed and greeted him in a booming but polite voice.

His voice rang through the cabin, so anyone inside would've heard him clearly. Soon after, someone rushed outside-it was Annie. She quickly examined Link from head to toe. She then breathed easy once seeing that he suffered no serious injury.

"How did everything go?" she asked.

She had not reached the cabin long before Link arrived. Initially, she had planned to make sure that Lucy's condition was stable before going back to Red Leaves Cove. She did not expect Link to come back so quickly.

"Everything's fine now, more or less. Andy and his men are all dead. General Anderson is leading the militia into the forest to search for the Syndicate's lair," answered Link, while leading Jacker and Gildern into the cabin.

Under the effects of Link's Elemental Cure, Jacker had recovered considerably and his wounds were not life-threatening anymore. All he needed was some rest to restore his conditions, so Link ordered him to get some sleep while Gildern was dealing with the battle spoils.

Link and Annie then headed towards Lucy's room, and just as they reached the hall on the first floor, Link could clearly sense a mysterious Mana coming from Lucy's room.

Sensing Mana was a natural ability of all Magicians, but Link was much more sensitive than most Magicians, so he could sense it even though it was weak. In fact, the Mana was so weak that he couldn't sense it at all from outside the cabin. Nonetheless, based on the Mana that this person exuded, Link was sure that there must be a Master Magician in there!

"Is there someone else in Lucy's room?" Link asked Lucy, thinking of the strange carriage outside.

"You don't let anything escape from your eagle eyes, do you? Yes, there is a guest in the room, someone you'll be glad to meet, I'm sure. You'll understand once you go inside," explained Annie with a sweet smile on her face.

Link was even more intrigued now. He climbed up the stairs to the second floor, slowly opened the door to Lucy's room, and the scene inside slowly revealed itself to him.

Because the mercenaries had enough money after defeating the Dark Brotherhood, they could afford a decent-sized cabin. It was quite well-built too, being constructed of mud bricks, stone, and timber. It even had two stories, and Lucy's room was on the second floor where it got the most sunlight. A screen divided the room into two parts - the bedroom section and the sitting room section.

Link's view of the bedroom section was obscured by the screen when he entered the room. In the sitting room, though, he saw a woman with delicate features and long golden locks clad in a blue Magician's robe with silver linings. She had an elegant air about her. It was very dim in the sitting room, so the luminous aura exuded by the woman's body made her stand out starkly against the gloomy atmosphere of the room.

She was sitting at the table when Link found her, flipping through sheets of goatskin papers. When she heard the noise of someone opening the door, she raised her head. She saw that Link was about to say something, so she interrupted him.

"Shh! Lucy has just gone to sleep," said the mysterious guest.

"Who are you?" asked Link, lowering his voice as much as possible.

From her magic aura, he knew that this wasn't just an average Magician. In fact, he was sure her level must be far beyond his own. He now had a vague idea about the identity of the woman, because the goatskin papers in her hands looked very familiar.

The woman stood up, walked to the door and said, "Lucy's life is safe now, but she still needs a lot of rest. Let's go to the hall downstairs and we'll talk there."

Naturally, Link had no objections, so the three of them went downstairs. Once they reached the hall, the woman introduced herself, "I'm Moira. I'm sure you've heard of the name before."

Link had, of course, heard of her name before-she was Eliard's tutor. The two had never met before, but they had communicated with each other through many letters and Moira had helped explained many questions he had about magic.

"Thank you very much for your patient guidance," said Link, as he bowed. Those answers from Moira had been a great help to him, he had managed to circumvent so many false turns and dead ends in his studies of magic because of her.

Moira's smile widened and she stretched out her hand to invite Link to sit down. Then she handed the papers to him. He took a glance at it and recognized that it was his revised thesis, then he turned back to Moira with a puzzled look.

"Do the celestial bodies really move this way?" asked Moira. Her voice turned serious when discussing these academic matters.

Link nodded. He now turned serious too.

"I had analyzed the astronomer Derek's 50 years' worth of observation data and deduced my theory from there. If the celestial bodies were each assigned a fixed path of orbit, then it would only have to be according to the way I described here," explained Link with much confidence.

The stars and the outer space were infinitely mysterious and fascinating, and in every world, there would always be some people who were attracted to its beauty. Derek was one of them in this world. He was a scholar from 300 years ago who had devoted his whole life to observing the sky and the stars. In his later years, he wrote down all his findings in a book called Dreams of the Stars. Although he gave it a poetic title, the contents were strictly scholarly and scientific and in it was Derek's own observation data of the movements of celestial bodies that he'd collected in 50 years.

In the world of Firuman, Derek's studies were mostly ignored. But because his observations were both detailed and accurate and because he wrote beautifully, his book had been passed down and read widely long after his death. Link had even found it in the small bookshop in River Cove town, so he bought it at the price of only five silver coins. It had been a great help to him while he was writing the thesis.

"But I could see that your theory is far from complete or perfect," said Moira. There was a glint in Moira's eyes when she was listening to his explanations, but she quickly hid it and kept her cool composure.

She seemed uninterested in matters of stars and space, which was understandable because stars were just too far away; they couldn't have much to do with magic or our daily lives at all.

"You're right. The theory is merely descriptive of how things behave, but as for the question of why they behave that way or where these laws came from, the theory offered no answers at all," said Link as he nodded.

"I heard from Eliard that there are still some parts of your thesis that you haven't finished yet, could I take a look at them?" asked Moira. Her eyes were focused on the pendant made of fine gold chain around Link's neck.

"The manuscripts are in my... all right." Link had planned to tell Moira that his manuscripts were in his room in the River Cove Inn, but seeing her eyes now, it was obvious that he couldn't keep the matter of the storage gear a secret from the Master Magician. So Link pulled out the rest of this thesis from his storage pendant under Annie's startled gaze.

Fortunately, there was no one else there. Annie was a Princess, so the sight of a storage pendant wouldn't surprise her much, and he was sure nothing could be a more common sight to a Master Magician like Moira than a mere storage pendant.

As expected, Moira was completely unperturbed. She took the goatskin papers from Link and started to read through it for about an hour, as if no one else was there.

"Any magic academy in the world would open their doors wide to welcome you in for this thesis," said Moira more than an hour later. She put the thesis down then let out a long sigh.

"Does that mean that I can enter the East Cove Magic Academy now?" asked Link, excited by Moira's remark.

Moira nodded and said, "Actually, before I came here, your thesis on the Universal Law of Gravitation had been passed around for every tutor in the academy to peruse, and the dean, Master Magician Anthony himself had agreed to your admission. But since your innate talent in magic is very low, he had to raise your fees to 2000 gold coins to prevent other students from feeling they were unfairly treated... you wouldn't have any problem paying the fees, would you?"

"2000 gold coins? But that's too expensive! That's unfair!" Annie interjected.

"It was what the Dean Anthony ordered," said Moira shrugging, her expression signifying there was nothing she could do about it.

Annie said nothing more when she heard that it was an order from the dean of the academy. The dean was a Level-7 Master Magician and was highly regarded in the kingdom. Even her father, the Iron Duke, couldn't intervene with whatever the dean ordered.

Never mind, she thought. If Link couldn't afford to pay the fees, then she would just help him with it. It was only 2000 gold coins after all, and she had saved up that much money anyway.

Link himself had no problems with the order at all. All he wanted was to enter the academy. Now that he was admitted by the Dean, why would he let the small problem of money complicate the matter?

"I agree to the dean's orders," said Link, nodding.

There was still a nagging doubt in his mind, though. His Mana limit had now reached 148 points, and although he didn't have a lot of Mana in his body now, how could Moira, who was a Level-5 Magician, not notice it?

He was only 17 years old, but he possessed the Mana of a Level-2 Magician and had the ability to cast Level-2 spells in Gladstone. He had even used the Level-4 spell Flame Blast. All of this wasn't so hard to find out, so why did Moira still think his innate talent in magic was low?

Just as he was thinking about it, he heard Moira saying to Annie, "Your Highness, I must beg your leave to return to the academy now. Link, you'll go with me to the town, and on the way, I will discuss the rules of the academy with you."

Annie suspected nothing of what Moira said, so she gave them her leave. Even Link sensed nothing out of the ordinary of Moira's request, so all he did was nod and say "Of course."

Once he and Moira reached outside the cabin, Moira invited him into the carriage.

After having settled down inside the carriage, Moira snapped her fingers and immediately Link could feel the noise around him quieting down. All the noise outside, the people, the horse, the rolling of the wheels had turned silent.

Link was slightly taken aback. He knew this was the effects of the Soundproof Barrier, meaning that Moira was going to say something important to him.

He held his tongue even though questions ran through his head. He thought it best to let Moira start the conversation.

After a whole minute, Moira laughed and said, "Young man, I'm impressed with your self-restraint. You must be dying to know why I would think your innate talent in magic is low, aren't you?"

"Well, you could easily identify my storage gear, so I thought it was very peculiar for you to make such an obvious error in judgment," replied Link.

"Because you would be Magician Bale's apprentice, and he wouldn't take any notice of you if you were just an apprentice with weak magic abilities. This way, you could get close to him and watch his every step without him suspecting you," said Moira, blurting out surprising revelations as if it was just a matter of fact.

Link was completely stupefied. He had absolutely no idea how to react to Moira's revelations. He had figured that this woman was no average Magician, but he hadn't expected her to baffle him this much.

In the game, the Level-6 Magician Bale was the turncoat in the magic academy. He had been secretly studying Dark Magic which in the end had led to the catastrophic accident in the academy. From Moira's words, he could sense that she was already suspecting that Bale was up to something sinister.

"I don't understand." Link couldn't think of a reason why Moira would choose him to spy on Bale; he didn't understand why she would trust him and was even more surprised at how she could've seen through what Bale was up to.

In fact, even the Master Magician Anthony had no idea about what Bale was planning to do. In the game, when the Magician Bale had attempted to summon the demons, the incident was only discovered at the very last minute, and before that, no one knew anything of Bale's secrets at all.

How could someone who had the acuity to apprehend all this before anyone else not be famous in the game? Who exactly was this Moira?

Moira could guess all the questions that were running through Link's head. She smiled and explained, "Because I'm not a human. I'm the secret guardian of the Realm of Light - an Angel of Light!"

"..."

Link was rendered completely speechless, and his eyes had widened as big as saucers.