80 Absolute Quietude

 More than a month ago in Gladstone, Link had once defeated a Level-3 Dark Elf Warrior called Jiggs. But there was a distance between Link and Jiggs, and that gave Link ample time to cast his spells.

Now Link was facing another opponent, Jacques, who was also a Level-3 Warrior. But there was a critical difference.

This time, it was a sneak attack. Jacques had stabbed Link from behind. Link was only aware of it when it was too late. Jacques had also been observing and following Link for quite some time, so he was quite familiar with his magic spells. In short, everything worked to Jacques's advantage!

The sword was aimed at Link's heart from behind and the sword was shrouded in an icy-blue water element Combat Aura. The instant the tip of the sword touched Link's clothes, a biting cold spread to his skin, which Link immediately recognized as Combat Aura.

By then, Jacker, Lucy, and Anderson were all focused on attacking the Elemental Puppet, so none of them had any idea there would be such a twist in events happening right behind them!

At that moment, except for the archer Gildern, none of them had noticed Jacques's betrayal. But even Gildern wouldn't be able to save Link,

Gildern wouldn't have enough time to save Link either because Jacques attacked Link at the right time when he was focused on aiming an arrow at the Elemental Puppet. All he could do was stare helplessly at Jacques stabbing his sword at Link's frail body.

"No!!!" bellowed Gildern.

Gildern's scream had caught the others' attention. Jacker turned around and was completely shattered by what he saw. When Lucy saw it, she completely abandoned the fight against the Elemental Puppet and rushed towards Link to save him.

The damned coward! I should've killed him! thought Anderson, fuming.

He then cast aside the fight against the Elemental Puppet too and rushed to save Link. Princess Annie had ordered him to protect Link's life at all costs. If anything happened to Link, he could just kiss any hopes of an advancement in his career goodbye.

In fact, even if Princess Annie hadn't ordered him to do so, Anderson would still do anything to save Link because he had conceded to the plain fact that without Link, the rest of the team simply had no hope of getting out of this place alive. Link's life must be saved no matter what!

But Lucy and Anderson were too late. Nothing could change the fact that no one could save Link now, he only had himself to rely on in order to survive.

The moment Jacques attacked him, Link knew that he had a very short time to react, probably less than 0.1 seconds. All he could do in that time was cast Level-0 spells. Among all the Level-0 spells he knew, the one that was the most powerful and that had the shortest spellcasting time was Glass Orb.

Using his Matchstick wand, he had decreased the spellcasting time for Glass Orb down to one every 0.04 seconds.

In 0.1 second, I can only unleash two Glass Orbs, which isn't enough to damage Jacques's Combat Aura or even to block his sword attack.

Fortunately, Link's thinking speed was as quick as lightning, so he could analyze the situation in no time. He knew that to survive this attack, the wisest plan wasn't to attack Jacques or to dodge his sword, but to minimize the damage his sword could do as much as possible.

Once he was clear of what to do, Link's wand lit up and 0.04 seconds later, a dim blue orb flew out in a zig-zag trajectory, going around Link's body and hitting Jacques's sword's blade before exploding.

Bang! The Combat Aura on Jacques's sword flickered, counteracting with the fire elements in the Glass Orb. Nonetheless, it was not sufficient to block the Glass Orb's explosion, so the blade of his sword was bent slightly.

An instant later, another glass orb appeared and the bent blade of Jacques's sword bent even further. Because the second attack came right after the first one, the Combat Aura on the sword did not have time to recover from the first attack yet, so for a short while the strength of Jacques's Combat Aura was halved.

It didn't have any significant long-term effect, though. In truth, a Level-3 Warrior like Jacques didn't even need half a second to restore the lost strength of the Combat Aura caused by the Glass Orbs back to its original level.

But to Link, this half a second of weakness was more than enough.

After the two Glass Orbs, Jacques's sword was blasted and bent by the explosions and was deflected away from the position of Link's heart. But even so, Link could not stop it from stabbing his body.

Link felt something cold on his left abdomen, he looked down and saw that Jacques's sword had stabbed through his body!

Thank goodness, it didn't go through my heart!

Even now, Link still managed to keep his calm. Instead of panicking, he felt relieved. He knew that even though the wound was serious, ultimately it wasn't fatal and that he had a good chance of surviving it.

Link could feel that his stomach had been pierced through. He could also sense a foreign energy in his body - Jacques's Combat Aura. Link knew that this energy would soon explode and once that happened there was no other outcome for him but death.

In this instant, Link manifested what was called a Magician's absolute quietude-a crucial state of mind for Magicians that fortified their mental strength and grit.

Even though he was stabbed, Link's mind was just as clear as before and he managed to stay focused enough that his spellcasting was not affected.

Spellcasting was nothing like physical attacks which worked as long as you could thrust your weapon forward. To cast a spell, you must construct the complicated spell structure and your mental state must be calm and stable. Even minute emotional disturbances would negatively affect spellcasting. Under the extreme conditions that Link was under right now, only a handful of Magicians in the world would be able to cast spells.

And yet Link still managed to do it!

The tip of Link's Fire Crystal staff lit up and 0.2 seconds later, Link successfully cast another spell - Level-1 Vector Protective Force Field.

Then, in the space between him and Jacques, an almost transparent barrier materialized. It gradually expanded until it hit Jacques's body, but because he was a Level-3 Warrior, he was not affected much. Link, however, was sent flying forward.

With a terrifying sound of flesh tearing, Link's body pulled away from the sword's blade just in time before the Combat Aura on Jacques's sword burst into small eruptions. But no matter how small the explosions were, Link was glad he managed to dodge them.

Blood then gushed out of the wound on Link's body. A burning pain spread throughout his body, a pain so unbearable it made Link bend over his waist. Jacques's Combat Aura had done much damage to his internal organs, but luckily, his heart was unharmed.

It was all thanks to the two Glass Orbs that were timely released, otherwise, Link was sure he would've died.

When Link was hurled forward, his wand lit up once more and he cast the Elemental Cure spell on himself. When he landed, he gritted his teeth, swallowed down the pain, and used the aid of Cat's Agility to drag himself as far away from Jacques as possible.

Jacques was about to chase after Link, but he was stunned at how he had escaped as swiftly as the wind. Just as he came back to his senses and was going to step forward with his sword, a violent gust of wind rushed towards him, tossing him a few feet backwards.

It was Lucy.

"Die, you bastard!" she barked, her voice icy and vicious.

Her face was contorted by vengeance and her eyes were filled with bloodthirst. There was not a thread of compassion or mercy left in her. She took advantage of the time Jacques was pushed backwards and charged towards him. Each thrust of her sword was both quick and heavy, accompanied by the loud howling of wind. Jacques was completely overwhelmed and was forced into a defensive stance with no chance to counter Lucy's attacks.

Gildern turned around at the same time and joined Lucy in attacking Jacques. He nocked an arrow and aimed at the joint in Jacques's armor on his leg.

Thwang! Gildern's arrow hit Jacques's left leg right where his skin was exposed!

Link was relieved to see Jacques attacked by two people. He knew he was safe now.

Only then did he allow himself to feel scared. Morpheus's trick had almost cost him his life. Had his reaction been just marginally slower, he would've ended up in the pile of corpses.

I must never underestimate a Legendary opponent, otherwise there'll be a high price to pay! Link would never forget the lesson he learned from this battle.

But he was not a weakling who was there for anyone to push around. Jacques was Morpheus's last trick, and now that he was dealt with, it was time for the decisive battle!