Jacker went out in the afternoon to sniff around the Cliff of Howling Winds. He wasn't out for long, though, and was back an hour later.
"My lord, no one has ever heard of this place, but a bard told me there's a place that fits the description of the name. The place is more than a hundred miles north of the Girvent Forest," informed Jacker. Vague clues were the only thing he managed to obtain.
"In that case," said Link after some consideration, "We should hire someone to investigate this place. If there's any news, contact me."
"Yes, my lord," answered Jacker.
Link had been packing and Lucy was helping him by his side. She was usually a very capable woman, but she took her time with the chore this time. She was anxious about Link so much that she would follow Link to the East Cove Magic Academy if she could.
Link was at once moved and annoyed by her. Finally in a state of confusion and weariness, he stuffed everything into his storage pendant - towels, blankets, clothes, and even some of his favorite snacks that Lucy had prepared for him. There was almost no space left in his storage pendant when he was done.
The next morning, Link got into a hired carriage and went to the East Cove Magic Academy alone. He was silent all the way there.
More than an hour later, he reached the front gates of the East Cove Magic Academy. The same gatekeeper Vincent was there, still basking in sun in the garden. He spoke to Link the moment he saw him got down from the carriage.
"Boy, I thought I'd never see you again in my life. Who would've thought that you would manage to get into the academy?" he said, laughing.
Link might have gained some fame and prestige in the River Cove town, but the East Cove Magic Academy was an ivory tower filled with powerful Magicians who were the cream of the crop even among Magicians in the kingdom. Unsurprisingly, they took no notice of the lives of common folks, so Link's fame had not reached the gates of the East Cove Magic Academy.
Moreover, the effects of Herrera's Camouflage Feathers concealed most of Link's true potential, so in the eyes of Vincent, Link was still the poor teenaged boy whose innate talents in magic were pitiably low.
Link, of course, took none of Vincent's derision to heart. He took a Magician's bow before Vincent, then smiled and said, "Yes, I can't believe my own luck myself. I'm going inside now, Mr. Vincent."
"Go ahead. Don't waste your good fortune." Vincent nodded at the young man as he went into the academy. Although his talents were poor, he was very humble, so Vincent decided to treat him as another ordinary Magician's apprentice.
He'd seen almost a thousand students like that every year.
Link walked passed the academy gates where he encountered a small flat path. He walked along the path for a few hundred feet when then turned a corner. He was unprepared for the view that emerged once he took the turn.
In front him, a vast valley stretched across the horizon.
Golden rays of sunshine shone down from the heavens like waterfalls made of light, a spacious, flat ground in the middle of the valley. On the flat ground, there were Mage Towers with blue roofs so tall they seemed to touch the sky. At the top of the towers, there were countless brilliantly shining magic runes flowing around the towers. Threads of elements flowed in the air, crisscrossing each other and making it look like the towers were connected by a magical spider's web. Flowers and trees dotted the space between the towers while a creek meandered around the academy, its surface glinting in the sun.
What a glorious view of the capital of magic where the best Magicians gathered!
It's a beautiful place now, but it may not be long before all that is left is rubble.
Link felt both awe for the splendor that stood before him and grief for what would be lost.
Although he now had the Occultic Runes with him, thus undermining the first steps of the Dark Elves' plan, but as long as some of them were still alive, they would never give in until they'd thought of a way to release the demon Tarviss.
What would their next step be? Link could only make wild guesses for now. What he must focus on at present was to constantly improve himself before the disaster, so he would not stand helplessly aside when the time came.
There was a huge square near the cove entrance where people rushed about to and fro. They were all Magicians and they all look hurried, as though in a race against time.
An impressive statue of a Magician stood proudly in the middle of the square.
Link went over and looked at the nameplate at the bottom of the statue, which read, The founder and the first dean of the East Cove Magic Academy, the Level-8 Master Magician, Ambron.
Beneath it, there was a quote from the dean.
Two things are essential in the quest to advance your magic skills: first, to strive for the truth and second, to strive for the power to defend the truth!
That's a wise old man. Link could not help but nod in agreement with the statement.
Once he'd crossed the square, Link took out the map with directions that Herrera had given him.
From the square, take the widest path, go all the way to the third tower on the left, where there's a statue of a hound at the door...Ah, there it is.
Bale was a Level-6 Magician and he was a respected figure in the academy. He was one of the core academic council members and his Mage Tower was significantly taller than the rest. Even the decoration and furnishing inside was much more refined and luxurious than the others.
He walked up to the door then summoned a Magic Mirror - a little trick he learned when he was bored. He checked himself in the mirror and made sure everything was in order, then gently knocked on the door.
After a while, a young Magician answered the door. He looked to be about 30 years old. Moments later, a notification about him appeared on the interface.
Level-2 Average Magician
Status: The Magician Bale's apprentice and assistant.
The message was brief and didn't say anything about the spells that Derek had mastered, but it was already enough information for Link.
Derek stared at the unremarkable youth standing at the door and sensed that the Mana on his body was pitifully low. Derek couldn't help but frown at the sight.
That morning, his tutor Bale had told him that a new student would be coming today and instructed him to welcome him on his behalf. Derek had thought it was just another trivial chore. But the minute he saw this lanky young man when he opened the door, Derek was swept over by a sense of disdain.
So here comes another imbecile who got in through the back door.
Derek was not good at hiding his emotions but he realized that although this young man was completely worthless and inept, he was still invited to the Mage Tower by the Magician Bale himself. Derek was sure this young man must have strategic connections in high places, so it's best not to offend him too much.
"So you're Link?" asked Derek in a frosty tone and with a frown on his face.
"Yes, that's me." Link noticed the contempt in Derek's eyes, but he thought nothing of it. He was here to learn magic while keeping an eye on Bale. Everything else was trivial and unworthy of his attention.
"Did you bring your recommendation letter?" asked Derek
"Of course." Link handed over the letter that Herrera gave him. It was written by Princess Annie on behalf of the royal family of Abel, no doubt carrying immense weight and stature within it.
Derek took the envelope and saw the roaring lion seal printed on it, which got him even more irritated.
What a lucky kid. He doesn't seem to have any talent and yet he managed to ride on the coattails of the royal family.
"Come in." Derek's tone had gotten even colder now.
Link followed Derek into the hall on the first floor. It was a spacious hall with an abundance of light streaming in from the outside. There were many tables and chairs teeming with young people. There was, all-in-all, about 30 people in the hall.
Some of them had their noses stuck in books, some were in quiet contemplation, and others were experimenting with magic. At the corner of the hall there was a large, semi-circular bookcase filled with at least 300 books.
On the other side of the hall, there was a small wine bar with a bartender tending to it. A few young people were drinking there while softly chatting. The scene called to mind the ambiance of a tavern. Yet when Link overheard parts of their conversations, he found out that they were discussing magic.
What a rich learning atmosphere, thought Link.
He carefully sensed the Mana of everyone around him and found that most of them were at least mid-level Magician's Apprentices. In fact, some of them were just a step away from becoming a full-fledged Magicians.
The level here is much higher than Flemmings Academy.
Derek led Link to a table at the far corner of the hall. He then explained, "This is your table. You're now a beginner apprentice. You're allowed to listen when a tutor is giving a lecture, but you're not allowed to ask any questions, let alone disrupt the class. Understood?"
In other words, Link only had the right to participate but no right to speak because his magic talents were too low. The questions he asked would only waste the other students' time.
Link was happy with what he got, though. It was good enough for him just to be able to get into the academy.
"I understand," replied Link.
"Good. Follow me, I'll take you to your room."
Derek walked towards the corner of the hall while Link hurried to keep up. Eventually, the two stopped at a narrow door below the spiral staircase in the hall.
"This is your room," said Derek.
It was originally a small storage room that was deemed unfit to turn into an apprentice's room. But because the tutor had suddenly received a new member into the Mage Tower when all the rooms were occupied, they had to make do.
Derek could sense from the tutor's tone and attitude that he did not care much about this new apprentice but had no choice but to make the necessary arrangements because it was an order from the dean. So Derek took the initiative and arranged Link to stay in the small room.
Derek opened the door, revealing a space of less than fifty square feet. There was a small bed with a nightstand instead of a table, and a small window in the corner. Despite the size, the room was spotlessly clean.
There was only magic on Link's mind, he was not concerned about the external living conditions at all. Otherwise, he would not have been able to stay in the River Cove inn attic for a month. And so all he did was nod his head and brought his luggage into the room.
Link didn't seem to have much baggage, all he had were some books and few changes of clothes. He placed everything onto the nightstand by the bed.
Derek was still standing in the doorway and saw that Link was done setting his things down.
"One last thing. You need to do some routine work as a Magician's Apprentice. What spells do you know?" asked Derek.
"I know Earth Spike," answered Link. Herrera had reminded him earlier that he should maintain his identity as a beginner Magician's Apprentice.
"Earth Spike? Good." Derek turned to an apprentice in the hall and shouted, "Warwick, get me some blank scrolls!"
Soon afterwards, an apprentice called Warwick appeared with a handful of scrolls. He glanced sympathetically at Link who was in the room as he handed the scrolls to Derek.
What an unlucky guy. Not only did he get the worst room in the Mage Tower, he's also in charge of such a menial and tedious chore as creating magic scrolls!
Derek sent Warwick away, and used the Magician's Hand to place the stack of scrolls on the nightstand.
"I've heard that you've been studying at another magic academy before, so you must have the basic skills in preparing magic scrolls, haven't you?"
"Yes," answered Link.
Preparing magic scrolls was the most basic skill in the field of enchantment. As for Link's skill level in enchantment, he was sure that he could rival even the Level-6 Magician Bale, so he had no problem at all in preparing magic scrolls. In fact, before going into the Syndicate's lair, he had even prepared 20 magic scrolls himself.
But of course he couldn't display his true powers in Bale's Mage Tower. Link had even hidden his Matchstick wand away and would now only use a simple ordinary white wooden wand that he made himself.
"Good," said Derek, "Now take these scrolls and make sure you prepare at least three Earth Spike magic scrolls a day. You'll only be allowed two extra blank scrolls if you run out because you've produced defects. If you need more than that, you'll have to pay for it and one blank scroll costs 3 silver coins. But if you manage to produce perfectly functioning magic scrolls, you'll be paid a silver coin for each. You can get more silver ink and quill pens from Warwick, the Magician you just met just now. Any questions?"
This is ridiculous, thought Link. A Level-0 magic scroll would sell for at least 6 silver coins, and the cost of producing it should not exceed 2 silver coins! Not only am I being cheated by getting paid only one silver coin per scroll, I'd even have to pay 3 silver coins for each damaged scroll, when in fact these ordinary blank scrolls shouldn't cost any more than 50 coppers! No wonder every famous Magician in the game were all wealthy. Turns out they'd all been exploiting the apprentices' hard labor!
It was true that this was unfair to Magician's apprentices. Since the Magicians were shameless enough to take advantage of the powerless and the apprentices were themselves willing and even glad to be taken advantage of, nothing was ever done about it.
Link thought this was probably one of the important sources of income for a Mage Tower. In the future, he would certainly have his own tower and his own apprentices as well, so this was a lesson for him about how he would manage it in the future.
"I understand," answered Link.
"Good, get to work then." Derek walked out of the room and closed the door behind him.
Finally, Link was alone in the quiet room. He sat on the bed and took a long breath.
Then, a notification flashed on the interface.
Mission: Enrolment completed.
Player rewarded with 5 Omni Points.
This was a mission that he had received when he first arrived at Girvent Forest, which seemed to happen so long ago. It had taken him quite a while to complete this mission.
Mission Details: Master a Level-1 spell and become a full-fledged Magician.
Mission Rewards: 15 Omni Points.
Link had long mastered a Level-1 spell. He'd even modified it with Supreme Magical Skills and created his own spell, Whistle, so as soon as the notification appeared he had already completed it.
As a result, Link was rewarded with 20 Omni Points. Coupled with the 30 Omni Points he got from the mission of escaping the Syndicate's lair, he currently had a total of 50 Omni Points.
Another month and a half and the Ailing Mana effects will be over. I must save these points so I can purchase a high-level spell when my Mana is fully restored!
Then, another notification appeared.
Mission Details: Master a Level-2 spell and become a Level-2 Magician.
Mission Rewards: 25 Omni Points.
This mission had also been completed, because Link had mastered a Level-2 defensive spell - Guarding Barrier. So Link's Omni Points were now at 75 points.
Then, another notification popped up. Link glanced over and found that it was another upgrade mission.
Mission Details: Master a Level-3 spell and become a Level-3 Magician.
Mission Rewards: 40 Omni Points.
Good, this is a mission I can concentrate on for now, Link thought.
So Link now had three active missions that he must complete. The first was to upgrade his level, the second was to investigate the Magician Bale, and the third was to locate the Cliff of Howling Winds.
My hands are full with all these missions! Link sighed, then pulled out a blank scroll and started to prepare an Earth Spike.
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