88 As Beautiful as a Work of Art

 Bale's Mage Tower, in the main hall on the first floor.


"Four scrolls, five scrolls, four scrolls... Zach, why did you only submit three scrolls?" asked Warwick, staring at the simple and honest apprentice in front of him while massaging his temple.

"I had rotten luck yesterday. I made the same mistake three times in a row, so I dared not continue after that."

In the process of magic scroll preparation, making a series of mistakes was a sign exhaustion. That meant that one's focus was no longer sustainable. When this happened, the best thing to do was to put down the quill and take a rest. If you were to force yourself to go on working, dangerous accidents were likely to happen.

This was a valuable lesson passed down from generation to generation. In magic, one must take every precaution because recklessness was the main cause of accidents.

Knowing this, Warwick couldn't think of anything to say. But he noticed how sullen Zach had turned, so he had to say something to comfort him.

"Don't worry, I'll find a solution," said Warwick.

"I'm really sorry, Warwick," said Zach, wrought with guilt.

The six Magician's Apprentices then collected all the magic scrolls they produced in a day, including the six magic scrolls that Warwick himself had worked his tail off to produce. Today he received 30 magic scrolls, so when added to yesterday's 35, Warwick now had a total of 65 magic scrolls.

But they only had 20 days, and with this pace, they'd be lucky to be able to produce 700 magic scrolls. Producing 800 was simply impossible!

We're lagging too far behind schedule. Warwick had lost all hopes of completing the task. All he was thinking now was how to break the news to Derek.

Our tutor is a proud Magician. He'd be furious if he found out that we couldn't complete the task. Then he'd lose his temper and make our lives a nightmare! Warwick had already begun to imagine the gloomy days ahead.

Click. It was the sound of Link opening the door of the small room under the staircase. Link came out from with his hands full of magic scrolls.

"Link, how many did you manage to produce today?" asked Warwick, whose eyes lit up instantly when he saw Link.

As he was speaking, his eyes were fixed on the magic scrolls in Link's hands. He started to count them silently.

"It's my lucky day today and I guess I'm starting to get the hang of it. Anyway, I manage to produce five of them," said Link as he handed over the magic scrolls.

Warwick perked up immediately. He did not expect the beginner to have produced five magic scrolls on only the second day. In fact, Warwick himself had only managed to produce two yesterday.

He took the magic scrolls and accordingly examined them one by one.

As always, the scrolls' surface was very neat, and the brushwork of the magic runes was full of a sense of fluidity that was hard to describe in words. The Mana within the magic scrolls flowed in a simple and elegant manner, giving the observer a pleasant feeling.

"These are all high-quality magic scrolls! Excellent job!" Warwick couldn't help but praise. He found that just looking at Link's magic scrolls gave him a sense of pleasure. In fact, he wanted to keep staring at them and was reluctant to put it away.

Naturally, all five scrolls were perfect. Warwick put the magic scrolls down carefully, and then looked at Link's face, and asked with concern, "How do you feel today? Are you tired?"

"No, I'm fine. I don't feel tired at all," Link calmly answered after shaking his head.

"That's good, then. But remember not to be reckless and take a rest when you're tired. Don't ever force yourself too hard," Warwick repeated the same advice. He was still shaken after losing two apprentices.

"I got it," replied Link, with a ghost of a smile on his face.

Producing five magic scrolls was nothing to him. In fact, he actually produced 15 today, but he didn't want to show all of it to Warwick for fear of causing a commotion.

He'd actually only spent an hour and a half to produce those magic scrolls. He even had half a day's time to read the textbook after that, and then spent a long time working on his thesis before coming out of the room.

All in all, the whole business of producing magic scrolls did not affect his studies at all.

On the fourth day, Link doubled his efforts and produced 20 magic scrolls. He spent the whole day working on Lesser Protective Armor magic scrolls. He became so adept at it that he could do it with his eyes closed and not make a single mistake. Link was a perfectionist though and he paid attention to every little detail no matter what he's doing, so his magic scrolls had actually gotten better and better in quality.

When it was time to submit the scrolls in the early evening, Link saw Warwick mired in gloom.

"Warwick, what's the matter?" Link asked.

"Everyone's dog-tired, and we'd only received 28 scrolls today. I'm sure we'll produce less and less every day. If we go on like this, there's simply no way we would ever complete the task!" Warwick sluggishly replied, his body was slumped on the table.

Warwick himself had only produced five scrolls today. After three days of straining himself to produce as many magic scrolls as possible, he was now wrung out like a towel. It was now obvious that he couldn't manage it alone and that he must report to Derek and ask for his help.

After finishing his sentence, he looked up at Link, and saw him holding a huge pile of scrolls.

"Are those really..." Warrick was stupefied, he wondered if the scrolls in Link's hands really were magic scrolls. It seemed there were more scrolls now than there was yesterday!

"Luck really was on my side today, and I managed to produce seven magic scrolls. Here you go," said Link, smiling as he gently placed his magic scrolls on Warwick's table.

"What? Seven scrolls? That's impossible!" exclaimed Warwick, jolting up from his languid position.

Seven magic scrolls wouldn't have been such an incredible number if Link was a high-level Magician's Apprentice. But Link was clearly a novice with very weak Mana and had in fact just learned to prepare Lesser Protective Armor magic scroll days ago! How could he possibly produce seven magic scrolls in a day?

Warwick's voice was quite loud just now, and many apprentices heard him and began to gather around. Among them was Matt, who had only managed to produce three magic scrolls each day for these past few days.

"What about the quality of the magic scrolls, though?" asked Matt, who was understandably skeptical. He was a mid-level Magician's Apprentice, but he'd had a run of bad luck these few days, which made him more and more anxious by the day. Even three scrolls a day had required him to stretch almost to his limits. So how could a newcomer who had only arrived days earlier produce more than twice his number?

"Yeah, they're not useless scrolls, are they?" someone else chimed in.

In fact, seven magic scrolls a day, for all the apprentices in the hall, was undeniably impressive. Of all the apprentices gathered there, Warwick who had produced eight magic scrolls on the first day, was probably the only one who could surpass this number.

Warwick was still speechless. He unfolded Link's magic scroll one by one and began to examine them.

As soon as the magic scrolls were unfolded, the apprentices around all broke into muffled cries of wonder.

How could magic scrolls be so pleasing to the eye? Why does the flow of Mana on the scrolls enchant me so much? These were the thoughts running through the apprentices' head after Link's magic scrolls were unveiled.

"They're magnificent!" someone whispered.

These were all Magician's Apprentices, after all, so they knew a high-quality magic scroll when they saw one. In fact, most of them could judge the quality of a magic scroll in one glance. Although these were just Level-0 Lesser Protective Armor magic scrolls, they knew that in order to produce such superior magic scrolls, immense willpower and talent were required.

Suddenly, the apprentices began to view Link in a new light. They couldn't help but respect him for having achieved such a miraculous feat.

Initially, most of the apprentices in the Mage Tower regarded Link as a nobody whose existence was dispensable. But now, their views were beginning to change.

Then, Warwick checked the second magic scroll.

Once he unfurled it, he saw the same smooth flowing magic runes, and the same elegant and harmonious Mana flow. The scroll gave the observer a sense of enchantment that made them unwilling to put it down or look away from it.

"Lord of Light, what a wonderful magic scroll. It's as beautiful as a work of art! I don't think I could ever bring myself to use it," whispered one of the apprentices after a long appreciative sigh.

Creating a magic scroll was like calligraphy, in a sense. When a word was well written, it became a work of art that could be sold for a lot of gold coins. But if the same word was written poorly, then it's no different from the scratchings of a dog, for which no one would bother to give a second glance.

Judging from the apprentices' reactions, Link's magic scrolls were works of art.

After Warwick had checked Link's magic scrolls one by one, he found that all seven were, without exception, of the highest quality. The crowd burst into another wave of exclamations.

If only one or two of the magic scrolls were excellent, then it could still be regarded as a result of dumb luck. But when all seven were incredible, it could only mean that Link was truly talented. The strength of his Mana might be pitifully weak, but from now on no one could deny the fact that he was extremely gifted in producing marvelous magic scrolls!

Link had been in Bale's Mage Tower for more than half a month, but today was the first day that he was truly recognized by the other apprentices.

Little did they know, though, that producing seven scrolls a day was just the beginning.