94 Black Magic was No Laughing Matter


 After leaving Herrera's Mage Tower, Link circled the grounds of Bryant's Inspiration Courtyard, making sure he seemed like he was just taking a walk as he always did.

Then, he walked back to Bale's Mage Tower as usual. But when he walked into the tower, he found that there was something different about the atmosphere in the hall.

It was eerily quiet, even the usual din of murmurs was missing. But Link looked around and saw that most of the apprentices were there, so what exactly was going on? Why was it so quiet?

Link then scanned around the hall more carefully and found the reason for the abnormal silence. Right there beside the semi-circular bookshelf was a white-haired old man dressed in a green robe.

The old man's face was full of wrinkles, his stature was very thin, and he must have been at least 70 years of age. The Mana on his body fluctuated in a very restrained manner, making him seem not very powerful at all, and yet Derek and Darris who stood near the old man both looked especially deferential when they addressed him.

That must be the Magician Bale! It was Link's first time seeing the disgraced Magician since entering the East Cove Magic Academy.

He looked much older than he did in the game. In fact, he even seemed weak and frail. His only outstanding features were his eyes which were a deep dark blue, and they exuded a mysterious aura that seemed capable of inadvertently striking terror into a weaker soul. This meant that the old man possessed a formidable power within that shell of a frail body.

His body might be old, but his magic was obviously still on point.

Bale was surrounded by many Magician's Apprentices who were posing questions to the official tutor of all apprentices in this Mage Tower. He wore a kind smile on his face while he patiently answered their questions.

Link hurried back to his room before anyone noticed him. Once in his room, he quickly put the record of purchases notebook on the nightstand.

Finding out that Link had smuggled the notebook out of the tower would certainly make Bale suspicious of Link, and that would mean disaster.

Barely a minute afterwards, someone knocked on his door.

"Link, come out. The tutor wants to see you."

It was Derek's voice.

Link was startled, but he managed to regain his composure quickly.

"I'll be out in a bit," replied Link in a loud and clear voice.

As he opened the door, Link saw how every pair of eyes in the hall turned to him. Many of those eyes betrayed signs of admiration and some, jealousy and envy. But there was one stark exception - Bale's chief disciple, Darris, who was standing right beside his tutor. His eyes were staring fixedly at Link with a clear expression of distrust.

Link found it curious since he clearly remembered that he hadn't been interacting much with the chief disciple, and yet, Darris seemed to be inexplicably resentful of him, as though they were sworn enemies.

I'll just be more careful around him, then. Link thought this wasn't the time to ruminate on such trivial matters.

Bale was watching him too, looking very interested in the young apprentice. When Link approached him, Bale greeted him amiably.

"Young man, I have seen your magic scrolls," said Bale, "They are indeed remarkable. I am honored to have such a talented young man as my apprentice in my twilight years. If you are willing, you may remain as my disciple in this tower once you've become a full-fledged Magician."

Just as those words left Bale's lips, the whole hall erupted into gasps and suppressed mutterings. No one admired Link now. Everyone had become envious of the lucky new apprentice-some even resented Link at this point.

Bale enjoyed a high reputation in the kingdom of Norton. He was widely respected as a veteran Master Magician among Magicians in the kingdom. Although these apprentices had been learning magic in Bale's tower, they've never actually been taught by Bale himself. And yet, who would've thought that this newcomer Link would suddenly be noticed by the tutor and was even invited to stay on after becoming a full-fledged Magician by the man himself? Some apprentices found it simply unacceptable and unfair.

What aggravated the matter was the fact that Link's own Mana strength was so low. Had he been accepted by the tutor because of his strength, they would've conceded to the decision. But all Link could do was create beautiful magic scrolls!

If Link's innate Mana wasn't strong enough, while he might be able to become a full-fledged Magician, he would never be able to rise above Level-2. What was so impressive about producing nice-looking magic scrolls when he was stuck at being a Level-2 Magician? Why would Bale take notice of such a weakling?

Even so, none of the apprentices dared to voice their displeasure. It was Bale's Mage Tower after all, so his words were the law. No one had the guts to challenge any of Bale's decisions.

Even Link himself was shocked by Bale's announcement. He never thought that such a thing would happen. As he looked up his eyes were met with Bale's own extraordinary pair. For a few moments, both were staring deep into each other's eyes.

Link's eyes were deep and impenetrable, while Bale's eyes were naturally emitting a dignified aura. In the brief moment that they made eye contact, their different spiritual forces inadvertently collided.

Seconds later, Link lowered his eyes and with a joyful expression said, "Thank you, tutor!"

Bale blinked unwittingly, and his brows were slightly raised.

He had decided to accept the young apprentice as his disciple because he was impressed by his extraordinary magic scrolls. Compared to the other apprentices, Link's skill in creating magic scrolls was indeed spectacular. However, what had really caught Bale's eyes was Link's masterful control of Mana, especially after hearing how Link could engage in such an intense activity as producing magic scrolls for many days in a row.

Being able to tirelessly produce magic scrolls for many consecutive days proved that Link possessed a powerful soul, and this was one of the essential qualities of a great Magician.

Link's weak Mana was not a problem at all because he was still very young. Bale believed that there will be a great development in his innate Mana in the future. Throughout history, there had been numerous great talents who were late bloomers, so a case like Link was not an uncommon one.

Although it was true that the old man had started to delve into the dark art of black magic, his original intention had only been to lengthen his own life. Bale was not an evil man at all. When he discovered a way to guarantee an excellent afterlife for himself, he was naturally delighted, and wanted to find out precisely how he could attain it.

However, after looking into Link's dark pair of eyes, Bale couldn't help but feel a little bit unnerved. He was now sure that Link's soul was very powerful, but in that brief interaction, he'd found that Link's soul might be so powerful that even he could be overwhelmed by its immense force.

It simply made no sense how such a powerful soul could possess such a weak level of Mana!

Bale had to satisfy his curiosity, so he carefully observed Link again and again. Yet Link never showed the same fierce power he did before and he was now just a normal reverent apprentice no matter how many times Bale examined him.

Was I just imagining it? Bale wondered.

In the past, Bale wouldn't let such trivial thoughts linger on in his mind. He wouldn't bat a second eye to it and would completely forget it in a matter of seconds. But those were simpler times when he had nothing to hide.

He couldn't afford to be so carefree now because he was now plagued by a guilty conscience. He was concealing a terrible secret that he couldn't let anyone find out. Therefore, any minute details that were out of place would trigger his suspicion nowadays.

I was too reckless just now, Bale thought. I should've checked the apprentice's background more thoroughly before I make any hasty decisions.

Because of the unruly doubts in Bale's mind fueled by his dark secrets, his readiness to accept Link as his new disciple had been cut in half.

Bale did not realize that although he had dipped his toes into black magic with the initial intention of extending his life, the insidious nature of black magic was no laughing matter. It had planted three treacherous demons in Bale's heart: Constant Doubt, Fear of Exposure, and Eternal Greed.

Under the efforts of these three demons, the qualities he possessed in the Realm of Light rapidly collapsed without him knowing it.

Then, Bale seemed to forget what he had just said. His attitude toward Link changed drastically and he stopped talking to him completely. He stayed in the hall for a while longer, doing and saying nothing.

After a while he suddenly turned to Darris, one of his most trusted disciples, and said, "I'm tired now. Let's go back upstairs. When you're free later, tell Link to move out from his room and arrange for him to stay in a new room on the second floor."

"Yes, tutor," replied Darris respectfully.

Bale then stood up, and Darris hurriedly stepped forward to support his tutor's body. They then headed for the stairs and climbed up to the top of the Mage Tower.

"Darris, what do you think of Link?" asked Bale suddenly. They'd reached the third floor and no one else was around.

"I don't know much about him," answered Darris, "He used to be very quiet, and his progress had been average. Had it not been for the military's order for magic scrolls, I wouldn't have known that he had such a great talent for magic scrolls. I hear Derek is close to him, so he should know more about Link than I do." Darris gave a very objective response to the question and he made sure not to mix in any of his personal feelings.

But Bale knew his disciple very well. When he heard Darris's tone as he spoke of Link, his face crumpled into a frown.

"So you don't like him, huh?" asked the Master Magician.