The Girvent Forest was still as inviting and peaceful as ever. The warm sun rays that shone through the dense overgrowth gently caressed all the souls of the living passing through.
After a period of deceit and vigilance living in Bale's Mage Tower, Link felt exceptionally invigorated by the bright and tranquil Girvent Forest. Everything he saw pleased his eyes- even the suspicious people he saw and believed to be bandits. He ignored them and continued on his journey. The carriage reached River Cove Town after an hour.
River Cove Town was still as crowded and harmonious as before. There were people experiencing hangovers right outside the hotel, the market was packed with people, and the town hall notice board still had a bunch of notices posted all over it. The house of the Flamingo Band of Mercenaries lay right at the corner of the town.
The yard looked different. It covered a larger surface area now, and had a lot more wooden houses at its side. Another yard enclosed by a wooden fence had also been built in the forest behind their original yard.
Their home was a lot more crowded than before. Faces unfamiliar to Link could be seen entering their home. A flag had also been erected at the entrance, depicting a picture of a soaring flamingo.
Lucy had been writing to inform him of the situation back at home. Link knew that the Flamingo Band of Mercenaries had been recruiting. They had already gotten more than 20 new members into their band.
The carriage stopped right in front of the house and attracted the attention of many onlookers. After all, it was not every day that you could see a carriage bearing the crest of the East Cove Higher Magic Academy arriving in River Cove Town. They were all expecting to see an old Magician walking out of the carriage.
Link had grown during his time at the Mage Tower and no longer looked as frail as before. He was wearing a brand new robe and with a staff in his hand, he looked just like an official Magician.
Link and Lucy had already been drawn out of the house by the crowd of onlookers.
"Why did you return without informing us?" Lucy was slightly surprised. She took a good look at Link and was relieved. It seemed like life in the Mage Tower had been kind to him.
"I came back to pay a visit. Hey, is this young girl a new member too?" The first person that caught Link's attention when he walked into the yard was a beautiful young girl practicing her archery skills.
A young girl with flawless skin and delicate features would definitely stand out when placed within a group of burly men. She had mediocre archery skills. However, she was indeed blessed with good looks, like a flower waiting for its time to bloom.
Gildern laughed, "I was telling you, my lord would definitely notice out little Rylai when he comes back." He then proceeded to introduce the background of the young girl.
"Rylai is from the Southern Free Districts. She was brought here by the slave vendors and was actually bound for Hot Springs City. Lucy took pity on her and bought her from the slave vendor. You have no idea how much this girl cost us. One hundred gold coins! How expensive!"
Gildern was obviously displeased that such a fortune was spent on a young girl. If not for her good looks, he would never have agreed to let Lucy purchase her. They were not Samaritans with a lot of money to spare, but merely mercenaries who were working hard to get a good life.
Lucy was embarrassed. She knew that 100 gold coins was not a small amount and looked at Link uneasily, afraid that she would be told off. When she first saw Rylai in the market, her instinctive reaction was to immediately save her from her cruel fate.
Lucy could almost see the shadows of her past on Rylai's expression. She was certain that the young girl would end up as a concubine of a rich perverted old man in Hot Springs City if she did not intervene. The young girl might be favored by the man for a short while, but the moment the old man got tired of her looks, there was no knowing what would happen to her.
Lucy thought about the similar encounters she had previously and shuddered. She could not bear to let this innocent young girl suffer the same fate. Hence, she disregarded the consequences and helped her almost immediately when she knew she had the ability to. She did not regret her decision.
To everyone's surprise, the smile on Link's face only grew wider. He ignored their incessant chatters and circled around the young girl, observing her from head to toe with an almost invasive gaze.
Gildern could not help but scratched his nose and whispered to Lucy, "I think Link likes this girl."
From the moment he met Link, Link had never shown any interest in women. This held true even for Lucy, who had good looks and a voluptuous body. However, it seemed that Link was just waiting for the right person.
Lucy felt a wave of jealousy overwhelming her and harshly rebutted, "Shut your mouth!"
Rylai was extremely nervous. She knew that Link was a Magician and judging from the respectful way everyone treated him, he was definitely the leader of the Flamingo Band of Mercenaries!
She stopped her archery training the moment she noticed Link's presence. She held the small wooden bow with her pale white hands, hanging her head low and averting direct eye contact with Link. She was like a frightened and confused deer awaiting the judgment of fate.
After observing for a full minute, Link even started touching the young girl! He first gently touched her forehead, before moving on to the arms and back. He even unapologetically felt her legs and hips. Link's actions looked extremely perverted. Furthermore, he had a strange expression on his face.
Gildern was at a loss for words. My lord is acting weird today. Was the lack of the opposite gender in the Magic academy too much for him to bear?
Meanwhile, Lucy thought, my lord is not this type of person, he must have found something! I have always thought Rylai was special! That was also another reason why Lucy was so insistent on purchasing Rylai.
Rylai was now on the verge of tears, and did not dare to even budge. When Link's finger made contact with her body, she felt a certain force entering her body as well. This made her extremely uncomfortable, but she was too petrified to move away.
Finally, Link withdrew his hand and nodded, "Lucy, your money was well spent. This girl has great magic potential."
Gildern's eyes widened in shock. Humans with magic potential were extremely rare-to think that Lucy was so lucky!
After rationalizing for a moment, Gildern concluded, "Well, only special individuals are born with such pretty features. Lucy, you have good judgment!"
"Really? I only thought she was slightly special." Lucy was elated.
It was not worthwhile to purchase a beautiful young girl for 100 gold coins, but to purchase a talented child with magic potential for that amount of money-that was a bargain.
Link nodded. Lucy had a bit of magical flair herself as well, that was perhaps why she found Rylai special.
Originally, Link was planning to teach Lucy magic. However, Lucy was already 28 years old and had no interest in the complex and dry magic theories. On the other hand, Rylai looked no older than 15 years old, the perfect age for someone to pick up magic. She also had more potential than Lucy-this was fate.
The moment Link saw Rylai at the corner of the yard, he was amazed at the number of water elementals surrounding her. She seemed to have a body that naturally attracted water element particles causing her surroundings to be filled with 50% more elemental energy.
Link was also not taking advantage of Rylai when he started touching her body. He was using Mana Detection to look into the elemental gates in her body. He realized that water elementals naturally existed in her elemental gates and that in every gate there were flowing streams of natural Mana.
This was exceptional talent for water elemental magic. If he successfully imparted his knowledge to this young girl, she would turn out to be an amazing Magician with a niche in water elemental magic.
As they continued on their journey, they would only meet stronger opponents. In their last battle, Link was already struggling to perform as the only Magician of the group. He had long wanted to recruit another talented Magician. Hence, he decided to take Rylai as a disciple.
"You shall be my main disciple," Link chuckled.
At that moment, another carriage pulled up at the entrance of River Cove Town. Darris alighted from the carriage.
"You may return," Darris signaled the carriage to leave. He then cast an Illusion Spell on himself to disguise as a traveler, asking any passerby he could find, "Hi, I am looking for Magician Link, do you know where he is?"
Darris had done his research. Link seemed to be slightly famous around this area; most of River Cove Town should have heard of his name.
"What a coincidence, he just returned from the magic academy and is currently at the house of the Flamingo Band of Mercenaries."
Darris got the exact location after asking the third person. "Thank you," Darris nodded.
He did not go straight to the Flamingo Band of Mercenaries. His research had revealed that there was no one stronger than Link in that group. The mastermind that instructed Link to spy on his master could not have been there.
More importantly, he could not start a fight with Link in the middle of River Cove Town. That had way too many implications. If he were asked to explain his actions to the academy, he would be at a loss for words.
I will strike during your return trip to the academy.
Darris walked along the King's Lane for five miles before hiding himself in the overgrowth. His plan was simple. He would catch Link alive and force him to reveal the mastermind behind this investigation.
Darris naturally expected Link to resist. However, Link was merely a Level-2 Magician. He would utterly crush him with his Level-4 spells.
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