Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
Starfall 833, 1st of November, Winter, Heavy snow.
Winter Fort Academy, Mount Nissia, Moldavia.
The dead of night.
A small band wearing the academy uniform was walking under the darkened sky. They neither spoke nor raised a torchor any illumination spell for that matter. All they did was simply stride ahead in the darkness without a sound.
This was the Forest of Icy Mists of more than twelve kilometers away from Mount Nissia. In deep winter, the unusual mana here would freeze snowflakes into ice. As gale billows, razor-sharp ice crystals danced around, allowing only the survival of daemons that could withstand ice enchantments.
But it was not deep winter now and there were flakes around Mount Nissia. Other than the rather chilly wind, there were not many obstacles for this team of students.
It had been a year since the founding of Winter Fort Academy. Most of the students had the ability of novice spellcasters, with the more outstanding receiving Revelation of Black Steel and becoming professionals.
After all, this was the batch of youth who possessed the best rapport with the elements in the North. Their innate gifts were already excellent, and with systematic nurture without any expenses spared the speed of their progress was reasonable.
However, this group consisted of just four individuals albeit all being of the Steel tier. They were undoubtedly the outstanding and top students in the academy, and they were now exploring the forest late into the night as if looking for something.
Engulf in freezing draughts that kicked up cold dirt, a boy in the group suddenly complained.
“Is the frost specter here or not? We’ve already searched half the forest; our detection spells did not even react.”
“Nick, quiet!” A stifled girl’s voice scolded with slight annoyance. “We’re in the Forest of Icy Miststhere are a lot more creatures other than the frost specter! Don’t cause more problems!”
The boy’s voice was softer after being reprimanded, but he still shot back silently, refusing to give in.
“Karin, you said that your enchanted detection scroll could find the target in one gobut it did not help us find a thing other than scampering penguins!”
“It clearly shows that it’s nearby, its old nest must be here”
As the two argued with muted tones even as they walked on, a pair of platinum-hair siblings who were following glanced at each other and shrugged at the same time.
Ivan and Amelia, the siblings who had made it their ambition to become dragon slayers were now carrying out a mission assigned by the academy in the Forest of Icy Mists.
Unlike most academies for noble mages, Winter Fort Academy emphasized live combat, practical classes as well as real-time applications. Theory courses were limited to advanced curriculum for fourth-year students, while early syllabus leaned towards mana sensing and manipulation. It was only until the students acquired a firm grasp of the basics that they would move on to the next level.
As such, the academy started to set missions as homework after most of the students had established their basic combat abilities.
They might be assigned to hunt berserk bears, four-horned armored deers, sleet butterflies or the frost specter that Ivan and his party are tracking down right now.
When the presence of these Steel-tier beasts had been ascertained by the instructors, they would be marked as the student’s targets, who in turn would be dispatched in four-men parties for the hunt. It was a comprehensive test that would mold aspects of their practical combat abilities including exploring, tracking, stamina and teamwork.
With Ivan and Amelia standing at the peak amongst the students, their subjects were therefore the most difficult. Following prudent deliberation, they picked the frost specter from the bunch of elite steel-class monsters, before bringing their best friends along to the Forest of Icy Vapors.
“Target spotted!” Ivan and Amelia suddenly called out with hushed voices.
Even if they appeared to be quarreling, the quartet was extremely vigilant. The moment the detection spell reacted all four had already assumed formation before approaching their objective.
The two boys, Nick and Ivan stood guard, each brandishing a long sword in one hand and a foldable shield in another. Behind them, Amelia and Karin were each wielding a longbow and a crossbow respectively.
Nick was a robust youth with a little dwarven blood in him. Though he was just 1.45 meters tall his muscles were more developed than adults. Still, if it was not for the radiance of the buffing spell that flashed past, nobody would believe that he is a mage apprentice.
Meanwhile, the red-haired girl Karin took out bottles of lite holy water, deftly dip the contents on the tip of her bolts before passing some to Amelia.
In the first place, it was impossible to use magic staffs and cozily unleash spells when it comes to novice mage combat. Before their spellcasting ability takes form, most mages would fight by placing artillery support on the rear, while some who has melee combat abilities would go forward to engage opponents as vanguards.
Still, that does not mean that they would not use magic. Right now, Amelia and Karin could be seen chanting something in stifled voices, and soon the elements moved and augmented the two boys who stood in front, as well as their own bows. This was thanks to a special rapport technique that human mages possessed, allowing the pair to cast spells at multiple targets.
And in that every moment, an icy blue shadow suddenly shone in the distant darkness of the woods. Then, a human silhouette that was floating in the air, shrouded by layers of ice armor appeared before them.
Its hateful gaze swept across all four living persons, the soul of a perished adventurer who had perished in the hostile cold soundlessly shrieked a sharp spiritual cry.
Light-blue sleet mana surged around it, forming many serrated thorns of ice in the air.
“Nick, move up and provide cover with your shield.”
“Amelia and Karin, use your arrows dipped with holy-water to provide support. Keep an eye out for other daemons attracted by its noise!”
As the leader of the party, Ivan crisply issued a series of commands before hurrying forward and following Nick tightly, charging while holding off the thorns.
The roar of winds became louder in the night sky.
After a difficult fight after an hour, the cell managed to exorcise the frost specter while also killing off eight armored deer that came, attracted by the commotion, and finally getting some precious time to rest.
Though they were deer, these armored deer had razor teeth and shells that were comparable to medium-tier armor. They were omnivores that grazes when alone and consumes flesh when in groups. With the season at the moment being winter, the lack of grass meant that meat was on the menu.
Clearly, the four young mages were mouth watering for them, but each was exterminated in return no thanks to their underestimation of the mages.
Between heavy gasps for air, Ivan was preparing to advance and deal a killing blow to an armored deer immobilized by an injured rear hoof.
This youth from the North who was almost too robust for a mage did not have much strength left after killing four of the deer. He was also drained of mana after using many counts of Web and Flame Hand spells. If not for the sharpness of the longsword in his hand, he might not have been able to dispatch it.
Suddenly, the deer let out sorrowful wail as it saw the blade close in on its own neck, and a glint flashed in Nick’s eyes. The half-blood dwarf had been leaning on a tree to take a break, and spoke with a low voice, “Ivan, wait. It seems to be saying something!”
Ivan calmly pulled back at those words, and reminded the others, “The smell of blood would attract other beasts. We need to leave quickly after getting our evidence.”
“You can actually understand beast language?” Amelia turned and asked in surprise. She had been retrieving arrowheads with Karin while searching for the frost specter’s hideout. “I didn’t know you had that ability.”
Nick immediately became lively at Amelia’s questionshe was one of the rare beauties in the academy after all. “Of course!” He proclaimed loudly while proudly tapping his own chest. “I could speak with any beast since I was a toddlerjust leave it to me!”
“It’s probably because of his crude brainjust like a beast,” Karin mocked with a low voice before chiding the half-dwarf audibly. “Don’t be so loud, other creatures would come!”
Nick simply ignored her. Walking up to the injured deer, he started to speak to it silently before promptly rising again in half a minute, yelling in a voice that trembled leaves.
“What, is that true?!”
Caught off guard, the startled red-haired girl became enraged immediately. That half-dwarf that resembled a piece of rock or whatever has always been so boisterous and seemingly incapable of changing the fact. Still, even as she prepared to explode at Nick, Ivan, and Amelia quickly got in front of her to placate her.
“It’s fine, Karin. Even daemons would be spooked since he is that loud.”
“That’s right, Karin. If push comes to shove, we’ll just leave him at the hall. It’s fine.”
On the other hand, Nick was uninterested in his companions’ discussion.
“Gold?” He wheezed heavily. “Gold that could fill an entire house?!”
“Gold?!” The other three exclaimed at once behind Nick in astonishment.
Without ado, Karin swiftly ran up to that armored deer. It had a pure and intelligent gaze; its injury totally different from the other deer too. Nonetheless, Karin boldly leveled her crossbow at its skull and told Nick viciously, “Hurry. Get it to spill everything or I’ll blow its brains off!”
Although Ivan and Amelia were not that excited, they exchanged a single look before walking up to them slowly, gathering mana in their palms with expressions that could kill.
The four surrounded the animal, unnerving it instantly. Nick, too, did not hesitate in keeping up his interrogation.
After a while, it stopped talking entirely. Nick then rose and cried out sonorously at his companions.
“Hahaha! This armored deer knows where the gold is!”
“Calm down, Nick,” Ivan replied. He had always been calm and controlled as the team leaderjust as he was now, narrowing his eyes at the shuddering armored deer. “You don’t have to take a talking beast seriously Where’s the gold?”
“That’s right. It’s just an armored deer, could it even differentiate between gold and other ores?” Amelia nodded in agreement with her brother. A cold silvery-white light was floating in her right hand, spreading chilling magic across all directions that almost petrified the deer to death. “Maybe it’s lying so that we’ll spare its life Where’s the gold?”
On the other hand, Karin was much more straightforward. “Where’s the gold?” she asked.
The reason they were quite fervid for the gold was mainly because they were penniless.
The tuition fees for Winter Fort Academy were low and affordable, with basic study materials and basic laboratory costs discounted entirely. That being said, much gold was necessary for advanced extracurricular materials, supplementary classes and also magical experiments.
As such, even if Nick and Karin’s families were not exactly poor, they could not fork out too much funds to support them in that regard. While the Makarov siblings were better off, there was no way old Edward could give them too much extra gold.
Being the batch of students who stood at the pinnacle of the academy, the four had already become dissatisfied with the basic study materials and the rather shallow syllabus. They urgently needed to purchase advance subjects and attend their instructors’ supplementary classes, not to mention upgrading their equipment to better complete their syllabus mission.
Indeed, they had chosen to hunt the Frost Specter exactly because it could condense first-grade sleet crystals that could be sold for several hundred goldsmuch more than any beast’s leather.
“In the dragon lair.”
Nick’s reply was short and simple.
The smiles on the other three gradually vanished.
“In the dragon lair?”
Ivan’s repeated with a low voice, a curious look in his eyes.
Amelia mumbled, her gaze cold.
“Nick you idiot!”
Karin bellowed bluntly once more. “Why don’t you just say it’s in your heart! Bullshit! Dragon lair? Who doesn’t know that there’s gold in dragon nest? Go if you dare!”
“It’s the dragon lair the Count had cleared out!” Nick replied, his expression firm unchanged despite his companion’s suspicion, contempt, and mockery. “It’s that frost dragons’ lair!” He added, his voice clear and powerful. “He didn’t send anyone to retrieve the resources after massacring those frost dragons, and there’s still an entire floor of gold beneath the ice layer! We just have to head over and dig them out!”
The others suddenly found it a realistic idea.
“It’s a flawless plan,” Ivan muttered.
Meanwhile, a party clad entirely in black were traveling amidst the buffeting snowy winds on the Ice Plains of the Extreme North.
They were surrounded by barriers that blocked the winds and soon arrived at the empty husk of what was once the dragons’ lair.
“It’s herethe old lair of those northern white dragon,” the person in the lead spoke with a hoarse voice. “Joshua van Radcliffe didn’t send anyone to retrieve the resources after massacring those frost dragons. The toxic vapors of the plague might still be inside.”
“Retrieve those first,” a sharp female voice rang amongst the squad. She then gruffly gave the order, “Quickly dig. We don’t have much timethe High Priest is coming, we have to unsettle Moldavia so that he could investigate the ruins without trouble.”
The people in black responded at once and hurried towards the remains of the dragon lair to excavate the place.
The woman in black watched them go as she pondered the operations after this. She could not stop smiling.
“Such a flawless plan.”
The next day, Joshua was having breakfast at the dining table in his own residence.
Today’s breakfast was in traditional Northern style, and the grilled wild-boar steak, two eggs and a bowl of mashed potatoes was virtually a three-second problem for the warrior.
After he had gobbled them up he became a little uncomfortablenot because he was still hungry, but because someone was leaning on his back.
It was the black dragon girl.
“Master, I I didn’t go out for a long time” She said, with a voice kept deliberately low.
“Fine, fine, I get it.” Joshua nodded helplessly. “You want to go out for a stroll, right? I’ll take you out later Where do you want to go?”
“The Icy Plains of the Extreme North!”
“Alright. Go get ready, I’m coming.”
“Master is the best!” Black instantly whooped in a cheerful mood, and scampered off to get prepared, thudding the floorboards in her wake.
Joshua remained in his seat, thinking for a bit.
The Supreme-level warrior had no need of food; he just needs to absorb the ion energies in the air to survive. However, eating was a pleasure in itselfespecially with daemon flesh which was beneficial to the body.
“Guess I’ll catch some daemons along the way during Black’s stroll,” Joshua muttered. “My limbs could use the movement. What a coincidence tooI could map the daemons in the Ice Plains after the white dragons are gone from the food chain.”
He nodded, satisfied by his own thoughts.
Walking the dragon, hunting, mapping the daemons, flawless plan.