The bitter cold of winter passed, and the weather began to get warmer.
Standing on the villa, Leylin could already see the minuscule green dots from afar. On nearby fields, there were even farmers laboriously working.
"A year has passed unknowingly; I am already 15 years old now!" Leylin's hands pressed on the windowsill, and his eyes seemed to be disconcerted.
All of the Hove Violet Leaves available in Extreme Night City had been bought by him. With continuous brewing, he managed to get 5 Azure Potions, bringing his spiritual force to 5.8.
Unfortunately, any potion, when used excessively, would produce a resistance towards it, and the effects would be reduced over time. Originally, he had estimated that his spiritual force would reach a value of 5.9 with the resources available. However, in reality, it fell short by 0.1 without any apparent cause.
"Right now, I can only place my hopes on Fraser and the rest who have gone to neighbouring cities to purchase the ingredient."
Leylin rested by the windowsill. He stretched his hands and plucked a bunch of red berries from the table munching on them as snacks.
"Compared to other acolytes, however, my progress is akin to flying. After all, even the heir of a large family cannot use potions endlessly. What's more, these are precious potions that could increase spiritual force."
Within a month, Leylin already chased up to the fifth-grade acolytes who had pulled away from him over a year ago.
"It's fortunate that I'm outside the academy. Only then am I able to pursue my experiments without fearing of the consequences, and use potions such as these!" Leylin was suddenly rejoicing over the benefits that the war brought him.
"However, even if the war ends now, I wouldn't dare go back. I must, at least, wait until the 3 years mission duration is up. Only then will my excuse be plausible.
At that moment, Leylin estimated that he would already be a level 3 acolyte. Apart from the professors, he would be considered to have power, and would be regarded as a more important member. Moreover, with these years as cover, he would have enough time to think up a few explanations to cover his tracks.
"Master! An emissary from the city lord has arrived with an invitation." Anna knocked on the door, entering only after getting Leylin's permission.
Because of some Magus' doings, her face looked as youthful as ever, never changing.
"An invitation?" Leylin was a little skeptical. He did not have many relations with Viscount Jackson all this while.
After looking the missive over, "A gathering? On the invitation, it was specifically stated that Murphy and his circle of people were invited, which are all acolytes!"
Leylin surmised, "Could it be? Some mysterious thing has happened that requires the help of magicians?"
"Anna, prepare a horse carriage and a set of formal clothes for me. I have to leave for a while."
Leylin said this without giving it another thought. Towards the Grand Knight, Viscount Jackson, who was also the Lord of Extreme Night City, it was difficult for an acolyte to interfere with his might. Therefore, Leylin did not want to be on bad terms with him.
Moreover, due to the decreased supply of Hove Violet Leaves recently, Leylin did not have any other important things to do, so he could make time for this gathering.
"I'll have a look, and I haven't seen Murphy for some time now!"
In the heart of Extreme Night City, the castle-like building which was built using grey rocks was extremely magnificent. There were many soldiers patrolling the area, revealing its prestige.
* Ta-Ta! * A black horse carriage suddenly halted in front of the city lord's castle. The carriage door opened, and a brown-haired noble youth stepped down from it. He looked rather thin, but his bright eyes were filled with vigour.
At that same instant, another horse carriage, made of reddish brown wood, halted alongside it too. From it stepped out a white bearded geezer who was carrying a book. He radiated a scholarly aura.
After seeing Leylin, every wrinkle on the old geezer's face loosened as he smiled. He took the initiative and spread his arms out, "It's been a long time, my friend!"
"I'm very pleased to meet you, Scholar Murphy!" Leylin smiled as he gently hugged the old man.
His relationship with Murphy was pretty good. Although this old geezer had a few demerits, but it was undeniable that some of his experiences were a source of great enlightenment for Leylin. When Leylin had first arrived in Extreme Night City, Murphy had also given much help to Leylin.
Both of them conversed casually. They flashed their invitation cards at the same time as they went past the guarded entrance.
A person, rather like a butler, led Leylin and Murphy through the garden and brought them to a small-sized living room.
Several acolyte residents were already there and Leylin went forward to greet them.
There was a circular sofa in the middle of the living room, with a mahogany table at its centre. It seemed to suggest equality between status and levels.
"Welcome, my friends!"
The tough looking Viscount Jackson entered. He looked the same, to Leylin, as he looked a year ago. Time did not seem to have caused any changes in him, apart from a few more strands of hair white behind his ears that is.
"City lord!" The acolytes all nodded their heads.
"Come, no need for formalities! Sit!" Viscount Jackson casually sat on the sofa and serving maids that wore low cut blouses served some red tea as refreshments, with matching flavoured cake and biscuit snacks.
"Why does the atmosphere seem to be like a conference and afternoon tea?" Although he had his doubts, Leylin never revealed anything.
Viscount Jackson and the acolytes sat in a circle, and, from time to time, they discussed the latest news. On the whole, the atmosphere felt extremely amiable.
"A pity, Viscount Jackson is known to be a cold-blooded person. I heard that to suppress a riot, he immediately ordered the execution of a whole village, even hanging all its resident's heads on wooden stakes...."
Leylin still put on a friendly mannerism, but deep down he exclaimed, "As expected, to interact harmoniously, one must first have the prerequisite of equal power!"
"Yes, speaking of Baron Fey, he has recently been distressed about the issues of the medicine shop!" Viscount Jackson inadvertently spoke of this while chatting idly.
"We have also heard of the withering woods of Dark Night Woods for some time now. Only that we have not arrived at any solution yet!" An acolyte sitting at the side spoke, playing at being a character interested in delving deeper into this topic.
Murphy's brows furrowed, "I believe that my lord Viscount will definitely have a solution, right?"
However, Viscount Jackson smiled wryly, "My friends! I have already used ravens to inform the royal family, but up to now I have not received any reply....I am completely at a loss about what to do in this situation!"
"Royal family?" Leylin's heart thumped, the royal family behind the Poolfield Kingdom was supported by Abyssal Bone Forest Academy. The relationship between the two parties was extremely intricate. This mission appearing in Abyssal Bone Forest Academy was finally no longer strange anymore.
Speaking of which, he was even the representative sent by Abyssal Bone Forest Academy to remedy this problem, but he had been lackadaisical about it. He had finally forced Viscount Jackson to have no solution but to request help from this group of acolytes.
Although deep within he smiled cynically, on the surface Leylin still put on the same front. He picked up the cup of hot tea and sipped, without any intention of owning up.
"Is it only a high levelled creature that had mutated? Could it be that Sire cannot even resolve this?" A red-haired, middle-aged man asked.
Leylin recognised this person; he had opened an apparel store in Extreme Night City and many clothes in his villa had been purchased from there.
The city's residents knew that the owner of this clothing store was a friendly, middle-aged man, who even has a beautiful daughter. But they never knew that he was a magician.
"Truth be told, I have already struck against it once before! I have even killed a lizard type creature, but it was of no help towards this withering woods case!"
Viscount Jackson flicked his hand.
"Right now, the withering woods area has expanded to a span of about two villages. If not resolved, sooner or later, it will encompass the whole of Dark Night Woods. When that happens, obtaining another herb from it would be only a dream!"
Viscount Jackson clenched his fists.
The herb industry was the pillar of Extreme Night City's economy. Every year the city lord's castle gained a lot from the high taxes it imposed on these trades. Right now its tax income had been drastically reduced. It was no wonder that Viscount Jackson was unable to sit still.
"Could you let us have a look at the composition of some of that lizard's body parts?" Murphy asked.
"Yes!" Viscount Jackson clapped his hands, and a golden yellow-haired maid brought forward a silver tray. Displayed on it were some brown-yellow scales.
The surrounding acolytes all picked up a piece; Leylin too placed one in his hands.
"A.I. Chip! Scan!" The brown yellow scales were the size of a thumb, cold to the touch.
[Suspected to be the scale of a mutated creature, estimated to be a mutation of a lizard type in the Poolfield Kingdom! The surface emits mild radiation, the quality is a mess, extractable materials have been destroyed, useless as component material!]
The A.I. Chip relayed the information after the scanning.
"No wonder the magicians in the canyon did not react! There was simply no use of this creature's body parts to magicians. It's the whole body is not even worth a magic crystal. Who would do such a strenuous yet unrewarding task!"
Leylin was somewhat enlightened. To Magi, benefits were paramount. They will not do anything that reaped no benefits.
The withering woods case happened on the boundaries of Extreme Night City. If there were any benefits or some magician who liked the creatures material, it would have long been resolved by the acolytes at the resource point in the ravine.
Their letting this current state of affairs continues only meant one thing: there were no benefits at all from solving the withering woods debacle, only trouble. If there were any benefits, they were too small to cover the potential losses a venture would incur. This was why it had not been resolved after all this while.
"What a pity! It is not a high-level creature that magicians need, just a mutated organism, which has no use to them!" Murphy said after picking up a magnifying glass like object and scrutinising the scale for some time. He reached the same conclusion as Leylin.
"How is that? Any solutions?" Viscount Jackson put on a hopeful expression and looked at his guests.
"Most mutated organisms were caused by long-term exposure from its surroundings. Without further detail and research, I cannot make arrive at any conclusion from just this! Moreover, I don't think that this creature is the main culprit for the withering woods."
Murphy shook his head.
"I am willing to give 30 magic crystals to every person, in addition to 5000 gold coins to ask you guys to scout the area. How about that? This is my request, on account of us being old friends!'
Viscount Jackson looked the people in the circle and saw that the other acolytes too lacked interest. He could not help but clench his teeth as he stated this.
"Since it is troublesome for my lord Viscount, I definitely will not refuse!"
Murphy said somewhat grudgingly.
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