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Narnia’s face turned red as she said, "I was nervous. Actually, I have already released the phoenix in under ten seconds before. Saleen knows."
Seven pairs of eyes turned to look at Saleen, and that only made Narnia’s face redden even more.
Saleen shrugged. He said, "Actually, with long term cooperation between mages, a person needs to consider the rate of growth of their partners. The Phoenix spell might be a bit too stressful for Narnia. Give her five months, and she will be able to decrease her casting time to eight seconds. By that time, even if she is nervous, such mistakes will not happen."
Hu An remained silent for a while before nodding and saying, "Saleen is right. In cooperation training with our partners, we need to consider each other’s rates of growth. I have been too rigid."
Saleen was not surprised. The people that had caught the eyes of Faerun must have had a certain flair to them. Sadly, such flair was useless to him. For him, what mattered most was quickly improving his abilities, returning to Sikeqinya, and exacting revenge on those who had destroyed his family grave.
The Metatrin family grave had essentially been destroyed a long time ago. However, Saleen’s parents had been buried there and no matter what Saleen told himself – that his abilities were too far off and he needed to be patient if he wanted revenge – the fire within his heart was only ever temporarily suppressed and could not possibly be extinguished.
Killing Earl Sufonso would be easy. Even though Sufonso was a grand swordmaster, so long as he reached the level of his teacher, it would not be difficult for Saleen to beat him. A mage’s power was not something that a swordsman could compete against. The only problem was the magic tower in Yaoyang City. The gap between a Grade 5 and a Grade 6 mage was not very big. However, a mage with a magic tower would have their powers increased tenfold.
His teacher had managed to escape alive, but he had not killed nor injured the Grade 6 mage. If Saleen wanted revenge, besides becoming a Grade 6 mage, he would need some powerful magic prop such as a golden magic book. It was a pity that the three volumes of books that he had obtained were completely empty. If there had been magic stored within them, he would have had much more confidence.
Hu An could not have had any idea what Saleen was thinking, and while waiting for the others to replenish their magic chords, a few of them continued discussing questions on magic.
In the next four months, not only did Faerun not appear, but even Viscountess Lex had disappeared. The residence was much quieter than usual, and upon asking around, Saleen found out that Viscountess Lex had led a group of combat mages out to the camp.
Saleen knew that something was wrong. These mages might not have been suitable for combat alone, but together with a swordsman, they would have immense powers. Viscountess Lex did not seem like she was going to the capital to claim her reward. It seemed like she was preparing for battle. However, Saleen could not figure it out. If Lex was the emperor’s daughter, who would be audacious enough to attack her?
The Qin Empire had hundreds of millions of citizens, countless mages, and millions of elite soldiers. Even the Holy See could not do anything against them. Could there possibly have been an internal conflict within the royal family? The real question was, if the viscountess needed legitimate help, why had she found him? Could the sorcerer truly have taken notice of him?
The mages living together with him could not possibly have had any inside information either. Otherwise, Viscountess Lex could not possibly have kept it a secret either.
Whatever. The viscountess possessed many elites and there was Faerun as well. He would not be required to fight. Moreover, Viscountess Lex herself was a Grade 5 mage. She did not need the protection of a Grade 2 mage.
Just treat it as a free trip, Saleen reassured himself.
After a few more days, the viscountess returned to her residence and everyone grew busy. In the past, there had not been many tasks for the mages in Faerun’s court, and they had mostly done as they pleased. This time, however, all of them were instructed to create large amounts of restorative water and magic medicine. These two items had an expiry date. Once it passed, the items could not be used any longer.
Just one day before they were to set off, Faerun appeared. All eight mages in the court were going to the capital, and Saleen was no exception. A total of twelve of them journeyed overnight to the camp outside of the city. Upon seeing the camp, Saleen felt that he had been cheated.
It seemed that the road ahead would not be smooth sailing, or else the viscountess would not have been so thoroughly prepared. In addition to the few of them who followed Faerun, Viscountess Lex had gathered a hundred combat mages and a thousand swordsmen.
The numbers did not seem like a lot. For a viscountess, moving around with a ten thousand strong army was not a problem. However, this was for a trip to the capital. Was every swordsman getting two war horses for themselves?
All of the swordsmen were clad in armor, and were waiting at the camp gates to welcome Viscountess Lex. She was not wearing her magic robes, instead having donned some formal attire that was meant for the wealthy. She stood on a chariot, entering the camp.
No matter how dumb Saleen was, he knew what that meant. This ceremony was common throughout the Qin Empire. The wealthy would bring a chariot to stay the night in a camp if they were heading out on an expedition.
Although Viscountess Lex had not started a war with anyone, her attitude was telling everyone that this time, she needed them to fight for her.
The people from the community of mages slept in a separate location within the swordsmen’s camp. After months of training, they were accustomed to the inside of an army camp. However, Faerun brought Saleen and the others to the viscountess’ large tent.
On the outside, her tent was no different from any of the other tents. It was made of black leather that had a pattern embroiled onto it. The space inside, however, was much larger. In addition to four swordsmen, there were four maids attending to her.
Saleen had developed a much better eye for things and he could now tell that these four maids were swordsmen too. Aside from the eight of them, the elites must have been hiding somewhere and were protecting the safety of the viscountess as well. Thinking of these dangerous people caused Saleen to feel uneasy.
There were no chairs in the army camp so it was a good thing that mages were familiar with sitting on the floor. A few soldiers brought in some tables and joined them together. Viscountess Lex allowed everyone to take a seat and had some people send for some snacks to serve as supper.
"It is a one month journey to the capital, and during this time, things will be hard for all of you. Thank you." Viscountess Lex raised her glass of wine, expressing her gratitude to everyone.
Even though there were many questions in Saleen’s heart, he did not take the initiative to ask them. Instead, the viscountess said, "Naturally, I have brought this many swordsmen along because there might be danger along the journey. You have all been training behind closed doors and may not know that the black mages have already reached Loulan Duchy. There are too many ways to go from Loulan to the capital and two waterways overlap with our path forward as well. Everyone should be cautious at all times, and it will be best if you all stick with me. All food should be checked with magic before it is ingested."
Saleen furrowed his brows and asked, "Viscountess, why didn’t the border army in Phoenix cross the border and wipe them out? I remember that there was such a law during the founding of the Qin Empire. If any black mages appear, Guderian City has the power to immediately send down soldiers."
Saleen thought about the Qin Empire elite soldiers he had seen in Guderian City, a little confused. If that army were to enter Phoenix, with the cooperation of the duke of Phoenix, the black mages would definitely be no match for them.
"The duke of Phoenix is dead and his son is a failure. He abandoned state affairs to go to Holy Rock City and plead for his father’s mistakes. This has resulted in the black mages surrounding them from three sides, and allowing some important people to flee. Father took over a decade to lure these fellows out and everything was brought to naught because of him. Father is truly unlucky."
Viscountess Lex’s face was filled with anger and Saleen was the first to understand why. Black mages were not only a threat to the royal family. More importantly, black mages paid their sacrifices with fresh human blood. The unluckiest were not members of the wealthy, but the commoners. The festering of the situation in Phoenix would lead to thousands facing incoming danger.
The commoners were the root of a country. One or two dead would not make a huge difference, but if thousands lost their lives, the base of the country would be shaken. Viscountess Lex took a deep breath, massaged her temples, and said," Let’s not talk about this anymore. We will only be in danger for about a fortnight. Most importantly, I am afraid that the soldiers willl be poisoned, hence I have no choice but to bring so many mages. Head-on combat does not scare me. Bringing you all to the capital this time is not a big deal, and for my efforts in Bitter Water Prefecture, nurturing so many mages, my father will reward me. All of you represent the mages, and the benefits for you all will be good."
"Viscountess, what are the benefits?" A female mage asked, elated. These lifestyle mages had a good relationship with Viscountess Lex and did not care much for pleasantries. At most, they offered a bow when they came across another mage.
"It should be the usual magic nucleuses or gemstones. Perhaps there will be some magic equipment, but do not expect any holy equipment. All of you are still fairly low-grade, and father will reward you with some higher-grade equipment at most."
Viscountess Lex had put it that way, but everyone was still happy. The Qin royal family was essentially a magic family and simultaneously had a powerful fighting background. It was rumored that the royal warehouse contained a countless amount of magic equipment and that every item inside was something rare.
To earn the means for such equipment, normal mages had no choice but to join mercenaries and earn money. These high-grade pieces of equipment, however, were thus left in the dust, and decades passed with no one having interest n them.
That was not to say that these pieces of equipment were bad. It was simply the fact that the royal family had accumulated them for too long. Seven hundred years had already passed since the forming of the four empires, and peaceful times had lasted for the past four hundred years. With such a long period of accumulation, even a normal family would have collected many supplies.
Viscountess Lex cautiously reminded them of some important things to keep in mind while they were with the army. These included not training how they had back at the residence and to keep at least half of their magic chords intact each time they practiced. They also needed to keep their magic scrolls somewhere accessible and were not to act alone, always to stay close to the swordsmen near the doors.
Saleen found her reminders boring. All of these things could be found in books and were well journaled in magic notes. However, Viscountess Lex seemed like she could not wait to use magic to imprint them into the brains of Saleen and the others.
Even so, Saleen could understand that aside from him, the others had lived the majority of their lives in the viscountess’ residence and did not have experience in this area. Even though they might have read it in books, unless they went through such near-death experiences, they would not be able to fully understand it.
When he saw Faerun leave the viscountess’ tent, Saleen made up an excuse and left as well. By the time he was out of the tent, Faerun had already disappeared. Saleen did not dare go far as he did not want to break any martial laws. He could not fly either, and thus could only walk around nearby.
Under the moonlight, the camp looked solemn, and from afar there were soldiers patrolling the night. They held long spears in their hands, giving them a menacing look that was difficult to describe. They were soldiers who had accumulated countless battle experiences and were a part of the Bitter Water Prefecture Army.
Many emotions arose in Saleen. He could not help but think that if he had accepted his teacher’s gold coins back then and studied swordcraft instead of magic, the furthest he could have gotten would have been the level of these soldiers.