“Linley, can you feel it?” Doehring Cowart’s voice gently sounded in Linley’s mind.
“Grandpa Doehring, I can feel it. There’s so many specks of earth-colored light. So many…too many. They are clustered so densely, thousands, no, tens of thousands. A hundred earth-colored specks of light just floated past my hand. There’s too many.” Feeling the large amount of earth-colored specks of light floating around him, Linley felt extremely happy.
Hearing this news, Doehring Cowart was immediately ecstatic.
“Very good. Now, slowly, do as I say. Don’t think about anything. Quietly…” Doehring Cowart droned almost hypnotically, helping Linley to depart the meditative state. At the same time, he released the control he was exerting over the earth essence. Immediately, the earth essence density around them returned to normal.
After awakening from the meditative state, Linley felt as though he was full of energy, totally different from before. Even while fully awake, Linley felt as though he could still sense some of the oscillations from the nearby earth essences, even though he couldn’t sense them as clearly as when he was in the meditative state.
“Grandpa Doehring, I can still feel the movements of those earth-colored specks of light. Really! Even though it’s not as clear now, I can still somewhat feel them.” Linley was feeling extremely excited.
This was his first step into the world of magic. Linley was filled with amazement.
“What did you say? You can still sense it?” Doehring Cowart was very astonished, because the nearby density of earth essence had returned to normal now, and Linley was no longer in a meditative state. If he could still sense the nearby earth essence, even while awake…then his affinity for earth essence…
“Grandpa Doehring, why aren’t you talking? How is the strength of my affinity for earth elemental essence?” Linley said nervously.
Linley didn’t know if he had done well or poorly.
“Good. Extremely good. Your affinity for earth elemental essence is extremely high.” Doehring Cowart’s face was wreathed in smiles. “Based on what I know, only perhaps one in a thousand magi would have as strong an affinity for earth elemental essence as you. Truly.”
Linley felt his heart began thumping frantically. He was so excited he didn’t know what to say.
“But naturally, elemental affinity is just one part. Spiritual energy is the most important of all! After all, given enough time, mageforce will naturally strengthen. But it’s extremely difficult to improve the spiritual energy of a magus.” Doehring Cowart said solemnly.
Linley took a deep breath and nodded.
“Now, it’s time for the second test, to test your spiritual energy.” Doehring Cowart looked at Linley solemnly.
Linley also knew that this test of spiritual energy was an extremely important one.
“Grandpa Doehring, what do I need to do?” Linley stared at Doehring Cowart, mentally preparing himself.
“Nothing at all.” Doehring Cowart laughed.
“Uh…” Linley was startled.
“I am the spirit of the Coiling Dragon Ring, while you are the master of the Coiling Dragon Ring. I am totally capable of sensing the strength of your spirit! There’s no need to test it at all. I can tell you right now!” Doehring Cowart smiled at Linley.
“I…how is my spiritual energy?” Linley held his breath.
The strength or weakness of a person’s spiritual energy determined one’s destiny.
“Your spiritual energy is ten times stronger than the average person of your age.” Doehring Cowart smiled as he spoke.
Linley felt a sense of excitement in his heart. Ten times!
That wasn’t a small number.
But Doehring Cowart continued, “Generally speaking, only one in ten thousand can become a magus, principally because there’s a high requirement when it comes to spiritual energy. The absolute minimum requirement for a magus is having five times more spiritual energy than someone of the same age. Ten times puts you roughly in the middle of the pack, as far as the average magus goes.”
Linley’s earlier excitement was immediately dampened.
“If it was anyone else instructing you, at most you could become a magus of the fifth or sixth rank. However…since the person instructing you is me, the situation is now different.” Doehring Cowart stroked his beard contentedly, a look of self-confidence in his eyes.
Linley suddenly came to the same realization.
Right. Doehring Cowart was a Saint-level Grand Magus!
“As long as you work hard, Linley, I am fully confident that you can reach the eighth rank. But as to whether or not you can become a magus of the ninth rank, or even a Saint-level magus? That will depend on your own comprehension and your experiences.” Doehring Cowart said seriously. “If you do not work hard, I’m afraid you might not even become a magus of the sixth rank. At that point in time, you’ll have no one else to blame.”
A good instructor in magic was just one part of the equation.
The most important part was still one’s own effort.
“Grandpa Doehring, please don’t worry. I won’t disappoint you, or my father, or the Baruch clan.” At this moment, Linley’s mind was filled with the image of the spirit tablet in front of the ancestral hall, and those illustrious names and stories engraved on the back.
To renew the former glory of the Baruch clan!
Linley’s chest was filled with boiling heat!
“Good. Starting tomorrow, I will begin to instruct you.” Doehring Cowart looked at Linley, his eyes gleaming. Right now, Doehring Cowart’s body was once more emanating the self-confidence and pride which a Saint-level Grand Magus possessed!
Starting the very next day, Linley began to live an extremely tough, arduous life.
He couldn’t reveal the existence of Doehring Cowart to his father. Every morning and evening, he still needed to attend physical training, while later in the morning, he would have his lessons with his father on politics, religion, religious rites, warfare, geography, art…and all sorts of other lessons.
Only in the afternoon, during his previously spare time, would Linley run towards Mt. Wushan, east of the township, hide in a quiet place, and begin to learn the basics of magic under the guidance of Doehring Cowart. He studied hard, while entering the meditative state to absorb and process mageforce.
In addition, each day, after eating dinner, Linley would spend a large amount of time in the meditative state.
Every day, Linley would spend only six hours sleeping. All of his other time was spent in physical training, intellectual studies, magical instruction, and meditation. Six hours of sleep a day, frankly speaking, was simply not enough. In truth, entering the meditative state was extremely taxing, far more tiring than most people’s lives. Every day, Linley entered a very deep sleep for those six hours.
Filled. His time was absolutely filled.
With each day passing like this, day after day, Linley’s improvement was very evident, to the point where it wasn’t just improvement, but a form of transformation!
As he was hard at work training…
He experienced, for the first time, the joy of absorbing elemental essence into his body, and then transforming it into mageforce.
He experienced, for the first time, entering so deeply into the meditative state that he almost became unconscious.
And he experienced, for the first time, the excitement of performing earth-style magic, even if it was nothing more than generating a tiny ‘Earth Spike’ that was only twenty centimeters high.
Hard work, day after day…
Linley’s effort and the speed of his improvement caused even Doehring Cowart, that five-thousand year old Saint-level Grand Magus of the Pouant Empire, to sigh with amazement.
Due to his daily physical training exercises, Linley’s body was growing sturdier and sturdier. Because he often entered the meditative state and absorbed earth essence, Linley became calmer and more tranquil. Linley’s transformation caused his father Hogg and Hillman to both be amazed and overjoyed.
Spring ended, and autumn came. In the blink of an eye, it was now autumn.
There was only one month remaining before the magus affinity testing and recruitment event.
In the ancestral hall within the Baruch clan manor.
“Whew. All done cleaning. Time to go do some more magical training. Yesterday I actually managed to successfully execute the ‘Earth Tremor’ technique. That was wonderful.” Right now, Linley was in an extremely good mood. He quickly strode out of the ancestral hall and closed the door.
Walking on the blue tiled steps of the stone walkway, Linley’s footsteps were firm and swift, but made little sound.
This was an ability that virtually all earth-style magi possessed. Because their power was derived from the earth itself, they could mask virtually all sound from their footsteps.
“Eh?” Linley frowned.
His ears twitched as he turned and stared towards a far-off building. “I heard something?” He immediately stealthily walked in that direction. His footsteps made almost no sound. Normally, just while walking ordinarily, he could mask his footsteps. Now that he was intentionally trying to hide them, he made even less noise.
He crept closer, step by step.
When Linley reached the door to the building and took a peek inside…
“What’s that?” Linley’s eyes widened.
He saw a 20-centimeter long black mouse chewing on a piece of stone rubble. And then, in the blink of an eye, the black mouse appeared tens of meters away in a different direction, and began to nibble on a piece of blue tile. The black mouse’s fur appeared very soft. Its eyes were guileless, and its paws were furry. In a word, it looked very cute.
It even hopped around just on its two hind legs for fun.
“What an adorable little mouse. And how amazingly fast!” Hiding by the doorway, Linley exclaimed silently.
Most mice wouldn’t reach such a size, and most mouses were loathsome creatures, but this mouse seemed particularly adorable. Its eyes seemed to be full of meaning, as though they could speak. Most importantly of all…it was astonishingly fast.
“Such speed…I bet even Uncle Hillman, a warrior of the sixth rank, can’t catch it. How can it be so fast?” Seeing the cute mouse move tens of meters in just the blink of an eye, Linley felt astonished.
Doehring Cowart flew out from within the Coiling Dragon Ring. Standing next to Linley, he looked at the black mouse with some surprise. “A magical beast, a Shadowmouse? And judging by its size, a Shadowmouse infant.”
“A magical beast? Shadowmouse? It is so big! How can it be an infant?” Linley stared at Doehring Cowart in surprise.
Aside from the Vampiric Iron Bull, the Griffin, the Velocidragon, and the Black Dragon magical beasts he had seen, this was the first time Linley had seen any other magical beasts. This adorable black mouse was actually a magical beast? A magical beast, with magical abilities?