Author’s note: The next one tomorrow.
The news of Icicle providing his uncommon services quickly spread throughout the area. With more request than time to fulfill them, he had to cooperate with Ivir to develop a schedule.
“Are you sure you don’t want to milk them harder? It’s not like there’s anyone to steal the business from you…” Ivir smiled slyly.
“Have you included my recent requirements?”
“Then there’s no need to worry, Ivir. Contribution points aren’t everything. Training with professionals, information and rare items are far more valuable. If I wanted to, I could get 10 of those people into the ring and train them at once.” Icicle shrugged.
“What’s the point though? Not only do I lose business, but also respect. What’s more, I can’t concentrate on 10 people at once. Their reaction are key to the learning process. I can’t help them if I just scare them.”
“Whatever you say.” Ivir sighed resignedly. She got the hint. Cindy had to instruct Icicle to do his job properly.
“Now go spend your pennies on training, you don’t want me to beat your ass, do you?” Icicle left with a grin.
“You and your teacher are welcome anytime.” Ivir grinned back.
3 days earlier, Loiterous
After the doors closed, Cindy smiled to herself, gazing at the painting depicting serene waters of a crystal clear river passing through the mountains.
“I thought he’s going to take it slower…” she mutteredm closing her eyes. A faint smile made its way to her lips. “Maybe it’s for the better. Vilenne will beat some sense into him if necessary. Ahhh, the good days.”
Remembering her own tutelage, Cindy tapped the desk with her fingers. She fished out a few parchments and wrote down a list of ingredients. “Since he’s going to earn us a lot, might as well help this devil out.”
Extorting his stones and then some, Icicle dragged Vilenne to the underground area. He approached the trading area.
Rows of stalls littered with clothing, weapons, food, books and maps stood next to each other. The sellers had to buy their space from the Guild, thus there was a clerk overseeing the process.
Icicle stopped right in front of a Hunter’s stall. Seeing the friendly expression of the guy, Icicle knew he was one of his own – a swindler!
Cindy informed him earlier what sorts of ingredients he should be looking for. The best delicacy for him at the very moment would be a fire element creature’s meat. Not only would it force his mana to purify the leftover fire essence inside it, but also strengthened his constitution.
Parrs, the Hunter who sold Firebird’s meat looked at Icicle with a bright smile. Icicle nudged Vilenne a few times and pointed to the stall. Vilenne reluctantly agreed, buying the meat for him. Parrs had much exposure to the monsters as occupational hazard. Enduring killing intent wasn’t something troublesome for him, thus he had no need to ingratiate himself with the newcomer.
Now, however, he noticed that the beginner isn’t a greenhorn. He knew how to take advantage of others so that he wasn’t extorted. This gave him a good impression.
“Say, do you have any dark creature’s meat at your disposal?” Icicle asked as he packed the cheaply acquired spoils. As a higher ranked person, Vilenne received various discounts. Adding her beauty to the equation, Icicle was sure that he could buy off most of the trading area if he just sent her. Of course he wouldn’t do that, as that would be a problem for Vilenne. What’s more, he didn’t have a fraction of the needed contribution points.
“Dark element?” Parrs said with surprise. “That’s quite an uncommon request.” he smiled wryly.
Since he didn’t hear a straight out “No.” Icicle caught on the hint and asked, “How much?”
“200 CP, non-negotiable.”
“A bit too much to pay blindly.” Icicle looked around Parrs’s stall. “Add that mountain of bones and I can give you 250.”
“Those?” Parrs turned and looked at the bones laying in a pile. According to his knowledge, they weren’t used by blacksmiths nor alchemists, so they had little value. The only characteristic of those bones were – tough! Nonetheless, he put on a stuggling expression.
“Thanks.” Icicle said and unceremoniously walked to the stall, stuffing his inventory.
After Icicle turned to the exit, Vilenne approached Parrs and whispered “Are you sure. Parrs? If little bastard scammed you I can make him cough those items out.”
“No need.” Parrs smirked.. “That Icicle is just a good businessman. If you ever need to buy anything, you should make him tag along. On the other hand, if you want to buy something from him…”
“Then what?” Vilenne frowned.
“Just be careful. People like him can milk you dry.” Parrs patted Vilenne’s shoulder.
Nodding weakly, Vilenne followed after Icicle. ”Oi, little bastard, wait up.”
Icicle exited the underground area and headed to the mountains. He looked at Vilenne behind him with a sly smile. “Little brat, I know you’re still frustrated about earlier, so I have a great proposal for you.”
“What?” Vilenne’s expression turned grave. The age issue with the little bastard was her achilles heel.
“You see, I need some training, but if it’s just running, it would be boring. So I need you to exert yourself a little.” he approached with a quick step. Sivlerfang’s aura surfaced behind Icicle, roaring straight at Vilenne.
“Huh?” Vilenne stood petrified as Icicle’s face came dangerously close to her own. “Catch me if you can.” he said teasingly, nibbling her left earlobe.
Vilenne blinked twice to make sure what she was seeing was real. She then forced a smile and muttered “I am no lumberjack, but today you’ll turn into a fine-chopped firewood!”
In the western mountain area, the players hunting monsters for meat saw a strange scene. A black-haired beauty chased around a newbie in beginner clothes. The newbie was like a cheetah, dodging the beautie’s strikes by a hair’s breadth.
Their trail was ridden with cuts and slashes, making it seem like a pack of werewolves passed by.
“Shouldn’t players go to jail for their transgressions? Why is that one being chased around by an NPC?” some people nearby curiously discussed.
“Who knows, maybe he stole something from her or watched her bathing. It could also be some kind of quest.”
Icicle didn’t have time to listen to the rumors circling around him as he was in a predicament. Vilenne took her time to cut him up, targeting non-vital areas.
“Come on little bastard, move your legs faster. You’re being outrun by a woman.” Vilenne directed a strike at his back.
“It’s not my fault you’re checking out my butt.” Icicle laughed out loud only to narrowly dodge a strong blow..
‘Hey, that was dirty.” he sent Vilenne a wink.
“A dirty blow for a dirty little bastard. How fitting.”
Vilenne slashed out with her sword and a ball of water sped through the air towards Icicle’s back. He ducked quickly, only to see the black soil ahead of him upturned from the impact.
“Since that’s how you want to play, little brat…” he muttered, fishing out a health potion. “Catch!”
A bottle of red liquid flew through the air. Vilenne knew that little bastard wanted to trick her, so she slashed straight at it.
The potion exploded, stopping Vilenne in her tracks. She coughed dryly.
Vilenne wiped her mouth and let out an unrestrained laugh. “Ahh, I haven’t had so much fun since my Master taught me.”
Her eyes flashed with a dangerous light as she gripped her sword tightly. Blue glow formed under Vilenne’s feet, letting her ride the ground as if on roller skates.
Zigzagging her way through the forested mountain, Vilenne quickly caught up with Icicle. He turned, looking dismayed. “You’re cheating.”
“No, I’m just better than you.” Vilenne grinned brightly. She licked her lips and wantonly threw a couple of water balls at Icicle.
Although they appeared harmless, with enough velocity, the water was deadly. Icicle was the one who realized that the most as he saw the trees in front of him having large holes in their trunks.
Icicle carefully analyzed Vilenne’s movement technique with his [Sense presence]. Since little brat toyed with him, he had enough time to do so.
“This feeling is similar to Bart’s, but somewhat different. Is it the difference in the flow of water?” he wondered.
“My impression of Bart was that of a serene pond slowly turning into a whirlpool, blending into one. This, on the other hand… It’s as if Vilenne rode a giant chaotic wave… could it be?”
“Hey, little brat, does your movement technique have any set moves?” Icicle jumped over a ball of water and asked.
“Instead of talking, you should focus on dodging!” Vilenne grinned. “You shameless little bastard, you dare to mimic my own technique? In your dreams!”
“It probably does, but since she won’t admit it, I just have make her move a little to check.” a bunch of potions entered Icicle’s hands.
Turning with a devious grin, he threw them at a sequence, making Vilenne swerve violently.
“You missed little bast-” Vilenne’s grin faded as she saw Icicle’s satisfied expression.
“Well then, since you like my techniques so much, how about you show an Advanced level technique?” Vilenne forced out a smile.
Winding streaks of water formed around Vilenne. They snaked around, reflecting the sun rays. Vilenne sped up after Icicle, sending the streaks of water above and around him.
“It looks nice, is it useful though?” Icicle said through his panting.
“You’re about to see.”
Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!
Icicle was hit from side to side, like a pinball. The water streaks attacked every part of his body without mercy, like snakes sinking their fangs into their victim.
“You asked for training so I’ll give you one. You wanted to tire your body so that you could absorb the stones, didn’t you? Enjoy then.” Vilenne outstretched her open palm and moved it upwards. As soon as she did, a water geyser erupted out of the ground, elevating Icicle.
Up in the air, he was completely helpless. The water streaks hit him from all sides and all he could do was endure. Nonetheless, he glanced at Vilenne with a slight smile. “You’re finally getting into your role, little brat.”
“Am I? Are you saying that a child is toying with you right now?”
“So you’re finally admitting it?” Icicle grinned.
A large streak of water hit Icicle’s back, making him cough violently. “Don’t push it, little bastard.”
Icicle’s battered body fell onto the ground. Bruises seemed to blend with his body, become his natural skin color.
“How’s the feeling of becoming a fountain?” Vilenne crouched and asked with a smile.
“Cough, pretty hurtful.” Icicle rummaged through his inventory and took out a bottle with thick, viscous red liquid.
Taking the cork out, he took a light sip.
His entire body shook under the heat of the liquid. As if electrocuted, Icicle entered a seizure, his body trying to repel the alien substance.
“Goddamnit, absorb it!” he balled his fists and grit his teeth, enduring the burn.
An even stranger thing happened to Vilenne. She looked at the bottle with fascinated expression, her aura periodically bursting with all of its might.
Icicle felt the mana in the area being gathered towards Vilenne. His eyes drifted towards her. “You idiot, why are you enduring it!” he hissed through the gritted teeth.
Vilenne tried to stifle the emotion within her, yet her aura was about to go rampant.
“Let it out!” Icicle shouted. In the process, he bit his tongue.
Blue mana swirled aroung Vilenne, crystallizing the water droplets into bluish ice.
The ground became an ice rink under the constantly spreading frost. A figure of a giant blue dragon emerged behind Vilenne. It flapped its wings majestically and let out a roar!
Every single bird in the area scattered with fright. No matter the BOSS, Elite or Rare level monster, none that heared the roar dared to stay in the powerful being’s area.
Icicle’s body stilled. The raging blood within him calmed down, slowly counteracting the fear effect.
“What’s in this vial?” Vilenne asked with difficulty. She seemed vastly different from her usual self. That gentle and unattainable figure was now full of majesty and lordly disposition. The draconic aura gave her an enormous boost of charisma.
Seeing his chance, Icicle downed everything from the vial.
“Y-You!” Vilenne’s eyes turned a little red.
“Don’t tell me you wanted to have an indirect kiss?” Icicle coughed and then threw another vial to Vilenne. “Drink it slowly, I need time to absorb.”
Vilenne swiped with her hand, catching the vial with ease. She uncorked it hastily and sniffed.
The dragon aura beside her let out a satisfied roar. Icicle smothered his laughter at the “purring” of the dragon.
“This…” Vilenne felt an unexplainable familiarity with the liquid. “It’s dragon blood, isn’t it?” she looked at Icicle with an astonished expression. Where could little bastard get such a treasure?
“Just a tiny part of it. The mess you saw before was partly because of it.” Icicle said with difficulty. Even though the dragon blood within him was tame thanks to Vilenne’s aura reaching him, the heat the blood itself created inside made his whole body bright red.
“Come closer.” Icicle said weakly.
Vilenne walked next to him and the ice particles around her slowly descended onto Icicle. They counteracted the heat of his body, maintaning a healthy balance.
Vilenne drank a bit and her expression immediately became joyful. She felt a comfortable, fuzzy feeling inside her. She licked her lips.
Vilenne swigged the bottle unconsciously. “Oi, slow it down little brat, you’ll kill me!”
The words “little brat” snapped Vilenne out of her daze. She corked the bottle to temporarily get rid of the fascinating scent.
With a weak nod, Icicle closed his eyes. He concentrated on the inside of his body, feeling the flood of energy permeating his cells. “What a comfortable feeling.” he waved his hand to create the tiny cloud. It spewed water on him, resembling a shower.
Time slowly passed and as the remaining essence in the dragon blood was about to die off, a faint dragon roar rang out inside Icicle’s head.
The sound of water rising and falling in a wave-like pattern ensued. Icicle felt the rush of energy course his whole body, as if led by a water dragon. As it coursed his body, the familiarity he felt from Bart and Vilenne turned into an understanding. He opened his eyes and saw Vilenne standing over him with a satisfied expression.
“Come on, we’ve got to move before we gather too much attention.” Vilenne outstreched her hand to help Icicle up.
Icicle didn’t seem to hear her. He sprang onto his feet and unsheathed his sword.
The wind picked up around Icicle, making the mana around him swirl. A blue glow surfaced on his body, spreading all the way to his feet. When it reached his soles, the mild swirling aura became chaotic, unrestrained.
Vilenne watched Icicle concentrating his mana with a puzzled expression. “He hasn’t broken through yet, but…”
With the hum of a rising tide, Icicle’s figure flashed!
Icicle reappeared 8m to the left, next to the rock jutting out from the surface.
The rock was a meter or so high. After Icicle’s strike, there was a sword scar reaching ⅓ of it.
Icicle fell to the ground, unconscious.
Vilenne walked towards him, shaking her head. There was a bright smile on her face. “What a stubborn brat. Even after tiring himself with the absorption of the dragon blood, he gave Blend mood a go..” she sheathed his sword and grabbed him by the collar, leaving the area.
The bonfire crackled, releasing a soft, warm light. Vilenne looked at the sleeping Icicle with a dazed expression.
“That disciple of mine has way too many secrets.” she muttered.
All the grudge from before was gone. Thanks to the dragon blood within the vial, Vilenne has advanced to the middle stages of the Advanced mana control realm. What’s more, there was no bottleneck since it came directly from her ancestor’s blood.
“I guess I should aim for the top 80 next time.” she said, biting into a deer leg.
“Aren’t you ambitious, little brat?” Icicle sat up, massaging his sore temples. He looked at the window in front of him.
“Not as ambitious as a beginner getting his hands on a dragon blood.” Vilenne smiled, her lips covered with grease. “One should be ready soon.” she pointed to the bonfire.
Icicle turned and nodded appreciatively. He summoned Blackie and gave him the bones he bought earlier to chew on. Amidst them was one pure dark stone.
Blackie witnessed what happened from the seal on Icicle’s left forearm. The aura of the dragon Vilenne released gave him a dignified feeling. He wasn’t scared though. Only God was able to make him feel fear.
Icicled fished out a bunch of Firebird’s meat he bought and made a shish kebab out of it. It was mixed with venison Vilenne hunted. “A no vegetable shish kebab, not so healthy.” he thought. Thankfully it was inside Loiterous, so he didn’t have to count calories.
After a hearty meal, Icicle placed a few pieces of dark element meat over the fire to cook. From what he saw, one belonged to the snake, another to some kind of bird.
“So.” Vilenne opened, licking off the grease on her fingers.
“Don’t you think you owe me something?” Icicle teased.
“Owe you something? Ah yes! A beating!” Vilenne said with a bright smile.
“Well, I know you have two questions, but I have a few of my own. Since you profited off this deal way more than I did, you start.”
“Is this your version of “ladies first”? What a gentleman.”
“Don’t grumble little brat, I need to know either way.” Icicle yawned, stretching his sore body.
“Right, Ice Mage Trials.” Vilenne nodded. “This isn’t some public knowledge, so don’t go around spreading it.”
“Your secret is safe with me.” Icicle grinned slyly.
“Ah, kids.” Vilenne heaved a sigh. “I come from the Glacia Kingdom. After my aura was discovered to be that of a pure blue dragon’s, I was adopted into the royal family. You can say I am a princess of sorts.”
Vilenne watched Icicle’s expression closely. Contrary to her expectations, he didn’t even blink.
“And what? That’s it. End of story.”
“Why is that aura a reason for adoption?”
“Ah, right.” Vilenne slapped her forehead. “According to ancient textbooks, Ice Mages who ruled over Glacia Kingdom in the past had the blue dragon aura. At least every single one belonging to the royalty had.”
“Hm, I see.” Icicle connected the dots. “Were those Ice Mages strong?”
“Of course they were, why else would so many people try to get their inheritance?” Vilenne pouted. “They ruled over the northern area of the Fashin Continent and had connections all the way across the seas!”
“Easy there tiger, I don’t know your country’s history.” Icicle shrugged.
“Now then, second question. Auras. How do I get one for myself?”
“I can’t say for sure.” Vilenne shook her head. “There were a lot of experiments regarding this. Some people claimed that auras are set from the beginning, others disputed that claim, saying that what one experiences along the way coupled with his own perception helps him develop a unique aura. What is commonly agreed upon is that auras usually form after one breaks into the Intermediary realm.”
“There are cases where people in the high stages of Beginner realm formed their aura though. Anyways, I don’t know if any of this stuff is true, so take it with a grain of salt.”
“Your turn.” Vilenne propped her cheek on her hand and said.
“The dragon blood, eh?” Icicle turned to see if the meat for Blackie was ready. “I made a deal with a giant lucky lizard.”
“You don’t need to know.” Icicle said with a smile.
“So you’re saying you have more?”
“Why? Do you want to marry me now?”
“Hell yeah. I can finally see that manly side of you now now that you tricked some poor creature. Which girl wouldn’t want such a smart husband?” Vilenne smirked.
“You’re right, taking you to an altar might actually be a jailbait…” Icicle muttered under his nose.
“Did you say something? You know, there’s still place over the fire…” Vilenne twirled with her finger, imagining Icicle slowly cooking.
Blackie excitedly called out to Icicle.
“You’re right, it’s ready.” Icicle grabbed three sticks and handed one over to Blackie.
“Mm, it’s delicious God! You should try it too!” Blackie wagged his tail happily.
“Really? Let me see.” Icicle took a bite of the pinkish meat.
A chuck of meat landed inside his stomach. Soon after the second and then the third. “It’s really good!” Icicle ruffled Blackie’s fur and gave him the other piece.
A faint sound of a serpent resounded behind Icicle. Vilenne who sat opposite him stood up immediately, her eyes widening at the sight.
“Have you seen that?” she asked with astonishment.
“Have I seen what? No matter that, have you heard that?”
“Heard what? Come on, spill it out!”
“No, you first.”
“We’ll say it on 3!” Vilenne said.
“I knew it!” Vilenne exclaimed. “Pack yout things, we need to get back to the Mage Guild.”
Icicle and Vilenne sat in the library located in the underground area. A large, thick book with an animal cover laid open between them. Vilenne furiously turned the pages, looking for something.
“Not this one, nor that one, not that one either.” she flipped the pages of black, brown and red snakes.
As Vilenne carefully scanned the book, the feeling of anxiety rose within her. “The further to the back, the more dangerous the creature. I’m already at the last chapters of the book, just what aura did the little bastard get?”
Icicle noted the name of the book to read later. It had a lot of creatures and their weaknesses listed. This could help him with the bosses he might encounter on the road.
“It’s not here.” Vilenne closed the book, frowning.“I don’t know if it’s good or bad…” she thought, suddenly rushing to another shelf.
“What’s this?” Icicle asked as the book with a black cover had its name written in an unknown ancient language.
“Shush.” Vilenne said impatiently. She turned the pages slowly, suddenly slapping her hand on the table.
“It’s this one!”
Vilenne read the information carefully and gulped. “You have one hell of an aura, little bastard.”