Under the Oak Tree

Chapter 266
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Chapter 266

Max was startled by the voice and turned around. Annette was striding across the common lab.

“Landon is searching for you. You must come see him in his room right now.”

Annette shouted loudly as if not accepting her voice being drowned out by the sound of metals being hammered, piecing Max’s ears. Her tears welled up from the loud voice that seemed to break her eardrums.

“W-what’s the matter?”

Annette only shrugged her shoulders. Max heaved a sigh and left the lab. Crossing the hall and walking straight to the huge steel cage used to climb floors, she wondered why she was being summoned again. After asking a passerby holding firewood to operate the pulley, she opened the cage and went inside. After a while, the steel mechanism rattled and slowly began to climb floors. She fixed her messy hair and straightened her clothes whilst the gears spun.

She was soon about to ask Landon to write her a recommendation letter that would leave a good impression on the Urd senior wizards, so she wanted to look a little more presentable. Although he praised Max’s skills and abilities, Landon may favor those from the Umli tribe as they were his own people. She tried to flatten her wavy hair with her palms as much as she could. Finally, the gears of the pulley stopped. Max carefully opened the gate of the cage and headed to the arched door. She knocked and asked for permission to come in.

“...please excuse my entrance.”

Max slowly pulled the doorknob. Inside the room was Landon and a lean-built man sitting opposite each other. She was expecting Landon to be alone in his room and her eyes widened in shock. The man, who was sitting with his back turned to her, looked at her with his cold, blue-gray eyes. Max recognized him and froze. It was Calto Serbel, a wizard from the Serbel Clan. She had heard that he was one of the most influential elder wizards in Nornui. Max took a step back, thinking that she went there mistakenly.

“I... heard that you were looking for me. If I am interrupting your conversation...”

“First, sit down.”

Landon pointed a thick finger to an empty chair. Max glanced at Calto Serbel’s face and went to take a seat. Upon seeing Max’s tense expression, he smiled as if to try lightening the mood.

“I didn’t summon you here to reprimand you, there’s no reason to be so nervous. I called you here today to make an offer.”

“An offer...?”

“I’ll be explaining the offer.” Calto Serbel, who was quiet so far, opened his mouth.

Max flinched and looked at him. The wizard’s appearance made it hard to calculate his actual age, his skin was tight as that of a young man in his twenties, yet his neatly tied gray hair was sparse and the back of his thin hands that was tightly holding the arm of his chair had dim black spots. Those were the only clues that he might be much older than what he looked like.

He looked observantly at her with a keen expression and slowly continued to speak. “The World Tower plans to dispatch some wizards to Livadon soon. Right now, we are recruiting for the suitable wizards to come. I intend for you to join the dispatch.”

“M-me?”

Calto nodded slowly. “According to Landon, you are fluent in ancient language and could excellently interpret magic formulas. I also hear that you have always been interested and researching in that field. The dispatch team will be needing a couple of such wizards.”

“B-but... I still haven’t completed my training yet...”

“If you join the dispatch, although it will be short, I am thinking of granting you a swift magical attribute bestowing ceremony. Although of course, you must carry out the mission with us to the end.”

Max almost jumped and screamed that she would do anything he would ask her to do upon hearing that exceptional offer. If she joined the dispatch team, the worries that she had been agonizing about would immediately be solved. Not only would she gain a rank as a wizard from receiving a magic attribute, but she would also be able to leave the island sooner. However, she couldn’t just agree to the proposal without knowing the whole deal.

She then asked with the utmost caution. “What kind of mission will the dispatch team do? Why will the help of a trainee like me be needed...?”

“Well...” Clato’s wide forehead wrinkled deeply. The wizard, who was stroking his smooth jaw with his boney fingers, heaved a solemn sigh. “This mission is kept only to a few of the elder and senior wizards and those who agree on joining the dispatch team.”

“You mean to say... you won’t be able to divulge the mission to me if I refuse to join?”

“No, I have no intention of forcing you to join the dispatch team. However, until the World Tower’s official announcement regarding this is made... you must remain silent about the mission from now on. I would like to avoid any commotion.”

Max thought that it would only mean that it was something serious enough that it would cause a commotion. Max bit her lower lip and nodded slowly.

“I understand. I will never... tell anyone.”

He stared intently into her eyes, as if to see if she could be trusted then began to speak in a monotonous voice. “You yourself are well-aware of the monster army’s invasion that took place three years ago. It was a horrendous war that devastated the northwestern region, driven by the allegiance of monster sub-species and trolls.”

Max’s face clouded at the sudden words. How many wizards in the tower knew about that war better than her? Even until now, she would have occasional nightmares about the incidents that happened back then.

Max nodded with a stiff expression. “Yes, I am well-aware. Before coming here to the World Tower, I was on that war’s battlefield... working as a healer.”

“... Come to think of it, you were there, so that puts something into perspective.”

His eyebrows pulled together and he looked at her with a new light in his eyes. It was quite a famous story among the ranked wizards of how she entered the World Tower. Calto’s smooth nose bridge wrinkled with his thoughtful expression then continued to speak again.

“There are lots of questionable things about that war. The monster sub-races were armed with sophisticated weapons and armor, they also had a surprisingly systematic system of command. Do you realize what that means? It means that someone is behind that, transforming thousands of demons into soldiers for a long period of time. Perhaps, beyond Pamela Plateau, those monsters have already achieved a high level of civilization. The church was concerned about that possibility, so they persistently tracked down the remnants of the scattered monster army. However, pursuing them was difficult due to the barren and rugged terrain of that area. Hundreds of monsters disappeared without leaving a trace like ghosts and the Osyrian army had no knowledge about that area. It was like searching for a needle amidst a desert. Only recently that they were able to find a clue.”

Max was speechless from the foreboding story that was narrated so suddenly. Hearing that there might be an unknown place which no one has ever been to, being occupied by a great civilization of monsters... she was horrified by just imagining it. Max swallowed dryly and carefully opened her mouth to ask.

“Is that why a dispatch team is being sent... to investigate on that clue?”

“Yes. The great church of Osyria has been secretly asking for us to cooperate. After much deliberation, we decided to work with them, investigating the Pamela Plateau.”

Max frowned as she recalled the Holy Knights who had come to visit the World Tower over a month before. Although the church now tacitly acknowledged their existence, the great church was once one of the institutions that terribly persecuted wizards. Thus, the tower was built to protect the wizards from such heretical hunters. With the fall of the Roem empire, the Peace Treaty of the Seven Kingdoms was signed. A tacit truce was also signed by the great church and the World Tower, but the traditional people of the old church maintained an exclusive stance about magic. It was obvious that the church would get backlash from asking help from the World Tower, yet here they were.

“What on earth is the clue... that was found on Pamela Plateau?”

For the first time since their conversation began, a hint of conflict arose on his face. Landon, who had been quietly sitting and listening to the conversation, opened his mouth on behalf of Calto, who was wondering whether he should reveal it or not.

“A small village in ruins has been found in the eastern area of Pamela Plateau. There were records of ancient language.”

For a moment, Max blinked in confusion, not understanding what that could mean, and then realization hit her and she felt a chill run down her back.

“Does that mean that in Pa-Pamela Plateau... traces of human existence have been found?”

“Yes.” Landon confirmed in a subdued, sullen voice. “It is plausible that the ones who were living there were likely warlocks who were exiled to the north after going against the great church.”

Note – LF: DUN DUN DUN DUNNNN I’m getting chills y’all

Nymeria: DAAAAAAMN this is interesting!!

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