Chapter 14 - Looting
In hindsight, it was quite obvious. Everything Firestar had hidden from Aaron was information that shouldn't be given to enemies: the political organization of the Empire, geopolitics, intelligence on the Immortal Crusade, how the Empire worked, the limits of power from the mages in the West Region.
Firestar hadn't been sure if Aaron was a genius or a demon, thus he had allowed Aaron to learn the most he could, while also avoiding critical information just in case Aaron turned out to be a demon, and thus, an enemy of all mankind.
As long as he could say he hadn't taught Aaron anything but basic magic, he should be able to save his own life and safeguard the family if the Crusade came for them.
Small details further pointed at Firestar being wary of Aaron, like when the Ancestors had made the second kid's questions harder than the first kid's in the competition so that the latter would be the one battling Aaron. If Aaron showed himself to be a murdering demon, they would most likely grab the second kid and flee, leaving the first kid as a sacrifice for the greater good.
Firestar's decisions made perfect sense as the ruler of an entire family whose decisions impacted the lives of hundreds of people, plus an entire kingdom to boot, but much more interesting was that Firestar had done for Aaron despite trying to save his own ass.
Almost from the very beginning, he had made it clear to Aaron that information would be withheld, and just that would be enough for him to suffer in the hands of the Crusade. Of course, he had done so in a way that wouldn't be found out unless a more thorough investigation was done, one that involved reading his very mind.
He could also have denied Aaron's requests, from creating the time-slowing formation to asking Aaron the right questions at the competition, so his deniability would be even more plausible.
Some might argue that Firestar had done his best to help Aaron for his own interests. The man had spoken about geniuses who destroyed their families in revenge, after all, and he might have done his best not to piss Aaron off just in case he didn't turn out to be a demon.
However, outside the times when Firestar apologized to Aaron and when he had shown worry for Sara, there was a single reason that made Aaron believe Firestar was in fact on Aaron's side.
Aaron was alive.
Firestar could have killed Aaron after the competition and made the whole Crusade's investigation and the Empire's anger disappear while profiting from everything Aaron had done for the family. Hell, he might even be rewarded for it! Instead, Firestar had paid for Aaron's help with a lot of money and warned him to be careful.
Although Aaron didn't completely trust Firestar and never would, he still was a bit thankful to the old man.
Anyway, all that was good and all, but it was time to move on before the Crusade got to him.
About three hours after entering the Eminence's mind, he left it, took a simple knife from his ring and cut her throat without hesitation.
He felt nothing as he took her life. She had tried to kidnap him, and it was only proper that she got killed instead. She wasn't a troubled soul like Sara, she was an enemy through and through.
Done with his investigation and enemy disposal, it was time for pillaging.
Sara had watched everything without believing it. She realized now that the reason demons were so dangerous was because they defied common sense.
Aaron was a Champion, but he had enough control to create three huge meteors on the sky and control them at the same time! The meteors themselves were impressive Seventh level spells taken to their utmost limits!
But there was more. It wasn't rare for mages to take a roundabout route around the Spell Level Equivalence Law. Even though one was limited to casting spells at one's own level, for those with a high enough mana control, it was possible to cast more than one spell at the same time, thus increasing the output power without increasing the spell level directly.
And yet, the demon's control was so great that it could cast six Seventh level spells at the same, the three meteors, the cooling spell, the shield around them, and the spell that shot an enemy at a meteor.
That was simply inconceivable!
As if it wasn't enough, he could even attack people at a distance of almost a thousand legs! And he could do it all without fainting from lack of mana or even looking like he was tired!
If she had any questions about him being a demon before, now, she was absolutely sure.
After doing all that, the demon walked to the sole survivor of the devastation he had caused and just stood there, looking at her like a beast looking at its prey.
What was he doing? Deciding if he should eat her body? Was he already consuming her soul? Or maybe he was waiting for her to wake up, so he could torture her?
He had been at it for hours already. She even considered if she should try to kill him while he was distracted, but she doubted the warrior would allow it. She had seen how he had looked at her as if daring her to do something to the demon just so he could get rid of her.
He might just be a One Star Warrior now, yes, but she was as powerless as a klutz with her mana pool blocked. Despite her training on physical combat as part of being an undercover agent, he had probably been better trained in it than her, being a warrior and all that. Even if she tried to kill him before going for the demon, he was always positioned in a way that would make stealthy killing him impossible, and a single scream of his would likely wake the demon up from his musings.
Finally, the demon simply killed the poor Eminence, instead of ripping her ribcage open and taking her heart or something just as nefarious. Sara felt relieved, and even more so when the demon did something as simple as looting the dead. It made him look human, even though she knew the truth.
What he did next though, made all the hair in her body stand.
He came back.
Aaron's Spying Drizzle was still active and he focused on feeling mana-infused items in the area. Soon enough, he found all the treasures around, removing them from what had remained of the three corpses.
In total, he found thirty-three undamaged spatial rings and some more that had been destroyed by the meteors. After searching the Eminence's mind, he knew that most of the rings had been stolen from the corpses of people they had killed in the previous days while waiting for Aaron. There existed banks in this world, but mages seldom trusted others with their possessions and the safest place to put their most valuable treasures was in their own spatial items.
The first thing a mage usually saved money to buy was a spatial bag if he was poor, or a spatial ring if he was a person of means. Bags, although considerably cheaper, could be easily stolen or even misplaced, but rings were much safer.
People had tried using different objects as spatial treasures throughout the course of history, from hiding items inside the skin to using accessories other than rings, but each option came with some issues.
At one time, hiding things in the body became popular, but it also became common for people to be kidnapped and cut open in search for their spatial items. As for accessories, earrings, chains around the neck, or bracelets, they could be easily pulled — and when they couldn't, a thief cutting one's neck or hand wasn't unheard of.
Rings, on the other hand, were safe against falling on their own or forgotten somewhere, couldn't be simply pulled by a running thief on the streets and didn't get in the way as some necklaces might, and could still be easily removed if needed without harm to the user. Even if a cruel thief cut the finger off, it was still better than being beheaded or losing a limb.
Of course, many people still hid their spatial items in different ways, but rings were way more common.
As for these three attackers, they had emptied all other kinds of spatial items from their dead enemies and taken only the rings with them. First, because rings were easier to carry, second, because rings were more valuable, and third, because none of the items they took on the mission would end up as theirs, being confiscated by their bosses instead. Therefore, they had no incentive to carry a big bag of spoils around, as spatial items normally couldn't be placed inside each other.
He checked all the rings and found a lot of money, about two dozen Mortal and Magical Items, and two Artifacts. Him being a Champion, Magical Items or lower had no effect on him anymore. At least there were the two Artifacts; a pair of black leather boots, and a pair of black leather gloves.
Check Item, he thought.
Name: Boots of Speed
Grade: Lower Artifact
Name: Gloves of Dexterity
Grade: Lower Artifact
Treasures grades were divided into Mortal Items, Magical Items, Artifacts, and Relics. Finding Lower Artifacts for free wasn't too bad. Treasures of that grade were scarce even in his own royal family.
The treasure's names were somewhat descriptive, but he wanted to know more about what they did, so he used a spell.
Myriad Arts — Spellcasting, Artificing, Formation Mastery — Dual Element: Space, Soul — Seventh Item Analysis!
Delicate strands of Space mana left his body to involve each item, allowing him to see and feel their minute physical details. Meanwhile, Soul mana entered them to analyze them from the inside, including any hidden formations they might have. He felt and studied them for a few instants and found out exactly what they did.
Both items increased their wearer's speed depending on the grade of the wearer's own speed attribute. If the wearer's speed grade was equal to or lower than 3, the speed grade was increased by two. If it was graded between 4 and 6, the speed grade was increased by one.
Beyond that, the Boots of Speed allowed the wearer to jump higher, while the Gloves of Dexterity increased the wearer's control over their hands to the most precise movements. As a mage who could fly and an experienced man with perfect control over his body, both effects were lost on him, but the extra speed was nice.
Aaron put the treasures on, starting with the boots.
Attribute: Speed (Body)
Grade: 1 > 3
A surge of warmth came from the gloves, filling his body and changing it. To check on his new speed, he moved his arm as fast as he could.
Immediately, there was a loud crack followed by a piercing pain.
His hand had moved in a blur, too fast for his bones to resist due to his grade 1 body resistance. His muscle and skin were pierced by the broken bone, which was now visible.
He had expected that and smiled as he used a simple healing spell to put his arm back in place. A moment later, the injury disappeared as if it had never happened in the first place.
It wasn't strange for such a treasure to exist despite its danger. It was much easier to craft a treasure that only improved a single attribute, and if self-injury was an issue, the wearer could simply use another treasure to improve their body resistance, too.
Even knowing the certainty of injury if he used the extra speed, he still put the gloves on, too, because there might come a situation when it was better to break bones while moving quickly out of danger, instead of staying still and dying.
Attribute: Speed (Body)
Grade: 3 > 4
He felt his speed increasing again, making him capable of moving as fast as a Four Stars Warrior. From that moment onwards, he had to make sure not to move faster than his body could withstand. An average person would kill themselves if they were in Aaron's place, but he had gone through similar things before, finding himself much more powerful one instant than the other, and was experienced in how to control his body to the last muscle with perfect precision.
To finish with his business in the crater for now, he organized the content in the rings, choosing three rings for himself which held all valuables. Then, he passed a string through all the remaining rings and wore it as a necklace under his robes, not caring for the danger of a thief pulling it and running away. His wealth was all in the rings on his hands anyway.
Finally, he walked back to the carriage.
This little stop had been enlightening and profitable, but it was time to continue with his plans and his journey.
Support "(ON HIATUS) Immortal Mage"
I'm Ed, a writer of GameLit. So far I have released only two books, but I'm working on increasing this number by tens! No, by hundreds! Maybe thousands! xP
Mailing list: http://www.edward-castle.com/