Translator: SaltyTank Editor: SaltyTank
The mistress relaxed a bit as she beckoned for Vivian to come over. Perhaps because of this incident, Vivian had grown a lot closer to her, thus Vivian obediently walked over to where the mistress was sitting.
“Go stay in the living room for a while,” she patted Vivian’s head and said gently. “I have something to discuss with your brother.”
Vivian looked at Soran for approval, which he granted by nodding, before leaving the room.
After sending Vivian out of the room, the mistress said in a grave voice, “I want to know everything about your past, especially notable events or incidents.”
Soran looked at her, but then shook his head and said, “I apologize, but there’s really nothing worth mentioning. We’ve been orphans for years, and all we’ve done is struggle to survive in the slums.”
The mistress loosened up once again and proceeded in a calmer tone, “It can’t be. Something must have happened to awaken her inner powers. Sorcerers only awaken to their powers when they suffer intense emotional fluctuation.”
“Anything special…?” Soran startled for a moment as something occurred to him. “I was severely injured by a wizard during one of my missions and was in a coma for half a month. Perhaps I’m not fated to die yet, since I got well soon after.”
The mistress glanced at him and murmured, “So there’s that… She must like you a lot. It is highly probable that this was the incident which activated her powers.
“Vivian’s too young. As she grows up, her powers will grow stronger too. If she doesn’t learn how to control her own powers, she will cause harm to not only others, but herself as well. You’re not a spellcaster yourself, so I guess you don’t understand just how much of a prodigy she is. If I had to put it into words, I’d say she’s even more talented than my mother.”
_Prodigy?_ Soran shuddered after hearing the word. _It can’t be… Vivian has the Gifted Ability Spellcasting Prodigy?!_
It was pretty much the best ability one could have as a spellcaster. If Soran remembered correctly, those with the ability would receive a +2 bonus to their spellcasting score, which increased both the damage and accuracy of their spells. Furthermore, their invocation time was reduced by one second regardless of what spell they used. This meant that if they cast spells which normally had a invocation time of less than a second, they would be completed and cast immediately.
_Now that I think about it, the invocation times of Level 0 spells were roughly one second on average. But as soon as Vivian finished chanting, she really seemed to have cast the spell right away,_ Soran thought as he recalled the night Vivian cast a spell in front of him.
Level 0 spells had short chants, usually only one or two syllables. The time needed to chant them was less than a second. Without any abilities like Vivian’s, the spellcaster had to gather the elemental energies required before they could complete the spell and invoke it. Soran, who did not know too much about the mechanisms behind spellcasting, could not clearly tell if Vivian had invoked the spell immediately, but the mistress, who was a witch, could tell. If she called Vivian a prodigy, she might really have the ability Spellcasting Prodigy. It was a special ability which could not be obtained no matter how hard one trained.
All spellcasters could increase their spellcasting score bonus by assigning attribute points into the attribute they mainly relied on during spellcasting, which differed from profession to profession. Their score bonus would also increase by one every time they leveled up. Taking wizards as an example, the main attribute for them was Intelligence. For a Level 5 wizard who had 16 Intelligence, his spellcasting score bonus could be calculated by [Profession Level 5 + (Intelligence 16 – Threshold Value 10) ÷ 2 = 8]. The threshold value was 10 regardless of profession and attribute.
Spellcasting score, which was something left behind by the Arcane Empire in ancient times, was a numerical value which reflected the power of a spell. Every spell had its own spellcasting score, and the actual score of a cast spell could be found by adding that to the caster’s spellcasting score bonus. The Level 0 spell Electric Jolt had a low score of 3; when cast by the above-mentioned Level 5 wizard, the spell’s score would be 11 (Spell score: 3 + Caster score bonus: 8).
The spellcasting score of a cast spell was basically the damage dealt to a person who had no equipment and no combat profession. For common folk who only had 10 HP, a spell with a spellcasting score of 11 would deal 11 damage, immediately killing them. However, those who had combat professions would receive less damage due to their skills, abilities, and higher Constitutions. The above-mentioned spell would deal only 5 to 8 damage in this case, which was akin to an electric shock.
If Vivian indeed had Spellcasting Prodigy, then the Electric Jolt cast would have a score of [3+(1+2)+(21-10) ÷ 2=11.5], which was 0.5 higher than the Level 5 wizard. However, the important thing was that Vivian was still only a Level 1 sorcerer.
The difference in power between Vivian and typical spellcasters would become more significant over time, especially when casting one-hit-kill spells like Finger of Death. One-hit-kill spells, along with other spells like Web, Charm Person, and Hold Person, did not deal damage directly; whether or not these spells were effective on the target depended on the difference between the spellcasting score of the cast spell and the target’s Fortitude rating. For Vivian, who had a high spellcasting score bonus, the chances of her one-hit-kill magic succeeding would be remarkably higher.
Legendary Wizards usually had a spellcasting score bonus of around 30; of that, 20 came from their profession levels, 8 from their Intelligence, and a few more from their respective abilities. Legendary-grade equipment granted bonuses ranging from +1 to +3 as well.
Given Vivian’s talent, she would definitely obtain the ability Practiced Spellcaster in the future. This would further reduce her invocation speed by another second, meaning that she could instantly cast spells which had invocation times of two seconds or below.
The mistress and Soran remained silent for a short while.
The mistress looked at Soran, then continued, “Before you came here, I performed a fortune telling ceremony for Vivian. What I saw was not something pleasant.”
_Fortune telling? Is that the branch of divination magic unique to the_ _N_ _orthern witches?_ Soran wondered. _They can see phenomena roughly reflect_ _ing_ _one’s future, if I remember correctly._
However, they could only see blurry images; even the Legendary-grade spell, Divination, could only show a few scenes of what was to come. The scenes were short, and from the moment the spell was completed, the future was subject to change.
The further the predicted event was into the future, the higher the chance things would deviate and end up differently. This was why divination was best used to foresee events which would occur soon after in order to avoid or prepare for undesirable events. The mistress most likely predicted that something dangerous was about to occur back in Amber City and realised it was beyond her power to change it, thus she hurriedly left the city with her merchant squad.
Soran took in a deep breath and asked slowly, “What did you see?”
“Blood and fire,” the mistress replied with a serious expression.
“The divination ceremony can only show me pictures and scenes. They might not be exactly what is going happen, but they still reflect Vivian’s future. Blood represents slaughter and death, meaning there will be deaths around her. Fire represents war and destruction, meaning she will be facing multiple events of mass destruction in the future.
“We Northern witches have performed the ceremony plenty of times, but we’ve seldom seen both these scenes on one person. Of those with both, some became great emperors who created massive empires, some became tyrants who trampled their citizens, and others became legendary existences. Even though they ended up differently, there was one thing in common: be it good or evil, their lives were full of fights, wars, slaughtering, and death.”
She took in a deep breath before she continued, “Vivian’s future is bound to be full of thorns, and I’m sorry to say this, but you can’t protect her with your ability.
“Let me be honest with you. You seem as though you are afraid of something! I’m not sure what you’re so scared of, but I can sense that you are trying to escape from danger by avoiding anything which might pose even the slightest threat to you two.
“I’m included in the list of dangerous things in your mind. Perhaps that is why you cannot trust me, even now.”
Silence permeated the room.
Perhaps he really was afraid. He cared a lot about Vivian, thus he was afraid of losing her.
Was he really trying to escape?
Soran was way too clear about what was about to happen during the Time of Troubles. Gods and demons would tear the skies, the land, and the sea; they would tear everything apart. In the face of a crisis of unprecedented scale, even those with Legendary professions would be slaughtered like livestock. He was merely a Grade 2 rogue; wasn’t it just fine to escape from everything?
It was a battle among gods; having a Legendary profession was just the bare minimum requirement to enter the contest. Countless Saints roamed the world, and demons were everywhere.
Soran was weak; he knew it himself. He did not even have the qualifications to stand in front of those monsters, let alone fight them. There was only one choice, and that was running away. Who would sit there and wait when he knew what was going to happen? The siblings would have died like ants if they had stayed in Amber City after all.
The woman sitting in front of him knew nothing.
She knew nothing of what was about to come, nothing of how scary and terrible things would be, and nothing about how weak they were in the face of gods and demons! Even Legendary Northern witches could not predict the Time of Troubles, let alone this mistress who was only the descendant of one. Even millions of players failed to change the course of events back in the game; what could he possibly achieve now that he was weak and alone?
Apart from escaping from everything and growing stronger, what else could he do?
“Yes.” Soran lifted his head and glared at the mistress. “I’m afraid of something, and I’m running away from it. There are things which simply cannot be changed by us.
“I don’t trust you. Even though you seem to like Vivian a lot, and even though she feels the same, you act high and almighty all the time! The current me is weak, but I will not stay weak forever.
“I know what you are trying to say. Let me make this clear. I will not let Vivian leave my side, because I will protect her with my very life, but you can’t. What you care most about is her talent, not Vivian herself. If she did not have the talent, she’d be just an ordinary little girl to you. It’s different for me! I don’t care if she has talent or not. That does not change the fact that she’s my dearest person, and the only relative I have.
“You said I’m not trusting you, right? I simply can’t! How am I supposed to trust someone who never even told me her name? In your eyes, I’m probably just a nobody who doesn’t deserve to know the name of a Northern witch. The only reason you’re keeping us at your side is because you’re interested in Vivian’s talent.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that you allowed us to travel alongside you from Amber City to Whiterun, and even more so for your help today. I will never forget the help you have given us during the past week, and I will definitely repay you in the future. I can tell you’re a kind and benevolent witch, or else you would have used magic and made me talk instead.
“For such, I’m extremely grateful! But that doesn’t mean I can trust you.”
After bowing deeply, Soran turned to leave.
The mistress stood up as she looked Soran in the eye. Noticing the unyielding spirit in his eyes, she let out a sigh; she was now sure that he would protect Vivian no matter what, even if it cost him his life. Perhaps this was what caught her eye from the start; perhaps this was the reason she always observed the siblings, the reason she managed to discover Vivian’s talent.
It was such a sincere feeling, yet it felt so foreign for the mistress.
She slowly walked toward Soran. For the first time ever, she felt that the weak yet determined man was qualified to speak on equal terms with her. He did not earn it with strength and power, but through his determination to protect his little sister.
“Not all problems can be solved with magic,” she sighed as she said, “and abusing one’s power will only make one lost!
“I’m Gloria. Perhaps you can let her stay by my side for a while so I can teach her some practical knowledge about spells. This will surely be beneficial to her.”
Gloria held out her smooth, white hand. For the first time, she spoke on equal terms with Soran.
She was Gloria, a powerful witch who could kill Soran in the blink of an eye. Through unyielding will and sincere feelings, he had won her respect.
* * *
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*[Long Taos]: side characters in Chinese operas who perform acrobatics and fight scenes
*[12.47 to 13.07]: don’t ask me about the tree sap