Drake and Rey finally arrived at the [Witch Shop], as the name indicated. Entering this eerie place located in the outskirts of the market area of Helios, Drake felt Goosebumps all over his body. There were organs stocked in jars and conserved in a greenish liquid. On the shelves, there were scrolls and magical tomes about necromancy and dark magic.
Obviously, this Roxanne was an acolyte walking down the path of forbidden dark magic. In ancient times, dark magi were looked down upon. However, with the number and quality of acolytes decreasing over generations, the Magical community decided to unite both white and dark magi to fight against the ever-stronger monsters invading Barnolia.
There were rumours that the Thirteen Kingdoms and the continent they lived on was actually just an island in the giant world of Barnolia. However, since nobody came back from expeditions meant to explore the world due to submarines magical beasts, no one believed in such tales…except a few people, including Drake.
He had read over a thousand records of civilization and dozens of thousands of mentions of another Magus community living in a far away island. However, these records were usually 300-years-old, and forgotten. Drake, however, believed in in them. It actually made much more sense, since the spell matrixes were of extremely high quality and stability despite their complexity.
"Oh, Rey, it's you. I thought you would never bring a customer in my establishment, yet here you are", the old witch said in a low voice.
"It's Drake, an acolyte who decided to join the sentinels", Rey said nonchalantly
"Oh? Mm, you are a body refinement acolyte, huh. There were a few people like you, defying the odds and joining the sentinels."
Drake was surprised at her comment, and remembered that Sillius mentioned them as well. Hence, he asked out of curiosity: "What did they become?"
"Some died in patrols, others left the sentinels after another faction contacted them and made them some offers they couldn't refuse. Wait a second…You said your name was Drake, right?"
"Indeed, I am Drake"
"You are the one who challenged Franklin? Haha, my boy, you are out of luck!", the witch mocked in a horrible voice.
"What do you mean?", few people knew Franklin, and Felicia had never heard of him for instance.
Drake didn't know a lot of people in Helios. Besides Fred, the alchemist who did him a favour, the sentinels, Felicia and Evangeline, Drake had no contacts, thus no information whatsoever on Franklin. At least, it was the case until he met this witch…
"Franklin is a training freak. He was born a farmer, and killed a bunch of people in a revolt, thus getting noticed by an acolyte in a mission. At the time, he didn't have any training, just brute force. And he was just 14 at the time. In Helios, he was tested to have a grade 1 talent, which crushed his hope. After all, months of meditation would barely show signs of improvements. However, he didn't fall into despair. He took easy missions at first, and after seeing the rewards, he then followed by taking the harshest missions meant for rank 1 acolyte. I heard he killed a bunch of bulls with his bare hands recently. He is probably one of the strongest rank 1 acolyte you can find in Helios, truly living up to the fame of body refinement acolyte. You, on the other hand, are someone I have never heard about, a newcomer if I may believe Rey."
Drake was quite surprised. It wasn't everyday that you could encounter someone with no backing whatsoever thrive in Helios, not to mention one who had so many fighting achievements.
"Do you know if he learnt spells?", Drake asked.
"Well, you're quite the smart fellow. I will give you valuable information if you can give me something in exchange…I happen to have an experiments ongoing and I was looking for a test subject of acolyte-"
"He will participate in none of your experiments, Roxanne. Come on, just tell him what he wants on account of my fidelity", Rey interrupted her, with a grim face.
Rey had heard of the witch's misbehaviour. She had killed many people for the sake of alchemy in the past, and even though her shop had been exiled to the outskirts of Helios, she didn't seem very affected by the punishment. Wherever she went, innocents would end up dying. Villagers, farmers or bandits. It didn't matter. For the sake of harvesting souls or blood, she had no boundaries. As for someone like Drake, with acolyte blood and knight physique…she probably had many evil uses for his body.
"Alright, alright. He has learnt one spell actually, which is pretty good considering his grade 1 talent. It's called [Stone Skin], as the name indicates, it turns his skin into sturdy elemental stone. I am afraid that unless you can win a war of attrition and wait for him to run out of mana, you will die trying to break his defence."
Drake cursed. Out of all spells, Drake feared that Franklin would learn some defensive spell. Drake was pretty much sure that he would be able to break through whatever defence Franklin would have prepared, unless it was a spell after all. The latter had no defensive artefacts, and besides a magical spell, there were not many things likely to block Drake's killing technique.
[Beep! Stone Skin – Acolyte Spell. Common spell. Type: Defensive.
Consuming mana, casting the spell turns the acolyte's skin into an elemental layer of stone, adding a damage absorption property to it, absorbing up to [Spirit] + 8 degrees of damage on average, based on the mentions of spell found in 335 sources.]
Considering Franklin's spirit attribute value, Franklin would be able to absorb about 14 degrees of damage, which was definitely a huge amount, enough to block off all of Drake's normal attacks. Even Arclight Chop would barely be able to graze him. If he wore an armour on top of it…then unless he had some kind of breakthrough here, he would lose the fight.
For a moment, Drake felt pretty confident in winning the fight. With his talent and his current growth rate, he was bound to considerably reduce the gap between them. He had higher dexterity, so he could definitely use speed at his advantage.
Even if he was slightly weaker in other attributes, Drake had obvious advantages in terms of sword proficiency for instance, or combat experience. Although Franklin went through missions, Drake spent his childhood in sparring, and the last year fighting one battle after another.
Even if Franklin had learnt offensive spells, Drake felt pretty confident in blocking them with his shield and enchanted armour.
Unwilling to miss such an opportunity, Drake decided to use everything at his disposal and prepare as much as possible before the duel. He still possessed 64 magic crystals. He knew the value of this scholarship handed out by Magus Kayle. Drake had his eyes on numerous things: enchanted swords, artefacts and perhaps even learn a craft with so much money.
Enchanted swords were definitely to his liking, but because it is popular, it was in short supply. The odds of Drake finding one were pretty low. As for artefacts, they cost at least a hundred magic crystals, which was way too much for Drake's current finances.
Seeing that Drake was lost in thought, Rey spoke: "My friend was interested in strengthening potions you might have gotten your hands on. Especially the…good-quality ones, not what you usually sell to my men."
Roxanne was a bit taken aback. She never expected a newcomer like Drake, whom she had never heard about, to be wealthy enough to afford such pricy goods. Walking like an old hag, she went to her warehouse and reappeared with a bunch of potions, all of them stored in dark vials.
"I am an alchemist, and one of the 16 disciples of Grandmaster Aegon. These are my best achievements: Soul nurturing potion, Ghost Poison as well as this potion called Death Liquid."
[Soul nurturing potion – Grade 2 potion
Main Component: Souls of a thousand dead men and women.
Expected effects: Increase spirit attribute by 0.8 point at the cost of 1.5 point of constitution.
Side effects: Nausea, as well as nightmares for a duration of 3 days.]
[Ghost Poison (8mL) – Grade 2 alchemy good.
Main component: Ghost Soul.
Expected effects: Upon contact with an individual's blood, the ghost poison will spread throughout his body and paralyse it. The duration is based on the target's constitution and the amount of ghost poison used.
Damage: 3-5 degrees of damage every 10 seconds, depending on the target's constitution.]
[Death Liquid – Grade 3 Potion
Main component: blood of an ancient mummy.
Expected effects: +1.6 strength, +0.6 dexterity considering host's current attributes.
Requirements: Less than 6 points of strength and 4 points of dexterity. Otherwise, the effects will be halved.
Side effect: Exhaustion Curse for the 8 hours following consumption. This curse can be nullified by acquiring the mummy's totem.
Side effect: 6% Death energy corruption based on host's current attributes. If the corruption reaches 100%, host will die. Death energy corruption will decrease lifespan and decrease constitution attribute over time. It can be healed over time, and hastened through sweating.]
Drake pondered for a while, and couldn't turn his eyes away from the Death Liquid. He was well-aware of the side effects and price: 50 magic crystals, after applying the discount. It was the equivalent of six months of training, perhaps even more! All for the relatively low price of 50 magic crystals.
The only issue was the curse and death energy corruption which would further decrease his constitution. However, the boost in strength and dexterity were exactly what he needed at the moment. Perhaps it would cause unbalance in his attributes, but he didn't care anymore. After all, there were dozens of ways to use the Jatu Meteorite piece to increase his constitution attribute value by leaps and bounds.
"I will purchase the Death liquid and Ghost Poison", Drake finally said.
"It will cost you 60 magic crystals", the old witch said while rejoicing. It wasn't everyday that she could make such a sell. She mentioned being one of the 16 disciples of Aegon, a dark magus who was well-versed in necromancy. However, she never mentioned that she was also part of the black list of the arcane faction, after killing a few dozen members in so-called 'experiments' when she was still a newly advanced rank 2 acolyte.
Rey only earned discounts and such below-market offers because many people feared her and didn't want to offend the arcane faction.
The latter was outraged: "60 magic crystals? You can't be serious! My sentinel unit has always sold its game to you. It didn't matter if the corpses were that of orcs or that of Blood eagles. Sometimes, we even preferred to sell the corpses to you instead of going straight to the auction, despite knowing we could have made a greater benefit."
"And I am thankful to you, hence the discount. I am selling a grade 3 potion and grade 2 poison to your friend for a measly 60 magic crystals, and you still want me to decrease the price? I am not a charity!", the acolyte said in an angry voice.
Just like acolytes were divided in ranks, an alchemist's level was measured by the grade of his products. Capable of brewing grade 3 potions, the witch Roxanne was a pretty good alchemist. Selling these potions for merely 60 magic crystals, she was indeed doing them a favour. Drake, however, would not refuse saving a few magic crystals.
"I will be part of his unit too…By selling them to me at a lower price, you would actually make a great investment!", Drake said.
The witch looked like she wanted to cry, and then added in a firm voice: "I will add an energizing pill in the lot to make up for the potion's side effects. Are we good?"
Drake smiled and answered: "Yes, pleasure to do business with you!"