Richard walked straight into his forge, inserting the metal badge into a counter. A clear projection appeared in mid-air, containing a record of his finances for the month. It took five points of mana to activate the badge, and Richard would rather have that come from the magic crystals on the counter than himself. He wanted to spend all his mana on actually learning magic instead.
Seeing the first line of the bill. Richard was dumbstruck. This was what was written there: Replacement of 1 Magic Doll— 1600 gold.
This was the steel doll he’d practised magic on. He’d seen it had been replaced on his way, but that puny thing was worth 1600 coins?! Richard couldn’t grasp the concept of currency very well, but he knew that his mother’s lifetime savings after living in Rooseland Village for ten years only amounted to a dozen or so coins. The fur of a gigantic demon was worth only about 1 or 2 coins in the city, yet fully-grown hunters had to risk their lives in order to hunt them. Perhaps the village chief, who was the wealthiest of them all, had a couple hundred coins saved up, but even that would be accumulated from his pay and other rewards throughout the time he spent in the army.
He had only launched two fireballs, and had already blown 1600 coins? He began to recall every single detail about the steel doll, and realised that apart from its defense capabilities being almost identical to a standard half-body armoured warrior, there wasn’t anything outstanding about it. Little did he know that this was the very reason for its cost.
The average magic doll had a point or two of energy level discrepancy from the real deal, but the steel dolls of the Deepblue were accurate to a tenth of a point. It cost nearly 30 times of a difference to increase about one energy level of accuracy. The energy level being spoken of here was a significant concept in the world of magic, referring to the amount of energy possessed by a standard grade 1 magic missile.
Beads of cold sweat rolled down Richard’s forehead without end, the gigantic numbers suffocating him. Rooseland was also part of the Sacred Alliance, and its currency was interlinked with that of Deepblue. 1600 coins was a debt that he would never be able to repay in his lifetime. He didn't like owing debts; a trait that he had inherited from his mother. Elena’s reluctance to be in debt to anyone put an immense psychological pressure on the boy that almost made him faint, and it was extremely difficult for him to calm down and slowly look down the list. As he’d expected, the prices of the rest of the goods he’d consumed were shockingly high as well. That one mana potion he’d used cost nearly 500 coins!
He thought about the bottles of potion in his potion room in the storage area, and saw things from a different perspective. These potions were labeled with their properties and directions for use, most of which were supplementary potions which raised magical awareness and compatibility, and they were designed for recovery purposes and so on. They were mainly used by mages to expedite their training process.
Richard was gaining a greater understanding of the world beyond the mountains after arriving in the Deepblue. Even back in Azan he’d been appalled by the high prices of expensive items, but compared to in the Deepblue they were so much simpler and cheaper that they were practically free. A single mana potion was worth a mere 10 coins in Azan, but in the Deepblue it cost 50 times that.
However, what little Richard didn't know was that the mana recovery potions sold in the Azan market only lasted for 3 hours, and they only afforded half a fold of increase in recovery rate. The one he’d used would last an entire 24 hours, and doubled the recovery rate on top. That made for a total of a 32 times increase, and consequently the price was fifty times as much.
Refining better and better potions was harder the farther one went, just like in any other profession. It cost more with every advancement, a pyramid of power that was prevalent across practically all fields. This concept that little Richard had just learnt allowed him to interpret this principle from another angle, and apply it across physical boundaries.
At the end of the first page, Richard saw his total expenditure for the month: 18000 coins.
His income was listed on the second page, and there was only a single line at the top. The item was listed as a tuition subsidy, and its monetary value was 30,000 coins. As he was browsing through the expenses, Richard had already gotten used to the large numbers. Yet, the huge value of the subsidy still caught him by surprise.
Just a day ago, even 30 coins was a huge sum that little Richard had never set his eyes on before, much less 30,000. He didn’t know how he could spend it either. Life in the mountains revolved around self-sufficiency, and apart from materials which had to be purchased, Richard couldn’t even think about what else he could spend the money on.
But 30,000 coins… “It’s probably enough to lay the floor of this laboratory!” Richard couldn’t help but think this to himself as he gazed at the vast smelting laboratory, still stuck in a dizzy state.
With just a glance across every corner of the laboratory, Richard obtained an exact answer. If he used all his Sacred Alliance coins to lay the floor, it would require 333,300 of them.
Little Richard shook his head forcefully to rid his brain of these distressing numbers. 30,000 or 300,000, there wasn’t any difference; they were all just huge sums beyond his imagination.
And the subsidy of 30,000 coins was just the beginning. The second page still contained several empty columns, just the names of the main categories without any income. In the future, these would be his sources of income. However, Richard found the last column rather difficult to understand. Sharon’s Delight... What kind of income was that?
After calming himself down, little Richard immediately realised that a subsidy of 30,000 coins actually wasn’t much. There were countless places in the Deepblue for him to spend his money on, and it was only the first month. He’d spent much of his time having lessons, and with only a week of practising magic where he’d only consumed a pathetic amount of materials and supplies, he’d still expended close to 18,000 coins. It would be great if he could just maintain equilibrium next month, and this same 30,000 definitely wouldn’t be enough a month later.
Richard didn’t put much thought into it. Although he still couldn’t quite grasp the concept of currency, at least he knew that every single day spent learning in the Deepblue consumed huge volumes of resources. Even though he had the subsidy of 30,000 coins, he knew that it came with a price. It looked like Marquess Gaton had used up a significant amount of resources to allow him to enter the Deepblue, but this was a chance his mother had sacrificed her life for.
The history and politics of Norland was something all mages had to learn, so Richard had gained a preliminary understanding of the world. He knew at least that his position of being a personal apprentice to Sharon was something countless prominent figures in the Sacred Alliance could only dream of. Marquess Gaton himself didn’t have the power and status for this, so he must have paid a greater price than others to get a hold of this opportunity. There were no boundaries when exploring the world of magic.
Richard quietly stopped the magic projection— using magic crystals also required money— and placed the badge in an eye-grabbing spot. All the items in his financial balance were already engraved into his memory, even more firmly than if he were to use a memory spell. With that, he jumped straight back into learning more about the world of magic.
Two months passed in the blink of an eye. Every day, Richard immersed himself in the world of magic and numbers, and was practically unaware of the passing of time. Now, he had an excellent understanding of two innate abilities: Wisdom and Truth. The digitised world wasn’t bizarre and uninteresting anymore, becoming an irreplaceable benefit that outweighed everything else.
For example, Richard was able to intuitively understand others’ strengths as long as they were within his perception range. Take the other two of Sharon’s students still in the Deepblue, for instance. Minnie and Randolph were level 5 and level 6 mages respectively, both only at the age of fourteen. Minnie had 70 points of mana, while Randolph had an astonishing 110. Just the amount of mana he possessed made him no different from a level 7 mage, putting him far ahead of others of the same rank. Both could cast more spells than their peers, which was the most direct discrepancy in terms of ability. Moreover, they had to have something special in their bloodlines if they were Sharon’s direct disciples. A strong bloodline was always the crucial tie-breaker in many high-level battles between professionals.
It was just… A fire burnt before his eyes every morning, and a silhouette of his mother would appear amongst the flames. His bed was occasionally tainted with blood from his mouth as he clenched his teeth in his dreams.