[Edited by: LemonFly]
Palmyra Town was the resource supply point nearest to Cotopaxi Volcano.
It was also the place where all visiting apprentices reported for duty.
When Greem arrived at the town, riding on a leisurely moving coach from the outpost, it was dinner time.
Palmyra Town was a remote but not quite desolate town. It was not a big town, and there was only a main street that cut through the center of it. It was a small place where one could glance over the entire town just by standing at the street corner.
Dozens of wooden houses were built along both sides of the main street. Just with one look, one could tell they were all ordinary folk houses. In addition to that, there was also a tavern, a grocery shop, and a shabby, wet, little hostel. Together with a population of around a hundred, that was everything one could find in this tiny town!
Right after Greem came down from the coach, he vaguely heard a loud yet muffled noise that kept coming from the volcano located in the far distance. The noise didn't come at random intervals but had always lingered in Greem's ears ever since he had approached the region. When at the outer perimeter, it wasn't that clear, and was just like the muffled thunder one could hear in the wilderness during winter. But, when he came into this tiny town, he was immediately amazed by the mightiness of Mother Nature.
This, perhaps, was the noise caused by the restless underground activity of the volcano!
At the thought that the residents of the town had to live in such an environment year in and year out, Greem just couldn't hold down his curiosity. What was the reason behind them willingly enduring such a harsh environment and staying in this place?
Although currently, the resting period of Cotopaxi Volcano was approaching, the dense dust cloud was still bursting out from the crater that was located in a far of distance at high altitude. The town was built fewer than seven miles from the foot of the volcano and because of volcanic activity the sky was forever hazy. No matter if it was outside or inside the town, whether it was in the buildings or on the stony pavement, everything was blanketed with a thick layer of volcanic ash.
Inside the hostel, there was an Advanced Apprentice waiting for Greem. His name was Ivan. Judging from the badge pinned on the chest of his gray long robe, he came from the local Adept Family, the Zuber Family. The Cotopaxi Volcano was a family resource site they owned and no visiting Adept could step into the volcano without getting their permission prior.
When Ivan saw Greem was just an Advanced Apprentice, he could hardly believe it and was unable to hold down his emotion. Then, with a cold voice, he said, "Even during the resting period, the inner area of the volcano isn't a safe place. It is filled with terrifyingly hot airflow and Magmakin. Are you sure you can survive in a place like that?"
In an indifferent manner, Greem ran his eyes around the main hall of the hostel. He then casually waved his hand a few times in the air, revealing a magical talisman burning with fire element hovering in midair. Of course, his behavior attracted the eyes of everyone at the scene. The people who were sitting around the six to seven tables in the hall immediately turned their gazes over to him.
Honestly speaking, after Greem had stepped over the threshold of the Inferno Body and after he was injected with the energy from the underground lava pool, his more than two-meter tall body was rather offending to the eyes. Yet, his long, dark red hair, and the reserved aura of cruelty and brutality had also given him an extraordinary bearing that could easily attract people's gazes.
"Eh, so you're a Fire Element Apprentice! Then the hard underground environment will bring little effect to you. So long you can avoid those hateful Magmakin, perhaps, you can pay a visit to a deeper area!" Ivan nodded his head, took out a white stone, and handed it over to Greem.
It was the visiting permit for him that allowed him to enter the inner area of volcano a few days later!
"Go and talk with them! All the people you find in this hall are visiting apprentices who have come here for the mission. If you can form a team with them, it will be easier for you to complete the mission!" Since he had discovered that Greem was a Fire Element Apprentice, Ivan displayed a warmer reception.
Greem nodded his head to express his understanding and then slowly walked toward the hall, gradually gazing at all of the unfamiliar faces who were chitchatting across the tables in low voices. At the end, he decided to sit at a table alone.
For this underground trip, his primary goal was to complete his Inferno Body, and he wasn't too eager to get the rewards of the mission. Therefore, he had no intention to form a team with other apprentices. That was also why he had been putting up a cold look upon his arrival. It prevented any strangers from talking with him, as he wanted to avoid any unnecessary trouble.
All Apprentice Adepts were acute observers. Since Greem had put up an invisible barrier around him, naturally, no one would come and bother him. Meanwhile, Greem took the opportunity to slowly observe the entire situation around this group of apprentices, so that he could make any necessary preparations for future.
The main hall of the small hostel wasn't big and it was dim. There were approximately seventeen Apprentice Adepts; only two of them were Pseudo-Adepts and the rest were the same as Greem, Advanced Apprentices. In fact, this demographic matched the characteristics of this mission.
In order to harvest the resources at the underground volcano, on one hand, they had to endure the influence from the extreme environment, on the other hand, they had to deal with Magmakin, Fire Spirits, and other elemental creatures who inhabited the place. Therefore, Advanced Apprentice was the lowest requirement for this mission!
Greem came to a conclusion, that among all these Advanced Apprentices, more than half of them must have Fire as their affinity element. While the rest of them may not be Fire element apprentices, they would be fellows with extreme confidence in themselves. And, the reason why there were so few Pseudo-Adepts? It was because resource harvesting missions like this depended largely on one's luck.
If they were lucky, they might bump into a Fire Diamond mine that was exposed after the lava subsided. But, if they were out of luck, the story of someone returning with empty hands after three months of the mission was not a rare occasion either.
At that point in time, not only would they not receive any mission rewards, they even had to compensate the portion of resources required by the mission from their own stores.
Therefore, if not for a special need, no Pseudo-Adept would visit the underground volcano and test their luck.
After getting hold of the rough situation of the mission's apprentices, Greem hurried through a meal before he went in his own room and never came out again. He had arrived rather early, and there were still five days before the resting period of the volcano. So, for the next few days, he never stepped out from the room and even asked the servant to send his meals straight to his room.
Using the few days of spare time he had, Greem put in all his effort and arduously researched about the Ring of Fire. He had a feeling that the advanced Fire element defensive magic spell was the perfect match to his Inferno Body. If he could master it sooner, it was highly possible that he could form a Protective Flame similar to that of a Balrog of Abyss. If he really succeeded, anyone who tried to attack him would have to first suffer from constant fire damage. It fit better with his treacherous mentality of killing the enemy in the dark.
During this period, there were a couple of Apprentice Adepts who paid him a visit, trying to pull him into their exploration teams. Greem turned all of them down. Therefore, after a few rounds of rejections, all of the Advanced Apprentices who would visit the underground volcano had learned about the guy who had the intention of visiting the volcano alone.
As they were all able to become Advanced Apprentices, none of them were people with simple minds. They realized that a guy who had the courage to do that was someone who had extreme confidence in his trump cards. As a result, no one made any thoughtless comments about him. However, many of them were secretly waiting to see some shit happen to Greem!
Soon, the day everybody was waiting for arrived!
On this very day, the loud rumble that kept lingering in everybody's ears finally came to a complete stop.
The towering dust pillar in the far distant sky started to scatter and the shower of volcanic dust that had never stopped also reduced gradually and eventually came to a complete stop.
Greem, who was quietly studying a book in his room, felt the changes in the outside world. He pushed open the wooden window pane and looked into the street. Without hesitation, he packed everything around him and walked out from the room. Similar to him, many apprentices prepared themselves, and they nodded their head at each other in the corridor as they gathered in the main hall of the hostel.
Ivan, who was responsible for leading the group, was waiting in the main hall.
After another fifteen minutes, when all twenty apprentices had arrived, the group left the hostel, following behind Ivan as they rushed to the foot of the volcano.
For this group of Apprentice Adepts, a distance of seven to eight miles was nothing. In less than fifteen minutes, the group came to a natural cave located halfway up the volcano. Two Pseudo-Adepts from Zuber Family were waiting for them here. After verifying everybody's visiting permit, only then did they let them into the cave.
It was not a big cave and it only occupied around seventy square meters of area. Inside the cave, countless rocks with sharp edges and limestone were arranged in a crisscross pattern. Most probably, it was the tunnel that led to the depth of the volcano, as no moss, lichen or any similar things could be found here. Large cracks and deep trenches filled the wall on the both sides, and frequently, hot airflow that could cook a person instantly would burst out from them.
Perhaps because the underground lava had just subsided not long ago, even the ground in the cave was boiling hot. The air inside of the tunnel was filled with the pungent smell of sulfur. Without a unique approach, when an ordinary human stayed in this dirty air for more than ten minutes, his body would be invaded by the poisonous fire, turning his trachea and lungs into a sack full of blood.
But, no hardship in this environment could bring any harm to the apprentices who had the courage to visit the place. One after another, protective barriers of different colors emerged and covered them inside, isolated from any distraction coming from the outside. Greem didn't show off his Inferno Body, but instead cast an Inferno Force Field around him.
Quietly, he looked to the left and right, noticing eight apprentices had cast a similar Fire element defensive magic spell. They occupied nearly half of the entire twenty apprentices. Yet, the rest of them were either Earth or Wind element apprentices, and he couldn't find any Water element apprentices. Presumably, those apprentice with Water as their affinity element wouldn't want to suffer in an environment like this.
Compared to other spectrums of the element, when residing in a harsh environment like this, not only those Water element apprentices would have a hard time in gathering Water Elementiums, the strength and effect of their magic spell would also be reduced by at least seventy percent. So long their brain was functioning properly, none of them would come to this place and torture themselves!
When the group arrived at this place, they split up into their own smaller teams.
Few apprentices who had formed a team gathered together, and the Fire element apprentice among them cast a Fire element resistance spell on everyone in the team. After that, they simply squeezed into the tunnel without saying anything else. The residual temperature within the tunnel was still very high. In a narrow space like this, if they encountered an unexpected hot airflow burst of a major scale, even Advanced Apprentices would have to face a life-endangering situation.
Therefore, after wishing everyone good luck, the group split up and entered different tunnels, disappearing into the depths of the volcano.
Greem noticed that the Apprentice Adepts from the Zuber Family didn't follow any visiting apprentices into the tunnel. It looked like they were more familiar with the terrain of this area, and they had a more convenient destination to visit. There was no need to try their luck by poking around like the visiting apprentices.
Greem shook his head and sighed. Then, he scrunched his body and squeezed into one of the lava tunnels.