[Edited by: StarFly]
As for what had happened exactly at the depths of the volcano, no one really knew.
Nevertheless, the volcano world which had gone fully rampage was no longer a place suitable for treasure hunting, and it was a fact that everybody knew. Hence, Greem too, mixed among all other visiting apprentices and expressed his anger, before submitting his required portion of mission item and leaving Palmyra Town without alerting anybody.
When Greem returned smoothly to the Magical Swamp with his brand new status as a Pseudo-Adept, a massive storm immediately broke out in the entire Swampy Tower.
Once upon a time, Greem was just a nobody among the apprentices of the Swampy Tower and many people hadn't even realized his existence. But now, following his mighty rise, those experts who Greem used to look up to had been ditched at his back and became the group who had the most dejected emotions.
And right when a portion of apprentices was still doubting on the authenticity of the news, Adept Keoghan, who represented Sarubo Family had visited Swampy Tower once again and had a meeting with Greem at the fifth floor of the tower. As expected, Greem's decision was exactly same as Mary's - he chose to serve Sarubo Family ten years in exchange for the resources required for his level up.
Of course, if Greem had the confidence to find all resources required for the official Adept Advancement Ceremony by himself, then he could always choose to leave Sarubo Family and become a wanderer. However, with the current development situation of Zhentarim Association, they had employed a rather hostile and oppressive policy towards any wandering Adepts and apprentices who didn't belong to a family. Thus, if Greem wished to spend his apprenticeship smoothly, unavoidably, he had to join an Adept Family.
As for the Byron Family's chest badge that Greem had obtained at the Underground Cave, it only meant the Byron Family was willing to protect him at the Dagon region, as he hadn't sign any magical contract and officially joined the Byron Family.
After meeting with Adept Keoghan, Greem was immediately dragged into Mary's room, by the vampire girl who had heard the news of his return.
"Tell me now, what had you done during the mission? How is it possible that you made the breakthrough and became a Pseudo-Adept?" With Mary understanding of Greem, this guy could never complete a mission smoothly, as every time he would create big troubles halfway.
Greem responded with a big smile on his face, but said nothing. However, after he stroked his hand across the tabletop, he left behind one big and four small, a total of five mysterious, dark red gemstones.
"What are these?" Curiously, Mary stretched her hand toward the biggest gemstone, but right when her little hand touched the mysterious gemstone, she retracted it instantly.
A light crackling noise was heard, as a small flame ignited on top of the gemstone and ferociously burned her fingers.
Even with Mary's body constitution of vampire, her fingers which had touched the gemstone had turned dark. But she wasn't bothered by it, with a gentle wave of her palm, the burn marks immediately disappeared and her fair and delicate fingers had returned.
Mary didn't act recklessly this time, but stood still and pondered for a moment.
Obviously, the flame wasn't controlled by someone, and it wasn't the result of some magical arrays. It was a defensive mechanism initiated by the instincts of the gemstone. It was like as if… as if it possessed its own consciousness!
"What exactly is this?" Mary asked the question once again, but this time, she wore a fierce expression on her face and revealed a pair of her sharp fangs. She had a look as if to say that if Greem didn't give her the answer, she would leap onto him and gave him a brutal bite.
"Second Grade Core!" A weird smile emerged on Greem's face, as he spoke the answer one word at a time.
The juicy red lips of Mary murmured the same answer a few times, before she came to a rude awakening. "Second Grade Core? Did you kill a Second Grade demon? Where is the corpse? Did you extract its blood? Hurry up… tell me quickly!"
"Ugh…" Greem spread his arms and expressed his speechless at Mary's response. "If I really meet with a Second Grade demon, do you think I can still come back alive?"
"You're right!" Mary smiled slightly and felt surprised for losing her cool just now.
She just couldn't help it. She was at the most important transition period throughout the entire life of a vampire, and the fastest method for increasing her overall strength was being fed the blood of experts. With these two reasons combined, it was more than enough for Mary to become nervousness enough to lose her cool and become restless and passionate upon hearing news about a powerful creature!
Of course, in the eyes of Mary, the current Greem could barely be considered an expert. Nevertheless, no matter how much Mary tried to convince Greem until the roof fell down, Greem would never agree to let her suck his blood. Because according to the Chip's analysis, any individual who had his blood sucked by a vampire, would always suffer from a different degree of decay in his overall strength.
And, this decay was most likely the key to why the vampire could evolve by sucking blood!
To put it simply, if Greem allowed Mary to suck his blood, most probably his attribute would drop, and it would effect his Physique and Spirit, which were the attributes he cared about the most. With regard to this, Toril, the Bloodline Apprentice they met at the Underground Cave, was the perfect example.
Originally, that guy had reached the pinnacle of his apprenticeship, and was about to hold his official Adept Advancement Ceremony. However, he was miserably defeated by Greem's golem team. Such injuries would only take him one to two weeks of resting to fully recover. However, from the news from his family, the Pseudo-Adept Toril had experienced a decay in his Spirit. Though it hadn't dropped below 20 points, it was more than enough to affect him from advancing normally.
Hence, after summarizing from so many bloody examples, Greem had reason to believe that through sucking the blood of others, the race of vampire could extract the bloodline factor of the host and use it to strengthen themselves and weaken the enemy. Try to think about it, under such circumstances, how could Greem let Mary suck his blood?
After exchanging the latest developments of each other, Mary rushed back to the Mission Hall, continued searching for apprentice missions that suit her the most. As for Greem, he returned to his own room and started listening to the briefing of the goblin merchant, Snorlax.
During the three months that Greem was not here, following the injecting of information and resources from the outside world, the Swampy Tower had become livelier, no longer a place of stagnancy and dead quietness like how it was in the past. With Mary's backing, Snorlax had opened the first Goblin Store in the tower.
There weren't many items available to buy in this little store, yet they were all rare resources that could hardly be found in the outside world. Also, recently Snorlax had put its eyes on those Beginner and Intermediate Apprentices and had started to purchase magical materials and ordinary resources that they wouldn't be using for now.
Nevertheless, in order for such a little store to operate in full scale, it needed an endless supply of high-grade items, or else, it would be pretty tough to attract these apprentices.
After finished listening to Snorlax's briefing, Greem nodded his head satisfyingly. Then, he casually poured out a large pile of magical gemstones and materials from his storage waist belt, and most of them were Fire Diamonds. After all, compared to those apprentices who spent all days wandering at the outer perimeter of the volcano world, Greem had ventured into the depths of the lava ocean countless of times and the chances of him finding high-grade magical gemstones were much higher.
Also, those Fire Diamonds and magical gemstones were mostly washed out from the lava ocean during the active periods of the volcano. And, after going through the filtration of Fire element creatures, the leftover would be all of that lesser quality materials. Yet, the Fire Diamonds Greem brought back from the lava ocean were at least supreme grade Fire Diamonds, the size of a human fist. Greem even tossed a huge human skull-sized Fire Diamond over to Snorlax, asking it to find someone to craft it into the shape of a jade pillow.
With that, when Greem laid his head on top of it and meditated in the future, the result would definitely be better!
After Snorlax left happily with a packed waist pouch, the smile on Greem's face gradually subsided. He started to ponder seriously on some very important information.
During his absence of the past three months, Adept Anderson had actually publicly announced that he would take Evil Bugs Acteon as his disciple. And according to what Snorlax told him, nearly every day of these past three months, Acteon had dwelt in the fifth floor of the Adept Tower, and no one knew what he and Adept Anderson were doing up there!
Facing two enemies who might have joined forces, Greem's feeling of joy after becoming a Pseudo-Adept immediately vanished in a flash. Once again, he felt the pressure of time that waited for no man. Though, after he made the advancement and became Pseudo-Adept and managed to obtain the protection from the family preventing Adept Anderson from harming him openly, it was still possible the Adept would have planned something treacherous in the dark.
And by getting so close with Evil Bugs, could Anderson use Acteon to deal with Greem?
Greem let out a bitter laugh.
Since the day he had a thorough understanding of the conflict of interest between Adept Anderson and Mary, he knew sooner or later, he would be hated by Anderson. He just didn't think that the enemy would move so quickly, so pressing against the time!
In the eyes of these treachery and cunning Adepts, all apprentices were merely a bunch of materials who knew how to walk by themselves. If not for the fact that the top management of the Adepts had put a constraint on their behavior, perhaps these selfish fellows would never allow the rising of new Adepts, who would stand up and fight for rare resources against them.
Nevertheless, no matter what the enemy was planning, as long as the speed of his progress went beyond their expectations, any dangers and traps would pass away like a cloud, and none of them could shake the direction of his progress.
After giving the current situation a thorough analysis, Greem immediately drafted out a long working plan for the time to come. Under his arrangement, perhaps for the next half year, every single day would be filled with numerous tasks and no time for leisure.
In this mysterious world, in order to keep his life safe, Greem had poured all his energy and time in the learning and researching magic spells.
Inside Snorlax's room.
After coming back from its master's room, Snorlax had been indulging in an enthusiastic stage.
Every time when it took out a magical gemstone from its waist pouch, it would always dance with joy, repeatedly kissing and stroking it, before using its magical probing stick to verify the element and quality of the gemstone.
Staring at the pile of gemstones which was getting taller and taller, Snorlax's heart was filled with wild excitement. At this time, it just wished it could run back to its master and passionately kiss his shoes. Perhaps, only by doing this it could let its master experience the passion and loyalty of Snorlax!
But, during this delightful process, a small setback had struck Snorlax.
Within the pile of gemstones its master had given it, Snorlax discovered a mysterious, white stone the size of a human fist. No matter what method it used to verify the stone, it just couldn't find out its element, and couldn't confirm whether it was a magical gemstone, material or egg of demon beast!
Even after using its magical probing stick to test it, the message it got in its mind was a simple 'unknown item from Outworld'. Since the magical probing stick confirmed it was an item rather than a living being, it also meant it wasn't an egg of some demon beast. Yet, its master had included the white stone in the pile of gemstones, it told Snorlax that this was an item of great value.
The info Snorlax concerned the most was the word 'Outworld'.
Could this white stone be a mysterious gemstone from another plane?
Snorlax scratched its head and had no choice but to put the mysterious white stone back onto the table and turn around and continue to organize the rest of the gemstones.