Chapter 343 Witch's Secret
The time was almost upon them.
Regardless of whether it was fear or excitement that filled Alice's heart, the day of the Tower of Fate's activation was at hand.
Taking into consideration the lack of floating battleships from Zhentarim to the Northern Lands, there was only one way through the ten-thousand mile Black Forest. It was the large merchant groups that regularly traveled between the two places.
These merchant groups usually had relations with some of the witch branches. The witches would send guards to protect the merchants, thereby guaranteeing the safety of the goods.
However, the journey would take two months to complete. As such, Greem decided to set off six months early before the Battle of Fate.
Greem left with Alice on an ordinary morning. No more than three people within the clan knew where they headed.
The trip to Motta City was reasonably peaceful. They then took a floating ship north. Nine days later, they arrived in the most northern of the Zhentarim public cities– the city of Ibis.
Greem's attention was instantly attracted by this lively and crowded city when he got off the ship.
Ibis City appeared to be messier and chaotic compared to other cities of the same scale. However, it buzzed with much more life than any of those cities.
Long trains of merchants herded their massive burden-carrying beasts through the markets, muscular barbarians wore beast hides and carried huge axes on their backs, wolfmen with the heads of wolves, and mercenaries walking in a group.
Greem had never seen so many individuals of different races gathered in a single area.
They all seemed to be combat species with imposing physical strength. They also possessed intelligence that could rival those of humans. These races also happened to be natives of some manner to the Black Forest. Consequently, merchant groups that needed to make it through the Black Forest often hired them as guards.
"Let's go! We will find a place to rest first then think about which merchant group to join!" Greem was no longer the one taking the lead once they reached this place. It was Alice that took the reins instead.
She might have been young, but she had already traveled through this part of the continent twice in her life. She was much more acquainted with the paths and the rules of this place compared to Greem.
The two walked out of the airship landing area under Alice's lead. They passed through a crowded market and entered Ibis City.
Ibis City was closer to the Northern Lands than the other areas of Zhentarim. The number of witches stationed here was far higher than the number of adepts that the Adept's Association had here. Consequently, most of the buildings, with the sole exception of the great adept's tower at the heart of the city, were constructed of rough and untreated wood. They all gave off the raw and easygoing feeling unique to the northerners.
Alice didn't bring Greem to visit the adept's tower here.
Even though most wandering adepts would visit, it was a conspicuous act that would draw the attention of the witches. This was especially true at this critical period. All unfamiliar faces that wanted to enter and exit the Northern Lands would be under scrutiny.
Greem had thought that Alice would bring him to the Moya's outpost in the city. He didn't expect Alice to wind through the city and bring him to a trading company by the name of Night Rose. The Night Rose was a subordinate organization that belonged to the Dark Witches.
After skillfully negotiating with the manager of the company, Alice succeeded in reserving two spots within the merchant group at the cost of two hundred magical crystals per person. The identity she gave to the company was of two ordinary adepts on a journey to the Northern Lands in search of unique resources.
The date of departure was set to be three days later as the goods of the company were still waiting to be carted over. Consequently, Alice and Greem had no choice but to find an inn near the company to settle down in.
The manager of the company hesitated for a moment when the two finally left. He waved and called over a subordinate to take the counter as he hurried to the courtyard of the building.
Here, a giant golden tent had been erected on the grass field. One apprentice witch in short robes after another walked in and out of the tent.
After a series of messages and envoys, the company manager was finally able to meet with the actual person in charge of the transportation of the goods this time– Second Grade Dark Witch Kola.
The space within the tent wasn't narrow at all. In fact, the decorations were extremely grand.
An elegant soft carpet with complicated patterns lied beneath their feet. Curtains embroidered with gold hung around the tent. Every one of them had been crafted with care and delicacy. The work was exquisite. All sorts of strange life-like creatures had been embroidered onto the curtains. Most of them were magical creatures unique to the Northern Lands.
A female silhouette with a seductive figure and a supine posture was leaning upon a small wooden table behind the semi-translucent curtains. The woman was silently reading her book.
"Oh, you mean to say that two unknown adepts have joined our group?"
"Yes, my lady. It is already the third group of adepts that have engaged our services. As you ordered, I immediately rushed over to give my report once they left."
"What about their backgrounds?"
"One male and one female. The two say they are here to look for resources and didn't provide much other detail."
"A female?" Witch Kola laughed softly, "Hasn't there been a lot more female adepts heading towards the Northern Lands during this time?!"
"My lady, do you mean that they are… "
"Who cares if they are? Now that they have engaged our services, they are our clients. We only need to send them to their destination safely. No need to care about anything else!"
"But wouldn't it bring about trouble for the merchant group if their purpose is really 'that'?" The manager couldn't help but hesitate.
"It might have been troublesome if this had been a few years prior." Witch Kola slightly smiled as she explained, "The Witches of Deceit went overboard, causing the other witch leaders to pressure them through the Witch Council. They forced their leader, Angelina, to swear not to kill any other candidate that will participate in the Battle of Fate. So the trouble you speak of no longer exists!"
"I understand, my lady. I know what to do."
"Mm, you may leave! Remember to notify them. We will depart three days later as planned. They will have to find another group if they miss the ride.”
"Understood." The manager kneeled on the ground and bowed respectfully before slowly retreating from the tent.
The witches were well-respected within the entire Northern Lands!
Not only did they possess incredible strength, but they were also the rulers of the Northern Lands, as well as the defenders and pioneers of that land.
Frankly speaking, the entirety of the Northern Lands had been obtained through tooth-and-claw struggles against the native creatures and wild beasts thanks to the witches and their followers.
Thus, all citizens of the Northern Lands felt sincere gratitude, respect, and love for all the Northern Witches.
In this regard, the Northern Witches were the organization with the most intimate relations to the peasants among all the adept forces.
At this moment, Greem and Alice had finally settled down within the inn.
Inside their room, Alice had taken on the temporary role of Greem's teacher. She was teaching him all about the Northern Witches that he needed to know.
Of course, Greem had already obtained a basic understanding of the origins and ruling structure of the Northern Witches through books and various other means. However, most of these efforts were futile and ineffective. They only gave him a vague impression of the witches, and could not compare to the in-depth explanation by a trueblood witch like Alice.
She no longer needed to talk about the long and complicated history of the witches. Greem knew of this through books. Thus, most of Alice's priorities and focus was on the relationship and specialties of the various witch branches.
The Northern Witches appeared to be a massive and harmonious witch force on the surface. However, if one were to dig into their roots, they would find an inexplicable complexity within the internal politics of the giant organization. The intricacy of the situation was enough to suffocate anyone that tried to think about it.
If they were indeed as united as their appearances suggested, why were there only seven left of the original thirteen branches?
Even though it was true that each branch's rise and fall had their fates, it was a fact that six of the witch branches had gone completely extinct. This situation could not be explained or glossed over by merely pointing towards fate!
The seven witch branches that remained were Deceit, Pale, Agony, Death, Coldwinter, Dark, and False. The Witches of Deceit, in particular, were skilled at transfiguration and deceit. They were also Alice's biggest enemy currently.
The Pale Witches possessed accompanying spirits that were linked to their life force. These spirits were immune to most physical damage and even had casting abilities. Thus, provoking a Pale Witch was provoking a powerful witch and a powerful spirit at the same time. Fighting with a numerical advantage was what they were best at!
The Agony Witches were proficient in curses. They were the group of individuals that produced the most curse adepts.
The Death Witches were good at poison and plague. They also had their own unique technique for creating undead.
The Coldwinter Witches were masters of ice and snow. They were also the most powerful and combat-oriented of the seven witch branches thanks to the synergy of their powers with the cold and unforgiving weather of the north.
The ability of the Dark Witches was stranger. They were able to create a sort of unique soul energy pool and store their soul brand within it. In doing so, they no longer feared death in combat. They would revive in the soul energy pool within a dozen days, even if they gloriously sacrificed themselves in battle.
The False Witches, on the other hand, had illusion as their innate talent. The False Witches were a mysterious group of individuals, even within the witches. Very few people have seen their actual faces.
The witch that had attacked Alice outside of Feidnan last time was, in truth, a Witch of Deceit that had transformed her appearance. The transfiguration powers of the Witches of Deceit weren't as simple as a cosmetic change to their bodies. They also possessed some of the unique capabilities of their target when they transfigured and took on their form.
It was one of the most powerful abilities of the Deceit Witches!
The reason Alice had chosen the merchant group of the Dark Witches over the Moya Clan of the Pale Witches was to avoid suspicion and trouble.
The clan's performance and actions last time had hurt Alice deeply!
She no longer wanted to be betrayed by her clan again.