Chapter 344 Setting Out
Three days later.
The gathering location was set to be the entrance of the Night Rose's headquarters.
There was already a crowd when Greem and Alice hurried over to the place. Several dozen carts had also been parked there. A squad of fully-armed guards spread across the area. They seemed to consist of warriors from other races mostly.
Greem was interested in the secrets of their biology, but a few figures wrapped in heavy robes drew his attention.
In truth, Greem and Alice also wore wearing thick traveler's robes to avoid any trouble. They had their hoods pulled over their heads, and not a single inch of their skin was exposed. That said, nothing could entirely hide Alice's conspicuously petite figure.
There were four other 'passengers' traveling with the merchant group aside from the two of them.
The four of them had split into three different parties. Two women were traveling alone, and the other male and female were a pair like Alice and Greem were.
Judging from the mental flux they were radiating, one of the girls traveling alone was a witch, while the other was an apprentice. The pair were adepts as well.
"How is it, do you sense anything?" Greem silently assessed the new company from under the shadows of his hood. He communicated with Alice through the use of his Spirit.
"Unfortunately, all three of the girls are!" Alice couldn't help but roll her eyes.
There were at least another seven or eight months until the Tower of Fate activated. Why were these people coming out of the woodwork so early? To think that they would bump into so many competitors when all they wanted was to ride along with the merchant caravans! Alice was speechless.
As candidates of the Witch of Fate themselves, all of them had some degree of blessing from fate. Outsiders might not have been able to sense this aura of fate, but all candidates of fate were sensitive to it. They recognized each other's identities the moment they gathered together.
Four candidates appeared in the merchant group. Three of them were adepts, while the other was an apprentice.
The few adept-level candidates couldn't help but shift their gaze towards the apprentice. Their looks carried with them a trace of disdain and scorn.
Some great talent must have awakened within them as candidates of the Witch of Fate. Yet, even under these circumstances, she remained unable to advance to a witch. People like these were destined to be eliminated. They probably didn't have a chance to participate in the Battle of Fate.
Everyone present knew it in their hearts. The laws of fate were no philanthropists.
The laws of fate had provided such great fortune to candidates all over the Continent, and one day they would take it back. Much like raising a poisonous insect by having a hundred of them fight within an urn, the laws of fate had to bless the candidates to ensure they grew and developed as quickly as possible.
Then, once the timing was ripe, the Tower of Fate would be activated, and the candidates would gather.
With fate as the furnace and the candidates as the fuel, the flames of the legacy of the Witch of Fate would once again ignite.
In this manner, the new Witch of Fate would be able to draw upon the flesh and souls of the defeated candidates and rapidly break free of the initial period of weakness. They would instantly rise to become one worthy to be a leader of the witches.
As such, all the candidates were doomed to the fate of killing each other. There was no possibility of peace or cooperation!
While Greem and Alice were silently assessing their opponents, their opponents were also doing the same to them.
A strong fire-elementium adept. It was evident from the pulsing and surging fire elementium particles around the man's body. The other one?
The two witch candidates couldn't help but betray an expression of confusion.
Firstly, it was clear that she had advanced to adept-level.
This was obvious from the energy aura that radiated from within her body.
However, why was her mental flux so strange?
It appeared one moment and vanished in the next. It behaved like that of an adept's for an instant, and like that of an ordinary mortal in the following second. The change in her mental flux was incomprehensible to the two witches!
The two witches had silently started to grab their crystal balls under cover of their sleeves. It seemed they wanted to scry on Alice.
A light runic explosion came from their sleeves the very next second. A thick cloud of black smoke emerged from within them.
"Two idiots." Alice put on a cold smile of disdain. She grabbed Greem's sleeve with one hand and toyed with a platinum badge with the other.
It was thanks to this badge that Alice had managed to deflect the scrying attempts of her 'companions'.
The commotion had attracted the attention of the crowd as well.
However, the guards in charge of the caravan's security shrugged and took a few steps outwards after taking a quick look at the people involved. They didn't want to have anything to do with a fight between witches.
From start to finish, the battle between Alice and the two witches had never included the apprentice. She had automatically been relegated to the status of a simple being who was utterly ignored.
The apprentice bit her lips. Her body trembled when she sensed the tense atmosphere around her.
Even though she knew there was no chance of winning, the strong desire to live on caused her to grit her teeth and set out on this desperate journey. There was hope as long as she participated. It was this pure thought that kept her going, even though she was frightened out of her wits.
The conflict between the witches had affected the merchant group. Some of the ordinary mortals accompanying the group betrayed expressions of fear and concern.
Just then, an incredibly sharp and powerful mental flux engulfed the entire place. It forcefully suppressed all the tension and commotion that was happening.
Everyone's hearts trembled. They shifted their gazes towards the group of women that had just walked out of the Night Rose headquarters.
They were all women, and they were all in black robes. There were a total of eleven of them. There were young witches, old hags, pretty ladies, and ugly women.
In particular, the leading woman glowed with a blinding and intense light. Greem and the others had to tilt their gazes away from her to spare their eyes from the stinging pain. Strangely enough, the ordinary people seemed unaffected by the light. They didn't appear to see anything out of the ordinary.
"Since you have chosen us of the Night Rose, you had best keep to the rules and behave. We will be responsible for escorting you to your destination without a hitch." The woman stopped walking and coldly warned, "If anyone tries some scheme of theirs along the way, hmph… "
Greem and the others took her words to heart. They bowed in respect before the witch.
This respect was, in fact, the necessary formality that needed to be shown towards a higher-grade adept. Otherwise, the higher-grade adept possessed the right to punish the disrespect.
After a light warning, the Second Grade witch boarded an opulent carriage without another word. The other black-robed ladies also boarded their carriages, one after another.
A Second Grade witch, three First Grade witches, and seven apprentice witches in all.
The blinding light might have obstructed Greem's eyes, but he was still able to get a good grasp of the number of witches in the party with the chip's ability to scan. Such figures and power were enough to compare to small-sized clans in the Zhentarim area.
Right here at the edge of the Northern Lands, a party of this capability was no more than the basic line-up to guard a group of caravans!
As everyone had paid a hefty price of two hundred magical crystals, a delicate carriage had been prepared for every one of the passengers. However, Alice and Greem still chose to share a vehicle out of security concerns. Before they got into their carriage, Greem observed that the pair of adepts traveling together were also sharing a carriage.
Alice excitedly whispered once they got on, "Are we going to do it on the journey?"
Greem replied unamusedly, "You dare to do anything? There's a Second Grade Dark Witch with the group. Moreover, you will attract fate's backlash if you are the one that took the initiative to strike!"
Alice took out a large apple out of who-knows-where and started snapping and crunching away at it, "We will always find a way to do it as long as we want to. From my observations, all these people seem to be idiots. Wouldn't it be an easy matter to bait them to attack us?"
"It's best not to do anything if we can." Greem thought quietly for a while, "I have a feeling that you will benefit more if you let them grow stronger!"
Alice tilted her head as she thought about the issue. She started gnawing away at the apple at an even faster rate.
At the same time, a private conversation was also held on the carriage of the other pair of adepts.
"Brother, are we going to do it on the journey?" The female adept was the first to pull her hood off her head. She revealed a head of long golden hair and a delicate and pretty face.
"We will see how it goes!" The other adept also pulled his hood off. His pitch-black eyes, with not a single trace of white, looked extremely strange and wicked, "The two of them are traveling together. It's going to be troublesome. The little kid doesn't seem to have any combat abilities, but that companion of her's is no simple matter. That said, we can consider those fellows traveling alone as our targets!"
The female adept lowered her head and thought for a bit. She then lifted her head and spoke, "No need to hurry. I'll find opportunities to probe them during the trip. You go and test that female adept. I'll have a word with the male adept."
The male adept let out a silent sigh and finally nodded in agreement.
The long caravan line started to move, even as the cogs of conspiracy in everyone's minds had begun to turn.
The mercenaries at the front formed the vanguard. The Night Rose guards protected both sides of the caravan line. The dozen carriages that carried the witches and the apprentices mixed with the other caravans and slowly moved forward.
The merchant carts and caravans lined up into a long winding serpent as they passed through the city gates in an orderly fashion.
Two women stood in a fort on top of the city gates as the caravan line pressed towards the dark forest. They silently watched over this party.
"Is the assessment done?" One of the women spoke in a chilling tone.
"It is, my lady." The other woman bowed, "There are a total of six outsiders. Four of them are female."
"Have you checked with the runic arrays?"
"We have. The array reacted to all four of women. Two are adepts, and one is an apprentice."
"And the other?"
"The reaction of the array was somewhat peculiar, as if some unique magical tool that she had on her was interfering with our probing!"
"Hmph! That is what's considered ordinary. Who cares if she can interfere with the array? All that matters is that there was a reaction. Remember to notify our sisters on the other end. Send all the information we just gathered to them. The quicker we find out their backgrounds, the greater Miss Snowlotus' chance of victory."
"Understood. Your humble subordinate understands. I will go and do so immediately."
Only the woman was left once her subordinate had gone. She looked at the distant caravan line and couldn't help but snort coldly, "Hmph! Another bunch is seeking their deaths! Do you really think that you stand a chance in the Battle of Fate? A bunch of fools... "
She vanished from the spot before her voice had wholly spread out within the room!
Editor Ryu: When they're talking about a hundred poisonous insects fighting in an urn, it is a reference to the Chinese legend of the Gu. Supposedly, several poisonous creatures were sealed in a container to consume each other. The final one remaining would contain an overwhelmingly potent poison from having devoured the other creatures. One can assume the Witch of Fate works the same way, with the final witch standing consolidating the power of all the candidates- so Highlander, but with witches.