Chapter 349 Conversation in the Woods
The road through the Black Forest was a safe passage paved with the lives of countless adepts over tens of thousands of years.
Still, this so-called safety was only relative. No one could guarantee that absolutely no harm would come to the travelers.
After all, most of the passage twisted through the space between the territories of several powerful magical creatures. Those beasts were not going to stick within their borders when they went hunting. It was a small matter if the party suffered losses to their goods when encountering a high-grade magical creature on their journey. More frequently, entire merchant groups went missing from such an encounter.
Thus, it became a necessary task for the witches in charge of the merchant groups to visit the sages and diviners of their clan.
Though most of these sages and diviners were not of high Grades, their words were still of great value. Even the high-grade witches didn't dare to ignore their warnings. After all, this was the essential knowledge that concerned their lives!
Perhaps it was thanks to the Dark Witches' sage, or maybe it was due to the abundance of fate candidates in the party, but the entire trip went without a hitch. Though some wild magical beasts attacked them along the way, the situation was still very much within the control of the witches.
After a lengthy eight-seven day journey, the convoy line finally left the Black Forest.
The green and white road started to widen, branching in several directions as they went on. There was more of a crowd now.
When they first left the Black Forest, the majority of people they saw were groups of mercenaries in their hunting parties. There were always a couple of apprentice witches in these parties. When they saw the caravans, they would wave and acknowledge the merchant group to pay their respects to these brave warriors that dared to pass through the Black Forest.
It was evident that the witches of the various branches existed in relative harmony. At least, Greem didn't notice any apparent hatred and tension in the interactions between low-level witches.
From the moment they passed through the Black Forest, they had set foot upon the territories of the Northern Witches.
The first city they reached was Dian City, a town directly managed by the Witch Council.
Dian City didn't belong to any of the witch branches. It was a city under the jurisdiction of the Witch Council and was similar to the public cities in the central area of the continent.
Here, witches of all branches had to obey the rules of the Witch Council. They could not go against their will. The governors of this city had been selected from the various branches. They took turns to manage and rule over the city.
The governor of Dian City for the past ten years was a Third Grade witch from the Agony Witch branch.
That solitary witch leaped off the carriage before it entered the Dian City. She left the party without even turning back. A short moment later, the pair of adepts claiming to be siblings also departed the group in secret.
The direction they left in was the same as the witch that had left earlier. It wasn't hard to imagine what was going to happen next.
The Dark Witches saw all of this happen and shook their heads in disapproval and disappointment at the witch's decision to leave prematurely.
As long as she remained in the group, the Dark Witches had an obligation to protect her due to the contract they had signed. Even after they entered Dian City, she would still be safe. Killing between adepts was strictly forbidden on lands ruled by the witches. As such, they would have guaranteed her safety had she not left.
She still chose to do so, and in doing so, she also managed to draw away the pair of siblings. Everyone could imagine what was going to happen next, even if they were completely blind.
Hmph! A candidate for the Witch of Fate that did not possess the blessing of fate. It was okay even if she died!
The most unexpected thing for them was the departure of the other pair of adepts. They had said their farewells right before the entrance to the city and disappeared into the crowd before the gates.
Greem and Alice ignored the bewildered looks behind them. They didn't enter Dian City. Instead, they followed the walls of the city west before moving north and continuing down the road towards the heartland of the Northern Witches' territory.
You could hear the whispering voices of the two as they walked.
"Why didn't we enter Dian City? Don't you know that those three people are waiting for us outside?" It seemed to be Alice's voice.
"They wait for us, but are we not waiting for them as well? If they truly dare to come at us, then we will beat them black and blue! It's about time you start refining your combat techniques anyway."
Three days later.
There was an empty field in the forest right beside the road.
Due to the convenient access to this place, along with the presence of a spring, many merchants and travelers chose to stop and rest here.
Four or five waves of people had already arrived before nightfall. Their arrival was a lively addition to the small camp.
There were no robbers or bandits, as this was the witches' territory. Even strangers were passionate and friendly in their conversations.
The ones that arrived first were washing their faces, drawing water, and preparing dinner. The moment more people arrived, they would greet them passionately and invite them for a meal. Everyone started a campfire and cooked the food they had brought. The fragrant smell of dinner and joyous laughter filled the air.
The travelers were utterly shocked when Greem and Alice followed the smell and walked into this campsite.
Even though both of them draped themselves in traveler's cloaks that hid their adept robes, the smooth fabric of the covers, and the golden embroidery on the edges, still spoke volumes about their status. Moreover, Greem's towering figure and calm aura, along with Alice's clothes, made their identities impossible to hide.
The arrival of two adepts caught the others by surprise. The only apprentice witch in the crowd had also become nervous. She quickly stood up and paid her respects to Greem and Alice.
Although witches had far superior status compared to male adepts in the Northen Lands, a small apprentice witch still had no right to disregard an adept.
"We just arrived from the central area. We need to know about the organizations around here. Could you tell us about it?" Greem no longer took the lead now that they were in the Northern Lands. Instead, Alice was the one that represented the two of them.
She was a witch, and they would respect her much more than a male adept like himself. It would have a much better effect if she were the one doing the talking.
"It is Naia's pride to serve my lady! Please, both of you, have a seat!" The apprentice witch waited upon them eagerly.
Another campfire had been raised inside of the campsite, and a merchant group had taken this spot. They quickly gave up the better seats when they saw the two adepts coming over.
The leader of the merchants had a slightly higher status than the apprentice witch. After all, they were the ones that hired the apprentice. However, under the circumstances, only the apprentice witch had any right to sit and talk with two official adepts.
The leader of the merchants shifted to another campfire and quickly had some of his men send over freshly prepared mushroom soup and roasted lamb chops. The three people sat in a circle around the fire. They talked as they ate. The atmosphere was peaceful.
"What do my lady and my lord wish to know?" Apprentice Naia curiously assessed the two strange faces and asked politely.
One adept was tall while the other was short. One was big, and the other was small. The two looked like a father and daughter pair from their appearance. That said, the cold and handsome male adept appeared to be too young. Also, the small witch wasn't just petite. Even the way she spoke and her expressions looked no different from a seven or eight-year-old girl.
Still, everyone knew that no ordinary person could become an adept. Could an eight-year-old child become an adept? This idea was humiliating to the entire profession of adept. The small witch before her eyes might have looked young, but who knew whether she was actually a few centuries old!
Naia knew very well not to judge people based on their expressions. She behaved with all the respect she could muster.
"We only want to know about the situation and politics of the nearby organizations, as well as whether there are any unique resources around here." Alice didn't touch the lamb chops. She tasted the mushroom soup, and finding it to be alright, continued to sip it as she spoke.
"Then allow me to tell you!
"Right now, we are located somewhere between Dian City and Ancona City. Dian City is a city that you'd have to pass by when you enter and exit the Northern Lands. I am sure you two visited the place when you came here. If we follow this road north for another half a day, we would leave Dian City territory and enter the lands of the Death Witches.
"If my lady continues west, you will reach the territory of the Agony Witches within three days. Walk east for two days, and you will be within the lands of the Witches of Deceit.
"The resources around here actually exists in abundance. Dian City is a place where merchants gather from all over. You can find almost all of the resources in the Northern Lands there. If you want to accumulate materials, it is best to return there.
"Here in the Northern Lands, most witches that choose not to stay in a city's adept tower will find a secluded location and build an arcane cottage for their home. They will then bury themselves in the research subjects that they prefer. These witches will be more than willing to exchange knowledge with you if you visit them.
"A hundred kilometers away from this road, in the northwest, there's a place called Nora. There's a Spring of Fortune that occasionally appears there. It is said that drinking the spring water will bring about one year of fortune and luck.
"A hundred and fifty kilometers east of here, there's an obelisk left behind by the ancient witches. Witches that touch it will gain a unique spiritual inspiration...
"XX kilometers to the southwest…
"XX kilometers to the northeast…"
Greem and Alice listened without interrupting They imprinted every word of what Naia said into their minds. Alice might have been born here, but she was brought out of the Northern Lands when she was very young. Most of her memories of this place were vague and unclear.
Now that she heard all this again, her memories began to rush back to her.
When Naia finished, Greem took out a map of the Northern Lands. He had Naia mark out the locations of all the witch cottages that she knew of. He then nodded in satisfaction as he kept the map.
Alice took out ten magical crystals and passed them to Naia. The apprentice received them with a massive smile on her face.
With her abilities as an intermediate apprentice, she had earned no more than eight magical crystals, even after following and guarding this small merchant group for a dozen days. The fact that she could get ten magical crystals worth of income by having a simple conversation made her extremely happy.
It was then that Greem frowned. He turned his head towards the southeast.
He looked at Alice. The two communicated with their eyes and stood up simultaneously.
"Tell the people not to take a single step out of this campsite tonight. Do not go out and investigate, regardless of the commotion. Pass this to the merchants; this will be our payment for the dinner!" Alice took out yet another two crystals and tossed them towards Naia. She then turned and disappeared silently into the curtain of the night along with Greem.
Naia's heart beat furiously. She held the magical crystals in her hand as she looked in the direction the adepts had disappeared. She had a vague feeling that tonight was not going to be a peaceful night!
Editor Ryu: Naia really ought to have been called Navi. The girl seems to know everything within the local area.