Chapter 397 Contract
Greem vaguely sensed the abnormality in the forest spirit's abdomen with the help of the chip's three-dimensional projection.
The forest spirit had behaved in a cowardly fashion in the fight earlier.
Greem had thought of her performance as a reflection of her true nature. It was only now that he understood that she had just wanted to protect the child in her. That was why she didn't dare to fight as aggressively as she usually would.
Greem looked at the black cat in his hand, then looked at the anxious Eva and the dejected Gargamel. For a moment, he couldn't come to a decision.
Should he kill them all, or should he use the black cat and force them to serve him for a period of time?
Greem decided after three seconds of hesitation.
"Serve me for thirty years, and I'll let you go!"
The forest spirit's eyes gleamed. She was just about to agree when Gargamel stopped her.
"How can we believe you won't go against your word?"
Clearly, as an adept, Gargamel knew the greedy and sinister nature of adepts very well. He was such a person himself.
"We can sign a fair contract of service. The power of the contract will enforce all the terms. That's fine, isn't it?" Greem laughed coldly, "You had best make up your mind quick. If I find you trying to stall for time, hehe..."
Gargamel's heart was heavy when he heard Greem's threatening words, but he insisted determinedly, "We can serve you for thirty years, but you cannot do anything to our child."
Eva, the forest spirit, had just realized this problem. She stared at Greem with abject fear in her eyes.
Greem clicked his tongue in pity.
He was very curious about the 'product' between an adept and a magical creature!
However, Greem regretfully let it slide for the sake of his future.
He didn't intend to stay in the Sarubo Clan forever. If the timing were ripe, he would raise his banner and leave the Sarubo Clan. To ensure that this became a possibility, Greem needed to have a hidden batch of subordinates that would serve him behind the back of the Sarubo.
It was for this faraway ideal that Greem had made sure to befriend Mary and Alice. He needed them on his side. Even though Meryl also seemed to be close to him, she was still a Sarubo Clan adept. Whether she would be willing to follow him once he left the clan, or not, was still an unknown variable.
After all, on the one hand, you had a mid-sized adept clan that was reasonably famous in the Zhentarim area. On the other, you had the mere makings of a group with little forces and limited resources. It was clear which side could provide her with more resources and influence.
Consequently, Greem wasn't sure that Meryl would come to his side.
In fact, he didn't even have complete confidence that Mary would side with him! The only one that had indicated willingness to join his future clan so far was Alice.
Greem's core faction was still too fragile when all these factors were taken into consideration. If Gargamel and the forest spirit joined him, it would greatly benefit his future strategic plans, even if they weren't loyal to his cause.
That was the main reason Greem had to give up on that little life that was growing inside the forest spirit!
Greem kept a tight hold on the black cat and ensured that his hand still kept it imprisoned. Meanwhile, he started to draw in the air with his other hand. Soon, he constructed a fair, impartial, and open magical contract. The terms established by the deal didn't place any discriminatory or oppressive conditions on Gargamel and Eva. It only laid out the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of both parties. The terms were so generous that it was almost similar to a contract of equal treatment.
It was undoubtedly a bizarre discovery for Gargamel and Eva. They looked at each other like they didn't believe what they were seeing.
Gargamel and Eva perused the contract to ensure there were no hidden terms, trickeries, or misleading wording. Finally, the couple hesitantly placed their soul brands on the contract.
The runes of fire slowly dissipated into the air once the contract was signed. The three of them all felt the vague change that had occurred in their souls.
No god was governing over contracts in the World of Adepts. The adepts would never pledge themselves to any deities either. Most contracts were witnessed and managed by the profound and fair World Consciousness. Anyone that dared to go against a magical contract in the World of Adepts was fated to be abandoned and punished by the World Consciousness.
It was a punishment that no adept was willing to endure!
Greem opened his hand and loosened his grip on the black cat. His body also started shrinking amid an intense shockwave of fire elementium. There wasn't a need to maintain the Flame Fiend form now that they were no longer enemies. After all, the fire energy surging from the Flame Fiend Heart was a heavy burden on Greem as well!
The black cat flashed and reappeared by Gargamel's feet the moment Greem freed it from its restraints. It dove headfirst into the shadows and didn't show himself again.
Gargamel hesitated for a moment. An awkward expression appeared on his grim face. He bowed and spoke, "Master, may I know the purpose of your trip into the Black Forest?"
Eva also betrayed an expression of curiosity.
In truth, someone as powerful as Greem didn't seem like they would ever be so destitute as to go searching for materials himself. That was why Greem's two new subordinates were so curious about his real purpose here in the Black Forest.
The existence of the magical contract meant that the two of them were now one of the few that he trusted the most. He didn't try to avoid the question.
"Through some subtle means, I managed to discover the existence of an underground volcano that I can put to use here in this stretch of the Black Forest. Its approximate location is… do the two of you know anything about this?"
Gargamel had absolutely no idea of such a geographical feature. The two adepts turned their heads to Eva.
She was a magical creature that inhabited the woods. It had been over a hundred years since she had started wandering around the Black Forest. She knew the place very well and was most qualified to be the guide.
As expected, an expression of thought and hesitation appeared on Eva's face.
"I am vaguely familiar with the coordinates you mentioned. If I'm not mistaken, there is a family of manticores inhabiting the place. There are seven young manticores in total, all of whom possess power rivaling an adept. There are also four pseudo-adept level cubs with them."
Greem paused for a moment, but with a single thought, the chip's data library immediately displayed all the data regarding manticores.
Manticores were terrifying creatures that combined the traits of bats, lions, and scorpions. They possessed the head of a lion, the sting of a scorpion, four legs, and the wings of a bat. They fought like a lion in most circumstances, while the bat wings on their back gave them the ability to glide and fly across short distances. However, their most frightening trait was the scorpion sting on their backs.
The claws and fangs of the manticore were coated in a lethal venom, but its scorpion sting possessed unparalleled paralyzing effects in addition to its toxin. Most adepts were able to resist the venom by concocting antidotes on their own. However, their potions had little to no effect in neutralizing the paralyzing effects of the scorpion sting.
If an adept ever found himself surrounded by an entire pack of manticores, their odds of surviving was extremely low. They would be continuously paralyzed and ripped to shreds before they had a chance to resist.
However, the manticore venom and paralyzing poison were ineffective against golems. It was excellent news!
Envy appeared on Eva's face when Greem slowly told them of what he knew about manticores.
Here, he fully illustrated the overwhelming power of human adepts.
What understanding Eva had of manticores had only been obtained through countless bloody fights and personal experience. Blood had to be shed, and tears had to drop for the sake of such valuable information. On the other hand, the adepts were able to rely on the generations of knowledge that had been passed down by their ancestors. A single mention of a name and they were able to quickly extract all the information they needed from their library of knowledge that had accumulated over the ages.
They could plan their fights and prepare for any situation, even before they met the opponent. This prior preparation was what gave the adepts an absolute advantage when they clashed against magical creatures.
Most of the time, the magical creatures were often more powerful and possessed greater numbers than the human adepts they were facing. Yet, even in those situations, they were the prey of adepts; prey that could be hunted at any time. The adept's preparedness was a significant reason why!
Greem was in no mood to appreciate the turmoil in Eva's emotions right now. He only wanted to know more about the manticores and kept asking about the geography surrounding their den. After listening to Eva's answers, Greem was reasonably confident that the underground volcano he sought was located there.
Still, this was a serious matter that he had to settle personally. Greem would have to make a trip there to confirm the existence of the volcano.
It wasn't until Greem had gotten all the information he needed that he let Gargamel neutralize the poison in Sabrina's body. The mechanical girl gradually awakened from her coma. Forest Spirit Eva had left the place beforehand, so as not to expose her association with the adepts. Gargamel, on the other hand, stood obediently behind Greem.
After a slight period of unconsciousness, the adepts had come to a truce while the magical creature had gone missing? Sabrina knew something was odd about this situation, but she swallowed her doubts. She didn't presume to ask any questions.
Matters between adepts were not something a pseudo-adept like herself could seek to be a part of!
The more she knew, the more danger she invited onto herself. That was why Sabrina chose, very wisely, to remain silent.
It was almost daybreak when the three of them returned to the camp.
Compared to Greem, Gargamel and Sabrina appeared to be somewhat worn out. They even had to wear their hoods to hide the burns on their faces.
The other members of the exploration party were happy to see the adepts return. Only the potions apprentice called Anthony betrayed shock in his eyes.
He was Gargamel's apprentice and undoubtedly knew of his mentor's plan. It was natural that he would be surprised that all three of the adepts had returned together. Panic and unease were written all over his face.
However, Greem couldn't care less about someone as unimportant as him. He left it to Gargamel to deal with his apprentice.
Thus, after a quick rest and a breakfast prepared by Neil, they once again continued on their journey into the forest!