Chapter 443 Closing In
Bright sunlight couldn't pierce the dense canopy, causing confusing darkness to swallow the forest. A thin mist covered the entire forest in a deathly silence. One couldn't even hear the cries of insects or the calls of birds.
A black shape suddenly emerged from the shadow of a tree during this silence. The shadow quickly formed into the shape of a human.
The mist dispersed with a gushing sound, revealing a mysterious adept with a handsome and cool face; he wore a sky-blue robe.
The strange adept looked around him after appearing. He stomped his feet on the ground lightly when he discovered no abnormalities. He sent a chilling gust of air into the earth, where it activated a particular array.
A thick Snake-Necked Flower silently emerged from the earth. Its layers of closed petals slowly opened up, and a muscular man wearing leather armor stepped out of the flower. He wore a golden circlet on his head, metal claws on his hands, and had a boorish look to him.
"God, is there still no news?" The muscular man's temper rose when he saw his companion's silent expression, "It has been four days! That bastard should have come to take a look, even if he's a complete coward! Did he catch word of something? Why else would he be so patient?"
"You will have to ask Lamure about this!" The blue-robed adept complained while an upset expression showed on his face, "She ambushed him of her own accord. Not only did she fail, it is very likely that she also alerted the enemy to our existence."
"Could that bitch Lamure have sold us out?" The thought flashed through the rude man's mind. His eyes turned colder and sharper, "Lamure, get your ass out here. I know you are here. Come out now."
The entire forest trembled and shook when the man roared. The blue-robed adept couldn't help but frown when this happened. He waved the short staff in his hand, and a colorful semi-translucent water barrier immediately sealed the place.
This position was far too close to the enemy's mine. If the alarm arrays picked up on the irregularity here, it would be much harder to execute their plans.
Screech, screech, screech.
A wave of strange ape calls rang out from the depths of the forest. Five gibbons swung from tree to tree as if they had wings on their backs. They eventually stopped on a tree in front of the two adepts and stared at them.
"Lamure, you still dare show up. Speak! Did you give out the information about us arriving? Why else would that brat be so smart? This place is already in chaos, and he's still insisting on staying inside that tiny city."
A trace of intelligence flashed in the dull and lifeless eyes of one of the gibbons. The animal suddenly became a lot smarter and more spirited.
"Sicha, you freaking barbarian. I couldn't be bothered to talk to you. I was also assigned to this mission. What do you think I get out of this if it fails?" The gibbon began to speak, and, surprisingly, the voice of a woman came out of its mouth.
"Hmph! Who can know for sure? Everyone knows that you and Flandre have an ongoing rivalry. Who knows what plot you might be cooking up behind our backs?" Sicha crossed his arms; his distrust painted clearly across his face for all to see.
"Alright, alright," Flandre, who had silently been listening to the exchange with a cold expression, interrupted the two, "It doesn't matter whether our target has caught wind of us and our plans. We need to lure him out. Iron Ring is the best place to set up an ambush. We don't need to worry about being interfered with either. This place is still going to be where the fight takes place."
"Hmph! The environment here is pretty good indeed. It's well suited for an ambush. Still, if we know this, it's highly likely that the brat knows it as well. It's been a few days since things started happening at the mines. Yet, he isn't even willing to come here for a simple visit. I'm afraid he's already given up on Iron Ring Mine." Sicha might have been a body-refining adept with remarkably developed muscles, but he was just as intelligent and wise as Flandre.
"There's one of his disciple apprentices in the mine. Should I lure that person out? We might be able to force that bastard to show himself that way!" The gibbon rolled its eyes and suggested.
"Lure them out and imprison them. We can see how this plays out!" Flandre started frowning as he considered the situation.
Even though he knew Lamure's suggestions probably had some unspoken schemes hidden behind them, he couldn't discover anything wrong with it at the moment.
"We will wait for a day. If that fellow still hasn't returned, then we will tear that Second Class resource site of his apart. I don't believe he can remain unmoving in his stone tower under such conditions. Sicha, you will have to do some extra work. Find a suitable spot for an ambush near the resource site, lay out arrays there, and wait for me."
"I'll go to take a look at Gilneas City." Flandre gritted his teeth, "If that brat truly intends to hole up in there, we might have to assault his tower. Fortunately, that tower only has a crude defensive array. Our mission might have been a difficult one if it were a war tower!"
Flandre clearly intended to scout the enemy's base.
Sicha didn't ask for any more details. After all, Lamure was here as well. Regardless of whether she was the one who spilled the secret of their arrival or not, it was best to keep their whereabouts to themselves.
The three adepts exchanged a few words before parting from each other and heading in different directions.
This forest near the mines quickly fell back into its deathly silence.
The Stone Tower.
Greem was in an awful mood.
He had just received a magical message sent by Meryl from Feidnan City. Kodar's funeral was to be held three days later in a rural place known as Molloy.
That was the location of his family's graveyard!
Kodar had died ten days ago when he failed his advancement ceremony.
They said that his flesh and organs had all been drained away by the ceremony when his family members took him out of the secret room. His entire body was emaciated, so much so that he looked like a skeleton.
Kodar's family was bound to face a period of decline after losing him. Even though there were other talented sprouts among the youth of that family, they still required time and resources before they could grow and mature.
Meryl didn't know how to deal with the crying and sobbing elderly head of Kodar's family. She was still not used to such situations since it had only been a short time since she had become an adept. Consequently, she brought a young girl called Mona back with her when she returned to Feidnan City.
Mona, eighteen years old, beginner apprentice.
This short amount of information revealed absolutely nothing of merit!
She was already eighteen years old and yet she was still a beginner apprentice. This information was more than enough to prove that her innate potential was terrible. The resources used to cultivate a beginner apprentice like this would be more than enough to develop three to five apprentices with exceptional talent.
Meryl had picked up an unnecessary burden for herself!
As a newly advanced adept herself, she didn't have many resources in her reserves. Not to mention the fact that she had a whole bunch of subordinate clan apprentices that required cultivation and training. Now Kodar's sister from a different mother was added to the equation. This massive burden would most likely delay Meryl's own plans for improvement and development.
Greem didn't approve of Meryl's actions. However, he thought for a while and still sent a message to Snorlax and Gargamel. He had them increase Meryl's resource allowance by a little bit.
She was a member of Greem's faction, after all. If Greem wanted to maintain their relationship, he needed to provide her with practical benefits like cheaper resources and free guidance. There had to be something more than their simple relationship as teacher and disciple. This assistance would also help her save more resources and use them in strengthening and improving herself.
It was the same for any other adept that Greem wanted to draw into his faction. Consequently, the costs of gathering a group of people were far higher than an outsider could ever imagine.
Just a simple example: why were so many apprentices willing to accept harsh magical contracts so that they could join an adept clan or organization?
It was all so that they could obtain resource allowances and a free advancement ceremony when they reached pseudo-adept level. If one were to convert the price of an advancement ceremony and all its required materials to magical crystals, it would cost a minimum of ten thousand magical crystals.
A wandering pseudo-adept would probably need more than seven or eight years to accumulate that many crystals on their own. Furthermore, most of the resources required for the ceremony were not sold on the market. The adept clans had monopolized all of them.
This complication further increased the difficulty of preparing for an advancement ceremony!
Many wandering adepts who were forced into a corner had no choice but to break into the resource sites of an established clan, all so they could steal some rare resources they couldn't manage to find on the market. Many were killed during such reckless acts.
That was also how the hatred between wandering adepts and clans came to be.
Sabrina arrived to report something while Greem was spacing out over this issue.
Yuri and Morse had come again!
This was probably the twelfth time they had visited him in the past five days!
Judging from their expressions every time they came, the situation at the front line was growing ever more desperate. The victims had only been servants and guards in the past. However, in the last two days, the list of victims had increased to include apprentices.
In just two days, two intermediate apprentices had gone missing from the Iron Ring Mine, along with an advanced apprentice. The Second Class resource site had also lost an intermediate apprentice.
The disappearance of these people was bizarre. No signs of fighting could be found at the scene. It was almost as if they had snuck out of their rooms, then walked out of the defensive array of their own accord.
Greem had an idea about what was going on here, but he didn't reveal anything to these 'subordinates' of his. After all, he had no means of ascertaining who he could trust in these dire circumstances. For the sake of secrecy, Greem decided not to see anyone. Instead, he had Sabrina make them leave every single time.
The two apprentice captains sat anxiously in the hall on the first floor. They repeatedly raised their heads and looked at the door.
Despair and anger appeared on their faces when they saw only Sabrina walk in with no trace of Adept Greem.
Once, they had viewed the great and famous Sir Flame Demon as an idol of theirs. But now…
"Sir Greem is busy with his experiments. He doesn't have the time to see you now," Sabrina paused for a moment, her red mechanical eye flashing, "He wants me to tell you that this is only a harassment tactic employed by the enemy. As long as you… "
"Harassment, harassment," Yuri, who was suffering the most pressure, was the first to snap, "All of the apprentices have already moved into the same room to prevent the enemy from attacking, yet we still can't stop apprentices from disappearing. Protecting the Iron Ring Mine might be my duty, but Sir Greem has to share part of the responsibility as well. If Sir still refuses to come out, we will have to ask for help from the clan."
Yuri turned and left without even looking at Sabrina's expression.
Apprentice Captain Morse also sighed before silently walking out with his head hung low.
Greem stood by the shadow of a narrow window in the higher levels of the tower, quietly watching the departing silhouettes of the two apprentices. He silently spoke to the chip.
"Chip, how long until the data model is done?"
"Beep. 36 hours, 49 minutes, 52 seconds."
If Greem were to include the time required to craft the golem, this meant that he would need at least another forty-eight hours before he could take any action.
Greem narrowed his eyes. The chilling gleam in the depths of his eyes became even sharper and resolute.