According to the annals of the Adept Mainland, the Zhentarim Association controlled thirty-one regions. The smallest region covered seven to eight hundred thousand square kilometers, while the largest occupied more than a million square kilometers. It was a boundless area rich in resources. These areas contained 60% of the entire Adept Mainland's population.
Greem's mission site was located in the Kerala mountain range, northeast of the Dagon region.
After discovering an entrance to the Underground, the Zhentarim Association had constructed an Adept Tower nearby, and sent a powerful Second Grade Adept to guard it. Ninth Grade was the highest rank in the Adept hierarchy, so a Second Grade Adept sounded like a weak entity, hardly capable of shouldering such an important task, but, as a matter of fact, within the Adept Mainland, which was the source of most of the Adept population, the highest grade Adept one could get in touch with, or even hear about, was a Fourth Grade Adept.
Even for Zhentarim Association, the highest grade Adepts on duty were Fourth Grade Adepts. As for all the higher graded Adepts, rumors said they had left the Adept World, to explore and conquer worlds in the vast ocean of stars.
This had led to the current power structure of the Adept Mainland: First Grade Adepts were crazily gathering knowledge and enriching themselves so they could grow, and were the most numerous grade of Adept across all the major clans; Second Grade Adepts were the backbone of all different institutes, and most of them were able to undertake tasks alone; Third Grade Adepts could gather a group of followers and build themselves a small Adept clan or family.
As for Fourth Grade Adepts, they were powerful entities that all major clans wanted. Of course, if a Fourth Grade Adept had the will, he could always explore a new region and establish an Adept kingdom that belonged to himself.
Therefore, the ranking of all Adept associations and clans were based on the number of Fourth Grade Adepts they had.
As for the Fallen Adepts in the Underground, Second Grade was as high as they went. Thus, by sending a Second Grade Adept to stand guard at the Adept Tower, it was more than possible to resist surprise attacks from those Fallen Adepts.
No matter what, the war between these official Adepts was not something an apprentice adept like Greem could involve themselves in. So, this mission was more about investigating the distribution and activities of the underground creatures, and noting signs of Fallen Adept activity.
Whether intentionally not, within the shallow area of the Underground Cave, the most active Adepts presence were the apprentice adepts cultivated by the Fallen Adepts. Also, the Zhentarim Association rarely sent official Adepts into that area. The missions were mostly carried out by apprentice adepts.
Therefore, not surprisingly, this place had become a slaughterhouse for apprentice adepts, as brutal battles happened nearly every day. A lot of Apprentice Adepts had gone through life and death battles here, hardening themselves for their futures.
When the flying ship started descending to the mission site, Greem was shocked by what he saw.
Their mission site was actually a small city.
Considering their proximity to the Underground Cave, from time to time, rare resources from underground would be found and traded here. So, upon introspection, it wasn't actually that strange for so many merchants and black market 'tradesmen' to be found in this place.
As the flying ship landed on a large square outside of the city, a man could be seen waiting for them. He had an uncaring expression on his face, and reeked of the smell of blood. Judging from his Spirit Energy, he was an Advanced Apprentice.
While staring at the five people coming down from the ship, this man wore a strange smile on his face, portraying a disdainful and proud look, like an experienced veteran looking down on some weak rookies. But when he saw the masculine Adept jump off the ship, he retracted all unnecessary expressions and bowed respectfully.
"Alright, alright! Save yourself the trouble. This batch of apprentice adepts is for you. You guys better use them carefully. The next batch will come in two months time. If you kill them all, it will cause trouble, and you will have issues with the Association!" The masculine man waved his hand unconcernedly, pushing the last five Apprentices off the ship, like shooing chickens.
"Don't worry, master Sammir. The underground activities have been rather calm lately, and it has been more than two weeks since our patrol team has encountered any of those black bastards. Oh, the 'Black Wood Lotus' and 'Night Eyes Stone' you ordered have been prepared, and are waiting for you." The ferocious looking male apprentice smiled politely as he said this.
Finally, Greem and the other apprentices knew the name of this Body Refining Adept, Sammir.
"En. You go ahead and settle these new apprentices, I'll make a trip to the city. After you are done with them, find me at Old Kerry!" Without waiting for the male apprentice to reply, Adept Sammir strode off into the distance.
As the rest bowed as master Sammir left, only the ferocious looking male apprentice stood tall.
"All of you, follow me!" The male apprentice quickly ran his eyes over these five apprentices. His expression didn't change when saw the two Pseudo-Adepts, but frowned when he saw Greem, "My name is Kevin. You can call me Black-hand Kev."
It was a rather simple introductory, but judging from his proud undertone, it seemed he preferred his nickname over his real name.
"Black-hand Kev? Don't tell me you have a brother called White-hand?" A young man laughed. He was wearing a short yellow robe, and numerous magical items could be seen on his exposing skin. He was one of the Pseudo-Adepts, and, obviously, he was dissatisfied that this 'Black-hand' Kevin didn't respect him.
Surprisingly, the Pseudo-Adept started preparing a spell to strike out at the 'rude' Black-Hand Kev.
Nearly at the same moment he began to chant, Black-hand Kevin disappeared. In next second, a vague figure appeared behind that young Pseudo-Adept. Each of his hands held a dagger. Black-Hand Kev aggressively leaped toward the Pseudo-Adept.
As a Pseudo-Adept with 20 Spirit, even the slightest changes in his surroundings could be detected. Although he was shocked by Kev's sudden strike, that didn't stop this young Pseudo-Adept from reacting.
A series of zapping noises rang through the air, as a blue colored electrical defensive web appeared behind his back. The Pseudo-Adept remained calm and turned around, shooting out two thick lightning beams from both of his palms, aiming right at the advanced apprentice who was surrounded by an electrical web.
Right at the very moment when he was launching the attack, this Pseudo-Adept hesitated.
This was the first time here, and he was about to kill a 'teammate'? That might get him into trouble!
When he was wondering whether he should reduce the strength of his 'Electro Charge', a sharp pain suddenly came from his back, and a pitch-black dagger came out from his chest. Only now the vague figure who was struggling in the electrical web transformed, shattering, like glass in front of them. At the same time, a cruel and hoarse voice spoke into his ears.
"In this place, Pseudo-Adept means nothing! Remember, next time, don't make fun of that which you don't know!"
Finished speaking, Black-hand Kevin pulled the dagger out from the young Pseudo-Adept, took two steps back, and coolly gazed at him.
The Pseudo-Adept's face was bathed in sweat, due to pain. He was shocked by Black-Hand Kev's great dexterity and preternatural swiftness. Suppressing the intense pain, he took a purple potion from his waist pouch, drank half of it and poured the other half into the wound on his chest. Strangely, in few seconds the punch-through wound healed, leaving nothing but bloody crust.
The young Pseudo-Adept wiped off the blood crust, revealing smooth and fair skin underneath.
"Hell!" Kevin whistled, "A Bloody Mary? You Pseudo-Adepts do have a lot of good stuff, don't ya! I should've given you a bigger wound just now! Now you know why they call me Black-hand Kevin, because I always like to attack the enemy's back. Next time you are looking for trouble, remember to watch your back!"
The suffering young Pseudo-Adept clenched his jaw tightly, but had no intentions of provoking him again. On the other side, the other Pseudo-Adept furrowed his brows, obviously, he too was startled by the aggressiveness of this place.
But what really frightened these two men was not Kevin's aggressiveness, but his bizarre ability.
Firstly, he was not using any sort of spatial attack, or else, they would have sensed the ripple of the spatial. Secondly, it was also not a shadow clone technique, because there was no sign when Kevin revealed his true self at the end, and they could still sense the spirit ripple of him from the vague figure which served as a lure. How could that young Pseudo-Adept be deceived so easily?
For the moment, the group was pondering what just happened in front of them, but no one had any clue on how Kevin did that. Though he was just an advanced apprentice, he was able to easily defeat a Pseudo-Adept. Of course, it was partially because it was a surprise attack, but more was because of Kevin's unpredictable and strange magical ability.
Before getting to the root of Kevin's abilities, the young Pseudo-Adept decided not to agitate him anymore.
Although Mary was an assassin who fought in close combat with her high speed, she was unable to see how Kevin had done that. This made her knit her brows in a tight frown.
While she was frustrated by this, Greem gently nudged her arm and mouthed the word: 'Illusion'.
Perhaps only Greem could clearly saw the entire process of that extremely short battle.
The Kevin's ability was the rare 'illusion'.
While all the other apprentice adepts were going after for more powerful magic spells, Kevin was emphasized on combining his innate magical ability and his own combat ability. Just now, using his illusion to deceive the enemy's five senses, he never moved, but simply covered himself with an illusion.
While the young Pseudo-Adept was deceived by the illusive figure, which looked like a real human, and turned his body around, he had exposed his defenseless back to Kevin, who was also an assassin who fought with his high Dexterity. Judging from the swiftness of his movement, Kevin's Dexterity was just slightly lower than Mary, perhaps around 13 to 15.
If a guy like this was moving with his full speed, without Elementium Vision, perhaps Greem couldn't even find out where he actually was, let alone counter the full force of his attacks.
Thus, among all Body Refining Adept, a high agility assassins like Mary and Kevin, were the biggest threat to apprentices who fought with offensive magic spells.