Led by Black-hand Kevin, the group of Apprentices soon arrived at a rather shabby stone room located on the first floor of the Adept Tower. There, they finally met the other mission members.
Out of ten apprentices who signed up for the Underground Cave investigation mission, three of them were Pseudo-Adepts. They were Leo, from the Mushroom Forest of the Rofen region, Sabrina, from the Tracy family of the Woodrow region, and Marcus from the Black Forest Institute of the Sidney region. Leo was the young Pseudo-Adept who was wounded by Kevin previously.
As for the six advanced apprentices, Shila, Matthew, Leander, Mary, Isaac, and Bruce, four were male and two female, and they all came from different regions and families. The magical spells they studied were different in a thousand ways, but now, because of the mission, they were grouped together in this room.
As for Greem, the only beginner apprentice within the group, he was elbowed out from their interactions, as if he never existed. As one of the members of a ten man team, no doubt Greem's existence would lower their overall strength. Thus, when facing Greem, no one would give him face.
And there was no way Greem could explain why he was here. So, he just kept his mouth shut and listened to their conversation, all the while secretly having the Chip gather basic information on these people.
All ten apprentices were brought here via three different flying ships. The earliest had arrived two days ago and, after spending a few days in this Adept Tower, they were rather familiar with this place. Hence, they were now briefly talking about the details of the mission site.
But as they were talking, a middle-aged male Adept wearing a white robe and a pointy hat, rushed into the stone room.
"Looks like all of you are here. This is perfect, I don't have to explain this for the second time. Wait, why there is a beginner apprentice here? Alright, alright, this must be the mistake by the old fools of the association. Heh… since all of you are here, you will have to resign yourself to your fate! Those Hooked Horrors in the Underground are going to have a lovely feast…"
A vicious grin followed his words, sending chills up everyone's spines. But obviously, no one would dare refute his terrifying comment.
"Fine, fine… apparently you're a group of boring fellows, none of you even dare to get declare otherwise… but this may not be a bad thing, as you, likely, won't get yourself killed in the dark underground because of your arrogance. The duration of this mission is six months, and the ten of you will be a team. Every ten days, you need to patrol the underground, and you'll have to visit five inspection sites every time. They are all located in different locations."
"Therefore, if you don't want anything bad to happen to you, you'd better move in a full group of ten, following the provided route and inspecting these five mission sites in order. If you're quick, you can complete it within five days, and then you'll have five days to rest. Of course, you can split your team up, and that way you might even finish the inspection trip within two days. But if you bump into those black bastards in the underground area, you're on your own. Hehehe…"
The explanation of the mission brought unsightly expressions to all ten apprentices, but at this point, the middle-aged Adept introduced himself.
"My name is Angus. You can come to my residence to complete the mission later. Remember, no matter what kinds of dangerous situations you encounter in the Underground, you're on your own. No one will be there to save you. If you're lucky and kill some stupid black bastards, remember to bring their heads back. You can exchange them for rewards from me!"
Faced with a group of silence apprentice Adepts, this Adept Angus had no interest in providing further explanations. He turned around and quickly left.
Now, there weren't any outsider remaining in the room. The ten apprentices, who were thrown together by the compulsory mission, had no choice but to sit down together, beginning to discuss how were they going to complete the mission.
The young female Pseudo-Adept, Sabrina, who had arrived two days earlier, became the primary source of information for the group. She began to explain the mission in greater detail.
She had long dark hair, which flowed down to her waist. The left side of her face was covered with a silver mask, but the other side of her faced showed that she was a fairly pretty girl. But strangely, under the silver mask, her left eye was replaced with a mechanical mechanism. Her left arm was also mechanical. When she moved, metal noises could be heard coming from her body.
All five mission sites were located fairly close to the surface, and the furthest one was around ten miles away from the entrance. If this distance was on the surface, it wouldn't take more than seven to eight minutes for these few Pseudo-Adepts to complete the patrol. But when it was in the underground world, this distance amounted to quite the challenge.
From the entrance of the cave to the last mission site, the linear distance was ten miles. But, between them were rough mines, tunnels, rift valleys and large cracks. Asides from some rather safe routes, which had been found, the underground was filled with twisting and turning tunnels. If they followed the safe route, they should only bump into lesser underground creatures. But if they struck out in a random direction, perhaps all that would await them would be something nasty.
"The first patrol will start in three days, so we need to come up with a detailed plan today. With that, we can prepare ourselves." Sabrina concluded her explanation of the mission with this, which brought deep frowns to everyone's faces.
Three days? This was such a short amount of time to prepare!
"Did you guys forget that we have a burden on our team?" One of the male apprentices, Isaac, gazed at Greem discontentedly. Clearly, he wasn't happy that Greem was dragging down the strength of the entire team.
"I brought him here, I'll be responsible for his safety!" Mary's green eyes brightened suddenly, glaring at Isaac as she spoke with a cold and stern voice.
"If that is the case, I suggest we'll split up for the mission. Let this beautiful lady bring her knight along. With this, we'll be more efficient in completing the mission, and we'll have more spare time to study and rest!" Isaac spoke with a cold grin.
"Are you sure about this?" Sabrina shook her head, then said, "Don't think that we can just ditch this burden. Since we're a team, we need to take the whole situation into account and plan accordingly. Every time we patrol, if we miss two sites, our earnings will be cut in half, and if we miss three, we won't receive any earnings at all. If two people are assigned to a mission site, of course we can complete the patrol quicker. But if a small team is too weak, they might not come back…"
"What's wrong? Are you feeling sorry for the rookie?" Obviously, Isaac had decided that someone on the team had to be the realist.
"It's not that I feel sorry for him, but, if we follow your suggestion, that also means we might need to complete the ten men mission with just eight of us the next time. And the time after that, we might need to complete it with just six of us. With this, even if you are strong individually, in the end, you might still end up getting killed while between all mission sites!" Sabrina spoke with a cold tone.
Obviously, for the past two days, she had thoroughly studied their mission, and had clearly analyzed all the possible traps hidden within it.
She felt she this was a dilemma!
If they carried out the mission as a team, as all five mission sites were scattered in different locations, it would take them extra time to travel between them. But there was strength in numbers, and they could face all possible dangers with ease. If they split up, unavoidably, their overall strength would be diluted. If they were unlucky and had one or two small teams annihilated, they would suffer over the next few months!
For the moment, everyone was lost in deep thought, and even Isaac, who was upset of Greem's presence, kept his mouth shut.
For any simple task flow, not only did they had to consider the time efficiency, they also had to give consideration to the balance of strength. Even if some Pseudo-Adept thought he had a superb ability and left his companions to die, he alone wouldn't be able to complete the patrols by himself, and would tire out before the end of the mission.
They had to carry out their mission underground, so no matter how strong an individual was, there was no way he could spend seven to eight days without resting. Wandering through the underground alone would never be as relaxing as having a group of people together. That's the reason why the Adept association created this mission, not only was it was an assessment of their teamwork, but it also served as an examination of their individual combat abilities.
"I think we should split up! All of us are here to train and improve ourselves. We're not here to relax and enjoy ourselves. I'll team up with Mary, we should be able to handle one mission site, I have confidence in this." Greem spoke.
Hearing what he said, many people silently breathed out sighs of relief.
After all, if they had to bring a burden into the dark and bizarre Underground, even those three Pseudo-Adepts would be troubled.
"Alright, so be it. Everybody use the next two days to rest and prepare yourself with the items needed for our mission. Three days from now, we'll meet up here." All three Pseudo-Adepts couldn't help but look at Greem, once again reconfirming that he was only a beginner apprentice. Obviously, that Sabrina intended to become the leader of this team, which is why she promptly concluded the meeting.
Silently, everybody nodded their heads, then left the stone room one after the other.
When they were the only ones left in the room, Mary teasingly asked, "Why are you so sure I'll team up with you?"
"Heh. You want blood; I want demon core. We'll split up any other materials we find later. There is no conflict in this, so it's a win-win situation for the both of us." Greem stretched his right hand out towards the blood-loving girl with the green eyes.
"Hmm! I want first pick of the loot!" Mary placed her soft, fragile-seeming palm into Greem's and shook his head. Then she turned around and left the room.
They only had three days, and she needed to prepare a few more items. After becoming an apprentice Adept, this was the first time they had left the Magical Swamp, so Mary decided to go for a walk…
After the room became completely quiet, Greem closed his eyes, pretending he was thinking about something, while, in fact, he was communicating with the Chip in his mind.
"Chip, have you gathered all the data on those people just now?"
*Beep* "Data sampling has been completed. Transmitting…"
Following a series of beeps, data starting flowing into his mind.
This data really showed him nothing…
Left speechless, Greem breathed out a long sigh. It looked like, without witnessing them actually fight, it would be really difficult for him to get data on the actual abilities of his teammates.