Summer rays spilled through the dense forest, forming a picturesque scene intertwined with lights and shadows . A refreshing breeze rustled the leaves and obstructed the heat waves . From time to time, warbles could be heard from the tranquil, serene forest . The uneven hills were covered in different layers of eye-pleasing green .
Rhode turned his attention from the landscape onto the map on his hand and drew a circle .
It had been two days since they left Deep Stone City . Within this period of time, their schedules were successfully carried out . The 25 mercenaries who had finally completed their hellish training after one and a half months had joined Rhode and his 30 men in the forest trail .
Although it seemed to be a very tough task to open up a path in Land of Atonement, Rhode didn’t think so . He was very clear of the situation in Land of Atonement . That place used to be considered as the frontline of the Fortress . However, it was abandoned entirely after a few hundred years of battles . But it would be too exaggerating to treat the Land of Atonement as impoverished because of this . It had become a vast stretch of ruins after years of neglect and Rhode knew that the Fortress on the higher altitude in Land of Atonement still maintained a certain extent of its structure . As long as Rhode could break through the periphery and enter the Fortress, he could modify and repair the Fortress after triggering the Construction System . Then, he would be able to build the Summon Gate to link up between the stronghold in Deep Stone City and Land of Atonement using a Plane of Existence spatial tunnel .
Once the tunnel was established, Starlight with the stabilized rear assistance could clean up and reorganize the surrounding area . By then, it wouldn’t be difficult to repair the connecting business roads and controlling this region .
Without a doubt, it was impossible to solely rely on this group of mercenaries to develop this region . However, Rhode also knew that there were many gathering spots of wanderers . Although their population wasn’t much, they would still form an objective number together . If Rhode could obtain the help of these natives, the future developments would be favorable .
But, before that…
“Leader . ”
Randolf’s voice sounded beside Rhode . Rhode shifted his attention from the map and turned towards the Ranger standing before him . After the battles in the midsummer festival, these newbies had finally matured . Furthermore, the generous rewards that Rhode had distributed to them allowed them to upgrade their equipment by leaps and bounds . Unlike in the past, now Randolf was equipped with a magical leather armor with a large camo cloak covering his body . A pitch-black, giant wooden bow hung behind his back diagonally — the quiver was stocked fully with magical arrows made by Lapis . Matching with two daggers hanging by his waist and a circle of knives hanging obliquely on him, Randolf seemed like a Ranger Master . However, his respectful, yet somewhat uneasy gaze sold out his identity .
Rhode glanced at Randolf and asked . Right before their eyes was Deep Creek Village as according to plan and it was the final resting spot for Rhode and his group before entering the forest trail . But now…
“Leader . There seems to be something wrong ahead . We have investigated and realized that there’s smoke rising from the village . I think that they are in a battle right now and I have sent Joey and the others to check out the situation . Should I get the others to ready themselves?”
“Go take a look . ”
Rhode kept the map into a fold in his clothes before gesturing to the back . The mercenaries behind Rhode got into preparations instantly as they gathered towards him .
Deep Creek Village was located by the edge of the Twilight Forest . This area was also considered as the civilization border area of Paphield . As soon as Rhode arrived at the mountainside, he saw billows of black smoke and sparks from flames .
Deep Creek Village was shrouded in thick smoke . Gazing vaguely from far, there were some people surrounding the perimeter of the village with weapons in hand while confronting the villagers . Perhaps the village might have fallen into the enemies’ hands if it was an ordinary village . However, as a place of human settlement on the border of civilization, the defenses of Deep Creek Village were considerably in place . Tall, solid wall piled up by logs defended against the external threats . At least for now, they seemed to be safe .
The people who were attacking the village seemed very strange . Apart from the few of them, most weren’t dressed in clothes . They were only covered by a few pieces of hide, exposing their bare feet and arms while brandishing weapons such as wooden clubs and machetes . They shouted from the outside as though they were primitives of the Stone Age . Behind the walls, there were a few hunters standing on the tower shooting arrows from their bows, trying to disperse the enemies surrounding their village . However, their manpower was limited, and the ‘primitives’ seemed to be experienced . Even though the guards were working very hard, they weren’t effective .
“It’s the Barbarians . ”
A senior mercenary said as he touched his beard and showed a look of disgust . Not only him, the other mercenaries were showing loathe and seriousness one after another . Rhode nodded and it was obvious that he knew the history of these people .
These ‘primitives’ didn’t come from the Stone Age . As a matter of fact, they came from the outside the civilized border . Without a doubt, these people weren’t nice . 80% of them were once criminals and even felons . After they had escaped from prison and execution grounds, they began to wander aimlessly . In order to avoid capture, almost all of them chose to head towards the outside of the civilized border where there were no law and order . This place served as a paradise of freedom for these criminals .
However, they lost everything when they achieved freedom . Outside the civilized border, there were no food, no water, and no clothes . In order to survive, these criminals began to gather and used the forest as their sanctuary to rob surrounding businesses, villages, and towns . The activity circle of these people was huge and they were extremely familiar with the terrain . Therefore, gradually, many merchants stopped passing through this route . Only the black market dealers who were peddling illegal goods would still take the risk in choosing this path .
But this didn’t discourage the criminals . Instead, they turned their attention towards the villages since they weren’t able to get supplies from the merchants . In fact, almost every village by the border had been plundered by these criminals . Sometimes, they would even snatch women in the village to satisfy their desires and reproduce further their lineage . Because of the remoteness of these places, the garrison troops were too far away to help and they couldn’t prevent such crimes . Due to various reasons, these natives were unable to leave their hometown and they could only rely on themselves .
Therefore, these wandering criminals were named Barbarians by many mercenaries . Although these Barbarians had led an arduous life, the toughness which they endured outside the civilized border had given them strength and physique which exceeded ordinary humans . Even for many mercenaries, these Barbarians had become strong enemies .
Suddenly, the bushes beside Rhode began to tremble . Shortly after, Joey in a full black leather armor emerged quietly . Four other Thieves followed closely behind him .
“It’s the Barbarians, Boss . There’s many of them and they are ruthless…”
“How many of them in total?”
Rhode frowned and asked while Joey scratched his head before answering .
“About a hundred of them . They have almost surrounded the entire village . Although the villagers are still fending them off, I think they can’t hold much longer… Boss, what should we do?”
“What should we do?”
Rhode swept a glance towards Joey as though he was looking at an idiot .
“We have to get rid of them, of course . Didn’t you train hard for a moment like this?”
Joey revealed an awkward smile . He knew what he should do, but there were just too many enemies . Although Joey had been through long hours of training and reached the standards of in-game players, a newbie was still a newbie . His heart pounded instantly at the sight of the sea of enemies .
However, this wasn’t the issue for Rhode . In the semi-Plane of Existence, he had simulated battles in the mountains for more than once . Furthermore, the battle experiences of the mercenaries were very rich . Although the Barbarians were overwhelming in forces, Rhode knew clearly that they wouldn’t stand a chance against his mercenaries .
Rhode had decided on his decision .
“Randolf, lead your men to occupy the right side of the high ground . Start attacking once you see my signal and I want you to crush them! Joey, I want you to send someone to wipe out those on the outside . Don’t let them discover our presence here . You have three minutes!”
“Okay, Leader . ”
Both of them nodded quickly and scattered . Rhode turned towards everyone else .
“Follow me . ”
Rhode ordered .