Shadows sprinted through the treetops at an incredible pace.
“Did you find it?”
“There are traces of residue on the east side and it’s most likely from the target. Should be about a day old.”
“They are moving quickly. Keep moving and be cautious. For that person to kill a wind-snake lord, we cannot hesitate.”
After the brief words, the three shadows disappeared back into the dense vegetation. Their movements were perfectly silent and did not even disturb the birds perched in the trees.
Just after the shadows departed, a turquoise bird, that was quietly hidden in the branches, spread its wings and flew into the skies.
Rhodes looked somewhat tired when he first received the news. On his shoulder, the turquoise Soaring Spirit Bird stood silently. From time to time, it would tilt its head or spread its wings. Its appearance was no different from any other regular bird. Only the semi-translucent body and the faint blue glow were any indication of its unusualness.
Summoning the Soaring Spirit Bird for surveillance is only a temporary measure. The average team, when on a mountain mission, will bring along either a rogue, a ranger, or another reconnaissance class. Otherwise, they could very well walk into a dangerous situation. But, Rhode’s own capabilities right now were limited and he was forced to resort to using his summon. Fortunately, the Soaring Spirit Bird had a superb line of sight and a good sense for mana fluctuations. Initially, he did this only as a precaution since it’s more likely for Silver Wolves to first detect him than the other way around. However, he inadvertently discovered a larger problem.
Although he could only barely make out the figures of the pursuers, their strength was enough to at least rival himself. Judging from their speed, they seemed to be an agility-based class like Assassins, Spies, and some others. Anyhow, their speed meant that they rarely fought openly and were often associated with secret organizations. Furthermore, of this particular group, their coordination and cohesiveness were something that exceeded the ordinary adventurer.
Were they passing by accident? Or perhaps they were specifically targeting us?
Rhode didn’t dare to take the risk. If it were a normal melee class, he would have no qualms fighting. However, these so-called “shameless” classes were the most troublesome for him to deal with at the moment. Coupled with Leiya’s warning, it was enough to draw some parallels. If this group was truly hostile then it would be hard to guess which side manages to survive.
However, when Rhodes saw Leiya standing idly around, his eyes lit up.
He has an idea.
“Mr. Rhode, where are we going next?”
Leiya asked as she poured some water for the sweating merchant. The work of caring for the fat merchant was always done by Leiya. She was adamant that since her mercenary group took the job of protection, even if there was only one person remaining, it was still the duty for them to fulfill that obligation.
Metz was naturally grateful. However, from his heavy breathes, it would not be surprising for him to collapse from exhaustion soon.
“Rhode … Sir. I’m exhausted … I … I, we rest … we need to rest!”
The moment Rhode paused his steps, the fat merchant was already plopped down on the ground as he fiercely wiped the sweat off his face with his handkerchief.
“Holy, holy. Bless, I … … I have … … several years didn’t go … … go … … cough … !!” He slurred his words as he coughed violently several times. “To … to walk so far, I think … … I think I am going to die!”
“En, we’ll take a five minutes break.”
Rhodes glanced at the sky and began to calculate the time needed for the next trip. Metz let out a groan of anguish as he hurried to make the most of the time.
After that, they didn’t encounter any more danger. With the somewhat crude scouting skills of the Soaring Spirit Bird, they were able to smoothly avoid many of the dangerous zones in the forest. The downside was that they were missing the opportunity for some valuable equipment. To this, Rhode was not too distressed. In this world, he was no longer a player that could do as he wished without any consequences. Besides, ordinary adventurers are unlikely to haphazardly stumble on the items so it was not a big deal to come back later. However…
Rhodes looked up and glanced at the mountain range not too far away.
“Yes, Mr. Rhode, what’s your order?”
“I already looked ahead at the trail. After five minutes, take Mr. Metz to the top of that hill. You should be able to see a white stone. In the shadows, you should find an abandoned mountain road. Wait for me there.”
Leiya looked up at the direction of Rhode’s finger. Soon, she found that white stone that he mentioned. She turned and gave a puzzled look at Rhode. But as the girl prepared to ask how he knew, she withheld that urge. Having traveled for the past few days, she realized that his deductions are infallible. Though she didn’t know what he planned, she only nodded as Rhode left.
Rhodes, of course, had his own plan. The stone was the entrance to the Zenar Mountain Road. In the past, it was once a brilliant commercial route. The ancestors of the northern people were poor and their entire legacy was spent digging this road. It was enough to cross the mountains and connect the northern plains to the rest of the principality. Bringing much wealth to the plains. However, with the development and utilization of flying ships, it signaled an end to this forested route. The clear-cut sky is significantly safer than the crisis-prone forests. As a result, the commercial route was gradually abandoned and those who relied on it have already left and searched for a better life. By now, the road’s existence was now mostly forgotten.
The progress of civilization will always dim the miracles of the past.
But, Rhode was not here for tourism nor to study the philosophy of life.
He stopped and looked a spot on the ground.
There laid a skeleton.
The bones were nearly ground to dust by the forest and only the tattered leather armor and rusted weapons remained. This person was from the “Tiger Tooth” mercenary group. They were on mission when they suddenly suffered a bandit attack. Around this skeleton were several other piles of bones. Originally, in the game, Rhodes need to first receive the mission from the mercenary guild and then investigate their final commission. Finally, after a long-winded expedition, he could finally find the site and obtain some loot. After all, it’s a game, and each step must be completed to get the reward.
But Rhode simply came here to skip those steps.
In the middle of the old battlefield was a noticeable skeleton with rusted steel armor. In its hand was a dark and blotched iron sword. This was Rhode’s first goal. It was the head of the mercenary group.
He crouched down and started to search the armor for the mercenary badge. Quickly finding both the badge and the letter of commission. Both are necessary to complete the mission. Having carefully placed these items in his pocket, he looked down and found his own goal.
It was a dust-covered ring worn on the skeleton’s finger.
Rhode carefully took off the ring and blew off the fine dust. Its appearance was dull and unattractive. Anyone looking at it would categorize it as rubbish. But the system prompts that appeared told him otherwise.
[Black Iron Ring, Unidentified, Sensing magic fluctuations]
Rhode closed his eyes and injected some mana into the ring.
The ring in his hands started to tremble slightly. The originally faint magic became more noticeable. When he opened his eyes, the ring no longer had the appearance of scrap iron. Instead, a dark and engraved ring laid quietly in his palm.
[Ring of Will, Identified. Can activate a shield for five minutes, Resistance to spiritual attacks. Cool-down time – 3 Days.]
Rhodes sighed with a relieved expression as he put the ring on. Before he left, he took a quick look around to see if anything else was of value.
There, Rhode returned to the ever so familiar scene of Metz’s struggle up the mountain towards the stone. Obviously, the fat merchant does not have any experience in mountain hiking.
Really a waste.
He shook his head helplessly. He walked forward to help them. But then he suddenly received a warning from the Soaring Spirit Bird.
It was so sudden that he was startled by it. Sprinting through the forest, he saw three shadows fly out of the trees.