A day in Firuman was equivalent to a year in Aragu. In other words, the Snow Mountain Archmage would only be able to extend his life for another 100 days even with the aid of a secret spell. If the Archmage were to perish, both Aragu and Firuman would be doomed as well. Link and the others had little time to spare at this point.
After signing a soul contract with the Magician Dylosen in order to avoid being betrayed by the latter, Link and Eliard set off for the South with their new companion. They left Milose and Elovan behind to watch over Orida Fortress in case the Army of Destruction mounted another attack against the place in their absence.
Link was not too concerned that the two High Elves would betray him. Both their hands were stained with the blood of High Elf royalty. They had also completely adapted to life in Ferde. There was no turning back for either of them.
The less people who knew about their mission to retrieve the divine fragments, the better. If Morpheus caught wind of it, he would probably have his guard up even more, making the mission a lot more difficult for them.
And so, after returning to Ferde, the three Magicians quickly made a few preparations and disguised themselves before continuing their journey down south. The three of them were masters of the mystical arts. No one would be able to track them down if they really did not want to be found. Even a demi-god would have a hard time sensing their presences.
As the three of them headed towards the South, in the Isle of Dawn's largest port, Monoson, the High Elf Queen and her elderly entourage were seeing off a High Elf Warrior as he boarded a Silver Storm Sparrow warship
From a distance, this High Elf Warrior seemed like any other ordinary High Elf, save for a few differences, such as the fact that he was a bit shorter and that his clothing was of a different style. However, one would discern a lot more differences from up close.
Though the High Elf was a male Warrior, he was a lot shorter than the female High Elves of the Isle of Dawn. His skin was coarse, and his rugged features were in stark contrast with the daintiness of the typical High Elf on the island. He was wearing a battle robe of gold and red, which was inlaid with various crystals. Its style was visibly different from the Isle of Dawn's.
The most intriguing thing about the Warrior was his sword. Numerous magical circuits were etched on the blade's surface. These circuits were gleaming with a blood-red light. At a glance, the entire sword looked as if it was dripping with boiling lava!
As soon as he was on board the Silver Storm Sparrow vessel, the Warrior gave the High Elf Queen a slight bow. He said impassively, "Your Highness, you can expect good news from me."
He then walked towards the ship's cabin without turning back.
Wooo... The Storm Silver Sparrow ship sounded its horn as it slowly left the Monoson port.
Back on the docks, some of the elders around the High Elf Queen looked somewhat displeased. One of them let out a huff. "He's just a Warrior. Does he really think he can get away with such insolence?"
The High Elf Queen shot him a warning look. "Hush now. To be able to attain this much power deserves some respect, even as a Warrior!"
The High Elf was a Level-15 Inferno Warrior, one of the six high-ranking Lava Knights in the Fire Sect of Aragu and second only to the queen's daughter Milda. Naturally, a master of his caliber could afford to show some degree of arrogance.
Another elder seemed concerned about something. He then said to the queen, "Princess Ellie said that the lord of Ferde's power has reached Level-14. He now possesses incredible combat power, he's capable of flawlessly combining magic and battle techniques in combat. Even the king did not survive his blade. Will this Warrior really be a match for him?"
The High Elf Queen replied calmly. "Of course, he will be. The lord of Ferde's skill is trivial compared to what a Level-15 master is capable of, especially considering the fact that anyone who has reached Level-15 would begin accumulating Law Power."
At that point, the Silver Storm Sparrow ship had shrunk into a small point on the horizon. The High Elf Queen let out a sigh. "Let's go back. All that we can do now is wait."
With Mordena gone, there was but an empty void in the queen's heart.
In the South, Golle Kingdom
Link, Eliard and Dylosen were each riding a horse down the road.
The three of them were dressed as ordinary traveling merchants. They had even hung from their saddles leather pouches which were typically used by traveling merchants in order to complete their disguise. With their magical auras suppressed, the party of three made their way south, their faces covered by dust in the wind.
No one would have known that these three seemingly ordinary travelers possessed power capable of sundering the earth and rending the heavens.
In this day and age, journeying out in the South was risky business. Security was lousy on the road, where a gang of highwaymen could just pop out of a corner and rob you blind. As not many people could afford trips outside civilization, the road was practically deserted at that moment, and so the three of them did not need to worry about being bothered by anyone else.
The three Magicians chatted with each other leisurely as they rode their horses. They would either begin discussing a magical problem among themselves or make a few adjustments to their battle plan in accordance with any rumors they heard on the road.
"I heard that the Syndicate's members are quite passionate about inciting political turmoil from the shadows. That demi-god upstart seems to have control over every other southern kingdom except the Southmoon Kingdom. His worshippers have reached more than 3 million as well. I fear that he's not too far away from becoming an actual god," said Dylosen
Any time they were about to mention Morpheus, they would usually substitute his name with the pronoun "he" or simply the word "upstart." Saying his name out in the open would draw Morpheus' attention to them, and that was the last thing any of them wanted right now.
Link smiled faintly. The chances of him achieving godhood are just too low. I've dueled with him before. Back then, I was just a Magician's Apprentice... Look at me now. Still in the pink of health."
"He really is an upstart," muttered Dylosen. Whatever the reason might be, if this demi-god could not even deal with a Magician's Apprentice, maybe he was just not cut out to be a god.
Eliard suddenly asked, "Dylosen, you said that you had just escaped the Fire Archmage and his underlings back in Aragu. Does this mean someone will be coming after you soon?"
Link now looked at Dylosen, waiting to hear his answer.
"Perhaps. If I'm not wrong, my pursuer will be a Lava Knight from the Fire Sect," said Dylosen matter-of-factly.
"Lava Knight?" Link raised a brow. The name sounded impressive. The two Inferno Warriors he had captured back then never mentioned this to him. Link figured that a Lava Knight's existence was kept secret even from low-ranking members of the Fire Sect.
"There are, in total, six Lava Knights in the Fire Sect. Each of them is a genius in their own right and were chosen personally by the Fire Sect's Holy Maiden. They were all molded into Pinnacle Warriors above Level-15. The leader of the Lava Knights is a Level-16 master whose combat power surpasses even the Holy Maiden herself. Though they are all known as Lava Knights, they each have their own codenames, techniques, and equipment. All of these were given to them by the Holy Maiden."
"They all sound formidable. How many did you say will be coming after you?" asked Eliard. There was not a hint of concern on his face, even after hearing Dylosen's account.
Dylosen replied warningly, "These Lava Knights are extremely powerful. You would be wise not to underestimate any of them. Only the Frost Warriors of the Aragu Empire are capable of fighting them head-on. Due to the high cost of trans-realm teleportation, the Fire Sect could only send over one Lava Knight. Still, one is enough. Truth be told, I would probably be killed by him with just three strokes of his sword in direct combat. Even if I were to ambush him with magic, I would only be delaying the inevitable. Also, half of the Magicians who managed to break through the enemy's encirclement were all killed by the Lava Knights."
Link and Eliard were stunned by this.
As they traveled on, both Link and Eliard were able to estimate just how strong Dyleson was through their discussions on magic. Eliard was certainly not a match for Dyleson. However, Link figured that he had a pretty good chance of coming out on top in a fair fight with him. However, there was still a chance he could lose if he were not too careful.
After hearing from Dyleson just how powerful a Lava Knight was, Link now wondered if he could even take on someone like that by himself.
"What if we work together?" asked Link. Dyleson grunted as if mentally trying to weigh their combined powers against one Lava Knight. Half a minute later, he said, "It's worth a shot, but we should still be prepared for the worst. Our mission right now isn't to take on him, so I think that our best option now is to just run if the Lava Knight catches up to us. My Lord, you are a spatial Magician. With you by our side, he will never reach us."
Link nodded in agreement. "Then let's hope we don't meet him too soon."
The sky had darkened considerably. For safety reasons, they decided not to use their powers, as they were still within the Syndicate's area of influence in this empty wasteland. They got down from their horses and soon found on the roadside a huge tree to rest under.
Dyleson found some dry grass, on which he lit up a fire with a flint. Link took out a metal pot from his leather pouch, scooped up some water from a nearby stream, and fixed up a metal stand for the pot. Eliard was in charge of feeding their horses.
Soon, Link began cooking a meal in the pot above the fire that Dyleson had started. They then lay out their sheets on a flat surface and prepared themselves for dinner.
Thanks to the South's warm climate and their sturdy physiques, the three of them were not too bothered about having to spend the night out in the wilderness.
Before long, the aromatic smell of meat wafted from the pot. They quickly ladled some of the soup into their bowls and began greedily slurping it down while continuing their conversations from earlier.
At that moment, the three of them looked just like a couple of traveling merchants who were now having dinner with each other after a long day's journey. No one would know who they really were.
As they ate, Link's ears pricked up at a sudden swoosh in the air. Thanks to his abundant combat experience, he immediately recognized it as the sound of an arrow flying through the air towards them from a blowpipe.
As soon as he heard it, he gave his companions meaningful looks. He seemed pleased by this. "Get ready; it's coming!"
The blowpipe was a weapon most commonly used by the Syndicate's thieves. They would usually lace the tips of their arrows with snake venom. Once hit, even a well-built man would succumb to it in a matter of seconds. He would then be sold off by the Syndicate as a slave.
Link and the others had come all the way here to let themselves be taken as slaves. This was the first step of their plan!
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