Blow darts had very short tips. They were like needles and weren't very strong. In fact, they barely had any fatality. At most, they would break through one's skin. Their biggest power came from the anesthetic poison the tips were dipped in.
Naturally, Link's group was all hit. Each one got shot in the neck and collapsed onto the ground, unconscious.
Around ten seconds later, three guys in dark gray leather armor ducked out of the bushes. The guy at the front was still holding his metal crossbow. It was aimed at Link with an arrow in place just in case.
"Go get their weapons!" The person said to the other two while his crossbow was still aimed at Link's trio.
The two thieves sprinted over and stripped the three of their stuff. They found three daggers, a regular steel sword, a crossbow, and some valuable little things like silver rings and jade necklaces.
"Boss, this is all," one thief said.
The boss cocked his head at the things on the ground and studied the unconscious trio. He smiled. "They're young and muscular. We can sell them as Warriors. We hit the jackpot. Go search their bags."
"Gotcha," the two thieves answered. Happy, they jogged to the horses and opened up the bags. The three were clearly traveling merchants. They would definitely have a bunch of good things.
While searching, one thief yelped. The boss jumped and almost shot his arrow. Shocked, he asked quickly, "What's wrong?"
"Boss, look, look! Something good!"
The skinny thief turned around, holding a stallion statue in his hands. More accurately, it was half a statue. It had been sliced by something sharp, and the cut was smooth.
The most attractive thing was the statue's material. It was semi-translucent and shone gently like crystal. It made one get the urge to clutch the statue and caress it forever.
All three thieves gaped at the statue and gulped, swallowing heavily. They just stared like idiots. How could there be such a pretty thing in the world? It must be priceless.
After a full five minutes, the head darted over and grabbed the bag on the horse, covering the statue. Finally, he let out a breath.
"This must be valuable. It must be priceless!" one thief mumbled while staring at the bag. He couldn't see the statue anymore, but just looking at the bag reassured him.
"Boss, what should we do?" the other thief asked. His eyes flashed for an unspoken reason.
The boss was familiar with that light. Usually, when they chanced upon something valuable, they would secretly take it and exchange it for money. Then the three brothers would splurge happily.
If they sold this statue, they could live wealthily without doing anything.
But this time, the boss didn't say anything. He kept silent. Deep down, he obviously wanted the treasure for himself. However, another voice told him that it was too valuable and dangerous. If people found out, they might die.
Their lives were still more important than money... Any logical man would know what to do.
After debating for a full fifteen minutes, the boss gritted his teeth and said, "We can't take this. We might not be alive to spend the money. Hand it over. Leader will reward us greatly."
The other two thieves weren't happy, but thinking of the Syndicate's cruel punishments, they shuddered.
"Boss, we'll listen to you."
With that, the head thief's thoughts ran more smoothly. "Take these three back too. There's only half of the statue. They must know where the other half is."
"Whatever you say."
The three started acting immediately. They dragged the three unconscious men onto the horse and tied them up nicely. Seeing that there was stew left in the pot, they sat down and drank it all. Then they started walking the horse down the small path beside the road, going deep into the forest.
As they walked, the trees grew denser. After more than ten miles, the trees grew sparser again. A river valley appeared before them. In the distance, one could see a castle.
This was one of the Syndicate's strongholds.
The three thieves led the horse towards the castle. At the entrance of the river valley, the bush moved, and a young and agile man in black leather walked out. Looking at the three unconscious men on the horse, he furrowed his brows. "Why did you bring outsiders in?"
Only Syndicate thieves knew about this secret stronghold. Usually, they would sell slaves outside instead of bringing them into the stronghold. If that happened, the location would be exposed. The Syndicate didn't like to be out in the open.
The head thief nodded submissively. "Yamu, we found something really good to give to the leader."
"Oh, something good?" The thief wasn't impressed. These three weren't powerful. Their Battle Aura was only Level-2, and they could only capture lone merchants to sell as slaves. What good things could they find?
The head thief walked forward with the bag. He opened it slightly, revealing the statue inside.
Yamu gasped as soon as he saw it. When he looked back at the thieves, his eyes were different. "That really is good. I'll bring you to the leader!"
He'd never seen a stone like this, but he could feel the power aura coming from it. It didn't look bad either. It was definitely extraordinary; the leader would definitely like it.
He turned to lead the way. As he walked, he said, "You three really got lucky to get something that good. You'll definitely be rewarded well."
"Hehe, Brother Yamu, I won't forget about you." The head thief quickly smiled. He had to. Here, he wasn't as powerful or important as Yamu. He had to bow down to the man.
"You're very thoughtful, haha." Yamu was pleased.
The group led the horse into the castle walls. In the courtyard, people dragged the still-unconscious trio off the horse and into the dungeon. Yamu brought the three thieves into the castle's main hall.
The hall was vast. In the front, there was a huge statue of a muscular middle-aged man. His face was covered and there was a dagger on either side of his thighs. The statue was hidden in the shadows, and every detail was on point. From afar, it looked as if a thief was really hiding in the darkness and could jump out at any time.
This was the Shadow Stalker Morpheus.
Before the statue, a figure shrouded in dark aura stood in the shadows. His face was hidden, but his eyes glowed faintly with red light. When he looked at the four entering the hall, they felt like a viper was watching them and shuddered in unison.
"What good news did you bring?" the man spoke. His voice was raspy. When it rang throughout the hall, it sounded like a snake's hiss. It gave one goosebumps.
"Leader, these three captured three merchants and found this." Yamu took the bag. He walked up and offered it up.
The leader took the back. When he opened it, his eyes instantly brightened. The dark room seemed to brighten too as if a star had fallen onto earth.
"This statue...this stone...it's a Celestial Stone!" the leader couldn't help but exclaim, his breath quickening. He knew what this was!
Level-16 Astral Meteorite
Effect: It dazzles like a star on the outside. If one grinds it into fine gold, the weapons created are formless and traceless. It won't let out a bit of aura while being almost perfectly anti-magic. It is an Assassin's top choice.
(Note: There is only one star in the world. The others are destined to fall.)
While appreciating the beauty, the leader suddenly said, "Why is it only half? Where's the other half?"
For priceless treasures like this, one would never worry about having too much. Even if there was only a shred of a chance to get more, he would snatch it up!
Judging from the breakage point, someone had chopped it off with a sword. It was a fresh cut too and should have been recent. If he had a clue, he could definitely find the other half.
"It was found in the merchant's belongings," Yamu quickly replied. "There was only half. Leader, should we bring them over?"
Before the leader replied, there was a soft buzz behind him. They all looked over and saw that Morpheus' statue's eyes lit up. Bloody light shot out while boundless pressure weighed down.
The four thieves immediately fell to their knees. They didn't even dare to breathe.
Morpheus kept surveillance of his high-level believers' minds. Once there were dramatic abnormalities, he would sense it. Now, the leader was suddenly ecstatic, so Morpheus' focus projected from the statue to see what was happening.
And thus, he saw the Celestial Stone.
Recently, Morpheus had been feeling off. There was a vague sense of danger. To protect himself, he wanted to create a powerful weapon for himself. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough materials to fulfill that goal.
The Celestial Stone's appearance was like a traveler in a desert seeing an oasis. Morpheus was immediately excited. With this stone, he could definitely produce the most advanced divine gear for thieves!
A voice rang out in the minds of all the thieves present. Take this Celestial Stone and the three mortals to be. I will interrogate them personally! Hurry! Now!
The leader was shocked. "Yes, Master," he hurriedly said. "I will do it now!"
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