Chapter 5 - Age of Adepts

While most of the demons were backing away, in fear of the magical flame which had just appeared in the air, Greem jumped off the path, dug out the soil underneath a nearby Killer Tree, used his magic flame to burn the thick tree root, and finally saw the material that he had come to harvest today.

Between the tangled roots and pale white human bones were some small pulpy root nodes. Some were white, some were red, and there were even a few purple colored ones. Greem suppressed the disgust he felt and, using a small knife that he carried with him, he carefully harvested three of the purple nodes and placed them into his waist pocket. Afterward, he quickly rushed back to the path.

If this task wasn’t so important, he wouldn’t ever step outside of boundaries of the path! Even though he had moved with great speed, those demons, who had previously been running away, had, once again, gathered around. Also of note, the Bloodsucking Rattans, which hung from the Killer Trees, now occupied the space he had been in when digging up the roots.

If he had been a second slower, he wouldn’t have been able to escape without a tough fight!

Actually, thanks to his new ‘elemental vision’, he was able to directly find the Killer Tree’s core roots. If it was before, he would have had to make repeated trips from the path to find his harvest. The more trips off the path he had to take, the higher the risk.

He continued following the eerie trail for another two hundred meters, soon leaving the main clump of Killer Trees. In front of him, he saw a horrible ghost tree, which looked alive as it stretched over the stony trail, the vines and tree branches hanging down from it looked alive as they wriggled in the air.

Pulling out the magic talisman from under his shirt, Greem whispered the secret spell that every apprentice Adept had to master.

“Muhantoria • Sinra.”

Upon the completion of the secret magic spell, a mysterious, invisible force erupted from the talisman, quickly covering every inch of his surroundings.

A warning blared within Greem’s mind.

“Abnormal force field detected! The functionality of this chip is being interfered with…”

The voice of the chip got weaker and weaker. It slowly faded into a soft whine before eventually going completely silent.

Greem ignored the chip, then he started striding forward while holding the magic talisman up above his head. With each step he took, the vines and tree branches in front of him receded. Eventually they separated, allowing him to pass through and continue on his way.

Now that he was done with the Killer Trees and Bloodsucking Rattans, it was time for him to enter what was known as a paradise for a type of being known as a Demon Baby. Greem’s heart held a strong fear for this place.

The area just past the Ghost Tree was filled with demons. They called it the Garden of Whispers.

If one looked out from the path, all they would see were fields of flowers, yet all these fields were filled with ashes, corpses, and countless demons.

The unique environment of the magical swamp had made this place a paradise for Demon Babies, Banshees, and Flower Fairies, all of whom were simply twisted creatures whose only desire was to fill their stomachs with the corpses and souls of the unprepared beings who entered this place. Whenever such a fool entered this place, his fate was to collapse under the endless evil influences and illusions and become a fertilizer for these unique plants, who lived off of death and despair.

Human Faced Mushrooms gathered on both sides of the path. They were all holding hands and singing a joyful melody, warmly beckoning Greem to join them. These little things looked like tiny mushrooms with hands and feet. They had a pattern on their caps which resembled a human face.

Although these Human Face Mushroom had cute little hands and feet and were not much more than a foot tall, when they gathered together, jumping and laughing, it sent chills down Greem’s spine.

“Warning… Warning… Strange energy is affecting the host… Advising the host to leave this place immediately…”

Greem quickly backed away from the dancing mushrooms. When he had distanced himself from them, the spine-tingling sensation finally subsided.

No matter how cute these Human Face Mushrooms looked, they were still a genuine carnivorous demon, and they were known for not even sparing the soul of their prey. The original form of these demons was actually a type of white mushroom, which had been injected with a lot of potent Dark Elementium. Individually, they only had a weak illusion ability, which was definitely not enough for them to capture prey like a human, which was so much larger than them.

But these creatures lived together in a group.

When hundreds of Human Face Mushrooms gathered together, they could form a large mirage-like illusionary region, causing their prey to lose themselves without even realizing it. Thus, if one came across a large group of Human Faced Mushroom feasting on prey, their victim might still have a smile on his face, being completely immersed in some type of fantasy!

For an official Adept, these Human Face Mushrooms, who only possessed basic illusion abilities, were simply a good material for enhancing their own magic. But for an apprentice Adept like Greem, he would face the risk of being killed by them every time he encountered them.

If Greem couldn’t withstand the illusionary region created by these Human Face Mushrooms and walk off the path of his own volition, then these creatures could enjoy a big feast without violating the agreement made with the tower!

Therefore, facing toward these smiling but insidious demons, who kept moving closer to him, Greem grinned and took out an egg-sized, stone, quickly throwing it right into the center of the dancing mushrooms.

In the next moment, a blue flash erupted from the stone as faded lightning struck out at anything close by. Five Human Faced Mushrooms fell lifeless to the ground. All the other Human Faced Mushrooms were scared and ran off in all directions, hiding in the nearby foliage.

Greem trotted over to the five Human Faced Mushroom corpses, carefully picking them up and placing them all into his waist pocket. Then he picked up the small round stone and returned to the path.

The small egg-shaped stone was a Thunder Stone, which he had purchased from apprentice Rick for a high price. When activated, it would shake violently for a moment before releasing a small burst of lightning which dealt 5 points of lightning damage. It was the perfect weapon for dealing with these Human Faced Mushrooms, which were quite weak. After all, his ‘Burning Hand’ spell was quite destructive, and thus he needed another method.

None of those Human Faced Mushrooms dared to show their faces after being attacked. However, the countless spine-tingling glances and the noisy clattering whispers were still following after Greem, making his hair stand on end.

The Human Faced Mushrooms were one the materials he had to harvest for his task. Therefore, once Greem had completed this part of the task, he quickly hurried down the winding trail, not daring to stay in that place any longer.

To be honest, among all the lands around the tower, this place was known for having the highest apprentice fatality rate!

Leaving the flowery fields where the Human Faced Mushrooms grew, Greem soon arrived at the region where the Demon Babies lived.

The Demon Baby was a little monster which had a small shriveled body, which looked like a human baby. They also had something like an umbilical cord dragging behind them as they moved. They moved around by crawling on the ground, but the speed at which they crawled was extremely fast.

These Demon Babies were not real babies, but actually very horrifying monsters. They had an innate ability, which was very similar to a ‘curse’. With this ‘curse’ their words and wills would join together to become reality. One could imagine their power as something similar to a ‘Wish’ spell.

Unfortunately, they were all evil creatures with absolutely twisted minds, and their hearts were full of vicious hatred. Therefore, one shouldn’t expect terrible malice to be unleashed upon them when they encountered these Demon Babies.

When dozens of Demon Babies gathered together and launched their most powerful curses toward a target, even a powerful Earth Bear would become greatly weakened by the stacking of their evil intentions. After that, the Demon Babies would easily be able to kill their victim.

When walking among this group of dreadful monsters, one would need heart, and a will of iron, or else they would end up having their skin stripped and bone dismantled by the Demon Babies, soon becoming one of the many wandering souls in this Garden of Whispers.

Greem quickened his pace as he hurried through the desolate bushes of the garden. He didn’t have the courage to stop and simply held the talisman tightly to his chest, going faster and faster as he hurried through this section of the swamp.

By the time the sharp and ear-splitting cries of the Demon Babies started filling his ears, Greem was sprinting. Though it was terrifying, Greem soon left the Garden of Whispers, breathing heavily as he turned onto another narrow trail.

Although he had gone out to harvest materials, the more important part of this routine task was to inspect the activity of the demons near the tower and to check for things that were out of place, like if there were signs that an outsider had tried to come to this area. Every seven days he had to take note of the activity of all demons around the tower, appropriately harvesting some magical materials as he did so. This was the purpose for Greem’s trip.

In fact, the region he was inspecting was actually a part of the inner boundary of the magical swamp. It was very rare for an outsider to actually make it this far into the swamp. After all, demons raised by Adepts were all extremely dangerous, even putting on a magical talisman wouldn’t enough to guarantee the safety of an apprentice Adept. As for those ordinary humans who tried to sneak into this place to steal the resources of an Adept, the chances of them getting past all those monstrous demons was next to impossible.

To be honest, mortals most likely wouldn’t even get past the outer perimeter of the magical swamp.

But, according to Greem’s knowledge, sometimes the Adept Tower would purposely deactivate some of the outer perimeter defense mechanisms, actively attracting some ordinary humans into the depths of the swamp. At that moment, the swamp would turn into a demon carnival as they all feasted on the ignorant mortals!

The Adept Tower was a humongous ring-shaped structure and the landscape surrounding its foundation was extremely complicated. The demons were distributed throughout the swamp in a very methodical manner. Therefore, every inspection trip would require at least two apprentice Adepts, one went clockwise and the other went counter clockwise. They would follow a fixed route and cross most of the demon infested areas. Starting from the front door of the tower and meeting at the back door, once they completed this circular route their inspection would be considered complete.

Every inspection task would award them four Knowledge points and some gold coins. Compared to other tasks within the tower, the reward of Knowledge points was considerable handsome. But, even with such a high reward, most of the apprentice Adepts, who hungered for Knowledge points, would still step back from this inspection task, avoiding it like the plague.

The reason for this was obvious: the fatality rate for the inspection task was definitely the highest among all the tasks in the tower! None of the other tasks could surpass it.

For this inspection trip, Greem took the counterclockwise route, where he was required to go past the grove of Killer Trees, the Human Faced Mushroom’s field, the Garden of Whispers, and a few other areas. As for the other apprentice Adept, Tony, he took the clockwise route, but it wasn’t a safe route either. After all, those Giant alligators and Parasite Bug Queens were just as dangerous as some of the creatures on his side!

Especially when you had to harvest some of the Alligator eggs or a bug cocoon. Doing these things required one to go deep into their nest, and this was what was so dangerous about the clockwise inspection task. Therefore, when Greem saw Tony at the back door of the tower, he felt glad that Tony had survived as well.

Both guys didn’t talk much after they met. They just nodded their heads indifferently and continued into the tower.

It was the apprentice leader, Anksorus, who was waiting for them there. After submitting the required items for the task, the two of them were basically free for the next six days. As for the Knowledge points, Anksorus had input them into their magical talisman using a secret method.

For all the apprentices in the tower, their magical talisman was actually a token of their identity.