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237 Evolve and adap

 Eight players were seated around a large round table in a conference room. They were the top leadership of Conquest's super guilds.

A man in pink armor stood, "Let's start the meeting. We have already the Devastators will join with the European guild to conquer the Eastern Kingdom.

we will send 10,000 players, all higher than level 400. Our guild, however, wishes to change the terms of the contract."

"What? You already agreed to the contract!" a player in blue robes slammed his fist on the conference table..

"Guildmaster Dimitri, I believe the new terms will be more favorable to both our Guilds. We are willing to assist your guild but, instead of money we want the city Silao," Valentine replied.

A female elf in red leather armor leaned close to the man in blue and whispered, "Sir, they obviously want the city because it controls access to the Eastern Sea and the Wilds."

"We also want a year of tax exemption on items we sell in Eastern Kingdom shops and free use of the Eastern Kingdom's teleport gates for our guild members," Valentine added.

"You Americans, your greed knows no bounds," the man in blue said.

"Those are our terms, Guildmaster Dimitri, take them or leave them," Valentine said..

Dimitri tapped his fingers on the table thinking about the terms. His guild, the European Might had offered the Devastators two hundred million dollars to aid them in conquering the Eastern Kingdom.They proposed the same amount of money to the other super guilds.

But in the end, Dimitri had to concede to the Devastators. Apart from financial power, the new guild; the European Union didn't have the manpower to conquer the east alone.

"Agreed," Dimitri said.

"Good, now we are in business," Valentine said.

"But you will use your best players in the raid," Dimitri pointed at the black armored man next to Valentine, "I want Warlord to join the raid."

Valentine nodded and said, "Yes, Warlord will lead our forces himself. We also contracted another S legacy holder."

"You are taking this lightly, keep thinking like this and this whole raid will fail?" a man wearing a red kimono and a katana strapped to his waists said.

He sat across from Warlord, he sat with his back straight, he was calm and calculative as he looked at the people around the conference table. He was the leader of the Blood Ragers.

Warlord spoke for the first time, "What are you getting at, Zhang Shi?"

Warlord antagonized Zhang Shi out of spite. The betrayal by the Blood Ragers was the decisive reason why the Devastators failed to capture the Underworld.

"The Right of Conquest gives you gate coordinates not the Key Master title. So to get to the Eastern Kingdom, you have to cross the Wilds.

Tell me, how are you going to do that with so many players that have the Stench debuff?"

Zhang Shi didn't care if the raid succeeded, he only cared about the money he would be getting from the European guild for .

"The Heavens Dawn guild already has a plan to get the raid through the wilds," A man in priestly vestments said.

The speaker was White Ghost. The right hand of the Heaven's Dawn guild, known as the best strategist in Conquest. Seated next to him was a Hulk-like figure in leather armors, Wan Yi.

"And what's that?" Zhang Shi asked calmly.

"A pawn sacrifice."

Everyone looked at White Ghost in confusion. He reveled in their lack of understanding and only explained when they gave up trying to decipher the meaning of his words..

"We will send the players with the highest Stench debuff levels first into the Wilds. They will lead the monsters away giving us time to cross the Wilds."

"A monkey could have came up with that plan! The real danger to this raid is the black dragon, How are you going to deal with a level 750 monster?" Zhang Shi said.

"I have my ways." White Ghost was being deliberately ambiguous.

"And what are your 'ways'?" asked an archer sitting next to Zhang Shi.

"Only the Dimitri knows and he approved it," White Ghost smiled at Zhang-Shi.

Zhang Shi snorted. Win or lose, he would be paid. And if his guild members lost levels in the process, they would be compensated.

"The date of the raid has been set. Three days from today we will march on the Eastern Kingdom. We'll be using the teleport gate in Moria as it is the closest to the Wilds. We will make an operations base there," Dimitri said.

"I heard you contracted [It's Just business] to assassinate the king. Can you trust them? Are you sure they won't just take the kingdom for themselves when they kill the king?" Zhang Shi asked.

"They are trustworthy and they are simply not interested in ruling a kingdom. So you don't have to worry about them, my only concern is if someone else tries to sabotage the operation. we do not tolerate traitors," Dimitri said in a threatening tone.

The meeting continued with everyone discussing military logistic.

Elsewhere in Conquest, nine players were running for their lives.

***

The giant praying mantis swung at Dave with its deadly blade. Dave raised his shield and used [Block], then waved his hand and snapped his fingers, detonating four [Spectral Skulls] right in the mantis' T-shaped face.

The mantis staggered, surprised and disoriented. The prey dared to hurt it. The mantis screeched and started chasing them again.

"Ew EWW EWW!" Demeri screamed.

Dave looked back, she was frantically scratching her limbs, body and neck.

"What's wrong?" Ralph shouted.

"I hate bugs! They make me itch."

Dave shook his head, "Use long-range crowd control to disrupt and slow it down. We need to stay ahead of it, the moment it touches a mount, it's game over!"

"Hey man, 'game over' is my line. Get your own material!" Flanker said.

The priest began wave his staff and chanted, "Weak knees, Brittle bones!"

A glowing wave of magic shot from Flanker's staff toward their pursuer. But the mantis disappeared, avoiding the glowing light.

"Damn, that bugger is fast!!"

Lone shot at the mantis several times, but the bug either snapped the arrows in two or dodged..

"Dodge this!" Lone pulled back on her bowstring then released the ice arrow that materialized. She wasn't aiming at the mantis, but the ground in front of it.

The mantis saw the arrow and ignored it, assuming it was not a threat. The arrow struck the ground as intended and exploded in white frost, creating an ice dome that trapped the mantis for five seconds.

"Nice one Lone!" Dave shouted.

"T-Thanks," Lone said.

The party continued their race through the Wilds. Soon it was too dark to see, they couldn't use torches while riding, so Dave called on the last person he would have thought to rely on.

"Flanker, we need light!"

Flanker nodded and called out, "Holy Radiance!"

The pervert priest's staff burned with bright golden light, chasing away the darkness of the forest.

"Careful, the mantis is on the right!" Perfect shouted again, he was keeping track of the monster thanks to his Ranger skills.

"Let me deal with it" Tess waved her scepter.

A ring of black smoke spread out from Tess's staff. The ring grew rapidly and covered the whole party. The smoke coalesced into nine figures that looked exactly like the party members, even the centaurs and Spike were duplicated. The clone party diverged from the real one, taking the aggro of the praying mantis.

"This is only temporary, the Skill even duplicates the Stench debuff, so the mantis will keep chasing them until it kills the clones," Tess said.

"No, it's amazing. We're gonna gain some distance on that praying bugger now," Dave said.

They continued to rush headlong through the forest.

But all too soon Tess informed them, "The mantis has caught up to the clones, it's destroying them."

"Already?" Flanker asked.

"Don't worry we are still widening the gap with the manti- STOP!" Dave shouted and Spike backpedaled to a stop.

The party slowed down and came to a stop behind Dave.

"What's going on?" Ralph asked.

"Look over there," Dave dispiritedly said.

The party were standing at the edge of a chasm that looked like it split the whole Wilds in two.

"What do we do man?" Flanker said. He was looking over his shoulder afraid that the mantis would jump him at any moment.

Dave dismounted and approached the edge. He looked down, seeing an abyss with no bottom in sight his heart sank.

"Wait, I see something. There's a bridge over there!" Perfect was pointing to his right.

Dave squinted in the direction Perfect was pointing. He couldn't see anything, but he trusted the ranger's class enhanced senses.

"Let's go, we need to hurry. Perfect, lead the way."

Another high-pitched and faraway scream notified the party of the approaching mantis.

Dave mounted again and the party raced after Perfect.

A minute later the party stopped at the end of a dilapidated wooden bridge. It was a wooden suspension bridge with rope guidelines.

"Shit, will this thing support us?" Flanker said.

Perfect knelt inspecting the bridge.

"The wood is still sound it should be able to hold our weight, and even the centaurs. But I doubt it can support Spike," Perfect said.

The fiend grumbled, understanding what the ranger was saying, maybe he didn't like being called fat.

But Perfect was right, the forest prong fiend weighed several tons. Crossing the bridge would be suicide for the fiend.

Dave stroked Spike's fur, "I will cross on foot first, when I get to the other side, I will whistle to summon you, okay? But don't stay here, the mantis will be arriving soon."

Dave dismounted and slapped the fiend on the flank. Spike bounded through the brush and disappeared into the thick forest.

"Hurry up everyone, the centaurs go first, one by one." Dave said.

While the centaurs crossed to the other side, the Players frequently looked behind at the dark, silent forest. When the centaurs were on the other side, the players started crossing.

Walking the bridge was not an experience Dave wanted to remember. The wood creaked and groaned with every step. The wind shook the structure. Dave grabbed to the ropes on the side and took deliberate steps. He looked down and immediately regretted it.

Dave had never liked heights, but he sucked it up and kept walking.

Thankfully everyone reached the other side of the bridge.

But just as the last member of the party stepped off the bridge, Perfect who was keeping a lookout, swore.

"Shit, the mantis is here."

The praying mantis was walking from side to side at the foot of the bridge. The mantis seemed to be searching for something, antlers quivering wildly. It spotted the 'real' party and screeched.

"Destroy the bridge!" Dave said.

He equipped his flamberge and struck at the ropes supporting the bridge. The rest of the party joined him and attacked the structure, trying to bring it down before the mantis crossed the span. The bridge shuddered under the attacks.

When the mantis realized what the prey things were trying to do, it sped across, toward the player's side before the bridge fell.

SNAAAP!

The bridge slowly fell from the player's side of the chasm. The drop from that height was sure to kill the monster insect. For a moment everyone was relieved. But things didn't work out as they'd hoped, the mantis turned and sped nimbly along the span of the bridge even as it fell and made it safely to the other side.

"Damn. Still, there is no way it can follow us now," Dave sighed in relief. Then he whistled sharply and Spike appeared right next to the Player

"Good boy," Dave said and mounted the fiend.

Pausing Flanker turned and slapped his butt at the monster. "Kiss my shiney hiney, bug face! Who's your daddy now? You want us so bad, you better grow wings!"

The bug, as if understanding Flanker's taunts, howled and screeched louder than ever, its body jerking violently, as if it was having a seizure.

Flanker stared at a notification, "What the fuck am I supposed to do with a taunt Skill? I'm a priest for fuck's sake."

Perfect looked back. "The mantis is acting weird."

Then the ranger gulped, "Oh shit."

The Wilds were eerily calm at that moment, so the entire party heard the sound of chitin tearing.

On the other side of the chasm the mantis finally stopped spasming and two pairs wings emerged from under its carapace. It flexed the iridescent appendages and they vibrated, moving faster and faster until they were buzzing. Then the mantis lifted from the ground and soared into the air.

"Godammit Flanker, you just had to fucking jinx it!"