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13 The Ring of Will

 Shadows were streaking through the forest. They would separate from time to time, then reassemble again.

"Have you noticed?"

"There are traces from the east side. It's likely to be the targets. Based on the time, it should be from a day ago at most."

"They sure are quick..."

"Continue our action and pay attention to the opponent. Since they could get rid of the Wind Serpent Lord, we should not underestimate them."

"Yes!"

After the three men finished talking, they once again transformed into black shadows and moved into the depths of the forest. Their movements were silent; not even the birds were disturbed.

After the shadows had left, a green bird that had been quietly sitting on the branches flapped its wings and flew high.

"There's someone following us?"

Hearing the report from the Spirit Bird, Rhode's face somewhat turned gloomy. At this time, the translucent green Spirit Bird was quietly sitting on his shoulder, shaking its head and stretching its wings from time to time, as if it was no different from an ordinary bird. Only its translucent body and the glorious aura around it were able to show its surreal characteristic.

Summoning the Spirit Bird to monitor the situation was something he thought of along the way. When a group of players intended to gather a party for an adventure, they usually teamed up with a Thief, Ranger or other classes that could scout danger ahead.

Rhode had no option like that now, so he could only use the Spirit Bird to recon the area. Luckily, not only did the Spirit Bird have a dominant advantage in its sight, it could also sense other people's presence as its soul was well-attuned with nature.

Initially, he did so only as insurance in case something happened after killing the level 10 Silver Wolf. Never would he had thought that he would encounter a greater problem instead.

Although the Spirit Bird couldn't show what his opponent physically looked like, judging from the moving blob of light, he felt somewhat uneasy looking at the opponent's speed. Since they could run freely at that kind of speed, they could either be Rangers, Rogues, or other similar classes. Anyway, it should be an agility-based class.

Moreover, the opponent moved in order. It was difficult to believe that they were just ordinary adventurers.

Are they just passing by? Or are they specifically coming for them?

Rhode did not dare to take the risk. It was better if they came straightforwardly, but the 'lurking in the dark' kind of classes was the most difficult to deal with. Moreover, what Lize had reminded him kept making him think that this matter was quite strange. If these guys were hostile towards them, then the situation would be difficult to imagine.

But, looking at Lize beside him, his eyes couldn't help but brighten up.

He had an idea.

"Mr. Rhode, where do we go next?"

Lize asked while handing the kettle to the fat merchant who was sweating profusely beside her. Even though Rhode did not ask her to, the one who had been taking care of the fat merchant was her. According to Lize, her mercenary group was given a job to protect this merchant. Even if she was alone, as long as the mission had not yet been completed, she would continue to do it.

Matt was naturally very grateful for it, but looking at him gasping for breath, Rhode was afraid that he would probably pass out if they continue to walk.

"Mr... Rhode, I...I am.... very exhausted, let's... rest for a while!"

The moment Rhode stopped, Matt had already sat down, held onto his bag, took out his handkerchief and wiped the sweat on his face. He rubbed it until his face turned shiny like a big lightbulb under the sunlight.

"Holy, Holy Soul bless me... I have not... walked... walked... for several years...*cough*"

The fat merchant was unable to breathe properly; he coughed for a few times until the fat on his face started jittering. After a few minutes, he finally recovered.

"We have been walk...walking for so far, I thought...I thought that I was going to die!"

"Let's rest for five minutes."

Rhode looked at the sky while calculating the next destination and the required time. After that, he issued a command. Hearing his words, the fat merchant who was sitting on the floor immediately cried, and then rested on the ground. Lize sat gracefully next to a rock.

After the battle with the Silver Wolf, they did not encounter any danger. With the Spirit Bird's help, Rhode had avoided a lot of dangerous areas. Though it meant that he also lost some of the opportunity to get some precious equipment, he was not distressed. Because, in this world, there were no other players, and ordinary adventurers would not suddenly overturn the mountains and the forest. So it was not too late to grab it after safely bringing them back. However...

Rhode looked up towards a place not far from the mountains, then he stood up.

"Lize."

"Yes, Mr. Rhode. What can I help you with?"

"I'm going to check the road ahead. After you finish resting in five minutes, take Matt and go uphill. See that piece of white stone? Go there, and walk towards its shadow. There, you will find an abandoned mountain. Both of you will wait there; I'll follow after a while."

Lize raised her head, looking at the direction Rhode had pointed and soon found the white stone on the hillside. She turned again to look at Rhode, puzzled as to why he knew about it. But when she opened her mouth, she decided not to ask. After traveling for a few days, she had found out that this man in front was worth relying on. Even though she did not know what he wanted, she still nodded her head, then watched him as he turned away.

Rhode, of course, had his own plan. That stone was the entrance to Zenar Mountain. It used to be an excellent trade route. The ancestors of the Northern area were poor, so they used their whole life to dig a tunnel through the mountains so they could connect the plains with other areas of the road. It had its moment of glory, but with the development and utilization of the wind magic, the air passage was, of course, safer to go through. That was why this trade route was gradually abandoned, and those people who worked and lived here had already abandoned their homes and left to find a better life. That was why this place had become barren land.

The progress of civilization will always make something that once was a miracle turn meaningless, no matter which world he was in.

But Rhode did not travel to this world to comprehend the philosophies of life.

He stopped in his tracks. At that moment, a barren land laid before his eyes.

As well as corpses.

Those bones were almost buried by the dust. Broken armors and corroded weapons were scattered on the ground. These were the corpses of a mercenary group called 'Tiger Fangs'. During their adventure, they had suffered a bandit attack and died here. Back in the game, Rhode needed to receive the quest from the mercenary guild, and then investigate their final mission according to the clues that were given. After that, he would need to follow the mark on the map all the way here and finish the quest by bringing them the letter and treasure. It was a game, after all, so it was necessary for them to follow those steps. But even so, many veterans did not follow such a stringent rule. They would rather take the letter and treasure first, then bring it to the mercenary guild. Wasn't it also the same? Not only did it save more time, but it was also more convenient. Since they could save those few steps, then why not?

But, the reason why Rhode was here was not to save those few steps...

He went to the depths of the battlefield and saw a skeleton lying on the edge of the hillside. It was wearing a steel armor that had long been corroded, and there was a dark, rusty, iron sword beside it. That was Rhode's goal. Those were also the bones of the mercenary group leader.

Walking towards the remains, he lowered his body and stretched out his hand. Soon, a mercenary badge could be seen. This was the keepsake of 'Tiger Fangs' mercenary group and also the item needed to complete the quest. Rhode carefully put it in his pocket and then looked down again. He quickly found what he wanted.

It was something that was worn by the skeleton, a dirty ring.

Rhode carefully took out the ring. On the surface, it looked like this ring was useless and no different from a scrap of metal in a pile of garbage. But the system prompt in front of him showed a totally different thing.

[Black Iron Ring. Unidentified. Contains magic fluctuations]

"Resonance."

Rhode closed his eyes, holding the ring in his right hand. The previous weak magic fluctuations became clearer. When he opened his eyes again, the item on his right hand was not a scrap of metal anymore. On the contrary, a dark ring carved with a simple pattern was lying quietly on his hand.

[The Ring of Will has been identified. Can activate a shield for 5 minutes. Immunity against mental (MEN) attacks. Cooldown: 3 days]

Nice.

Rhode wore the ring on his right hand, feeling relieved. After he looked around for a moment, he did not find any other valuable things, so he turned back and returned to the hillside.

Rhode could clearly see Lize and Matt were struggling towards the white stone's direction. The fat merchant had no mountain climbing experience and was trembling behind Lize. Looking at his face, it seemed that if Lize wasn't a female, he would have cried and asked her to carry him up.

That good-for-nothing...

Rhode shook his head helplessly. Just as he was planning to reunite with them again, his heart suddenly froze upon hearing the Spirit Bird's report.

"---!"

Rhode was startled. He quickly dashed towards the forest and soon, he saw three shadows flying out.

Bad!