Two months later.
The gradual descent of the flying ship in the center of the square signaled that the compulsory mission of the Underground Cave had come to an end.
Just like the time when they came here, it was the same masculine guy wearing a golden armor who was in charge of escorting them back.
When he saw Greem and the other apprentices, a smile with unknown meanings emerged on the masculine man's face.
"Hahaha, little bastards, how was the life in the Underground World? Let me see... not bad, not bad at all! Out of ten apprentices, there are still seven of you left. It looks like those underground fellows are being courteous to you. Eh? How come there is one additional Pseudo-Adept? It seems someone is doing pretty well! Haha, is that little beginner apprentice the first one to get killed? How brave is the mere beginner apprentice to come to this place, he was just courting death! Hahaha..."
Hearing how the masculine man lectured them with a self-entertaining manner, an unsightly expression appeared on the faces of these few apprentices.
During the last underground patrol for the mission team, they were struck by a planned ambush from the Fallen Apprentices. The Advanced Apprentice, Bruce, was killed on that trip, while the rest managed to flee with different degrees of injuries. Hence, when they heard the mocking words from the masculine man, they immediately lowered their heads, as their eyes were filled with flames of anger.
With a bitter expression, Greem bowed slightly and greeted, "Master Sammir, I'm the Beginner Apprentice you mentioned!"
The haughty laughter of Sammir suddenly came to a stop.
His eyes went wide as he stared right at Greem's face. Since Greem had changed tremendously, only now could he slightly see Greem's previous look.
"You're an Advanced Apprentice now! Kid, so you're the one who had the best luck from this place! Alright, alright! I don't care a shit about how you live your life here, I want everybody aboard the ship now! I still need to rush back and report the completion of the task!"
Without saying anything else, the group started to board the flying ship one after another one. As Greem's contracted servant, after paying one magic crystal, Snorlax was allowed to board the ship as well.
After an indistinct swaying movement, the flying ship rose high into the sky. The group of apprentices leaned on the side of the ship and stared at the crowd and buildings that became smaller and smaller. Their mind was filled with complicated feelings. Like birds that had managed to escape from the cage, everyone's minds relaxed. Those who were familiar with each other even gathered in a group, happily sharing their experiences while laughing.
However, huge gaps between each team still existed. The team of seven apprentices was split into two distinct groups.
During the last few days before leaving the Underground Cave's Adept Tower, Greem ordered Snorlax to sell off all magical gemstones and materials that he wouldn't be using in the coming days, while purchasing a huge amount of demon beasts' meat, magical knowledge and element crystal cores that they could find in the market.
He knew very well that comparing to this place, the Swampy Tower was simply a desolate land. Once they returned to that place, they wouldn't be able to enjoy the daily magical energy meal anymore. Not only that, there wasn't any apprentice markets, so no more merchants that provided them with numerous resources. At that point in time, even if they wanted to be well-fed and well-clothed, they would have to depend on themselves!
The huge amount of resources and goods had completely filled his storage waist belt. In order to bring everything they had purchased back, Greem even purchased another five to six storage waist belts. But even so, there was still many materials that couldn't fit. To solve this problem, Snorlax simply placed them into a huge bag and carried it on its back. No matter where it went, it just couldn't tear itself away from the huge bag.
The flying ship continued to fly high in the sky. As they were at the inner area of the well-developed human colony, the ship was flying with its top speed. When they had come here previously, the Underground Cave was the last stop, but now it had become the first stop. Therefore, as the ship stopped at the mission sites in different regions, more and more apprentices were boarding the ship.
Compared to the arrogant manner these apprentices had when they first came, it seemed the hardship had rubbed off their sharp edges. They had become more reserved and composed. But once there were more than a hundred apprentices aboard the ship, it was inevitable that the ship had become a noisy scene.
The group that kept walking around the deck and made the most clamor were those Advanced Apprentices. Although Intermediate Apprentice had the most numbers here, most of the time, they would just serve as the backdrop. But still, the real stars among the apprentice circle were those Pseudo-Adepts.
After their training, these Pseudo-Adepts would certainly become the future hope of their families who received focused cultivation. Therefore, taking this opportunity, they would also like to get in touch with their competitors of the same rank.
In the eyes of a Pseudo-Adept, he or she could only see another Pseudo-Adept!
When the flying ship had passed the Dagon and Bracada region, there were more than ten Pseudo-Adepts gathering on the ship, including Mary, who was a Blood element Pseudo-Adept who had just made a breakthrough and... Evil Bugs Acteon.
Yes, unfortunately, that Evil Bugs Acteon had also successfully leveled up as Pseudo-Adept during his training!
Perhaps he was satisfied with his own progress, when he boarded the flying ship at the Bracada mission site, he didn't cover his face with the cap like how he usually had. Compared to before, his face had become uglier. The complexion of his face was dark and dull. Also, an array of tiny, bizarre looking eyes surrounded his purple pupils. All the eyes were blinking at the same time, sending chills down one's spine.
His mouth had replaced by a lotus shaped organ that looked like the mouthparts of a beetle. Whenever the black mouthparts moved or opened, one could even see the blood red mouth cavity and green saliva inside.
It wasn't hard to tell that Evil Bugs had gone deeper in the modification of his own body. Currently, he could even be addressed as a 'half-bug man'! Though Greem had felt disdain in regards to such behavior of abandoning a human body totally, he had to admit, among all the apprentices he had met, Evil Bugs was the only one who treated himself in the cruelest manner!
The overall powerful strength had given Acteon strong confidence, allowing him to ignore the eyes and judgment from any outsiders. It was easy to tell from the way how he stepped onto the ship with his head held high in the air. His purple compound eyes gazed across the lively crowd, before finally resting on Mary and Greem's face. The Advanced Apprentices who followed and regarded him as their chief actually sensed a feelings of anger coming from Acteon.
When they followed the gaze of their chief and saw Mary, who was wearing a red dress and red armor with a red bow on her back, a captivated and intoxicated expression immediately appeared on their faces. However, when they sensed the reserved yet powerful spiritual ripples emanating from Mary, they were struck by awe. Without hesitation, they quickly put away their lustful looks and bent their bodies slightly to show respect to Mary.
A cold and strikingly pretty woman like her was actually a Pseudo-Adept? This group of men couldn't help by sigh emotionally inwardly, complaining about the unfair treatment that the Will of the World had shown.
After gazing at Mary coldly for some time, finally, Acteon pulled down his cap and covered his face. Silently, he walked over to a corner. Throughout the entire process, his gaze had never stopped on Greem's face for more than one second.
"Looks like we'll have more fights when we return! This Acteon seemed to also have gained a lot during this trip." Greem wasn't bothered by the disdain Evil Bugs had for him, instead, he banteringly spoke with a smile on his face.
"Hmph. No matter how deeply hidden his abilities are, he is no way a match for you. Among all many people I've met so far, you're the master in the art of disguise! It is undisputable that you possess such a powerful ability, yet you just pretend that you're a harmless apprentice, waiting for some idiots to poke their heads in front of you and only to get themselves killed by you. Are you addicted to self-torture?" Mary refuted in a rather discontented manner.
She was feeling doubtful now! By pushing her up to the position of Pseudo-Adept, was this damn bastard doing it for her own good, or just out of his usual habit of pushing her to the front so he could hide behind and plan evil plots against the enemy?
At the last mission site of Bracada region, Madwoman had boarded the ship too.
When they suddenly met, not only did they not have any joyful feeling of reunion, the atmosphere seemed to have turned heavier and more bizarre.
Madwoman was still at the same rank - an Advanced Apprentice. But during the training mission, she had also had significant growth in her overall strength. But compared to Evil Bugs and Mary, obviously, she was out of luck.
Previously, in order to stand up against Mary, an 'outsider' who had suddenly emerged, the relationship between Madwoman and Evil Bugs had been rather harmonious. But now, since Evil Bugs had become a Pseudo-Adept, an estrangement suddenly occurred between her and Evil Bugs. Madwoman walked alone to a corner and found herself a resting spot, showing no intention of congratulating Evil Bugs on his breakthrough.
Her behavior had puzzled Greem. He started to ponder about the true relationship between both of them.
Soon, when the flying ship entered the Erathia region, more than two hundred sixty Apprentice Adepts had boarded the ship. As for those who didn't board the ship, most probably they were killed during the mission.
There was a total of eleven Pseudo-Adepts when they first came, but on their return trip, the number had reached to fourteen. This also meant, during the training mission, three lucky Advanced Apprentices had taken the leap and became the fortunate ones. Everyone was looking at these three lucky apprentices, casting countless glances of unexplainable envy and hatred, buried deep in their minds.
After tens of days of flying, when the ship entered the center region of Zhentarim, one after another, the apprentices started to leave the flying ship. Eventually, Greem and few others had smoothly arrived at the Swampy Tower.
As their group was heading to the Dagon region, which was the most remote area of the Zhentarim territory, they were the last group of apprentices that had returned to the Swampy Tower. As the result, those apprentices that gathered at the entrance of the Swampy Tower represented nearly all the official apprentices of this place.
While he was still on the ship, Greem gave the crowd a rough gaze. Within seconds, the Chip had given him the numbers of apprentices he saw: thirty-seven apprentices. Including the nine apprentices on the ship, the total was only forty-six. Comparing to sixty-two apprentices that had attended the mission, one-third of the apprentices were gone.
Presumably, among all Adept Towers, a depletion ratio like this was considered the highest. And obviously, the reason for this was closely related to the slacking off of Adept Anderson, the master of Swampy Tower. In the previous years, Greem and all the other apprentices were locked up in this magical swampy land, a place with sparse resources. During normal days, in order to carry out a magical experiment, they even had to restlessly harvest the materials themselves or exchange with other apprentices.
As the result, compared to those apprentices from other Adept Towers, the overall strength of the apprentices from Swampy Tower was shockingly weak, and they were poor to a jaw-dropping extent. And by participating in the dangerous apprentice training with such overall strength, any minor accident would be a life-threatening event for them!
Even for those apprentices who had lived through the training mission, most of them completed their mission with the poorest results, hence their improvement wasn't much. On the contrary, led by Ellen, the ten apprentices who stayed back were covering their face with a flattering smile. Facing with these apprentices who risked their life but harvested a little, they felt that they really had great foresight and had made a wise decision.
But, when the last batch of nine apprentices stepped down from the flying ship, everyone at the scene couldn't help but change their expressions drastically!