The three black-clothed men stopped looking for traces because they already found their target when they spotted the two shadows on the hillside. They glanced at each other and quickly rushed towards the direction of the target.
They were quick, but Rhode was not slow either.
He dashed through the hillside and whistled. The Spirit Bird flying in the sky acted as if it had heard some kind of instruction; it fluttered down and rushed towards the three black-clothed men.
Facing the sudden ambush from the Spirit Bird, the three people did not panic. They quickly set a formation to counterattack: the person that was holding daggers in both hands rushed toward the Spirit Bird, and the other two people kept advancing towards Lize and Matt. Clearly, they were very professional. They wouldn't stop just because of such a minor attack.
Indeed, if their opponent was just an ordinary bird, it would be very difficult to stop them.
Unfortunately, the Spirit Bird was not an ordinary bird.
The Spirit Bird didn't intend to dodge the man with dual daggers. Instead, it increased its speed and drove right into the man. The previously conceited expression of the man turned fearful the next moment because he could clearly see the bird penetrating through his sword right.
The black-clothed man was shocked. He quickly turned his body around and tried to dodge its attack. But even so, the Spirit Bird successfully injured his shoulder. He felt his body instantly froze and almost lost his consciousness. He tried to balance his body, but still heavily fell to the ground. He even lost the grip of the daggers on his hand.
The other two were the same. When the Spirit Bird passed by them, they did not concern themselves with it. However, soon, a cold breeze blew towards them. They only felt their body turn numb, and couldn't help but pause for a moment.
Even though the numbness dispersed quickly, because of that delay, Lize and Matt managed to reach the white stone. Upon seeing this, one of the black-clothed men frowned. He made a gesture and pulled out a crossbow from his waist.
"W- what happened!"
Matt finally made it to the white stone with Lize's help. He was extremely tired and his whole body was half-paralyzed. He put his hand next to the stone wall while taking a deep breath, then, just as he was about to grumble. Suddenly, a thin shadow flashed by and at the very next moment, an arrow was embedded into the wall beside him.
Matt quickly lowered his head. Lize's body also subconsciously shrank back, but she did not forget to grab the fat merchant and push him to cover.
"We have to hurry."
Rhode said while looking at the three shadows on the mountain not far from him. At this point, Rhode had also kept up with Matt and Lize.
"They... who are they? What happened? Why are they attacking us?"
Rhode was able to catch a glimpse of their clothes, which was a common outfit for a Rogue. Most Rogues wore similar clothing. As to who had sent them, it could only be known after they were killed.
Rhode currently didn't have the strength kill them. Even with the Spirit Bird's ability, he could only stall them for a few seconds. It wasn't that their resistance towards elemental creatures high, but it was because that his current level was far too low.
"Maybe you would like to ask them why they attacked. Perhaps they would be kind enough to tell you before killing you."
Even though it was rare for Rhode to make a joke, the merchant couldn't bring himself to laugh. He knew that those Rogues weren't people to be messed with. If he fell into their hands, he would most certainly die.
Matt's face was pale from all the running, but no matter how tired he was, he still forced himself to follow Rhode into the hidden passage behind the white stone.
Zenar Mountain's trading route used to be bustling with activity and was wide enough to cater for two carriages side by side. However, as time passed, rocks from the top of the mountain rolled down and obstructed most of the trading route, causing it to become rough and narrow.
Still, the trio quickly made their way forward without stopping. Rhode looked behind from time to time, and he realized that he was running out of time. If it wasn't for the terrain, perhaps they would've been surrounded already.
"Mr. Rhode, it's a dead end!"
Lize's voice made Rhode quickly turn his head. The road ahead had been completely blocked by rocks.
Rhode shook his head. He thought that the game wanted to force the players to take the route that had been designed, so they purposely led them towards this direction. But now it seemed that it was not the case. Well, whatever, that was not his original intent anyway.
Hearing Rhode's command, both of them were surprised for a moment. Then they looked at the right side of the passage and hesitated for a while.
Although the main passage was blocked, there was still a path to the left. The weird thing was, the sky was obviously clear on the left path, but the passage on the right side was foggy and creepy. Just looking at it gave them the shivers, but Rhode actually wanted them to go there?
"Hurry up, or it will be too late."
Due to Rhode's urging, the two of them quickly walked into the foggy passage, and soon, their shadows were completely concealed by the fog.
Seeing that both of them had walked into it, Rhode felt relieved. He looked back again and then stretched out his right hand.
A white card emerged from his palm. After that, the exquisite white sword appeared once again. Then, while gripping his sword, he rushed towards the cliff.
A bright light flew out from the sword and hit the loosened rocks above the cliff. Boom! Huge chunks of rocks and earth rolled down, blocking the passage completely. When the three black-clothed men finally caught up, Rhode's figure had already disappeared behind the fallen rocks.
One of the black-clothed men gnashed his teeth and cursed. The way ahead had been completely blocked by the rocks and they simply could not pass. Moreover, the impact had led to a chain reaction, and now the whole place was shaking. If they tried to follow the trio, the situation would dangerous for them.
"What should we do?"
"There is no other way."
One black-clothed man stared at the passage that had been completely blocked off.
"We can only go back and report to the captain and send people to monitor all the villages around the area. They're intending to escape from behind. I did not expect these guys to be so smart."
"Elemental creature... Is one of them a Mage?"
"It seems like so, but from my observation, there appears to be no Mage among them."
While the both of them exchanged glances, the last of the black-clothed men that had been silently observing the traces left on the mountain finally spoke,
"But there is a very strong Swordsman among them."
Having said that, the black-clothed man turned away.
"Let's go. These three targets are not simple, but it isn't as though all is lost. Pass my order! Immediately monitor the surrounding villages and towns, I believe they will not stay in this mountain for long."
As for Rhode and the others, the danger had not yet lifted.
"What... is this place?"
The fat merchant looked blankly in front of him. He thought that after traveling for so many years, he had already seen many things, but the experiences from these past few days had told him that there were still many things he didn't know yet about this world.
After passing the foggy passage, the scene in front of them was a barren, abandoned town. The whole town was surrounded by thick fog, and everything was hazy. Even if he looked at the sky, he could only see a greyish sky. The sky was dull and nothing like before as if they were in a different region.
"This place is called the Fog Ruins."
Rhode replied as he strode from behind.
"As long as we pass through here, we can reach the port of Araga, and then we will be able to leave."
"But is it... dangerous?"
Except for a blind person, no one would think that this place was peaceful.
"Of course it's dangerous."
Rhode did not state it clearly but the Fog Ruins was one of the five-man player dungeons in the game and was also the players' first dungeon. It wasn't difficult, but it was not completely easy either. To complete with just the three of them would be a challenge. After all, Rhode was only at level 8, and Lize was only at level 6. As for the merchant, whose combat power isn't even at level 5, Rhode did not even count him in. So the conclusion was basically: One level 8 Spirit Swordsman and one support class NPC was going to conquer a level 10, five-man dungeon. If this had happened in-game, people would have thought that he was stupid.
But he isn't stupid. In fact, he just thought of this risky idea when he looked at Lize. If not, he would not have chosen this option. And it seemed that this route was indeed the safest route for them after considering the overall risk.
"Everything will be fine if you follow my command. So..."
Rhode paused, turned his head around and faced the blonde girl in front of him.
"Lize, I'm counting on you."