To Thousand Sails City, the northern Poison Fog Canyon was a true deathly forbidden area. Not only was it filled with a deadly fog all year long, but it also harbored the biggest underground force of Thousand Sails City, the Viper Nest.
Even the Monchi Family, which supported the Viper Nest, didn't understand why a major force would occupy such a barren land with poor ore veins and poison constantly spreading all about. Moreover, there were all kinds of dangerous magic beasts hidden within the poison fog. This was the state of the Poison Fog Canyon.
Among the territories occupied by all the various major forces of Thousand Sails City, even if the Viper Nest's Poison Fog Canyon wasn't the very worst one, it was definitely among the worst ones.
There was simply no way that such a place could bring in much profit. Moreover, in order to resist the assault of the magic beasts, the Viper Nest would have to keep a lot of manpower tied up every year.
But for all these years, the Viper Nest never gave up on that territory. As for the true reason behind this, perhaps only Sauss knew.
The Poison Fog Canyon had also changed over the course of being occupied by the Viper Nest for ten years. Many defensive structures were built, sentry post after sentry post, until the Poison Fog Canyon became quite heavily fortified. After passing by the area, even Sasu had cursed, "That bastard Sauss is truly a coward."
What kind of person was Sasu...
He was the leader of the Silver Moon Mercenaries, and was Thousand Sails City's most powerful Great Swordsman! He had already trained his aura to its peak as early as three years ago. It would only take him one more step to enter another realm, joining the ranks of the most terrifying powerhouses. And even he couldn't help smiling bitterly after seeing the Poison Fog Canyon. From this, it was obvious how fearsome the Viper Nest's Poison Fog Canyon was.
In a temporary wooden house in the depths of the Poison Fog Canyon.
"So you say that this Mafa Merlin is a Great Mage?" Sauss asked. He was a short, middle-aged man with a pale face. Upon seeing Sauss for the first time, it would be hard for anyone to believe that such an ordinary-looking man was actually in charge of Thousand Sails City's biggest underground force.
Sauss was next to a sickbed. The person laying down on the bed was the person who had suffered a huge loss at the Gilded Rose, Rios. This Great Swordsman no longer had the overbearing attitude that he'd had at the Gilded Rose. He was lying immobile, powerless and covered in thick bandages like a mummy.
"He is actually a Great Mage..." Seeing a capable subordinate wrapped in bandages like this, Sauss couldn't help feeling a bit of a headache. That Mafa had concealed himself too well. He was barely twenty, so how could he have been so cautious and patient all this time?
If Sauss had managed to become a Great Mage in his twenties, there was no way he would have been able to stop himself from showing off. He definitely would have let the entire Thousand Sails City know of his great achievement.
But this Mafa fellow was different...
He secretly advanced and became a Great Mage without letting anyone know. If it wasn't for Rios suffering a dreadful defeat at the Gilded Rose, Sauss might have still been in the dark about this, and he would have still thought that the Gilded Rose was a gold mine that could be easily taken.
A Great Mage under twenty... That was too incredible...
'If I had known earlier that the Gilded Rose was overseen by such a powerhouse, I wouldn't have been dumb enough to detain their goods and even send Rios and Larry to negotiate. This was simply sending them to suffer and I sent both... Damn, how did it end up like this?'
As he mulled over the situation, Sauss truly felt his head throb.
'If I had known before, I wouldn't have coveted the Hope Potion formula. Now it's too late, I already offended a young Great Mage.'
In fact, it wouldn't have been bad if it had been an ordinary Great Mage.
Although the Viper Nest wasn't one of the finest forces in Thousand Sails City and didn't have a powerhouse on the level of Solomon, the twenty years Sauss spent working hard to build it up weren't for nothing. He could come up with four or five Great Mages and Great Swordsmen. In an all-out fight with no care for survival, it wasn't certain that the Viper Nest would suffer a loss.
But a Great Mage under twenty was a whole different story.
After all, before Mafa Merlin, who had been the youngest Great Mage of Thousand Sails City? The Monchi family's eldest son, Ryan. He had yet to reach his thirties, but that was enough for Solomon to praise his talent. When Ryan returned, all of Thousand Sails City became lively. Who knew how many forces had tried to ally with the Monchi Family?
Was that because of Ryan's current strength?
Any group that was able to become one of the major forces of Thousand Sails City was sure to have at least several Great Mages and Great Swordsmen.
What they all eyed was Ryan's potential. Someone that could advance to become a Great Mage before his thirties was bound to become a High Mage. In other words, whoever allied to the Monchi family now would be able to gain the backing of a High Mage in the future.
If that was the case for Ryan, then what about Mafa...
This was a Great Mage that had yet to even reach his twenties. Thousand Sails City had never produced one, and even in the entire eastern part of the kingdom, there were only a few. Sauss didn't even dare to think what kinds of achievements such a genius would have in the future.
He truly couldn't afford to offend him.
Moreover, Sauss didn't have the power to do so right now.
In the last ten years, the Viper Nest had been expanding in the depths of the Poison Fog Canyon. Sauss was the only one who knew the full reason, and it was a secret that could shock the entire kingdom. But that expansion required about half of the Viper Nest's manpower. Before he found that temple, Sauss couldn't use all his forces. This was also the reason that the Viper Nest had remained low key in Thousand Sails City for the past ten years.
If Mafa Merlin was an ordinary Mage, then Sauss naturally wouldn't hesitate. He would directly find an excuse to scam him of the formula of the Hope Potion.
But Sauss now knew that Mafa was no ordinary mage, and that he wasn't even an ordinary Great Mage.
Someone that could so casually injure a Great Swordsman, how could they be an ordinary Great Mage?
This time, Sauss would have to think about the consequences.
"Bell, what do you think?"
"5th Rank Great Mage or above." The one who answered was an old man who had been sitting behind Sauss without speaking all along.
The old man was wearing a black robe with cuffs that were embroidered with a thin, silver line. Without a doubt, this was a true Great Mage. But compared to the Great Swordsman laying on the bed, the old man's body didn't have clear magic fluctuations. He wasn't like Rios, whose every move would lead to a surge of aura.
If Lin Yun were there, he would have been able to see through that old man's level of strength with a glance. He was far stronger than the injured Rios. Rios had only advanced recently, and he was still unable to completely control his aura. In the eyes of a true powerhouse, this was the mark of a beginner.
As for the old man behind Sauss, he had completely erased his magic fluctuations. Only experienced Great Mages could accomplish this.
Many people knew that the Viper Nest had a very mysterious Great Mage. He had already been standing behind Sauss during his rise. He rarely talked and rarely made a move, but even Sauss would have no choice but to listen to each of his words. Every time he acted, he would thoroughly take care of a troublesome enemy for the Viper Nest.
That Great Mage's real strength was unknown, but people knew for sure that he was very very powerful.
Even the owner of the Sage Tower, Solomon, once jokingly asked Sauss if he was willing to let Great Mage Bell join the Sage Tower. The Sage Tower was even willing to offer three Great Mages in exchange.
Naturally, this was a joke.
Sauss couldn't let Bell join the Sage Tower, and the Sage Tower also couldn't just trade three Great Mages for him.
But not long after, Solomon's joke spread through Thousand Sails City, showing that Great Mage Bell was powerful.
Bell's position in the Viper Nest was very strange. He wasn't like a subordinate... More like a consultant. Most of the time, before making a move, Sauss would first ask Bell for his opinion on the matters.
Just like now. When Bell said 5th Rank Great Mage, Sauss only took a deep breath...
Sauss didn't doubt him despite his claim that a young man who was not yet twenty had already become at least a 5th Rank Great Mage.
If Bell said 5th Rank Great Mage, then it was definitely a 5th Rank Great Mage.
"Okay, those five Apprentice Alchemists aside, we still have to deal with the goods. Get someone to send them to the Edge Rift outskirts before dark." Being able to sit in this position, Sauss definitely wasn't an indecisive person. Since he learnt that the Gilded Rose wasn't as easy of a target as he had thought, Sauss immediately cut his losses.
Even if that meant losing some reputation.
But to Sauss, a loss of reputation wasn't the worst outcome. Avoiding a powerful enemy was far more important.
Pulling back at this point would at most make him a laughing stock for a while, but offending such a young Great Mage definitely wasn't something that could be easily settled. How much might this youth grow in the next ten or twenty years? He might even become an Archmage.
At that time, he might end up crushing his old foes to death with just a finger.
"Quick, quick, send someone right away to deal with it."
"Th-that Mafa Merlin also said..." Rios forced out as he rested on the sickbed.
"Yes? Also said?"
"He also said...He also said that the trouble caused to each Alchemy Apprentice is worth 200 000 gold, and furthermore... the damage that I dealt to the Gilded Rose has to be compensated for with one million gold."
"Two million gold!" Sauss nearly jumped up from his seat, but settled for heavily smacking a table. "What does he take the Viper Nest for!"
"Help! It's terrible!" A mage rushed in, his black robe torn all over in a mess, the traces of a large, black burn visible on his shoulder. It looked like he had been attacked by a fire spell.
"Get to the point, why are you looking like this!" Sauss, who had been shocked by the demand of two million gold in compensation, was in a twitchy mood. He immediately erupted in anger when he saw this mage bursting in while looking so shoddy.
"No... Boss, Ma-ma-ma... Mafa Merlin is forcing his way in!"