Chapter 388 Pinecone Town
As the last human settlement east of the Ailovis area, Pinecone Town was a necessary stop for all who wanted to enter and exit the Black Forest. It was also one of the regions labeled as extremely unsafe by the Zhentarim Association, due to the frequent magical creature attacks.
The skies slowly turned gray as evening arrived.
A black carriage rode towards the small town of Pinecone. Greem pushed aside the curtains of the carriage and carefully assessed everything around him.
Vast stretches of mountains took up his entire vision, with tall, ancient trees growing all over the uneven landscape. A single winding path snaked through the green scenery.
The carriage he had hired was traveling upon this mountain path.
The middle-aged man who handled the horses at the front leaned back to remind Greem, "Sir Adept, you must sit properly. We are going to have to speed up now. This path is still safe during the day, but it becomes hazardous once night falls. We must get to Pinecone Town before that happens!"
Greem nodded and didn't say anything else.
He also saw what was happening. All the carriages journeying along this path were also increasing their speed as the skies slowly turned dark. The coachmen were in no mood to talk, even when they passed by each other. They were trying their best to hurry to their destinations.
The carriages continued to speed along the mountain road. The further they went, they more uneven the path and the rockier the ride. However, before night arrived, the carriage arrived at its destination– Pinecone Town.
Pinecone Town was said to be a human settlement, but it was more like a military outpost.
It was a military outpost that was fenced in by tall, thick wooden fences!
Greem had visited countless villages and cities, but he had never seen a place so securely guarded.
The thick and tall wooden fence was constructed with solid lumber from ancient trees in the nearby forests. The wall itself was three meters tall, with its tips sharpened into an edge, threatening to spear anyone that dared to breach its defenses. A thick metal plate hung from the outside of the wooden door. Massive copper nails kept the metal plate in place.
Battlements had been built on the fences. Watchtowers and sentry towers had been constructed all around the perimeter. Guards could be seen patrolling along the top of the wooden walls.
The true face of Pinecone Town was slowly revealed to Greem as his carriage drove into town.
This place was a rural and sparsely populated town.
There was only a single main street that cut through the town, while almost a hundred wooden buildings stood along each side of the road. This area was the majority of the city. Some of the large buildings displayed wooden signs that informed the people of their uses.
There was an inn, a bar, an ironsmith's, a grocery store and arcane shops.
To think that he would find arcane shops in such a rural place! Greem couldn't help but be amazed by the ubiquity of magic in this world.
The black carriage soon stopped in front of a crude two-level wooden building. It was also the only inn within the town.
Greem got off the carriage, and the first thing he saw was the innkeeper. He was a middle-aged man with short brown hair, rough gray linen clothes, and a smile plastered on his face.
The smile on his face became even wider when he saw the telltale adept's robe Greem wore. His expression was respectful, but there wasn't fear in his eyes. It was clear that this innkeeper was someone that frequently worked with adepts.
"I need a clean and comfortable room!" Greem stood before the innkeeper with his staff in his hands. His two-meter body cast a shadow so long that it almost completely covered the innkeeper, "Also, I wish to recruit a small group of adventurers. I want you to help me spread the news."
"As you wish!" The innkeeper nodded and bowed, "Please come with me!"
The arrival of an official adept had caused a visible commotion in the small town. All the mercenaries, adventurers, and apprentice adepts became even more agitated when Innkeeper Jack announced the news of the adept's recruitment.
Pinecone Town might not have looked like much, but it was a famous town around the Ailovis area.
The entrance to the Black Forest was less than five kilometers northeast of the city. If you Walked into the forest, you would find plenty of strange plants, beasts, and creatures that you would never see in an ordinary forest.
As the last stop for supplies before the Black Forest, everyone who wanted to venture into the Black Forest had to stop and rest in Pinecone Town.
The Black Forest was dangerous, but it was still possible to make a profit while keeping your life as long as you made sure not to go in too deep. Valuable magical plants and beasts could be found at the edges of the forest. An experienced team of adventurers with a proper balance of professions had a significant chance of obtaining these spoils of war.
The arcane shop in the town was specially built to accommodate these adventurers. The shop provided them with much needed magical items, while the store also bought magical goods from the adventurers.
Apart from a bed, a wooden desk, and a chair, Greem's room was bare. The furniture seemed to have been crafted from the lumber obtained nearby. The furniture hadn't been specially processed or refined, but still retained the unique fragrance of wood.
The living conditions here were incredibly crude.
That said, considering where this was, Greem couldn't complain.
In comparison, the inn served pretty decent food.
Soft bread, thick vegetable soup, and the ribs of an unknown beast that the cook had roasted to golden perfection were on the menu. Greem tasted the food and was satisfied. There was a wild flavor to the cuisine, and the ribs were extremely filling as well.
Greem had never discussed the price of all this with Innkeeper Jack. Naturally, the shrewd innkeeper made sure to serve the best of his wares to Greem.
Adepts had never cared about gold and silver. Pleasure was all that they pursued.
It was one of the reasons Jack had been so excited about welcoming Greem!
Compared to the calculating adventurers and stingy apprentices that liked to put on facades of generosity, adepts were the best guests. Gold coins were never a problem for them.
Greem finally finished his meal. He pushed his plates aside and slowly wiped his mouth with the napkin. Just then, Jack gave a signal to have a servant take away the dishes. He then respectfully went up to Greem and said, "Sir Adept, everyone you need has been assembled downstairs. Should we…?"
"Bring me downstairs!" Greem reached for the Blaze of Destruction that had been placed by the table. He then walked out of the room ahead of the innkeeper.
Adventurers that had answered Greem's call of recruitment filled the first-floor lobby. There were about fifty or sixty of them, and even some apprentice-adept's were mixed in among their ranks. These were individuals that were hardy enough to have made a living in the Black Forest. Every one of them was a large and muscular man. Their every action had a murderous aura to it.
Greem didn't walk down the stairs. Instead, he stood at the railings of the second floor and looked down upon the crowd. His eyes had a terrifying and intimidating quality to them.
"I need a small adventurer's group of around five to seven men. It would be best if it's made up of veterans with experience in the woods." Greem slowly explained his requirements, "You won't need to capture any ferocious creature on this trip. All you need to do is accompany me in exploring an area. You will deal with the ordinary beasts, and I'll deal with the powerful magical creatures. Everything that we get along the journey will belong to you, provided my exploration mission proves successful. That is all!"
Murmuring started to spread through the hall.
Everyone seemed exceptionally excited and agitated. No one expected this adept to promise such rich rewards. However, Greem still noticed a few abnormalities in the room. Some of the more powerful adventurers were not rejoicing like the rest. Instead, they seemed to be rooted in thought.
"Sir, could you perhaps tell us a bit of where we are supposed to explore?" A veteran adept who was much more experienced placed his hand on his chest and bowed respectfully, "I have no intention of peering into your secrets, Sir. I only wish to assess the risk involved in this mission!"
The murmuring crowd silenced all of a sudden. Their gazes fell upon the mysterious adept once again.
"The area I wish to explore is near Plaguewood!" Greem calmly answered the question.
Gasps rang out from the crowd when Greem uttered the name Plaguewood.
Shock and fear betrayed most people's faces.
As expected, an adept's money wasn't that easily earned.
Adepts were generous in giving out money, often paying out five to ten times more than the usual rate. However, the tasks they assigned were often ten to a hundred times more dangerous.
As adventurers that made their living in the Black Forest, they had all heard of this place. It was located one hundred and fifty kilometers to the northeast of Pinecone Town. That meant that the adventurers had to make their way a hundred and forty-five kilometers into the Black Forest.
This…this was already a deadly territory!
Perhaps because he saw the fear in their eyes, Greem immediately announced more news.
"I understand the difficulty of this mission. For that reason, I'll be offering two hundred magical crystals as part of the payment as well!"
Greem's words started yet another storm in the crowd. All the adventurers began discussing it in loud voices and passionate gestures. Chaos fell upon the hall once again.
Greem could see very clearly what was happening from his vantage point. Some of the younger and less experienced rookie mercenaries shook their heads and left the hall. The veteran mercenaries also went after a period of deliberation.
Soon, less than ten people remained in the hall.
"Sir, I am Love, a Second Class shield-bearing swordsmen. I am willing to join your party," Love was a tall and young swordsman. He pointed at the two people behind him, "This is my sister, Fila. She is a Third Class archer. And this is Rhodes, a Third Class rogue."
As Greem took a look at them, the chip instantly projected their attributes into his mind.
In a world dominated by adepts, all other professions were severely limited in their abilities and potential.
The Second Class and Third Class that Love spoke of was only a standard title used by fighters in the human world. They corresponded to the different levels of an adept apprentice.
First Class was equal to a pseudo-adept, Second Class was equivalent to an advanced apprentice. Third Class was similar to an intermediate apprentice, and Fourth Class was like a Beginner Apprentice. Almost all of the fighter professions were divided in this manner.
What about fighters that could compare to adepts? Sincerest apologies, but such a person had never appeared in the Continent of Adepts!
Love was approximately twenty-eight years of age. The fact that he was able to reach Second Class without any elementium talent placed him in the ranks of geniuses. After all, he was a person that had to rely solely on the training of his body and his combat skills to reach a level comparable to an advanced apprentice.
The other two people behind him also had exceptional Physique. Greem couldn't help but nod in approval.
They were obviously a mature group of adventurers. It would be very convenient to rely on a group like this!
The other apprentices that dared to stay here were extremely confident as well. They also reported their professions and abilities to Greem. In the end, Greem only picked a Fourth Class hunter known as Neil, and an intermediate potions apprentice called Anthony from the remaining candidates to add to the team.
The reason he picked a Fourth Class hunter was purely due to Jack's recommendation.
Neil wasn't all that good at combat, but he was a decent cook. His skill at roasting meat was widely known and praised in town.
Love and the other two shrugged at Sir Adept's choice.
As they expected of the noble and spoiled Sir Adept; even when they went adventuring in the Black Forest, his priority was still his stomach!
Apart from the five adventurers that Greem had chosen, there was still a mysterious figure sitting in the corner of the hall. Their face was hidden underneath their cloak.
When Greem's eyes looked towards this mysterious person, they stood up and took off their hood. The person bowed respectfully and spoke, "Sir Adept, we meet again!"
It was her!