What greeted them when they arrived at the Silver Hawk Merchants Caravan campsite was a fast pace and bustling environment. Everyone was on a constant move to get things done and there was not a single inactive person lazing around idly.
"Hey! Where did you guys place that shipment of Light Spring Stalks that we got last week?"
"Get out of the way! We have to be out of here within the next hour! If you're not counting the inventory in this area then don't get in our way while we're moving stuff here!"
"Organize the wagons so we can take one last inventory just before we depart!"
There were tents, wagons, and large varieties of merchandise that were laid out on some kind of large cloths. If one looked closely, they would notice that the items were actually levitating just above the cloths. At the edges of the cloths were a group of people with a strange device in their hands that had various magic symbols floating around it. It was definitely a magic item of sorts.
"Welcome to the Silver Hawk Merchants Caravan. As you can see, it's a bit hectic given our strict time schedule. You'll have to excuse me while I make sure everything is in order, however, do feel free to take a look around. Though I must ask that you not touch any of the merchandise. I will send someone to find you before we're ready to depart. Now, if you'll excuse me, my young friends." Robin said in a polite manner as he bid them farewell.
Mirage turned to everyone and said, "Well, you heard him. I don't know about you guys, but I'm going to go have a look around." She left without further delay to explore the campsite.
Midnight released a small sigh and he watched Mirage wander off. He did not see how it was possible for one person to constantly have so much energy. He walked over to one of the nearby trees and leaned up against it as he chose to stay to himself. While he did not mind socializing in small groups, he was not the kind of person to mingle about freely with a large group of strangers.
As for Ying Yue, she maintained a good distance from the campsite and quietly kept to herself.
'Since we have some spare time, I suppose I'll have a look as well.'
Izroth walked over towards the core area of the campsite. The first thing that caught his eye was the vast amount of rare reagents and various other crafting materials that were neatly spread out over one of the large cloths.
After having read the books on the first and second floors of the Amaharpe palace library, Izroth could immediately tell what the majority of the items were with just a single glance. Although there were a few that escaped him, he was still able to read the basic information that popped up about the item through the system.
'There must be at least tens of thousands of gold coins worth of ingredients on this cloth alone.'
After viewing that one area, Izroth wandered around the campsite to visit other cloths and noticed a familiar pattern emerging. Every single cloth had valuable items that easily came out to tens of thousands of gold coins!
In total, there had to be at least nearly one million gold coins worth of products that were being transported on the twenty-five wagons they were going to be guarding! That was a little more than 700,000,000 RMB with the current exchange rate!
However, this caused Izroth to inwardly frown. He felt that something was off about this entire arrangement. If this group had nearly one million gold coins worth of products they were delivering, then they should naturally have no lack of funds to hire a proper mercenary or escort group to protect them.
Not too long ago, Robin himself expressed just how much they valued the wagons and what they were willing to sacrifice to make sure that it was delivered. However, there were a few things that did not add up.
The first thing was that even if the two people Robin sent out to find more help came back with two full parties, in the end, that was only a total of 16 players, including him, Mirage, Ying Yue, and Midnight.
Not to mention the fact that their actual level of skill was unknown to Robin and the members of the Silver Hawk Merchants Caravan, and it almost seemed as if they were a last-minute addition to their original plans. In other words, they were a bunch of wildcards.
Another thing that bothered him was how a group who was seemingly smart enough to gather nearly one million gold coins worth of items to trade to deliver, was not smart enough to spend the extra bit of gold to hire professionals. After all, even if this village was remote and did not generate that much traffic, for the right price, a group of professionals would willingly travel the distance.
Surely the Silver Hawk Merchants Caravan were not so cheap as to throw aside a solid form of protection just to save a few gold coins? If that was the case, then they were truly fools! However, Izroth did not believe it was that simple. There was definitely something unusual about this whole situation.
After waiting for nearly thirty minutes, one of the male members of the Silver Hawk Merchants Caravan approached Izroth. He introduced himself as Needle. It was a strange name, however, he quickly explained that it was just a nickname that stuck.
Apparently, he talked too much whenever he negotiated without getting to the point fast enough, therefore, he was given the nickname Needle as a reminder to make a point. Needle informed Izroth that it was time for the final gathering before their departure.
Izroth followed Needle to the largest tent that was set up in the center area of the temporary campsite. It was at least three times as big as the other tents and had the mark of a silver hawk holding a mountain in its talons.
"This is where we part ways. The others are waiting for you inside." Needle said as he gave a simple goodbye before he headed off to resume his previous work assignments.
Izroth entered into the tent and noticed that Mirage, Ying Yue, and Midnight were already there. Next to them in their own small groups was one party of five players and another party of six players.
Izroth instantly knew that those eleven players must have been the two parties that were brought back from the nearby villages that Robin sent his people to find. Amongst of the two parties was a familiar face.
'Am I going to run into the members of Sleeping Gardenia next?'
The reason Izroth had this thought was due to the fact the person he recognized was the second player today that he had met back inside of the Chaotic Dogma Realm.
His name was Qi Jiguang and even though Izroth did not exchange many words with him, from their brief interaction with one another, he could tell that Qi Jiguang was a step well above those players within top guilds that called themselves elites simply by the experienced aura he gave off.
Qi Jiguang had a slightly surprised look on his face when he saw that it was Izroth who had entered into the tent. His mind went blank for a few moments before his surprise was replaced by excitement!
Last time he secretly wanted to have a match with Izroth, however, his main goal was to locate and kill Silent Steps. Unfortunately, he was transported out of the Chaotic Dogma Realm before he could finish off Silent Steps. Furthermore, the Chaotic Dogma Realm was not exactly the ideal place to request a match.
There was a part of him that still regretted, at the very least, not adding Izroth, or one of his friends, to contact him at a later date. However, who would have thought that they would meet in a place like this! It appeared that sometimes the world truly was a small place!
Qi Jiguang gave a small nod to Izroth. While he was itching for a match, he would not go about it in a rude way. He would at least wait until a more appropriate time before he discussed it.
Izroth returned Qi Jiguang's nod with one of his own as he walked over towards Mirage and the others.
"Great, now that everyone has gathered, we can finally begin!" Robin said as he removed a Realm Chart from a belt at the side of his waist. The Realm Chart was very detailed, but it only contained a very limited area with a specific route clearly outlined on it, however, there were multiple paths towards the end of the route that branched off into various directions.
He then continued, "First off, as one of the vice-leaders of the Silver Hawk Merchants Caravan, I want to thank you all for accepting our last minute request. We know that what we ask of you may not necessarily be an easy task, however, we'll be relying on all of you to provide security for our wagons and personnel."
Robin pointed to a mark on the Realm Chart and said, "This is the area of the border that we'll be entering through. Once we pass the checkpoint here, we'll officially be within Proximus territory. Our final destination will remain a secret due to security reasons, however, you will all be informed of any changes in our plans along the way."
"I urge everyone to use extreme vigilance. The factions and bandits that lurk within the outskirts of the Proximus territory are well known for their trickery and sneaky methods. Make sure you second guess everything you see along the way, as it may be a potential disaster that awaits us. Once we reach this location..."
Robin went over some major and minor details, as well as, the arrangement of what sections each individual group would be guarding. After they finished their discussion, everyone stepped out of the tent to see that the wagons were fully packed and ready to go.
At the front of each wagon was a creature that looked like the cross between a lizard and a horse. They were creatures known as Equosavra. Although the creatures were not the fastest of land runners, they were strong, incredibly durable, and difficult to frighten. This made it so that they would not randomly run off with the wagons if a fight happened to break out.
"I wonder if they'll let me try riding one." Mirage said in an excited tone.
"Even if they did let you ride one, I don't think it's something that you'd enjoy. Equosavras are known for being highly temperamental when it comes to a person riding on their backs. The scales on its back can spike up to protect itself and well... It shouldn't be necessary to speak any further than this." Izroth explained.
"Spike up?" Mirage shivered at the thought. Who would want anything spiking up when they were sitting down?!
Izroth and his party took their position towards the rear of the caravan while Qi Jiguang's group guarded the middle and the party of six players guarded the front. This arrangement was decided using the number of players in each party. The party with the most players would guard the front while those with the least players would guard the rear.
"Alright! Remember to keep your eyes open everyone! We're moving out!" Robin ordered as the caravan began its journey towards the Amaharpe-Proximus border.
Since they were less than one hundred meters away from the border, it did not take long before they reached the first official checkpoint.
Robin talked with the guards at the checkpoint for a couple of minutes before they were finally able to continue on their journey and cross into Proximus territory.
"Vice-leader, are you sure that those guards will keep their part of the deal?" Needle asked. He had just seen Robin offer a sizable amount of gold to prevent those guards from sending their arrival and destination coordinates via magic signal as was required of all caravans or merchants crossing into Proximus territory with goods. However, could they really be trusted?
"We don't have a choice. Even if it only buys us a bit more time, it's worth the price. We'll just have to hope that they hold up their end of the bargain. In the end, it's only an extra security precaution to prevent any factions from picking up the magic signal by chance. Besides, we've taken other precautions to make sure that things go just as planned. Do not lose focus." Robin spoke in a stern tone.
As Izroth crossed the Amaharpe-Proximus border, he received a few alerts from the system.
〈System Alert: You have left the first kingdom, «Amaharpe»!〉
〈System Alert: You have entered into the third kingdom, «Proximus»!〉
〈System Alert: The kingdom «Proximus» you have crossed into has an official treaty with the kingdom «Amaharpe»!〉
After crossing the borders, Izroth immediately noticed a difference in the surrounding atmosphere. It felt as if his body was constantly being bombarded by an invisible force. However, it was not like that of a gravity pocket which was an uncomfortable experience, instead, it was more like a wave of gentle water that washed over him.
'So, this is Proximus? The air here feels heavier than that of Amaharpe's.'