Izroth knew that the reason for this sudden change of atmosphere when he crossed over into Proximus was the difference in both mana quality and quantity within the kingdom itself. Proximus was well known for being at the forefront when it came to magic and all things related to it.
In fact, one who had not visited the magic capital city of Proximus could not be considered a true student of magic. Their library contained a vast amount of magic knowledge and theories from all over the world and would make the Amaharpe library look like a joke in comparison. However, just as with the palace library, one needed the proper qualifications or credentials for entry.
One of the biggest reasons that magic casters traveled from all over the world to train and study in Proximus was due to the naturally dense mana in the atmosphere. This made the third kingdom an ideal location to develop one's magic abilities.
At the moment, the caravan was traveling on a forest path that led deeper into Proximus. According to the information he received from Robin earlier during their meeting, Izroth knew that they would soon reach the area known as the Tiger's Mouth. It was one of the most active locations for bandits and factions near the outskirts.
There was no way to avoid going through the Tiger's Mouth, however, Robin had a clear plan laid out that should minimize their chances of an encounter with any of the more powerful factions.
This was certainly not the Silver Hawk Merchants Caravan first trip through Proximus territory, however, the civil unrest had grown within the third kingdom recently due to the absence of the kingdom's I'Zati, Zendai Proximus.
While the general masses were oblivious to the reasons behind Zendai's prolonged trips away from the kingdom, there were those larger factions with heavy influences and connections that were more knowledgeable concerning the details of the matter.
Normally, the powerful factions in Proximus would lay low and not push their luck when it came to what risk they were willing to take in order to achieve their goal. This was due to Zendai acting as a huge deterrent factor. After all, none of the factions were prepared to become a main target for Zendai to use as an example against disorder. This had already taken place on a few occasions.
But lately, it was different. Zendai was not gone for a couple of weeks or a few months. This time, he was away from the kingdom for more than a full year! The factions were reserved at first, however as time passed, they began to become increasingly daring and bold in their actions.
In turn, although the kingdom tried its best to cope outside of its own capital and the surrounding territories, the outskirts became a playground and nest of criminal activities for bandits and factions alike.
After traveling for nearly thirty minutes, the caravan finally reached the entry point of the Tiger's Mouth.
Immediately, Izroth could feel numerous watchful eyes descend upon them as they made their way deeper into the Tiger's Mouth. However, none of them had made a move yet as if they were waiting for the right opportunity to strike. It could have also been because multiple groups were present and they were deciding on who would get to walk away with the caravan was their prize.
'One... Five... There are thirty-two people currently watching us while maintaining a safe distance. They are following our movements closing.'
Izroth knew that it was inevitable that a fight would break out soon, therefore, he warned his party about the impending dangers in a discreet manner. After all, if he were too obvious then the people watching them may throw all caution to the wind and attack before the caravan had time to prepare themselves.
Mirage frowned and spoke in a low voice, "I don't see anyone out there. But, I have been feeling a bit strange since we entered this place. I thought it was just some monsters lurking around watching us, but if you say that there are people then..."
Mirage understood that Izroth would not have said anything if he was not absolutely certain. Also, after spending time with him exploring the Blazing Temple, she knew that his sense of perception was monstrous when compared to the other players.
If they were already being watched, who knew how long it would be before they were swarmed by people who wanted to seize the wagons of the caravan.
"We should warn Robin and the others so they aren't caught completely off guard. The question is, how do we warn them without drawing any attention to ourselves?" Midnight said.
Mirage grinned as she replied, "We have the perfect person for such a delicate task." She then turned her attention towards Ying Yue who was silently walking behind them.
Ying Yue gave a small nod as if she understood Mirage's intentions as her body started to sink into the ground and disappeared within a few seconds.
After a bit more than one minute passed, Ying Yue's body rose from beneath the ground as she returned to the rear of the caravan.
"How did it go? Did you manage to warn everyone?" Mirage asked.
Ying Yue was somewhat hesitant to speak at first, but for the first time since Izroth's arrival, she finally spoke.
"I warned everyone, however, the party at the front of the caravan dismissed the warning. As for the vice-leader of the caravan, I was told that he was currently not to be disturbed while inside of his carriage. But, the person he left in-charge said that he would remain vigilant. Only the party ahead of us seems to take the warning seriously." Ying Yue said in a soft-spoken tone.
"Aren't they taking this a bit too lightly?" Mirage said as with a hint of annoyance in her voice. They were mindful enough to warn the others and yet they were being practically being brushed off. How could she not be irritated? How were they supposed to properly guard the caravan if that would be the response they get when they were trying to be helpful?
"It can't be helped. If you think about it, it would be strange if there wasn't any danger that awaited us within the Tiger's Mouth. Since this is something expected by the members of this caravan, I'm not surprised by their response. We just have to hope that they don't become numb to the dangers around them in the process." Midnight commented.
"We've done our part. Whether they decide to listen to us or not will be up to them. However, that does not change the objective of our quest." Izroth said in a carefree manner.
Around five minutes later, the thirty-two watchful eyes had dwindled down to three. But, after another five minutes went by, the number of watchful eyes had increased to sixty! This time, however, there was a more hostile intent present from the new arrivals.
Izroth figured that it was just as he suspected earlier, they were waiting to decide which group would be the one to have a claim on the caravan. Of course, this also confirmed one other thing. It was highly likely that the group that was ready to attack them was not one of the large factions within Proximus.
After all, it was well known that larger factions stuck to their own territories, otherwise, it would be chaos amongst the factions. What reason would the larger faction of this territory have to negotiate with groups who were weaker than it?
Izroth's ears twitched slightly as he heard the sound of bowstrings being set up to take a shot. Although it was faint, it did not escape his sense of hearing that was empowered by both the Heavenly Golden Body Physique and the Five Cycles Pill.
"It's starting." Izroth warned as he could sense the group approaching from their left and right sides.
Thump! Thump! Bang!
All of a sudden, two trees collapsed at the front and two at the back end of the caravan, completely halting any further advancement while simultaneously blocking off the path of retreat!
Alarm bells started to go off in everyone's head. They were under attack!
"We're under attack! Take your position and raise shields!" The person left in-charge by Robin yelled. This caused Robin who was within the carriage to open its door and see just what was going on.
But, the moment he opened the carriage door, an arrow pierced into the side of the door and just barely missed him by a few centimeters. Robin's face turned pale as he quickly slammed the door to the carriage shut!
Woosh! Woosh! Woosh!
All of a sudden, a stream of arrows rained down from both sides of the forest path. A few members of the caravan were struck by one or two arrows, but fortunately, there was no one who was killed. The members of the Silver Hawk Merchants Caravan scrambled to pick up a tall wooden shield that was attached to the side of their wagons.
Each wagon had two long wooden shields attached to its side. Every member of the caravan took hold of one of these shields and stood it up in front of them with their backs faced towards the wagon they were assigned to. Since two members were assigned to each wagon, there was a makeshift shield wall formed using the shields.
Of course, there were still many exploitable gaps within this formation and the members of the caravan were far from being professional soldiers as could easily be told by their clumsy movements. However, it would at least offer some protection against basic arrows. As for the actual combat, they would leave that to the adventurers they hired!
After three waves of arrows were shot, everything went quiet for a couple of seconds. However, that peaceful silence was soon interrupted by a loud and commanding voice.
"First wave attack! Slaughter them and take everything they have!" A voice resonated through the surrounding forest area as the battle cry of dozens of people sounded off. One could hear the stream of footsteps that rapidly charged forward.
"Be careful, everyone." Mirage cautioned her fellow party members.
Small sparks of electricity could be seen flowing and jumping all around Mirage's body, as well as within her eyes. A few moments later, her eyes turned slightly golden in color and the small sparks of electricity that formed around her fists became concentrated and released a faint crackling noise.
Midnight lightly brushed his fingers up against two of the totems dangling from the chains at his side. One of the totems had the face of a strange bird while the other was one of a rabbit-like creature.
"Try to stay within thirty meters of my position, otherwise, I won't be able to reach you." Midnight said as a light green hue could be seen forming around his body. Not too long after, one of the totems flew into the other while the other crashed into the ground. The totem that flew into the air transformed into a bird while the one that struck the ground transformed into a rabbit.
However, both creatures were formed completely out of light green energy and the totem could be seen stationed at the center of each creature.
The moment those two totems took on a physical form, Izroth received a few alerts from the system.
〈System Alert: You have been affected by the skill «Totem Aura: Duality Hare». Your movement speed and attack speed has been increased by 12%.〉
〈System Alert: You have been affected by the skill «Totem Aura: Gaia Avis». You will heal for 167 HP every 1 second. Your physical resistance and magical resistance has been increased by 10%.〉
'What useful skills.'
This was Izroth's first time being in the same party as a shaman. Unlike clerics who focused solely on sustainability, shamans focused on boosting the overall performance of a party while simultaneously keeping everyone alive.
Of course, shamans could not even come close to comparing to clerics when it came to raw healing power and life preservation methods, however, they made up for this aspect with the various benefits provided by their Totem Auras.
Izroth unsheathed his sword as a powerful gust of wind accompanied it. His gaze turned to a certain area that was around twenty-five meters away. He had already chosen his first target to be the person who gave the orders to attack.
If that person was so eager for a slaughter to take place, then Izroth would gladly see that they get exactly what they wanted.
"I'll be right back." Izroth said to his party as his silhouette flickered before fading away.