Izroth and his party followed the line on the scroll as they ventured deeper into the Tiger's Mouth. It did not take long for them to have their first run-in with one of the bandit groups within the area.
However, the group of six bandits stood no chance against Izroth and the others. In just a handful of seconds, the bandits were exterminated.
Izroth's party was attacked three more times as they arrived closer to an area in the Tiger's Mouth known as "Fang Zone". The Fang Zone was dominated by the factions that controlled the outskirts of Proximus. Needless to say, it was the most dangerous areas to travel through in the Tiger's Mouth.
Usually, this was a path avoided by caravans altogether, however, for those who could not afford to make a detour that could take weeks or even months, they had no choice but to make the journey through the Fang Zone.
The only upside was that the factions were not as wild and uncontrollable as the bandit groups that were scattered everywhere throughout the Tiger's Mouth. Instead, it was possible for an individual or caravan to make offerings to the first faction that approached them.
While this did not absolutely guarantee their safety, it would get them on the faction's good side and most likely prevent them from being targeted. It was a coin flip chance many took whenever they journeyed down this path.
"It's almost been thirty minutes. The suppression effect on the mind beads is going to wear off soon." Midnight stated. Hopping next to him was a small hare made out of light green energy. It was the Duality Hare totem. Midnight had decided to keep it active so that their overall travel speed would increase.
"If it's anything like what we faced back at the caravan, the numbers might be a little troublesome. Even more so if the strength of the monsters continues to increase." Omega commented with a frown.
"Oh? Since when have you backed down from a challenge, Omega?" Qi Jiguang asked.
"Back down? Hah, don't get the wrong idea. All I'm saying is that there's no way I can tank that many monsters alone. I can draw away most of their attention, however, there will still be many that are outside of my control. After all, the range and cooldown on my taunt skills have a limit." Omega explained.
"That shouldn't be a problem. If it comes down to it, everyone here is more than capable of taking care of themselves. Of course, if someone feels otherwise, you should raise your hand and let us know so that we can protect you." Mirage said with a smirk on her face.
Of course, no one raised their hands. Not only was everyone here confident in their own skills to some degree, but who would raise their hand and asked to be protected by someone else during an S-ranked quest?
As Izroth and his party continued on their way, they had no idea just how popular they were about to become in the Tiger's Mouth. However, it was not the type of popularity they would enjoy.
A few moments ago somewhere deep in the Fang Zone...
The core area of the Fang Zone was where the most powerful factions were stationed. Ever since Zendai's prolonged departure from Proximus, the factions in the Fang Zone began to become increasingly bold with their actions. It got to a point where their actions were being overlooked by Proximus due to how far away from the magic capital city they were located.
There was a nameless small town in the Fang Zone where all the factions and bandits gathered to exchange information and goods or to simply relax in their own way. It was a lawless town that was not ruled nor controlled by anything other than the shaky verbal agreements of the factions.
At the moment, there was a large gathering of bandits, criminals, hunters, and more. Normally, a gathering of this size never took place in the small town as it caused all type of issues, however, when one of the top factions in the area said that they had an important announcement to make that could change the fate of the Tiger's Mouth forever, who in their right mind would miss it?
The name of the faction that called the gathering was the Discipline of the Warpath Blade. They were well known for their ruthless sword style and were even outsourced as a mercenary group in some of the smaller neighboring kingdoms.
Everyone was one part excited and two parts nervous waiting for the announcement.
"Hey, have you heard what this is all about?"
"No way, you know how tight-lipped the people in Warpath are. How could I possibly know?"
"I heard that they're going to announce an alliance with one of the other factions."
"Seriously?! If they do that, who would be able to stop them? They would rule the Tiger's Mouth!"
"Don't you idiots know anything? There's an unspoken rule. The large factions in Tiger's Mouth cannot ally together against another faction from the Tiger's Mouth. It'll completely disrupt the balance."
As everyone was coming up with their own speculation as to what was going on, a strong gust of wind blew over the entire audience and even knocked a few people away in the process. This grabbed everyone's attention as they all looked around to see who was responsible.
Just as one of the people who were knocked over was about to complain, he quickly swallowed his words when he saw a middle-aged man levitate onto the public stage area. The person who was about to complain face turned pale as his heart nearly jumped out of his chest. If he had said a single word just now, he would have definitely thrown away his life!
"It's the First Sword of the Discipline of the Warpath Blade...!"
Everyone was shocked by the personal appearance of the First Sword. That person was extremely reclusive and rarely showed his face to the public. As the First Sword, his main focus was mastering the Warpath Blade. In fact, it was the same for the Second Sword and Third Sword as well.
"Hey, if the First Sword is here, isn't this a really big deal?"
The middle-aged man who everyone referred to as the First Sword swept his gaze across the crowd. The influence of his Discipline of the Warpath Blade was strong in the Tiger's Mouth which was shown by having been able to gather such a large crowd of people in a short period of time.
The reason the First Sword made such a grand entrance was to display his strength. He knew that the best way to get this kind of crowd under control was a show of power, not words. Therefore, he wasted no words telling everyone to settle down. As a result, before he even opened his mouth to speak, there was no one who dared say another word unless they were looking for a fight.
"As many of you know, the I'Zati of Proximus has been absent for quite some time now. My Discipline of the Warpath Blade has not failed to take notice of this and I'm sure that all of you gathered here have also taken notice by now." First Sword said.
He then continued, "I am a man of few words, so I'll keep it simple. The reason I've called all of you here today is to introduce you to someone who is ready to present everyone here with an opportunity. This goes without saying, but mind your words. For even I will be unable to save you."
The First Sword stepped back as a cloud of black smoke appeared in front of him.
Everyone was bewildered and shaken to their core when they heard those last few words. Not even the First Sword could save them? One had to know that the First Sword was one of the strongest individuals, if the strongest person, within the Tiger's Mouth. Therefore, just what kind of monster were they about to meet that made him say such words openly?
A few moments later, the black smoke disappeared as a cloaked figure emerged. The moment this figure appeared before the crowd, a red hue spread fifty meters throughout the surrounding area as a suffocating aura descended down upon the crowd. They felt that just holding onto their own sanity was a challenging thing to do. What was this terrible and vile feeling?
"What a monster..." First Sword muttered to himself as he furrowed his brows.
A couple of seconds later, the red hue vanished along with the suffocating aura. The crowd was speechless and many of them were sweating profusely. There were even some who wanted to turn around and run away, however, they were afraid that in doing so, they may incur the wrath of the person who had just appeared on stage.
"We are a Faceless One." The cloaked figure stated.
Faceless One? There was a confused look on everyone's face as they had no idea what that meant. However, if Izroth and his party were here they would also be confused. The cloaked figure who called themselves a Faceless One was different from the person they ran into earlier.
This Faceless One had a curvy figure that matched that of a woman's. Also, they did not carry a black greatsword, but a black orb with red energy flowing within it hovered at their side. They were completely different from the Faceless One who attacked the Silver Hawk Merchants Caravan!
The Faceless One then continued, "In this forest, there are three little mice who scurry around with that which is unknown to them. Kill them and return to me with six sapphire beads. The person, faction, or group who does so will be granted..." They held up one finger.
Everyone felt their heartbeat increasing. One? One what? One thousand gold coins? One million gold coins?!
"One billion gold coins." When the Faceless One finished their words, everyone's mouth was left open in shock. Did they just hear right?
After hearing that, how could the crowd stay calm? There was an immediate outburst of exciting roars and questions. Everyone wanted to know more details. One billion gold coins! Even if you combined the wealth of every faction in the Tiger's Mouth it did not amount to that much wealth! It came nowhere close.
Just how important were these six beads? Or better yet, just how dangerous or insane were the people who carried them?!
The Faceless One did not mince their words and swiftly explained the details that needed to be known, nothing more and nothing less.
Once they finished speaking, The Faceless One spread opened their arms and all of a sudden, a red light expanded outward from the Faceless One's body. However, it did not cause fear or panic this time. Everyone felt a wave of new power and strength wash over them as the red light touched their bodies. They did not know how, but they had all been empowered by that cloaked figure!
"Now, let the hunt begin." The Faceless One said in a cold tone as a smile appeared on their face.
Izroth and his party had just finished off a small wave of monsters that appeared out of nowhere and attacked them. The suppression effect of the mind beads had worn off and the number of monsters was rapidly increasing each time a new wave appeared.
However, the group was completely unaware that at the moment, they had a one billion gold coin bounty on their heads!
"According to the direction this scroll is taking us, we'll have to leave the forest path soon and head directly into the forest area of the Tiger's Mouth." Izroth said.
"The forest? How did they originally plan to take the caravan through the forest?" Mirage questioned. The forest was too densely packed and rough for wagons to travel on.
"It's possible that Robin would have snuck away from the caravan at some point to throw off his pursuers. However, we'll never truly know." Midnight said.
After fighting off the next few monster waves, around twenty more minutes passed by in the blink of an eye. It had been nearly one hour since Izroth's party first received their new quest.
Not too long ago, they had left the forest path and went right into the forest itself. While the forest could be considered densely packed for wagons to travel through, the same could not be said for humans or beasts.
Izroth glanced to his side as he unsheathed his Sword of The Storm.
"It seems like we have some company." Izroth said.