Izroth and his party followed the coordinates given by Niflheim. The coordinates did not lead to the raid location itself, but instead, it marked the final gathering location of the raid party before their entry into the raid. These steps may seem somewhat excessive, however, there was too much at stake for Blue Oasis if the exact location was leaked beforehand.
They knew that as soon as they entered into the raid, it would be broadcast to the entire world. Once this happened, the other top guilds would all scramble to the location of the coordinates. More importantly, since Blue Oasis held the advantage over the other top guilds, this would only act to make them public enemy number one for a large variety of reasons. This was even more so if they were successful in their attempt to clear the raid on the Hardcore difficulty.
Of course, they had already prepared for the potential backlash and pressure, but this did not mean that it would be easy to deal with or that everything would go as planned. Since Blue Oasis had been lying low for so long, there were bound to be some eyes cast upon their every move. This was why they had to take such dramatic steps to ease the overall burden by as much as possible.
After traveling for half an hour, Izroth and his party reached a remote corner of the Proximus kingdom. It was a region called Cleargate. This small region was filled with lakes and rivers that was a host to a multitude of amphibious and strange reptilian monsters. However, Izroth and his party were able to make their way through with ease given that they were only normal monsters and their average levels were between 38-42.
"There are a lot of water sources in this place. Is there really a town located in this region?" Halls questioned. If he had to take a guess, this place was around 80% water and 20% earth and plant-life. The pathways were extremely limited in availability which would make it difficult for large groups to travel together in Cleargate.
"These were the coordinates given to us. Besides, it's not a town that's out here, but a settlement. The locals here are descendants of seafolk and have a personal history with the Proximus kingdom." Zi Yi said. Although she did not know much about Cleargate, she knew some general information that was available at the Amaharpe library. Though the book mostly talked about the descendants of seafolk and did not get into any specifics. This was something she researched in her spare time while trying to figure out how to locate the other memory fragments for the second part of the SSS-ranked quest.
She then continued, "From what I know, Proximus has allowed them to settle down in the Cleargate region. I'm unsure of the specific arrangements that were made, but given that Cleargate isn't exactly an ideal place for ordinary humans to live, this is no loss for Proximus. Not to mention..." Zi Yi explained, however, she furrowed her brows at the end before finishing her words.
"Not to mention, the mana in this place is unreasonably thin compared to the rest of Proximus. No, it's practically nonexistent in this region. That's probably the true reason Proximus doesn't care about this place. In their eyes, it's the equivalent of giving away free trash for something in return." Valentine stated with his eyes of magic activated. He sensed that something was off about this region the moment they stepped into it.
At first, it was not too noticeable since they were still at the entrance of the region, however, after journeying deeper inside, the mana deficiency had become apparent.
'So they can see it as well. Not just the mana, even the natural energy in this place is bizarre. It's like this region is being sucked dry of its mana by some unknown force.'
"Aren't they just pretending to be the good guys by giving away something they didn't even want in the first place? Wouldn't the locals be upset if they found this out?" Guan Yu asked in a mildly outraged manner. He believed that the locals were being treated unfairly by being handed what was basically the Proximus kingdom's "scraps".
Zi Yi sighed as she shook her head and replied, "Their history isn't so simple. Since this place has an abundance of water sources, at the very least, I'm sure they don't feel as if they are being treated too poorly. Besides, a powerful kingdom like Proximus could have simply ignored them and left them wandering about. Their actions can already be seen as being generous in the eyes of many."
"I get what you're saying, but it still doesn't feel right for some reason." Guan Yu mumbled.
"We've arrived." Izroth announced which caused everyone to turn their attention forward.
The first thing that came to sight was a plethora of large corals positioned in an orderly fashion. This was the settlement of the seafolk descendants. The corals came in a variety of colors and were equal in size to a normal village home despite some of their awkward shapes. Even though the entire area was surrounded by water, surprisingly, there were clear pathways where one could walk as though they were traveling through any other town.
However, there were some minor waterways that cut through certain parts of the settlement. But, those minor waterways seemed to be placed there intentionally.
〈System Alert: You have entered the «Settlement of Clearwater»!〉
As Izroth and the others were taking in their new surroundings, they were approached by someone. It was someone Izroth had never directly spoken to, but he knew of him because that person was always by Niflheim's side. He was Niflheim's aide and acted as a commander for the 7th squad of Blue Oasis, Olohas.
"Welcome, friends. I am Olohas, lieutenant of the 7th squad under the leadership of Captain Niflheim. I've been sent here personally to escort you, Izroth and party, to the gathering point." Olohas said with polite mannerisms as he gave a respectful greeting. Not to even mention that they were important guests, Olohas knew that Izroth and his captain were on good terms. After being promoted from commander and appointed the position lieutenant of the 7th squad, he wanted to maintain and further reinforce that good connection between Izroth and his captain.
"Captain Niflheim is very thoughtful to send us his lieutenant as a personal guide. We'll have to thank you for your assistance in advance." Izroth said in a carefree tone.
However, when Olohas' eyes landed on Zi Yi, there was a brief expression of shock on his face and he seemed to be troubled or nervous. But, he did his best to quickly regain himself and returned to his previous temperament. But, this slight change could not escape the eyes of some of those present.
'Could he have some history with Zi Yi?'
"Then, allow me to lead the way." Olohas said as he began to guide the party. But, even though he tried to hide it, it was quite clear that he was troubled by something, or to be more specific, someone.
"You seem to be uneasy about one of my fellow party members, Lieutenant Olohas. I'd like to hear a proper explanation." Izroth said.
This, of course, caught Olohas off guard. This person's senses were too sharp! He only slipped up for a brief moment and yet he was seen through immediately. However, Olohas did not know how to respond to that question without causing some sort of unintentional offense.
"This..." Olohas tried to find the proper words to say, but nothing came to mind. He thought about brushing it off with some small tale, however, after he witnessed that piercing gaze in Izroth's eyes, it reminded him of his own captain. He knew that if he lied at the moment, he would be instantly seen through and perhaps suffer more in the long run because of it. He started to regret not handling himself better earlier.
Zi Yi saw Olohas' miserable state and shook her head inwardly. She knew exactly why Olohas acted the way he did towards her. In the end, however, she could not blame him for thinking along those lines. But, that did not mean that she was not irritated by it. When was it that others would learn that she was her own person with her own moral standards?
"Forget it. It's natural that he's cautious of me given that my elder sister is the guild leader of a competing top guild. While Sleeping Gardenia and Blue Oasis have no enmity with one another, that doesn't mean that they're allies. Though if you're worried about me disclosing any information to my elder sister, then your worries are misplaced." Zi Yi stated in a calm tone.
She then continued, "The guild leader of Sleeping Gardenia may be my elder sister, but I am not a member of Sleeping Gardenia. I have my own path that I choose to walk and if you or Blue Oasis can't accept that, then there's no need for me to be here."
Zi Yi's words left Olohas speechless. He felt embarrassed by his previous actions after hearing those words. Of course, he knew that she was not a member of Sleeping Gardenia, but he was unable to see past her relationship with Mariposa. After all, it was common knowledge that the guild leader of Sleeping Gardenia dotes on her younger sister.
"If Blue Oasis wants to Zi Yi to leave, then I shall take my leave as well." Luna commented without the slightest bit of hesitation.
"Well said! If you want to get rid of our Zi Yi, then don't even think about the rest of us joining. First raid or not, we'd never leave a friend behind!" Guan Yu stated. He may often tease Zi Yi, however, it was never with any ill intent. In the end, he saw her as a friend and a comrade. What kind of man would he be if he allowed a friend to suffer an injustice alone?
"It's fine, everyone." Izroth said as he calmed everyone.
He then continued, "Naturally, if Blue Oasis doesn't welcome Zi Yi, then they do not welcome any of us. However, I'm sure our friend here has only made a small mistake in his actions. We should not take this to heart. I'm sure Captain Niflheim is not such a short-sighted person. If that's the case, then surely the individuals under him must be the same... Don't you agree, Lieutenant Olohas?" Izroth spoke with a carefree smile on his face as he looked towards Olohas.
While that smile may seem carefree to others, it was the smile of a demon in the eyes of Olohas. But, he understood that Izroth was offering him a way out. He wanted to strengthen the connection between the 7th squad and Izroth, but may have ended up doing the complete opposite! Right now, he wanted to dig a hole and crawl into it from shame.
"You are correct. Everyone, I apologize if my actions have caused any offense. Rest assured, our Blue Oasis welcomes you, all of you." Olohas stated apologetically.
'Oh? He's still somewhat rough around the edges and a bit naive, but Niflheim doesn't have bad eyes.'
After Olohas' apology, Izroth looked towards Zi Yi as if awaiting her decision. She gave a small nod after realizing Izroth's intentions. What needed to be said was already said, there was no reason to blow this matter up. Besides, Zi Yi was secretly touched by how everyone was willing to dismiss this major chance because of her. But, even if they were willing to do so, she did not want to be the cause of them losing out. Therefore, she felt that this should end here.
"Since you are sincere in your apology, let us bury this matter and not speak of it again." Izroth said.
Olohas felt as if a great pressure was released off his shoulders at the sound of those words. This matter was something that could cause Niflheim's opinion of him to plummet. The last thing he wanted to do was disappoint the person who took him under their wing in hard times. He was grateful to Izroth for wanting to bury this matter.
After this matter passed, Olohas led Izroth and his party to a large rainbow-colored coral that was at least five times the size of the other corals. Outside of the rainbow-colored coral were six players. Four were in fully plated armor and two were wearing cleric robes. However, these were not the only players around.
Izroth could sense fourteen or so other players that were all stealth nearby. It was obvious that these players were members of Blue Oasis.
'They really aren't taking any chances.'
Once they arrived before the rainbow-colored coral and had their identities confirmed by those guarding, Olohas had to bid them farewell.
"This is as far as I can guide you. Only those who are officially a part of the gathering can go on past this point. May our paths soon cross again." Olohas said respectfully as he took his leave.
'Now... Let's see just what the core members of a top guild looks like. I hope I won't be disappointed.'
"Let's go." Izroth said as he led his party through the entrance of the rainbow-colored coral. This would be his first time meeting all seven captains of Blue Oasis!
But, what Izroth and his party did not know at that time when they walked into the coral located in a remote region of Proximus, was that this was the first major step that would carve their names into minds of all players within RML. The person would be the center of all this? It was none other than Izroth!