Kaltinn was a middle-aged man with an ordinary appearance. He wore sturdy steel plated armor and had a greatsword on his back. He was the one who organized and managed the local event, and the time had finally arrived to move on to the second portion.
"Attention fellow heroes! The Spirit Caves are about to open! Remember, your goal is to collect as many Spirit Shards as possible and store them within the Spirit Collector I have provided to each group. You will have exactly one hour to complete this task! After that, whether you want to or not, you will be ejected from the Spirit Caves. Best of luck, young heroes!" Kaltinn announced.
Kaltinn then took the time to explain some of the basics about the Spirit Cave and the Spirit Shards the players would be collecting. Then, just a handful of seconds later, everyone at the entrance of the cave received the system alert they had been waiting for all this time.
〈System Alert: The «Spirit Caves» are now open! [Time Remaining: 1 hour]〉
The moment the Spirit Caves opened, almost every group rushed forward at full speed. They all wanted to be the first to enter the Spirit Caves and reap the most benefits! However, there were a few groups who exercised more caution in the face of the unknown. One of these groups was Reilei's!
"How should we proceed?" Hidden Pulse asked.
"The same as usual. Shuyi will move ahead to get for traps. Realistic and I will take the frontline with Xiao Liang. Phoenix, Scarlet, and Ayanellia will be our backline. As for you, I'll have to trust you to guard our rear. If everyone's clear on their roles, let's move out." Two Tons said as he, along with Reilei, led the way into the Spirit Caves, following after Shuyi, who moved ahead to search for traps.
After Reilei's group entered the Spirit Caves, only two groups remained outside.
"Heh, we found some good targets this time. Did you see the item on that summoner and mage? Those were rare-quality items! It looks like our haul this time won't be poor." One of the players, who appeared to be the leader of the first group named Untamed Image, said.
"They only have their own bad luck to blame for falling into the eyes of our Sage Falls! We may not still be one of the top ten guilds, but as long as we follow guild leader Slayer's plan, we will make our rise again! Then, those who dared to offend us and beat us while we were down will pay—especially the Headhunter Syndicate and the owner of the Mystical Realm Palace!" A different player from the first group with the name Tarpeak commented.
"Let's follow them before they get too far away. Remember, don't make a move until I give the order. If we succeed, when our Sage Falls returns to its status as a top guild, then we may even receive a position as one of the Six Hands." The leader of the first group, Untamed Image, stated with a grin on their face as they followed Reilei's group into the Spirit Caves.
The second group that remained outside Spirit Caves also had their eyes on Reilei's group. However, it was for a completely different purpose than that of the first group.
"That's the group that made a fool of Li, right? They don't look so tough. Though that mage is my type of woman, heh." One of the players from the second group with the player name Dead Fire said with a grin on his face.
"I prefer that summoner myself. She's like a real-life fairy! How about we make a bet and see who can get their woman first?" A player by the name of Violence Is Blue, commented.
"You two—don't forget our mission. Li isn't just some random player. His skills are on par with some of the lower class elite players from those top guilds. He always fights at full strength, regardless of his opponent. Even then, he came out as the loser and paid a heavy price for it. Not to mention, they have an unknown mage with them this time. We shouldn't look down on them, or else, we will follow in Li's footsteps." A player who went by Love Swan reminded.
"Tch, you're no fun. Well, whatever. Once this is over, it won't be too late." Dead Fire stated.
He then continued, "Those who offend our Headhunter Syndicate never has a good end. No matter where they hide, they will be hunted down by dogs! Come, let's start the hunt!"
Meanwhile, in the Spirit Caves...
Reilei and her group were oblivious to the fact that they were being targeted by not one, but two parties! At the moment, they at a spacious area of the cave that contained strange ores, herbs, and other natural materials. There were monsters present throughout the area—many of which were low-level elites. This meant that players could not enter into a fight without thinking twice. At least, this is how it should have been for all groups.
A blazing spear of fire pierced through and engulfed one of the elite monsters in flames. This monster stood on two feet and had the appearance of a demonic bear with soulless green eyes.
Name: (Lost Spirit)Nightfear Bear(Elite)
The Nightfear Bear roared when the intense wave of flames struck it. This was the work of Scarlet's skill, Flaming Spear.
The Nightfear Bear swiped out violently with its massive claw towards Two Tons who held onto the aggro.
Two Tons stood his ground as he successfully blocked the blow of the Nightfear Bear.
"Realistic, now!" Two Tons yelled.
Reilei dashed forward at great speeds that did not belong to someone who was a Summoner. Her speed was even greater than last time! However, this was due in part to the class upgrade she received. She was no longer a normal Summoner!
Reilei's orb slammed into the torso of the Nightfear Bear as its last bit of remaining HP disappeared. A few moments later, the Nightfear Bear's body did not turn into particles as monsters usually did in RML. Instead, its body collapsed into itself before forming into a shard of light no bigger than one's finger.
When Two Tons saw that shard of light, he quickly removed the Spirit Collector from his inventory and pointed it in the direction of the shard.
〈System Alert: You have collected x1 «Great Spirit Shard»!〉
A broad smile found its way onto Two Tons face as he said, "It's a Great Spirit Shard! These count for five normal Spirit Shards. Our luck is quite good."
There were five different qualities of Spirit Shards that players could collect in the cave. The lowest was a normal Spirit Shard, while the highest was something called a Nature Shard. However, according to Kaltinn, they should not expect to get anything higher than a Great Spirit Shard. If they were fortunate, then a Greater Spirit Shard was not entirely out of the question. As for acquiring a Greatest Spirit Shard, or a Nature Shard—the chances were infinitely close to zero!
"We will have over fifty minutes remaining. Let's head deeper into the Spirit Cave. If we're lucky, we may find a monster who gives us a Greater Shard." Two Tons said.
Not too long after Reilei's group defeated the Nightfear Bear, they headed deeper into the Spirit Cave.
Shuyi, who was supposed to be scouting ahead, appeared unexpectedly next to the group.
"We're being followed." Shuyi said in a cold tone.
Everyone seemed surprised when they heard Shuyi's words. They were being followed? Did someone want to reap some benefits by following them into the deeper area of the Spirit Cave?
"Don't stop walking, everyone. Just carry on like normal." Two Tons stated. If there were people following them, then he did not want to let them know via their actions that they had been discovered.
He then asked Shuyi, "How many?"
"Two groups. However, they do not seem to be working together." Shuyi answered. His detection skills were the greatest among those present; therefore, he was much more sensitive to being followed than his fellow party members.
Two Tons furrowed his brows. Could it be a mere coincidence? No, Shuyi was not the type of person to waste everyone's time without being decisive. Still, as the party leader, he had to make sure that they were not overly cautious.
"We will make a small detour." Two Tons stated as he turned at the corner up ahead.
A few moments later, not too long after Two Tons changed directions, the two groups matched their change. After doing this two more times, Two Tons was confident that they were being followed!
"What do they want from us?" Phoenix questioned with a frown.
"Maybe they want Ayanellia. We should just hand her over to them." Xiao Liang said with a devious look on his face as he looked towards Ayanellia.
Ayanellia released a sound of protest to Xiao Liang's suggestion.
"How could we allow someone to take our precious Ayanellia way? Maybe they came for this little brat instead." Phoenix scoffed as she looked over at Xiao Liang.
"If they came for this venerable young master, then it would only be to offer themselves as this young master's servant." Xiao Liang stated in a smug tone.
"This brat won't learn unless I teach him a lesson!" Phoenix said as she pressed her knuckles up against the sides of Xiao Liang's head.
"You-! Old hag, you dare to treat this venerable young master this way- Ah! Okay, I was wrong, Phoenix! Ahhhh, I meant big sis Phoenix! Big sis Phoenix, I was wrong!" Xiao Liang cried out.
"Hmph, as long as you know your wrongs!" Phoenix said with a smile on her face as she released Xiao Liang.
"Old hag... Ahahaha!" Xiao Liang said. Before Phoenix could react, he immediately ran towards Reilei's side. He stuck his tongue out in an antagonizing manner towards Phoenix.
"How is one such an angel and the other a little devil?" Phoenix sighed as she shook her head. Xiao Liang had always been arrogant and proud—even when he was at a size that was no bigger than one's palm. The only person he seemed to show any respect to was Reilei. Now that he had taken on a human form, his personality had been "young master" this "young master" that. As for Ayanellia, she was very modest, loving, and open to everyone—the complete opposite of Xiao Liang.
Reilei did not know what to do regarding Xiao Liang. It just seemed as if he naturally did not get along with others, and she had no idea why. However, she could not help but dote on him; after all, he had been with her since the very beginning.
"They're closing in fast with hostile intent. They may have discovered that we are aware of their presence." Shuyi warned, causing everyone to become alarmed.
"Hmph, if they think we are afraid to fight, then they're wrong. However, we'll do so on our own terms! Everyone, listen carefully..." Two Tons said as he went on to explain his plan.