At Master Zushuatri's Sky Palace, Izroth had run into an individual who went by Earthshaker Anvil. That same Earthshaker Anvil was the son of Great Duke Hammer, one of the most prominent figures in the Pzenium kingdom!
While death was a common occurrence in the selection, the Great Duke had given his son plenty of means to ensure his safe return. If he wanted to survive or escape, it should have been impossible for the other participants to stop him!
Unfortunately, he did not know who had claimed the life of his son. But, even if he knew of their identity, it was considered a great taboo to seek revenge against them. After all, it was seen as an honor to give one's life bravely in the selection. However, how could the Great Duke accept losing his only son?
Ever since he received news of Anvil's demise, he had been reclusive and distant. The treatment of his servants had reached a point where they were afraid to even breathe in his presence!
Falcinean had been with the Great Duke for many years and understood how he doted on his son. But, it was his job as an advisor to make sure that the Great Duke did not allow his misfortune to spiral out of control and ruin his standing.
"The Grand Sovereign's official decree is absolute." Falcinean said without caving into the pressure.
Just when it looked as though a confrontation was inevitable, a purple and crimson magical energy surged on the stand next to the Great Duke's throne.
When Falcinean detected the energy surge, a look of shock and disbelief appeared on his face.
"The Scorching Death Mark...!" Falcinean exclaimed.
The Great Duke was also surprised as he reached and grabbed the item that the light was released from. It was an amber gemstone with complex magical symbols and matrices engraved into it.
When the Great Duke took the amber gemstone into his hand, the light died down; however, there was still a robust magical aura that dwelled within the gem.
"They're here... In my Pzenium kingdom...!" the Great Duke said with a shaky voice that was a mixture of shock and fury as he stood up to his feet.
He then continued in an eerily calm manner, "Controller Falcinean, I shall answer the Grand Sovereign's summon."
The Great Duke tossed the amber gemstone towards Falcinean, who caught it in his hand.
"I don't care if it's taboo. Since they dared to kill my son, they will join him in the Netherworld. You will bring me their head." the Great Duke said with a voice of authority.
Falcinean stood straight and clenched his left fist before slamming it directly into the center of his chest.
"Controller Falcinean has received the Great Duke's command!" Falcinean answered. He turned around to leave the room, but the Great Duke stopped him at the last moment.
"Wait, you will take the Sandstorm Walkers with you." the Great Duke stated.
Falcinean frowned as he replied, "With all due respect, Great Duke, I am more than capable of handling the situation alone."
"Controller Falcinean, this is not a suggestion; it is an order. You underestimate those who have survived the selection. I will not alone for the slightest chance of their escape. If you cannot return with their head, then don't bother returning at all." the Great Duke asserted.
Although Falcinean was reluctant, he had no choice but to follow the Great Duke's orders.
"I understand." Falcinean said before saluting once more and taking his leave.
After Falcinean took his leave, the Great Duke's body shook violently from anger as the throne that he previously sat in was shattered to pieces and crumbled to dust.
"Since you dared set foot in my Pzenium kingdom, don't think of leaving her with your life!" the Great Duke roared.
The amber gemstone that the Great Duke had given Falcinean was unique to the Pzenium kingdom and called the Life for Life Stone.
Since its founding, it was not uncommon in the Pzenium kingdom for a battle to erupt over the oasis. After countless years, those in Pzenium managed to develop a man-made gemstone called the Life for Life Stone.
Upon its creation, the stone was linked to a specific individual. Whenever that individual died at the hands of another, their killer would be secretly marked. Not even an S-ranked skill could remove the hidden marking! This marking was known as the Scorching Death Mark.
When Izroth killed Earthshaker Anvil back on the Sky Palace, he had unknowingly been affected by the Scorching Death Mark.
As long as one possessed the Scorching Death Mark and moved within close enough range of the Life for Life Stone, once it locked onto them, they could never hide from their pursuers no matter how far they ran away! This was one of the reasons few dared to offend the royals and nobles of the Pzenium kingdom.
As for Izroth, he was utterly oblivious to the fact that he was being hunted by powerful foes!
Izroth, Luna, Mirage, and Azalea had continued on their journey towards the Trephasia's hidden oasis.
At the moment, Mirage and Azalea were silent. After their fight concluded, neither one had uttered a single word during the remainder of the journey. While this was not unusual for Azalea, it was not like Mirage to be so quiet. As for the results of their fight...
"We are here." Azalea spoke for the first time after her fight with Mirage.
However, despite Azalea's words of their arrival, there was nothing before them except a sea of sand! But, where everyone else saw emptiness, Izroth viewed various areas of space in the surroundings that were bent through irregular methods. This was due to the A-ranked Spatial Awareness skill he acquired back in the Chaotic Dogma Realm.
'Oh? What a remarkable use of spatial magic. Someone this proficient in spatial magic can not be taken lightly. Is it the work of someone from the Trephasia oasis?'
Izroth glanced over towards Luna, who looked as if she were about to faint at any moment. He could see from the very beginning that this environment was having a substantial impact on Luna. But, when he noticed the unwavering look in her eyes, Izroth chose not to bring up the matter. However, he did not plan on watching her suffer for a moment longer. If this was the entrance to the oasis, they could not delay their entry!
"Where is the entrance?" Izroth questioned.
Azalea shook her head and replied, "I searched for an access point everywhere, but I could not locate one. However, without a doubt, this is the location that the Isolation Compass led me to. Along with the previous information you gave me, the Trephasia's secret oasis should be located in this exact spot.
"I see." Izroth said as he carefully examined the bends in space.
Back when he was choosing a reward after claiming first place in the selection, Izroth came across a map labeled Damage Treasure Map of the Mysterious Lost Kingdom. While he could not leave with the map, due to his perfect memory, he easily remembered every single detail the map contained. Its appearance was ancient and quality degraded, but when he lined its position up with a regular Realm Chart, he discovered that the map led to none other than the Pzenium kingdom! Where at in the Pzenium kingdom? They were standing right before it!
Izroth removed the Empress Brooch from his inventory. When he did so, the sands started to shift as the space in the neighboring area became restless! The beautiful brooch in his hands lit up as a burst of energy erupted from the item and realigned the nearby space. This caused the violent tremors to form and sand dunes to collapse.
"What's going on?" Mirage broke her silence as she had a difficult time keeping her balance.
Not too long after Mirage spoke, the space before the party cracked as if it were mirror glass. Through the cracks, Mirage caught a glimpse of a beautiful forested environment filled with vegetation and accompanied by an abundance of freshwater springs. There were also small buildings in the distance crafted from the earth itself.
〈System Alert: You have discovered the «Millennial Veiled Oasis»!〉
〈System Alert: Your fame has increased by 50!〉
〈System Alert: Warning! The entrance to the «Millennial Veiled Oasis» is about to close in 3 seconds! Once closed, no player will be able to gain access for 1 year 4 months.〉
"Let's hurry inside." Izroth said after he quickly went over the system alerts.
Mirage and Azalea sprinted forward at full speed. However, with her current fatigued state, Luna would not make it in time!
"You will have to excuse me." Izroth said as he swept Luna off her feet. He supported her arms and back with one arm, as well as her legs with his other arm. Then, without hesitation, he used his Enhanced Instantaneous Movement to successfully reach the entry of the Millennial Veiled Oasis just as it closed!
'That was close. Just a second longer, and we may not have made it in time.'
"I can walk on my own now..." Luna said in an unusually soft voice with her face turned away from Izroth. If one looked closely, they could see that Luna's ears had become slightly red.
Izroth gently let Luna down as she quickly walked ahead of the group.
'Did I upset her?'
Izroth gave a helpless smile inwardly. If he did not act immediately, then Luna would have been stuck outside, unable to enter the Millennial Veiled Oasis. Surely, she would not fault him, right?
But, how could Izroth know that Luna was not upset with him. It was just that this was the second time a man had held her, and both times were unexpected and by Izroth! How could she not feel embarrassed? Still, for some reason, Luna did not find such an action by Izroth to be detestable as she would have with another person.
A few moments later, Izroth and his party traveled through the forested area. They were headed to the village in the distance. However, it was strange as this place was much bigger than it looked from the outside. The size of this oasis was huge! It was much larger than any oasis owned by the royals and nobles of the Pzenium kingdom. If they found such an oasis was hidden here all along, a blood-filled war would break out over who could claim the newly discovered territory.
'It looks like we have some company.'
Izroth used his Energy Vision Sense in small intervals as they walked through the forested area. He detected a few individuals that were headed their way. However, there was only one among them who was worth noting. As for the others, they were of virtually no threat to their party.