Chapter 404 Wandering Adepts
A distance of a hundred and fifty kilometers was nothing to adepts.
They would have crossed that distance in two or three hours if it wasn't for the Black Forest.
There were rules when in the Black Forest. Even ten lives weren't enough if you wanted to fly through the skies recklessly.
Most powerful magical creatures couldn't be bothered to deal with those bugs that snuck past the edges of their borders. However, if you were to boldly fly across their heads, that would be a direct provocation!
The five manticores were native beasts of this place. They had a perfect understanding of all the hunting areas of the various magical creatures along the way. They didn't fly high. Instead, they stuck to the forest canopy and wound through the place, trying their best to avoid the territory of powerful magical creatures.
Thus, the four adepts safely crossed this stretch of the forest and reached the conspicuous Plaguewood.
And here was the home of the manticore family!
The five manticores folded their wings, and their magnificent bodies dove into the cave. Violent gusts of wind blew in every direction, shocking the bats in the cave and throwing them into a panic.
Regardless of how frantic they were, not a single one of them dared to come within ten meters of a manticore. In this area, the manticores were the undisputed leaders!
The manticores ignored this group of unpaid 'watchdogs' and continued into the cave. They flew past stalactites and stone pillars, avoiding every obstacle with ease as they entered a dark tunnel in the corner of the cave.
They unfurled their wings and glided within the tunnel. It was only when the geography narrowed that they packed their wings and returned to the ground, running as an ordinary lion would. Once there was more space, they expanded their wings and quickly traveled further into the cave.
This place was their home.
They were familiar with every passage and pillar.
With their night vision, the dimness of the cave was no problem for these manticores. They were like fish swimming past the coral at the bottom of the ocean, freely weaving between stones, boulders, and stalagmites as they made their way into the underground and reached the cavern with the lava well that Greem had discovered.
The space in the cavern was much larger than the rest of the tunnels and caves they had passed through. In fact, it was so large that it appeared empty. The three Silver Union adepts that had been sitting with their eyes closed couldn't help but open them. They started surveying the environment.
In particular, the lava well in the center of the cavern drew the attention of the two esoteric adepts. They excitedly walked towards the lava well once they got off the manticores. They then took out a strange magical tool and started taking measurements of the conditions.
The man named Eugene was a combat adept. His only job was to protect these two esoteric adepts. He had no interest in this unique area. He nodded at Greem and started to walk around the lava well aimlessly.
Greem let out an awkward cough when he saw the two esoteric adepts scurrying as they took their measurements. However, his cough didn't seem to have caught the attention of the two passionately immersed esoteric adepts. Rather, he managed to draw the attention of the wandering Eugene.
"What is it, what else do you need?" Adept Eugene's tone was cold and harsh; there was a sense of sternness and solemnity to the energy radiating from his body.
"Er, I just wanted to ask if there was anything I needed to help with regarding the construction of the tower?"
"We don't need any help from you!" Adept Eugene rebuked Greem with a single sentence, "If you had the ability, you wouldn't have needed to hire us for the job! This location is a decent one. It's quite suited for the construction of an adept's tower."
"Then what do I need to do?"
"Nothing. Just leave! It will only take nine days for a small basic tower like this one to be built. Once we've finished everything, I will go and inform you. You will complete the sacrificial ceremony of the tower spirit. Very well, you can leave now."
At this moment, Greem was so shocked by Eugene's arrogance and impoliteness that he couldn't even bother refuting.
However, his shock quickly faded away once he remembered what kind of existence the Silver Union was.
This type of construction was a monopoly of theirs after all.
After they had obtained their monopoly over most of the techniques and knowledge related to the esoteric adepts, the other adept clans and organizations had to rely on them if they wanted to construct an adept's tower quickly. The Sarubo had architects and array masters, but these strategic talents were all placed in the outer realms under the direct command of Great Adept Sarubo himself.
Having them cross the plane barrier and return to the World of Adepts to build a crude tower for a mere First Grade adept was a little extreme. Even Third Grade Sanazar didn't have the authority to give them such an order. All the esoteric adepts that the Sarubo Clan had painstakingly cultivated had been trained and prepared for planar wars. No one would make them labor for an ordinary adept of the clan.
Something like constructing Greem's personal tower would have to fall on the shoulders of a specialized organization like the Devinni Trade Company!
Less than fifteen minutes after bringing the adepts to the lava well, Greem was 'politely' booted out of the caverns by Adept Eugene.
It was apparent that these adepts did an excellent job of protecting their knowledge and techniques.
Greem could still feel himself being monitored with magic, even after he left the caverns. It wasn't until he reached the manticore den that the feeling completely vanished.
"No need to be dejected, master!" Gargamel, who had been holing up in the cave and putting the manticores to work for the past few days immediately hurried over when he heard the news. He consoled his master, "Every single adept from the three major forces is like that! You get used to it over time."
"Oh? You know about all three of the major forces?" Greem asked curiously, "Could you tell me more about them?"
"Kehkeh. Of course!" An expression of hatred appeared on Gargamel's shriveled old face, "Those who have never experienced the pain of being a wandering adept would never understand! We are like mice running in the streets, oppressed and beaten down by the clan adepts wherever we go. We have no choice but to pinch our noses and flatter the managers of the public adept's towers, all for the sake of gathering knowledge and purchasing cheaper materials.”
"Then why don't you join a clan? Your qualifications as a potions master guarantee you a place in any mid-sized adept clan, as long as you are willing to join them. Why the wandering about, and the tough life of being looked down upon?"
"Master, the fact that you would say such a thing only proves that you have yet to understand the true nature of these adept clans. When you join a clan as an esoteric adept, you will find that they truly regard your existence to be of great significance. They are more than willing to invest resources in you. However, from then onwards, you will have forever lost your freedom!"
"Yes, freedom!" Gargamel sighed, "The more they invest in you, the more they expect to get from you! A potions master like myself will have a quota imposed upon him upon joining a clan. Every year, I will have to hand over a certain amount of potions to the clan. A person like myself, who has neither influence or power, will most definitely be asked to create an abnormal number of potions. If I want to complete my task, I will have to spend my days trapped in an uncomfortable lab, continuously repeating the same dull actions, day and night."
Greem rubbed his chin as he listened in silence.
"The consequence of this would be a complete lack of time to meditate or improve my abilities. Since I became an adept, I have already spent most of my time on the pointless concoctions of numerous potions. And that was how my body has slowly deteriorated over the years."
Gargamel was only eighty-nine years old. He wasn't even considered middle-aged among the adepts that often lived to two or even three hundred years. However, his body and his face were about as bad as those ancient adepts at the end of their lifespan!
"Aren't there still plenty of high-grade adepts amongst the esoteric adepts? You…" Greem was somewhat confused.
"Master, you are referring to the Silver Union adepts, aren't you?" Gargamel cackled coldly, "The adepts that a large organization like them would invest in and waste resources to allow advancement are all their own people! All of them are descendants of the higher-ups of the organization! They would never be willing to do so for outsiders. After all, the resources you sink into an untalented esoteric adept such that he may advance to Second Grade would be more than enough for you to make two or three Second Grade combat adepts. They would never part with so many resources if it wasn't one of their own."
Greem had felt this disparity in improvement rate himself.
Within the Sarubo Clan, Ferrier was a potions master, and Keoghan was a voodoo beast master. Both of them had a support specialty. However, their combat abilities were so poor that Greem didn't even regard them as a threat. The speed at which their powers increased was like a tortoise's crawl when compared to Greem.
Greem had barely seen them three or four times a year ever since they returned from the knight's plane. Most of the time, they spent their days in their labs. They would only come out for a walk every few weeks. Sometimes, they even ignored their meals and relied on nutrition pills to sustain themselves.
The extended periods without exercise, the exposure to harmful materials, and the failure to care for their Spirits had a significant impact on them. Their Spirits would even wither and waste away if they didn't properly care and maintain them.
In fact, it would be a miracle if their powers didn't diminish in such an environment!
However, compared to the deterioration of their powers, what was even more unbearable was the loss of their freedom.
A specialized adept painstakingly trained by the clan would never have the chance to go on adventures and explore on their own. No group would ever let their precious esoteric adepts wander with some strangers or journey on random adventures for the sake of some insignificant combat experience.
Even when they had to go on explorations, the clan would send a large group of strong escorts along with them. The esoteric adept would be well-guarded as they went to explore those low-risk ruins and hazard zones.
It made it impossible for the esoteric adepts ever to get a chance to train and improve themselves!
Greem finally understood why Gargamel would rather become a wandering adept than join a clan.
Adepts might look like a proud and glorious group on the outside, but if one were to delve deep into the workings of their organizations, they would find a despairing amount of internal oppression.