A game of cat and mouse was being played out in the depths of Fantasy Forest.
The black dirt in a spot of dark bushes suddenly broke apart. A large swarm of black beetles surged out from within and gradually swelled into an odd human silhouette.
Bug Adept Billis remotely sensed for the 'bait' in the other spots after forming his insect body. An ugly expression immediately took over his face.
He had already sent out four squads of decoys to avoid the pursuit of that powerful elf, with each of the teams heading toward a different area. Yet now, there seemed to be only two remaining squads that he could sense.
That meant two insect armies with over ten thousand bugs had been consecutively exterminated in the time he had been running. What died along with these two insect armies were six of his magical mantises.
After all, the magical mantises were essentially his bodyguards. It would have been hard to trick the forest elves, who call the Fantasy Forest their home, had he not sent the magical mantises along with the decoy squads.
Billis didn't dare show himself in the face of such a powerful elf. He could only repeatedly sever his own tail in hopes of drawing the enemy away. Sadly, the speed at which the insect army traveled underground was far too slow. Even though the elves would occasionally be drawn away, they were quickly able to exterminate the decoys and then continue looking for the actual army.
Those hippogryphs riders were riding the coattails of a ferocious tiger. They would never have dared appear in front of the magical mantises under ordinary circumstances. Yet now, they were brazenly traveling above the sea of trees, using their Whispering Winds, Plant Speech, Animal Speech, and all sorts of strange skills to search for the news and location of the largest insect army.
In the end, Fantasy Forest was the home of the forest elves!
They had far too many methods and ways in which to investigate the tracks of outsiders here.
That was why Billis immediately steeled his heart and made up his mind after being forced above ground once more. He split the eighteen magical mantises and one hundred and twenty thousand insects he controlled into four troops and had them escape in four different directions, not even bothering with traveling underground.
This way, the trail of the swarm recklessly running and eating their way through the forest could be clearly seen. Meanwhile, the accompanying magical mantises relied on their Grass Stalking ability to hide in the canopy, waiting for the elven archers to fly low past the canopy to suddenly strike.
A devastating scenario quickly unfolded due to the use of this tactic. For a moment, situations of elven archers being ambushed and murdered happened all over a fifty-kilometer radius of the Fantasy Forest. Meanwhile, Spear of Vengeance Eijae was bringing along an elite squad of archers to extinguish the fires where they popped up.
Wherever a vast army of insects or magical mantises appeared, they would rely on the hippogryphs to quickly show up.
It didn't matter whether it was the dense swarm of insects or the savage and cunning mantises; all of them were insignificant ants before Eijae, the Spear of Vengeance. Even if Billis gathered all the magical mantises together and had them charge at Eijae, he would only be making things easier for her. It was difficult for him to inflict even a slight bit of damage to the elf with such low numbers.
It was because he recognized this to be the truth that Billis had decisively split up the magical mantises and had them fight on their own, avoiding the groups of elves and powerhouses to pick off the isolated soldiers. It might not stop the death of the magical mantises, but in the end, it could still tug at the enemy's attention and energy, delaying their inevitable demise.
After paying such a tremendous price, Billis led an army of thirty thousand insects and six magical mantises away, escaping toward the southeast.
The insect army had been desperately moving toward the west coast the whole time they had been on the run. Billis was worried that the elves had grasped his movements. He could only choose to send two decoy squads in that direction, while he personally led his army toward the southeast.
Perhaps his decoy strategy had worked, for many of the hippogryph riders had truly been confused by the complex movements of the enemy. Their main forces were all chasing after the decoys.
It gave Billis plenty of chances to escape. After running while fending off some elven pursuers, he immediately retaliated with all his strength upon reaching a safe zone. With his six magical mantises and thirty thousand insects, Billis instantly shredded to pieces the one dozen hippogryphs riders that had chased him all this way. It was only now that he unwillingly fled into the woods.
By the time Spear of Vengeance Eijae heard of the news and arrived at the scene of carnage, the odd army of insects had already disappeared without a trace.
The furious Eijae immediately ordered the accompanying elves to return to Skywater City and report the situation so that they could deploy the garrison of nearby elven cities to blockade the enemy. Meanwhile, she once again took to the roads alone, chasing after some faint tracks left by the insect army into the woods.
There was an area of scattered rocks near the coastline.
On one side were the raging and swirling tides, and on the other some somewhat bare bushes and trees.
The Fantasy Forest only started to thin out at this point. It was hard to see any of those tall and straight ancient trees. The only greenery here in this stony area were low bushes and slippery moss.
A massive horde of bloodsucking bats was hanging upside down from the ceiling of a damp and extremely well-hidden cave at the edge of the coast. They were huddled together in a group. Six young men and women sat silently by a campfire dug into the ground below, their backs straight as a blade.
Three of them had muscular bodies, wore crimson armor, and had crimson longswords at their waist. It was the three blood knights that had followed after Mary all this while– Soros, Windsor, and José. The ones sitting opposite them were the three Second Grade blood elves that Mary had just recruited– Bonnie (female, archer), Candice (female, archer), and Leo (male, weapons master).
Those First Grade fellows? They could only shiver on the outside. They were not even qualified to get near these Second Grade powerhouses.
Meanwhile, the master of all these vampires, Bloody Queen Mary, was leaning against a stone platform, resting with her eyes closed as her old fox Vanlier waited loyally by her side.
The soft sound of beating wings rang out.
A single bloodsucking bat landed in the field of rocks. It looked around with its beady little eyes and made sure no one had followed it before pushing aside a pile of stones and squeezing into the cave.
The bat transformed into a young man after some rapid contortions and transformations. He tiptoed his way to Vanlier's side and whispered some words into his ear.
After completing his report, this young man transformed into a bat once more near the entrance of the cave, flew out, and headed toward the forest once again.
"What's the matter?" Mary asked without even opening her eyes. She had propped her head up with her hand and was lying upon the stone platform by her side.
"Master, the scouts we have arranged around the perimeter came back to report the elves patrolling half as frequently as they did yesterday. What do you think?" Vanlier hurriedly bowed and replied.
Mary hesitated for a moment before opening her eyes and asking, "How are things on Billis' side?"
"Lord Billis has already sent you three requests for aid." Vanlier smiled bitterly, "That Spear of Vengeance is hot on his heels. I heard that Lord Billis' insect army numbers less than twenty thousand now!"
After all these days of investigation, the vampires had already figured out information regarding that powerful elf!
"Do you think we should go and save him?" Mary narrowed her eyes as her ruby-like pupils flashed with a chilling light.
"Lord Bug Adept is a combat adept that Lord Clan Leader has invested plenty in. If we were to allow him to die so simply in the Fantasy Forest, it would be quite a loss to the future development of the Crimson Clan." Vanlier kept a gentle smile on his face all this while.
"You mean to say…we should save him?" Mary returned with a faint smile.
"Saving him is a given!" Vanlier smiled obsequiously as he spoke, "However, rushing over to save him in this manner would probably not be of any help. In fact, it's very likely that we may even draw the attention of the Spear of Vengeance to ourselves."
"Then why don't you tell me what we should do?"
"Why don't we change the battlefield? The surroundings of Skywater City have now become a dangerous place. The elves have placed plenty of traps in that area and are simply waiting for us to run into them. Rather than proceed with our plans, why not turn around, head north, and further spread the fires of war?"
Mary listened attentively with narrowed eyes but did not comment. Old Fox Vanlier could only continue with his analysis.
"Firstly, we need to figure out our objective here?"
"Our main mission in coming to Garan this time is to help that Lady Alice obtain the Staff of Divination. And if we want to accomplish that, we have to draw away the powerhouses and elite armies of the elven kingdom in the central mountains."
"Up until now, the elven kingdom has only gathered their elite forces and powerhouses near the south coast to prevent the Fourth Grade Pale Witch from leading her forces into Garan. That is why they will never dare to reassign forces from the south coast, regardless of how big of a storm we stir up over here."
"Lord Clan Leader has been slaughtering some elves on the southwest coast. That is all for the sake of baiting the elves into deploying their troops. His plan of infiltration can only be put to motion once there are openings in the central mountains' military force. My lady, where will you choose to go when that happens?"
Mary couldn't help but grunt coldly. She straightened her body upon the stone platform.
"Hmph, of course, I'm going as well. The central mountains are full of powerhouses. Even god messengers number as many as wild dogs in the streets. If I don't go and help, how are they supposed to accomplish anything with just their few numbers?!”
Old Fox Vanlier sighed silently in the bottom of his heart, but the smile on his face was unchanging.
"Then we should stir up even more of a storm. It will be best if we can provoke the elves on the south coast to start fighting with the Pale Witches. When that happens, Lord Clan Leader will probably be facing a lot less pressure."
He could finally see that this seemingly ferocious mistress of his truly cared for the Lord Clan Leader. To think she was unfazed by the danger of the central mountains and not at all hesitant about putting the vampires she had so painstakingly gathered together in jeopardy. In fact, she seemed utterly willing to lose out for the benefit of someone else.
Vanlier couldn't help but curse to himself over this.
However, the bloodline shackles made it impossible for him to have any other thoughts. He could only pinch his nose and make plans for Mary according to her will. At any rate, he was the one that planned all the schemes and plots. Regardless of how the future was to unfold, he would never allow himself to fall into a situation of certain death.
As such, the old fox's heart was remarkably calm!