Walking down Frie Mountain from the north gate was rather easy. Although there were many security patrols, since the group were wearing Frie Clan robes, they were not stopped and were left relatively unhindered. Occasionally, a security officer of the clan would strike a conversation with them, but otherwise, it was a smooth journey to the forest.
Once at the checkpoint outside the woods, they presented the badge given by the First Elder and collected the necessary items to complete their mission. Since Junius was only a guard, he was exempt from obtaining Tinjo mushrooms, so only four baskets were handed out. Unfortunately for Shin, being the only boy in the group, the girls pushed all the items to him. Although all the pieces together did not weigh much, it was still cumbersome to carry.
“Hey! Can some of you help me take just one basket?”
Shin complained. It was unjust that he had to carry four baskets plus a weighing scale the entire trip.
“No can do! Why do you think I was grouped with you? I have to be on the lookout for any potential danger.”
Ariel tried to justify her reason for not carrying a basket by using the excuse that she was Shin’s guard.
“You’re a boy so suck it up!”
Ella, on the other hand, could not be bothered with an excuse and just flat-out denied his plea.
“Ermmm, I can help you carry the weighing scale, Shin…”
Emma offered her assistance by carrying the lightest load there is.
“Yeah, help me with that. Trying to prevent the scale from falling off is a pain.”
Shin accepted Emma’s offer as the weighing scale was hard to control.
With that, four Spirit Practitioners and one Spirit Apostle left the checkpoint and headed into the forest. Their mission was simple. They had to search the outskirts of the forest to find wild Tinjo mushrooms.
“Oh! Look at that, a Tinjo mushroom right off the bat!”
Junius, who was leading the way, immediately located a fresh Tinjo mushroom growing on a nearby log. The fungi usually grow on decayed wood so the group must be observant of their surroundings.
“Ella, pick that mushroom up and weigh it!”
“Okay, but brother Junius, is the Tinjo mushroom poisonous?”
Ella is willing to pluck the fungus but had to be sure that it would not harm her. She had heard ample stories in the past of people getting poisoned due to ignorance, and she was not willing to take that risk.
“The Tinjo mushroom is fine. But if you see a mushroom with polka dots, turn the other way. The spores that mushroom produces can paralyse a fully grown adult.”
Junius warned Ella of the other harmful mushroom that she had to be wary of while reassuring her that the Tinjo mushroom was safe for plucking.
“Alright, Emma! Bring the weighing scale along!”
Harvesting the mushroom from the dead log, the twins recorded its weight measurement.
“It weighs fifty grams…”
“What?! I thought for sure that it was over a hundred grams…”
Seeing the size of the mushroom, Junius assumed that it would easily be above a hundred grams. However, he did not take into account the hollow caps that the Tinjo mushroom has.
“So we need to roughly collect nineteen more of those mushrooms.”
Ariel theorised on the number of mushrooms they had to collect.
“Well, since you’ve found one here, there should be a few more growing nearby…”
Shin placed the four baskets on the floor and started to search the area.
“Hey! Don’t stray too far away from us! We should stick together!”
“Oops, sorry. I forgot about that.”
Before Shin wandered off alone, Junius warned the absent-minded boy. The five-man party stayed near each other while they searched decomposed tree barks for the Tinjo mushroom. However, after fifteen minutes, there was still only one mushroom in the basket.
“Seems like the Tinjo mushroom is harder to find than we thought…”
Ella wiped the sweat from her forehead as she remarked.
“Yeah, Junius your luck is truly excellent. Finding a rare herb the moment you enter the forest…”
Shin was bitter. He had to flip over rotting wood, dirtying his hands in the process to search for signs of the Tinjo mushroom but all Junius did was to point it out.
“If my luck were that good, I would have found another one already.”
Junius, however, denied his claim. He wished that he could find as many Tinjo mushrooms as possible so that he could return home early. The eeriness of the woods and the prospect of an attack coming from any direction unnerved Junius. He had to be vigilant of any sudden movements.
“Ah! I’ve found another one!”
Emma, who was checking the rear, managed to locate a forty centimetre large Tinjo mushroom.
“Wait, do those mushrooms really grow that big?!”
Although the fungus in her hands had all the characteristics of a Tinjo mushroom, it was the biggest one that Junius had ever encountered.
“Hehehe, it weighs a hundred and thirty grams! Hooray!”
Elated that with her recently found mushroom they were one step away from filling the quota, Emma cheered.
“That’s great Emma! Come on, you guys! We should pick up the pace!”
“Junius… Even if we ran around in this place, the mushrooms wouldn’t magically appear.”
“But we would be able to cover more ground!”
“Hah… This musclehead…”
Shin sighed at Junius’ love for exercise.
All of a sudden, two deafening explosions were heard in the distance. A massive flame tower reached for the heavens and instantly, the temperature of the forest rose tens of degrees. Wave after wave of spiritual energy crashed into the woods heavily impacting the party. Shin, Ariel, Ella and Emma were shivering due to the violent nature of the mana and even Junius could not keep a straight face.
“What the hell?!?!”
Cold sweat started dripping from the youths as they struggled to keep themselves together at the sudden turn of events.
“What is happening?”
Shin inquired while shuddering desperately. If that flame pillar was here for him, there was no way he would be able to survive.
Two shiny objects flew at top speed towards the Shin. Only Junius was able to react in time. In one motion, an azure blade arced and slashed the items away from Shin.
Voices of displeasure were heard from the woods when the assassination attempt failed. Five figures emerged from the shadows, surrounding the group. Dressed in all black garbs with balaclavas covering their entire face, the assassins were all wielding unsheathed swords.
“Looks like we’ve got company…”
Junius muttered at their current predicament.