Shang landed in an area that resembled a burned forest. All the trees he could see were blackened and without any foliage. They looked almost like black needles that pierced the sky.
The air was dry and filled with static electricity. It wasn’t difficult for Shang to guess the Affinity of the resident Zone Beast.
To the southeast, Shang could hear the distant sounds of battle. As time passed, the sounds only became louder and not quieter.
‘Seems like the Blackshadow Kingdom is assaulting the Grandmountain Kingdom.’
‘Right now, everyone is occupied, giving me the perfect opportunity to flee. I don’t want to create another huge incident just one Zone away from the last one. I think I should go to the next Zone directly.’
Shang started running through the dead Zone. From time to time, he could see lightning bolts strike the dead trees near him, which explained why they all looked so dead.
Shang also saw a couple of Mages and Summoners run past him towards the southeast, probably joining the battle.
It wasn’t easy for Shang to hide in this place, but everyone was too busy charging towards the south anyway. They didn’t really pay much attention to their surroundings.
It took Shang nearly an hour, but he eventually managed to reach the northern edge of this Zone.
Luckily for him, the Blackshadow Kingdom didn’t really put many guards on the borders between their Zones. All the soldiers were probably busy guarding against the Grandmountain Kingdom.
Shang could see a couple of Summoners, but he estimated that they were only at the Early Commander Stage.
‘Wait, what are actually the levels of the Summoners? I mean, they are not warriors. So, I guess saying that they are at the Commander Stage would be wrong.’
‘They are more akin to Mages, but their power can’t compare to a Mage. Calling them True Mages would be overestimating their power.’
‘I guess I should call them True Summoners and the lower ones Adept Summoners and Apprentice Summoners. That makes sense.’
Shang easily got past the two True Summoners defending the border and entered the next Zone.
As soon as he reached the next Zone, the temperature spiked. The last Zone was already quite warm, but this one was just way too hot.
Shang could see lava flow around the Zone like a river, and basically the entire thing was made of black rock.
The Zone Beast obviously had a Fire Affinity, but in comparison to the Volcano Wyrm Zone Shang knew, this Zone was less of a volcano and more of a caldera. The further one went towards the middle of the Zone, the deeper and hotter it got.
‘This is a good spot to remain for the next two weeks,’ Shang thought as he looked at the rocky terrain filled with lava. There were plenty of caves and beasts he could see.
Shang looked around for a while and could see a couple of Summoners, but they were all only Adept Summoners with only very few True Summoners.
‘Still too close to the border for Apprentice Summoners, but not close enough to the border for the True Summoners.’
‘Additionally,’ Shang thought as he looked at the lava lake in the middle of the Zone.
There was a big island made of obsidian in the middle of the lava lake with two black walkways connecting it to the shore.
On the island, Shang could see several tall, black buildings.
This was obviously some form of fortification or city.
‘Looks quite big. Could be that a Duke lives here. I should be careful not to approach.’
Shang was confident in being able to escape the notice of a True Mage, but a High Mage was something completely different.
‘The Spirit Sense of a High Mage is fully developed, and they can probably feel everything in their surroundings for at least five kilometers in radius. I have to stay near the edge of the Zone and get away from the south. If the Duke decides to go to the frontlines, they might notice me.’
Shang frowned. ‘So many unknowns. Usually, I know what awaits me, but I have no idea about how the Blackshadow Kingdom operates. I guess there’s a High Mage there, but it’s also possible that there is no High Mage in that city.’
Shang quickly traveled towards the east of the Zone, doing his best to avoid approaching the big city at its center.
About 30 minutes later, Shang found a hidden cave near the east of the Zone, and he decided to remain there.
Finally, Shang could calm down. This entire operation had been fraught with unknown variables, and he was glad to finally find a relatively safe place.
After getting familiar with the cave, Shang moved his arms around and looked at them with furrowed brows.
‘I feel like I could directly absorb another Abomination, but I can’t take any risks. The way I am absorbing the Abominations is obviously very different from how barbarians strengthen their bodies normally. Instead of tearing the foreign Mana out of their heart and making it mine, the Abominations basically enter my body on their own.’
‘It doesn’t feel like there are any side effects, but I should still be careful. I think waiting for two weeks is best.’
‘Until then, I should get more familiar with my Fire Affinity. This place is filled with Fire Mana, and I should take advantage of it. I’m not too far away from my next checkpoint regarding fire anyway. Should, at most, take a month.’
Shang nodded once when he finished his plan and sat down in the middle of the cave.
Then, he concentrated on his Fire Affinity until he would achieve a breakthrough in that regard.
Sadly, Shang would be interrupted by something else just two days later.
A group of beasts was approaching Shang’s cave.
Thanks to his Pseudo-Spirit Sense, he could feel their approach, even though they all did their best to enter the cave covertly.
Shang’s mind focused on the beasts, and he quickly saw a young woman riding on one of them.
‘Mid Adept Summoner with four beasts, including the Companion Beast.’
Shang inspected the cave and noticed that there was no sign of him having been there, which was good.
Shang took a deep breath and closed his right eye for a second.
Then, he opened it again, conviction shining inside it.
‘I can’t risk getting found.’
Shang immediately exploded out of the cave with a Fire Blast, his speed incomprehensible for a mere Adept Summoner.
The Adept Summoner had only come here to hunt for hidden beasts. She had always wanted one of the Hidden Fire Lizards that lived in these caves. With such a beast, she could take her enemies by surprise, increasing her power.
However, before she could even do anything, her entire world broke down.
After a loud BANG, she saw the head of her Companion Beast leaving its body.
She couldn’t even comprehend what had just happened.
And she wouldn’t get the chance to.
A heavy fist hit the side of her head, caving it in.
She was still alive, but she had lost all consciousness due to that hit.
Shang only coldly looked at the unconscious girl and fled towards the north.
The beasts that had just been under the Summoner’s control only realized that they were free after Shang had already left.
And as soon as they saw the corpse of the Companion Beast and the unconscious Summoner, rage and hatred exploded inside of them, and they attacked.
In a matter of seconds, the girl and the beast were torn to shreds and consumed.
After that, the beasts fled in all directions.
This was not a common occurrence, but it happened from time to time.
Beasts sometimes went out of control and killed their Summoners.
The investigators would search for the young Summoner a couple of days later and find traces of her.
After inspecting her former beasts and the place of her death, they would judge that this had been exactly such a case.
And with that, this incident ended.
No one even suspected that she had been killed by another human. After all, there had been no traces of Magic or a struggle.
It was like her beasts had suddenly gone out of control and had attacked her.
In the meantime, Shang found a new cave and concentrated on his Fire Affinity again, and just three weeks later, he finally achieved his breakthrough.