"Oh? Okay." Leticia nodded in understanding.
"Greetings, lord Raku. Greetings dear guests." The carriage driver stepped down the carriage and greeted old man Raku and the group when they approached the carriage.
Old man Raku nodded toward him before introducing him, "This is one of our guard captains, a peak three-star mage. He will escort you out of the forest."
"Thank you, grandpa Raku, for the trouble." Max smiled, accepting his kind intensions. With a peak three-star mage, they wouldn't have to worry about any potential attack of three-star beasts on the way.
After saying this, he turned to Rima, whose expression was downcast, and gently cupped her beautiful face.
Smiling lovingly, he consoled, "Don't be like that. This separation is only temporary. I'll come visit you after the selection competition in two months' time, alright? Until then, focus on learning from your master. If you feel bored, you can always visit Maria or play with little Arya."
"Mm." Rima nodded. Seeing his care, she felt warm in her hear and a beautiful smile appeared on her face while her eyes became teary. She tightly hugged him and murmured, "I'll miss you."
Max's heart ached at this. Gently caressing her long hair, he responded, "I'll miss you, too." He was as reluctant as he was when his Lilly separated from him, but he couldn't deprive her of this wonderful opportunity.
After that, Belen and Leticia also consoled Rima and bade them farewell. Little Arya was also downcast because of their departure, so they had to console her, too.
Following this, they sat in the carriage and departed.
Old man Raku, Rima and little Arya watched as the carriage disappeared from their sight.
Noticing that Rima was silently crying, little Arya tugged on her hand and consoled, "Don't cry, big sister. Didn't big brother say that he will visit you often?"
"Mm. That's right." Rima nodded and wiped her tears away, her eyes glinting with determination as she clenched her dainty hands, 'I need to become stronger. A lot stronger than him if I want to stay with him.'
Thinking that, she bade farewell to old man Raku and little Arya and walked toward her master's estate. She didn't want to waste any time.
As Max and the group departed from the city lord's mansion, Jack and Janice in their respective inns received the news and hastily departed.
After half a day, the carriage arrived at the outer fringes of the forest. Because of the beast repelling talismans and the peak three-star escort, their journey was without hitch.
The driver stopped the carriage and called out, "Guests, we've arrived at the periphery of the forest."
The carriage's door opened and Max followed by Belen and Leticia stepped out.
"Guests, my duty was to escort you until here. I shall take my leave now." The guard captain politely said.
"Thank you, sir captain." Max nodded and threw a spatial bag toward him, "This is a small token of appreciation."
The guard captain instinctively caught the spatial bag before shaking his head, he extended his hand to return the bag, "There is no need for this, my lord. I was just doing what I was ordered my superiors."
Max shook his head, "It's alright, sir captain. We shall take our leave now."
Saying this, Max and the two ladies whooshed away, not giving guard captain any chance to respond.
He smiled wryly watching them disappear. Out of curiosity, he opened the spatial bag and his eyes glinted with surprise. There were ten thousand low-grade Mana stones in there. Ten thousand Mana stones? It was his more than three months' salary.
Looking in the direction Max and the company disappeared, he murmured, "They are lord Raku's guests indeed. So generous!"
Suddenly, three hooded figures ran past him and headed in the same direction as Max's group.
"Hm?" Seeing them go about in such a haste, the guard captain frowned slightly before he turned the carriage around and headed to the city.
The three hooded figures were Jack and two elders.
They were running at the top of their speed. After a few minutes, they could see the back of Max's group.
Jack's eyes glinted with a ruthless light as he asked, "Elders, If I'm not wrong, a hundred miles from here, there is a secluded valley, right?"
"Yes, young master!" The elders nodded.
"You guys use escape talismans and move around them. We'll ambush them there." He suggested.
"There is no need to go through so much trouble young master. We can just kill him here." One of the elders viciously said.
"No, this area is wide open. If he uses an escape talisman, he might escape. Moreover, because it's still evening, some traveller might witness us and if the elves find out, they might track us down since that bastard is their honoured guest."
"So, we'll move around them. You guys can recover while we wait in the valley. It'll be dark when they reach there, so ambushing them will be easy and the chances of him escaping using escape talisman will be a lot lower due to the terrain." Jack explained.
"Okay, young master. We'll do as you say." The elders nodded.
After that, the elders used escape talismans which increased their speed by many folds. They grabbed Jack by his shoulders, changed their direction and headed to the said valley.
Unaware of the ambush that lay ahead, Max, Belen and Leticia continued on their way.
After a while, the sun sat and darkness slowly covered everything.
As the trio approached the valley, suddenly, the system's voice sounded in Max's ears, [Kid, be careful. There seems to be some people waiting ahead.]
"Hm?" Max frowned. Why would anyone be waiting in this desolate valley at this time?
However, he knew system would joke around like this. So, he informed Belen and Leticia about it.
"Could they be bandits? I've heard that bandits ambush travellers in this kind of places." Leticia worriedly asked.