Vilewood forest lied to the north of the nayeran territory and was among the most ancient forests on the continent. The forest was filled with large, three hundred meter high millennium old vilewood trees. Their trunk and branches were of a pale white colour and their leaves had the colour of ash. Due to the height of the trees and the thickness of the leafy canopy, not a lot of sunlight was able to knife through it. The few beams of sunlight that were able to do so, were incredibly thin and didn't do much to brighten up the forest and merely served to allow one to somewhat see without having to adjust to the darkness all too much.
Below the trees, the forest was filled with at least three meter tall bushes, most of which carried purplish-black berries the size of apples. Their black trunks and dark grey leaves were in stark contrast with the ancient white trees and added to the mysterious atmosphere.
The forest floor had absolutely no grass on it, but was covered with a plethora of ashen and dark grey leaves and various types of mushrooms in all shapes and sizes. Small creeks carved a path throughout the forest and were sunlight and creeks intersected, a black flower with red tints could be found.
Massive cobwebs the size of trees ran throughout the leafy canopy and between trees, even though no spider could be seen. Ant hills the size of a house, rose up from the forest floor and white ants with a black skull on their back could be seen running back and forth. Ominous howling sounds rang throughout the forest as the wind played with the creaking branches and rustling sounds rang out from most of the white and grey leafed bushes and foliage as animals skittered away.
The guild carefully made their way through the forest, only the ashen and dark grey leaves that continuously crackled beneath their feet alarmed the nearby animals of their movements. Intent on protecting their territory, endless amounts of vilewood cubs, vilewood bears and skull ants swarmed upon the guild, causing them to be forced to cut their way through the forest.
This caused their advance to be tremendously slow as they had to avoid moving throughout the skull ants territory as much as possible. While a few were not hard to handle, there were never just a few around. The cost of capturing the skull ant queen still fresh in their mind, made them apprehensive to experience the same ordeal all over again.
Just capturing the single skull ant queen and five skull ants had previously cost them two hundred levels total and another three hundred nayeran lives were lost in the process, something the new nayeran leader was not all too happy about. However the nayeran leader still deemed the skull ant queen to be worth it as she was a formidable foe in and of itself. Combined with the speed at which she could reproduce if allowed to do so, the skull ant queen was an existence on the same level as a hellweaver queen.
A full day passed and the endless onslaught of vilewood cubs, vilewood bears and skull ants lessened and eventually... stopped. The sound of death cries that had haunted them for a full day replaced with an eerie and ominous silence. The guild grew restless as the suddenness at which the continuous battling changed into that of complete and utter peace was just too odd.
An hour passed and they had not seen a single living being... death ones however were a very common sight. The forest floor was littered with blood drained bodies all over the place, further adding to the guild's restlessness and nervousness.
Finally soft buzzing sounds were heard in the distance along with the cries of skull ants. Zaran's own skull ants and skull ant queen looked at Zaran with a look filled of expectation as they were ready to pounce off and join their brethren, who shook his head and told them to keep close to the guild. From the reaction of his own skull ants, Zaran knew that they were fighting and that large numbers of skull ants were dying, otherwise merely hearing their cries would not provoke such a heavy reaction from his own skull ants.
"Guild! READY UP and be prepared for everything!" Zaran yelled. "Formation as discussed before! Commanders take lead of your assigned troops."
With that said, Zaran and Nuvahn took off on their own. In the past three weeks Zaran had come into realization that his heart of the sword was lacking or what in this game was called the true way of the sword as he had come to realize. While he knew that it was not necessary to fight endlessly by oneself to temper one's heart for the sword, it was absolutely necessary to stabilize or rebuild it. As he had not done so in his current life it was necessary to do so once more.
This starting point was often called path of the lonely sword and was a path most of the so called sword masters ended upon, not realizing that it was only the starting point of the true way of the sword. It had even taken many lives for Zaran to realize it. Was taking up the sword taking up a life of loneliness? Definitely not! Did anyone take up the sword for that purpose? Not at all either. While some could cultivate their heart of the sword to a terrifying degree, it always ended up in a dead end if they did not cultivate other paths.
If Zaran had to explain it, he would find himself having to put it in the following words: "One who fights a hundred battles alone, will be an expert in fighting by himself. His path will end at the moment he is forced to fight alongside someone. One who has fought a hundred battles alongside someone, will find death the moment he has to protect... and one who has fought a hundred battles to protect, will find death the moment he no longer has to protect."
Even so, in Zaran's mind one who has fought a hundred real battles by himself, to defend and to protect, had finally reached the real starting point of a becoming a sword master as at this point one qualified to truly start becoming one with the sword. While the path remained its difficulty even if one know how to tread upon it, it was far easier to progress if one knew it.
Nuvahn, his sister, Irina and Florance were obviously told what Zaran's plan was and although reluctant to have him go off on his own, let him do so. As Zaran's disciple Nuvahn could not not follow in his footsteps and thus started cultivating his heart of the sword much like Zaran.
Soon, Zaran, Nuvahn and the guild reached the source of the sound at approximately the same time but each quite the distance from each other.
Two meter big mosquitoes and skull ants were fighting over a large swat of forest. The mosquitoes circled around the ants and stabbed them with their proboscis, while the ants tried to cut the mosquitoes in two with a single bite from their mandibles. For every ant or mosquito killed, another joined the fray and made sure the battle endlessly continued. The battle seemed quite even as even though the mosquitoes had the advantage in speed, eventually they would be grabbed by one of the skull ants and instantly killed.
However even though it seemed even, Zaran could see that the ants were slowly starting to get outnumbered. Knowing that he would not have too much additional time before the mosquitoes would wipe the floor with the ants, Zaran ran further along to the side where the mosquitoes came from, intent on finding the source of the mosquitoes and stopping them.