"I don't think I can. I already have a party of my own and we have things to do as well," Grano refused Modune's request.
"What do you need to do?" Modune asked.
"It's personal," Grano said.
"Does it pertain to the hidden oasis?"
Grano glanced at Kang Oh and saw him slightly shake his head. He wanted him to say no.
"No," Grano said.
"Then how about this?"
"I have several men under my wing, so I can help you with your business, and in return, you help me find the hidden oasis."
Modune stubbornly tried to recruit Grano.
"I'm fine. I can make due with my companions."
Grano planned on refusing, regardless of Modune's offer.
"Mr. Grano, please don't be like that. Work with us; if you do, we'll give you half of the treasure."
Grano furrowed his brow. Both Modune's words and actions were rude.
"I told you, I have my own companions," Grano calmly said.
Modune turned his head, gazing at Kang Oh and Eder.
"Then they can come too. Don't you want to find the hidden oasis' treasure?"
Once Modune looked his way, Kang Oh scowled.
Kang Oh shrugged his shoulders.
In place of a reply, Eder yawned.
Modune's expression stiffened. They weren't the responses he'd expected.
"Come and find me if you change your mind. I'm staying in the Haroko Inn."
Modune stood up.
Grano slightly bowed his head.
"But please don't take too much time. If I find the hidden oasis myself, then you won't get a penny of the treasure, Mr. Grano."
Modune, who'd said everything he'd come to say, looked at Kang Oh and Eder and added, "You guys too!"
Then, he left the yurt.
* * *
Once he left the yurt, one of Modune's men on standby came over. He bore a bushy beard and was also Modune's right-hand man.
"Did things go well?"
Modune's voice was annoyed, clearly signaling that things hadn't gone as he wished.
"We've used every method available to us to search the desert, but... we've been here for more than a month now, yet we haven't found even the smallest of clues," his right-hand man said.
"Tch," Modune clicked his tongue.
He'd ordered his men to scour the desert for a month, but they hadn't found any info or leads regarding the hidden oasis.
Therefore, they needed a clear lead or a guide.
"The king ordered us to return if we couldn't find it," his right-hand man glanced at him and said quietly.
"Ask the king for some more time. I, the Insect Mage, Modune, can't give up that easily," Modune said.
"I understand. What do you plan to do from now on?" his right hand asked.
"If things had gone as planned, then we would've found the hidden oasis with the foremost expert on the Bariton Desert, Grano. But Grano is already looking for the hidden oasis with others."
Modune recalled what he'd discussed with Grano.
Grano stated that he wasn't looking for the hidden oasis.
However, he had noticed Grano glance at Kang Oh before replying.
In other words, Grano hadn't told him the truth.
Thus, he tried tempting him with the offer of treasure.
Yet, Grano didn't seem very interested in the treasure. His comrades responded much the same.
They were looking for the hidden oasis too. That's why they weren't interested in Modune's offer to share the treasure.
He gave up on his original plan (winning Grano over) and formulated a new one.
"But... what would happen if there was a competitor like me searching for the hidden oasis as well?" Modune asked.
"Wouldn't they go looking for it ASAP so that you don't find it first?" his right-hand man stated.
"I've thrown the bait, so now all we have to do is cast the net and wait."
His eyes, which were mostly concealed by his plump face, somehow managed to gleam a sharp light.
* * *
Once Modune had left the yurt, Kang Oh, Eder, and Grano gathered around the brazier.
"It seems like we're not the only ones looking for the hidden oasis," Eder said.
"The hidden oasis is the Bariton Desert's most famous legend. It's only natural that there'd be several people looking for it. It's just that all of them end up failing," Grano said.
The hidden oasis was located within the Bariton Desert, and contained a ton of treasure as well.
Thus, with rumors like this, there were those like Kang Oh and Modune who came to the Bariton Desert, seeking the hidden oasis.
"Mr. Kang Oh, shouldn't we find the hidden oasis before Modune does?" Eder asked Kang Oh.
Kang Oh didn't reply; it seemed like he was engrossed in thought.
He was thinking about Modune.
Once he saw Modune's face, he felt a sense of anger and disgust. It wasn't because of Modune's physical appearance.
'I felt this desire to bash his face in all of a sudden... Which means...'
It was the same feeling he'd felt when Eder had planned to backstab him.
'It's Hyper Intuition; it's telling me that he's going to come after me!'
In other words, Modune would try to backstab him in the future.
How would he go about it then?
'He offers half the treasure but doesn't give it when the time comes?'
Modune had stated that he'd give them half of the treasure if they found the hidden oasis together.
But what if he didn't intend on giving them any of the treasure?
'No... that's not it.'
Kang Oh shook his head.
If that were true, then Modune would've tried even harder to win Grano over. Offering half of the treasure didn't work, so he would've offered an even greater reward.
He wasn't going to give them any of the treasure, so he would've offered any amount for Grano to join them.
Kang Oh was locked in thought, but Eder couldn't stand it any longer and called him.
"Mr. Kang Oh!"
"What?" Kang Oh subconsciously replied.
"Shouldn't we go looking for the hidden oasis too?"
"Why?" Kang Oh subconsciously replied once more.
"If Modune finds the hidden oasis first, then it'll all have been for nothing."
Kang Oh figured out what Modune's plan was.
Why exactly did Eder want them to find the hidden oasis ASAP?
It was because Modune had led him to think that way!
"That's it. That's what he's doing!"
Kang Oh clapped his hands.
"What? What is he doing?"
"Modune, that bastard. He's trying to use us as hunting dogs. When we find the hidden oasis, he'll come out and kill us!"
Kang Oh gritted his teeth.
Grano also suddenly recalled something.
"Haa, so they almost got me, didn't they?"
Eder also understood the situation. He had been acting exactly as Modune had wanted.
The room was momentarily silent.
When it seemed as though they had finished organizing their thoughts, Kang Oh spoke.
"First, we should gather some information on Modune. Where he came from, what kind of guy he is, how many men he has, etc. The more information, the better."
"I'll go ask around at the magic tower," Grano said.
The Mage's Tower was a group with immense power, and its intelligence network was impressive.
"Then what should we do from now on?" Eder asked.
"Let's keep going as planned. First, let's clear all of the hidden dungeons and then slowly go looking for the hidden oasis," Kang Oh said.
He had no intention of following Modune's plans.
They'd eventually go find the hidden oasis, but that would only be after they'd finished all their other business in the Bariton Desert first.
"But what if Modune finds the hidden oasis while we're doing that?"
Eder sported an expression that seemingly said 'I don't even want to think about it.'.
"That won't happen. If he had the ability to do so, then he wouldn't have come looking for Mr. Grano. And they wouldn't attempt to backstab us like this either."
If Modune had the ability to find the hidden oasis, then he wouldn't have gone through the effort of finding Grano and making things complicated for himself.
Since he'd just need to take his men to the hidden oasis and take everything there.
But the fact that he was going through such lengths meant that Modune couldn't find the hidden oasis himself.
"You're right," Grano agreed.
"I understand," Eder accepted.
"We'll prepare ourselves slow and steady. And when Modune comes for us, he'll be in for a surprise; we'll crush them!"
Kang Oh emphasized the word 'crush'.
Eder and Grano looked at him resolutely, supporting the notion.
'How dare they?'
Kang Oh's eyes gleamed.
They didn't necessarily need to fight Modune.
He could choose to clear the hidden oasis and then retreat using a return scroll. Modune would be the one who'd come here for nothing.
However, this method wasn't Kang Oh's style.
When there was someone he didn't like, he'd use strength to overpower them and pay them back tenfold; only then would he feel refreshed. And in the process, he'd make some money too.
Not only that!
'Good of you to come, Modune!'
Kang Oh was pissed that Beskamen I's tomb had caved in, but conveniently, he'd found a way to vent his anger.
Kang Oh gritted his teeth.
"I'll chew you up and spit you out."
* * *
Kang Oh's party left the Hapdala oasis riding their camels.
Eder looked around everywhere. It was as if he were looking for something that was watching him.
"Are you trying to tell them that we already know what their plan is?" Kang Oh scolded.
"I was just curious how they'd watch us."
Eder scratched his head.
"Even if you see someone watching us, pretend that you haven't seen them."
There was no reason to make Modune's men feel conscious.
Eder kept his face glued to the front.
"Then, Mr. Grano. Please keep guiding us."
Grano nodded his head.
He was wearing the turban Amil had dropped.
"It's said to be a necessity in the desert... is it nice?" Kang Oh recalled the turban's effect and asked.
"If we mass produce these and sell them to the desert people, then we'd make a fortune."
The turban protected the wearer from the intense heat of the beating sun and sand. It was definitely a necessity in the desert.
Kang Oh was a player, so he couldn't really feel the heat of the desert. It was like a sweltering summer day.
It was indeed hot, but it wasn't as hot as a desert normally should be; therefore, Grano's statement really didn't apply to him.
However, he'd always be interested in money.
"If you need a partner later down the line, then please tell me."
He'd sell them at an expensive price.
Grano nodded his head.
"I have extensive knowledge of medicine. If you need my help, then feel free to ask," Eder said.
He was the Legendary Healer; he was an expert when it came to diseases and medicine.
"Hoo, hoo. I understand."
A soft smile appeared on the handsome middle-aged man's face.
"Ah, didn't you say there were mysterious places in the desert? Please tell me about those places," Kang Oh said.
"There's a singing hill within the Bariton Desert. It's located in..."
Kang Oh's party continued to converse atop their camels and traversed over the sand dunes.
Monsters occasionally popped up as if men chatting wasn't very interesting.
A group of Black Scorpions, Desert Snakes, and Monster Cacti.
As well as the sand eating Sandurions!
The Sandurions kept appearing as if someone kept sending monsters at Kang Oh's party.
Once Kang Oh bashed a Sandurion's head with his demon sword, the Sandurion's pincer dropped into the sand and drooped.
[You have defeated a Sandurion.]
[You have completed the quest, Kill the Sandurions!]
He'd completed the quest to kill 200 Sandurions!
"Ok, that's 50 gold."
Kang Oh recalled the quest reward and smiled.
Then, Grano extended his hand.
He was pointing somewhere.
Kang Oh turned his head in that direction.
At the tip of the endless expanse of desert, he saw a quarry made of red clay–colored rocks.
"That's?" Kang Oh asked.
"Yes, that's the Turu Canyon. It's also known as the Canyon of Wisdom."Previous Chapter Next Chapter