Path Of Quandary
"How could it be? Someone has already entered the Path of Quandary. That's extremely close to the core!" The old Magus wearing simple attire observed the light yellow notebook in his hands, letting out a low growl. His expression was that of anxiety.
On one of the pages of the light yellow notebook, a general map had been drawn out with weak black lines. There was a little black dot moving slowly in one of the central passageways that was labeled the Path of Quandary.
There were also other dots on this map, but they were all situated at the exterior regions.
The old man himself was marked with a white dot. Though he was much faster than the Morning Stars outside who were being hindered by the labyrinth, he was still at the middle section and a distance away from the core.
In contrast, Leylin's black dot was only a few steps away from the core which was marked in red!
"Damn it, damn it, damn it! Why is there a Magus that's so fast..." the old man cursed, his expression full of impatience and indignance, "It's a pity that I only have the correct method to enter the ruins. I can't control all the secret mechanisms, or else..."
Though the old Magus' ancestor had been a member of Scarlet Crescent, he was merely an ordinary member. While he had participated in the construction of the ruins, he had not been able to make contact with the core areas. Hence, obtaining this map, the password to enter, as well as some information, was the limits of what could be done.
Leylin had also unexpectedly brought forward the timing of the opening of the ruins, causing things to become disadvantageous for the old man. Even if he was hurrying along, careful not to fall into any traps, he was still behind Leylin.
"I don't care anymore! As long as I can get to the core area, I still have a chance of turning the tables!"
The old man angrily used his fingers and traced the map, finding another route. However, just when he was about to move, his pupils suddenly shrank.
A black dot entered the edges of a map. It was several times larger than the rest, and was ringed in red.
The few traps and patterns at the exterior were completely destroyed in the face of the large dot, and even their names disappeared from the map. The man wailed in anguish, "A rank 5 Magus rushed here so quickly. Are you even giving me any chance at all..."
While he kept lamenting, the old man's footsteps did not lose speed. Instead, he began to move more quickly.
If he was slightly slow and allowed the rank 5 Magus to take over this place, this area would no longer be of any concern to him. Besides, there was a certain item at the core region that he needed to obtain, which was his main goal.
"Just wait! Just wait till I get control of the core!"
The old man stared at the little black dot in the Path of Quandary, his expression revealing his frustration.
Leylin, of course, did not know that someone had him in their thoughts. He was now walking on a little pathway of ash-gray stone.
The path was surrounded by white fog on both sides, and it became increasingly dense as it concealed the scenery.
On the still, empty road, only his footsteps sounded unceasingly. The scenery that was exactly the same on both ends made it easy for one to forget time, giving rise to a strong sense of fear.
Combined with the unique power in the fog, even a Magus' tenacious willpower might not hold out.
If it were other lower-ranked Magi, they might long since have broken down, crying and yelling that they wanted to return, begging for release.
However, resolution showed on Leylin's face, as if this was negligible. In the face of his mindset that was ten thousand times more stronger than steel, things that ancient Magi had specifically set up to test one's will were trivial.
As Leylin went deeper in, the surrounding fog became more dense, and even his feet became unclear. Every step seemed like he was walking on clouds.
Leylin took a step, and the scenery suddenly changed.
Now, the room had dark yellow planks and a mouldy ceiling. The squeaks of mice could be heard from the corner.
It was the most common image seen by commoners in the continent. There was not one piece of furniture in this little wooden cabin. Strangely, all that existed was a golden parrot cage at the center, a toad with a pipe in its mouth on top.
"Hey, brother! Are you here to give me a love letter on Miko's behalf? Please tell her that I'm busy and can't make it to the date tomorrow evening!"
The toad was dressed in a black top hat, looking relaxed. It puffed out one white smoke ring after another from the pipe.
"..." Leylin was dumbstruck as he watched the toad, unsure of what was going on.
"Are you not Miko's messenger? Oh! Then it must be Elizabeth. She's the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. That skin, full of folds and spores, as well as those protruding eyes... Oh! She's my angel..."
The toad jabbered on and on, but what it said only baffled Leylin. At one point, he could no longer take it and asked, "Where is this?"
"Quark's cabin, Number 232 at the edge of the world. Is there a problem?" The toad put its pipe down, its large eyes that were like light bulbs shooting Leylin a glance.
Could it be that the Path of Quandary is similar to an astral gate? Has Scarlet Crescent's defensive formation sent me to another plane?' This sudden thought left Leylin unable to decide whether he should laugh or cry.
Many ancient defence systems had a last resort when they encountered an enemy that was much too powerful for the spell formations to be of use- banishment to an alternate world!
This was akin to an astral gate, teleporting Magi out of the Magus world.
As this was a one-time thing with no definite coordinates, unlucky Magi would usually be sent into spatial turbulences far, far away; or even into a giant storm. It would be extremely lucky to find another plane with life on it. However, returning to the Magus world? There was no need to even think about it.
The current situation caused Leylin to have doubts.
At this moment, the floor suddenly began to tremble, seismic waves passing through every few moments.
"What's going on?" Leylin tried scanning with his soul force, but found that his soul force had been repressed to the limit. It could not even see past the cabin.
"It's nothing. I have a new neighbour preparing to move in..."
The toad jumped off the parrot cage nonchalantly, bouncing as it headed out. Leylin turned his head and thought about it for a moment, eventually following behind it.
After opening the door of the wooden cabin, his body suddenly went stiff, eyes flashing with disbelief.
In front of him was a large sandy wasteland. There were black holes and distorted nebulae in the sky, and a large green shadow that seemed to have taken root in the cosmos was shifting its body.
It was a giant ancient tree, its green leaves spilling with a jade-like lustre. Leylin had seen many ancient trees before, and there were enormous trees in Creevey City where houses could be built on their leaves. However, the entirety of Creevey CIty was like a tiny thing in comparison with this gigantic tree, not comparable to even a leaf.
"Hello, new friend! Do you need any help?" After seeing this tree, the toad happily went forward to welcome it, jumping onto a root as thick as a mountain.
Compared to the tree, the toad was like a speck of dust. No! It was ten thousand times smaller than a speck of dust!
Leylin was speechless. Soon after, he realised that he had indeed walked out of a wooden cabin, but the surroundings were a depthless black starry cosmos, and the cabin had been floating in the sky. There was even a shaky scrawl on the bronze door plate, reading 'Number 232, Edge of the World! This house belongs to Toad Quark.'
On that gigantic root the toad had jumped onto was another little cabin, this one constructed askew. There was a number there as well, 233. The name had changed to Wisdom Tree. Leylin had no idea how the big the other party was or how they entered the cabin. Watching the cabin on the tree root, as well as the toad, he could not come up with anything to say.
Shortly after, however, his expression changed. 'The ancient Wisdom Tree? The intellectual being of the Magus World that once enlightened multiple great ancient Magi? The culmination of all wisdom?'
*Rumble!* A few large cracks opened up on the tree that extended to the cosmos, sucking in the violent spatial storms and producing soundless whimpers.
Two enormous, yellowish eyes opened, followed by lips full of wooden lines.
"It's... been... a... long.... time... my... old... friend..." The tree's words were extremely loud. Just the sound waves were enough to blow everything over. Toad Quark had no choice but to hug the root tightly in order not to be blown away by the violent hurricane.
The Wisdom Tree's speech was very slow, taking a minute between syllables. It seemed that each thought required a great amount of time.
"And... also... a ... new... friend..." *Bang!* The ground exploded, and a root that was like a mountain flew over, raising Leylin till he was before the ancient Wisdom Tree, meeting its starry gaze.
"I smell myself on you..." The Wisdom Tree's words were hard to decipher, but Leylin immediately understood what it meant.
"Is it the essence of the ancient Wisdom Tree? And this!" Leylin produced a wooden cup, though it was now empty.
It had once contained the essence of the Wisdom Tree, and had been vital in supporting Leylin's advancement to rank 3. This wooden cup had been said to be made out of the bark of the Wisdom Tree.