Cracks like a dense spider web spread wildly on the entire surface of the stalactite pillar. The ground shook, raising sand and dust violently. The man stared blankly at the seal before him. He couldn't understand how the seal got destroyed that easily. Serving as a peg for the Earth Elemental Spirit, the sealing spell had spread throughout the entire solid stalactite pillar. Even if that woman had struck its surface, it shouldn't be this devastating!
"What are you doing? The seal has been unlocked and that monster is about to awaken. Let's go!" The Elf Mage lurched forward and grabbed his arm. The man came back to his senses and nodded hurriedly. He turned around and ordered the mercenaries. "Mission has failed. Retreat immediately!"
The growling trembles were as though rough, surging waves in the ocean. Rhode darted through the tunnel with a smirk. The man couldn't understand how Rhode destroyed the seal. However, Rhode didn't simply rely on blind luck. Just like the man had thought, the stalactite pillar itself was a massive seal and cracking part of it wouldn't release the Earth Elemental Spirit. And yet, the weapon on Rhode's hand had actually dealt a fatal blow.
Madaras-15% magical immunity was the main culprit of this seal unlock.
Of course. Rhode couldn't ensure that he would succeed in a single attempt. But he could increase the probability of triggering it. The stalactite pillar acted as a peg for the seal where the sealing spell was ever-present, flowing, and suppressing the Earth Elemental Spirit's powers within it. Madaras was a magical weapon and when Rhode punctured it into the pillar, it inevitably entered the system of the sealing spell. In other words, the magical flow in the pillar had been disrupted ever since Madaras had pierced into it. Under such circumstances, there wasn't an issue with the probability in triggering the magical immunity anymore.
After Madaras's magical immunity took effect, it instantly disrupted the effects of the sealing spell as though a stone got stuck in an operating machine. Even if it was for an instant, it was enough for it to crumble completely.
Ordinary magical weapons wouldn't affect the stalactite pillar at all. However, Madaras was as deadly and lethal as poison. If Rhode didn't have this weapon, perhaps it would be extremely challenging to unlock the seal using such a brutal method...
A boulder fell from the ceiling and Rhode stepped aside to dodge it swiftly. He lifted his head and squinted at the dusky tunnel ahead. He laid his hands before him and two daggers flew out from his skirt, radiating icy-cold brilliance. The sharp, beaming spiritual blade rays sliced through the extremely fragile tunnel and gravel flooded down abruptly.
Cough cough. Rhode turned around and the entire tunnel had been blocked. It seemed that it indeed had somewhat troublesome consequences for handling the stalactite pillar too roughly. Although he wished to slip away immediately, he had something else that he needed to attend to...
The violent trembles forced Emily off-balance and she slammed onto the rock wall. But even so, she grunted and scanned the surroundings in distress. She didn't know what had happened and the horrifying memories from before came back to haunt her. Could it be that the underground monsters have attacked this mine too? Uncle Carter said that he will leave with Miss Seren and I. Why haven't I seen her yet? Could it be... Miss Seren is in some kind of trouble?
Suddenly, a strange-looking shadow darted before her eyes and the two mercenaries standing guard around Emily collapsed to the ground. "Miss Seren?!"
"Miss Emily, I'm so glad that you're doing fine." Rhode emerged, filthy from his head to toes. Not only that, the cloak over his shoulders was tattered by the falling rocks in the tunnel. Although Rhode was a formidable person, he wasn't totally invincible in avoiding them.
"Miss Seren? What happened to you?"
"Now isn't the time to catch up, Miss Emily," Rhode grabbed Emily's hand. "We have to leave here right away. The people that we met summoned the monsters and created the earthquakes. They're trying to unlock the seal and summon an even bigger and scarier monster!"
"Huh?!" exclaimed Emily.
In fact, Emily had indeed suspected this possibility when she first detected Carter's peculiar behavior. However, she didn't believe that both families would have a hatred so deep that the Howard Family had to resort to this, and she chose to think that this was probably an accident. But now, Rhode's words had smashed her foolish thoughts. "Is this true, Miss Seren?"
"Yes, I felt a little dubious when we first met them. While that man led you away, I sneaked away and investigated the place. I discovered evidence that they've manipulated the monsters and they're unlocking the seal to an even more powerful monster. Those people realized my actions and tried to capture me, but I managed to escape... I don't know what exactly is that seal, but it seems best for us to leave here as soon as possible!"
"Okay!" Emily nodded with all her might. But suddenly, the situation took a strange turn.
The deep, continuous rumbles stopped abruptly and the entire underground returned to its original silence. It felt so surreal as though what had been happening was just a dream and an illusion. Emily stamped her foot to feel the flat, solid ground.
But this wasn't the end.
The air became thicker and they faced some difficulties in breathing.
A heavy, unprecedented pressure expanded slowly.
"Go! Miss Emily!" Rhode gripped Emily's hand and both of them darted along the gradual slope.
That damn monster is about to be awakened.
Sensing the immense elemental powers from behind his back, the man darted rigidly with his sword and torch while the Elf Mage and mercenaries followed closely. The presence that had lost its restriction was slowly opening its eyes.
"Faster. Everyone follow closely. We must leave this place." The man turned back to face the crowd behind him. He bit his lips and a trace of anger and remorse revealed on his face. Why? Why did it fail? Everything has gone according to plan. If it wasn't for that mysterious woman, I wouldn't have fallen to this pathetic state.
The Earth Elemental Spirit was about to be awakened and it would massacre every single life form in the underground. His strength was still far from matching up with this powerful presence.
"Sir! In front...!"
A startled scream dragged the man back to reality. He waved the torch before him and his expression turned ashen instantly. The tunnel had been completely buried in gravel.
"This..." The Elf Mage tugged the man's sleeve anxiously and looked on with a pale expression. The man turned around with a hesitant expression. He gaped, and...
There wasn't any wind, but the torch extinguished abruptly. Then, darkness filled the entire tunnel.
The Elf Mage said with a shaky voice. "... Earth Elemental Spirit... has awakened..."
A sharp sound of wind sounded behind them.
Rhode carried Emily in his arms and rolled forward, crashing into the ground heavily. The frantic wind merely brushed them. The warm, beautiful sun shone on them, reminding them of how much they had missed it. Rhode heaved a sigh of relief and stood to his feet. He gazed into the deep, pitch-black tunnel from its entrance. Although there were no strange occurrences, Rhode knew that the underground world had become an entirely different place.
The Earth Elemental Spirit had been fully awakened and his mission was accomplished. No matter what happened next would have nothing to do with him... Come to think of it, who exactly were those people? Judging from their appearance, they should be from the Country of Light. But why did they come here to threaten the Howard Family? It's a pity that I need to rush off without socializing with them. Anyway... Whether they're alive or not has nothing to do with me anymore.
Rhode turned to face Emily with a warm smile and extended his arm. "Are you okay, Miss Emily? Let's go back to the city."
The forest was in complete silence.
An array of green light rays projected from the underground. Shortly after, a dozen magical markings swiftly arranged and assembled into a tiny ritual circle on the ground. Then, two exhausted figure emerged from within and collapsed to the ground.
The pale-faced Elf Mage panted, holding onto her dim staff and kneeling on the ground. The man in black swordsman armor beside her gritted his teeth and pushed his clenched fists on the ground. He glared with bloodshot eyes and an unprecedented wrath and pain emerged between his brows.
"Damn... Why has it become like this... Uncle Raul has..."
"Sir, please... don't blame yourself..."
The Elf Mage forced herself to her feet and tottered to the man. She pressed on his shoulder and consoled softly. "It isn't your fault, Sir... My teleportation can only transport two people. And Uncle Raul and the guys are willing to stay in there..."
"I know!" The man bellowed.
His arms trembled as he clenched his fists tightly. He couldn't forget that scene. In the darkness, countless Earth Elemental creatures attacked them and they were convinced that the horrifying underground world would be their deathbeds. However, Uncle Raul gave up his hopes of survival and led his men to fend off the creatures in order to buy time for both of them to escape using teleportation. The cruel image of his close companions devoured and ripped apart by the monsters before him was permanently imprinted in his mind.
"I know... But... This is all my fault. If only I didn't seize the chance to manipulate the Earth Elemental Spirit that was sealed peacefully underneath, then maybe things wouldn't end up this way!"
"..." The Elf Mage revealed a hesitant look and sighed slightly. Both of them stood in the dusky, silent forest without speaking a word.
The day had approached its end, and the man let out a deep, long sigh. "I'm sorry, Cheryl. I didn't mean to vent my frustrations on you. I feel that... I'm too useless."
"Do you regret it, Sir?"
"No... I know what you're trying to say. Thank you, Cheryl. I just lost my self-control at the moment, I'm sorry..."
The man said that and he realized that he had been leaning on the Elf Mage closely. A blush smeared across his face and he drew a distance between them hurriedly. "S-Sorry, Cheryl. I didn't do it on purpose..."
"Ah. It's okay, Sir. I don't mind."
The Elf Mage let out a bitter laugh as she gazed at the bewildered man with a trace of disappointment revealing in her eyes. However, the man didn't realize his companion's strange behaviors. Instead, he remained silent for a few moments and turned toward the range of hills with knitted brows.
"... Cheryl. That woman who has spoiled our plans. Do you know anything about her?"
"... You're referring to... Miss Miranda Seren? I'm sorry, Sir, I'm not familiar with her. The Seren Trade Association isn't considered a powerful financial group in the Country of Light... But, I think that she isn't just an ordinary merchant... If she indeed came from the Country of Light, perhaps Dante has some information..."
"... You're saying that she may be a lackey of the financial groups?"
"... Sorry, Sir. This is only my guess..."
"You don't have to apologize, Cheryl. No matter what her true identity is, I will not let this matter end just like this. I don't know what she wants exactly. But it's fairly obvious that she isn't standing on our side... We have to hurry back to the town of Fiat, so we have a chance to seek revenge on her!" The man swung his fist with all his might. He looked on with a determined expression and burning wrath glinted in his eyes. "I will not let this matter off! Uncle Raul and the guys shall not die in vain. No matter who she is, she will pay the price!"