The treasury suddenly reeked with a strong smell of blood after the two entered the Hell Gates. Roars and snarls echoed alongside the surging mana fluctuations, and from the flickering light of the Hell Gates, everyone saw the sinister Hellish creatures within. Devils made of flames and blood, young monsters spurting thick smoke from their mouths, ugly and sinister Yakshas.
All they could see was a sea of Evil Spirits and Ghouls. No one knew which corner of Hell those Hell Gates were linked to, but just by seeing these creatures, everyone knew that this wouldn't be a simple battle. Even the lowest Evil Spirit was at least level 20. But now, there were dozens of them, not to mention the scattered juvenile monsters and Yakshas, as well as Cerberus and Hell Horses appearing. Even an Archmage might not be able to survive in those conditions.
But no one could tell the exact situation within the two Hell Gates, so they could only worry outside, waiting for the outcome.
Time passed, seeming extremely slow to the others. None of the twenty members of the joint exploration team said anything. Nothing could be heard besides their breaths and heartbeats.
They were all waiting anxiously.
They didn't know how long they had been waiting, it could have been one hour, or maybe two.
But this stifling wait made them lose their minds. Lys was the first to find out that one of the Hell Gates suddenly flickered.
Then, he froze.
He felt a sinking feeling in his heart.
Fran walked out of the Hell Gate...
'It's over, it's Fran. After Fran became an Archmage, Lin Yun could no longer compete with him. Even with his unfathomable power, when faced with a genuine Archmage, he truly couldn't win.'
Although he had already prepared himself to some extent, seeing Fran walking out of the Hell Gate by himself was very disappointing.
'Fran indeed won...'
Fran was the final victor of the struggle over loot priority. It was the first time he felt so powerful after becoming a Master Alchemist.
After forcibly shaking his head, Lys slowly walked forward.
But just as Lys was about to speak, the other Hell Gate flickered.
It was followed by Lin Yun walking out of the Hell Gate while cutting a sorry figure.
"High Mage Fran, you let me win."
"Ah?" When Lys heard that, his mind shook. 'What was this? Didn't Fran come out of the Hell Gate?
'Hold on... There must be something wrong...' Lys composed himself before raising his eyes to look at Fran. At that time, Lys suddenly realized that Fran didn't look too good. Fran had left the Hell Gate first, and even if he didn't say anything to ridicule everyone, he would still have had the arrogant smile of a victor.
But Fran's face was ashen.
Especially after Merlin left the Hell Gate and thanked Fran for "letting him win", Fran acted just like a cat whose tail was being stepped on as he stood straight and shouted, "Mafa Merlin, you cheater!"
"High Mage Fran, you can't speak nonsense. You are accusing me of cheating in front of so many people?" Lin Yun coldly snorted.
"If you say you didn't cheat, then why was there no Hell Core in my Hell Gate?" The pale Fran stood there, pointing at Lin Yun with one finger while shaking.
Lys finally understood a bit of what had happened from this exchange.
It turned out that Fran, who left the Hell Gate first, hadn't actually destroyed it. It seemed that Fran never found the Hell Core after entering the Hell Gate. In other words, Fran went on a wild goose chase.
How could a Hell Gate have no core?
As a Master Alchemist, although Lys hadn't grasped Hell Gates, he still had some understanding of Artisan rank arrays.
The so-called Hell Gate actually borrowed the force of an array to cut out an area of Hell, and the creatures within that area would become the guards of the array's source. And this was all accomplished through the Hell Core. To some degree, the Hell Core was both a mana source and the actual core of the array.
Even an Apprentice Alchemist who just started treading on that path knew something as basic as the fact that a Hell Array would stop functioning without its Hell Core.
How could Fran fail to find it?
Lys wasn't the only one with that question, because Fran also wanted to understand.
Thus, Fran promptly decided, "No way, this didn't count!"
When these words came out, let alone Lin Yun and Lys, the entire joint exploration team was shocked. At that time, everyone looked at Fran with contempt, and William even let out a derisive snort.
It was to the point that even Suyass' face creased into a frown.
'This is truly tarnishing our reputation...'
An esteemed disciple of the Mercury Tower refused to acknowledge that he had lost a wager in front of everyone. If this came out, the Mercury Tower's reputation would be completely trashed by Fran's actions.
"If I say that it doesn't count, then it doesn't count!" Fran didn't care about the others' gazes. He only opening his two reddened eyes like a mad gambler. He waved both hands about while loudly yelling, "Mafa Merlin, you must have used a trick. Otherwise, how could there be no Hell Core within the Hell Gate?"
"High Mage Fran is being a bit excessive..." Lin Yun scratched his nose as he looked at Fran for a bit before looking at Suyass. He couldn't understand... They were both Nolan's disciples and both came from the Mercury Tower, so how could there be such a huge gap between them?
Although Suyass was excessively arrogant and was willing to be unscrupulous for the benefit of the Mercury Tower, there was one quality about him worth praising, which was that he knew how to accept a loss.
Fran was the perfect opposite.
"You know the truth, Mafa Merlin. I already decided on my magic materials! Since you don't want to abide by the rules and you resorted to cheating in the Hell Gate, then it wouldn't be strange for me not to abide by the rules either!" Fran could no longer retreat. The battle he had thought he would easily win had actually been lost.
But he refused to give up on those magic materials.
So Fran had only one choice left.
Just as he finished his words, Fran started incanting and displayed the true power of an Archmage. All the mana in the surroundings was ferociously drawn in, making everyone feel stifled. Fran then raised his magic staff, and a pair of icy and hot halos were spinning towards Lin Yun.
"Fran! You dare!" Lys was the first to react, his magic staff already on the move as a Runic Shield formed.
How could his Runic Shield contend with the power of an Archmage? Even though Lys had been famous for decades and could stand shoulder to shoulder with Solomon in Thousand Sails City, he was still weak in front of an Archmage.
The icy and hot halos knocked against the Runic Shield just as it appeared. Only an explosion was heard as Lys was directly sent flying, knocking against a dozen of chests filled with magic materials and spilling quite a few of them. Lys was buried under them.
"Lys! You dare to make a move against me!?" Fran sneered after the failure of the twin element halo. With a flourish of his magic staff, an irresistible power appeared within the pile of magic materials before tightly winding around Lys.
Then, Lys slowly floated out of the pile, slowly rising into the air. He wanted to struggle, to fight for air, but now that he couldn't break away from that unseen frightening magic power, he felt as if a large, unseen hand was tightly grasping his neck.
"I still wanted to consider our previous friendship..." Fran was like a whole new person now. After restraining his old friend, cruelty and excitement formed in his eyes.
"But I didn't expect that you would act against me on Mafa Merlin's behalf. Very good, very good. Since that's the case, I don't have to remain lenient. You are dead to me now..." Fran's grasp on his magic staff slowly tightened, and the mana constricting Lys also increased.
Fran knew that there was only one ending at this point.
He was already standing on the opposite side of the rest of the joint exploration team. Now, all he could do was to use his power to make the country bumpkins of Thousand Sails City learn that they must never provoke an Archmage. Even the leader of Thousand Sails City's Alchemist Guild would pay the price with his life.
"Ah?" But, after a few seconds, Fran felt something wrong.
He had already increased the mana output to the limit, so how could Lys still be alive?
No, he wasn't just alive... Lys' situation seemed to be getting better and better. He was no longer struggling and his breathing settling down.
'What is happening?'
The first reaction Fran had was to think, 'Could there be an issue with the Crystal Scales? Has my Archmage level power left me? No way, this is impossible.'
Fran immediately denied that conjecture, because he could clearly feel that his power was still within the Archmage boundary. That unprecedented feeling of power was no different from before.
'But why... Why hasn't Lys died?'
While Fran was hesitating indecisively, a ball of flames began to grow within his line of sight. 'Fuck, Flame Burst!' Fran was startled out of his bewilderment. At this time, he looked up and saw that Lys was no longer entangled. Still not understanding what had happened, he cast an Elemental Shield.
That was the signature defensive spell of an Archmage. It was made of the four elements, and whether an attack was physical or magical, close or long range, its defensive ability was top-notch compared to the Runic Shield of an Archmage. The latter was just like a child's toy in comparison.
But Fran hadn't thought that a nearly unbreakable spell like the Elemental Shield would actually be as fragile as a piece of paper in front of that Flame Burst. Fran didn't even comprehend what was happening when the Flame Burst passed through the Elemental Shield.
Then, it heavily smashed into Fran's chest.
It was too different from the icy and hot halos that hit Lys just before.
As the dazzling flames blossomed, Fran felt like a kite with its string broken as he was sent flying back a few dozen meters, still slightly burning.
"I told you, High Mage Fran, you are being a bit excessive.