The group walked along the mound, and entered a small patch of woods to their right.
In the midst of the forest, a pitch black pit gaped open at a slant on the grassy ground. It was surrounded by vines and grass, and they could only vaguely feel the cold draft rushing out from between the cracks.
Andy went forth, using his hunting knife to cut apart some of the wild growth, revealing the entire cave.
He lowered his head, and immediately saw a row of faint footprints on the ground. Some grass had been flattened underfoot, and had yet to bounce back up completely.
"It’s here." Andy pointed ahead, and a black shadow darted out from behind him, leaping into the cave with a whoosh. "I sent Black Panther ahead, please wait for a moment, guys."
The group scattered and stood apart, constantly aware of the surrounding situation.
A black wolf appeared by Cayduran’s feet, white smoke bubbling from its mouth. It was evidently a Fire Wolf that had been raised to a very high level, almost approaching Form 2.
His hand moved slightly, and the Black Wolf immediately stood up, and began to walk casual circles around the surrounding forests.
Everyone was on alert. This was a bandits’ cave, and they needed to be constantly aware of any movements around them. After all, several batches of city guards had already perished here. The other side would surely anticipate stronger reinforcements to follow.
Garen stood beside Goth, the neon butterfly perched on his shoulder.
He knew very well that there weren’t just any normal bandits in this cave, but an extremely powerful Luminarist.
The Totem Light would only demonstrate its own defensive power when similarly attacked by Totem Light.
With his current Neon Butterfly’s defensive power, even twice of that wouldn’t be anything in front of regular totems. Even a Black Wolf would be able to break through his defense easily. Garen was mainly relying on his own Divine Statue Technique for defense. Due to the different in quality, the Divine Statue Technique’s Body Hardening Technique couldn’t be all that powerful against the Totem Light either.
Garen compared himself, and after adding the two together, he decided he was more or less equal to Andy’s Black Panther.
"Cayduran, your Black Wolf is almost Form 2, isn’t it?" Jessica started talking to Cayduran quietly. The two of them grew up together, and although Jessica’s older brother didn’t get along with Cayduran, Jessica herself was pretty
friendly with him.
"There’s still a long way yet. Although I managed to find some ways to raise it, there’s still some distance to go before it reaches Fire Wolf level." Cayduran shook his head. "The later part of evolution is an upgrade in total quality, too many people get stuck here."
Jessica found some questions about evolution and start chatting idly with Cayduran, as a way to kill time.
Cana had her hands tied with Valerie, but no one knew what they were talking about.
Garen released his Neon Butterfly to make patrols in the sky over his head, paying close attention to anything that might happen.
Goth, on the other hand, released that ink-colored Blackfield Bird. It was just a wooden bird, that couldn’t do anything but move its eyes.
By then, Andy had also more or less completed his scouting. Frowning, he turned around and said, "There’s a fork in the road ahead. Two roads, do you want to go on?"
"It shouldn’t be too big a problem, they’re just bandits. I myself cleaned up a lot on my own before, and that was totally fine."
"What if we’re sealed inside?" Jessica began to hesitate.
"It’s fine, I know penetration tactics, I can open up a tunnel in a second. As long as there isn’t Totem Light in the way, we don’t have to worry about any other materials," Cayduran replied with a smile.
"I’ll be the one to lead my sister, I don’t need your crap." Andy gave him an angry glance.
"Would it kill you to keep your mouth clean!" Cayduran was mad too. "Forget it, we’ll go in first. When we reach the fork, we’ll each take one side, just read the signals when we get there. Let’s go."
He led the Black Wolf down into the tunnel, followed closely by Cana. And then Valerie glared at Garen with disdain, chasing behind Cana.
"We’ll go too." Andy waved his hand, and was the first to enter. He held a small white ball in his hand, but Garen didn’t know what it was. Judging by the expression of wariness on his face, it evidently wasn’t any normal item.
Goth went second, Jessica third, and Garen was the very last.
It was pitch black in the tunnel, and all they could hear was the smattering of Andy’s footsteps from ahead.
Garen followed behind the three of them, feeling the air grow colder and colder, and the tunnel grew wider. Cayduran and the
the others, who had gone ahead, were gone without a trace.
"Be careful, don’t get left behind," Andy’s voice came from the furthest front.
"I know." "Relax."
The three of them replied in turn. In these pitch black surroundings, the four of them couldn’t see very well with their eyes, so they had to follow behind Andy’s Black Panther to advance. The Black Panther’s brilliant green eyes shone slightly luminescent in the darkness, like two oval emeralds.
After walking another distance, Andy suddenly stopped.
"We’ve reached the fork. They took the left side, we’ll do the right."
The group continued advancing down the right side, and quickly came across yet another fork in the road.
"Wait!" Andy’s voice suddenly held a hint of anxiety.
He walked a little further forward, to the front of the Black Panther, and took out two flints from his pocket
The spark lit and died in the darkness, followed by the soft rustle of burning. The small torch Andy had prepared was instantly lit up, and it lit up the rest of the cave as well.
"There’s some trouble…" Under the bright red firelight, Andy’s complexion changed slightly.
The other three quickly hurried up to him.
"What’s the matter?" Goth approached him.
"Ah!" Jessica suddenly clapped her hand to her mouth and took one step back.
Garen saw it too. In front of Andy, there was the naked corpse of a man hanging upside down.
The corpse had brown hair and deathly pale skin. A large hole had been dug out of his abdomen, with swarms of maggots and black ants crawling around within.
The man’s eyes were opened wide, as though he had encountered something especially painful.
With a whoosh, the Black Panther leapt up and cut the rope suspending the body with one wipe of its paw.
The corpse fell to the ground with a whumpf, landing next to Andy. He crouched down to examine it closely.
"He’s been dead for four or five days, but he doesn’t stink at all… This damned bandits!" He turned the corpse, and pulled a short black arrow from his back. Andy looked at the color of the arrow tip carefully, and his expression changed.
"Garen, you don’t have an automatically activating Totem Light, so you stand guard at the cave entrance. The others, come with me and don’t get left behind, we’ll have to speed up. These damned bandits! Jessica, you’re okay?" Andy glanced at his younger sister.
"It’s nothing, I’m perfectly fine." Jessica’s chest
Jessica’s chest was heaving non-stop, but she still forced herself to keep her emotions steady.
"Goth, you protect Jessica. Although your Blackfield Bird can’t move, its skin is very hard, and its feathers can deflect impacts. Your job is to defend Jessica from any Totem Light attacks nearby. Garen, you stay outside. This place is too dangerous for you, your Totem Light can’t activate automatically, and you have to control it yourself, so it’s likely you can’t block hidden poisonous arrows attacks." Andy started delegating jobs one by one.
"That’s why we need you to stealthily protect the cave entrance. Only then can we make use of your strengths, is that alright?"
Garen nodded solemnly.
"Leave it to me." He had long since made plans of his own, so naturally he would agree at this point.
"Then we’ll leave it at that, let’s head out!" Andy barked the order, and the Black Panther led the way as the three of them quickly ran ahead.
Garen started retreating to the back. At first his speed was average, but once there weren’t any footsteps or firelight ahead of him, he began to speed up. The lightless surroundings had no effect on him whatsoever.
His highly capable physical attributes made his five senses extra powerful, so naturally his eyes and ears could clearly replicate the conditions he just saw before.
Soon enough, he had returned to the first fork in the road.
Suddenly he paused for a moment. He realized that the tunnel ahead that led back to the entrance had somehow vanished completely, replaced by a stone wall that was exactly like the surroundings.
If he didn’t have extraordinary memory, and memorized the traits of this exact spot, he would have probably assumed he took a wrong turn.
The Y-shaped tunnel had suddenly become V-shaped, the path back was gone.
Garen reached out his hand to touch the stone wall, it was very hard rock.
"As expected, we’ve been discovered." He hesitated, and then ran faster down the corridors Cayduran and co had taken. The Neon Butterfly rested on his shoulder, emitting a gentle, pale blue light, so he could clearly see the things around him.
In no time at all, there was another fork in front him. He crouched down to look at the footsteps on the ground, they led to the left.
He stood up and dashed down the right.
After taking a few more turn, running about a few kilometers of distance, he vaguely saw firelight ahead.
"Who’s there!!" ahead.
"Who’s there!!" A piercing woman’s voice came from ahead. A short-haired woman walked out from the tunnels ahead, still putting on her clothes. She was in her early twenties and had a decent figure, a thin waist, a delicate chest, her unbuttoned collar revealing a white lace bra.
There was a dent in the wall on the woman’s left. Inside, there was a candle on a wooden trunk, and the candlelight also illuminated a semicircular bed.
After waiting so long without a reply, the woman’s rather plain face looked confused.
"Is it Ada? Stop joking around."
And still no one replied.
The woman picked up a dagger that was lying on the wooden crate and arched her body like a female panther, as she slowly began to move.
Suddenly there was a gush of cold wind, lightly stinging the woman’s widened eyes. She instantly blinked them.
She couldn’t help but rub her eyes, but there wasn’t anything out of place at all in the tunnel.
"Did I hear wrong?" she murmured, straightened up, and returned to sitting on her bed. Then she took her clothes, bra, and underwear, then actually pulled up the covers and went to sleep naked.
Garen stood on the other end quietly. In the instant where the wind blew just now, he had already darted past this woman in the blink of an eye, reaching the other side.
This guard woman was only a Soldier-level who had done a bit of training, there was no way she could notice his peak Master-level speed.
After getting past this patrol point, Garen continued running ahead soundlessly.
His speed was exceedingly fast, like a gust of wind.
With a smack, his leather breeches stepped past the ground. Before the underground spikes of the trap could even snap up, he had already gone past the trap and was several meters away.
As he flitted past, poison arrows shot out from the walls on both sides, and rope nooses appeared suddenly on the ground, ready to hang someone upside down at any moment. The further ahead he went, the more traps there were.
Some higher difficulty compound traps also started appearing, with many things like poisonous liquids or powders.
There were even two Form 1 venomous wasp totems resting in two dents on either side of the tunnel.
Relying on his speed, Garen dashed past the Wasps in an instant, but he had barely taken a few steps before several black bats flew down from the ceiling ahead.