"A dungeon? Sure, your call."
The group continued wandering through the forest after Dale Quicksilver found the marking he made on a tree from before. After being led by a few more of these markings, they arrived at an area of open ground.
"This is it. Last time I was here, we even had a barbecue at this place." Dale Quicksilver laughed as he strode on the grassland. His facial expression, however, suddenly changed after stomping on the ground a couple of times.
"Something’s different, someone has been here already! Si Lan!"
Si Lan hurried to him. She bent down and started fumbling around the ground. Soon enough, she pulled out a metal ring from the soil.
It was a dark red ring, corrupted by rust resulting from the long passage of time. The color of rust greatly contrasted with its true hue, which showed a glint of silver.
Dale Quicksilver, who had also been searching on the ground, rushed to Si Lan immediately after she found the ring.
There, a square wooden cellar door revealed itself as it was pulled up. Chunks of grass and dirt slid off the surface, revealing a dark hole underneath.
Garen didn’t ask how Dale Quicksilver knew that someone had been here, but seeing the expressions of the other two, he felt a bit nervous as well.
He walked up to the edge and looked down. The hole was deep and pitch black.
"I’ll go take a look." Surprisingly, Si Lan was the first to volunteer, not Dale Quicksilver.
"Be safe." The detective unexpectedly answered her. He nodded at her with a respectful expression.
"Let me go down instead, this is not a job for a lady…" Garen said, feeling hesitant.
"It’s fine, Si Lan isn’t your usual lady, just watch out for her." Detective answered calmly.
Si Lan pulled out a white bandana out of nowhere and tied it around her face to cover her nose. She pulled out her black dagger, secured a rope to a nearby tree, and threw the other end of the rope down the hole.
"I’ll go down first; you guys watch out up here. The trace is fresh, so the person may not be far from here!" Si Lan warned them.
"We got it, take care of yourself." The detective pulled Garen two steps back, his face even more serious.
Si Lan grabbed the rope and jumped down, quickly disappearing into the darkness. The rope instantly became taut.
Ten seconds later, it became loose again, signifying Si Lan’s successful landing.
"Sir, you better come down as well, there’s something wrong here!" Si Lan’s voice came from below.
Dale Quicksilver’s stony face turned even darker.
"If Si Lan is calling for help, it must be very serious. I have to go down myself. Mr. Kelly, the task of guarding this place is on you now. I’ll leave this rifle to you, please don’t go anywhere."
Garen was slightly surprised. He didn’t know why Dale Quicksilver trusted him so much. However, he still agreed. He still needed something from the detective, so it would be unwise to have any funny ideas right now.
"Don’t you worry, I won’t move an inch."
Dale Quicksilver nodded. He handed the rifle to Garen and fixed his belt, organizing the items he had on him. He then slid down the rope into the dungeon.
After about ten seconds, he was not visible from above ground anymore.
Garen stood alone next to the cellar door. Holding the double-barreled pipe rifle, he was on high alert.
Fortunately, there was no movement around him except for the tree leaves rustling as they blew in the wind.
After a short while, Si Lan climbed out of the hole with a dirty and tired face.
"There are two corpses down there. It seems they have been rotting for some time already."
"Corpses?" Garen faked a surprised expression and gulped. "Ms. Si Lan, you’re not joking, are you?" In fact, he had already either directly or indirectly killed two people, and after comprehending his school’s teachings regarding the heart, his mind had be
come calm and fearless. Two corpses no longer frightened him.
"No joke, there are two men’s bodies down there."
Si Lan sat on the grass and stabbed her dagger into the ground next to her. She took out a white handkerchief with a fading red handprint.
"What is this?"
"This handkerchief has the perpetrator’s bloody handprint; this is an important piece of the puzzle." She carefully folded the handkerchief and kept it inside a small pocket.
"These were taken from inside the dungeon. As skilled as Mr. Dale might be, he couldn’t identify them either." She pulled out a few pieces of black objects covered in mud. "He said that this might be an antique. He is still examining the area, so he asked me to bring this to you first."
"Oh." Garen carefully received the objects and peeled off the mud on them.
Soon, four small objects were laid on the grass. They were four small iron plates about the size of a knuckle, each of them rectangular-shaped.
These four objects were thick, and had some indistinct letters carved on them.
"Well?" Si Lan asked.
"This antique is useful, quite useful for me." Garen’s face twitched for a second, but it quickly returned back to normal.
"He said that if you like them, you can keep them as a reward for this unpleasant journey."
Garen touched one of the plates. He felt the same qi from the emblem, and he shook his head.
"I’m sure Dale knows how valuable these iron plates are. This reward is too much compared to my work, but I’ll have to accept it."
He couldn’t put them down since he had them in his hand. Garen glanced at Si Lan, only to see her looking at him with a faint smile, which in turn caused Garen to blush.
He could not refuse. If he could absorb all of the potential inside these plates, he was certain of having an increment of 10 points in his attribute. He had a feeling that this could even be an antique that supplied continuous qi just like the emblem.
"This gift is a little too heavy…" He gripped the iron plate in his hand. The sensation was akin to one directly holding an ice cube. A biting chill permeated his hand as though it was beginning to freeze his skin, yet it hadn’t done so in reality.
"This speed of absorption is too slow, it will take months before I could absorb them all."
Garen looked at Si Lan, his eyes squinting. "I have a check for one million dollars." He took out a bank check from his chest pocket, neatly folded it and placed it next to the plates.
"If I identified it correctly, this plate is the Black Jade Disk Dale mentioned earlier. A while ago, this disk was auctioned for the price of six million dollars in the Weisman Empire. It’s still quite a bargain for me."
He paused for a second, feeling hesitant about something.
"I’ll take it this time, but I owe Dale a big favor."
He gave her his solemn word. Even in his former life, Garen was one who valued his own promises. Once he swore an oath, he would always honor it and keep his promise.
This plate was like a great treasure for him. What it brought was not only wealth, but also the enhancement of his attributes. As long as he kept it close to him, it was bound to bring great improvement to his overall strength. He could probably catch up to his senior brothers and senior sister, and even surpassing his master Fei Baiyun, achieving a great leap in strength in an extremely short period.
"Mr. Dale knew you would accept it, and luckily, you can do him a favor right now to repay him." It was as though Si Lan had already expected Garen’s response.
"What does he want me to do? I’ll do everything in my power to help him." Garen’s pupils shrank slightly, knowing that Dale Quicksilver might have seen through his cover.
"Stop the approaching Golden Hoop." Si Lan’s eyes turned fierce, and she said in a low voice, "If you can delay him for half an hour, our help will be here! Of course, it would be better if you killed him!"
"Golden Hoop?" Garen turned around to look to his right.
A man wearing a camoflague suit along with face covered with black bandana, and had a golden ring hanging from his right ear was approaching in the grassland.
"You guys hunted me last time, but now, it’s time for me to hunt you instead."
The man’s voice was hoarse, which sounded grating and harsh.
At this moment, Dale Quicksilver climbed out of the hole, panting as he glanced at Golden Hoop.
"It’s on you, Kelly!" He tapped Garen’s shoulder and made an eye gesture to Si Lan, the two turned around and escaped toward the castle without looking back.
"Sir, that Kelly… Can he really stop the Golden Hoop?"
"Gasp… gasp… as long as he can hold him for a little while. I never expected him to stop Golden Hoop to begin with." Dale Quicksilver gasped as he ran, "The Black Jade Disk I left to him is for trading his life, and by Golden Hoop’s rules, he won’t take Kelly’s life."
"So you had all of this planned out huh." Si Lan was only slightly panting, her stamina seemingly unabated.
"Let’s keep running, Golden Hoop will catch up to us soon." Gale Quicksilver said as he climbed through the hole in the fence.
Inside the forest.
Garen collected the Black Jade Disk and slowly stood up. His bones made a series of loud cracking noises. "I owe Dale a big favor, and killing you will repay it. Don’t blame me, blame your own misfortune."
His body swelled up like an air balloon with his height growing from 1.7 meters to over 2 meters. A strong and violent aura began to emanate from him. His muscles and skin turned from pale white to a leather-like black color.
Golden Hoop’s expression changed. Under the strong force of Garen’s aura, he was pushed back two steps.
"Who the hell are you?"
Garen didn’t answer. Instead, he flexed his arms and reached toward Golden Ring with a grasping motion. His fearsome and muscular arms coiled with purple veins clawed toward Golden Hoop’s head as he crossed a few meters in milliseconds.