The passage to their front was in pitch darkness. Not even a speck of light could be seen from within.
Both Rhode and Marlene stared speechlessly at the entrance of the 'new cave.'
"So, Marlene, what did you do?" Rhode took the initiative to break the silence.
"I-I did not do anything," Marlene said with a slight panic in her voice.
Her expression genuinely revealed that she didn't know what happened.
Frankly, it was shocking to Rhode as well.
He was pretty confident that there weren't any posts about a hidden cave behind a sculpture. If there was something like this back in the game, it would've gone viral already. However, there remained another possibility — the player actually found the entrance, but since there was nothing, he didn't bother to spread the word.
But no matter how much he looked at the entrance, he couldn't think of a reason why someone would craft such a deliberate mechanism just for fun.
Even if it killed him, he would still trust his intuition. A secret passage and a trap appearing hand-in-hand? There is only one way to find out the answer.
Go in and explore.
But still, he couldn't help but feel slightly hesitant. If it were back in the game, he would immediately dive in without delay. But now, his situation was different; he no longer had a 'respawn' if he died. Moreover, he had no intel of this unknown passage. What if there were many traps or monsters inside? That would certainly spell trouble for him.
Nevertheless, it wasn't an impossible task for Rhode.
"Marlene," Rhode said softly, with a trace of resolution in his voice. "Stand guard at the entrance. I'll go in and scout. If I do not appear within twenty minutes or if you hear an explosion, you need to leave this place immediately. Understood?"
In the end, Rhode made a decision. He unsheathed his sword and swung it casually, causing a red card to materialize out of thin air.
Roar! A dark hound appeared beside him.
''How can I do that!" Marlene shook her head and disagreed.
Then she furrowed her brows and said, "Do you want me to escape by myself? If I do something like that, how can I explain to Lize afterwards? Moreover, my Senia family is no coward..."
Rhode waved his hand to interrupt Marlene, "It's not the matter of courage, Ms. Marlene. We don't know what lies within that cave. What if something happens and both of us got trapped inside? If one of us stays outside, then if something happens, there is still hope."
"That's true... but..." Marlene had mixed feelings over this matter and was frowning, but suddenly, she clenched her teeth and shouted. "I have an idea!"
"An idea?" Rhode turned to Marlene and looked at her in surprise.
"I-I have my family's heirloom. It is a type of magic equipment."
When Rhode suddenly stared at her, Marlene blushed slightly and stammered.
"No matter what kind of danger I face, as long as I'm willing, I can teleport out from any space at any moment to the Senia estate. Moreover, this can be used by a maximum of two people at the same time. As long you hold my hand, we can leave together at any moment, so you don't have to worry."
At first, Marlene's voice was like a squeak, but it gradually shifted back to her usual tone. Rhode was fairly surprised with what she said and stood speechless for a while.
He knew that mages had a vast array of life-saving skills and equipment, and since Marlene was the only heir to the Senia family, no matter what, he believed that she must possess some kind of trump card. But never would he have thought that she would reveal plainly it to him in this manner. One must realize that this kind of equipment or skill must be kept as an absolute secret. Until the last breath, it was something that must not be told to anyone. But now... she...
"T-That's why I insist to go with you, Mr. Rhode."
Marlene didn't know why she suddenly lost her courage again when Rhode stared at her, but apparently, she still insisted on coming along.
"Although it might be dangerous, as a mage, I have many ways to protect myself. If the situation gets out of hand, I can immediately leave this place. Isn't that reassuring enough?"
After listening to Marlene's reasoning, Rhode pondered to himself in silence. Frankly, he didn't wish for her to follow him. His current character wasn't the same as before. Back then, if the gods barred his way, he would kill the gods, and if the Buddhas hindered his path, he would slaughter the Buddhas! But right now, he was a puny level 10. Even defeating a few advanced thieves would require him to plan thoroughly. Was it safe if he went inside alone?
Rhode didn't know.
So, in the end, he agreed.
"Ok." Rhode nodded, "but I do hope you can protect yourself."
Since Marlene had a way to escape, he decided to trust her. At least the probability of surviving would be higher.
There was no light source inside the cave.
Initially, Rhode was extremely cautious because based on his experiences, secret passages usually hosted many kinds of deadly traps. For example, a pressure plate trap. If he accidentally stepped on the wrong slate, it might set off a series of irreversible outcomes.
Unexpectedly, the secret passage was on level ground. And with the help of the torch, he noticed beautiful carvings on both sides of the wall.
"These are murals from Fascarl era, Mr. Rhode." Marlene was concentrating on examining a beautiful sculpture on the wall at the moment.
She could not help but feel amazed at how intricate the designs were. Most mages were well educated. Naturally, they had read about these historical stories before. However, Rhode clearly didn't care about that. He was currently expending all his energy on detecting traps... but it looks like there was no indication of any at all.
"Be careful and hold my hand tightly." Rhode grabbed her hand as they made their way deeper. And not far in front of him was the Flame Killer which was responsible for being the 'trap trigger.' After all, a dead summoned spirit can be summoned again. Moreover, this pitiful canine had already died more than twice, so what if it died once more? It should just get used to it.
The poor Flame Killer had a different opinion though. Unfortunately, it did not have the rights to disagree.
The black hound jumped in the air from time to time according to Rhode's command. There was a ring of fire circling around its body, creating a much-needed illumination for the dark passage.
After walking for a distance, Rhode began to sense something odd. He couldn't tell what exactly it was, but it kept nagging him at the back of his head.
Why would a secret passage appear here? What can we find here?
Currently, Rhode was in the 'player mode' thought process and wasn't paying attention to his surroundings. Marlene was also no longer observing the surrounding murals. On the contrary, her head was lowered as she stared at her hand which was held by Rhode. She didn't know whether it was because of the heat, but she knew that her face was burning.
Suddenly, the Flame Killer stopped moving. Then it circled the ground two times and ran forward.
Rhode's heart tightened. He didn't stop the black hound. Instead, he took a step forward and stood in front of Marlene with his sword raised. Then, he scanned each and every detail around him.
But after a while, nothing happened.
Rhode frowned. Up until now, he was constantly on the alert, and it was straining his senses. If there were monsters or traps in this passage, he wouldn't feel weary as it was something familiar to him. But he found nothing so far... and that was too strange. Of course, since he had already made it this far, he didn't intend to retreat.
Finally, the duo made their way out of the narrow passage and found themselves at a stone stairway leading deeper underground. The Flame Killer wasn't too far away from them. When it noticed that its master had arrived, it arched its body and roared at the perpetual darkness below.
"Ms. Marlene, do you have any spells that be used as light?"
Rhode held the torch nearer to the stairway, but he still could not see what was down there. For safety reasons, he decided to use another approach. However, after a while, Marlene still did not respond. Her head was still lowered, staring blankly at her hand.
Rhode called out to her once more and she finally recovered from her stupor.
"O-oh oh... Light magic right? I have it, please wait." Marlene said with a flush on her face.
She immediately loosened her hand from Rhode's grip in a hurry and closed her eyes. After a chant, a bright luminous sphere floated on her palm. The light emitted from the sphere ate away the darkness and illuminated the entire area.
And the scene that appeared before them left the duo in disbelief.