Chapter 52: Shortcut
Translator: AtlasStudios Editor: AtlasStudios
Pavel Cemetery was situated at the northeastern mountain area outside of Deep Stone City. It was once a prosperous small mining area, but the mining techniques were not entirely developed at that time and landslides occurred from time to time. In the end, Many miners were killed and wounded, and the dead were buried under the earth, never to be found again. As time passed, the area turned into a cemetery. Later, Bishop Pavel raised funds to build a proper cemetery, and as thanks for his charitable activities, the place was thereby named as Pavel Cemetery.
But nothing was ever certain in this world. The once venerable Bishop turned into an infamous necromancer, and the cemetery naturally became his territory. Many people had wondered how did this happen, but Rhode found it uninteresting. Against his enemies — kill or catch them, then loot as fast as possible. As of the perpetrator’s motive? It could be investigated slowly after that. It’s better to not do something that would waste time though.
Not before long, the well-maintained road they were traveling on disappeared. The only remaining traces of the road was a few pieces of cracked slate. Mountainous trails were difficult to traverse, but for Rhode, the most annoying thing wasn’t that, but instead, it was the old man who was nagging from behind.
“I say, kid, what do you mean by taking us to this ghastly place?”
Old Walker complained incessantly as he stared at the surface of the steep mountain.
“Pavel Cemetery is on the other side of the mountain. If you are lost, I don’t mind showing you the direction.”
“Thanks for your goodwill.”
As he was walking at the front, Rhode did not bother to turn back and refused Old Walker’s ‘proposal’ sarcastically.
“I think this way is better.”
Hearing Rhode’s answer, Old Walker almost fainted. He looked at the road before him and compared it to the road at the foot of the mountain. Which route is better? Does it even need to be discussed?
Although he felt dissatisfied, he still suppressed his anger and followed behind. Rhode told Old Walker about the same conditions he gave to Marleen. If he did not wholly obey his command, he would immediately leave him here to die. Although he wasn’t sure whether Rhode was being serious or not, Old Walker eventually decided not to take the risk.
Rhode wore an ordinary leather armor and walked at the front while Lize and Marlene followed closely behind. The steep mountain trail did not cause too much problem for Rhode and Lize; even Marlene did not seem to be troubled by it. Although she wasn’t accustomed to climbing mountains, with additional support from her magic, it wasn’t that difficult.
They were almost there.
Around the corner, the mountain path was growing narrower and more dangerous. But Rhode had his own plans. He compared the landscape before him to the ones in his memories, then he nodded.
In fact, since the beginning, he didn’t plan to attack the enemy territory directly. Pavel Cemetery was a somewhat unique dungeon as half of the territory was located on the surface and half of it was beneath the earth, to put it more precisely, it was within the mines. If they attacked directly from the front with only four people, they would exhaust themselves to death by fighting the regular undead mobs before facing the boss. As for completing the quest, it would turn into a joke.
That was why he did not attack head-on because he had a better plan.
Players could be described as the most diligent yet laziest people in the world. They were diligent because their passion for adventure was much higher than the people from this world. Whether it was a pit, river, or gully, players would spend their time to explore every nook and cranny of the dungeon in hope to find some precious treasure or artifact to increase their strength. From this point, it could be said that even the most greedy bandits could not be compared to them.
As for their laziness — they would simply seek out for shortcuts when faced with longwinded questlines. Those ‘shortcuts’ even included exploiting of game bugs. The players would try their best to complete everything within the shortest possible time. Frankly, the players just didn’t like to follow the order arranged for them and rather forge their own path.
That was exactly what Rhode was doing now.
The reason why he did not choose the road on the foot of the mountain was that he knew of a hidden entrance in the mountain precipice above. There was a small, deep hole leading into the Pavel Cemetery. This hole used to be a mining tunnel for miners to exit the pit. If Rhode used this hidden path, he could easily enter Pavel Cemetery and shorten his journey by nearly half.
Around the edges of the mountain precipice, the cold wind grew gotten stronger.
A distance away from him was a hole not more than two meters in diameter. Rhode nodded in satisfaction as he walked to the edge of the hole and peered down. However, all he could see was nothing but darkness.
“Wait, kid… what are you trying to do? You want us to jump down this hole?”
“Yes, this is hole connected to a tunnel. From here, we can shorten half of the distance.”
“What a joke!”
Old Walker snorted in dissatisfaction.
“How do you know that this hole leads to a tunnel, kid? If we went down and fell into the middle of those damn monsters then what should we do? Furthermore, even if we killed that accursed necromancer then how do we escape?”
Rhode did not answer, but clearly, Marlene did not agree with him.
“Don’t you know the relationship between the undead and necromancer? They rely on the necromancer’s magic to maintain the existence of their bodies. Once we kill the necromancer, then the undead would turn to a useless pile of corpses. This is basic knowledge… are you really a mercenary?”
“I am a mercenary, not a mage.”
After being ridiculed by Marlene, Old Walker immediately backed down and grumbled to himself.
“Who knows what kind of abnormal thoughts you eccentric mages have?”
“Abnormal?! You ignorant—”
“I’ll go first.”
Rhode decisively ended the minor dispute before it turned into something big.
“Next up would be Lize, then Marlene, then you, Walker. Since you are a veteran, I think you don’t need my help.” Rhode said, and then he disappeared into the hole.
A chilly breeze swept past. Although the depth was about four to five meters, with the help of Spirit Bird, Rhode landed on the ground smoothly.
Suddenly, a bright light appeared on Rhode’s palm and illuminated the dark passage. Rhode a took step forward carefully, and after determining that there was no danger ahead, he finally relaxed. At the same time, the other three also followed him and jumped.
Lize and Marlene easily used their magic to make them float down. While Old Walker couldn’t use magic, since he was once a veteran ranger, this kind of height was not difficult for him.
Rhode spoke in a low voice and assumed the vanguard position.
Inside the old tunnel, only their footsteps could be heard in the darkness. Lize, as usual, assumed the role from Rhode as the ‘lighthouse’ and summoned the holy light to illuminate the way for the four. According to Rhode’s instruction, Marlene walked beside Lize to help her reduce the possibility of an ambush. Old Walker followed closely behind the rest of the group because it was a relatively dangerous and critical position. If the enemy attacked from their rear, it would become quite dangerous. It required an experienced veteran to protect them from behind. Since Marlene and Lize clearly could not bear the burden, the position of rearguard was left to Old Walker.
The dirt shifted under their feet as they walked.
Under the illumination of the holy light, the abandoned rusted tools, old mining carts, corrosive holes on the wooden columns, and spider webs were finally exposed. From time to time, a breeze would sweep through the tunnel.
Suddenly, a perilous scent drifted in the air.
At the end of the tunnel, Rhode scanned the seemingly empty mining pit before him. Then, he quickly made a hand gesture. When Lize saw this, she hastily brought her pace to a halt and silently cast a barrier on the four of them. Old Walker who was rather careless at first also began to unsheath the dagger on his waist; his two dilated pupils were darting corner to corner with vigilance. Then, he crouched down in attempt to catch any sound of movement in their immediate surroundings. Although this old mercenary had been complaining and irritating them all the way, right now he revealed his professional nature.
Marleen did not react until she saw the rest of them assuming a cautious stance. She immediately gripped the wand in her hand, awaiting further orders. However, instead of scanning the area, her eyes focused on Rhode’s back. Even if the enemy was in front of her, she could not fight without his permission. Although this condition was harsh, after her initial failure, Marlene was not really against it anymore. The four then slowly made their way towards the mining pit.
One step… two steps… three steps…
Suddenly, a withered arm extended out from the ground and rushed towards the four of them. Facing this sudden assault, Rhode, who was already prepared from the beginning immediately waved his sword. The swordlight sliced through the darkness. Following with a sharp whistling screech, the withered arm was cleanly cut into two. Then, all of a sudden, the ground shook vigorously, and countless of withered arms flew into the air. At the same time, dark, desiccated bodies crawled out from the ground.
Hearing Rhode’s sudden command, Marlene was stunned for a moment. Then she hurriedly raised her wand and pointed it towards the ground.
An icy white mist swirled at the tip of the wand which slowly engulfed the surrounding air. The temperature began to dip drastically; ice particles even started appearing in the air. The undead was clearly affected by the fluctuation in temperature and its movements stalled to a crawl. At this time, a fiery, bright flame emerged from Rhode’s sword.
Within the burning flames, the black hound emerged once again. It growled at the frosted enemy before it, and under Rhode’s command, it rushed forward, its baring its sharp fangs and claws.
Acknowledging Rhode’s command, Marlene nodded and raised her right hand. Soon, electrical sparks crackled around her fingers, and in a blink of an eye, bolts of lightning shot out towards the undead. The thunderstorm roasted the undead creatures, and the impact launched their limbs into the sky. Soon, before area before them was empty once again.
Marlene stared at the scene before her in disbelief. Although she knew that her magical power was strong, she never thought that she was able to beat that many undead creatures! What made her even more ecstatic was that she merely cast two spells — and those were low-level spells to boot! Since they did not need a long casting time, the damage shouldn’t be THAT significant. Even more so, she could not believe that… she actually could attack that fluidly?
Fluid and quick casting is a critical skill for a mage. If they could cast faster, they could grasp the initiative to usurp control of the battlefield. But it was easier said than done. Mages had to memorize hundreds of different spells. To be able to cycle through the spells fluidly and cast quickly at the same time was no easy feat. Only when the mage enters the Soul Circle stage and acquired a better control of their ability would they then be able to cast faster and smoother.
But still, Rhode’s ability to command was simply exquisite and beyond her expectations.
Who is he actually?
Marlene could not help but stare at Rhode. While it was true that he had a deep understanding towards magic, she too, had it as well. But in the heat of the battle, she wasn’t able to choose the fastest nor the most powerful from her sizeable repertoire of spells without hesitation. Not many people could do something like that.
Is he also a mage?
If Rhode heard Marlene’s inner thoughts, he would definitely shake his head. Never would he have thought that studying magic was that difficult and troublesome in this world. The reason he could command Marlene to use those spells was because, back in the game, the players would usually choose to use several large-scale AOE spells when fighting against a group of mobs, and he only casually chose one of those spells. As for the principle of magic combination? He wasn’t interested in understanding those boring things at all.
The battle ended in five minutes.
Under the blanket of ice, the undead creatures were frozen solid and were unable to show any further threat. They were absolutely overwhelmed by Marleen’s spell. After a while, Rhode scanned around once more. When he ascertained that there were no more threats, he put down his sword and made a hand gesture.
“Clean the battlefield.”
Lize and Old Walker nodded and immediately dispersed. On the other hand, Marlene revealed a confused expression. Clearly, she did not understand what Rhode meant.
“Clean the battlefield?”
Rhode said plainly and went beside a body that had been completely torn apart, leaving only the bones and fragments behind. He reached out his hand and began to search for something.
“Check to see if there are any good things in these bodies and then hand it to me.”
“T-t-touch the corpse?!!”
Marlene’s face immediately paled.