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68 The Lost Palace

 It was a ruin.

At first glance, the whole underground cave appeared cube-shaped. A gorgeous palace rested in the center. A moat filled with water surrounded the palace as though it was guarding it. The only way out of here was the stairway that the duo found previously.

"What in the world is this place...?"

Marlene stared speechlessly at the scene. Rhode fared slightly better because he had experienced much more than her. Compared to how Marlene reacted, Rhode stood still and silently recalled his knowledge about the origin of this ruin.

Although the two were considered the brightest amongst the youths, they were not omniscient beings after all. Rhode's knowledge was from the game, and Marlene's forte was magic. None of them were well-versed in archaeology. If there was a scholar with them, then perhaps he could figure out their location.

"Did you find any clues?"

Rhode calmed down. He waved his hand and signaled the black hound to scout ahead while they followed a distance behind. Nevertheless, Rhode didn't drop his guard even the slightest bit as he constantly swept his eyes over his surroundings.

The whole palace emitted a luxurious atmosphere. The pillars were intricately carved, and it appeared completely intact as though it was just built. A magic sphere was floating in the air. Under its brilliance, the shadows slowly melted away.

There were no corpse, no furniture, and no weapons.

Empty.

That was the first impression Rhode had when he toured the place.

In fact, the 'ruins' can't even be considered as ruins as they were largely intact without any blemishes. Strangely though, the place housed no everyday objects other than staircases, pillars, and sculptures.

Back in the game, Rhode had seen almost a thousand types of ruins. Although each of them was unique in their own way, at least they had weapons, armors or broken furniture lying around. All of them had traces of living activity of one kind of another. But this place is different. Everything was... seemingly dead. It was as if the entire area was devoid of life. Even the surrounding moat water didn't make a sound when it flowed.

"This place sure is strange."

Rhode put down his sword and walked to a nearby pillar. His eyes scrutinized the complex text and patterns carved into the stone. Unfortunately, he couldn't find any clue about their situation. Just a little behind Rhode, Marlene was doing the same thing as well, but she actually found a clue faster than Rhode.

"I think it was built during the Fascarl Kingdom's era, Mr. Rhode."

The Fascarl Kingdom was a mysterious kingdom at the beginning of the Creation Era. Despite being one of the strongest kingdoms at that time, it suddenly disappeared one day. Even in the historical records had only a few manuscripts about this kingdom.

The strange thing was how a country as powerful as they suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke. And no matter how hard the people searched, the Fascarl Kingdom's relics and ruins were nowhere to be found. Not even the Country of Light and Darkness had found the remains of the Fascarl Kingdom.

Regardless any country's wealth of knowledge, no one had the records of the Fascarl Kingdom even though the name of 'Fascarl' derived from a dragon spell in the Ancient Era.

A country that was this mysterious should contain valuable equipment.

"But there appears to be nothing in this place..."

With the help of the magic light, Rhode could see the end of the palace.

No treasure chest. No swords. No nothing. Only a lonely stone altar stood erect which made Rhode somehow feel sorry for it.

Just beside the altar were two knight sculptures. They wore a full plate armor with swords lifted towards the sky. It looked as though they were welcoming visitors as well as displaying their strength.

"Since there's nothing here, we should leave."

Rhode was the type who wouldn't leave empty-handed, but this place was just too strange, and it made Rhode feel uneasy. If he died in the game, he still could resurrect. But he couldn't do that now, so he felt that if there was nothing worth spending time on, then retreating would be the best option.

Marlene was slightly discontented with Rhode's unfounded wariness, but she still followed his order and kept silent. When she stood up and planned to leave, at this moment, her squirrel familiar appeared from the darkness and ran towards her, squeaking frantically. Marlene's expression immediately changed.

"Mr. Rhode, they are here!"

F*ck it!

Rhode cursed inwardly but still maintained his calm exterior. He had predicted that those black-cloaked men would follow them into the cave. Frankly, it was the best place to bury them once he killed them since no one would know. Alas, their timing was unfavorable. If everything went according to plan, there wouldn't be a problem, but now they had accidentally uncovered an unknown ruin which was a hidden factor that Rhode didn't anticipate!

Rhode turned his head and confirmed that there were no other exits. He guessed that those men were as clueless about this place. After all, only an omniscient being would know about the area that he hadn't explored yet.

"Ms. Marlene."

Rhode drafted a plan in his mind. He grabbed Marlene's hand, pulled her towards him and whispered in her ear, "I have a plan that requires your cooperation..."

-

A group of shadows appeared from the darkness, stopping for a moment before a cave entrance.

They glanced at each other silently and made a signal with their fingers.

The target is close.

Get into position.

Then, the black-cloaked men dashed into the cave.

Unlike Marlene who had spent her time gawking at the beautiful underground scenery, the men had no time for that. When they exited the narrow tunnels and discovered the large underground cavern, they pushed their bodies onto the walls and shuffled forward while hiding in the shadows.

After searching for a while, they did not find anyone.

It didn't look like there were other entrances. Did they fly away?

That was absolutely impossible.

Soon, they found the hidden passage behind the sculpture. It wasn't surprising at all since they were all professionals, and they weren't as hesitant as Rhode as danger was in their job scope.

But they still remained vigilant. They left two men behind to guard the entrance while the other three went inside the hidden passage to locate their target.

Those guys are a bit tricky...

Rhode, who was also lurking in the shadows, felt a headache when he observed the black-cloaked men's movement. He wasn't worried about being discovered by the enemy as he wasn't new to this. In the game, he was often chased by assassins and thieves. If he could not do something like this, he would've died a hundred thousand times already. For insurance, he also activated the Shadow Messenger. This magic equipment definitely deserved its reputation. After using it, his body blended into the surroundings. Even if one carefully examined his location, it would still be difficult to find him.

Rhode was confident in his abilities. Not only he had the Shadow Messenger, he also wore the Dark Soul ring.

In PVP, both equipment and skills were equally important.

In a fraction of a second, Rhode disappeared into the darkness without a trace.

The three black-cloaked men walked past Rhode without detecting his presence. They also didn't know that Rhode had already unsheathed his sword while emitting a killing intent.

Hmph! I'll let you know who is the one being hunted here!

Although he had the advantage, Rhode didn't choose to act rashly. Based on the triangular formation they moved in, he knew that any one of them could easily support each other if something were to happen. If one of them suffered an attack, the other two would react and counterattack. Unless Rhode could kill the three at the same time, attacking now wasn't the best approach.

Furthermore, his current-self didn't have the strength to contend against all three of them together.

Thus, Rhode remained patient as he knew what the men were thinking as well as what were they going to do.

Quietly lurking behind them, he waited for an opportunity to strike.

A while later, the three black-cloaked men finally passed through the passage and discovered the stone stairwell.

However, unlike Marlene, they didn't have a spell to light up the darkness below. As such, when they saw a faint light flickering in the distance, it immediately caught their attention.

Ever so carefully, the men slowly crept down the stairway. And soon enough, they saw Marlene who was holding a torch and standing beside a pillar.

A good opportunity!