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979 Entering the Deepest Labyrinth

 The sun rose, announcing the start of a new day and the end of peace for the apprentices.

In fact, the apprentices should have entered the Deepest Labyrinth after Richard's group's arrival. But thanks to a certain scoundrel, they had to postpone the departure date. Although Mini Bubble Gum treated Stewart's injuries, his mentor, Gabe, wasn't as fortunate. Although they didn't know what evil presence possessed him, Mini Bubble Gum's formidable holy power was deadly, as Gabe spent the next few days resting unconsciously in the campsite. No one dared to oppose Rhode's group. Firstly, after witnessing Mini Bubble Gum's prowess, they were clearly aware of the stronger side. Secondly, most of them weren't favorable of Gabe either. Thirdly, the other mentors were displeased with this apprentice test. They had even hoped that Gabe would die to some illnesses so they could leave this dangerous place.

But it was a pity that Gabe recovered after a few days of rest, which meant that the test had to continue. After Gabe came around, he officially announced the contents of the apprentice test. The apprentices had to lead their teams with an item into the Deepest Labyrinth and place the item on a specified location to complete the test. As for where the exact location was, there were directions indicated on the item. It seemed like a really simple test.

Rhode stood on the hill, gazing at the nervous apprentices. Thereafter, he received an item from Richard, which was a teleportation crystal that was also available in the game. There were a total of hundred floors in the labyrinth and players couldn't possibly restart from the first floor every time they returned to the place. Upon reaching every 10 floors, players could activate the teleportation crystal. Whenever they returned to the labyrinth, they could be transported from the floor to where they left off.

In fact, this wasn't too challenging for the apprentices who were at level 50 on average. Even though the Enchanted Forest was extremely dangerous, there was more than one entrance to the Deepest Labyrinth. As a result, the difficulty on each floor was similar between the first and tenth floors. As long as they were more cautious, there shouldn't be a problem for them to reach the tenth floor.

But the problem was that the situation wasn't as simple as it seemed.

An item like the teleportation crystal was only used when players raided dungeons. Rhode refused to believe that the Mage Tower would get this group of elites to enter the Deepest Labyrinth, unless all of their higher-ups had also transmigrated into this world like him and understood the world inside-out. Besides, the Deepest Labyrinth was exceptionally dangerous, which didn't fit their motto of 'Safety First'. More importantly, Canary discovered that the teleportation signal was only one-way. In other words, when the teleportation crystal was activated, they would be brought to a specified place before being transported away individually. Rhode and Canary had no idea where the teleportation destination was connected to.

But even though they didn't know the true message behind the teleportation location, his guesses were close to the mark considering Gabe's identity.

"Marlene, are you ready?"

At this moment, the apprentices had entered the teleportation ritual by the entrance of the Deepest Labyrinth. This was where the Deepest Labyrinth was different from other dungeons. It didn't have tunnels connecting to the inside and could only be accessed through teleportation rituals, making it easier to enter and harder to exit. If it weren't for the one-way teleportation signal that could send them up to the surface, perhaps even players would have a hard time.

"All ready, Rhode. I analyzed the teleportation rituals and found that they were meddled with. But don't worry, I've already added several fixed signals to them. After their teleportations are completed, we can immediately enter the labyrinth."

"Good."

Rhode nodded in satisfaction. He didn't consider stopping the apprentices. Firstly, their relationship hadn't reached a stage where he was obliged to help them. Secondly, he also wished to use this chance to see what exactly Gabe and his co-conspirators were up to. Since they were able to provide the teleportation crystals, it meant that they were extremely familiar with the Deepest Labyrinth and were using it to reach their goal. This was the main reason why Rhode didn't stop the apprentices from entering the maze.

He had also confirmed with Alice regarding Gabe's Chaos aura. It was also due to this reason that he made this decision. After all, Chaos could distort history and the distorted history couldn't be recorded by Alice. Without any other choice, he had to rely on himself now.

At this moment, the final team of apprentices followed their mentor's lead through the teleportation portal. Richard turned around and gazed worriedly at Rhode's group. The struggles over the past few days made him aware that this test wasn't as simple as it seemed. But now, he had no other choices left.

"Richard, it's time to move out."

His mentor called out and he heaved a long sigh, before turning over.

"Yes, Sir."

Shortly after, the teleportation portal flickered and everyone in the middle vanished. Rhode twitched his brow slightly at this scene.

"Alright, it's time for our appearance."

In an instant, the azure sky, white clouds, and lush forest disappeared before their eyes, only to be replaced by a run-down yet dignified rectangular hall. Several stone sculptures were erected on both sides, but due to the passing of time, most of them were already dilapidated. As Rhode's group arrived, the pitch-black hall was instantly lit up by the flame torches hanging on the walls, illuminating the maze palace.

"Wow..."

Christie exclaimed in awe and even Bell widened her eyes, scanning the place curiously. After all, this was their first adventure.

"Christie, Bell, be wary. This place isn't as safe as you think. There may be traps everywhere so follow Bubble and me closely. Don't act rashly no matter what you see and don't touch anything. Understand?"

Rhode heaved a sigh before turning to them. Even though Christie was strong in her abilities and Bell was an assassin in the Legendary Stage, where even Nell couldn't defeat her, they were too inexperienced in adventure, after all. Who knew what would happen to them if no one watched over them. In the game, Rhode had witnessed several high-level players get caught in simple and harmless-looking traps, which eventually resulted in their deaths. Sometimes, strength didn't represent everything. Fortunately, Christie and Bell were obedient girls, so he didn't need to worry too much about them.

"Bubble. You'll be the support this time. Watch over them."

"Got it, Leader."

Mini Bubble Gum nodded. Then, she asked dubiously.

"But what about the front? Are you and Big Sister going to take the lead?"

"No, I have a helper on my side."

Rhode smiled, extending his right hand. A summoning ritual flashed and spun above his palm. In the blink of an eye, five uniquely-colored cards appeared from thin air and revolved around him. Then, he clenched his fist. Smash!

Dazzling radiance shone and five figures appeared around him.

Celia and Celestina were the first to appear, followed by Gracier and Madaras. The two petite White Elves chuckled adorably, standing on his left and right. The last figure who appeared from the last rune of light was Karin, 4th seat of the Holy Sword Card Deck. As for Shira... He thought that it was better for her to remain in her card obediently. After all, he couldn't afford to have the underground crumpling on him if she went berserk.

The holy sword spirits looked at the rundown hall and corridor ahead with reminiscent gazes.

"Order Palace... I never thought that we could return to this place..."

Celestina muttered under her breath, gazing at the broken stone sculptures. Celia looked with downcast eyes, uncertain of what was going through her mind. The White Elves were also whispering into each other's ears. Mini Bubble Gum curled her lips and turned to Canary.

"You see, Big Sister. This is why I hate Spirit Swordsmen. So what if they have more people on their side?"

"So we're more powerful, Bubble."

Rhode responded. Spirit Swordsmen were often criticized by players on forums, especially after Rhode became popular with it. He faced all sorts of envy and jealousy. There were some people who ridiculed him for being an incapable coward who lacked individual skills apart from relying on summoned spirits. But Spirit Swordsmen weren't the only ones who summoned spirits into battle, as mages could too, for instance. But mages were too weak in close-combat, so it made sense for them to summon spirits into battle. But Spirit Swordsmen were equipped with swords and they didn't seem like a balanced class at all.

Spirit Swordsmen were often mocked before they became popular. But after Rhode brought this class to great height, players began to complain about its shameless techniques... Well, that was how the world worked.

Rhode wasn't surprised that his holy sword spirits were familiar with the Deepest Labyrinth. After all, in his journey back to history with Alice, he learned that it was the Creator Dragon Souls and Six Deity Wardens who had created this labyrinth. Therefore, since his holy sword spirits had fought against them back then, this place wasn't a mystery to them, logically.

But this didn't mean that all the spirits were indulged in past memories. While Celestina and the other young ladies reminisced about the past, Karin pushed up her glasses and went up to Rhode.

"Master, do you have any important tasks coming here?"

"I do, Karin."

Rhode gazed at her curiously. In fact, he wasn't too familiar with this new joiner whom he had obtained in Highland City. She didn't reveal emotions as well as Celia, Celestina, and the others, and seemed more introverted and calm. Not only that, but she also had an indifferent tone as though saying, "This seems interesting, but it has nothing to do with me at all" and judged the entire situation as an outsider. Based on the special techniques written on her card and the attitudes of Celestina and the others toward her, it seemed like Karin held the responsibility of an 'adviser' among them. The reason why Rhode summoned her was to see how she performed. Although he did have resourceful people around him, such as Gillian and Marlene, they had duties to attend to and couldn't always be by his side. On the other hand, Karin wasn't tied down by additional tasks. As a holy sword card, she would naturally be with him and with her around during battle, he didn't need to worry too much about her.

Rhode explained the happenings in the Mage Tower that they discovered and told her about Gabe, who was seemingly in touch with Chaos. Karin listened silently, before pushing up her glasses again after he finished speaking.

"The lowest floor... is it? Sorry, Your Majesty. I'm not aware of what is in there. Perhaps not even the Six Deity Wardens do, because the lowest floor was built by the five Creator Dragon Souls. Apart from them, no one else knows what is there exactly. As for the apprentices... I think there is nothing to worry about. According to you, the Chaos worshippers are trying to activate the teleportation portal. But activating the teleportation portal requires the activation of the core. Based on our current location, we can enter the core region directly from here and wait for them there. If they do harbor ill intentions, I don't think they will let this opportunity slip. As for the problem about controlling the mechanism there, I can't give you a clear answer now. A long time has passed and I'm not sure if the core is still operating properly. I can only judge after we find the core."

She sure is reliable...

Rhode exclaimed in his head. He always felt helpless speaking to the holy sword spirits. Celia was always uptight as though she would accidentally expose top secrets of the country while Celestina was full of herself. On the other hand, Gracier and Madaras never answered his questions. As for Shira... Well, forget it.

He felt glad and fortunate that he finally had a holy sword spirit who he could speak to properly.

"Good. Let's move out then."

The first floor presented no pressure to them. The difficulty was the easiest there with low-level goblins. Rhode could clear out the entire first floor himself, not to mention max-leveled players like Canary and Mini Bubble Gum. And now with the help of the holy sword spirits, they began wiping out the creatures of the entire area.

Even though the underground creatures were stronger than creatures on the surface due to the influence of magical power, they were still no match for the holy sword spirits. The combination of white and pitch-black flames blazed and melted them instantly. Moreover, the enormous, poisonous scorpions with rock-hard shells were split apart easily by the flitting shadows. In the face of the holy sword spirits, they didn't stand a chance at all.

Rhode stood at the back, watching Bell and Christie sharpen their skills with the few remaining creatures. Christie had never killed a chicken and yet she possessed the powerful strength of a Deity Warden. Well, this was just idle chit-chat.

In comparison, Bell was much more experienced, perhaps due to killing several Chaos Creatures in the refuge. She skillfully dealt with the goblins.

Among the spirits, Karin surprised him the most.

Even though he knew that she was the fourth seat with exceptional battle strength, he couldn't help but feel baffled after witnessing her in actual battle.