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985 Shadows Chasing Closely

 Kacha.

Gabe placed the pitch-black crystal on the empty slate. A hexagonal ritual appeared and shone faintly above. He retracted his hand, gazing at the ritual in satisfaction. He turned to his adorable students. Or, his adorable ex-students.

"What a waste of this seedbed..."

Gabe gazed sullenly at the decomposed corpse of Stewart, whose mouth had become as long as a crocodile's. It split at the opening into four, revealing several tentacle-like tongues. Gabe had high hopes for him and believed that he could become the next seedbed after he reincarnated. But he didn't expect the earlier battle to cripple this favorite apprentice of his. Even though Mini Bubble Gum had no intention of killing Stewart, his entire body was completely flushed by her holy energy. Gabe had no choice but to make him into a low-class devil sacrificial product.

It's about time now.

Gabe nodded, gazing at the slate meaningfully. Everything was going as planned. Even though he didn't have a godlike system map like Rhode, he also had a unique way to track the apprentices' locations. The team that he led was the last to reach the tenth floor and this wasn't only for safety measures. If the other teams were eliminated and lost the teleportation crystals, he could still send his devils to recover the crystals. But it seemed like it wasn't necessary anymore. It was a pity that after losing the devils, he couldn't monitor their movements any longer. He wondered how the powerful group of outsiders were doing. If they were still in the labyrinth, they might make the situation worse...

But he believed that they must have entered deep into the labyrinth already.

A few days ago, Gabe sensed that the seal on the tenth floor's entrance door was destroyed. That was a seal that he dispatched his devils to set up after meeting Rhode's group before. Since the seal was destroyed, it meant that Rhode's group should have already left the tenth floor and headed deeper into the maze. But this was fine too...

Gabe revealed a wry smile. As soon as the channel connecting to the Bottomless Abyss was opened up, countless devils would swarm this place and no matter how powerful those people were, they could never defeat them!

I shall return the humiliation you've given me by a hundred times!

He let out a scoff before leaving with his subjects. After they were no longer around, a petite white elf appeared from the shadows sneakily. She smiled, placing a metal ring over the black crystal, before vanishing into the darkness again.

"The fish has taken the bait."

Rhode snorted and said softly. The apprentices heard him and turned pale instantly. They managed to reach here safely after surviving the ordeals before, but didn't expect this bad news: their apprentice test was a conspiracy by the devils!

Richard and his team were in disbelief. The two mentors who were possessed by the devils broke free after Christie used [Knowledge Scroll] on them. Thereafter, the apprentices realized that the mentors had fallen into Gabe's trap where their teleportation crystals were also meddled with. If it weren't for Christie, perhaps they would be beyond rescue now.

Even though it was hard to believe, everyone accepted this cold-hard truth. The teleportation crystals had all been meddled with and they couldn't leave the Deepest Labyrinth now. All they could do now was to follow Rhode's instructions and wait patiently as bait for the big fish to get hooked on. And now, they were in the final stages.

"Will everything be fine, Rhode?"

Canary knitted her brows and whispered into his ear.

"If our target is Grazite, who is around level 90 as a devil lord, I think we will need at least a team of 25 to take him down. Perhaps it will not be enough with only me, you, Bubble, and the summoned spirits, even if we meddled with the teleportation ritual... You are also aware that devils will be an annoying bunch after the teleportation ritual is activated. Even though the mages will assist us, their support will be limited."

Indeed, just as Canary mentioned, Grazite wouldn't be an easy BOSS in terms of level. Top players in the game had to form a party of 25 members and needed an experienced leader in order for them to stand a chance to defeat him. Although they had sufficient members now, it was still too risky for their levels. Even with the help of Christie, she still wouldn't be too effective if it weren't the other 'Christie' engaging in battle because Grazite would send out waves of devils before he showed up. The devils would be around level 70 and the endless number of them would wreak havoc. It wouldn't be an issue for Rhode's group to take them out. But they weren't certain of their chances in taking out Grazite later, and even Canary was concerned.

"Don't worry, they have the human wave tactic while we have our reinforcements."

"Reinforcements?'

Mini Bubble Gum cocked her head to the side curiously.

"What reinforcements, Leader? Why didn't I hear you mention it before?"

Rhode placed his finger on his smiling lips.

"You will know when the time is right."

The tall stone doors opened and flame torches around the wide hall lit up instantly. Gabe strolled toward the center of the hall, and beside him were Stewart and three other devils who no longer looked like humans. Gabe's body slowly transformed with each step he took forward. His smooth skin cracked and fell off his body like loose stone, revealing the pitch-black scales underneath. A pair of goat-like horns drilled out of his forehead. A putrid aura of purgatory erupted from his body, shaping into black smoke that enfolded him.

"O' mighty lord! I humbly ask that you hear my prayers and summons!"

Gabe, who had completely turned into a devil, raised his four arms. The thick, mysterious aura of purgatory diffused wildly, spinning and forming into dense black clouds that drifted around the ceiling. At the same time, the massive teleportation ritual shone around its perimeter and slowly flowed inward to shape an intricate pattern. Gabe's loud, hoarse, and evil snarl of the Abyss language resounded in the empty room. As he chanted the curse, the ritual beneath his feet glowed brighter. Roaring lightning bolts struck out from the dark clouds onto the ground to become one with the teleportation ritual.

In the blink of an eye, the dark clouds expanded to reveal a twisted, indistinct void filled with billows of smoke and scarlet flames, as well as strange, evil-looking buildings. The revolting stench diffused and enveloped the entire hall.

"My lord, please hear my voice! The channel has opened; the connecting plane shall reveal itself once again!"

"You've done well, Sir Gabe."

It wasn't the voice that Gabe was anticipating. He turned around and saw Rhode's group appearing in the empty corner. The four devils who were responsible for guarding the ritual also turned quickly, swinging their claws and letting out warning hisses.

"Stewart..."

Richard gazed with complicated emotions at the man who had turned into a devil, albeit the familiar attire. Although Stewart wasn't a well-respected man in the Mage Tower, it seemed too cruel for him to suffer such a treatment.

"You people actually..."

Gabe's eyes flashed with an ice-cold glint. The fact that Rhode's group didn't leave and chose to ambush him here proved that they already knew his plan. But what could they do to him?

"It seems like you're aware of my doings..."

"Of course, you're connecting the channel to the Bottomless Abyss to summon armies of devils. Well, this is a huge project and I didn't expect that a bunch of devils like you were actually smart enough to modify the teleportation ritual in the Deepest Labyrinth for your goal. Frankly, this gives me a new understanding of your IQ."

"No matter what you say, everything is too late!"

Gabe grimaced at Rhode's expressionless face. Gabe realized that the situation was far from good, but didn't know where exactly had gone wrong. The aura of purgatory from the Bottomless Abyss had filled his body entirely. The strong, sinister energy was flowing through his veins, connecting his body and this world!

"The channel has opened and devils from the Bottomless Abyss have access to this world now. No matter what you do, you will not succeed! Show yourselves, devils! Annihilate these ants who are trying to profane my lord's prestige!"

Boom!

Countless lightning bolts struck to the ground in loud explosions. The teleportation ritual emanated a dazzling black radiance while expanding like flowing water. One by one, strange devils appeared before them.

"Grrrr..."

"Alright, time for a BOSS fight."

Rhode said with a smile. He extended his right hand and several steel chains climbed and penetrated his arm. Beads of blood sprayed and an enormous and shimmering red sword appeared in his hand.

"Main tanker lures the devils' aggro. Attackers beware of vengeance. Spell casters standby!"

Apart from Mini Bubble Gum and Canary, the others didn't understand a word he said. But they swiftly got into their positions. A magic barrier was cast over the mages. The shield in Anne's hand widened instantly, turning into a sturdy wall of defense. Celia and Celestina stood behind her, clutching their swords and watching the devils attentively. Karin stood among them with her hands behind her back. In fact, countless threads reflecting faint radiance were slowly revolving around her. Bell stooped over, wielding daggers, while Christie watched the scene sternly from behind her, holding the ring on her finger and waiting for the crucial moment. On the other side, the apprentices and mentors were also ready to face the sea of devils that were about to gush toward them.

"---!"

In an instant, loud, hoarse screeches echoed in the hall. The devils that appeared from the shadows pounced on the humans. But in the blink of an eye, a light beam emitted, followed by a combination of purifying, scared flames and holy radiance that blasted the devils away. The first wave of devils were completely annihilated. But this was far from the end.

The black tide continued to swarm with the increasing number of devils. It was still a mystery as to how many devils existed in the Bottomless Abyss. In this case, all the humans could do was to resist and eliminate them.

Shing-!

Rhode slashed the large, scarlet blade, sending spiritual blade rays forward that shredded the devils that pounced on him. Their repulsive blood splattered, quickly evaporating under the silver-whitish flames from Celia's blade. She expanded her glorious wings and lifted her sword like a blinding sun shining in a warm, dazzling brilliance. The devils felt powerless instantly. The tough scales on their bodies softened and the movements of their razor-sharp claws slowed down drastically. At this moment, along with the murmurs of spell chants, sharp wind blades and massive fireballs struck and demolished the devils.

"Continue attacking. This is only the start!"

"Yes, Master."

Celestina brandished the thorn whip, causing a wall of black flames to surge and devour another devil that charged at her recklessly. At the same time, she swung her left hand in midair where a scarlet, circular ritual filled with an aura of evil death appeared underneath the devils' feet. In an instant, the devils shrieked in panic and turned into nothingness.

"Useless. Everything that you're doing is useless!"

Gabe growled, pointing his fingers at the four devil bodyguards, and four turbid, black rays emitted from his fingertips. The devil bodyguards suddenly grew in size and their sinister aura became much stronger. They widened their eyes, filled with indescribable madness and murderous intent. Gabe burst into a hearty laughter. Then, he commanded wildly.

"Go forth! Kill those humans!"