Chapter 74. Fight to the Death

Grano and Eder stood, staring at the quicksand that had engulfed Kang Oh.

"We haven't heard from him for a while... Do you think something went wrong?" Eder asked.

He furrowed his pale, colorless brow.

"Even if I wanted to talk to him via the communication earring... He wouldn't be able to talk in the sand."

Grano was worried about Kang Oh.

Not only had he not gotten any word from him, but he hadn't pushed himself out of the sand either.

"Shouldn't we do something?" Eder asked.

Normally, Eder would just leave Kang Oh be, as he always abused or threatened him.

But after spending time with him, it seemed like he'd formed an affection derived from hatred for Kang Oh.

Eder couldn't just leave Kang Oh be.

"Then I'll use a spell to..."

Grano dug the sand with a spell.

But then...

Beep - Beep - Beep.

He heard a signal from his communication earring.

Grano quickly grabbed the earrings with his fingers.

"Ah! Ah! This is Kang Oh. This is Kang Oh, can you hear me?"

He could hear Kang Oh's voice through the communication earring.

"Yes, I can hear you. Mr. Kang Oh, are you alright?" Grano inquired.

"Yes. I was close to dying, but I managed to make it out alive."

"Hoo. That's a relief."

"Indeed. I've found the hidden dungeon."

He could hear Kang Oh's elated voice.

"Did you really find it?"

Grano's voice quivered.

The Bariton Desert's greatest secret: the hidden oasis!

They'd finally found it.

It was only natural that his voice shook and his heart began to pound.

"Yes. I'll tell you how to get here now."

"Was there another way aside from sinking in the quicksand? Grano asked.

"Sinking in the quicksand is the right way. However, you have to endure until you're at the brink. That's the only way to reach the hidden oasis."

Kang Oh clearly emphasized the word 'endure'.

"So you're saying that we cannot escape the quicksand, regardless of how easy it would be to do so, and endure as long as we can."

Grano quickly realized what Kang Oh was saying.

"Yes. That is the Taruman Balk Ritual, or the Final Journey."

"I understand. Mr. Eder and I will go immediately."

"I'll try summoning Eder."

"Understood."

Grano stared at Eder.

"Mr. Kang Oh said he'd try summoning you, Mr. Eder."

Eder, who'd been listening to their conversation, nodded his head from beside Grano.

His body seemed to fade and then disappeared as if smoke had dispersed.

A short while later.

"Eder got here safe and sound. Now it's your turn, Mr. Grano."

He could hear Kang Oh's voice through the earring once more.

"I understand. Then I'll see you at the hidden oasis."

Grano took his finger off the communication earring and walked to the center of the quicksand pit.

Whoosh.

The sand sounded like sweeping wind as his body sank deeper and deeper into the quicksand.

Grano didn't do anything. Ultimately, he was completely engulfed by the sand.

Kang Oh's party had completely disappeared within the sand with two Sandurions watching the entire scene.

* * *

Grano's situation was different from Kang Oh's.

He wasn't a player, so death was a very real prospect for him.

Therefore, once he'd left the quicksand and was no longer able to breathe, he felt the fear of death wash over him.

Grano instinctively tried to dig himself out of the sand with both hands and raise his body out of the pit. 

However, after one attempt, he stopped.

'This isn't... real quicksand.'

If it were real, then its weight and pressure wouldn't allow him to dig himself out.

However, if one exert enough force with both arms, then they could dig themselves out of this quicksand pit.

In other words, this place was artificially made to make it easy to escape. 

If that's the case, then Kang Oh was right; he wouldn't be buried alive.

Grano tightly clenched his fists.

'Please, please!'

He wanted this to be over ASAP and arrive at the entrance to the hidden oasis.

However, he couldn't breathe, so his chest felt tight and his mind became faint.

How much time had passed?

'T-This is my limit...'

It felt like he'd black out. 

'I'll die helplessly,' Grano thought.

'Becky, Rebecca, Veronica!'

The faces of his two daughters and wife flashed through his mind.

At that moment...

His body felt relieved and though he hadn't taken a breath, it felt as though he had.

Furthermore, some strong force was pulling on him.

Whoosh.

Grano was pulled deeper into the sand.

* * *

When he awoke, he saw Kang Oh and Eder's faces.

He automatically felt happy.

"Mr. Kang Oh, Mr. Eder!"

Grano embraced both Kang Oh and Eder.

"Ahem. What's wrong?"

Kang Oh looked troubled by Grano's intense display of emotion. 

"Are you alright?"

Eder patted Grano's back.

"I thought I'd die without being able to see my daughters get married," Grano said.

His body was still trembling.

"I told you you wouldn't die," Kang Oh said and removed himself.

He could only hug a man for so long.

As a true healer, Eder kept patting Grano's back to calm him down.

Because of that, Grano was eventually able to calm down.

"Thank you very much, Mr. Eder."

Grano bowed his head.

"It was nothing," Eder replied modestly.

Clap!

Kang Oh clapped his hands.

"Now, let's get ready!"

Then, Grano saw the surrounding landscape.

"This place is..."

The ceiling was covered by a dome-shaped transparent veil. He could see the sand flowing along the veil.

'Is it a barrier?'

The transparent veil appeared to be a barrier created to form a large space beneath the desert.

There was a shimmering crystal at the center of the dome, which illuminated the inside of the room. That's why it wasn't dark inside.

The ground consisted of gray sand, and there was also an oasis far into the distance.

There was also a structure constructed around the oasis as well!

"It's the hidden oasis!" Grano yelled.

He'd finally found it!

"Yes, it is, so please get a hold of yourself and get ready for some guests," Kang Oh said.

"Guests... Modune?" Eder asked.

"Yep."

Kang Oh had created several plans to use against Modune.

One of those plans was as follows: attack when Modune and his men follow them in!

"This is our chance, since only a few of them can enter at a time," Kang Oh said.

The quicksand pit wasn't large enough to engulf several of Modune's men at once.

In other words, Modune's troops couldn't all come down here at once, which meant that they could take them down one at a time.

"Indeed."

Grano nodded his head.

"Then I'll let Mr. Sephiro know."

Kang Oh opened a message window and sent Sephiro a message.

- We've arrived at our destination. How is the situation outside?

- They're gathering around the quicksand pit right now.

Sephiro was currently following Modune and his men.

As befitting an archer, Sephiro possessed the Hawkeye skill, which enhanced his vision.

Therefore, he could follow them whilst maintaining a distance and still see each and every one of their moves.

- Just as planned. Please send me a message when they enter the pit.

- Understood.

Kang Oh closed the message window and said, "As we planned, Modune and his men are entering the pit. When they get here, take them down immediately."

"Yes, sir!"

Eder raised his mace high.

Rather than reply, Grano's orb spun. 

* * *

A cloud of sand rose.

Countless camels trekked across the sand. Modune, the Red Sand Unit, as well as the insect mages rode upon them.

There were 130 of them!

The line of camels stopped at the heart of the desert. They had stopped at the very location that Kang Oh's party had just been not too long ago.

"Right there. Grano went inside there."

Modune's bushy-bearded subordinate pointed at the pit of quicksand.

"Quicksand, huh... That's why no one could find it," Modune said as he stared at the pit.

The desert's most dangerous trap was quicksand.

So who would have thought that it concealed the entrance to the hidden oasis? No one would even fathom it.

"What should we do? Should we follow Grano inside?" his subordinate asked.

"How long has it been since Grano went inside?"

"It's been more than 30 minutes."

"30 minutes, huh... Give the Red Sand Unit some communication devices and send them in as scouts," Modune ordered.

His subordinate relayed Modune's order to the captain of the Red Sand Unit.

Their captain pointed at three members, who promptly stood forward.

"The path to the hidden oasis lies within. Go in and report."

The captain gave them crystal beads that were larger than his fist. They were old-fashioned communication devices.

"Understood."

One of the members accepted the bead and walked to the center of the quicksand pit. The other two members followed after the first man..

The three sat in the area where the sand was being sucked in and their bodies were slowly devoured by the pit.

Modune watched as they did so, and Sephiro, who was keeping watch in the distance, sent a report to Kang Oh.

- Three mercenaries have entered the quicksand pit.

He sent Kang Oh the message.

- Understood. Please keep telling us how many of them are entering the quicksand. Please report anything of note too.

- I understand.

Sephiro watched Modune and his men from afar.

How much time had passed?

The three mercenaries that had entered the quicksand had dug themselves out.

"Keok, heok!"

"Haa, hahk."

"Heoh, Haa."

The three mercenaries were breathing heavily.

"What happened?"

"Heoh, there is no... entrance to the hidden oasis inside. Haa. It's all just sand," the mercenary holding the communication crystal said.

"I thought I'd die if I stayed, so... I dug myself out of the sand," one of the other mercenaries said.

"I got it. Remain on standby over there."

"Yes, sir."

The captain approached Modune.

"What did they say?" Modune asked.

"They tried going inside, but all they found is sand."

"Hmm."

Modune stroked his thick chin.

"It appears that you need to use a specific method or item to enter the hidden oasis," his bushy-bearded subordinate said.

Modune nodded his head. It made sense.

"What will we do now?" his subordinate asked.

"We wait until they come out with the treasure," Modune said.

"Captain!" he called.

"Yes."

"Tell your men to be on standby; make sure they're ready to fight on a moment's notice," Modune ordered.

"Understood."

The captain left to fulfill his orders.

"You go with the insect mages and set up the teleportation nullifying device. And set up surveillance over the entire desert too. There's a chance that they could appear somewhere else," Modune said to his subordinate.

They'd already received the teleportation nullifying device from the Arabas Kingdom. Now was the time to use it. 

"Yes, sir."

"Watch them carefully. Tell the insect mages that there'll be hell to pay if they make it out of the desert," Modune said harshly.

"I understand."

"Go on."

The bushy-bearded subordinate left; he walked around busily to relay Modune's order.

Sephiro was watching them closely and obviously reported this to Kang Oh.

* * *

- The mercenaries that entered left without finding anything. After that, they gave up on going in.

Sephiro had sent a message.

- I understand. Please keep watching them.

Once he'd sent a reply, Kang Oh called for Eder and Grano.

"It appears that they couldn't pass the Final Journey," Kang Oh said.

"That means..." Grano trailed off.

"Yes. They're not following us; instead, they're waiting for us outside," Kang Oh said.

"Then it'd be hard to pick them off one-by-one," Eder said.

"It's not all bad. We don't have to worry about them for the time being, and can explore the hidden oasis."

Kang Oh pointed towards the oasis with the tip of his sword.

"Let's go!"

Kang Oh's party headed for the oasis and the structure around it.

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