"There's no need to look anymore. The same thing happened when I killed these creatures before."
Viscount Jackson took out a white handkerchief and wiped his blade clean, before sheathing it into the scabbard.
"There's actually a self-disintegration phenomenon when it dies!"
Leylin was somewhat surprised. This did not correspond to the laws of nature.
Looking at the skeleton that was still emitting white smoke, Leylin picked one of the bones up.
The dried white bone was littered with cracks. It felt like any slight press would cause it to crumble. Leylin exerted a little more force, and with a hissing sound, the dried bone turned into fine powder.
"En, something's off!" Leylin's eyes flashed. He discovered some fine threads of veins within the white bone powder.
[Target still exuding vital energy. Identified to be a high-level pathogen. The host is recommended to keep a distance!] At this moment, the A.I. Chip's scan appeared in Leylin's vision.
Leylin hurriedly flung off the powdery substance and began radiating internal energy particles from within his hands to cleanse them.
"What's wrong?" Murphy too discovered that something was amiss.
"Be careful of those bones, there's something inside it!" Leylin's brows furrowed and he hurriedly distanced himself from it.
* Sssii! * At that moment, more red blood veins appeared on the desiccated lizard's skeleton. The bone began to exhibit innumerable puncture holes. It seemed like the veins resided within the bones previously.
Countless more blood red veins took shape, intertwining like the branches of a tree and started transforming into a small-sized creature.
It was rather similar to the creature before, but now its body was blood red. From time to time, red veins popped out. The creature did not have eyes or a mouth. Its four legs appeared extremely sturdy, however.
* Xiu! * The creature's attack was extremely fast. Before Viscount Jackson and the other acolytes could react, it left its original position. Only a red, blurry line could be seen.
"Give chase! This creature definitely has something to do with the withering woods!" A person covered fully in grey robes whispered something to Viscount Jackson, who immediately gave the order.
"That grey-robed person has always been following Viscount Jackson ever since we left Extreme Night City. He must be a trusted aide. He also has great detection abilities."
Leylin eyes narrowed as he used the A.I. Chip to scan. "This appearance and figure, there is also the energy waves of a level 2 acolyte? Interesting!"
"Hurry! Keep up!"
Upon hearing Viscount Jackson's orders, the Black Iron Guards immediately followed suit, overtaking Viscount Jackson and keeping him in their midst. The grey-robed person followed closely behind.
The remaining acolytes looked at each other. Murphy, a little helplessly, said, "Let's follow them!"
Leylin purposely suppressed his speed and kept to Murphy's speed, "That thing earlier, do you have any guesses as to what it was?"
"It seems to be some kind of parasite! According to its strength, the mother-parent has, at least, the strength of a level 3 acolyte....Or even that of an official Magus!" Murphy smiled bitterly.
Leylin and his small group were no threat to an official Magus. Any rank 1 spell could easily obliterate their entire party.
"That shouldn't be!" Leylin shook his head. According to the A.I. Chip's calculations, that parasite's strength was not bad. The mother-parent's body should at most have the strength of a level 3 acolyte, theoretically speaking. Otherwise, Leylin would have been the first to run away.
"It is only.....just an investigative mission, I even picked it myself. That it can actually involve an organism with the strength of a level 3 acolyte, how bad can my luck be...." Leylin did not know what to think of himself anymore.
He was happy that he did not come here on his own before. Otherwise, unlike the main characters in the novels of his previous world, he was incapable of those fictional bursts of power in times of adversity. And the only outcome would be death.
"Be careful, we are venturing deeper. I can already feel the dense negative energy aura in the air!"
An acolyte howled.
Leylin had a higher perception towards negative energy. After all, his main affinities were Shadow and Dark Element particles. Just like Plant affinity and Light affinity emphasized on positive energy research, Leylin's affinities made him spend more time exposed to negative energy compared to the others.
"It's almost like the surroundings of Abyssal Bone Forest Academy. No wonder I feel like a fish back in the water."
Leylin pulled up his sleeves and covered the smile that pulled at the corners of his lips.
* Clang! * Sounded their armour as the group halted.
"It disappeared! I saw that red creature pausing at this spot for a moment, then it suddenly disappeared!" Jackson brandished his long sword, "Be on guard!"
The Black Iron Guards immediately formed a circle protecting Jackson and the acolytes within to prevent any sneak attacks.
"This should be the heart of the withering woods!" Murphy rubbed his nose.
"The scouting method I have prepared can now be used!" Murphy took a black coloured potion from his robes and poured the contents on the ground after opening the plug.
* Plop plop! *
After the black coloured potion was poured on the forest floor, it actually turned into tiny ants scampering in all directions.
After the potion was used up, Leylin estimated that there were close to ten thousand ants that appeared.
"A scout like this can be considered to have omnidirectional coverage. It will be extremely difficult for that creature to escape!" Leylin thought.
As expected, after roughly a dozen minutes, a black coloured ant appeared at Murphy's feet, crawled on his robes all the way to his ears, and appeared as if it whispered something.
"It's been found! Follow me!" Murphy followed the ant and led the group to a withered oak tree.
"Move this oak tree away!" Murphy pointed at the large tree, "According to my probing, there seems to be a secret tunnel underneath it."
"Squad 1! Go!" Jackson waved his hands.
Several Black Iron Guards went forward and stabbed their pikes at the oak tree.
The withered oak tree did not seem capable of withstanding the assault. After being pierced multiple times by the pikes, many pieces and chips of bark filled the air as if it were snowing. The ten guards hurriedly moved the completely withered oak tree away revealing a dark sinister tunnel.
"Here it is!" Murphy's eyes flashed, and he chanted an incantation.
The widely spread black ants returned from all directions and entered the hole.
Suddenly, Murphy's face turned pale, and his body fell backwards, almost fainting.
"What happened?" Leylin appeared behind Murphy and supported his waist.
"There seems to be an extremely dangerous creature inside. It destroyed all of my precious babies!" Murphy's expression appeared very unsightly.
"What should we do?" An acolyte asked, apparently wanting to leave.
"Prepare a fire!" Jackson waves his hands, "We'll have a look down there!"
"Yes!" The guards quickly carried out their lord's orders. Leylin and the other acolytes looked at each other. Having no other choice, they could only follow.
The hole was rather small. A grown man needed to crouch before they could enter. However, the tunnel became more spacious the deeper it went, until a number of guards could walk abreast, even raising the fire torches high did not touch the cave's ceiling.
"This is going to be troublesome! From the height of this cave, that 'parent's' body will definitely not be small." Leylin felt the leather sack hanging from his waist. If not for the multiple trump cards he prepared, he might have already sneaked away and left the group by now.
After all, his life was more precious than the wrath of a city's lord.
"Lord Viscount! There's a fork ahead!" A squad leader reported to Jackson.
"Let me have a look!" Jackson stepped forward.
Leylin followed behind. As expected, there seemed to be two perfectly similar tunnels ahead. Looking at the darkness of their unfathomable depths, one could not see the tunnel's end. It felt like walking into the huge mouth of a beast.
"The negative energy in here is becoming too dense. Some of our scouting methods cannot be used here!" The city lord's aide, the grey-robed person spoke.
"Call two men to reconnoiter each path ahead!" Jackson's brows furrowed as he gave the order.
"It would be better to let me do it!" Leylin walked forward suddenly.
Since he knew that the 'parent' was extremely powerful, he did not want his side to lose too much battle strength.
"Since Mister Leylin has decided to step forward, then it's for the best!" Viscount Jackson smiled.
Leylin walked forward several steps and took out a transparent crystal from his robes.
"Gurisitong - Jiaonateyer!" Leylin chanted. A black vertical pupil suddenly appeared within the depths of the crystal.
The vertical pupil was the same size as a human's, but it did not have the white of a human eye. Looking at this pure black pupil made one feel as if it could tear their souls from their bodies.
"This is... The Negative Energy Eye!"
"Only acolytes who specialise in negative energy are able to use it!"
The acolytes behind began to whisper and their gazes contained more hostility and fear than before.
The rank 0 spells of magicians who specialises in negative energy are generally more destructive and their personalities were more bloodthirsty and savage than most other Magi. This normally meant being a Dark Magi.
The regular magicians' hostile looks were understandable.
Leylin did not have any inclinations of explaining himself to the people behind him whatsoever. His fingers exerted force and pinched the crystal to pieces.
The black pupil split into two. One floated into each tunnel.
Following the vertical pupils mentally, Leylin's closed his eyes. Viscount Jackson became rather nervous as he stared at Leylin. The group grew quiet, only the constant soft snapping noise of torches burning could be heard.
A few minutes later, Leylin opened his eyes, "On the tunnel to the left are a few mutated lizards. At its end is a large granite rock."
"As for the one on the right, I only know that it leads unknown distance downwards. My spell got smashed after I tried probing further."
"Since it's that way, let's all go down together." Jackson pointed to the tunnel on the right.
The right side of the cave got damper and more humid. Leylin touched the mud walls and found a few moss-like plants strewn all over it dripping wet, "It's moist!"
Leylin's heart lurched, but his expression remained impassive. He took out a white handkerchief from his robes and wiped his hands clean.
"I'm afraid we're nearing the nest of those strange creatures."
Previous Chapter Next Chapter