The courtyard was actually a garden with a small lake in the middle, a bridge built on top.
The layout looked very familiar though, and after some thought, Kieran was reminded of Great Swamp's estate.
If the layout before Kieran were to be enlarged, it would be the same as the lake in Great Swamp's estate!
"Great Swamp built his estate according to this place?"
The thought came naturally into Kieran's mind but he wasn't in a hurry to verify the guess.
He regulated his breathing and merged into the shadows around the courtyard walls.
A few minutes later, a series of noises came from above the walls as a figure leapt over the black tiles, or more precisely…
The figure was tossed in, not unlike how Kieran came in just a moment ago.
However, the figure didn't have the chance to land firmly on the ground like Kieran had because Kieran came out from the shadows and dished out a kick at the figure, whose body couldn't move freely while in the air.
His boot clashed with the figure's body, causing it to be straightaway kicked into the small lake.
The figure sank silently into the lake, making no splashes or any other extra movements. The seemingly clear lake water was actually sticky like a swamp, all life landing on it being devoured.
Kieran watched blankly as the lake devoured the figure's body.
The figure outside the courtyard didn't just appear without any reason; similarly, no one would create Great Swamp and his imposter without solid reasoning.
The enemy had been targeting the courtyard from the very beginning and had never given up on that goal.
On top of that, the enemy wisely set up a mystifying trap around the place, and it almost fooled Kieran and Great Swamp altogether.
"Great Swamp must have noticed something, but he wasn't sure. That's why he went to lure the snake out of its hold but… He never thought that the snake would actually be a python that he couldn't fight, thus he was forced to use his father's legacy to fight the enemy."
It was obvious that Great Swamp had failed to oppose the enemy.
Otherwise, given Great Swamp's character, he would have eliminated the enemy a long time ago rather than allowing the enemy to roam freely under his watch and cause so much trouble.
Based on their two-time collaboration, Kieran already understood the firmness beneath Great Swamp's peaceful character, but still, that didn't mean Kieran would forgive Great Swamp for keeping the "secret".
He hoped that Great Swamp could give him a reasonable explanation.
Kieran's eyes turned cold.
However, soo enough, Kieran started to adjust his emotions again, as he knew his own priorities.
After discarding the matters related to Great Swamp aside, Kieran carefully approached the lone bridge over the small lake.
The bridge was crafted out of stone, and with his Pro [Mystical Knowledge] and Transcendence [Tracking], he was able to discern that it was clean.
But he still had to be careful, especially after experiencing the freaky scene from earlier.
Kieran's heart still had lingering fears from the scene before. He was sure that it was no illusion nor illusory realm, but something that was much more horrifying, something that he hadn't even heard of before.
One thing was for certain though, and it was that this place was what Great Swamp's father had left for him, making him able to enter with ease.
As for others?
It was down to a game of luck.
Kieran was quite confident that the place had limits or restrictions he didn't know of yet, otherwise, the enemy behind the scene wouldn't this careful when they could have just walked into this place righteously.
The stone bridge, based on Kieran's observation, wasn't long, as it was no more than 50 meters, but when he stepped on the stone bridge, mist appeared.
It turned from thin to thick within a breath's time, and one would no longer be able see his or her own hand properly.
Kieran's SSS+ Intuition was at a complete loss. He had lost his direction, and he couldn't see or hear anything either.
The only thing he could do was feel the stone bridge beneath his feet, which seemed like...it was moving?!
Unconsciously, Kieran thought of the figure who got devoured silently.
Without further ado, Kieran took the [Flame City Bangle Replica] and activated its [Guide] function.
Although the equipment could be brought out of the dungeon world, other than the underground city, Kieran couldn't think of anywhere else he could use it.
Despite his stingy ghost nature, he wouldn't hesitate to use what was proper when necessary because he knew that it would, in turn, bring him far greater rewards.
The bangle buzzed and a pulling force appeared from nowhere, dragging Kieran forward by his hand.
With the [Guide] activated, Kieran was easily able to cross the stone bridge, and when his boots finally touched the dirt on the ground ahead, the mist that rendered his SSS+ Intuition useless vanished instantly. Even the bridge behind him was cleared of the mist, but only from Kieran's own sight.
The people on the stone bridge would still be blinded by the mist.
Two new intruders had been wandering around like headless flies on the bridge when the mist suddenly clouded their perception, causing them to barely be able to move forward.
Despite that the two intruders were a meter apart, they couldn't feel each other's presence.
Kieran felt how magical the mist was, and at the same time, a grenade appeared in his hand.
It exploded on the bridge after it was hurled.
The bridge was unscathed and the two intruders didn't really suffer any actual damage from the explosion, but the blast unbalanced them, causing them to fall into the small lake.
The lake started to devour again.
Compared to the first time, Kieran now had a clear glimpse.
The moment the intruders touched the lake, the two of them went dull as if their soul had been sucked out, and the lake water then proceeded to devour their body without a struggle.
"This is the third and fourth one. How many more pawns can you lose? Or will you be the next one?"
Kieran thought this in his mind while he strode away along the small path.
He had decided not to stay behind and wait for the mastermind.
It wasn't just that Kieran believed that there would be more opportunities ahead to cause serious damage to the mastermind, it was also because of the sense of urgency in his heart.
Kieran hadn't forgotten the Imposter Great Swamp's reminder of the one hour duration.
He had reason to believe that the imposter wasn't just brushing him off with the duration.
Soon, Kieran reached the end of the small path.
A red coloured pai-loo structure appeared within his sight, and it was quite similar to the one in Great Swamp's place.
The structure consisted of two massively robust pillars on each side, acting as a support for the arching beam on top. The beam was made of grey tiles and gold bricks, and it had many intricate carvings repeatedly etched on it.
The only difference was that there wasn't a white bird at the dougong bracket around the pillar and the beam, but rather, something else.
A gloomy, cold presence was coming out of the dougong bracket.
The moment Kieran went up close, [Flame City Bangle Replica] shone in red light again.
Under the red light, the gloomy presence paused and suffered delays.
It seemed to be thinking about something.
Kieran, of course, wouldn't let the window slip by. He dashed in with a sudden big stride.
When he was much past the pai-loo structure, the gloomy presence exploded.
It ravaged around the pai-loo structure, similar to a class 12 hurricane.
Immediately, bone-stinging chills spread across Kieran's skin.
[Devourer's Shadow Mail], which was supposed to absorb rank II damage, didn't react to the wind. The other defensive skills, including [Secondary Elemental Damage Resistance] and [Secondary Armored Skin], were also useless.
The bone-stinging chills entered Kieran's body straightaway, but they were then stopped by the tenacious Dawn Force, crushed and expelled by the rampant Devil Force.
Huu Haa, Huu Haa!
Kieran was panting heavily.
White breath repeatedly came out of his mouth, and after much panting, Kieran saw that the ground before his eyes was covered with a thick layer of ice.
With lingering fear, Kieran looked back in the pai-loo's direction.
A white figure suddenly appeared beneath the red pai-loo.
The figure's hair was so long that it blocked its face, its fingers black and disgusting. Through the seams of its hair, Kieran faintly saw a pair of scarlet red, bloody eyes.
When it locked gazes with Kieran, its bloody eyes widened all of a sudden as if the figure had seen something inconceivable.
After a sharp scream, the ghost-like figure vanished on the spot.
"What the hell?" Kieran was astonished.
At the same time, a similar scream occurred in a certain spot in Flame City as well.
The scream was actually from a wrinkly elderly man in a coir raincoat.
Rage made the elderly flush and his body quiver.
"What happened? What the hell happened?"
Standing on top of the elderly's table were five wooden dummies that looked very lively, four of which were destroyed.
The first one from the left had cracks on its back.
The second one had an unsightly separation angle on its waist.
The third and fourth were crumbled thoroughly, removing them from their original looks.
Watching his blood and sweat being destroyed one after another before his very eyes, the elderly stood up from his seat and roared at the man beside him.
"Tell me, what the hell is going on? Didn't you say that your plan was going to succeed? Why the hell are changes like this happening?"
The man that was sitting beside him frowned quietly when being questioned.
To be honest, the man didn't even know what caused such changes to his plan.
According to his plan, Great Swamp and Bird of Death, who intervened halfway, should both still be in the dark while awaiting their deaths.
"I don't know as of now. Can you summon your last puppet back? I need to get more details from it first," the man said.
"Last time! One last time!" said the grumpy elderly.
The elderly was preparing to summon his puppet back but as he was about to cast his spells, a gloomy, cold presence appeared on the last wooden dummy.
Almost instantaneously, the wooden dummy was turned into a pile of ice.
The elderly jolted when he saw that his puppet had turned.
He tried to say something with his opened mouth, but suddenly, the elderly realized his body was somehow frozen as well.
The elderly wanted to ask for help from his comrade, but when he turned to the seat where the man was sitting, he then realized that the man had disappeared without his knowing.
"You son of a…"
The elderly growled furiously, but before the last word could come out, he stopped abruptly.
The white figure with long hair over its face and disgusting black fingers had appeared before the elderly.
When the elderly saw its red eyes through the seams of its hair, he trembled.
The quivering begging ended in vain, similar to how his furious growl had.
The breath with bone-stinging chills drowned the elderly and the entire house together.
Countless shining runes carved around the walls and windows, but these runes, which could stop a high standing God, were insignificant before the white figure, unable to even withstand a single blow.
All the runes shattered one after another like glasses falling to the floor.
Then, the pieces were frozen together along with everything in the house.
In the end, only the white figure was left in the house.
At this moment, she was king of the place.
But once she thought about that terrifying man, she couldn't help but sob softly.
She never thought she would be able to see him again.
Why did he come back?
He shouldn't have come back!
He shouldn't have!
But she saw him just now!
The sobbing grew louder.
The nightmarish face of that man caused her to panic.
Even her sanity was lost.Pai-loo: a decorative or monumental gateway having a trabeated form with three compartments, the central one higher than the othersDougong: a unique structural element of interlocking wooden brackets, one of the most important elements in traditional Chinese architecture.