His face was looking angry and afraid at the same time.
"Chi! Why is Chi here? Damn it! So this is your hidden card? You really think... Huh?!"
Clenching his teeth, the man suddenly jolted.
He noticed something strange about the gloomy, cold aura.
It wasn't just messy, it was...weak!
"I see! Hahahahaha! It's just a clone's remains! Great Swamp, you are dead!"
The man laughed frighteningly before vanishing on the spot.
[Flame City Bangle Replica] guided Kieran once more.
The stairs before his eyes were identical to the ones in Great Swamp's estate: the same nine levels, each having 108 flights of stairs, and each flight of stairs being 33mm thick, plus ancient drawings, which Kieran couldn't even differentiate, carved all over it.
However, there was something different.
The flight of stairs was much more dangerous than the one in Great Swamp's estate.
Naked eyes couldn't see it, but a real dangerous presence loomed around the stairs, and it was pressuring Kieran's heart like a mountain crushing over him.
Even with the bangle guiding him, Kieran was very careful with each step.
Kieran already expected danger. Although he had risked his life in exploring the dungeon world for exponential rewards, this time, it was different.
Using numbers as an example, [City of Fiends]'s difficulty would be a 1 under normal circumstances. Based on Kieran's previous experiences, after deeply excavating for sub-missions and special events, the difficulty should have increased to a 2 or 3, but instead, it had now increased to a 5 or even higher.
"I can't judge every dungeon world from previous patterns and experiences. Each dungeon world is different from one another. This is especially more so when Gods and Demons are introduced."
Kieran reminded himself to bear this lesson in mind.
He then continued climbing the stairs.
As for giving up?
Up until this point, Kieran would absolutely not give up.
It wasn't just because of his main mission, as there was still a considerable amount of rewards awaiting him.
Danger and reward are proportionate!
Kieran believed in that and also the unchanged motive of the underground game.
At the end of the stairs where a palace building group appeared in sight, [Flame City Bangle Replica] finally dimmed.
It had lost its function, but Kieran had already made the best use out of it.
Through the palace gate, Kieran saw Great Swamp standing inside.
Great Swamp was smiling, but his body was faint like a mirage.
"Faster than I thought," said Great Swamp.
"I have this to thank." Kieran pointed at [Flame City Bangle Replica] with an honest thought.
There wasn't any acting or pretentious feelings in his comment, the gratitude coming from the bottom of his heart, as Kieran knew that without [Flame City Bangle Replica], even if he could make it, the price he would have had to pay would be massive.
So after expressing his gratitude, Kieran looked at Great Swamp with a questioning gaze.
"Don't you think you owe me an explanation?" said Kieran.
"I met a terrifying enemy. He was strong and cunning, and chased me like cancer. He even set up all these mystifying traps, numbing me to carelessness. So I had to do this." Great Swamp sighed.
However, it obviously couldn't persuade Kieran.
"Mystifying traps? Numbing and carelessness? Please don't use these terms to describe you and him, as it might cause a misunderstanding in an other's mind—Can you swear on your name that you didn't notice the guy behind Perforation Sting?
"With [Slither Secret Pill] in the scene, you should have noticed everything! Those pills aren't something some random John Doe can craft; a Lady Med is required to create such medicine. While Forest City, Many City, and Leaf City—all these cities with actual Gods—are unable to even produce a Lady Med, how could a stray God like Jin achieve it?" Kieran smiled coldly.
After coming to know the existence of Smith Fiend and Lady Med from Rassho Temple's old monk, Kieran was very dubious of the fact that Perforation Sting was able to craft [Slither Secret Pill].
The scenes that unfolded after that further turned his doubts into facts.
Perforation Sting was none other than a puppet being pushed into the limelight by the mastermind. Even God of Forest City, who was wise in his conceit, was a puppet in the dark.
Everything was a scheme by the mastermind behind the scene.
At first, Kieran was fooled as well, not because he wasn't careful enough, but that he was fed with unequal information.
However, unequal information would never be given to Great Swamp, a native.
"I swear on my real name that before you saw your own imposter, I really didn't notice that bastard."
Great Swamp solemnly mentioned his name, which had about 16 syllables and looked serious against Kieran's question.
The way Great Swamp swore made Kieran frown.
"You really didn't know?" asked Kieran.
"If I really knew, I wouldn't be as passive as I am now. You know, 2567? It's been many years since the last time I felt nervous! After seeing your imposter, I knew it was that bastard! That bastard who is declared dead but is actually faking it! From the very beginning, he had his eyes on me and created this so-called Perforation Sting to capture my attention!
"He did it though. I didn't notice at all and even played right into his plan by opening this place—If he wasn't unsure of what was hiding in this place, he would have rammed in here a while ago. So, I tried my best in leaving clues behind for you and hoped that you would be able to help me at the last moment," Great Swamp said with a bitter smile.
"That presence in the pai-loo is much stronger than I am." Kieran pointed behind him.
"If Lady Chi was completed, I, of course, would no longer have to worry. But it's just Lady Chi's clone, a clone that she had to create in order to compensate for her own faults—Simply put, she is completely out of my control. Besides... Even for a clone, Lady Chi just left. That bastard will surely seize the opportunity in her absence."
A bitter smile spread over Great Swamp's face.
He then took a deep breath and looked at Kieran seriously.
"Can you buy me some time?" asked Great Swamp.
[Triggered special event: Mastermind behind the scene]
Kieran nodded at the special event notification.
[Mastermind behind the scene: You've discovered Perforation Sting's secret and appeared before Great Swamp's mirage within stipulated time. You are obliged to Great Swamp's request.]
[Based on player's performance, player will be distributed into Great Swamp's faction]
[Note 1: The better the player performs in the special event, the higher the rating]
[Note 2: Player's performance includes but doesn't limit to battling]
"Great! I swear on my real name that the person before me will be my brother for eternity. I will share my name, my power, my wealth and my position with him."
Great Swamp excitedly chanted a series of vows.
After the vows, a substantial aura from the ground slowly fused into Kieran's body.
[Acquired Great Swamp's Brother Oath!]
[Acquired the favour of destiny within Flame City!]
The notification appeared before his eyes, but Kieran's gaze was looking further away.
A malicious presence was appearing in that direction and was rapidly approaching.Chi (螭) - A hornless dragon in Chinese Mythology