Chris surveyed the first floor, his meticulous search yielding no clues or hints about accessing the basement. Frustration crept in as he pondered the situation. "Could Adam be wrong about this?" he wondered, his mind searching for any overlooked possibilities. Yet, he decided to employ a magical solution he had up his sleeve-Pathfinder, a spell known for its utility in guiding one toward their desired goal.
As the incantation flowed from his lips and the spell took hold, Chris's head was bombarded with a multitude of paths, each branching in different directions. The overwhelming influx of possibilities pulsed through his mind, causing his temples to ache with the influx of information. Most of the paths led outward, dissipating into the streets beyond. Amidst the chaos, a single path stood out, directing him toward a seemingly ordinary bookshelf near the entrance.
The barrage of information became too much to bear, prompting Chris to swiftly halt the spell's flow of mana. His head cleared as the spell deactivated, leaving him with a single viable lead-the bookshelf. He took a moment to catch his breath, his mind reeling from the onslaught of information.
Determined to unravel the mystery behind the bookshelf, Chris meticulously examined its surface, searching for any concealed mechanism that might reveal a passage to the basement. His efforts, however, proved futile-there were no discernible hidden buttons or levers to manipulate.
Frustration boiled over as Chris reached his limit. "F*** it," he muttered, his patience worn thin. With a surge of energy, he conjured a Fire blast spell and directed it at the bookshelf. The incantation unleashed a torrent of flames that battered the shelf, triggering its protective shield. But the sheer intensity of the fire overwhelmed the shield, rendering it inoperative. The resulting explosion of heat and force tore through the shelf, sending splintered debris scattering in every direction.
Amidst the aftermath, a concealed door was revealed. Chris stood amidst the settling dust and wreckage, a mix of satisfaction and anticipation coursing through him.
Utilizing the same stealth device that Adam and he had previously employed to access the building unnoticed, Chris stepped into the basement. However, what he encountered was far from the conventional notion of a basement. It was an intricate labyrinth, extending downward into an abyss that seemed to defy the concept of limits. The space was a puzzle in itself, offering both intrigue and challenge.
Two distinct pathways led further down into the depths-a traditional elevator and a winding staircase. Chris surveyed his surroundings cautiously, crouching to minimize his visibility. The basement was alive with activity, with guards stationed strategically throughout the area. The sight of these guards prompted Chris to proceed with utmost caution, wary of the potential threats they posed.
(Note:- I know many of you might be thinking if the story is taking place so far in the future, why is there no new and innovative technology used? That's because all the races that live in this universe including humans are heavily reliant on mana and aura, which made the scientific advances too slow.)
In a deliberate motion, Chris retrieved a compact box from his pocket, which then transformed into a specialized wand designed to enhance his mana utilization. As he held the wand in his hand, he invoked a spell known as "Shadow Clock," a clever enchantment intended to render him nearly imperceptible to any external senses. This magical cloak of concealment enveloped him, blending him seamlessly into the shadows.
Silently and methodically, Chris advanced toward his first target-a guard stationed within the labyrinthine basement. His steps were calculated and fluid, his presence veiled by the mystical shroud of the Shadow Clock. As he closed in on his target, a curious development transpired-an unusual sensation tugged at the edges of his awareness.
From the ceiling above, peculiar formations resembling tumors began to descend, capturing the guard's attention and compelling him to gaze upward. This momentary distraction provided Chris with the perfect opening. Swiftly and decisively, he swung the wand and conjured a spell that was both lethal and discreet, tailored to minimize any undue commotion within the confined space.
The spell's effects were swift and precise, neutralizing the guard with a quiet efficiency that left no room for alarm. The guard's form crumpled soundlessly to the floor.
Chris intended to capitalize on the guard's presence to navigate through the basement without arousing suspicion. Engaging in a seamless exchange of attire, he swapped his clothes with those worn by the incapacitated guard, ensuring that he acquired everything the guard had on him. As Chris approached the elevator, poised to descend into the depths of the abyss, a resonant voice echoed in his mind, bearing a directive from Ishmael: "Cease your exploration. The mission has been aborted. Return to base immediately."
Chris responded to the telepathic message with a casual shrug, his actions undisturbed by the sudden change of plans. He retraced his steps along the path he had taken earlier, reclaiming the device he had deployed to gain entry. En route, he encountered Adam in the hallway leading to their initial entry point. Adam appeared virtually unchanged from when they had embarked on their mission, save for the smudge of dirt on his shoes.
Curiosity getting the better of him, Chris inquired, "Who was your opponent? It's not often I see even a speck of dirt on your attire."
Adam's response was succinct, shedding light on his encounter, "An earth golem. An unusual presence outside the domain of warlocks."
As they made their way back to the base, Adam and Chris were eventually joined by Lycus. The journey was marked by a silence that spoke volumes, a shared understanding that something of considerable significance must have transpired to prompt Ishmael's mid-mission recall. The trio progressed onward without engaging in much conversation.
Adam's voice broke the tense silence. He turned to Lycus, seeking information about any potential leads or clues they might have uncovered.
Lycus shook his head with a frustrated expression. "No, nothing. He took the car to a restaurant and stayed there the whole time. I was tailing him, but he never left until I received a call from the leader."
Upon reaching the base, they were greeted by the assembled squad members, except for the twins and Ishmael. Lycus wasted no time in voicing the query that was on everyone's mind, "Where's our leader?"
Boyd, one of the squad members, responded promptly, "He'll be here shortly. Meanwhile, take the opportunity to freshen up. This abrupt recall suggests that whatever awaits us is pretty big. This level of mission alteration is uncalled for; even last year, when we suffered significant losses, such an action wasn't taken."
With Boyd's words echoing in the air, the squad dispersed, each member finding solace in the brief intermission as they awaited Ishmael's imminent arrival. The anticipation was palpable, a tension that underscored the gravity of the forthcoming revelation.
After an hour had elapsed, Ishmael finally made his way to the base. His arrival was met with a collective hush, the squad members' attention drawn to the leader who bore injuries that would have been fatal for any ordinary being. However, given Ishmael's vampiric nature, the wounds that marred his form held little threat to his existence, serving as a testament to his resilience.
The injuries he sustained were substantial, and the sight of them left no room for doubt that he had endured a dire encounter. Yet, as Ishmael stood before them, his demeanor exuded an aura of strength and authority, undiminished by the physical toll he had paid.
Taking a seat to relax, Boyd couldn't help but voice his curiosity, "Ishmael, what did you encounter to sustain such severe injuries?"
Before Ishmael could respond, Adam interjected, "A warlock. An earth major warlock."
Ishmael affirmed with a nod, "Precisely. Seems like you've encountered his creation. Whoever is orchestrating this smuggling operation wields significant power and wealth, evident by their ability to deploy a yellow warlock."
(For reference, a warlock's power level corresponds to the colors of the rainbow. Red indicates a 7-star mage, while violet signifies a 1-star mage.)
Lycus raised a question, "Shouldn't you be stronger than him? Warlocks usually hold lesser power than vampires of the same rank. Isn't that the case?"
"Indeed, that would have been the case if he was alone. However, he was well-prepared for an attack and had laid numerous traps. As you know, the longer a warlock has to prepare, the more dangerous they become," Ishmael explained.
The group exchanged glances, the weight of the situation settling upon them. Carey posed the pressing question, "So, what's our next move? Do we call for reinforcements or proceed with the mission?"
"We'll proceed with the mission, but with a strategic shift. Instead of dividing our forces into three fronts, we'll concentrate on just two," Ishmael declared, taking a moment to snack on an energy bar. "The first team will include everyone except the two recruits, which means the demon twins will also be part of it. We'll strike at the 19th Street, Preetart Avenue hideout alongside me. Meanwhile, both of you will be positioned at the 3rd Street, Cleard Road hideout."
Ishmael's finger pointed toward us, underscoring his words. "Your task will be to intercept anyone attempting to flee from us. As each hideout is linked by spatial magic, escape routes can be easily established. To prevent this, I've placed explosive traps near the Sroh Corner hideout. Anyone attempting to evade us will meet a fatal end. After the death of that warlock Kozz is given to reveal himself, we just have to capture him then and there."
He meticulously outlined the new plan, ensuring everyone understood their roles and responsibilities.
"Keep in mind that the plan's details may vary, so be ready to adapt based on your roles," Ishmael emphasized before turning his attention to Boyd. "Boyd, get in touch with the twins and instruct them to join us. They should wear attire that conceals their horns and scent. I'll be taking a short break." Ishmael left the room, allowing the team to prepare and coordinate their actions accordingly.
"Take this time to rest and explore the city if you'd like," Boyd suggested as he headed towards his room. The team members dispersed, each finding their way to unwind and prepare for the mission ahead, giving Ishmael the necessary time to recover.