Chapter 262 Illusion? Or Could It Be The Reality? (Part 1)

 Chapter 262 Illusion? Or Could It Be Real? (Part 1) 


The stone door was like a large open mouth, and the Doluo tribesmen were standing in that mouth. Their leader waved a torch in front of him, and stepped out of the door, followed by the rest of the group. The leader then tapped an ordinary looking segment of the cave wall when the group was out of the doorway, and with a loud “crack”, the door began to rise from the ground again. 


“With this Lord Nuoba can be at ease. I’ve already told you guys! That Elf and the diluo will never be able to discover our secret! Not even Lord Dalufar himself can!” 


“It pays to be careful. Lord Dalufar thinks highly of that Elf, so it’s only natural for Lord Nuoba to be cautious.” a smile appeared on the leader’s face, and he nodded to his men, “Alright men, let’s head back. The longer we stay here, the higher the chance we’ll be discovered. If Lord Dalufar or that Elf sees us here, we’re finished.” 


“Yes sir!” the Doluo men formed up into an orderly rank and left the cave. 


The NPCs were still talking among each other in low voices, but it was no longer Ye Ci’s concern. Her attention was focused wholly on the stone door. 


Ye Ci shadowed the group, and once she was sure that they have left the Pitch Black cave and was on their way back to the village, she went back into the cave and found Alaunar in his hiding spot. 


“Where have you been?” asked Alaunar as he climbed out of the crevice and let out a long breath, “I saw one of Nuoba’s men just now. Scared me half to death. I’m lucky that he did not see me, or I won’t be able to explain my equipment to him.” 


“Well, you were not found out, were you?” Ye Ci smiled. 


“That was close.” Alunar sighed. He was nervous when the Doluo man came close to his hiding spot. He then looked at Ye Ci, “You haven't answered my question yet. Where did you go?” 


“I was tailing Nuoba’s men.” 


“Ah! There were more of them here? What are they doing in this place? Are they here for me?” Ye Ci could tell from the sheer terror on Alaunar’s face that he was very afraid of Nuoba’s men. It could be due to his many misery suffered on their hands, but even when the boy was a powerful Shaman, he still lived in fear of these men. 


“Nope. They’re here from something else.” Ye Ci motioned for Alaunar to follow after her. 


“What is it?” 


“I have no idea.” 


Alaunar was baffled, “They’re looking for something in the Pitch Black Cave? What could it be?” the boy asked as he scratched his head. 


Ye Ci smiled at the boy, and continued walking forward, “Alaunar, have you heard of a forbidden ground for you tribe?” 


“Forbidden ground?” Alaunar who was walking beside Ye Ci turned his head to face her and his gaze rested on her pointed ears, “What is that?” asked the boy as he felt his ears with his hands again. 


“It’s a place that nobody can enter.” explained Ye Ci when she noticed the confused look on Alaunar’s face. 


“Nope! There’s nothing like this in our tribe. Lord Dalufar had never put such a measure in place before.” and the boy’s eyebrows began to furrow, “But there was this thing that happened a few years ago. Lord Nuoba told Lord Dalufar that the Magma Golems in the Pitch Black Cave are dangerous, and could potentially harm the members of our tribe. Lord Dalufar himself want to take a look at the cave, and since then the children were forbidden from entering the Pitch Black Cave. Even mining activities in the cave are strictly limited.” 


“So you mean to say that even the children were allowed into the cave back then?” 


 “Yup! But do you think the children would even dare to enter the Pitch Black Cave? They were all afraid of the Magma Golems, and would only play near the entrance of the cave. But even the volcanic crater itself was declared off limits some time later. We could only enter the place with permission from Lord Dalufar.” said Alaunar, “I’ve never even entered this place since I joined Nuoba’s militia. I guided you here from memory alone.” 


Ye Ci nodded at the boy. A clear picture was slowly forming itself. 


The forbidden ground did not exist until very recently. The problem raised by Nuoba was also something that was recent as well. From what I heard from Alaunar, these Magma Golems existed even when he was a child, but why did Nuoba not raise such an issue before? Why did he lead Dalufar into the cave? Does it mean that he was not worried that Dalufar would discover whatever he’s hiding? 


If that’s the case…. What’s with the door? 


She soon came to the conclusion after a long moment of thought that the only way to have her questions answered was to open the door, and find out what was hidden beyond. 


As the saying goes, “a gentleman has nothing to fear, while a conspiring man is always worried”. Nuoba must be hiding something.


But does this necessarily mean that Dalufar is a gentleman? Why does he not tell me about the forbidden grounds before? Did he deem it unnecessary? Or has he forgotten about it or could it be something else? 


Ye Ci was deep in thought even when she walked towards the stone door. 


The NPCs in a VRMMORPG like Fate were independent entities, and such a fact was especially true for highly intelligent NPCs like Dalufar. They were no different from a human other than some of the traits that built into them. NPCs like Dalufar possessed intelligence and emotions just like a human, and have their own desires and weaknesses. This was why Ye Ci was extremely careful in her interactions with such NPCs. The tiniest mistake could result in a huge loss. 


Alaunar was baffled by Ye Ci’s behavior. He bombarded Ye Ci with a torrent of endless questions, but his words were completely ignored by Ye Ci who was deep in thought. Even when his words fell on deaf ears, and the responses that he received were randoms “mmm” and “ahh” from Ye Ci, the boy was not offended. After all, he was a pure and naive child who would often speak to himself, and was easily satisfied with even the simplest of response. 


It did not take long for the duo to arrive before the door, “What are we doing here, Elf? We’ve been here before, this is a dead end.” 


Ye Ci left the boy’s question unanswered, but instead walked up to where the leader of the group of Doluo men placed his hand, and began feeling the wall with her hand. The leader’s movement was quick, and Ye Ci had only a vague idea where the switch to the door was. Her only solution was to run her hand across every piece of rock on that area. As long as she was careful, there was no way she would miss the mechanism. 


Alaunar inched forward, and stared at the section of the wall that Ye Ci was investigating. He then pressed down on one of the rocks, and the stone door sank down with a loud rumble. 


The boy jumped at the sudden sound and hid behind Ye Ci, but was quick to calm down when he realised that it was just the rumbling of a stone door. “What is this place?” as he stared at the doorway. 


Ye Ci herself was staring at the door with mouth agape. She looked at Alaunar, then at the door, before finally settling her gaze on where the section of the wall, “Alaunar, which rock did you press?” 


“Here.” Alaunar gestured at a piece of rock that was jutting out from the wall, “Can’t you see this large piece of rock?” 


Ye Ci was shocked. She saw nothing, not even the piece of rock that Alaunar was pointing at. She could not even feel anything as she extended her hand to the spot. There’s nothing there! thought Ye Ci, and she came to a sudden realisation: So that’s why Nuoba’s men are not worried that I will discover the door! I finally understand now!


Only members of the Doluo tribe can see the hidden mechanism. Those who are not part of the tribe are not even able to touch that thing! Ye Ci did not know what was the spell that made such a thing possible, but she was definitely deeply impressed.


She took in a deep breath and nodded at Alaunar, “Alright, let’s go.” 


So this is why Nuoba sent Alaunar with me. He knows nothing of the secret door! This is why Nuoba allowed me to enter the Pitch Black Cave every single day without fear. Even with my sharp senses, there is no chance of me stumbling upon his secrets, and Alaunar who lacks the knowledge will never discover the door if someone did not point it out to him. 


Ye Ci stifled a laugh. Nuoba did not appear intelligent, but he could actually be as smart as Dalufar. 


“We’re going in there?” Alaunar shivered as he stared into the black pathway. It was just like the maw of a devil that was devouring the courage he held in his heart. 


“Are you afraid?” Ye Ci cast a glance at Alaunar. Fear was written all over his pale face. 


Alaunar looked at Ye Ci. He could still remember his first time in the Pitch Black Cave, and Ye Ci’s words that have been etched deep in his mind. The boy took a deep breath, and tried his best to expel his fears. It did not take him long to calm his nerves, “No, I am not afraid.” said Alaunar as he shook his head. 


Ye Ci raised her eyebrows. The kid has grown. He’ll definitely be a top-tier Shaman someday in the future, and that day is not that far away. She nodded at the boy and stepped into the walkway, “Do you have Illumination?” 


“I do.” Alaunar began chanting after a short moment of hesitation, and a bright orb of light appeared on his palm. He then followed after Ye Ci into the darkness ahead. 


The dark hallway turned out to be a stairway that appeared to be endless. Ye Ci took the lead, and advanced slowly with caution. She was like a living radar, and she was prepared to strike out at any foe that might appear from any direction. 


Nuoba’s secrets are hidden in this place. There’s bound to be traps somewhere. 


But even when the duo was nearing the end of the steps, Ye Ci was not able to detect even a single hint of a trap. Could I have been mistaken? 


Ye Ci surveyed her surroundings as she stood at the last step of the flight of stairs. She saw nothing. Well, I might have really been mistaken. Mused Ye Ci as she took another step forward. She was, however, immediately stopped be Alaunar. “What is it?” she stared at the boy with confusion written on her face. 


“Wait! I’ll take the lead!” Alaunar shook his head as he stopped Ye Ci from taking another step forward. 


“Why is that?” Ye Ci was certain that her Perception was way higher than Alaunar. She would be able to detect traps if she was on the lead, which was something that could not be achieved by Alaunar. 


The boy stared at Ye Ci, and waved his hand in front of her eyes. The expression on his face told Ye Ci that he had doubts about her capabilities. “What are you doing? I’m not blind.” Ye Ci laughed incredulously. 


“If you’re not blind, why can’t you see the lava below that step?” Alaunar’s face was pale. He was alarmed when Ye Ci had almost stepped into the lava, which was why he immediately pulled her back.


“Lava?” Ye Ci looked at the boy incredulously. She lowered her head and stared at the floor. What lava? I should be feeling the heat right now if there is indeed lava in front of me. Is Alaunar seeing things? She shook her head, “There is no lava. Isn’t there nothing but solid ground in front of me?” 


“No, there is definitely lava ahead.” Alaunar’s certainty remain as he shook his head at Ye Ci. To him, the path ahead was filled with danger. 


Ye Ci’s eyebrows furrowed. Both of us have been seeing different things from the beginning. So which of us is seeing illusions? Ye Ci stared at Alaunar. Should I trust the boy? After a short moment of thought, she threw an arrow at the patch of ground in front of her, and the arrow was immediately swallowed up by the ground. 


She was shocked. 


I-it’s real! 


Despite her confidence in herself, reality was telling Ye Ci that her senses could no longer be trusted. Fear began to grip her heart as she stared at her surroundings. I wonder what is the boy seeing. She could see the determination in Alaunar’s eyes despite the apparent paleness on the boy’s face. She could only imagine the horrors that only Alaunar could see. The boy stood brave in the face of such horrors, and had even offered to take the lead. Just what sort of courage is driving him forward? 


A smile slowly appeared on Ye Ci’s lips. She patted Alaunar on his shoulder, “Are you sure about that?” 


“Yes, I am.” Alaunar nodded at Ye Ci and took in a deep breath, “My father is a warrior of the Doluo tribe, and I shall not be a coward. I swear in my late father’s name that I shall take the lead.” 


Ye Ci raised her eyebrows at the boy, but remained silent. 

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Jimminx's Thoughts

I'm finally back! It's good to be back posting again, and I hope I'll have more time to post in the coming days. Until next time! 

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