Following Kasser’s orders, his warriors made the necessary preparations to bring Rodrigo to a designated location, all in readiness for the activation of the teleportation spell. Two carriages set off from the safe house, departing at different intervals.
The underground warehouse, once used as a meeting point for Mara’s loyalists and transformed into the place where Rodrigo had painstakingly prepared for the teleportation spell, had been seized and securely sealed. Soldiers stood guard in the vicinity to ensure no unauthorized entry. As per Kasser’s instructions, the soldiers withdrew before the carriages’ arrival, making way for the warriors who assumed their positions.
Kasser addressed Eugene, “I’ll go inside first, and then I’ll return to fetch you. You’ll remain here.” He disembarked from the carriage, leaving Eugene within. Kasser directed his warriors to stay close and guard the carriage, then opened the entrance to the dark underground warehouse.
The warehouse lay shrouded in profound darkness; not a trace of light penetrated, despite the advancing evening. Kasser commanded, “When I enter, close the door behind me.”
Without hesitation, he stepped into the warehouse, and the warriors outside promptly sealed the door. Darkness enveloped him. Kasser raised his right hand and clenched it into a fist. Like the ignition of an oil-soaked torch, a vibrant blue flame flickered and soared from his hand. As the flame ascended, it twisted into the form of a serpent.
Kasser waved his hand through the air, setting the serpent-like flame free. It wrapped around his body, leaving only the tail end in his hand as it soared into the air. Fras took the lead, providing illumination as they moved forward. The warehouse’s obscurity gradually receded, unveiling its interior.
As Praz advanced, Kasser walked alongside him, meticulously inspecting the warehouse’s interior. It diverged from the reports he had received, for there was absolutely nothing within the warehouse. Kasser had initially assumed it was merely a meeting spot, but upon deeper contemplation, it struck him as peculiar.
Why would they keep this place empty? Kasser pondered. Even on a one-night journey, people naturally accumulate belongings. A meeting spot would typically necessitate various equipment and supplies. Having to bring everything in and out each time would be both cumbersome and conspicuous. Even the presence of a few scattered items in a corner of this spacious warehouse would have sufficed.
Moreover, if the warehouse was meant to serve as a disguise, intentionally adding more clutter would have helped avoid drawing attention. Originally, this warehouse had piqued Verus’s curiosity because it was empty.
“Liquor, medium, container…” Kasser murmured to himself. Although he had acquired some information from Eugene, he still grappled with comprehending the intricacies of the spell. Nevertheless, it appeared that the reason for maintaining the warehouse’s emptiness was somehow linked to the spell’s activation.
Kasser casually lifted his gaze, directing his attention towards the seemingly endless ceiling. Praz hovered above ground level, casting light that extended well beyond an average person’s stature. Yet, the fact that the ceiling remained unseen indicated its significant height.
He extended his hand upwards, and the blue serpent ascended, revealing the previously shrouded ceiling.
“Hmm…” Kasser furrowed his brow as he examined the ceiling, which was adorned with intricate geometric patterns, resembling what Eugene had shown him about the spell’s design. He made a mental note of the patterns’ shape.
Upon exiting the warehouse, Kasser found that Aldrit’s carriage had already arrived, and the prisoner escort carriage, carrying the now-prepared Rodrigo, was also in place.
Entering the carriage where Eugene awaited, Kasser shared his findings, “It appears they’ve created a warehouse with the spell’s design already in place.”
Eugene clasped her hands together with excitement evident on her face. Kasser couldn’t help but wish that she wouldn’t enter the warehouse. While she might not put up resistance, she would be greatly disappointed as she had eagerly anticipated witnessing the spell’s activation up close during the journey. He thought, If Eugene observes the spell’s activation process, she might stumble upon unexpected clues.
In an effort to spare her from disappointment, Kasser chose to compromise and put on a wry smile.
“Stay close to me at all times,” Kasser instructed Eugene.
“Of course,” Eugene nodded in agreement.
Kasser stressed the importance of remaining vigilant and, together with Eugene, disembarked from the carriage. Aldrit, with the rat tucked in his pocket, followed closely. Finally, Sven entered, carrying Rodrigo, his hands bound, and the warehouse door was securely shut. Warriors stationed themselves at regular intervals around the warehouse to keep watch.
Sven’s torch provided illumination for the immediate area where the individuals had gathered.
When Rodrigo was led out of his cell and onto the windowless escort carriage, he believed he was en route to his execution and felt nothing but despair. From his cell, he had offered countless prayers and called upon the high priest with unwavering fervor, but received no response, leaving him feeling forsaken.
However, as a familiar voice resonated in his mind, he suddenly raised his head, which had been bowed towards the ground all along. Rodrigo spotted the red-eyed rat perched on Aldrit’s shoulder. In his despair, he recognized his savior, and nothing else registered in his eyes. He immediately dropped to his knees and prostrated himself, his bound hands behind his back, his forehead touching the cold ground.
“Oh, Rodrigo, a servant of Mara, extends his greetings.”
“I convey the words of the great Mara,” Mara replied.
“I humbly receive your great words.”
“It is time to execute the ritual you have prepared. The offering shall be made, and the great Mara shall manifest. You, who shall receive the divine, shall be honored splendidly. Is the ritual ready without delay?”
With an ecstatic expression, Rodrigo nodded vigorously, replying, “Yes, I can perform it right away.”
Eugene shifted her gaze back and forth between Mara and Rodrigo, her expression reflecting a sense of astonishment. Witnessing this scene up close, any lingering fondness she may have held for Mara dissipated. Though both Mara and Sang-je were essentially charlatans manipulating people, Sang-je’s approach appeared more sophisticated. It didn’t exude the overt aura of a cult leader.
Rodrigo, on the other hand, seemed partially unhinged, paying no heed to the others as he ventured deeper into the warehouse. Kasser instructed Sven to unbind Rodrigo’s hands rather than pursuing him.
With his hands free, Rodrigo inserted them between the stone slabs on the floor, lifting one of them. As Kasser observed Rodrigo extracting a thick, long handle from beneath the floor, he squinted. He hadn’t anticipated the presence of a concealed compartment in such a place. Searching the dimly lit corners of the underground warehouse would have proved challenging due to the lack of adequate illumination.