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There were thirteen demon hunter sages. While Beetholis had died in the ballroom, the First Sage had never left his room, and there should be eleven sages in the ceremonial hall according to the information that Claude provided.
There was not even a body here.
Lily began to sniffle around. And she found something. "Did they leave these things behind?"
In the corner of the hall, she found a very faint gray-white mark and a few pieces of black fabric on the edge of the rune circle.
"It is ash," Hao Ren said, sliding his fingers across the traces and picking up some fine powder on his fingertips. Among the black fabrics, he found some solid particles. "These are pieces of their clothes and masks," he said.
Judging the position of the traces, White Flame began to run to the other corners in the hall. "They are here!"
She found them all; eleven piles of ash on the floor of the ceremonial hall. Most of these ashes were blown away by the wind and swallowed by the energy vortex, leaving only the grayish white spots. These vestiges were symmetrically distributed in the hall as if they were the numbers on the clock. There was only one vacant spot, which should be the position where Sage Beetholis sat during the ritual.
"Sure enough, they are all dead," said Hao Ren, the remains of Sage Beetholis came to mind. "They all invariably turned into ash and smog after they died. Obviously, those in the ceremonial hall had a worse ending than others," Hao Ren said.
"When did they die?" Lily's mind was firing up. "Did they die in the early stage of the ritual, or not long ago?"
The MDT was reading the residual information in the ash. "The pa.s.sage of time here does not follow common sense, so there is no way to determine their time of death. But they had definitely died not long after the ritual started; the energy residue of the ash proves this," it said.
But Hao Ren was not convinced. "They died at the beginning of the ritual? Then who was giving orders during the entire duration of the civil war of the demon hunters?" he asked.
Their attention quickly shifted on Claude. The young attendant was equally astonished, but he seemed to have some ideas. "The sages were giving the orders directly from the inside using a secret technique. We didn't feel anything strange at the time. But it was true that they had never come out during the whole process. No one could say for certain if the sages were still alive at that time."
White Flame and Teuton felt a chill gradually running up their spines. They had come to a horrifying realization: except Beetholis, if eleven of the twelve sages who held the ritual had died before the revolt, then who was issuing orders during the war in the Coldpath dimension?
Was it the sword, or the 'monster' latching onto the sword?
"MDT, check again and see if there's any activity of intelligent beings here!" Hao Ren shouted. He took out various stuff, including explosives to general-purpose energy suppressor, out of his dimensional pocket and placed them around the black sword. Actually, neither Hao Ren nor the MDT knew how to stop the magic charging process in the hall. But he figured that if things really got out of hand, blowing up the tower could at least stop the chain reaction in other energy nodes in Coldpath.
Y'zaks began to superimpose his demonic runes on the rune circle in the ceremonial hall. This was a hazardous operation. Just like reaching out a nail behind two high-speed rotating blades, a minor miscalculation would lead to the collapse of the entire composite reaction, and an explosion of the polluted energy ma.s.s prematurely. But with his rich experience, the old demon did it skillfully in trying to slow down the rune circle.
As the magic reaction of the ritual had reached a particular stage, the influence of the rune circle had become less critical.
The MDT switched on all of its sensors and began searching for the suspected activity of intelligent beings in the surroundings. If this 'monster,' if it was at all, was the one manipulated the entire event, the only way to end the crisis was to find the real body of the monster and take the bull by the horns.
After an around of searching, the MDT came up disappointedly. "There's no other intelligent activity here, except the activity from your group," it said.
"I don't understand," White Flame said. "In the past two months, someone in this hall issued hundreds of orders to the Council of Elders in the name of the sages."
"But that 'thing' isn't here—unless 'it' has escaped," the MDT interrupted White Flame. "There are only a weapon and an energy ma.s.s, and they are about to get out of control. We should first deal with the crisis before us."
As soon as the MDT's voice trailed off, a light beam flashed in the darkness outside the Netherrealm Clock Tower. The light beam expanded into a portal before a silver-white battleship slowly emerged. Hao Ren had received a call from Nolan in his mind. "The Petrachelys has entered the battlefield and is waiting for your next instruction," Nolan said.
Nolan had entered the 'battlefield.' The weapons on this s.p.a.ceship were overly destructive. To prevent the psionic weapon, which also released radiation, from destroying everything indiscriminately, Hao Ren had let Nolan stand on the sidelines during previous battles. But this time, he had no choice but called Nolan in. But what could the s.p.a.ceship do?
The simplest way was to order the Petrachelys firing directly at the Netherrealm Clock Tower. Its psionic sub-cannon could destroy everything, including matter and energy, s.p.a.ce and time, within its range. It could get rid of the energy ma.s.s before it exploded.
But the sword of the deicide and half of the Netherrealm Clock Tower would be annihilated at the same time.
Hao Ren had quickly ruled out this idea. The energy ma.s.s hovering above the sword of the deicide was expanding and enveloping the s.p.a.ce above the ceremonial hall like a dark whirlpool. It was also rapidly polluting the other energy nodes in Coldpath through the connection between temples.
The MDT suddenly called out, "Buddy, I have found something!"
Hao Ren and Y'zaks said in unison, "What is it?"
"It is not the sword but the energy vortex the key to the magic structure in the hall," the MDT said quickly. The hologram showed the mysterious connection between the sword of the deicide and the surrounding environment. "The sword is just the ignition point, but it is the energy ma.s.s that keeps the reaction process going. It has grown so strong that even if it loses the power supply from the Netherrealm Clock Tower now, it could still sustain the reaction process all by itself. If we can turn off the energy vortex, probably everything would stop."
"Turn it off?" Hao Ren looked up at the dark ma.s.s of energy, which had spread to the dome above the hall. It surged like black mercury, with bright blue electric arcs cracking out of the vortex and striking metal objects and the surrounding structure. In the center of the maelstrom were some tiny light spots, as if a cosmic sky filled with stars.
But Hao Ren knew that it was not a spatial rift but the same optical phenomenon on the blade of the sword of the deicide. Or rather the sword of the deicide was a.s.similating this energy ma.s.s into something like itself.
A bold idea suddenly came to his mind.
He hurriedly asked the MDT, "Can you teleport this energy vortex out of here?"
"My teleporting function is only enough for small-scale use. Personal MDT would not be able to cope with this high-density energy ma.s.s."
"What about my Dimensional Pocket?"
The MDT had guessed what was in Hao Ren's mind. But it still explained its a.n.a.lysis diligently, "Theoretically, it could, but dangerous. If the energy vortex explodes in your Dimensional Pocket, the safety protocol would immediately come into effect and cut off the mental connection between you and the Dimensional Pocket. This abrupt disconnection will severely damage your brain. I calculate that the energy vortex will explode 20 seconds after it leaves the hall, tops."
"I will throw it out before that happens," Hao Ren said quickly, and then contacted Nolan. "How long it takes you to get from Coldpath into the deep s.p.a.ce of the surface world? The farther away from the habited galaxies, the better," he said.
"How long?" Nolan knew what Hao Ren was thinking. "The portal from where I came in is still open, but it was facing Kuiper Station. Ahh, I remember now; I have installed a gravitational anchor point around a star. I can warp jump from Kuiper station to the anchor point in just a few seconds," Nolan said.
"Is there someone around that star?"
"No, it is an inhabited zone."
"Good." Hao Ren nodded forcefully, staring at the dark energy above the hall. "Wait for my instruction. I will keep this thing into my Dimensional Pocket, and you will take me out of Earth as fast and as far as you can. We will throw this thing into s.p.a.ce."