Chapter 281: Roll Out (Part two)
Lith signaled to those behind him to stop, scanning the place with Life Vision.
'What the f*ck I can feel the lingering presence of healing magic emanating from them.
I can even smell traces of soap coming from their bodies.
Someone has been taking good care of them, but why' Lith thought.
'Maybe I can answer that.' Solus felt there was something terribly wrong there.
'All these people have only two things in common.
Each one of them is older than twenty years and has at least an orange core.'
'What' Lith was bewildered by her words.
So many people and no one with a red core was something impossible to achieve by chance.
Not coupled with their age.
Twenty years was the threshold of a mana core natural evolution for non Awakened one.
"Is there something wrong" Yerna asked.
"Everything is clear.
The grille is just a grille.
Why no one is trying to escape" The more Lith looked at them, the more the cellar reminded him of pigpen instead of a prison.
Yerna walked past him, placing her hand on the keyhole turning it into an icicle before crashing it with her fist.
She only needed to smell the breath of one of the prisoners to answer his question.
They keep them dosed." Ophaz was the name of a plant from which it was possible to extract the drug her team had been following for weeks.
At low dosage, it induced a feeling of euphoria while at higher dosage it caused the user to be in a catatonic state.
They would still be able to move and talk if interrogated, but their mind was clouded by the drug.
They had no memory of themselves or will to fight.
"It's the latest form of slavery.
Once you give someone the first dose, it turns them into meat dolls."
"Do you want me to cleanse them"
This is a blessing in disguise." The Captain shook her head.
"Best case scenario, they would freak out.
This way they are meeker than sheep. It will only take one of us to get them to safety.
Lith sighed, opening a Warp Steps back to the control room.
The prisoners moved sluggishly, mindlessly obeying the Captain's orders.
"What do you make of this, Captain"
"Aside from a few exceptions, they are too bad looking or old to have any value as slaves, even for a fighting arena.
Judging from the state of this place, they have been here for a while.
"Only the cost of the drug necessary to keep them meek for so long makes the whole operation unprofitable.
They have been nurtured for some reason I'm unable to comprehend." She then ordered the units outside to lock the perimeter.
While Lith and the Captain were moving the prisoners, a couple of members of the unit performed a quick search of the cellar.
They discovered a few small crates containing packets of drugs ready to be sold and several big crates.
The latter contained luxury furniture ready to be shipped.
"What the heck" Hren was flabbergasted.
"One of these things is worth more than I earn in a year!"
"Seems we arrived just in time." Khran had a brooding face.
"Those people were the last batch of whatever they are doing.
The ringleader has packed their stuff and is ready to leave."
Sweeping the first and the second floor took them less than a couple of minutes.
With Red telling them where and how many their targets were, it was like shooting fishes in a barrel.
At each floor, Red would always detect the same inactive array.
While moving through the various rooms and corridors, they could see that unlike the ground floor, the rest of the house was still completely furnished.
Everything from the paintings to the tapestry was very valuable, but they were assembled with no taste.
It seemed a patchwork made by a color-blind art connoisseur.
'Ugh! I have never seen anything so tacky in three lives.' Lith thought.
'Whoever did this would put the Mona Lisa beside a Pollock, with some piece of junk modern art in front of them both.
I'm no expert, but that's enough to deserve to be hanged.'
'Bad news.' Solus chimed in. 'I don't know if it's the same array Red sensed on the other floors, but there's one active on the third floor.
I don't know its purpose, but I can tell you it's something powerful enough to blind my mana sense.
If not for Red, I couldn't tell you how many people there are up there.'
"Wait, something is wrong here." They were moving in a single column and Lith was right behind the Captain, making it easy for him to stop the unit's advance.
"I can feel the hair on my neck standing up." He lied.
According to Mogar's superstition, it was a common phenomenon in presence of powerful magic.
In reality, it was just a reaction in front of impending danger, completely unrelated to magic.
"I thought I was getting paranoid because it's all too easy." Yerna nervously touched her nape.
"What about you lot" Fear spread like a disease, soon everyone shared the same feeling despite being calm until a second prior.
"Red, check the next floor."
"Gods protect me!" Red yelped after obeying the Captain's order.
"White is right, there is something very wrong here."
'Of course, I am.
Right, Solus' Lith inwardly grinned.
She didn't reply, limiting herself to a retching thought.
"I don't know what kind of array we are about to face, but I can tell you this.
It's very powerful, it spreads through the whole house, and it feels…"
Red extended his consciousness trying to probe deeper in order to understand the nature of their enemy.
"It feels twisted.
The spell is rooted from the light element, but the magic flows backward.
It's hard to explain." Red was now drenched in cold sweat, his stomach was twisted into a knot.
"Are you sure there's only one person left in the house" Captain Yerna could feel the tension rising, her instinct was telling her to walk away.
"Besides us Positive." Red nodded.
"It's right in the middle of the last floor.
Hasn't moved since I cast the spell."
"An array this powerful could make our numbers irrelevant.
The hostages are safe, there is no reason to walk into a potential trap.
Let's get out and wait for the reinforcements to arrive.
This is above our paygrade.
The Mage Association can deal with this much better than us."
They walked back along the silence corridor they had created, quickly reaching the ground floor again.
A blinding light erupted from under their feet.
Red and Lith both understood what was happening.
The former had studied hard to master such spell, the latter had already fallen for it once.
The teleporting array moved the whole unit in the attic on the third floor.
The entire floor was occupied by a single room, encircled by a dome made of light which pulsed with a rhythmical beat like it was alive.
"First you interrupt my meal, then you steal my food." The man speaking was the most handsome and the most repulsing that any of those present had ever seen.
"I won't let you go away without proper compensation."