"This is different than I remember it! Something has changed!"
As Kieran revisited that particular memory, he realized that the Grand Demonic Heptagram before him was different than the one he had seen before. Something had changed, but it was a very slight change.
Had Kieran not memorized the original Grand Demonic Heptagram, he would not have been able to tell the difference. It was in the gap between the outer and the inner ring. 3 of the 41 symbols had changed.
Kieran was not going underestimate even such a small change. He knew that if any symbol or icon that represented knowledge was altered, it could cause the original meaning to change dramatically.
Among the changes on the Grand Demonic Heptagram was the scorpion-like symbol in the middle, which now had a footprint on it. It was Zywanes footprint.
The footprint was identical to the one Zywane had left when hed passed by Kieran to investigate the Deputy Wardens death.
Looking at the footprint, Kieran pictured Zywane entering the cell. He must have thought that hed been onto something and went into Gilfren Hatchs cell room.
Without any hesitation, Zywane had walked up to the original Grand Demonic Heptagram. He might have chanted a series of spells or used some other kind of method to activate the Grand Demonic Heptagram and alter it. The process had cost him his life, though. Gilfren Hatch had possessed him and turned him into a half-dead.
"What did Zywane discover? What made him think that activating the magic circle was safe?"
Kieran squinted his eyes as he started to think.
He activated his [Tracking] and scanned over the whole room.
His findings made him frown. He could not see Lawless and the half-deads footprints leaving the room.
The half-deads footprints were all over the cell room, but they were only indicating entry, not exit.
Lawless only footprints were the ones he had left when hed backflipped into the cell room, and the two steps he had taken forward.
Other than that, the rest of the footprints were Kieran and Jacks from their previous visit.
Kieran looked outside the cell. After he confirmed that it was not Lawless and the half-deads leaping around that had caused the discontinued footprints, he frowned even harder.
"Unless they can fly, this means that Lawless and the half-dead disappeared upon entering the cell! How did they disappear into thin air?" After Kieran expressed his disbelief, he looked at the Grand Demonic Heptagram again.
Other than the magic circle that had created the half-dead, Kieran could not come up with a better explanation that could have made a seven-timer disappear out of thin air.
Fortunately, there was no notification about Lawlesss death.
He continued to scan the cell room, hoping that he could gather more clues about their disappearance. What had happened to the two of them when Kieran had been just a second behind them?
He had nothing. Even through the vision of his [Tracking], he could not discover any more clues.
Kieran had already inspected the cell room earlier when hed visited it with Jack. There was no hidden door or passageway behind its walls. His second inspection produced the same results.
"Then, all thats left is"
Kieran lowered his head and looked at the half-deads footprints, or to be more accurate, Zywanes footprints before he had been turned into a half-dead.
Although Zywanes footprints did not show signs of exit either, they did show signs of entry.
It seemed like Kieran would have to follow Zywanes entry footprints to figure out what was going on.
If Kieran could not confirm Lawlesss well-being, he was not going to just sit around and do nothing. Such a passive approach was not his style. He was more of the active type.
However, just as he was ready to follow Zywanes footprints out of the cell room, there was some noise by the hole on the wall made by the rocket launcher.
Kieran turned around and saw his employer, Starbeck, climbing up.
"You really should listen to Lawlesss advice," Kieran warned Starbeck quickly when he saw him. He was not dissatisfied with his employer. After all, Starbeck had been generous enough to hire him, and he did not have the bossy attitude of the typical employer. Most importantly, he did not question the actions of his employees.
Still, that did not mean that Kieran would like to bring him along for the next part. Tracking those footprints would be extremely dangerous. Zywanes current condition proved as much.
Kieran was not confident that he could keep himself alive while also protecting Starbeck. After all, he did not have Lawlesss experience.
As he looked at that pale face of his and his cowardly eyes, he could not help but shake his head.
If he brought that coward along, some kind of accident would occur, and things would go south very fast.
In other words, Starbeck would only be a burden to Kieran.
"I think Ill be safe with you, 2567. The Warden was looking at me very oddly, and I was worried he might vent his anger on me," Starbeck said sincerely.
"You could have easily traded your wealth for Points and Skill Points. Its not like you cant afford them. A White Skill Book only costs around 1,000 to 2,000 Points on the market. If you really wanted to learn, you could have bought all the available White Skill Books and learned everything yourself before leveling them up to a certain level. You have such an advantage, yet youre worried that a normal person like the Warden could harm you?" Kieran asked his employer curiously. He was unable to understand the mans way of thinking.
As Kieran had said, with his wealth, it should have been easy for him to reach a certain level of strength for self-protection, at least in the earlier part of the game.
If he really did hire mercenaries for his own safety while he was in the game, then he had to be putting his cowardice first. However, the fact that he displayed such cowardice before an ordinary native made Kieran wonder how much of a coward he really was.
Was he a mimosa plant? The kind that would hide and shrink even at the slightest touch?
"I Im kind of bad with strangers"
Starbecks pale face blushed, and his stuttering words robbed him of his elegance. All that was left was a shy, embarrassed man.
"What about animals?"
"Im scared of them!"
"Im afraid of them!"
"Im both scared and afraid of them!"
Kierans series of questions confirmed Starbecks mimosa-like characteristics.
His blush and shyness made Kieran frown even more.
He was positive that he could not bring him with.
"If you take me along and protect me, I can offer you an extra reward!" Starbeck added, noticing Kierans troubled expression. Although he was a coward, he still knew how to read peoples expressions. Truth be told, it was the only thing he was quite good at. It was all thanks to his wealthy family.
"How much?" Kieran asked, raising an eyebrow.
"5,000 Points! I can write it down in the Team Contract!" Starbeck offered.
Kieran nodded, "Deal!"
The nod drove his troubled thoughts and reluctancy away.
Despite the fact that Kieran was worried Starbeck might cause him trouble, if Starbeck agreed to give him a reasonable reward, he would not mind sparing some extra attention to protect him.
He would totally do it for 5,000 Points, but there were still some things he needed to consider.
"You will listen to my orders. And if anything happens, its on you. Write that down in the Team Contract as well," Kieran added.
"Done!" Starbeck did not object.
He wrote down the new details in the contract, and they both signed once again.
"Now come with me. Try to stay within three steps distance. If anything happens, youll need to keep ca-"
Kieran tried to give another warning to Starbeck, but before he could even finish his sentence, Starbeck, who was standing right beside him, saw something that made his face turn pale as paper. The man screamed.
At Starbecks cowardly scream, a cold, chilling wind blew against Kierans back.
Starbeck's new babysiter, Kieran the almighty!