Chapter 157

To reach the back of the waterfall, Zich and his companions had to cross a narrow pathway on the cliffside, connected to the area behind the waterfall. No, it was an overstatement to call it a path. Its surface was barely wide enough to fit half of a small foot, and it was more like a long rock that stuck out of the cliffside. However, Zich and his companions were able to cross the path with ease.

Masses of boulders floated up and stuck to the cliffside, creating a new path for them. As soon as Zich and the others passed the boulders, the rocks returned to their original positions as more rocks rose up and made another path in front of them. This continued until they reached the back of the waterfall. Although the waterfall’s water had soaked his clothes, Zich was satisfied with his leisurely walk.

“Good job,” Zich complimented Snoc and Nowem.

“Yes, sir!” Koo! Snoc and Nowem answered loudly. Snoc was at a stage where he didn’t need to concentrate much to exert this level of control.

“A magical beast of the earth. It’s my first time seeing one.”

Even Leona, who was an elf, had never seen a magical beast before and was very curious about Nowem. She stretched out her finger to Nowem, and Nowem sniffed her finger for a bit and stuck out a bit of his tongue. Leona made a sound that was between a shriek and a laugh. While she did this, Snoc completely froze in place. He still felt a bit awkward towards Leona since she was an elf, an existence that he had only heard of from stories.

“It’s here.” At Zich’s words, everyone stared in the direction he was pointing.

As Zich had said, there was a cave with a wide mouth behind the waterfall. Everyone gulped. ‘A cave behind a waterfall’—could there be anything that sounded more romantic and fairytale-like?

“Let’s go in.” Zich took the lead and went inside the cave. Following him, the others began to enter the cave’s entrance one by one.

*     *    *

Perhaps because they were behind a waterfall, the insides of the cave were very humid and made their bodies feel damp. The humidity persisted and even seemed to grow worse as they went deeper inside the cave. Yet, the damp sensation eventually subsided. The cave’s bumpy floor was soon replaced by slabs of stone that made it easier for them to walk on, and the air suddenly changed.

“I think these are the ruins from here on out.”

A large door appeared in front of them. Strange symbols were carved into the door, giving it an ominous look.

“Wow~!” Leona exclaimed and approached the stone wall. She placed her hand on it and examined it all over. “I feel like there will really be a treasure in there.”

Zich asked, “Did you doubt me?” 

“N-No!” Leona quickly denied it and hesitated. Then, she said while glancing at him, “T-To tell you the truth, a bit…”

“It’s fine. It was a pretty suspicious story, after all.”

Leona smiled slightly at Zich’s forgiveness. Even if she was extremely gullible, she hadn’t believed in Zich completely. Of course, it was ridiculous that she had followed him all this way even while not fully trusting him, but a part of her had trusted in her own skills.

‘I suppose she was sure that she could at least escape,’ Zich thought. Then, he walked to her side and placed his hand on the stone wall. He felt a chilling sensation on his palms and put more strength into his arms.

Sliiide!

The thick stone wall began to open. Although it was very heavy due to its size and material, there were no other obstacles blocking their path. There was no lock or magical barrier.

Crash!

Between the gaps of the open stone wall, they saw what was inside. A huge path continued to connect to other passages and puzzlingly felt quite familiar.

“Don’t you think this place is similar to the ancient ruins in Violuwin, Senior?” Snoc asked Hans. He was a bit worried because he remembered how frustrating it had been when the ancient ruin sealed his earthly powers.

Hans agreed with him. However, they couldn’t be certain that this ruin was the same kind as the one in Violuwin at this point.

Zich went inside first and withdrew Windur from his back, saying, “Be on your guard. There will be enemies.”

Stomp! Stomp!

As soon as Zich finished his sentence, they heard footsteps ahead. With the way the floor rang, it didn’t seem like those approaching were humans.

Lyla asked, “What kind of enemies?” 

“See for yourself,” Zich said and backed off so that Lyla could see better.

They saw its glittering red eyes first. The creature made no attempt to conceal its existence inside the darkness, and stomped towards them.

“It’s a golem,” Lyla concluded.

“Are you talking about those, Ms. Lyla?” Hans asked. Since it was his first time seeing a golem, his voice was filled with curiosity. It was even greater after fighting the armored figures, which they had mistaken for golems.

“Yeah, that’s right. Using a core as their driving force, they’re dolls that move automatically,” Lyla explained nicely. “I’m warning you just in case, but don’t think that they’re the same as the armored figures you just fought. A golem’s strength differs based on the metals that make up its core, and the one in front of us looks formidable.”

“Mithril,” Leona said stiffly. “Its core’s metal is mithril.”

“Yeah, it must be that.” As a magician, Lyla could also guess the metal.

Hans and Snoc gulped at the metal’s name. Not even Snoc, the miner, or Hans, who was a servant of a Count, had ever seen the metal named mithril.

“Isn’t that something really precious?” Hans asked.

But Zich tapped Hans’ Estellade with his Windur and said, “What are you getting surprised by? You have something much more precious than that metal.”

Compared to Estellade, mithril was nothing more than a rolling pebble in the road. Hans nodded as he realized how amazing his sword was once again.

“Good. This can be a learning experience. You guys try fighting them,” Zich said and pushed Hans and Snoc to the front.

Both Hans and Snoc stared at each other once and gulped. Then, they staggered forward. They didn’t have an option to not fight, since Zich had already given the command.

There were exactly two golems. Each one was twice the height of an adult person and possessed an overwhelming build. Their arms also looked like thick logs that had been changed into mithril.

Hans wielded Estellade, and Snoc nervously exerted his control over the earth.

Crumble!

“…As expected.”

Snoc let out a sigh. The stone walls and floor crumbled only a little bit and did not move according to Snoc’s will. On the other hand, Snoc’s ability to control the earth seemed to have increased, as he was able to control more dirt and rock than he had in Violuwin. He also had to continue fighting, because Zich would never accept any of his excuses.

Rumble!

Snoc covered himself in armor made of rock. Soon enough, he also looked like a golem.

Thud! Thud! Thud! Thud!

Two golems began rushing towards Hans and Snoc. They took one golem each and moved to different areas. Hans’ golem made a large swing with its fist.

Swish!

Hans easily evaded the attack and then swung Estellade.

Pierce!

“Ugh!” he grunted. His hands hurt; unlike when he usually wielded Estellade, it felt heavy and dull in his hand. Estellade’s blade was stuck inside the golem’s arm.

Whish!

As the golem moved its arm, Hans’ body also flew. Like a leaf flying in a storm, his body flew up into the air. However, even though his surroundings were shaking all around him, he did not let go of his sword and stayed focused. He put strength into his arms and pulled his body towards the golem.

Tap!

Hans barely managed to plant his leg atop the golem and pulled out the sword with great strength.

Crush!

Estellade was successfully pulled out of the golem’s arm. However, Hans went flying through the air, as Estellade was no longer anchoring him to the golem’s arm.

Thud!

Hans stepped off the ceiling and landed back on the ground. ‘It penetrated about a quarter of the way,’ he thought. ‘Since it’s made out of mithril, I put a lot of mana into that swing right now, but I was only able to cut a quarter of its arm.’

Was mithril just that tough, or was there some kind of magic strengthening it? Hans quickly dropped this thought, and instead started thinking, ‘It doesn’t matter what the reason is.’

What was important was that the golem’s body was strong enough to withstand strong mana attacks.

Tap!

Hans ran towards the golem again. Fortunately, the golem didn’t seem to have any special abilities, and all it did was swing its fists. However, the golem’s high speed, heavy weight, and tough metal body made its simple movements extremely dangerous. Despite the golem’s formidable physical abilities, Hans did not step back and continued to wield Estellade. His eyes shone sharply—his goal was to pierce the gap that he had made with Estellade again.

Crumble!

‘I did it!’

Once again, Estellade pierced into the same spot on the golem’s arm. Hans was unable to cut off the golem’s arm again, but since he was able to target the same area, the hole grew even deeper. Before the golem began moving its arms like last time, Hans quickly pulled out Estellade and took a step back.

‘One more time!’ Hans targeted the injured arm of the golem again. And then, finally—

Slice!

Thud!

The golem’s arm completely fell off and hit the ground.

“Pweh!”

Hans let out a sigh of relief at seeing the golem’s arm on the ground, but he soon raised his guard again. All he had done was slice off one of the golem’s arms; he hadn’t defeated the golem yet.

‘But now I know of a way to defeat it,’ Hans thought. His plan was to first dismantle all of its limbs. With this thought in mind, he ran towards the golem again. While Hans was fiercely evading the golem’s attacks and piercing his sword into its limbs, Snoc was also fighting next to him.

Crashhh!

Snoc’s rock fist and the golem’s fist collided head-on. 

Crash!

But Snoc’s rock arm was unable to endure the golem’s attack and crumbled into pieces.

“Aghhhhhh!”

Snoc hurriedly retreated. However, the golem quickly caught up to him and wrapped its arms around Snoc’s waist.

Crush!

Snoc’s armor started to be destroyed. If he stayed like this any longer, his whole body would be crushed to dust. He quickly escaped from his rock armor.

Bam!

The now-empty rock armor completely twisted and crumbled in the golem’s hands. The golem slowly turned back towards Snoc, who gathered the scattered rocks again and made a new suit of rock armor.

‘As expected, I have no chance of winning with just rock armor.’

Snoc was completely losing to the golem in terms of physical strength and power, but he wasn’t going to accept defeat so easily. He also had the belief that if things got really dangerous, Zich would intervene and help him out.

‘And I also have a plan in mind,’ he thought.

Thud! Thud!

Snoc ran towards the golem again. Likewise, the golem ran straight towards Snoc.

Swish!

The golem swung his fist at Snoc again. At that moment, Snoc unleashed his power over the earth.

Halt!

For a moment, the golem’s movement became stiff. As if something were hampering its movements, the golem’s movements kept breaking off.

‘It works!’

Snoc did not miss his chance. He used this opportunity to land a solid punch on the golem with his rock armor.

Crash! Crash!

Snoc fiercely hit the golem’s head, and the golem stumbled to gain balance.

‘As I thought, my power over the earth works even on mithril!’

Snoc’s power applied to everything that was derived from the earth. Mithril, which was a type of metal, was no exception to this rule. Of course, since the golem had been formed by magic, Snoc could not control it fully, but he could apply a slight amount of influence to hamper the golem’s movements.

‘Then perhaps I can also…’ Snoc made one of the hands on his armor sharp and hit the golem’s fingers. At the same time, he focused his attention on the golem’s finger and pictured the mithril breaking in his mind.

Bam!

The golem’s finger did not break off, but Snoc was able to cut through almost half of it. Due to Snoc’s power, the mithril’s durability decreased; Snoc used this chance to quickly land a punch on the golem’s finger.

Crunch!

The finger broke off. At that moment, the golem used its other hand to hit Snoc’s rock armor.

Crash!

Snoc’s rock armor completely shattered again, but he had already made his escape by that time.

“Yes!” Snoc’s attacks worked. He wrapped the rock armor around his body again. But there was one area that was different from his previous armors. The mithril he had cut off from the golem was now attached to a finger of Snoc’s armor.

‘Now I have a weapon that’s as durable as the golem,’ he thought. He had also found out the way to defeat the golem. As the golem broke apart more and more under his attacks, Snoc got stronger by using the golem’s body as armor. With this in mind, Snoc ran towards the golem again.

After a while, two sounds echoed through the tunnel.

Pierce!

Crush!

Two golems lay completely shattered on the floor.

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