Chapter 169

Zich and his companions searched around the ruin. The ruin was spacious, but soil erosion had destroyed many places, and it didn’t take them long to search the whole place. They couldn’t find anything particularly special about the place. There was an empty room on the side of a large hallway, but there wasn’t even a single piece of furniture, let alone precious goods, in the room. Only the large room with a pile of treasures was distinct compared to the other rooms.

The group scattered to look for any peculiarities, but they soon regrouped in the treasure room like they had promised.

“Did anyone find anything special?” Zich asked and everyone shook their heads.

Lyla glanced at Zich. Since she was the one who had suggested coming back to the ruin, she felt guilty. She also worried that they would stop their search right now. Yet in contrast to her fears, Zich didn’t intend to halt their search.

“Then, let’s rest for today and dig through the crushed areas tomorrow.”

Lyla’s face brightened up.

“Snoc.”

“Yes!”

“You can do it, right?”

There was no one better than Snoc to overturn a crushed area. The ruin’s defense abilities impeded Snoc’s powers, but he could still use them efficiently.

“Only things like ripping away the ruin’s floor and walls are difficult, sir. It’s possible for me to move the crushed materials.”

“Good. Plus, the crumbled areas probably don’t have any of the ruin’s defensive abilities, so your powers will work there. Those areas wouldn’t have crumbled if the ruin’s properties continued to protect them.”

“Ah, you are right, sir!” Snoc brightly answered.

“Good. Rest early today for tomorrow.”

With Zich’s words, his companions immediately prepared to go to sleep.

*     *    *

Lyla left the ruin to reach the cave’s entrance. Between the gaps of the roaring waterfall, she saw sparkling stars in the dark sky. Then, she suddenly heard somebody’s voice from behind.

“Did you come out for fresh air?”

Lyla turned around to see Zich walking towards her from the inside of the cave.

“Or do you have something to think about?”

“A bit.”

Lyla looked up at the starry night that she saw past the waterfall again. Zich quietly stood beside her.

“Beer? Wine? Rum?” Zich began to take out drinks from his magic box. He took out a chair and table and prepared the drinks.

“Rum.”

“You are looking for a strong one. Your mind must be restless.”

Zich took out a big glass and filled it to the brim with rum. He handed the glass to her, and for himself, he grabbed the rum bottle by the neck. They each sat on their own chairs, then they clinked their glass and bottle and gulped their drinks down.

“Is there something inside this ruin?”

“…I don’t know.” Lyla barely managed to answer as the alcohol burned her throat. “But I’ve got a strange feeling.”

“What kind of feeling?”

“I don’t know. It’s hard for me to express it in words.”

“Positive or negative. If you had to choose between the two, which one would you choose?”

“…It’s on the negative side.”

“That’s not good.”

“It’s also not definite,” Lyla added.

“Now that I think about it, when we met again, you were using an ancient ruin as your hideout.” Zich recalled the ruin where he had found Windur and Estellade.

“If you compare it to that time, how do you feel now?”

“I didn’t get an ominous feeling there. It was also a place in my memories.”

It seemed like this current ruin was more special to Lyla than the previous one.

“Hm, a negative feeling. What if there’s something like Estellade or Tornium stuck in this place too? Since you have a negative feeling, maybe it’s a demonic sword that’s more demonic than Tornium.”

If that was the case, it didn’t seem like a bad idea to search all over this ruin and all the ruins in the world.

“I don’t think so. Estellade and Tornium are special, and I don’t think there’ll be something like Windur either.”

“Thank goodness. If there’s too many of them, they won’t be as cool.”

Before his regression, Zich had used Tornium to the point that it was called his symbol. The only thing that matched its level was Glen Zenard’s Estellade. So, if those swords became commonplace, it would make them look quite ridiculous.

Zich turned around and stared at the dark cave.

‘An ancient ruin. It does make me curious,’ Zich thought. It seemed like Lyla had infected him with her curiosity, and he thought he should include ancient ruin exploration in his travels.

“Is there another ancient ruin that you know about?”

“There are a couple.”

“If you find a few more ancient ruins like this, do you think you’ll regain your memories?”

At his sudden question, Lyla stared at Zich. He calmly placed the bottle’s mouth on his lips and emptied the rum. She was shocked that he had seen through her interest in the ruins.

“I’m not sure, but since I have a strange feeling about it, I think it might trigger my lost memories.”

“I see.”

A period of silence followed again. However, it wasn’t an awkward silence where they didn’t have anything to say. The waterfall’s thunderous quaking continued to roar.

“Thank you…” Lyla broke the silence. “For listening to my request to search the ruin.”

“We didn’t have anything to do anyway. From what you’ve told me, it seems like the ruins may help you regain your memories. If you are thankful, you should tell me some useful information once you get your memory back.”

Lyla laughed at Zich’s unchanging attitude.

“Fine. I will give you some information except things you might use for evil.”

“You can’t add conditions in situations like this,” Zich complained.

Then, they continued their conversation. The moonlight that seeped past the waterfall gently caressed them.

*     *    *

The next day, they began their search again.

Rrrrrrr!

Snoc reached out with his hand and the rocks and debris that blocked the tunnel began to slowly move. The rocks and debris began to gather together and form giant lumps that rolled to the side. Hans stuffed these lumps into an empty room—it didn’t take long for them to clean up all the rocks and debris that blocked the tunnel.

“Be careful. There might be golems around.”

Soon enough, one golem came out of the tunnel, but Zich’s group had no trouble defeating it. The golem was thoroughly dismantled, and they picked up the mithril pieces. There was not much in this tunnel either. Like the other tunnels, it had a long hall and several empty rooms. Zich’s group dug out another tunnel and explored that one too. It was only after they dug out several tunnels and put them back that they found something different.

“It’s a staircase.”

They found a staircase that led them deeper into the ruin. Zich led his companions down the stairs to the lower floor. The lower floor had the same basic structure as the upper floor, but there were no tunnels that had blocked entrances; they were able to freely explore and investigate all the rooms.

“I wonder what is the previous identity of this ruin?”

Snoc tapped Nowem’s nose and murmured this question. Of course, he didn’t think anyone would answer him, since even Zich and Lyla, who were very knowledgeable about various matters, didn’t seem to know the identity of this ruin.

However, a surprising reply came back to him.

“Isn’t it a ruin of an empire?”

Everyone’s attention shifted towards Leona.

“Um, huh? What’s up with everyone?” Leona was bewildered to suddenly get everyone’s attention.

Lyla asked, “A ruin of an empire? Do you know anything about this ruin?”

“Yeah. Since I was so focused on the Lake’s Tear, I couldn’t think of it the last time we came here, but now that I’m here the second time, I remembered something. It’s nothing specific, but I heard that in the old days, when important buildings were built in the human empire, walls and ceilings were specially made so they couldn’t be damaged by ordinary methods.”

Leona didn’t seem to know anything specific about it.

“What empire are you talking about?”

Even though there weren’t that many countries that were powerful enough to be called empires, it wasn’t as if there were only one or two of them in history. The word “empire” alone could not help them pinpoint which empire it was.

“Huh? There were multiple empires? I thought I heard that there was only one human country during that time?”

“…Only one?”

From Zich’s memory, there was never a time in human history where there was only one empire. Even in the oldest human history he knew, humanity was constantly building up new countries and fighting each other.

“What time period are you talking about?”

“I don’t know. I just heard that there was an empire that existed a long time ago. It’s a story that’s been passed down in our tribe.”

‘It must not be a story from a thousand or two thousand years ago.’

An elf’s life expectancy was about a thousand years. For that reason, they grew much slower than humans, and they usually had children when they were a few hundred years old. A story passed down by elves was probably several thousand years old, and Zich was not knowledgeable about history that went so far back.

‘That’s how old this ruin is.’

Zich looked around the ruin with a new perspective, and Lyla continued to question Leona. “Do you know anything else about that empire?”

“Hmm.”

Leona folded her arms and closed her eyes; she tried to recall more information.

“They told me it was an extremely powerful empire. During that time, even us elves did not dare to fight the humans. I also heard the emperors were all very competent. Usually, when positions are passed down through the lineage, it’s normal to have a couple of incompetent emperors, right? I heard that regardless of their personalities, the emperors in that empire all had the best skills at least.”

It was an interesting story. Were all the emperors competent because of the way they were educated or was it something else?

‘If there really was a way to make every heir competent, every single noble family and the royal family would be trying to find this method with all their might.’

Since nobles and royals placed great importance on maintaining their lineage, making sure that their heirs were competent was a pivotal matter; if there was a way to make all their heirs competent, all the nobles and royals would be desperate to find this method.

“Then why did the empire collapse?”

“It’s because the last emperor did not just have an awful personality—he was bat-shit crazy. Because of how crazy the emperor was, there was a revolution, and that’s how the empire ended.”

It was an exciting story about an empire that existed so long ago that it was not even on human records. 

“What else?”

“That’s all I know.”

Even Leona did not know anything more, but despite this, Zich and Lyla had obtained new information. They stored Leona’s words into a corner of their minds. Then, Zich and his companions continued to explore the ruin. Sometimes, golems would jump towards them, but they defeated the golems with ease. So far, everything was the same as the first floor.

However, as they went deeper, things started to look different. Remains of golems that they did not defeat began to appear on the ground.

“There seems to have been a battle.”

As he said this, Hans flipped the mithril that came out of a golem with his Estellade. Zich scanned the fallen golem pieces on the ground.

‘It’s been torn physically.’

Whoever destroyed the golem physically had torn it apart. Zich did not know who the person was, but this person probably possessed enormous strength. Next to the torn golem, there was another golem that seemed to have been melted with high temperatures. It seemed as if the golem had been attacked by magic. As they continued on, more signs of battle appeared in front of them. There were more remains of destroyed golems and some of the intact golems also had injuries. There were also weapons that looked as if they had been used by humans all over the floor. 

However, not a single corpse could be found anywhere—Zich did not know if all the corpses rotted or someone took care of them. Zich lifted a sword that looked as if it was ancient.

‘It doesn’t seem as if humans and golems were fighting against each other.’

Zich thought they probably were on the same side.

‘Was there an intruder they had to fight against?’

Zich’s group went down one more floor while feeling nervous. On that floor, they also found another staircase to go further down. However, that place was different from all the staircases upstairs, as it was blocked by a giant door. The problem wasn’t that it was different from the other sets of stairs; the problem was that there were all sorts of chains and items that meticulously covered the door.

Everyone could easily see that the door was sealed to prevent anyone from ever opening it. 

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