“What are they hiding that they blocked the entrance like this?” Zich tapped on the human-sized boulder placed on top of the door. There wasn’t only one boulder. Boulders were piled up high as a mountain and pressed down the door with their heavy weights to keep it closed.
Plus, it wasn’t only the boulder that blocked the door. There was also a pile of motionless golems. It seemed like somebody had piled the golems above the door and immobilized them. While kneeling with one leg, Lyla tried swiping a small exposed section of the door that wasn’t covered by a boulder or the golems.
“There’s also a magic mechanism.”
“What kind of magic?”
“It’s one that intensifies the door’s strength and seals it. Its remaining mana is incredibly strong, and there are several complicated magic spells on top of that. It almost makes me wonder if they really had to do so much for a single door.”
“Hm.” Zich stroked his chin and looked down at the door. He pushed the door’s chains and thick bolt with his feet.
‘The chains and bolts are made from mithril too.’
The door was tightly shut physically and magically.
‘What in the world is under here?’ It piqued Zich’s curiosity. It was obviously something that the ruin’s owners, who managed to immobilize many golems, couldn’t control and sealed. ‘Should I try opening it?’
However, it bothered Zich that he didn’t know what was under it. He stared at Lyla. She looked at the door intensely like she wanted to pierce it.
“Are you going to go down, sir?” Hans asked. All eyes shot towards Zich, and they waited for him to answer.
Zich decided, “Move those things aside. Let’s go down.”
* * *
They moved the boulders and golem remains that pressed down on the door. Then, they removed the chains and bolts without much difficulty. Without anyone else’s help, Snoc could move the boulders and metal by himself. In front of the cleared area above the door, Lyla went up. She kneeled with one leg while placing her hand on the door and cast a spell.
Mana poured out of her hands and flowed to the door. One of the seals that firmly blocked the door was unlocked.
After her mana made a great wave, Lyla got up.
“I undid everything.”
“Well done.” Zich tapped Lyla’s shoulders as she came down from the door.
After all the items blocking the door disappeared, they could see the door’s entire form. It was just a plain door without a single pattern, but it was connected by mithril.
‘Is everything made with mithril in this place?’
The metal, mithril, was so common inside this ruin that it seemed to have lost its value. The door shone with mithril’s peculiar silverish light, and like most doors that led to a basement, it was closed from both sides. It looked like the two holes in its center were the door’s handles, but there was no need for them to grab the handles to open the door.
“Yes.” Snoc stepped forward.
Snoc easily opened the door just like how he moved the golems and boulders blocking the door. Even if mithril was harder to control than other metals, it was still just a door. Without even having to reach out for its handles, Snoc opened the door. Just like that, a door that might have been closed for thousands of years opened.
The mithril door collided with the wall and made a loud thump. A wide entrance and stairs appeared into view. Zich lifted his feet first, and his companions followed him. Then, they slowly disappeared to the floor underneath.
* * *
Everyone was nervous after having gone through a tightly guarded seal. Lyla grabbed onto her new staff tightly, and Hans fixed his grip on Estellade. Snoc, who had already become quite used to handling mithril by now, wrapped the metal around his body in preparation. Leona placed an arrow on her bow and looked around her surroundings while Zich simply sauntered around with Windur on his shoulders.
“There’s nothing unusual.”
They worried that strange monsters would pop out as soon as they opened the door, but contrary to their expectations, the view in front of them didn’t look anything different from upstairs. Everyone loosened up a bit. However, as they walked deeper into the ruin, they tensed up again. The number of golem remains and scattered weapons increased as they continued, but what unnerved them the most was the air that changed. It was almost as if it were piercing them.
“Be careful. There’s definitely something here.” Zich fixed his grip on Windur, and they all went down one more set of stairs.
The scenery changed once more.
“What is this?” Leona scowled. Everyone’s expressions were similar. Something hideous covered the floor, walls, and ceilings—it let out a disgusting stench and looked like rotten lumps of meat. Zich took a step forward and felt something sticky at the very edge of his toes.
Zich tried flipping the rotten lumps of meat with his Windur. They fell off from Windur’s movements with no resistance.
“Uh…!” Lyla stepped forward behind Zich and shuddered.
“I think I know how it feels to step on decomposing corpses now.”
“I’m glad that you are gaining such good experience.”
Lyla glared, and Zich chuckled. Then, he rubbed what he stepped on with the sole of his shoe. Following Lyla, Hans also got on top of the lumps of flesh.
It was not as intense as Lyla’s face, but Hans’ face didn’t look good either. “Sir Zich, what is this?”
“I also don’t know, but it seems to be half-rotten meat. I don’t know why this might be here.”
“If Ms. Leona’s story is right, the things inside this tunnel should be thousands of years old, but why is it only half-rotten?”
Leona flinched as her name was mentioned.
“Try to focus on your surroundings.”
Even as a faithful listener of Zich’s orders, Hans frowned openly at this order. However, Hans did not go against Zich and tried to focus his attention on the meat pieces. Of course, touching them would be the best way to find out what they were, but Hans did not want to go that far. Zich also did not say much about Hans’ method. Hans opened his eyes and looked down at the things he was stepping on.
“Sir, there is a flow of mana around it even though it’s very little.”
“Yeah, that’s why it’s been rotting at a very slow rate.”
Even with mana, nothing could beat the passing of time; the meat pieces on the ground were clear examples of this. Hans was thinking of this when another thought popped up in his mind. He quickly lifted his head and said, “Sir Zich! Do you think these meat pieces were alive a long time ago?”
“There’s a high possibility that they might have been.”
Hans swallowed his saliva. The meat pieces looked gross and disgusting, but they could have been a ‘living being.’
“Also, it might not be ‘alive a long time ago.’ Even though it’s only a little bit, mana is still coming out of it.”
Hans and all the others’ expressions turned serious. They all stared at the rotten pieces of flesh that covered the tunnel. On the other hand, Zich’s eyes were filled with curiosity as he stared at the other side of the tunnel.
“Let’s go deeper. It seems as if the owners of this ruin sealed the door to lock up some kind of monster, so let’s at least check what it looks like.”
* * *
While stepping on rotten pieces of meat, they moved forward. It seemed as if the whole floor was covered with it, as they continuously appeared in front of Zich and his companions. Like their surroundings, their expressions turned more rotten.
“…Isn’t this a hand?” Snoc found something that popped out of a wall. Like everything else, it was also half-rotten; but it was distinctly shaped like a person’s hand.
Nowem glanced at the half-rotten hand and hid inside Snoc’s clothes.
“…And this seems like a leg?” Hans also discovered something.
A meat piece that was stuck on the ground was shaped like a person’s leg. After this, they kept finding more and more pieces that resembled human body parts. There were even half-rotten eyeballs and dried-up skulls. Zich suddenly stopped while leading the group and stirred the rotten meat pieces with Windur.
“They’re less rotten here.” With Zich’s murmuring, everyone else began to immediately look at the meat pieces all around them. As Zich said, the meat pieces in this area looked fresher than the ones at the entrance of the floor.
“The rotten smell has also decreased,” Lyla said and stabbed some of the meat with her staff. “…There is also significantly more mana coming out of these pieces.”
Zich stared at the end of the tunnel. “This guy... he might still be alive.”
Someone nervously gulped.
* * *
They continued to move on and went one more floor down. The meat pieces around them now no longer looked rotten, and their shape clearly resembled human body parts. When they reached a certain part of the floor, the parts they were stepping on began to vibrate.
It was definitely a heartbeat. Zich cut the meat pieces with Windur, but no blood came out.
Lyla explained, “It’s not blood they're letting out, but mana.”
The meat pieces that Zich cut twitched a little bit. All of Zich’s companions expressed their disgust at the moving meat pieces, but they continued to move deeper into the tunnel. After a certain amount of time, Zich’s gaze was stuck on Lyla.
“Are you okay?” Lyla nodded in response to Zich's concern, but contrary to her reply, her face looked extremely grave. “It feels stronger.”
“What does it feel like?”
“It feels like something is picking through my head. It’s very unpleasant and disgusting.”
Based on their surroundings, there was a high possibility that the main body of the meat pieces would be at the deepest part of the ruin.
‘Then that means that there is a connection between these meat pieces and Lyla.’
Zich stared at Lyla; even when she was scrunching up her face, she still looked beautiful. Then he looked at the meat pieces. Even though Zich had seen all kinds of filthy and disgusting things, this was one of the worst.
‘I have no idea how they are related to each other.’
However, there was no need for Zich to strain his mind. He would be able to find more clues when they reached the end. Lyla seemed to also have the same thought and persevered onwards. In a way, Lyla was probably the most curious about what was at the end of this ruin. Without saying anything, Lyla continued to move.
The deeper they went, the meat pieces looked fresher and fresher. The pieces were also bigger, and some were even wriggling around. Even though the meat pieces no longer looked rotten, they didn’t look any less disgusting. Zich and his companions went two more floors down, and they finally reached what looked like the last floor.
An ominous presence occupied the last floor.
“That’s the main body.”
Unlike the other floors, there was only one room, and in the center of it, an enormous being shaped like a giant bud of meat came into view.Previous Chapter Next Chapter