Ripped lumps of flesh fell to the floor. They squirmed for a bit and looked like pitiful victims finally meeting their ends after a long period of torture. Lumps of meat from the main body were torn to pieces and revealed the ruin’s floor. The movements of the body parts began to stop gradually.
The ‘legs’ stopped their meaningless resistance and the ‘arms’ limply hung in place. The ‘eyes’ began to close one by one along with the ‘lips.’ Like that, the meat lumps stopped moving. However, they weren’t quiet even in their final moments.
The voice was quiet and powerless, but as the battle came to a close, they could hear the voices clearly.
<<It’s because of you.>>
<<You should also become like us…>>
<<I curse you.>>
The ‘eye’ near Lyla glared at her until the end and spat out curses. With a hardened expression, Lyla stared at all of them.
* * *
The lumps of meat stopped moving completely. It looked like it was dead; no, it was difficult to know if it was right to describe such things as ‘dead,’ but the battle was over. Zich looked over his companions. They had some small wounds, but no one was deeply injured. Considering the storm of magic attacks, it was a miraculous result. Zich complimented himself saying this was thanks to his training.
Then, Zich began to search the surroundings. One by one, he skimmed off lump pieces around him. Perhaps because its main body was gone, but they all dropped off much easier than before. Hans, Snoc, and Leona all helped Zich. Hans used Estellade while Snoc used sharp pieces of mithril to cut the lumps on the ceiling. Leona also took out a small knife and sliced off the meat lumps with a scowl on her face. Yet, Lyla simply stood in front of the main body.
Nobody bothered her or asked her questions. Even Zich acted like she wasn’t there. They weren’t ostracizing her but waiting for her to gather her thoughts.
Although the area was wide, Zich and his companions finished their work incredibly quickly, and it didn’t take long for them to reveal the room’s original form. The lumps of meat that they piled up in one corner of the room looked truly disgusting. Even if it was the most efficient way to do so, nobody tried to put the meat lumps in their magic box.
Most of the area was empty. It was hard to tell if the meat lumps had destroyed or pressed upon the goods originally in the room or if the room had always looked this empty, but there wasn’t even a single piece of furniture. However, there were some things that they could harvest: broken crystals, scattered metal debris, and the magic circle that covered the unlit floor. Zich lifted the metal debris.
‘I have never seen this metal before.’
“It’s probably an alloy.” Zich heard a voice from behind him and turned around. Lyla was looking at the same metal Zich was looking at. Her complexion didn’t look great, but she was like her usual self.
“Can you tell what the compounds of the alloy are?”
“I don’t know exactly, but I’m sure that it includes mithril and orichalcum.”
“The owner of this ruin must have been incredibly rich.”
Now, it went beyond mithril to orichalcum; his tongue rolled at the wealth displayed before him. Perhaps, when this ruin was built during the Ancient Empire Days, rare metals such as these were as common as a rolling stone.
While Zich had such thoughts, Lyla looked at the circle on the floor.
“It’s a magic circle. I think they used it to deliver mana.” Lyla moved according to the lines of the magic circle. Zich followed her movements from behind. As they followed the squiggly lines that made up the circle, they reached the area where the monster’s main body was.
“This is probably the center of the magic circle.”
Since it was where the main body was, Lyla’s words seemed convincing. Zich searched the floor’s surface.
‘It doesn’t look any different from other places.’
He kneeled on one leg and placed his hand on the floor. It didn’t have a different texture, but he felt a faint stream of mana flowing underneath. Zich stationed his body upright again and searched around the surrounding floor carefully. In a place not that far away, there was a half-moon-shaped hole that looked like a handle. Zich placed his hands inside and put pressure onto his grip.
With a deep ringing sound, Zich lifted the floor up and put it aside. A square-shaped floor appeared underneath—there were more than several floors. Zich removed the new floors that appeared and put them all aside. Between the lattice-shaped frames that supported the floorboards, Zich could see a basement underneath. Inside the basement, there was a peculiar-looking metal device.
“It's a mana pump,” Lyla said.
“Mana pump? That thing?” Zich stared at the device which Lyla pointed out as a mana pump. It was as big as a peasant’s house that was on the bigger side. An obviously expensive and rare-looking metal covered the device’s surface. However, it didn’t completely surround it like a seal, and from between, there were large items that looked like gems embedded between the metals.
The device had a formidable presence, but if it was a mana pump like Lyla said, it went beyond simply formidable to astonishing. Like its name suggested, a mana pump was a device that poured out mana. Zich had also seen one before his regression days. He didn’t see many; it was a very rare device that only a couple of great magicians possessed. And all the ones he saw had been no bigger than a human’s head but the amount of mana they exuded out was substantial. However, the mana pump in front of them was incomparably bigger than all the ones Zich had seen.
“It really is a mana pump. I was also surprised, but seeing it, I can now understand how that monster was able to survive for so long and had spare mana to commence a battle as soon as we arrived.”
“Is it a forgotten technology from the ancient empire?” Before they realized it, Hans, Snoc, and Leona craned their ears to their conversation and crouched over the hole. Their eyes sparkled as they asked.
While Zich and his companions were absorbed in looking at the mana pump, Lyla looked around their surroundings. The uncomfortable feeling that seemed to prick through her head was now gone. When she first entered the ruin, she felt as if something was connected to her. However, even though this uncomfortable feeling was gone, she didn’t feel relieved. Instead, her head became filled with more complicated and troublesome thoughts, and she felt melancholy.
* * *
There was nothing to gain more from the ruin. Since they were also tired from the battle today, they decided to go to sleep earlier than usual. They decided to camp out on the ruin’s first floor, as no one wanted to sleep on the lower floors, where there were meat pieces everywhere. Lyla strolled through the ruins. Since Snoc cleaned all of the debris, the ruin was almost back to its original form.
“Did you remember anything?”
“You surprised me!” Lyla jumped back in surprise. Before she realized it, Zich was standing right behind her. Zich cackled at her surprised face. Should she beat him with her staff? Lyla barely repressed the violent desire in her heart.
“What do you want?”
“Here!” Zich handed her something. It was alcohol, reminding Lyla of a familiar scene. It hadn’t even been that long, but Zich had handed her alcohol while they were looking at the waterfall from the entrance of the ruin. However, it was a bit different this time. Zich was holding an entire bottle of rum with high alcohol content.
“It seems like you need it.”
Lyla took the rum, opened the bottle, and gulped it down. Zich blew out a whistle at her tough attitude. In just one gulp, more than half the rum was gone. She put the bottle next to her mouth and then screamed, “What the hell was that!” Her voice was filled with anger. She was probably referring to the monster they fought earlier.
“How should I know?”
“Yeah, let’s just say that it’s a mysterious monster from an ancient empire! Since it was a civilization that possessed a magic fuel like that thousands of years ago, it’s not surprising that it had a monster like that!”
It wasn’t certain that this ruin was from an ancient empire yet, but Zich knew this was not a good time to correct her words. Instead, he gulped down his share of the rum.
“But why is that thing related to me!” This was the reason why Lyla’s mood was at rock bottom. Zich also did not reply this time. There was no way he knew something even she didn’t know about herself. Lyla probably also knew this too. She didn’t want Zich to actually answer her questions, but she just wanted to let out her emotions and talk to someone. Then, Lyla’s shoulders drooped down. A melancholy and serious atmosphere now enveloped her.
‘Her moods change so fast.’ This was understandable as she had received a major shock. With a much calmer voice, Lyla said, “Judging by the structure of this ruin, the lowest floor was probably a research laboratory. Even though there aren’t many traces left, the last floor has the basic characteristics of magic laboratories such as the mana pump and the magic circles on the floor. The devices scattered all around the room are probably lab tools.”
Zich remembered a few devices on the last floor that were made with rare metal alloys.
“Then Zich, what do you think they were researching?” Lyla seemed as if she actually wanted an answer to this question, so Zich replied, “Judging by the situation, won’t it be that monster?”
“Yeah, it’s probably that monster. Then, what type of monster do you think it is?”
Zich recalled the monster’s appearance. It was impossible to forget its unique appearance—the lumps of meat pieces gathered together and the human body parts buried in it. Zich tried to organize the situation inside his mind. The laboratory, the monster that seemed like it was an experimental subject, the seal on the door, and traces of past battles.
“Did the experimental subject escape?”
“As expected, you catch onto things fast.” Lyla nodded. “But I don’t think it just escaped. I think there was some kind of accident during a trial, and the experimental subject probably went berserk.”
Thinking back to the monster’s appearance and state, Lyla’s guess seemed right.
“But the most significant part about this is that the experimental subject seems to be somehow related to me.”
Lyla hung her head down again. Since the monster recognized her, and she also felt its presence in the ruin, they were definitely somehow connected to each other.
‘She’s probably shocked, right?’ Since Lyla didn’t have her memories, this new revelation might have come even more as a shock. Perhaps, she thought she was the same kind of being as the monster below. Even though Zich could understand why she might feel this way, he couldn’t sympathize with her concerns. Zich had already established his sense of identity perfectly, so it did not matter to him what kind of existence he was or what happened in his past. Honestly, even if he found out that his parents were not actually his biological parents or if he was actually a monster in human form, Zich was confident that he wouldn’t even lift an eyebrow.
No matter what shape or form he was, Zich was himself. However, Zich did not think everyone needed to have the same viewpoint as him, so he did not say anything to her.
Lyla asked, “…Do you think I’m also an experiment?”
“I don’t know.”
“…Just give me any kind of advice.”
“Do you need it?”
“I need it. I think I’m going crazy right now.”
Zich took a gulp of rum and then said, “You told me this before, right? Not even the past me can bind me in the present. So it doesn’t matter to me what you are or what kind of past you had. The Lyla I know is the dork who named herself after a passing flower when I asked you for your name.”
Lyla slowly lifted her head. From between her messy hair, Zich was able to see her eyes. Her eyes looked sharp, but because of the situation she was in, it looked pitiful instead.
“…I can’t think of things in such clear-cut lines like you.”
“Thanks for the advice though. I will try to change my perspective in that direction.”
She couldn’t immediately apply Zich’s advice to herself, but it seemed as if she at least found a direction to go in a place of bleak darkness.Previous Chapter Next Chapter