The Strange Adventure of a Broke Mercenary

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Chapter 174

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Being swallowed by sand definitely wasn’t a pleasant experience.

As he couldn’t escape, Loren had no other choice but to resign himself to it and follow Lapis’ advice. He took in a deep breath at a seemingly-right time and held his breath before his head got under the sand. He felt sand on his face almost as soon as he closed his eyes and knew that he had been engulfed by the desert.

And then, he continued sinking down for a while.

With eyes closed, Loren accepted the descent. He started to feel suffocated, yet couldn’t do anything except praying to get released soon. But he wasn’t sinking very fast, and no matter how much time pa.s.sed, the weight of sand on his body was still a constant. Loren began to wonder for real if this whole sinking business would require a demon’s tolerance to pa.s.s. Loren knew that death by suffocation was extremely painful. He would probably faint before reaching his limit, but it should be very painful before that.

Just as Loren was thinking about how much he wanted to avoid such pain, his sinking speed suddenly increased. With no time to even wonder what was happening, he was met with a floating sensation the next second. Then came a violent reverberation from beneath him, accompanied by a neigh of the horse and the sound of the carriage’s wheels. .h.i.tting something hard.

They had come out of the sand somehow. As Loren opened his eyes while shaking loose the sand stuck in his hair and body, he heard Lapis saying in a somewhat unhappy tone:

“Gula, what did you do?”

Gula answered with a confused expression.

“Well, what should have I done?”

Lapis glared at her for a while, but then sighed and averted her eyes. She muttered with regret:

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“And here I was thinking that Loren would just faint.”

Gula quipped:

“Nah, Lapis-chan, it’d be too painful, right?”

From their exchange, Loren understood that Gula had sensed a human like him wouldn’t be able to endure until they reached their destination, and had eaten some of the sand to speed up their sinking.

“What did you plan to do to knock me out?”

“Do you really want to make a maiden like me say it out loud?”

‘Don’t plan to do anything that can’t be said by a maiden from the beginning!’, thought Loren. But it’d be useless to tell Lapis that, so he just gave it up and turned to survey their surroundings instead.

The ceiling wasn’t very high, but he couldn’t see the opening where they had fallen down from. Around them were smooth white walls, and even though he had absolutely no idea where the light source was, it was bright enough to ensure full visibility. The room they were in was rather large, but there wasn’t a single piece of furniture in it. There was just a double door made from metal on one wall.

“Are we… below the desert?”

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“Yes. It’s probably something from the time of the ancient kingdom.”

Lapis said while getting down from the carriage. Loren also got down. The floor seemed to have been made from the same material as the walls, white and solid with no visible seams.

“Let’s leave the carriage here. We won’t use it when crossing the mountain range anyway.”

“What about our luggage? We’ll have to bring them.”

“I brought a cart, so wait a bit please.”

Lapis said, and before Loren could say anything in return, she gently opened the only door in the room with not a hint of caution and went through it. Loren considered going in after her, but since she told them to wait, it probably wasn’t dangerous. He exchanged a look with Gula, then both of them decided to stay still and wait for her.

“A facility from the time of the ancient kingdom, beneath a desert…”

“Probably belonged to the research inst.i.tution mentioned before.”

“Why is such a place under the sand?”

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“I think it wasn’t under the sand from the beginning, but was buried under it.”

Gula leaned against the carriage and said.

“After all, no matter how magically developed the civilization that built it was, it still isn’t a match for time, isn’t it?”

“It’d be a different story if they weren’t destroyed, right?”

The ancient kingdom that Loren had heard about was a majestic country, where there was nothing that couldn’t be accomplished by magic. If an area was turned into a desert due to a research failure, they should have been able to continue their research on it, or to turn the desert to its original state.

“Well, I wonder if the ancient kingdom was as wonderful as you think?”

“Don’t ask me. Don’t you know, Gula?”

“Ah… But the ancient kingdom I know was already in its final years.”

Gula gazed at the ceiling with a distant look in her eyes as if she was thinking about the past.

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“Even us don’t know about its golden age. The ancient kingdom itself had existed through a long period of time, you know.”

“I can’t even imagine it. Humans can only live for a couple of decades at best.”

Humans might be able to live up to one hundred years thanks to certain methods, but hundreds of years was a number that didn’t make sense to humans. Loren was wondering what it would feel like to live for such a long time when he suddenly realized something.

“Gula, your kind has existed since the ending years of the ancient kingdom, right?”

“Yeah, so?”

“The ancient kingdom was destroyed hundreds of years ago, wasn’t it? And you Evil G.o.ds were also sealed hundreds of years ago, weren’t you? In fact, you haven’t lived for that long, have you?”

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Loren wasn’t sure if they could be considered as ‘alive’ during their sealed state or not. But they couldn’t have known anything about the outside world during that period, and he wondered if it was like sleeping to them.

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“No one will find out anyway.”

According to Lapis, the room they were in could only be reached by submerging under the sand, but the depth was too much for humans to be able to hold their breath for… Thinking about how he had been dragged to such a place gave Loren the chills, and he grimaced when recalling Lapis’ lighthearted instruction that it would be alright if he fainted.

“Also, some functions of this place are still active.”

Because of that, the place had recognized Lapis as an intruder when she first discovered it and activated the defense mechanism, giving her quite a trouble. She was able to subdue it somehow, then she found the control room and while researching for a way to make the guardians retreat (they were still trying to remove the intruder at that point), she eventually managed to take control of the whole facility.

“That happened a little bit before I was kicked out of home, when I just got my priest qualification.”

“That’s… amazing.”

If her story was real, then Lapis had discovered a ruin from the ancient kingdom era and neutralized its mechanism to be able to use it for her personal purposes, all by herself.

“I brought a lot of things from home, so I was desperate.”

Moreover, Lapis said she was lucky that the ruin was in its dying stage.

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“That’s why I was able to put together a function to immediately eject anyone who gets lost and finds this place by accident. It’s alright for you this time because I’m also here… In order to be able to enter by yourself later, you have to register as visitors.”

Lapis let Loren push the cart and place her hand on the wall next to the door. Numerous symbols that Loren didn’t recognize suddenly appeared on the plain wall.

“Guest registration will be done right away, so wait a bit.”

Lapis glided her fingers over the symbols on the wall and tapped at them multiple times, then stared at them with a frown.

“Gula was successfully registered, but… Loren wasn’t. That’s strange? Let me see… ah no, it’s alright, you’re registered now.”

Gula teased her:

“Is this alright? It’s old, so anyone who enters might be able to manipulate it, right?”

“It’s alright. It’s old, but it’s under my control now.”

Lapis answered in a slightly offended tone, then took her hand off the wall and pushed the door open.

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“Go in, please.”

In front of the wide open door, Loren and Gula exchanged a glance, wondering what to do next. But they actually had no other choice but going forward, so they went through the door under the watchful eyes of a brightly-smiling Lapis.

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