Borkal and Eriksson happily went hunting with Welikro. Their biggest goal for coming to Egret was to get as many catches as they could in the first place.
Welikro had said that because of all the scary rumors surrounding Egret, not many people were willing to go there for hunting or gathering. So, there were lots of wild animals there and it was far easier to hunt there than in the mountains. That was the main reason Welikro had spent his past two winter breaks here with his father.
Their catch yesterday night was the deer. That alone proved that Welikro’s claim was true. One would have to walk till their legs wore out before being able to find a herd of deers. There would be no results without scouring for at least ten days to half a month. It wasn’t as easy as sitting near the stream to wait for one to take a drink nearby.
The three of them were dreaming of making it big and hoped that they would get some good catch during the rest of the day. Additionally, they were also going to forage around. Even if they weren’t able to get any good prey, they would still be able to pick out some rare herbs which could also be sold for a decent price back in town.
Seeing his companions leave, Claude readied himself to take a stroll around the ruins. Even though he wanted nothing more badly than to rush to the basement to search for Magus Landes’s belongings, he forced his recklessness down. The least he had to do was to survey the surroundings first to make sure that nothing would go wrong after he got the things he wanted.
When he thought about it, that level of caution was a side effect from reading all those webnovels in his past life. All sorts of accidents would happen when the protagonists of those novels were trying to search for some treasure. Either an enemy suddenly jumped out of nowhere or some incredibly odd situation occurred that caused the main character to face life-ending peril. To survive, they protagonists would have to overcome all sorts of obstacles. In all those webnovels he heard, not a single transmigrated protagonist could find a treasure without being involved in some sort of freak accident.
Alright, I better learn from those lessons. Even the things Magus Landes left behind aren’t precious treasure by any means, It’s still best to be safe. Let’s check the ruins once carefully first and identify anything that could be a threat to me.
However, Claude spent an hour looking around the area and didn’t notice anything. There was nothing apart from the whooshing sound generated by the wind blowing through the gaps in the crumbled walls. Even insects like ants or spiders were nowhere to be seen. There would only be a few seagulls cawing away at the reef in the distance. The surroundings were nothing but peaceful.
A loud gunshot could be heard in the distance. It wasn’t known whether Welikro and the others managed to get another prey. At that moment, Claude was trying to make a torch. There were a few rather dry pine branches amid the pile of firewood which were decent materials for a torch. He tied a worn out hemp rope around it, dipped it in some fuel and he wouldn’t have to worry about the illumination when he went underground.
Claude found the three underground entrances Welikro mentioned, or, at least he believed that he did. The diary said that the small room near the stone steps going down was where Landes had lived. It could be seen that his status in the magic tower wasn’t high even though he was a four-ring magus. He was either no different from a common apprentice or servant. Otherwise, there’d be no way his residence was situated underground.
For instance, what kind of lord in a noble household would sleep in the basement? Only servants such as a house maid or a kitchen helper would live in a place like that. High-class servants like butlers, chefs or personal attendants or coachmen wouldn’t sleep in basements either. They’d have their own quarters near the kitchen, dining hall, storehouse and so on.
From that train of thought, Claude stipulated that the entrance that led to a basement living quarters wouldn’t be the one near the main entrance. Nobody would want to do that as it would be rather unappealing for guests to see servants going in and out when they entered or left through the main entrance.
So, Claude deduced that the two entrances near the rear were the ones he were looking for. It stood to reason. As the two entrances at the rear faced the cliff near the seaside, holes could be dug through the basement and the cliff for windows to be built there for ventilation and a good view. Even though they were only magi that had the relative statures of servants, they were still practitioners of magic and Claude believed that a magus like Landes probably enjoyed simple benefits such as those.
It was too bad that the cliff stretched a little too far out towards the sea. Even if he were to lean on the edge of the cliff and look down, he wouldn’t be able to tell whether there were windows on the flat side of the cliff or not. There was no way he would bother to take the long route around to see if there were windows on the cliff. And given that a few centuries had already passed and the side of the cliff facing the sea was probably constantly exposed to the elements, not to mention the vines and plants that grew all over it, Claude suspected that even if there were windows, they would be completely covered up by those plants.
However, that didn’t stop him from making the entrances at the rear the first places he would search. He didn’t have to search the whole basement anyway. All he had to do was to see whether there was a green stone plate at the back of the stone steps leading down. If it wasn’t there, he just had to move to the next entrance at the center to check the back of the stone steps there.
He took six torches with him and reasoned that they were enough. When he stood near the entrance heading down the basement, Claude found that his expectations for a normal basement in a magic tower were completely off the mark. No other basement he had seen had a depth of five to six meters. That was more like a subterranean cavity.
The stone steps he used also stood out from the ordinary. Normally,. stairs would fork at the center to save space. But the three stone steps that led downwards didn’t have any forks or turns. They just went straight down. Claude could only barely see down part of it with his torch. There wasn’t any sign of illumination down in the dark abyss and he even smelled a sewer-like stench.
Welikro had said that there was nothing but mud down in the basement that was around a foot or two deep, which his father had told him about. He took it as the truth since there wasn’t any reason why his father would want to lie to him about it. Claude guessed that it was the result of the dirt that built up from the rainwater that washed it down. Perhaps the drainage in the basement was clogged up, causing the mud to build up over time.
Claude was worried that there would be methane buildup as a result of the clogged mud. After all, the ruins had been there since centuries ago. Even though he smelled nothing other than the familiar stench of the sewer, he lit a torch and tossed it down the entrance from afar just to make sure. Nothing happened. He came closer to the entrance and saw that the torch was still burning, but the flame was small. It was highly possible that it fell into some mud.
He gave his equipment one last check. He brought his hunting knife, small grappling hook, the dagger kept in his hunting books as well as the short-barreled matchlock. Making sure that nothing was amiss, he went on to unroll the rope ladder.
That’s right, a rope ladder. Claude wasn’t stupid enough to go down using the stone stairs. Having to walk through mud almost two feet high way back to the rear of the stone steps was too time wasting, and he wasn’t at all keen on being submerged in mud. Who knew what kind of germs grew within. He would only have himself to blame if he contracted some sort of weird skin disease when he got back.
Since the basement was around six meters in height, and each step was around 13 centimeters in height and roughly 40 centimeters in width, his deductions told him that there were around 40 steps that stretched some 13 meters to the front. If he walked down using the stone steps, he would have to backtrack for ten meters through the mud to reach the back of the steps and that was far too troublesome.
So, he swiftly decided that he would go down using a rope ladder instead from the top that was the nearest to the back of the steps. He let his rope ladder down after taking a few steps down the stairs until he was around five meters from the ground, which was the rough length of his rope ladder. From there, he would only have to walk around three meters to reach the back of the steps. It was far more convenient than going down the steps to the other end.
The rope ladder was also made in tandem with the torches not long ago. They had brought around 20 meters of rope just in case they were going hiking. It was more than enough for his rope ladder. As for the steps of the ladder, he picked some of the harder pieces of firewood. He had tested it before and ascertained that they were able to sustain his body weight. The process of making the rope ladder was rather simple. he tied a knot for every 30 centimeters of rope. After that, he slipped a firewood through each of the knots and tightened them. They didn’t have to hold up too tightly, since he was only using it temporarily.
Before he went down, he also cut some branches off some shrubs and threw them to where he would land. That way, he wouldn’t have to step directly into the mud. After another half an hour of tossing shrubs and branches down, he felt that it was more or less sufficient and lit his torch and descended using his rope ladder.
When he reached the bottom, Claude raised his torch to look around him. He could only see darkness from afar. The space down there was probably rather huge. There were a few more clumps of branches in front of him above the moist, muddy ground. However, the mud wasn’t as fluid as he thought it would be.
Fortunately, the corner of the stone steps was less than a meter away. He would reach the rear after a single turn. The bad news was, Claude realized that the mud level was more than two feet in height. Landes mentioned in his diary that the green stone plate was located on the lowermost part of the back of the stone steps, which meant that he would have to dig out some mud to be able to access it.
Well, there’s no use thinking about that now. Let’s get to work. Claude moved the clump of branches in front of him to the front right before the corner of the steps and tossed the one behind him further ahead. When he was one meter away from the back of the steps, he lit two torches and plunged them into the branches to ensure that he had enough light to go around.
The trapped mud smelled horrible. That was inevitable. Claude used a small metal shovel to shove the mud to a side and exposed the bottom part of the back of the steps. Though the part submerged in mud looked rather dark, there was an obvious rectangular protrusion.
That Landes wasn’t lying after all… Claude felt truly moved. His guess had been right; the side of the tower that faced the sea was indeed where the low-level magus had lived.
He carefully cleared out the mud on the walls and gave it a push. The rectangular protrusion seemed to shift slightly, but it didn’t budge much.
Claude tried to recall what the diary said. That’s right, it said to push hard. But given that Claude was squatting down on a pile of branches and held a torch in his left hand, pushing with his right hand won’t do. He gave it a kick with his legs instead.
That rectangular protrusion was indeed the stone plate mentioned in the diary. It popped slightly open from the kick and all Claude had to do was to lift it up to reveal a rectangular, drawer-like hole within.
He shone the light of his torch and saw a white jade-like chest. It was around 30 centimeters in length and ten centimeters in height and seemed rather hefty.
Claude looked around to find a place to plunge his torch into. He wouldn’t be able to lift the chest with one hand from the look of it.
But right at that time, he heard low growl that seemed to approach him. Looking up, he lost his wits when he saw a bloody mouth rapidly coming towards him…