Chapter 193 - Around the Desert (3)
After the crow flew through the desert sky for an hour, Theodore was forced to fix his perception. He couldn't use Mitra's power, so he called Hugin as a substitute. However, it was far superior to what he had expected.
'Indeed, it is bigger when the eye level is higher.'
Theodore shared the desert scenery with Hugin and soon discovered the reason.
Mitra's ability was moving through the ground, while Hugin could look down at the ground from the height of the clouds. The sandy winds of the desert couldn't reach that height. Unlike the party that could barely see 50 meters ahead, he could see a wide scenery.
Then something soon entered Theodore's eyes. It was four hours after the carriage stopped, just as the sun started to fall below the horizon. Something glowing in the opposite direction of the sun entered Hugin's eyes.
"Kid, what happened?"
At the front of the party, Theodore suddenly grabbed his eyes and Veronica hurriedly helped him. It might be due to the crow's habit, which liked sparkling things. The silver which entered Hugin's eyes was difficult for Theodore to endure.
However, Theodore restored his balance and looked at the landscape again. There was a building which maintained its shape in the desert caused by the sand dragon, Desertio. Additionally, the radiant silver which hurt his eyes matched Paragranum's previous description.
The hemisphere shape, which was 300 meters in radius, protruded from the ground, and it was made of a metal that was hard to scratch with master level auras.
"I've found the ruin."
The faces of the investigation team became tense at Theodore's words. They were glad to reach their destination, but they knew that people were occupying it. So, from then on, the party's gait became more cautious.
They narrowed the distance toward the scenery which Theodore had seen.
The investigation team could see the outline of the ruins Theodore had seen from the distant sky. There was a flag with two swords flying. The flag symbolized the sword empire. The black knights from Andras were also patrolling the ruins.
"300 meters ahead, a patrol of Shadow Knights will pass."
"There are 12 people on patrol and based on the barracks, there are 40 people in total."
"It is a considerable amount. Isn't the value of this set of ruins quite high?"
Unlike Quattro who had no experience, Veronica had run into them several times, so she knew the meaning of this number.
The Shadow Knights were the hidden swords of the Andras Empire, who committed all types of deeds in the darkness. The fact that 40 people had been sent to this distant desert was proof that these ruins had a lot of value.
However, shortly after that, Theodore's expression hardened. "...One of the empire's Seven Swords is present."
It was a familiar face. With black hair and legs which were stretched out in a relaxed manner, this was the appearance of a knight who looked cunning. He was Andras' 7th Sword, Lloyd Pollan.
Theodore Miller didn't have a good impression of him. He was the sword master who had found him in the royal palace and threatened to kill him at the end of the armistice.
"The 7th Sword, Lloyd Pollan."
"What? That opportunist bastard?"
However, Veronica's reaction was unexpected for Theodore.
"Yes, it is strange. He never comes when there are traps, but if there is something to gain, he will appear like a ghost. Additionally, he never shows up on a battlefield where either Blundell or I are present. He is trickier than the 4th Sword."
Therefore, Veronica's eyes were blazing at this chance to kill him. It wasn't just her but the others as well. Quattro had a great attachment to their kingdom, so they wanted to take this opportunity to shatter the power of the empire.
In the end, only Mujak and Para moved along with casual expressions.
"Okay, this hill is adequate."
Before long, Theodore's group arrived at a sand dune near the ruins containing the Andras team. It was a suitable place to secretly monitor the Andras team. The approach of the six people hadn't been exposed yet.
"The Shadow Knights... It is my first time seeing them with my own eyes." William looked over the sand dune and gulped. He knew about the special forces of the Andras Empire, but he didn't know he would encounter them in this way.
Sylvia couldn't help tightening her grip on her staff, while Theodore was staring at the man called Lloyd Pollan. At that moment, Veronica looked at the Andras knights and muttered, "But what are they doing now?"
The question soon spread to everyone. It was inevitable for the Meltor war mages to be curious about the strange actions of the shadows. A group of five people was digging at the ground, while another pair was burying something in the ground. Silver liquid was flowing from the large pits they'd made.
Paragranum was the first to notice their intentions.
'I know that the Andras people are using all types of means, but even explosives?'
Veronica and the others turned to Para with surprise, but she didn't pay attention to them. She continued muttering to herself. What was the Andras team doing?
On the contrary, there were several possibilities as to why they were laying down explosives. Should the Meltor group let it go or interfere? If they were confident of winning in a frontal battle, it was more realistic to choose the latter.
"If they are planning to blow it up, should I use my breath?" Veronica offered a radical suggestion.
However, Theodore considered it seriously. As Paragranum had described, the ruin wouldn't be broken by Veronica's breath. The Andras group, who hadn't grasped their approach yet, would be hit and burn to death without knowing. The explosives would blow up, and even Lloyd would find it difficult to survive. It was a chance to get rid of everyone with one attack!
However, the moment when Theodore was about to nod with agreement, there was a voice which interfered with the decision.
"No, you can't do that!" Paragranum, the grimoire in the shell of a girl, suddenly shouted at Veronica. Veronica stopped in surprise, just as the explosives burned up on the other side of the sand dune.
There was a massive explosion accompanied by a huge roar. The party wasn't prepared and quickly covered their eardrums, while the sky darkened with smoke.
Kukukukung, the earth also trembled.
The ground shook like an earthquake was occurring. A great shock wave burst out, and the sandy field shook. Theodore barely recovered from the shock and instantly realized. '...No, isn't the shaking lasting too long to just be the aftermath of the explosion?'
The impact of the explosion should've ceased already. So, why hadn't the shaking stopped yet? This meant the shock wasn't caused by the explosion but from something under the ground. Was it a coincidence or inevitable? Theodore looked at Paragranum for clarification.
Then he got his wish.
「Mercurius... woke up.]
Theodore couldn't hear it because his ears were still ringing, but he read her lips.
Simultaneously, a white liquid emerged from underneath the ruin. Mercury had been placed beneath the laboratory for the purpose of stopping any intrusions. There was a large volume and it started taking the form of something huge.
This was an autonomous maneuver-type guardian that Paracelsus had created out of mercury. The name was Mercurius...
This was the name which had been given by the best alchemist in the Age of Mythology to a man-made embodiment of Hermes. The guardian didn't have a nucleus, which was the weakness of all existences with an indefinite form. It had the ability to multiply again and again, as long as there was a drop of mercury left.
Paracelsus's guardian appeared in the image of a snake and declared in a loud voice, [This is Mercurius' 76th autonomous movement. It is due to an intrusion attempt without going through the procedures.]
Mercurius gazed at the Andras excavation team. [Power annihilation..]
Although the sun had only fallen a little bit to the west, the serpent was big enough to cover the sun, casting a huge shadow. As the knights stiffened at the sight before them, Mercurius struck ruthlessly.
Its estimated length was tens of meters, while its estimated weight was several tons. Mercurius' body, which was entirely made of mercury, was a terrible mass weapon in itself. From top to bottom, left to right...
As the massive mass of mercury crashed into them, many Shadow Knights were crushed to death.
The simple movement wasn't enough to destroy all of Andras' barracks, but it did reach the sand dune where Theodore's party were hiding. Even the wind was an attack! Mercurius waved its tail lightly, but it was almost equal to magic of the 7th Circle.
"This damn snake!"
Fortunately, Veronica managed to offset the wind pressure. Otherwise, the six of them would've been blown away. One scholar had said this, 'A massive mass is a power in itself.'
The six people hiding at the sand dune quickly thought about what to do next. There were still a few of Andras' Shadows remaining, while Mercurius was already moving its body for the next attack. If they didn't move quickly, they would be late.
"Yellow Tower Kid, why did you stop me?"
Didn't it seem like she was aware of Mercurius' existence? Five pairs of eyes stared at Para with reasonable doubt.
She explained in a matter of fact manner, "That is Mercurius, a guardian of the laboratory that Paracelsus created. Its entire body is made of mercury. If Tower Master had used your breath, this entire area would have become filled with poison gas."
"Even a sword master can't escape from the poisonous influence of the mercury. Additionally, if it evaporates, it will just return to liquid again."
It couldn't be defeated. That was the common thought in the minds of those who heard the explanation. Veronica's breath would only threaten the body. Even if it evaporated from powerful magic, it would just return to its original state. This wasn't an opponent they could face.
They wondered why Para had omitted the mention of such a dangerous existence.
"But Mercurius is a defender who will only use force if people don't enter through the door in a legitimate way. It is safer for us to stay back until all of the Andras group are dead."
"...That would be reasonable." Veronica nodded at Para's explanation but then pointed toward something. "Though, isn't it hard to leave this situation alone?"
The investigation team looked at where Veronica was pointing. On the battlefield, the Shadow Knights were being trampled on like ants. Behind Mercurius, a man was trying to enter the laboratory through a drainage tunnel that had been exposed.
"Well, this is what happened. We can't retreat now. That bastard is going in alone," Veronica said and then looked at Mercurius, which was like a mountain.
Despite being a sword master, Lloyd didn't hesitate to run away from such a monster. It might be different if his Aura Ability was focused on destruction... but Mujak's 'Illusion' ability was just like an ant before Mercurius.
So, a magician was needed to deal with that mercury serpent. However, the person needed to be of the master level and able to cooperate with Veronica.
"Come, Kid. It is our turn."