Tuesday, April 2, 2024 @

Volume 1 Chapter 94 Where God Is

Volume 1 Chapter 94 Where God Is

 Inferno Pathway's interior was unlike any dungeon we had visited before.

 It seemed like it had been carved out from the inside of a volcano, creating a massive cavern. The walls were constantly flowing with cascading lava, casting a red glow all around.

 Just below the entrance, there was a deep cliff, and beneath it, a large pool of lava spread out like a lake. It seemed impossible to climb back up if someone were to fall. Perhaps someone skilled in magic or something similar could find a way back, but at least we didn't have that ability.

 A long bridge was built over the lava, and at regular intervals along its railing, there were large white statues that seemed to have had some kind of carving on them in the past.

 The surfaces of the statues had melted due to the intense heat, and now their condition was so poor that it was impossible to tell what they once represented.

 "Um, Mel. Can you tell me the location of the Guardian of the Key again?"

 "Yes, I can. I understand."

 We entered the Inferno Pathway where the Key of Inferno sleeps, and we decided to double-check the map depicted in the ancient document.

 On our way to this dungeon, the three of us discussed the place where a picture of a dragon, which we believed to be the guardian of the third key, was drawn.

 "I think it's on this page... here."

 Mel swiftly turned the page and then handed us the ancient document, turned upside down so that it would be easier for us to see.

 On the open page, there was a simple diagram of the Inferno Pathway, along with descriptions written in unfamiliar characters.

 In the center, we could see a huge pool of lava, surrounded by a corridor that was exactly square-shaped, like a bridge.

 The structure was simple enough that it didn't require detailed explanations, and it didn't seem like we would easily lose our way, unlike in the Emerald Green Dungeon.

 Before coming here, we, as adventurers from the Metis Guild, received an explanation from Dill, a guild staff member, that "we need either someone who can use [Water Attribute Magic] or to prepare tools."

 Using magic naturally consumes magic power. It seemed too burdensome for the caster to continue casting magic on all the members while facing monsters. In the end, it seems that we won't be able to advance deep without an item like Dario's amulet.

 If this dungeon was built with the assumption that it cannot be conquered by ordinary humans to prevent the theft of the key, it seems reasonable that there is no need for clumsy tricks.

 "There are several square pictures here."

 "As the name suggests, it's a corridor, isn't it? This is"

 As Fatina spoke, there were several similar patterns described in the ancient documents.

 "Like the other two dungeons, it seems to have a hierarchical structure. Since there is lava below, we cannot descend... so we should proceed upwards."

 Mel pointed to the upper part of the corridor── even higher than the bridge.

 The upper part of the bridge is not just a simple roof, but it seems to be a series of overlapping corridors.

 It's a mechanism that is different from what we have encountered in the dungeon so far - aiming upwards instead of downwards.

 "Is there anything else written?"

 "No... nothing in particular."

 "I see."

 Since only Mel can decipher the ancient documents, we have no choice but to rely on her to gather information.

 ...It's a bit late to wonder, but where did these ancient documents come from in the first place? The only things I know are the few things I heard from Mel before.

 That it has been passed down in the Cretia royal family and that Mel stole it from inside the castle.

 I have no knowledge of the connection between the royal family and the keys. The scattered ruins that we casually refer to as dungeons must have been created for some reason, but that reason remains unknown.

 The biggest problem is ultimately what these three keys are.

 I have been searching for the keys all this time just for the purpose of becoming stronger, but now I can't help but think about it.

 Was it really the right choice to collect the keys without trying to learn anything?

 I wonder if I came here with some terrible misunderstanding...

 It might just be groundless worry, but why do I feel that way?

 "So, where is the dragon we're looking for?"

 "...Ah, right."

 Mel's voice enters my ears, bringing my consciousness back to reality.

 "It was right below the entrance, wasn't it?"

 "Yes. But if that's the case... it means it's under this bridge."

 "I can't see it from here. Let's move forward a little bit."

 I take a step forward and move onto the bridge. Leaning out from the railing and peering down, I see a gaping hole in the wall of the cliff at the entrance.

 "Oh! There really is a hole!"

 "It seems to be there, but how do we get there?"

 "Now that you mention it..."

 There was definitely a tunnel, but there was no path leading to it anywhere. Right next to where the cliff began, there were small, crumbled steps. It seemed to be a remnant of a staircase that once existed.

 "Maybe there used to be stairs or something here."

 "Yeah, looks like it."

 In this state, it would be difficult for other adventurers to notice the existence of the tunnel and enter. However, this could also be seen as an opportunity. Balzark and the others might have been staying in Metis for a long time because they might not have noticed this place.

 The only things that seemed usable as footholds within sight were some thin rocks protruding from the lava. It seemed possible to use them to jump and land in the tunnel.

 "Let's use those rocks as footholds and get inside."

 "But isn't that impossible no matter what?"

 However, my suggestion was immediately opposed by Mel.

 "At the very least, I don't think I can jump that distance. It would be different if I had wind-based magic."

 "Yeah, I don't think I can do it either."

 "In that case, I'll carry you both inside."

 "Can you do that? Is that even possible?"

 "I think my abilities have improved, so I should be able to jump this distance."

 "It looks very dangerous, though..."

 "There's no other way, so can you bear with it?"

 Mel looked at the scaffolding and me, seeming really worried. But, there wasn't any other way to get into the side tunnel, so there was no choice.

 "It's okay! If Ark-sama says he can do it, then he definitely can!"

 "Um, well..."

 After a short silence, Mel reluctantly agreed in the end.

 "Fatina, hold onto me from behind. It doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you don't fall."


 Fatina clung to my back like she was being carried.

 Next, I lifted Mel's body with both hands.


 "To make sure you don't fall, can you put your arms around my neck?"

 "Um, okay..."

 Mel seemed a little confused, but did as I asked.

 They weren't too heavy, so jumping wasn't a problem. It wasn't as heavy as the Ragius steel sword I got from Dario.

 "Are you both ready?"

 "I feel like I'm the only one feeling incredibly unfairness here..."

 "As long as we don't fall, anything's fine..."

 "I, jumping from the bridge railing to the rocks, then leaping towards a side hole.

 The impact of the jump caused the foothold to collapse, but somehow I managed to land at the edge of the side hole.

 "You did it!"

 "But, the rock we used as a foothold collapsed, didn't it?"

 In the worried gaze of Mel, there was a boulder that had collapsed and become much lower in height.

 "We'll have to find a different way out on the way back."

 "If we keep going, it might lead somewhere else."

 "I hope so..."

 After getting off the two of them, we resumed the exploration.

 The side hole led to a long stone corridor.

 The corridor was dark as the light from the corridor did not reach far, so we couldn't see the end. We didn't know where this side hole led, but it seemed like we had to find another way to get back to the corridor.

 I held the lantern hanging from my waist in my right hand and lit the fire.

 Relying on the faint light emitted by the lantern, we slowly began to move through the dim corridor.

 "How far does this path continue?"

 "I think it leads to the guardian's room... Is there anything written in ancient documents about the distance?"

 "No, this book doesn't mention much."

 "It seems like no one has been here for a long time. Let's be careful as we advance, not knowing what might be ahead."

 Having said that, none of us in our party have the knowledge to understand the dungeon's structure or to disarm traps.

 Fatina, with her keen ears, can sense monster attacks, but as for traps, there's not much we can do except for me to cautiously lead from the front.

 "Being the first ones in, it feels a bit adventurous, doesn't it?"

 Fatina says cheerfully.

 "Well, maybe it does."

 That's what an adventurer is "supposed to be". However, I am different now.

 Since becoming an adventurer in Voltana, I have only acted with the purpose of becoming stronger.

 As a result, I find myself participating in the secret battle struggle over the three keys.

 Slowly and quietly, only the sound of footsteps echoed through the dark corridor.

 We continued to walk along the dim path, as if there were no other living beings around.

 "When this battle is over, what will the two of you do?"

 Mel suddenly asked, leaving me pondering on how to respond.

 I never used to hesitate like this before. Why is it different now?

 "I plan to stay with Ark-sama no matter what."

 "Wasn't it just until we rescued Mel?"

 "Because we're party members. We'll be together for the next adventure too."

 As Fatina answered, she placed her hand over her chest.

 It reminded me of the time when I was still in Voltana. Even though it hasn't been that long since Fatina joined my party, it feels like a distant memory.

 "Ark-sama, have you decided where to go next?"

 "Not really."

 "In that case, let's go and thank the people who have helped us!"

 "Thank the people?"

 "Thank Gail-san in Voltana, and meet Chester-san and Toto-san in Trasverum. Maybe we can stay there for a bit longer, like a small vacation?"

 "...That doesn't sound like a bad idea."

 The words slipped out of my mouth without thinking, and even I was a little surprised.

 Looking back, I feel like I've always taken actions that are not suitable for an adventurer, just seeking strength.

 Accepting requests from people in need, defeating monsters, exploring unexplored ruins for treasure... Isn't that what it means to live as an adventurer?

 In comparison, what about me now? I hardly receive any proper requests, and I wander from place to place, competing with S-Rank adventurers for the key... It's a far cry from the time when Leanne and I were excited about going on adventures.

 "I also have a suggestion, is that okay?"

 "Oh, Mel-san, do you have something you want to do too? Are you thinking of becoming an adventurer?"

 "Well, that's impossible... But if you're interested, would both of you like to work at the castle?"

 "Huh!? The castle?"

 "Ark-san and Fatina-san, you both have the strength to become imperial guards knights without any doubt. If I can reconcile with my father, I think we can discuss such a possibility."

 "K-Knights!? Isn't that a really amazing thing?"

 I may be different, but Fatina has a rare skill called "Sword Saint" and has the achievement of protecting Mel this far.

 Becoming a knight is not an easy thing. I have heard that the people the kingdom desires are not only talented but also have loyalty. That's why, even if you are strong as an adventurer, you won't be immediately promoted to a knight.

 However, if Princess Mel recommends it, it's a different story.

 "If that's the case, we can continue to be together, right?"

 As Mel looks at me with strangely passionate eyes, I unconsciously remember what happened at the inn and scratch my cheek.

 "Shouldn't we think about those things after everything is safely over?"

 To interrupt this topic somehow, I respond with a slightly dismissive tone.

 "Yes! I will also pray to God so that I can safely gather the keys!"

 Suddenly, Fatina starts saying such things and clasps her hands together, closing her eyes. I feel like it's a perfect opportunity to change the subject, so I go along with it.

 "Do you believe in the existence of God, Fatina?"

 "Huh! In my village, we used to pray to God all the time... Is it possible that God doesn't exist?"

 "If God exists, don't you think we wouldn't have so many problems?"

 In reality, the fact that the village was attacked by Shadow Chimera could be seen as proof that their prayers didn't reach the heavens.

 "Well, um..."

 "The whole world is filled with monsters, so I think it would be nice if things were a bit more peaceful."

 "W-Well, that's true, but I'm sure God has reasons."

 "Reasons? What do you mean?"

 "Well, it's something that humans can hardly imagine..."

 There are very few people, including myself, who believe in the existence of God.

 Some say that the Healing Magic (Holy Magic) used by the priests possesses divinity unlike regular magic, but the general consensus is that it is just magic that manifests through skill.

 There are places in this continent called temples or churches, but most of them are shady religions that only scam money from believers.

 My parents have told me that they often pretend to be ancient and have been passed down for a long time.

 There have always been priests, who are called clergy, but being called a priest doesn't mean they have any role in judging good and evil. Even in the case of adventurers, being a priest is just one of their roles, and it has become completely meaningless over time.

 Adventurer priests don't have any faith. If you ask them, "What is the name of the god you believe in?" they wouldn't be able to answer.

 In fact, Leanne can use the magic that priests use even though she hasn't trained in any church. This means that faith and Healing Magic have no connection.

 If gods really exist, then they would be the ones who spread systems like skills and Level Caps in this world.

 To me, those things are nothing more than evil gods.

 "Does Ark-sama think there's no God?"

 "It's normal to think that there isn't."

 "──If there's a God, then He exists, right?"

 Mel, who had not participated in the conversation until then, said as if it were obvious. Her eyes, as she looked at me, seemed to say, "Why don't you know that? It's strange."

 "See! Even Mel-san says there's a God! Of course, God exists!"

 It seemed incredibly unnatural for Mel, who should have much more proper education than the villagers, to affirm the existence of a God that might not even exist.

 "Is there a God? Why does Mel think so?"

 "Why... huh?"

 Mel stopped walking, crossed her arms, and repeatedly tilted her head and eventually began to hum. She seemed to be trying to remember something.

 "Why did I think, 'God exists'?"

 I kinda want to know the reason myself.

 "No, even if you ask me..."

 "...Yeah, I guess so. But, for some reason, I think so. Why?"

 "Did you hear it from someone before or read it in a book?"

 "I think maybe that's the case... but for some reason, there's a fog in my mind, and that's the only thing that just won't come out."

 "Maybe you're tired. It's okay to take a break if you need to."

 "Oh, no. I'm fine. There's nothing wrong with my body."

 Mel started walking again. She didn't seem to be pushing herself too hard, just like always. However, she didn't seem to be satisfied with something, occasionally touching her chin and deep in thought.

Please bookmark this series and rate ☆☆☆☆☆ on here!

Donate me

LogoSupport Me with USDC (ERC20)

LogoSupport Me with XLM (Stellar Lumens)
Memo* : 2127737
XLM address Copied!
XLM memo Copied!