In Another World With Just Monika Chapter 77
As soon as my head sunk down below the lip of the heavy metal doorframe, I stopped. "Huh. That's weird." Hurriedly I ran back up to taste the air outside.
"W-what are you doing?!" Elze shouted, trying to hide her nervousness as she followed to stand by my back. "You can't just run away like that!" Then in a smaller whisper, "takemewithyou."
"Monika, you feel that?"
/"Now that you mention it while [Ground Penetrating Radar] exposes the cavity underground, it is like there's this immense pressure that separates everything else. It's like a preservation seal of some sort? No the opposite of that."/
"What? What are you saying?!" Elze began to ask, her tone starting to grow panicked. "What's wrong with this place? What are we going to face down there?! Ghosts? Vengeful ghosts?!"
I walked back downstairs. "This place is magically dead." I looked ahead to see Linze waiting ahead, a small red fireball floating above her hand. "Magic still works though, but for some reason it is completely isolated from magic in the outside world."
/"It's not Anti-Magic. More like some sort of Faraday Cage?"/
"I'm just going to assume it's for historical preservation purposes."
"Of course it's not going to be for historical preservation purposes! Even I know that much!" Elze wailed suddenly. "A city that is guarded by undead above who knows what's under it! And why is this wall so warm and wet?!" She slapped her hand onto the nearby stone brick wall, and recoiled. "That's not good for preservation!"
"It is like deliberately going down the throat of some monster, isn't it?" I replied gently. Maybe it was just centralized heating. It gets real cold underground, right?
"Don't say it like that!" Elze clenched her fists. "LINZE! Come back!"
"What are you all doing over there?" Linze shouted from below. "Come on! It looks safe!"
"That's not making me feel any better!" Elze moaned.
It was a deep spiraling staircase, which was setting off so many SCP-087 vibes. (://../://../) Throwing a rock down to hear an echo wouldn't work since it would eventually just ping off the stairs and stop.
Fortunately after some time the stairs ended into a long straight but narrow tunnel, barely large enough for two people to walk side-by-side. Linze walked confidently at the head of the group. Right beside her, I kept blasting ahead with [Air Sense] to check for traps.
Linze now had three fire balls drifting around her raised fingertip. Seeing my curious gaze, she said "These are [Dancing Flames]. Duchess Ellen taught me the spell. It eats up good air and consumes more magic power, which is why many like to use the Light spell Tiny Illumination: [Light Sphere] instead."
"Why use this one then?"
Linze flicked her wrist, and one of the little fireballs shot forth down the corridors, illuminating a straight featureless passageway. It exploded off a side wall, blasting a pit into solid stone bricks. "Because the difference between [Dancing Flames] and [Piercing Flames] isn't much at all."
/"Oooh, Little Linze is Lara Crofting all over the place. I LIKE this side of Linze. Don't you, Player?"/
"Very much," I agreed. Linze blushed and made a 'hawawah' sound.
"S-stop flirting! Stop enjoying yourselves! This place is freaking me out!" Elze moaned. "I'd prefer traps! What's with this moist air! And that smell!"
"What smell? There is no smell," I said back.
"That's what makes it so weird! You'd expect some smell of mold or rot, wouldn't you?! Is it a monster? Is it a ghost?! What's going to come out of these waaaalls?!"
"W-what are you saying, Linze-dono! G-ghosts won't come out, no, they would not! I hope not!" Yae shouted out more to calm herself than anyone else.
"Gughk." The two girls were frightfully pulling at my cape so hard I was starting to choke. It was very difficult to walk like that. The eerie pulsating red light caused by Linze's [Dancing Flames] weren't helping.
But eventually the passageway opened out into a large vaulted chamber.
/"This place seems familiar somehow,"/ Monika said. /"Dang it, now why is that? Where did I see this sort of thing before?"/ She turned the glow of the flashlight mode of the headset to maximum.
There were four pillars surrounding a central space. At the far end of the room was a wall filled with pictographic writings. /"It feels like an Egyptian temple or a tomb, but there's no altar or sarcophagus."/
I snapped my fingers in sudden realization. "I'm feeling the same way. Now I remember! It's like that place they found the Abydos Cartouche!"
/"Abydos cartouche? What do you aah!"/ (://..//_)
/"STARGATE!"/ we yelled together. And then /"Everybody stay away from the center of the room!"/
Elze yelped and quickly flung herself towards a corner. Yae drew her sword and likewise put her back to an oddly warm wall.
"Mister Zah! What's wrong?" Linze asked.
While carefully moving around the room clinging to the stone pillars checking if they were primed to fall, I answered "Search the walls for clues! This is clearly not a dead end."
I looked at the center of the room. It didn't have a distinctive ring symbol etched into it to guide people to stand in the middle and get transported off somewhere. Could maybe still be a pit trap though?
Nah. I had no idea why, but this magically-dead place gave me a feeling of peace? It was a different sort of earnest serenity to that of a temple, nor the chill silence of a grave, though similar. No, not peace. Perhaps stasis? Yeah, that was more like it. Like a feeling of something held strongly in place, like a boulder frozen in the middle of a glacier.
We didn't really have to fear the usual arrows and darts flying off the walls or sawblades dropping from the ceiling. Even poison gas traps were nothing to people with Wind magic. But this place probably wasn't trapped which meant these writings on the wall were *meant* to be read.
/"Hmm. Well that's weird,"/ said Monika. She changed the output of the flashlight into a projector that showed herself reaching running her hand over the pictographs. /"My autotranslation is having a much harder time trying to get any meaning from these pictographs. They're apparently considered graphics, not text, and as such iconography gathers meaning from its intended audience."/
I nodded. That was fair. "We'll just have to photograph everything and see if we can squeeze any more money from Charlotte later."
/"Player, they're already paying us a lot for renting the digicam and your weekly translation services. Any more of this and you would literally bankrupt the kingdom's magic research grants and Charlotte would have to start thinking about selling her body."/ She scrunched her nose cutely at me. /"Is that your motivation?"/
Nooo. Of course not.
But I was saved by Elze's cry of "I found something!"
Elze pointed to something stuck in the wall in the right side of the room. It was a large muddy brown crystal, though cut like a jewel.
I rubbed at my chin as I inspected it. "This is a magic stone, isn't it? Earth element, I think?"
"It's a spellstone," Linze explained. "From the looks of it, if you get some magic flowing through it, something will happen."
I nodded. "Right." I took a step back and touched my headset. "Monika, is this a false wall?"
/"[GPR Scannning] [Done.] Yes, yes it is. This could still be a trap, but running magic through is probably related to removing this wall."/
"But if they intended to HIDE something, they wouldn't put such an obvious way to clear the obstacle, isn't it?" I said. So this might be safe. I just hoped those pictographs didn't say something like THIS IS NOT A PLACE OF HONOR. (://..//)
Linze beamed so happily that it almost hurt me to look at her. "Thank you, Mister Zah! None of us here have the Earth element to explore any further."
"Well, couldn't Elze just punch through instead?" I answered.
"Well I don't want to!" Elze huffed and crossed her arms.
/"If I were building this place, that's actually what would trigger my trap. Disrespectful visitors get no mercy!"/
Everyone else took shelter behind the pillars just in case while I touched the spellstone and channeled some magic through it. The ground began to rumble and shake. Elze screamed "I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN!"
And then with a buzz, the wall just crumbled away into sand.
Anticlimactically, it exposed another room.
In contrast to the intricately carved room from before this one was bare and featureless on all sides except for the support pillars, and at the center was a large thing covered in dust and sand. Even a store-room would have been more interesting.
Linze looked so disappointed, it actually did hurt.
"There's no treasure?" she whispered sadly. "Well, there were no traps either I guess it would be too much to hope to get something good for something too easy."
I frowned. Indeed, even a storeroom could probably have given us some pottery or something for Linze to take home as a souvenir. I strode towards the center of the room to inspect the large beetle-like sculpture(?)/ idol(?) in the middle of the room.
I wiped the dust away to expose that it was made of some sort of glass or crystal. It looked damaged, with its legs already broken off. Monika pulled up some insect samples, and because the back legs of the thing were much longer than a bettle's six roughly similar-length legs, it was more proper to call it a cricket instead. "Maybe this is all made of magic stone? How valuable could that be?"
"Haha, a magic stone big as someone's fist could buy you a kingdom!" Elze snorted. "There's never been stones that big. This thing isn't made of magic stone, I'd know."
I stood up and sighed. The light was fading, Linze's three [Dancing Light] fireballs were dimming; I assumed it silently expressed her dissatisfaction. I reached out to pat her shoulder. "Cheer up, Elze. Much of archaeology is actually just like this it's boring, but knowledge is gained through careful delicate work. Not everything can be exciting. Even if this didn't feel productive well at least we're safe! And now we have something secret only we know!"
I nodded happily, trying to transfer my good spirits over. "We can [Boom Tube] here any time. I can think of a lot of things fun things we could do with a secret underground installation that only we know. We even have a guard in the form of the [Night Baron] on the surface!"
/"Your supervillain lair, Player? Sure, why not."/
Linze looked up. "Mister Zah? What are you saying?" She noticed her dimming lights and tried to push more magic power into them. The fireballs blazed a little brighter and then dimmed again. "I'm I'm not doing this."
My danger sense immediately went into overdrive.
"Playa-dono!" Yae screamed out suddenly.
I turned around to see that a red orb was now glowing in the crystal cricket-things's head. It began to stir and shake, waking up.
/"It's absorbing the magic!"/ Monika shouted in alarm. /"Player!"/
THIS WAS NOT A PLACE OF HONOR!