“Then, I will show you around my lake!”
The spirit of the lake beckoned Loren and his friends from the lake with a truly happy smile, although Loren had no idea what made her so happy.
After a simple breakfast at dawn, their group had been given the blessing of the lake by the spirit. She told them that as long as they received the blessing, they would not be crushed by the water pressure in this lake, they would be able to breathe in the water, and they would not even get wet.
“Don’t worry, it’s not permanent, so it’s not like you won’t be able to get into the hot springs after your work is done.”
Loren only realized it when they were told. While the blessing was in effect, their bodies would not be able to get wet in the water, or rather the hot water, of this lake, and as a result, they would not be able to soak in the hot springs that use this lake’s hot water. If it was not permanent, then there was nothing to worry about, but Loren felt a little regretful that he had let the spirit of the lake use her power before confirming its validity window.
“I can also cancel it for you.”
“How long does it last?”
If it worked for too long, it might be necessary to have it canceled. The lake spirit thought for a moment before answering Loren’s question.
“About one day.”
The answer gave Loren two pieces of information.
The first was that there seemed to be no need to force the lake spirit to cancel the blessing. The other was that, if the work could not be completed in a day, or if they could not find a way out other than the entrance they were about to enter, they might not be able to come out.
To begin with, they did not know what was beyond the outlet that the lake spirit said to be spewing out dirty brown water. Furthermore, they had no idea how deep they would have to go in to discover the cause. To think that they could easily find the cause of the problem in a day’s time could directly endanger their lives. Aside from Gula and Lapis, the rest of the team members were mere humans. If their bodies came into contact with the boiling water, they would be burned, and if they came into contact with something that would melt their skin, they would be in serious danger.
“If we can’t find anything after a certain time has passed, we’ll come back at once.”
“I understand. I’ll be waiting for you near the outlet. If you come out from another exit, please wait at the place where you slept yesterday, and I will join you there.”
The problem was that Loren’s group, who were about to dive into a place where dirty boiling water was gushing out, had no way of knowing how much time had passed, but he thought they would have to make do with their intuition.
“Then, everyone, please come this way.”
Loren was the one first to step into the lake in response to the spirit’s call. The clear water, which should be hot just enough to be used for bathing, did not transmit its temperature to Loren’s body even after he had stepped into it.
After confirming this, Loren signaled Lapis and the others, who were waiting on the shore. They stepped into the lake one after another, with Lapis in the lead.
“I don’t even feel the temperature of the water.”
Loren approached Lapis, who was pulling at her priest’s clothes with a curious look on her face to confirm that she was indeed not wet, and whispered.
“Did you use THAT already?”
“Eh… Ah yes. That thing.”
After confirming that the other members of the group were so surprised by their not-wet bodies that they were not paying attention to what the two of them were doing, Lapis brought her face closer to Loren’s. Loren almost drew back when he saw the familiar black eyes staring at him turn into deep purple in an instant, but it was not so much about it being a trait of demons as it was just his surprise at the instantaneous change in color.
“That reaction makes me a little sad.”
While apologizing to Lapis, who looked slightly hurt, Loren really looked into Lapis’ eyes. It was not the first time for him to see purple eyes, of course, but it was the first time for him to look at them so closely, and it was unusual to see the color change from black to purple and from purple to black. Just as Loren was about to lean in to have a closer look, Klaus called out to him.
“Loren, what are you doing”
“I got some debris in my eye, and I was having Loren take a look at it. Yes, it looks like it’s gone now, so thank you, Loren.”
Loren almost choked on his own words when Klaus asked, but Lapis followed up with a harmless story, smiled, and bowed to Loren. Of course, the color of Lapis’s eyes were already fixed at black by then, and Loren suddenly realized that he had inadvertently brought his face close to Lapis’s and looked into her eyes, so he hurriedly moved away from her and nodded appropriately.
“Well then, everyone, let’s go, shall we? It may be the first time for you to breathe underwater, but don’t worry, you can do it like normal.”
The lake spirit went into the water with a splash.
Normally, one would have to take a deep breath before diving into water, but since breathing was assured this time, there was no need to do so. Although Loren had experienced similar magic before, he still felt strange. As he dived resolutely into the lake without being conscious of his breathing, he found that breathing was indeed not a problem, and visibility was more than adequate since they were still in the clear hot water.
When the other members of the group followed Loren and dove into the lake, the spirit beckoned them and began to slowly swim forward.
Loren was worried that some of them might be confused by the difference between being underwater and being on the ground, but it was not a problem for Lapis as she had experienced the same thing before, and Gula swam effortlessly in the hot water without seeming to be bothered.
As for Klaus and his party, he was not sure if they had experienced the same thing before, but all the members except Ange quickly got used to the situation. Even Ange, who was somewhat confused, soon got used to being under water with Klaus holding her hand and accompanying her for a while.
And so, their group began to move around in the lake, and as they moved forward, they found that the lake was surprisingly teeming with living creatures.
Loren had thought that even though the water was cooler at the bottom of the lake, it would be difficult for fish to live there, but when he looked beneath them, and he could see quite a number of rather large fish swimming comfortably. And when he saw lizard-like creatures and even turtle-like creatures swimming about, he was impressed by the fact that there were so many creatures that could survive in the hot water.
The lake spirit, which had approached Loren without him knowing, lightly tugs on his sleeve. As he wondered what she was doing, she pointed to a corner of the lake. From the depth of the place, it was at the edge of the lake’s center. There was a hole in the rock surface where an adult could stand and walk in. The brown water was gushing out of the hole. Seeing this, Loren gestured for Lapis and the others following him to stop, and he approached the brown water together with the spirit.
Loren moved close to the brown water and casually plunged his left hand, which had been ungloved, into the brown water, thinking that it was his role to do so.
The brown water was supposed to be even hotter than the clear water, but like with the clear water, he could not feel the temperature at all. When he pulled his hand out and examined it, there was no trace of melting on the skin, and no burns of any kind were visible.
However, Loren was still not reassured: he plunged his head into the brown water. He thought that even though his skin was fine, he could not let Lapis and the others enter without checking if the mucous membranes of his eyes, nose, and mouth were alright, but the hot water did not affect them at all. Finally feeling reassured, he gestured others to follow.
They drew closer as per his call, but Lapis, having seen Loren’s actions, slapped Loren’s body somewhat angrily while Gula, Klaus, and the others watched with a somewhat exasperated look on their faces.
From Loren’s point of view, even if he had been affected by the brown water and suffered an injury or something, he would be able to receive immediate medical treatment because priests like Lapis and Laure were there, so there would be no problem. However, his action of suddenly sticking his head into the brown water, which was known to cause injuries on contact, was not to Lapis’ liking, and it seemed that Gula, Klaus, and the others were also appalled by the sight of him doing it.
Loren, who had managed to stop Lapis from slapping him, glared at the others, whose expressions had changed from exasperation to smirking, and waved his hand as if to say ‘Let’s move on’. He led the way into the hole where the brown water was spewing out. Just as the spirit had said by the lakeside, she seemed to intend to wait there and did not follow them.
The lake was kept somewhat bright by the light that poured down from the sky, but once they went into the hole, no sunlight could reach there and it suddenly became pitch black. It would have meant that they would not be able to see and thus, would not be able to examine anything. But Ange, sensing the situation, immediately lit a magic light on each of Klaus’ and Loren’s left hands.
After having a light source, Loren started walking deeper into the hole with his left hand held up. But with only the brown water flowing out, visibility was almost zero even with light. Hoping that the others would be able to follow him because of the light, Loren half-groped his way forward. Luckily for them, the hole was large enough for one adult to comfortably stand in, and there were no branch paths, just a straight road ahead.
After walking some distance, the hole suddenly became an uphill slope, and after climbing the slope, they came to a place where the flow of water suddenly became calm. Although it was difficult to see the details with poor visibility, it was more like a small open space than a hole. As they proceeded further, the ceiling was suddenly gone, and they came to a place filled with a light different from that of magic.
Wondering if this was the place, Loren kicked off the ground and swam toward the opening overhead. After a short distance, his head came out of the water.
“What is this…?”
Loren muttered as he looked around with only his head above the surface of the water. The ceiling had risen quite high before he knew it, and that brown hot water was roaring down from one corner of it in a cascade a considerable distance from in the direction they were traveling.
The light illuminating the surroundings seemed to be emanating from the walls themselves. Feeling that he had seen something similar before, Loren tugged at the threads of his memory for a while and eventually remembered that it was similar to a magical building material he had seen in Ancient Kingdom’s ruins. If the light-emitting walls were of that same magical building material, then there was a possibility that the space Loren was now looking around was a ruin of the Ancient Kingdom.
As he looked back, thinking that he should ask for Lapis’ and Gula’s opinions, he saw Lapis and the others looking around with their heads above the water, just like him.
“Lapis, are these magical building materials?”
“You remembered it very well, Loren. But it’s a little difficult to tell from here.”
Lapis explained that there were several reasons why walls could emit light other than the use of magical building materials, and that just because a wall was glowing did not mean that it was made from said materials.
“Then what do we do now?”
“We have to continue on. From the looks of it, there seems to be a passage behind that cascade.”
Lapis pointed to the cascade of brown water roaring down from the wall and said she could see what looked like a passageway on the other side of it.
Loren and Klaus could not see anything like that, but since Lapis said so, there really must be a passageway. Loren decided to persuade Klaus.
“Do you really think she can see passages that we can’t see?”
“Lapis has good eyesight, better eyesight than you or me. And we have no other places to go. We have to assume that there is a passage and try to go there.”
“That waterfall seems to be quite powerful.”
If caught in a waterfall, even a good swimmer could easily drown to death. Klaus was concerned about this, but when Loren told him that they would be safe because they were now in a state where they would not suffocate underwater due to the power of the blessing, he was quickly convinced.
“The water pressure is also a concern, but that spirit said that it can also be ignored, so it should be fine.”
“The spirits blessing is really convenient, isn’t it?”
Knowing that it would be safe to plunge into the waterfall, Klaus did not hesitate anymore, and the group went straight through the cascading brown waterfall.