Chapter 316 Re-exploration of the Stone Tower
When Lightning saw His Highness leave she pulled Maggie to the corner of the hall.
Maggie’s hair was almost hanging to the floor, giving her the appearance of a floating ghost whenever she moved. Pushing aside the white hair covering her cheeks, Maggie’s high puffed up cheeks and the half swallowed crisp pork chop dangling in her small mouth became visible.
"I found a fascinating place," Lightning whispered. "It’s hidden inside the Concealing Forest, I intend to go and explore it tomorrow. Would you like to come with me on an adventure?”
"Guru," Maggie swallowed the food in her mouth and nodded again and again, "I want, I want. What should we prepare?”
"To go on an adventure, you need three items... Wrong, three of the most commonly used things," Lighting discovered that from time to time she has started to use His Highness' strange vocabulary. "You need a flint, dry food, and a dagger. The place isn’t far from here. So it will be fine if you just take along enough food for a day. Don’t fill your whole pocket with it like you did last time.”
"Okay goo," Maggie patted her chest, ready to leave, but Lightning stopped her once again.
"Remember, that this adventure is our secret. Don’t tell anyone else about it," the little girl said, "We'll start early tomorrow morning."
Looking at Maggie’s back, who couldn’t wait to get back to the table full of food, she curled her lips and began to think about their plan for tomorrow.
Despite the success of the bombing mission and meeting His Highness’ expectation, she found that her flying has become much less flexible than before, as if something was holding her back. Whenever Lightning raised her speed, she would always have the feeling that a Devil was chasing her.
This obstruction was brought by fear, she realized. Furthermore, the source of her fear was the exploration of the Stone Tower, when she saw the horrible figure in the basement doorway, she had lost her cool and calm. At that time, her only thought had been to flee from that place as quickly as she could. Ever since then she had started to question her identity as an explorer.
"Fear is not terrible, terrible is the unknown. If you want to overcome it, you must approach it first."
Within her heart, Lightning silently repeated her father’s teaching again and again. Tomorrow she might encounter real danger, but an explorer should not be afraid of risk, nor should they shrink back. If she couldn’t get over it, she was scared that she would never be able to fly freely again.
This was also the reason why Lightning decided to keep the adventure hidden from His Royal Highness and act without authorization. According to His Royal Highness’ plan, the exploration of the Stone Tower was scheduled for after the Months of Demons and would be a cooperation between the First Army and the witches. However, she was worried that by that time, even if they visited the Stone Tower once again, it would be hard for her to see it as somehow fulfilling the idea of “conquering the fear” – only daring to approach the danger zone by relying on the strength of everyone, just couldn’t be called an adventure.
Afterward, His Highness may scold her, even going so far as confiscating her ice cream, and her sisters from the Witch Alliance would surely also be worried, but she was still determined to go through with it.
As the daughter of the Fjord's greatest explorer Thunder, Lightning just couldn’t accept her cowardly self.
But it didn’t mean that her decision was a reckless act. Compared with her unprepared attempt a few months ago, she now had a revolver -a gift from His Highness-, possessed a greater understanding of the Devils, and lastly, she was being accompanied by Maggie.
Especially the last point... If they really did encounter a group of Devils in the Stone Tower and even if Maggie couldn’t change into her demonic beast’s appearance to drive them away, they would at least still be able to flee on their own.
An explorer doesn’t need a brigade of troops to increase their courage, she thought, but they can still have a few trusted teammates.
After dinner, Lightning gathered some pieces of honeyed meat and put it into a cloth bag, she then added torches, weapons, and water bags.
The successful completion of the bombing mission gave her some confidence, together with His Highness's encouragement and her slightly cheeky reputation let her feel doubly courageous. And just like the blacksmith’s saying went, ‘it’s best to strike while the iron is hot’, tomorrow would be the best time for them to depart.
At first light, Lightning flew to the top of the castle, where Maggie was already sitting on the wall and waiting for her.
"Let me check your package."
"I got everything you told me, goo," she changed back to her original form, opened her backpack and held it in front so that the little girl could confirm its content. This time she had reduced the amount of food to half, but at least had also added a dagger and a flint.
"Alright, this can be counted as qualified... let’s set off," Lightning said rising into the air, flying together with the pigeon toward the Concealing Forest.
In her mind, Lightning had already repeated the journey many times, reaching a point where she could find her way there even with her eyes closed. The weather was a bit overcast today, but it was still much better than the dark clouds that had been there last time. As the color of earth slowly fell away behind them, the closer they came to the Stone Tower, the greater became Lightning’s nervousness.
"Did you say you found an interesting place last night, was it a new eagle nest?" Maggie asked after a while.
"No, it’s much more interesting than that," Lightning shook her head. "The target we want to explore is an ancient relict, a stone tower that has been left behind for more than four hundred years. Since the basement hasn’t collapsed yet, we might be able to find some ancient books if we are lucky.”
"Ancient books?" Maggie shook her wings, "That doesn’t sound as if it's more exciting than digging for eagle eggs, goo."
"An eagle nest has at most two to three eggs, something which you finish up in a flash," the little girl said. "But, if you actually can find such a book and bring it back to His Royal Highness, he will surely reward you with a basket full of eggs. Whether you cook or steam them, you’ll be able to eat three eggs every day for a long time to come.”
"Really?" Maggie was full of spirit immediately, "Then let’s hurry up and look for ancient books! Googoo!”
Around noon, the two successfully arrived at their destination.
The remaining half of the stone tower was still hidden within the woods covered in moss and vines. Everything around them looked the same as a few months ago, it didn’t seem as if anything had changed. Yet, Lightning still lowered her height and flew a few rounds around the tower to confirm their safety before landing gently.
"Have we arrived, goo?" the pigeon shouted from above her head.
"Hush–" Lightning signaled her to be silent, within the silence of the forest their voices seem particularly noisy, "Speak softly. There could be Devils nearby.”
"The Devil?" Maggie's tail immediately erected.
"You wait for me at the top," Lightning said with a lowered voice, pointing to the upper part of the broken tower. "I will go and take a look at the situation first.”
When she walked over the gradually withered grass, she could hear a slight rustling sound coming from her foot. Reaching the entrance of the tower, she saw that it hadn’t been covered by plants and that the small cluster of vines cut off by her dagger last time was still there. Holding her breath, she moved forward along the former road and entered the tower. Taking one step after another, she slowly neared the center of the tower with its passage to the basement. At the time she saw the stair leading into the darkness in front of her, she even heard her heart loudly pounding.
Fear comes from the unknown, to overcome the fear, you have to approach the unknown... the little girl constantly encouraged herself, then lit a torch and climbed the stairs leading down.
Reaching the corner of the channel, she quietly shot out a probing glance, only fragments were left from the collapsed wooden door. The basement entrance also wasn’t blocked by the Devil, the only thing left behind at the door was a thick darkness, like an open mouth waiting to swallow the people who enter.
At this moment, she suddenly heard traces of a voice floating over from the darkness, only faintly discernible but still feeling very familiar –
Immediately all of her hairs were fully erected, her body was grasped by shivers and the almost uncontrollable urge to turn around and flee came up once again! She grit her teeth and struggled to suppress the boiling fear at the bottom of her heart. Then, covering her mouth, she bent an ear and listened attentively one more time.
This time the call was much clearer, the tone exactly the same as last time.
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