Unlike his first impression of the castle which was grand and majestic if a little over done, the cavern he was in now seemed like a long forgotten corner of the world filled with naught but darkness. There was no sign of anyone having ever crossed the various tunnels, nor that they had been used for any purpose.
If Lex had not followed the dwarves here, and clearly felt the increasing Dragons Might, he may have assumed that he had teleported to a tunnel in the middle of the planet that had never been discovered. Even the increasing temperature felt like to him that he was moving closer to the layer of molten lava deep under the surface of the planet.
As he made his way through, following not but his instincts to guide him, Lex felt something he hadn't in a long time. He used his thumb to wipe his brow, and discovered sweat. It had been a long time since he sweat naturally. Considering his cultivation, there must be something extremely unusual about the temperature.
Lex continued to explore, his thoughts often getting lost in random and seemingly unrelated topics despite his best effort to focus. The situation was so strange, that it took a couple of minutes before Lex realized that, while walking, he had encountered what should be an extremely large vein of rare ores.
They were emitting spiritual energy as if they had an unlimited amount stored within, and were sizzling to touch. Intrigued, he put on his Fancy Contact lenses, and was startled by the result. This was not an ore, but frozen dragon blood! What felt sizzling to Lex was actually well below the freezing point of the dragon's blood!
Why was there so much of it seemingly mixed in with the tunnel walls? Although he didn't have an answer, Lex broke off a few large chunks before adding them to his spatial bangle. Even if he didn't know that this would be extremely valuable, it might come in handy for Xeon, who was attempting to become a dragon.
He considered grabbing more, but he didn't want to waste all his time here. He had a strong feeling that he could find even more valuable things, so long as he kept looking.
He had only just begun to move forward when he detected faint tremors in the walls. He touched the tunnel wall to be sure and indeed felt faint vibrations. They were not constant and were sometimes stronger or weaker.
Someone was fighting nearby, most likely the dwarves. Having finally found a trace, he quickly began to traverse the tunnels once again. Every time he was presented with various choices as two or more paths appeared, he always selected the ones heading towards the signs of fighting. More than once, he came across dead ends, so he would just turn back and keep on trying.
Once, long ago, he read that if he ever got lost in a maze, he should either pick a direction, right or left, and always turn the same way. He would eventually find a way out of the maze. Although Lex did not yet start feeling like he was trapped in a maze, if he kept roaming around randomly like this he might just have to try it.
Lex sniffed as he picked up a strange scent, and a few moments later, he saw something unusual. A corpse lay on the floor, though its death had not been recent. Lex could smell the rot and decay that had gripped the corpse. When he approached, he discovered that it's situation was even worse than he imagined. There was little other than bone left on the corpse, meaning it had to have been here for months at the very least.
Unwilling to touch the rotting corpse, Lex used his spirit sense to investigate it but could not determine the cause of death, which was not too shocking considering its state. He looked down the tunnel, and in the distance detected another such corpse.
One need not be an expert to know that something was amiss with the situation, but Lex could not guess what happened at all. It seemed more and more likely that the dragon was dead, or critically injured at the very least. But how had such a powerful being died so simply? How had the royal family survived when the dragon had died? Not to mention these old corpses that he was encountering. Most importantly, did any of this have to do with the treasure that he was supposed to be looking for?
While Lex tried to reconstruct what exactly happened, he never stopped moving. At some point, the tremors stopped, but Lex did not even notice. His mind was completely focused on trying to reconstruct what had happened here based on the few clues that he had.
At some point, he had gone from walking through a natural tunnel to what seemed like it had been carved out of solid rock by hand. Torches hung on the sides, but Lex no longer noticed as he was too deeply lost in his thoughts.
At some point, he reunited with the dwarves who looked bloodied and battered. Unlike him, they were not completely lost in thought, and still retained their awareness thanks to the help of various treasures, but they were still too distracted to pick up on the few signs Lex revealed of himself despite wearing his stealth suit.
They walked past more skeletons, and this time even a few fresh corpses. One of them even belonged to a royal family member. It was easy to distinguish them from common Frigals, as they had a long, thick tail and some of them even had wings.
Finally, they reached the end of the tunnel network, and by then, the dwarves had completely lost themselves in their thoughts despite their various protective treasures. After all, since they were not being negatively affected in any way, it was very hard for a normal protective treasure to identify their situation as encountering some kind of threat.
A massive door hundreds of feet in height lay waiting for them, and it was conveniently slightly ajar, leaving just enough space for them to fit through.
Lex was walking towards the opening when a sudden noise woke him from his thoughts. A painful groaning and squealing filled the tunnel, coming from one of the dwarves. He had been already extremely wounded, which combined with the pressure of the Dragons Might finally got to him.
His leg fractured and deformed, causing him to stumble. The pain woke him from his stupor,, but other than Lex no one else noticed his cries. More than concerned about the dwarf, Lex suddenly became alert over how he had reached here! He had no recollection of the path he took, or even of reuniting with the dwarves.
Whatever was happening was clearly affecting even his spirit!
He employed every defensive technique he knew to protect his mind and spirit, but he felt no change whatsoever.
"Barley! Barley, don't leave me!" yelled the dwarf to his companions while trying to get up, only for one more of his bones to break. But it was for naught, as his companions soon crossed the massive door, all blissfully unaware of their companions' pain, or their own bleak prospects.
"Dammit!" the dwarf roared as he tried to push his fallen body upright, but was unable to. Before the dwarf could try again, he felt a hand grab him by the back of his collar and lift him up.
A human who had been standing beside him this entire time seemed to become visible to him, studying him and his condition.
"Unhand me you-" before the dwarf could complete his sentence, Lex let go, dropping the dwarf back onto the ground. Initially he was planning on threatening the dwarf, but seeing as how his situation was so dire, Lex did not feel the need to put in any effort at all. All the spirit energy in his body had dried up, and there were multiple hairline fractures across his body, under the strain of the dwarfs heavy armor. It would be a miracle if the dwarf was even able to sit up straight without help at this point.
Lex had just begun to wonder what could have happened to the dwarf when he suddenly caught himself again, and refocused.
"Mary, every few minutes check up on me and make sure I'm not lost in thought. There's something very unusual going on here, and I have no way of defending against it," he told his every present holographic companion.
"Sure, will do," said Mary, diverting her attention from the Inn to observe Lex. Usually, she was not one for gossip, or 'shipping' people, as Velma liked to call it. But given the recent developments at the Inn, she couldn't help but join Velma as she eyed Dr. Charles, and one of the Inns' other relatively new employees, Hera.
Lex, reassured that he would not get lost in thoughts again - for too long at least - turned his attention back to the dwarf.
"It seems like you need some help," Lex said, hoping he didn't have to resort to threats. Those kinds of things really suited Luthor more.
This chapter upload first at NovelNext.com