“I’ve heard that you’re a friend of my father. Given my dad’s preference for deep connections over casual acquaintances, encountering someone I haven’t met yet is quite unexpected.”
Elpheira, indeed, proved to be a formidable opponent, having mastered Elven rhetoric at a young age.
In the typical Elven style, it might be expressed as:
“Are you truly a friend of my father? I suspect you might be an imposter; my father doesn’t have many friends, and I’ve never met a ‘human’ like you.”
With a single, courteous phrase, the ‘pure-blooded elf’ who had criticized both her father and Ivan simultaneously adorned her mouth corners with a gentle, shy smile.
“We served together on the same battlefield.”
“Wow! You were my father’s comrade. That’s impressive! If you fought alongside my father on the front lines, you must have been remarkable!”
Elpheira chuckled amiably, glancing at Ivan’s worn work clothes and carpenter’s handkerchief.
“It was challenging to believe your words, but given that it’s a seat arranged by the eldest son of Viscount Istvelfen, a member of the House of Chumil, I’ll lend an ear.”
This was, indeed, an unavoidable circumstance.
If you encounter a stranger who begins a sentence with ‘I’m your father’s friend-‘, skepticism is warranted unless the subsequent statement is ‘Use this as pocket money.’
Moreover, he’s not even elf. Convincing a rational elf of her father’s friendship with a human is an exceptionally demanding task.
Therefore, Ivan decided not to bother with persuasion. It’s pointless and a waste of time.
“We need interpretation of ancient spells and protective spells. As you’ve heard, it’s a national secret, so confidentiality is essential.”
“As a friend of my father, how could I dare refuse? Unfortunately, I am just a student. Wouldn’t it be more fitting to entrust the nation’s important mission to your country’s magicians?”
Naturally, it was the anticipated response. Ivan had one move left.
“Do you know Veolgrin’s hobby?”
The most representative means of demonstrating friendship. It was the casting of ‘Well, I don’t know what Dad likes!’ spell.
“Practical ancient magic. Especially items close to the mythological era. Isn’t it?”
“Well, um… that’s true, but…”
In reality, it’s a hobby common among all magicians. The higher the rank and the more learned a person, the more likely they are to immerse themselves passionately in antique collecting, sometimes to the point of selling their ancestral home.
Most ancient magic lacks practicality. Scholarship tends to develop over time. Just adding the word ‘ancient’ doesn’t automatically make it powerful, as it might in a game.
However, when it comes to Academy ancient artifacts, it’s a different story. Powerful ancient artifacts buried underground at the Academy have been a mainstream formula since the Hogwarts era.
“There’s a recently excavated archaeological site in the university basement, and inside, there’s said to be magic dating back at least 1500 years. Oh, you can go shout it out anywhere. The official stance is that the Krasilov Kingdom dismisses it as a ‘baseless tale.'”
“…If it’s such a crucial mission, it’s rather suspicious. Why me…?”
“Skilled individuals are not trustworthy, and trustworthy individuals lack skill.”
“In your opinion, am I the former or the latter?”
“You’re trustworthy and skilled.”
Ivan looked at Elpheira with a serious gaze.
“If you speak out, it’s just a student’s statement. It’s not strange for someone of your age to be immersed in conspiracy theories, and even if there are believers, they can’t demand an investigation into this country. That’s why I trust you, and that’s why I’m not seeking another ‘specialized’ magician.”
“My father will believe me.”
“But Veolgrin is not a fool to pressure the country just for collecting artifacts. Isn’t that right?”
Ivan spoke to Elpheira, who was biting her lip.
“And I believe in Veolgrin. I respect his abilities. If you’re even half as capable as your father, there’s no doubt about your skills.”
“By the way, he has already checked your grades.”
“If you take this job, you will be able to present your father with an artifact from the ancient era in the Frechenkaya Underground. Will you do it?”
“…I don’t think I have a choice.”
Elpheira smiled gently and reached out her hand.
Ivan, who reflexively twitched, relaxed when he saw that the hand was in the form of a handshake.
“I have a good understanding of Krasilov culture. Are you aware that it’s a rather ungracious alias?”
“Yes, I am.”
“…What an unusual human.”
Watching the two shake hands, Oswald found himself needing to revise his assessment of Ivan.
Why is he so articulate?
Why isn’t he usually like this?
Unfortunately, the person who hadn’t fully adapted to this pre-modern world in his possession didn’t realize that sometimes actions spoke louder than words.
However, Ivan, being a rational person, knew that swift persuasion often yielded better results.
The quickest persuasion in the world occurs when faced with the binary choice of life or death.
Even in the pre-modern era, large-scale structures underwent a temporary halt before construction, implying an understanding of civil engineering starting from the underground base.
Moreover, it was a world with ‘sewers.’ While most of the sewer systems spread throughout the city were older than the city itself, when constructing a new building, one had to start with the underground structure.
There’s one more thing.
Saint Jan’d University had a history of less than 20 years.
It was a newly established university during the wartime. A building in the middle of the city with no reason, purpose, or utility, like a secret room.
For a secret ancient site to exist beneath such a building, and for no one to notice, it had to be physically deep.
Deeper than the university’s underground sewage facilities.
Deeper than the ‘Frechankaya Underground Waterway,’ claimed to be older than this city itself.
Ignoring Elpheira, who was holding her nose and dry heaving next to him, Ivan moved forward.
The Frechankaya Underground Waterway was certainly not a pleasant space. It was damp, dark, narrow, and the sticky flow of decayed sewage ran through it.
There, pests like mice and rats roam around freely. It’s not a place where a young elf can casually stroll.
“How much more distance do we need to cover?”
“We’re nearly there.”
“That’s… ugh… ugh…That’s the tenth time!”
Ivan scanned the surroundings as he continued walking.
He read the numerous traces left on the sewer walls with his eyes.
Unmaintained artificial structures inevitably crumble before the passage of time. The Frechenkaya Underground Waterway was no exception. Unattended sections always carried the risk of ground collapse.
Traces of aging. For instance, by examining the extent of brick corrosion and wear, one could discern signs of deterioration.
He ignored the bricks that had eroded into a rounded shape due to accumulated water and the passage of time, focusing only on the sharp traces that continued to shed dust from the edges.
Evidence of distortion caused by Dwarven drilling artifacts.
He walked along the increasingly dense traces, resembling spider webs.
Elpheira stood still, forgetting to cover her mouth.
In front of them, a massive cavern opened up where the underground water, which had pooled, cascaded down like a waterfall.
Small mushrooms emitting a blue glow and a sparkling array of lights, possibly entering from somewhere, circled the edge of the cavern, creating a spectacular display.
The rushing stream of water pouring along the broken sewer conduit turned into a waterfall, flowing towards the pitch-dark underground cavity in the middle of this vast cavern.
“Is this… an ancient relic…?”
“No. That’s the entrance.”
Ivan took a step forward, reading the traces. Even though they were less than a week old, they were eroded and worn by the powerful flow of water.
“Collapsed soon. It would have been dangerous if we delayed.”
At most, a week. Within that time, the ground would collapse. Ivan thought sharply, scanning his surroundings.
“Just the entrance? Is there, like, a sealed ancient demon or something here? What’s with this scale…?”
“It’s the work of the Dwarves.”
“This cliff itself has no connection to the underground relic. It’s merely where the Dwarven artifact ‘was.'”
Ivan stood up, straightening his back. He then pulled out an axe after cracking his neck.
“Dwarven artifact? ‘Was’? What in the world, no, please explain.”
“A week ago, the earthquake in Frechenkaya was the work of the Dwarves. They brought drilling artifacts and dug through this underground.”
“That cliff, which looks like a cliff, is the place where the artifact used to be.”
Just as Elves have airships, Dwarves have drilling artifacts.
Why wouldn’t those skilled dwarves dare to reconstruct artifacts? It’s because of the practical challenges in dealing with the enormous volume, intricate and complex components, and the need for design technology in real-world applications that would require too many resources.
Just as the Kalion airship was nicknamed the ‘Fortress in the Sky,’ the Dwarven drilling artifact had the moniker ‘Siege Tower of the Underworld.’
The function of the drilling artifact was solely to carve through the ground. It meant that their purpose was to transport Dwarves while moving through the deep underground.
These things dared to be called ‘artifacts,’ and the reason they became thorough strategic objectives to be destroyed was no different.
The enormous mass itself became a weapon. The ground that the drilling artifact dug through would inevitably collapse, and if the artifact was activated, the process was so colossal that it could generate earthquakes.
Such an item, no, ‘structure,’ had magic potent enough to obliterate it in an instant.
“Is there anything you can interpret?”
“I mean if there are visible traces of magic or signs of magic being used.”
“No. Just, water and… even though the concentration of magic is thick, it’s at the level of natural phenomena.”
“We’ll have to resort to alternatives.”
He didn’t expect much in the first place. What he expected from Elpheira wasn’t finding the entrance to the artifact.
If that were possible, Elizaveta could have detected it when she sent the analysis team in advance. It was a matter of course.
So, he needed to do what he came for. Ivan slowly adjusted his posture, taking a deep breath.
“Um, excuse me. What… what are you doing now?”
“Prepare a protective spell.”
“…I’m getting really uneasy. Why is that?”
“Because it will be necessary.”
Magic mingled in his bloodstream. With a tingling sensation, time began to segment slowly.
The wandering array of lights twisted sluggishly, and the dust in the air became visible one by one.
Magic accelerated the neural network, and his head heated up. It was a flood of sensory information.
The heightened senses bring a deluge of sensations—sensitive touch, sharp vision, tense smell, and finely tuned hearing.
Enhanced perception is an act that pushes the capacity of the brain to the limit. Human sensory organs are not designed to absorb such an amount of information.
So, he cuts off his hearing.
As if sharpening when closing his eyes.
Human sensory organs are not made to function independently. Whenever one sense is restricted, the overall capacity of the senses improves significantly.
The moment he loses his hearing, magical energy in the nervous system surges along with a brief tinnitus. He delicately adjusts it and once again.
After hearing, the next is smell.
In exchange for sacrificing two seemingly useless sensory systems, his reflexes push past the limit he could never have dared before.
In this skewed moment.
Feeling the axe blade eerily coming out, he quietly adjusts his posture, ‘sensing’ it.
The eyes looking straight ahead are covered with a red hue. It’s because the blood vessels in the eyes burst.
However, there’s no need to worry about nerves. The functionality itself is intact.
So, he verifies. The ‘direction’ the Dwarven excavation artifact was aimed.
Those traces. One by one.
‘Front right 15 degrees. Center bottom 22 degrees.’
He precisely deduces the direction the Dwarven excavation artifact moved by reverse engineering the traces.
At the same time, he turns the axe blade backward.
The legs touching the ground, the twisted waist, bundles of muscle fibers extending from the external obliques, spanning the tense triceps over the deltoids.
The activation of nerves with flowing magical energy, the tension reaching its peak in every muscle fiber.
What he envisions in his mind is the most perfect strike of a single breath.
The posture of the bright young man with golden hair, looking up at the night sky in that moment from his past.
Recalling the most vivid strike he remembers.
A low breath flows.
-Swoosh…! (flying object sfx)
A flash crosses the airspace.
The impact returned belatedly.
“What is this..?”
Elizaveta had to read the short and concise report three times in a row.
Although it was written in the common language of Krasilov, and followed a perfect reporting system, understanding it was incredibly difficult.
She slowly put down the report and lifted her teacup.
-The magical response at the archaeological site was confirmed only from the Dwarven excavation artifact.
-Therefore, to determine the existence and location of the site, cross-verification under the same conditions is necessary.
-As the Dwarven excavation artifact has been lost, there is no way to prove it by reusing the excavation artifact.
-Therefore, to match the conditions as much as possible, at the discretion of the on-site agent, an impact equivalent to the expected shock of the excavation artifact will be projected onto the area.
-(Attachment) The magician analyzing the magic of the ancient ruins must be able to use a high-level ‘protective spell.’
“What is he trying to do….”
Elizaveta gave up on understanding, sighed, and clasped her forehead.
When he returns, he must absolutely, truly, swear to teach this child about ‘compliance with reporting systems’ or ‘leave on-site judgment to Elizaveta.’