Lord of Mysteries 2: Circle of Inevitability -
Chapter 159 Savage
The tide of fortune seems to have taken a turn for Monsieur Ive…
His handling of the robbery the previous night must have laid bare his secret, especially in the face of a disguised Beyonder masquerading as a police officer…
Had they sniffed out something amiss and laid a trap in anticipation?
The gears in Lumian's head whirred ever faster, his growing suspicion suggesting that his 'robbery' attempt on Monsieur Ive had alerted the man and his unseen benefactors.
Still, he couldn't verify any peculiarity regarding the landlord without attempting some sleuthing.
Realizing the eyes of the figure at the Théâtre de l'Ancienne Cage à Pigeons could be upon him, Lumian abandoned the thought of paying a 'visit' to Monsieur Ive, making a hasty exit from Avenue du Marché.
An urgency overwhelmed him to execute the Prophecy Spell in order to unravel some of the mysteries plaguing him.
Within the confines of Quartier de l'Observatoire, near the subterranean cemetery, warmed by a flickering bonfire, Lumian spotted Osta Trul's peculiar stance. "Did you manage to procure the items I asked for?"
Osta responded with a genuine grin, "Indeed. The entrails of a lynx, tongue of a hyena, marrow of a stag, and some gray henbane. It all amounts to 5 verl d'or. Including the reward you pledged, it comes to 20 verl d'or."
Per their agreement, Lumian was to hand him an extra 5 verl d'or for each item. But, noticing the sum worth of the items was only 5 verl d'or, Osta's conscience wouldn't allow him to charge full price, hence the discount.
Lumian didn't mind. The arrangement saved him a great deal of time.
Naturally, he didn't push to pay more, handing Osta a sum of banknotes amounting to the quoted price of 20 verl d'or.
The four items were contained in either modest glassware or small wooden boxes and cloth bags. Lumian inspected them individually before sliding them into his pocket.
His gaze once again fell on Osta Trul. "Any further insights on the aquatic monster?"
Osta nodded. "Indeed."
His expression bore a plea for affirmation.
"In my effort to gather more information about the aquatic monsters, I even ventured into the underground river myself. Regrettably, the ground was treacherous, and I ended up taking a tumble."
He pulled up his sleeve, revealing the distinct marks of his slip on his forearm.
So that's why his posture seemed off… If I hadn't requested Osta to gather information on the aquatic monster, would he have avoided the injury? Yet I only enlisted him after foreseeing an imminent accident. What could have transpired if I had rescinded? A feeling of inevitability wrapped Lumian.
He was also a pawn in the game of destiny, his actions and will embedded in the luck he sensed.
Lumian curtailed his musing and responded with a light chuckle.
"I did advise you to be cautious."
"Uh…" Osta appeared taken aback.
The recollection of Ciel's warning for the upcoming days suddenly sprung to mind.
Did it manifest so rapidly? Is his divination prowess truly this potent? Amid his astonishment, Osta queried, "You divined I would be injured within the next two days?"
What Sequence does Ciel belong to?
Not only does he appear combat-savvy, but his divination skills are impressive!
A grin played at the corners of Lumian's mouth.
"It's not divination."
He held back further explanation, leaving Osta to his own conjectures.
Seeming to take the hint, Osta didn't press further. Instead, he shifted the conversation back to the aquatic monster.
"I've been able to piece together the whispers and conjecture, and it seems there are three kinds of aquatic monsters in the underground river:
"The first appears to be a drowned corpse, bloated and eerily pale. The second resembles a grotesquely mutated fish, standing nearly as tall as a man, covered in sturdy scales that seem impervious to harm. The third bears an uncanny resemblance to strands of black hair floating atop the water, only to suddenly reach out and ensnare the unwary souls on the banks, dragging them under.
"These aquatic monsters, however, aren't particularly formidable. Most of their attacks on humans end in failure, which accounts for the abundance of tales and rumors.
"They're an elusive lot. Sometimes seen two or three times a month, sometimes they disappear entirely. I ventured down there last night myself, but aside from my unfortunate slip, I found no trace of them."
Lumian scoffed at this, saying, "With your level of combat prowess, I wouldn't bet on your return if you ran into one of them."
Osta only managed a sheepish smile in response, not deigning to refute the comment.
The only reason he dared to venture there was due to the aquatic monsters' reputed weakness and his own divination.
Lumian's brow furrowed in contemplation. Given the aquatic monsters' record, any Beyonder team from the two Churches or Bureau 8 could effortlessly eradicate them. So, why were they still prevalent?
If the underground river concealed a greater peril, any poor soul encountering the aquatic monster should have no chance of escape.
As these thoughts spun in his mind, Lumian took the materials Osta Trul had provided and carefully concealed them between a pair of nearby rocks.
He was cautious, thinking that should he engage in a heated battle with the aquatic creature in the future, these delicate items might get damaged.
Afterward, Lumian handed Osta a 5 verl d'or note.
"This is for your insights about the aquatic monsters."
Lumian picked up his carbide lamp and, following Osta's instructions and the tunnel signs, began his journey towards the underground river.
A few moments of hesitation later, Osta quickly rose, grabbing his own carbide lamp and hurriedly following Lumian.
Upon hearing the rapid footsteps, Lumian spun around, his puzzled gaze landing on Osta.
Osta managed a strained smile and said, "I'll come with you. I might be of some assistance."
"You?" Lumian couldn't veil his incredulous disdain.
Osta cleared his throat before divulging his actual motive.
"The aquatic monster is a spiritual being. It's improbable that you'll want everything. I-I'm hoping to scavenge what you leave behind."
If fortune smiled upon him and he found a buyer for the parts, he could make a tidy sum of more than ten verl d'or!
Lumian merely stared at Osta, letting the tension build before finally breaking into a grin.
"You're welcome to tag along, but don't expect me to play your bodyguard."
From what he could discern, Osta's luck was veering away from a bloody end and instead showing promise of a minor financial windfall.
Essentially, if Osta joined him on this underground river expedition, it implied that the hunt might be relatively safe and potentially lucrative.
Of course, Lumian couldn't be entirely sure that his decision wouldn't sway the course of Osta's luck.
"No problem." Osta replied, devoid of apprehension.
In his mind, he'd merely be tailing Ciel from a distance. If they happened to encounter an aquatic monster, he'd simply keep a wider berth. The threat to his own life seemed minimal at best.
Osta's unwavering resolution prompted Lumian to study him a moment longer.
Seeing that his luck hadn't shifted, Lumian lifted his gaze, picked up his carbide lamp and resumed his journey forward.
In a way, having someone like Osta trailing behind had its benefits.
Sometimes, the art of fishing required bait. On other occasions, in the face of a formidable monster, one needn't outrun the beast. One just needed to outpace their so-called allies!
The two of them ventured deeper into the subterranean world, each step guided by the flickering light of their carbide lamps.
After roughly ten minutes, they were engulfed by an escalating humidity, and Lumian could discern the faint murmur of flowing water.
He held his lamp aloft, casting an eye over the tunnel signage before veering into a pathway shrouded in darkness to his right.
Soon, the telltale shimmer of water, distorted by the lamp's radiance, beckoned ahead.
Lumian approached the underground river with caution.
It stretched five to six meters wide, ensconced beneath a naturally-formed stone dome peppered with stalactites. The water was relatively clear, meandering through the carved gullies.
Apart from a scattering of moss, Lumian detected no signs of life at first glance.
Osta had already ceased advancing, observing from a safe distance as the dangerous Beyonder meticulously combed through the riverside.
The pair maintained a distance of over ten meters, sporadically progressing and halting.
Fifteen minutes elapsed, and Lumian's search bore no fruit.
Half an hour passed, and the situation remained unchanged.
As the path ahead began to constrict, Lumian's keen eye spotted some anomalies.
By the riverbank, several rocks lay scattered, their edges tinged with soil.
A struggle here? This thought nudged Lumian's heart as he cautiously neared the area.
He crouched down, setting the carbide lamp aside and examined the vicinity with careful scrutiny.
Soon enough, he discovered a pair of footprints and signs of something being dragged away.
Yet, where these traces led, the river flowed transparent and calm. The riverbed was clearly visible and bore no hint of lurking dangers.
Drip. A solitary droplet of liquid landed on Lumian's nape.
It was chilly and adhesive.
An immediate sense of peril overwhelmed Lumian. Without delay, he jerked his head upwards.
In the cavernous interlude between stalactites, a glistening figure of grayish-white writhed.
Its head resembled a python, the body slick with scales akin to a fish. From where fins should have been, emerged two arms and a single leg, eerily human-like.
The monster's mouth gaped open, unveiling a neat row of ferocious white teeth. From its mouth corner dripped a viscous and foul-smelling liquid.
In the following heartbeat, the monster pounced, soaring towards Lumian.
Crouched on the ground, Lumian tumbled backwards.
Simultaneously, his body coiled like a spring, catapulting his right leg upwards in a swift whip-like motion.
With a satisfying crack, Lumian, teetering on the brink of falling, landed a solid kick on the airborne monster who failed to evade the strike, hurling it towards the opposing stone wall.
The monster collided with the rocky facade.
Lumian was back on his feet, charging at his opponent with the feral urgency of a cheetah.
As the monster slid off the wall, Lumian's form was mirrored in its muddy yellow eyes.
Lumian reached out, seizing its arm.
The monster didn't evade but opened its palm to welcome the assault.
Each of its digits sprouted sharp scales, glinting ominously with a deep blue sheen.
Without warning, Lumian twisted his elbow and flicked his wrist, clasping the monster's wrist with both hands to thwart the menacing blue scales.
He then extended his right foot, sweeping away the monster's lone leg.
With just one leg, the monster was powerless to resist. Its only option was to harness Lumian's grip on its wrist to propel itself upward, its solitary leg trailing behind and its monstrous maw leading the charge, ready to devour Lumian's entire head.
At this critical moment, Lumian relinquished his hold, lowered his stance, and rolled towards the stone wall.
The aquatic monster landed heavily behind him.
In a fluid motion, Lumian swiveled, snatching the monster's leg. Channeling his strength from the core, he swung it towards the stone wall.
The monster's skull crumpled upon impact.
Lumian didn't pause. He maintained his swinging momentum, battering the monster against the pillar, the wall, and the floor, with dark red blood and pale yellow fluid splattering everywhere.
Amid the pounding sounds, craters formed on the stone wall, and the monster's skull started to fragment, the contents spilling out in a gruesome red tide.
More than ten meters away, Osta Trul stood agape, utterly mesmerized by the violent spectacle.
Thump! Lumian unceremoniously dropped the mutilated, lifeless aquatic monster onto the ground.
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