Chapter 1 Part 1
The loud voice of the twisted soul of the tree shook my head. I couldn’t listen for long. I felt nauseous and almost fainted.
I pulled my hand away from the tree and caught my breath. The white spread out before my eyes, then slowly brightened. A voice echoed.
Kwanach quickly embraced my shoulder. I took a deep breath and tried to shake off the dreary energy that had penetrated my head.
The others did not know I had the ability to talk to plants. It was a power I would have preferred not to disclose. I lowered my voice considerably and whispered to Kwanach.
“The tree is sick. I can’t communicate with them.”
“What the hell happened here…..”
The search party was looking everywhere in the area. This area had the most powerful energy, but there was nothing special about it to the naked eye.
“Then maybe it’s not on the surface, but down there.”
I crouched down. Kwanach hurriedly lowered his posture with me.
I placed my palm on the ground. I could faintly feel the dark magic shaking under the ground. Buried beneath the ground were roots scattered here and there. All of them seemed to be sick as well.
I stood up, brushed off the dirt from my hands, and said to Kwanach.
“We must dig up the land. There seems to be something down there.”
“Okay. I brought a shovel.”
“No, no. I don’t need a shovel. I’ll do it. Tell the knights to leave.”
It would be faster to use magic to raise the land like in the border area than to dig with shovels.
The knights scattered to the back. They might get hurt when the ground split.
Still, Kwanach did not want to leave my side. Who could stop his stubbornness?
I squatted down again and put my hands on the ground. I could feel all eyes on me. The looks were filled with the anticipation of seeing the wizard they had heard so much about in person. No one opened their mouths, but I could feel their excitement in the air.
The surrounding area was quiet. Except for the occasional distant hoot of an owl.
I focused my mind on trying to move the tangled roots of the plants beneath the earth.
Until now, I had only been able to manipulate plants through direct hand-to-hand contact with them. But I crossed the limit in the border area and realized a new way to utilize it.
‘Will it work here too?’
The border area was close to the north, which meant it was also close to the silver forest, the source of my power. My power was bound to be stronger there.
Uhm, uhm, the spirit transmitted on the soil. I closed my eyes softly and tried to concentrate more on it.
I felt like one with nature. I was always pleased with the feeling that I was blending into nature.
But now, I felt stuffy. I felt like dirty pollutants were coming into me.
I managed to get through it. Instinctively, severe resistance was proof that there was something unclean underneath the soil.
Little by little, the roots buried in the ground began to fluctuate according to my will.
Grrrr! Soon, the roots leaped toward the sky, pushing the soil out of the ground. The ground turned over. Dust rose and small stones and other objects flew around in the air.
But nothing reached me.
As soon as the ground bounced up, Kwanach embraced me and covered me with his cloak.
I heard the sound of small stones hitting Kwanach’s body.
He didn’t budge. It was like a huge rock that couldn’t be hurt by that many stones. Kwanach’s arms around me were strong. It was an embrace so intense that I could hardly breathe. Buried in his bosom, my vision was black.
I gasped slowly into his dark chest. A familiar body scent touched my nostrils. I felt the discomfort that had just filled my body earlier fade away bit by bit.
When the wind of dust subsided to some extent, Kwanach let me go.
“Are you all right?”
He hurriedly organized my cloak and scanned my body.
“I am well, thanks to you. How are you?”
“I’m fine too.”
Along with the confident answer, there was dirt on Kwanach’s hair.
For all the bravado with which I answered, there was a dusting of dirt clinging to the top of Kwanafu’s dark hair. I involuntarily reached out and brushed his hair.
Kwanach startled and slowly brushed my arm down with his hot palm. The moment I felt that boiling body heat, I knew this was not the time for this.
I coughed awkwardly and fell from Kwanach’s chest. Then I looked ahead.
‘I knew it, Roman kept it hidden.’
The place I had manipulated the tree roots to uncover came into view.
It was part of an underground cave that looked like it was artificially created. It seemed to have been dug very deep and covered with earth to hide the entrance. The ground was turned over quite a bit, but the entrance never fully appeared.
The knights who had been far away approached closer. The stares that pierced me were filled with awe.
“Your Majesty, let us do the rest.”
I nodded, and some of them began digging in the dirt with shovels.
I flinched, feeling eerie. I grabbed more tightly at the luminous stone that was hanging on my neck. In the meantime, someone signaled to another group of men who had been somewhere else and they all united here.
The next thing I knew, a vibrant underground cavern revealed itself.
‘It’s a place I really don’t want to get close to.’
My instincts refused. But reason told me differently. We must surely uncover this place.
After a while, the knights led the way into the underground cave. Kwanach was naturally attached to my side.
There was no light source in the cave. I was glad we brought luminescent stones.
The interior space was quite large. It was a place where the earth had been artificially dug out and a support platform had been erected with wood and iron. It was high and wide enough for about three normal adult men to enter and exit at once. Kwanach had to bow his head a little.
The air inside was very humid. And there was an unidentifiable, very unpleasant smell.
The knights, who were walking ahead of us, shouted loudly.
“Empress! If there is anything that you see, please let us know.”
Just as I was about to be weighed down by fear and tension, I pulled myself together. The people here were depending on me. I was the one who insisted on going to the forest. I could not let them see me waver.
I recalled the presence of Kwanach guarding my side. Then I immediately regained my stability.
In the midst of the tension, the search party slowly entered the depths of the underground cavern. Soon a forkroad appeared.
There were as many as eight roads that diverged. Like an ant cave, the space seemed to be divided here and there.
The search party all stopped and waited for my command. After a few moments of pondering, I opened my mouth.
“There is no great difference in the energy of any of the roads.”
It was not an easy situation to determine the direction.
Even though I wanted to reach out to the tree roots that appeared from time to time to gather information, the plants here were probably sick as well. There seemed to be no information to be gained, like when I talked to the tree from above.
Eventually, Kwanach made the decision. He ordered half of the people to stay here and half to split up to explore each road. Kwanach and I decided to wait until they had completed their primary search.
It was not long after each of the knights had entered the passage that way. They soon returned, and the color of their faces had turned uniformly to contemplation.
“Your Majesty ….”
“The road is not long. No, it’s more like a warehouse than a road, and …… what’s over there is….”
As one knight was describing, a particularly young-looking knight staggered afterward, feeling nauseous.
Being in the Kingsguard, he must have been trained hard, no matter how young he was. So it must be a horrible sight for him to be shaken like this.
Kwanach asked back with a frown.
“What the hell in there?”
“The bodies… …are coming, not just the bodies…… I’m sorry. It was hard to understand with a little insight.”
Corpses.I thought of the scene I saw from the trees the last time I was in the forest.
“How about others?”
Those who looked around the other side all gave the same answer. Corpses, countless corpses. A pile of corpses.
“I will examine them myself.”
I stepped forward and spoke, and the knight who had been reporting freaked out.
“Your Majesty, I’m sorry, but it’s a terrible sight, is it all right?”
I had no choice, even if it wasn’t okay.
I entered one of the eight paths with Kwanach. But after a while, my legs naturally froze. I could see with my own eyes what it was that had frightened the knights.
This was a warehouse. A warehouse with many dead bodies piled up like packages.
The eyes of the corpses were not closed. And the eerily original forms were preserved. All the corpses filled the warehouse in a haphazard disarray, with their eyes open to the point of strangeness. I felt as if they would soon move their eyes to look at me.
And this was not just one space. There were seven more.
“What is this……”
My jaw trembled with the fear and rejection that naturally assailed my body.
The words “not an ordinary corpse” were understood. What was here was bizarre. The corpses were so smooth. The flesh did not smell of decay.
In fact, it gave me goosebumps. It was absolutely not a natural phenomenon.
I thought Roman had collected people who died of sclerosis, but there was not a trace of stony hardness in these corpses.
The bodies appeared to be diverse in age and gender. I even saw children among them, which made me feel more horrified.
But I soon found what they all had in common.
There was no heart.
All the bodies had holes of a certain size in their chests, and they were all empty.