Lord of Mysteries 2: Circle of Inevitability - Chapter 540
Pa! Franca swiftly kicked away the hand bone attempting to block her path, deftly avoiding a trip.
"Aren't you tired of this? Can't you try something different?" she cursed, turning her head to inspect the road sign beside her.
It indicated they had finally reached their destination.
Each level of the catacombs sprawled vast, evident by the multitude of remains it accommodated. The road signs at each node could only display seven or eight iconic names and nearby tombs. Franca and Jenna relied on returning to the small sacrificial square and starting anew to locate the Thorns and Shieldwall Tomb.
Unlike the fourth-level tomb, mostly sealed off and devoid of corpses and bones along the way, this place was strewn with scattered bones and decaying items, emitting a faint, uncomfortable stench.
Jenna glanced at the pile of bones outside and observed a few thin metal plates inlaid on the tomb wall. Their surfaces were blurry, showing signs of severe corrosion. Only the shieldwall and thorn symbol could be vaguely discerned. Whether there were other patterns remained impossible to tell.
"No wonder it's called the Thorns and Shieldwall Tomb." Franca sighed.
Simultaneously, illuminated by the dim yellow candlelight, she noticed companion items arranged in a groove on the tomb's inner wall. Some were made of wood, weathered and decayed, while others were glass and porcelainware, in the form of fragments. The only intact item was a glass bottle, its surface inlaid with carved patterns resembling gold and adorned with a unique golden lid. Perhaps due to the metal's protection, the glass bottle didn't shatter, but it appeared murky and less transparent.
"It's exquisite, almost like art," Franca commented, puzzled. "Why didn't the catacomb workers take it away?"
It seemed quite valuable!
"Perhaps it was placed in this tomb after the catacombs were completed," Jenna speculated.
The two Demonesses didn't linger on the topic. Jenna retrieved one of the Mirror Substitutions and handed it to Franca.
With a swift leap, Franca vaulted over the seemingly silent but dangerous skeletons, gracefully landing at the entrance of the Thorns and Shieldwall Tomb.
After confirming her surroundings and receiving no warnings from her spirituality, Jenna cautiously approached the groove on the side wall along the ground, avoiding the pale-white bones.
Instinctively, she reached out with her right hand but withdrew it. An old handkerchief from her pocket was produced, shielding her palm from direct contact with the antique tearcatcher.
The tears in the tearcatcher had long dried up.
Jenna scrutinized the tearcatcher for a moment before stowing it away. She retraced her steps and leaped to Franca's side.
"You completed the commission so easily?" she whispered uncertainly.
It was a stark contrast to the disappearance of the Deep Valley Cloister's gatekeeper she had previously accepted.
Franca scoffed and replied, "What kind of difficulty do you want for a 1,000 verl d'or commission?"
Jenna summarized her experience seriously, "That's true. The challenge lies in understanding the hidden dangers in the third level of the tomb."
As Lumian, reverting to Louis Berry, strode into the front hall, his gaze fell upon a vibrant scene. A young brown-haired girl, clad in a red dress adorned with black patterns, swayed gracefully in a corner. From time to time, she paused to refine her dance moves.
Lumian's thoughts raced as he approached the front desk. Seizing the opportunity, he inquired, "What's she doing?"
This time, he spoke in Intisian.
The grizzled boss, his cheekbones etched with sunburnt marks, appeared taken aback. Responding in Intisian with a Dariège accent, he explained, "She's my granddaughter, Isabella. She's practicing the Dance of the Sea for the performance next month."
"Dance of the Sea… Dance of the Sea for the sea prayer ritual?" Lumian hadn't anticipated this revelation. Instinctively, he smiled and remarked, "That would make many girls jealous, wouldn't it?"
The boss grinned.
"This isn't like becoming a Maiden of the Sea. Not many people will be jealous, but participating in the Dance of the Sea performance can indeed make her proud and happy for a long time."
As Lumian signaled for Lugano to guide Ludwig back to their room, he casually inquired of the boss, "Did you come from Dariège?"
"That's right. I'm a Guillaume," the boss said with a self-deprecating smile. "Otta Guillaume. When I saw your identification this morning, I thought about greeting you in Intisian, but I gave up in the end. You know, Intisians aren't the best bunch. Even among my fellow villagers, I've come across a few with questionable morals."
"How long have you been in Port Santa?" Lumian asked with genuine interest, resting his right elbow on the front desk.
Otta Sr. pondered seriously.
"Forty years, I reckon. Probably forty years. Back then, I was an assistant in a caravan. I met my wife here and decided to stay. Heh heh, she's now a nagging old lady. Always fussing about how to dress when it gets cold or reminding me to head home for dinner, leaving the motel to the assistants. She manages everything so well that I don't have to worry. How great is that? It's rare to encounter such a woman in Dariège."
Lumian endured Otta Sr.'s ramblings for a while before cutting to the chase.
"I've been invited by a friend to Port Santa to witness the sea prayer ritual."
"It's quite lively. The entire port will be in euphoria," Otta Sr. praised without hesitation.
Lumian cast a glance at Isabella, still engrossed in her practice, and casually remarked, "I heard there was an accident at last year's sea prayer ritual?"
"No?" Otta Sr. responded with a puzzled expression. "I watched the flower boat parade, the boat race, and the Dance of the Sea. There were no accidents."
Frowning, he fell into deep thought.
"However, Sandro did mention that the number of shipwrecks has increased significantly this year. We've encountered more pirates, and our fishing gains haven't been as good as last year's… Was there really an accident at last year's sea prayer ritual? Was it the vigil ritual or the sea sacrifice? Did the old fogeys at the Fisheries Guild conceal the problem?
"Who's Sandro?" Lumian pressed.
Otta Sr. smiled again.
"It's my child, Isabella's father. He works as a clerk in the government, and his wife is a teacher at the grammar school."
Is Port Santa's sea prayer ritual genuinely effective? Has its protective power diminished after the April Fool's prank? Lumian's mind flashed with the information he'd gathered earlier.
Of the three peripheral April Fool's members involved in the prank, one journeyed to Torres, Gaia Province's capital, to customize a unique golden ring. Another handled the bribery of the Fisheries Guild, sending the lamb along with the golden ring as an offering to the specially prepared ship for the sea sacrifice. The third, disguised as a reporter, shadowed the Fisheries Guild committee members, observing and documenting their reactions.
The elderly's mix of shock, terror, and anger upon receiving the news was a source of long-lasting delight for the April Fool's participants.
After seeking more details about the sea prayer ritual, Lumian bid farewell to Ol' Otta and ascended to his suite upstairs.
At 4 p.m. in Trier, Quartier de l'Observatoire, near Place du Purgatoire.
After donning a hooded black robe and transforming her face into the dramatic persona of Showy Diva, Jenna followed the feedback from her contact and reached a street that specialized in funeral items.
Most Trieriens passing by appeared fairly ordinary, but a handful sported white masks, brandished blunt scythes, and adorned themselves in black robes. They posed as undead messengers from folklore, sewing white skulls and other artistic elements onto their shoulders…
Thanks to their presence and the unique atmosphere of Trier, Jenna, dressed as a warlock with a hood concealing her features, blended seamlessly into the surroundings.
She paused in a quiet corner and retrieved the exquisite tearcatcher.
Before long, someone resembling her approached and, in a gravelly voice, inquired, "How much for this tearcatcher?"
"1,000 verl d'or," Jenna responded, her excitement bubbling.
This marked her first successfully executed commission.
"1,001 verl d'or," countered the warlock-dressed man.
Upon the secret signal matching, Jenna insisted on charging only 1,000 verl d'or.
Once the confirmation was mutual, she handed over the tearcatcher, received the reward, and discreetly departed.
With the tearcatcher in hand, the hooded figure navigated the nearby streets, taking nearly fifteen minutes to circle back to Place du Purgatoire and approach a street bench at the edge.
A man sat there, engrossed in a newspaper.
The hooded figure presented the exquisite tearcatcher, adorned with intricate hollowed-out golden patterns, and whispered, "I've completed your commission. Will it offset the money I owe you?"
The person on the bench lowered the newspaper, looked up, revealing a clerk with curly black hair, sunken eyes, and thick lips. A crystal-like monocle adorned his right eye.
"Monsieur Monette?" the hooded figure pressed in confirmation.
Monette accepted the tearcatcher, gently tracing the golden patterns with a slow smile playing on his lips.
Solow Motel, fifth-floor suite.
Lumian spent the entire afternoon within the confines of his room at the Solow Motel. Lounging on a recliner, he swayed gently, engrossed in his ongoing study of Highlander. Now and then, he leafed through travel books detailing the customs of the Feynapotter Kingdom.
As evening approached, Lugano, who had ventured downstairs for a chat, returned to Lumian's room.
Leaning in, Lugano lowered his voice and shared, "Boss, there's a Madame looking for you."
Madame… Lumian felt a chill run down his spine upon hearing that term, and the muscles in his back tensed.
Which "Madame" could this be?
After a brief pause, Lumian realized that Lugano was referring to an ordinary Madame, not the "Madame" of the Beyonder world.
"Which Madame, and what brings her here?" Lumian inquired calmly, sitting up and addressing his translator.
Lugano shook his head and replied, "She didn't say. Just mentioned having something to entrust to the renowned adventurer, Louis Berry."
Lugano emphasized the term "renowned adventurer."