Chapter 65:

A Ruin from the Past

Mad God

A day later, Ren and the others followed the road, twisting and turning around the hilly forest, going towards one of the crossing points on the Shert River. Not long after they were on the road, after having breakfast, they were surrounded by a dozen bandits wielding looted plate armor and weapons. 01 and 02 were about to fight, clearly not afraid, after sensing their enemies were all in the body refinement realm. In the end, Ren stopped them quickly, giving a look to Lacuss also, who already held his saber with an indifferent expression.

"Oh, please don't hurt us!" Ren said with a soft voice, and although she sounded scared… her expression was devoid of it, "We surrender!"

"We… do what?" Isha turned her head slowly, like some mechanic being.

01 and 02 also looked at her surprised but dared not to say anything, just stood behind her. Lacuss hearing her words, put away his saber and stood there calmly, clearly following her plans, whatever may those be.

"Smart!" the group leader laughed, coming closer as the others still pointed bows and swords at them.

"Captain…" his second in command whispered to his ears. "That small one seems… strange or… familiar? No? Doesn't she have the looks of some big-shot nobles?"

"Dunno. Boss will know, but they fit the description we got… and if they remind you of a noble line, they must be worth their weight in gold! Ahaha!" he laughed. "Okay, don't try anything funny; you have no chance; we are all above the fifth stage, just so you know! You try something; we break your bones!" He warned them, and soon their hands were tied together as they got escorted away.

"Damn you…" Isha sent a voice projection to Ren. "What are you playing at?"

"Hey, I'm just curious; I was never robbed by highwaymen before; I want to experience what it is like!" Ren sent back with a happy, carefree voice.

"You surely were dropped on the head at least once. This is ridiculous! If they try something, I'll bash their heads in; I don't care about your play, I warn you now! You mad fucker!"

"Yeah, yeah, no problem!" Ren nodded rapidly.

While talking, 01 and 02 also did the same, lamenting the bandits' fate.

"Want to make a bet?" 02 asked.

"Of what?" 01 sent back.

"How many of them will survive? Or will we have a 03 or 04? If we do, we should enforce our seniority. We were here first; they shouldn't take our place." 02 said hurriedly.

"I think they will die. Look at them; they are not even at Harmony; Master won't take useless garbage; they must be at least at the same level as us." 01 scoffed, feeling those dregs were unworthy to be his Master's slaves.

"You're right 01… but still! We should think about what will happen if the Master takes in others… we should go by seniority by the time we served under her and not by power level!"

"I agree; if there comes 03, we should properly help him, or her adjust to the new life. Hierarchy is important!" he agreed immediately.

The only one who was calm and silent in every way was Lacuss, who just followed the footsteps of the others, not bothering to interact with anyone, seemingly more interested in the scenery than in the fact they were captured. After half an hour of walking, they arrived at a backwater of the Shert River, and surprisingly, in the middle of it, in a circular shape, was built a tall structure, blocking off the water. It was made to cover up underwater ruin for who knows how long.

"Oh?" Ren looked surprised as she got a weird, familiar feeling from the ruins and their shape.

The others also got a strange sensation because it was surprisingly cold. They could feel it even though they had a high level of cultivation.

"Strange…" Isha murmured as her powers circled inside her, balancing the sudden coldness.

"Interesting," Lacuss added but then fell silent again, not bothering to make eye contact with Ren, who looked at him. Ultimately, she gave up conversing with a weird inlaw of hers.

"Boss!" their captor shouted as they neared the camp beside the backwater, where around 50 bandits camped.

"I see, I see, you succeeded?" came a laugh as a bear of a man walked out, wearing working clothes, covered in mud and dirt, clearly digging in the ground before.

He was around 190 centimeters tall, with a body that best could be described by the word "thick," looking at it from any angle. His legs were as big as Ren or two of her, not to mention his hairy arms and belly. His bald head was shinier than polished marble, and when his dark brown eyes looked at Ren, who was checking him out with a curious look, he immediately froze.

"What the fuck did you do?!" He roared, rushing up, making the ground shake, smacking the captain to the ground, making him cry out like when a poor dog who got its tail stepped on.

"W... what…?" the captain tried to speak, spitting out dirt as he pushed himself up from the ground.

"You kidnap someone from the bloodline of kings?! Are you out of your mind?! You want to kill us all?!" He roared hurriedly as he was cutting the rope off of them. "This is a grave misunderstanding!" He tried to explain to Ren, who just nodded.

"It is. I am not of the Naulins. What would I do here anyway? This is the Empire's side of the river."

"Ah." She stopped the knife in his hand as he cut the ropes, thinking it over, and finding logic in her words, but it also made him even more afraid. Something was telling him this was wrong on so many levels. Everything seemed out of place; the captives were calm, even helping him out to stay… captured? This rang every alarm bell in his head, so after a short moment of hesitation, he continued releasing them.

"There, there, this was a complete misunderstanding!" He laughed nervously.

"Really?" Ren tilted her head, looking up at him. "But I heard they talked about us as if it was the plan all along… to earn money."

"Erm… they don't know what they are talking about! We are here to… um… excavate an old ruin, not to rob, kill or plunder! Yes, yes! We only rob the dead!" He patted his giant belly.

"You could've fooled us." Isha sighed, rubbing her neck.

"It… was a misunderstanding!"

The others, seeing how their Boss, a Harmony Realm expert, was showing such a weird side of his, sent the rest into a frenzy, looking at those who brought them back with an unkind expression, bringing trouble to the group.

"What… it was the order of-" The captain tried to defend himself, but he was just sent back to the ground with a slap of his boss' palm.

"Misunderstanding… huh… well... You are no fun." Ren sighed, shrugging her shoulders, making the bearlike man twitch his mouth.

"Let… let us talk this out, hm? My name is Devitt." He tried to keep a friendly face while inviting them into the camp.

"Mine is Ren, she is Isha, he is Lacuss, then he is 01 and 02." Ren introduced them while Devitt nodded as a few names sounded familiar, but he couldn't put one and two together, focusing on treading lightly while his instincts were still screaming inside his head.

"Nice to meet you." He smiled as best as he could.

"Yeah, sure." Isha rolled her eyes, while 01 and 02 just nodded, Lacuss being the way he is, he ignored everything and followed them silently.

"What are you guys doing here?" He strolled towards the backwater bank, looking towards the strange excavating site built in the middle.

The hole in the ground was surrounded by thick, strong walls made from earth, stone, and wood, forming a circle and keeping the water completely out. At the same time, the inside was decorated with stairs, and pathways, leading down for man and machinery to be able to dig downwards and dispose of the earth outwards as they dug it up.

"We found a ruin underwater, and for a year now, we have been working on excavating it… sadly it's… well... it did not go as planned." Devitt sighed.

"I can see that the water and the earth near the source are almost frozen." Ren nodded.

"You have sharp eyes." Devitt agreed, "There is an old, pagoda-like building there. Sunk into the ground, only the top protruding out, and it was underwater before. It exudes incredible coldness that freezes anything after an hour, so we can't work on it all the time… near the ruin, it sucks out the warmth from everything, living or not."

"..." Ren just slowly closed her eyes as some memories returned to her before letting out a sigh. "There is an artifact deep under it, used by an old cultivator in the demigod stage but sealed here later."

"What?" Devitt asked, looking at Ren with question marks in their eyes. "That would be the first I heard something like this, but sure, we also think there is some kind of secret buried here or a treasure!"

"So you are trying to get it out… I advise you against it." She shook her head, eyes still closed, her face serious.

"Thanks, but no thanks." Devitt furrowed his brow. Some would even prefer it. "I get it; you guys are probably strong cultivators, playing around who knows why, but don't even think we would fall back and let you all take the fruits of our labor just like that!" He raised his voice as the others were getting ready to fight if necessary.

"You misunderstood me." She shook her head again. "I just say if it is sealed here, it was done so for a reason."

"You say it was sealed; I say time buried it here. Girl, I know you may think you are smart enough for your age but don't try to swindle us out of it; we are in the business for far longer than you!"

"Do what you want." Ren shrugged, turning around while Isha sent over a message.

"So, there is really a treasure deep under? What now? Your trick didn't work to send them away; should we use force?"

"Trick? It wasn't a trick. I was honest. Don't touch it; it won't bring luck, only misfortune." She shook her head, surprising Isha with how serious she was.

"What? Were you real? But…”

"I read about it; anyway, it's not important; they would need a ton of resources and luck to get to the bottom of the pagoda; they just dug up a tiny portion of it, scratching the surface."

Her words still struck an idea into Devitt's head and to those who heard her. A treasure from a demigod, a being of legends… something left behind by a cultivator of that caliber from ancient times, should be something empires fought over. It was unheard of to ever find something like this, or it was just kept secret by the top dogs of the continent. Now they were standing at the bank of one; of course, they were more than fired up to dig it out.

"How did you find it?" Ren asked suddenly.

"By accident. Our ship was damaged, anchored here, hit something weird, and found the ruin underwater." He said, not making a secret out of it.

"I see. It will be seen if it's good or bad luck later. Anyway, I lost interest; we should go." She said with a disappointed expression.

"Wait!" Devitt cut in suddenly. "You are clearly a strong group, and now you know about it."

"Yeeees?" Isha turned around with a smile that was not a smile, flames flickering around her sleeve.

"I mean… what if we work together?" Devitt gulped.

"You want to use us to dig it out?" Ren tilted her head.

"Of course." Devitt nodded. "I mean not use you! Damn it… I mean we work together! We have been at it for a year now. It took so many resources just to get this far; we robbed who knows how many caravans to keep the operation going!"

"You are possessed." Isha snorted, disgusted by him.

"Maybe we are. We were about to give up a year ago, but we captured an interesting fellow, and as he helped us the big time, we let him go free."

"Oh?" Ren crossed her arms, intrigued once again.

"He was some kind of scaly fella, never seen one before. He was strolling in the forest in expensive garb, so we wanted to rob him! But it turned out he was a poor bastard cast out being a mix between a demon and a human. Anyway, he was talented with water magic, made it recede from the ruin so we could build up the obstruction around it and work better!"

“Hey… isn’t that…” Isha whispered, and Ren just nodded.

"Yup, our fishboy," she answered. "Do you know where he went? Honestly, we are looking for him."

"You know him? Sorry, I don't know more; he wanted to cross the Shert to get into the Kingdom's territory. We told him where the closest crossing points were and let him on his way. Can't help you with that."

"I see. Then we are done here." Ren nodded, determined to leave, but she met with the pleading faces of Isha, 01, and 02, and even Lacuss was looking at her. "What?"

"We should help them." Isha cut in.

"Interesting ruin," Lacuss added while 01 and 02 just nodded.

"See? Your friends are willing to help. Look, we don't ask you to do it for free. We can strike a deal. We want the treasure; you can have anything else down there. What do you say?" Devitt rubbed his hands.

"Are you sure?" Ren asked, ignoring Devitt and looking at her comrades.

"Yes! Look, this is fun, aren't you about having fun all the time?" Isha laughed, making Ren just sigh.

"They will betray us at the first moment, you know that, don't you?" She transmitted it to them, and they just nodded.

"Big deal, we are stronger." Isha grinned confidently.

"Okay… if you wish so." She murmured, shaking her head a bit more before turning to Devitt. "Lucky you, eh? You got yourself a deal. Get us a raft or something, and let's get to this ruin of yours. But I warn you… you asked for this." Ren said to Devitt, but it was more of a warning for the others.