The Villain's Sword Is Sharp - Chapter 121: Goodbye
The journey to the ice caves was a long one, and their journey gave Isaac time to ponder the origin of these caves.
The Sect was set up close to a large lake. However, this lake was frozen completely solid like a massive block of ice! Even in summer, the frozen lake didn’t show any signs of thawing and remained utterly solid.
Over the years, many tunnels, caves and passages had been dug through the frozen lake, either by humans or wild beasts (normal animals weren’t strong enough to damage the tough ice). This had transformed it into an icy maze which the Sect still hadn’t fully mapped out over the course of 500 years.
Many ruins or remnants from forgotten societies lay inside, using mysterious methods to conceal themselves from the Sect’s searching Anima and waiting for a lucky cultivator to break in and inherit their ancient secrets.
How the lake had been frozen was a mystery, the answer to which had been washed away by the river of time. However, there was one story about the ice caves which was very true and very well known: the Full Moon Sect’s first Rank 5, Ivar Olsen, owed much of his success due to uncovering a set of ruins here when he was a Rank 4.
Stories such as these motivated many sect cultivators to try their luck here and investigate the ice caves, and while the vast majority of expeditions ended in disappointment, a few succeeded and served as more stories to motivate hopeful explorers.
Isaac glided along with his Snowshoe Anima while he thought of this. Everyone was travelling at a moderate pace to conserve Qi but they were still going far faster than a person could walk (or even run).
They made great progress during their first day of travel and eventually set up camp when night fell.
Bjørn arranged a guard system where 2 people, each from different factions, would constantly be on watch duty. Isaac had expected some difficulties where other factions might try to bully his team into covering their shifts too, but there was nothing. Bjørn had already stamped his authority on the group, and nobody would try anything untoward under his watchful eye.
Everybody went to sleep and the night passed uneventfully.
The next day, they continued to travel.
Just after midday, they arrived at the bank of the frozen lake. Pale blue extended to the horizon as endless ice stretched as far as the eye could see.
Everybody rested at the lake bank while Bjørn read his map. Their break only lasted a short time, and soon he began leading them elsewhere. He brought them on a walk over the lake, taking them towards the entry point marked on his map.
Every time he took a step on the icy surface, Johan half expected it to crack and break underfoot. However, it was completely solid and extremely strong – nearly as strong as bronze. Of course it wouldn’t break.
The group cut across the lake, taking a path towards a distant point on its bank. When they got there, they saw a seemingly bottomless hole which extended down and down and down.
After hesitating slightly to swap his current map with one which showed a layout of the ice caves, Bjørn took them down into the depths…
Pale blue light reflected from every surface, filling the passage with an unearthly glow. The steps which had been chiselled into the ice were slippery underfoot and their descent was rather slow as several people couldn’t use their movement Anima on these stairs.
The deeper they went – the further from the surface they got – the darker things became. After a whole 30 minutes of descending, everything had become an inky blackness. The natural light of the Sun barely reached this level, and the little light that did reach here was insufficient for human eyes to see.
However, this had been expected and planned for. A member from each team activated a Rank 1 Little Lantern Anima, lighting the way forwards.
The staircase could be seen continuing downwards into the darkness, heading to unfathomable depths. Nevertheless, Bjørn stopped everyone here. There was a large opening which led to the left; it was a smooth circular shaped entrance which, like the staircase, was clearly made by humans.
The group turned down this path, but it was only wide enough for 3 people to walk side-to-side and they couldn’t use their previous formation. They simply walked forwards into the unknown dangers the darkness might hold.