Chapter 364

The tunnel that appeared before them was big enough to fit three people. Zich looked at all the companions beside him and said, “Let’s go in.”

His companions nodded, and Zich walked inside the entrance. Like the graveyard area, mana light seeped out from the ceiling. So, they didn’t have any difficulties seeing.

Stomp! Stomp!

The sound of heavy footsteps echoed throughout the tunnel. Like the entrance of the tomb, the walls were decorated with murals, but they gave off a different feeling compared to the previous murals. If the last mural looked like it was trying to intimidate trespassers, these seemed like they were paying respects to their visitors.

“It seems we have come to the right place,” Zich said while nodding. The tunnel was connected towards the bottom. Based on its structural layout, they had to move towards the center of the pyramid. In case a trap suddenly burst out, the group members walked carefully, and they only arrived at the open space after quite a bit of time had passed. The room they arrived at was a considerably big room. The walls were smooth—they were made of neatly stacked and carefully carved brick stones. However, what captured their attention wasn’t the smooth, shiny walls. Zich turned his neck to look up at the thing that had burst out of the ceiling and murmured, “…That must be the stem of the tree.”

The stem of a gigantic tree was penetrating from the outside of the room. Perhaps they were imagining it, but the brown and large stem looked extremely hard, just like a rock.

“Zich! Windur!” Lyla shouted and Zich quickly placed Windur into the box. Then, he glanced at the tree. Fortunately, the tree didn’t seem to show any special response.

“What a surprise. I didn’t expect the tree to suddenly burst out,” Zich grumbled and placed Windur back in and took out the spare sword he had kept inside the magic box.

“It seems like we’ve found what we were looking for.”

“That’s true.” Underneath the tree stem that penetrated the ceiling, there was another tree growing on the ground. The tree looked completely different from the tree above it. Its stems stretched upwards, and as if it was showing off its overflowing vitality, thick green light shone from it. The green tree stretched out its stems to the ceiling; as if it were suppressing the brown tree, its green branches wrapped around the brown branches. Anyone could see that the green tree was subduing the brown tree.

“You don’t think that tree is also one of these giant trees, right?” Zich asked while pointing at the green tree.

“I don’t think so. I think it’s more similar to the Lake’s Tear or the Flame’s Tear.”

“Yeah, I mean the mana I feel from it feels weak,” Zich replied.

Although the green tree’s mana was outstanding, in comparison to the Tree of Fire, Tree of Fire, Tree of Water, and the Tree of Earth, the mana seemed to be lacking in this tomb. It was to the point they were incomparable.

“Then do I just have to kill this tree?”

“Before that, we have to investigate more.” Lyla stopped Zich from swinging his sword around immediately.

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“It’s not in the marble form that we know of. There’s no guarantee that it’ll die peacefully.”

“That’s true.” Of course, the fact that piqued Lyla’s curiosity that most mages naturally possessed played a great factor in this decision too. Nevertheless, Zich didn’t bother himself about it; truthfully speaking, they didn’t know what would happen anyways.

“Are you going to investigate it immediately?”

“I have to.”

“Take your time. It’s not something that you can do in a hurry.”

“Don’t worry. That’s what I intend to do.” Looking at her gleaming eyes, it seemed like Lyla would stick around the green tree for a while now.

“…Well, good luck,” Zich said and shrugged.

* * *

Lyla ran into the green tree’s laboratory. Elena and Marilyn followed behind her. While the three mages focused all their attention on researching the green tree with the will of breaking it apart, the rest of the group members were left without much to do. In the beginning, they lingered where the mages were. They planned to protect the mages if a dangerous situation suddenly arose. Yet, they couldn’t continue to stare at a research process when they didn’t know when it would finish. Zich, Hans, and Snoc took turns protecting the room, and the other two decided to continue searching the tomb in case they missed something. Like that, everyone naturally fell into their respective roles.

The three mages studied the green tree with their eyes literally flashing. After feeling the properties of its mana, they found its source and where it moved. With the collaboration of Lyla, who was at the level of the greatest mage, Marilyn, the curse castor skilled enough to become one of Zich’s subordinates in the future, and Elena, who had been one of the hero’s party members that defeated Zich before the regression and were extremely adept in magic theory, the investigation progressed quickly.

Yet, since the project started off with almost no information about the green tree, nobody could be sure when the investigation would end. No matter how crazy they were all about researching, humans also needed rest. The three mages took turns sleeping or eating their meals.

“Haa!” Lyla came out of the pyramid to take a quick nap. She floated up and came down to the camp the party had prepared beneath the pyramid.

“Did you come to rest?”

“Yeah.” Her fatigued complexion brightened up a bit after smelling the stew. She ran towards it and stood next to the large pot. A large number of vegetables and meat were boiling inside the pot.

“I thought this before, but you are unexpectedly good at things like this.”

“My experience level is on a completely different level from the other guys.” After Zich swirled the pot one time, he sprinkled salt to season the stew. Then, he took a spoonful of stew and tasted it.

“Hmm, it’s done.” Zich poured the stew into a bowl and passed it to Lyla.

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She immediately accepted the stew and lifted her spoon. The flavor of the stew spread inside her mouth. The oil from the generous serving of meat raised her appetite and the different combination of smells from the vegetables combined together to bring out a unique flavor. Moreover, the well-balanced amount of salt gave a savory taste to the stew. As the taste of well-cooked meat and vegetables burst in her mouth, her spoon automatically reached for another spoon of stew.

“Does it taste okay?”

“Yep, it’s good!” In the first place, Lyla was very hungry from researching for a long time. She gulped down the food.

“While you’re going up, take two more servings for the two people up there. Is Hans standing guard right now?”

“Yeah.”

“Then, take three bowls, including Hans’.”

“Okay.” Even while replying, Lyla didn’t stop moving her spoon.

While watching her, Zich said, “Listen to me while you’re eating.”

While chewing her food, Lyla stared at Zich.

“I’m planning to carefully watch every action that Marilyn does from now on.”

Thud! Lyla’s spoon stopped at Zich’s unexpected words. She wiped the stew on her mouth and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean exactly what I said. I’m going to be carefully watching Marilyn from now on. You should also watch what she does to the tree.”

Lyla was startled. Zich had always shown a soft attitude towards his subordinates. Therefore, Lyla thought that Zich’s easy decision to accept Marilyn as their companion was also a result of this tendency. However, the atmosphere that Zich gave off was extremely cold. He was not joking about this.

“Can you explain so it’s easier for me to understand?” Lyla put down her stew on the ground and straightened her posture.

“I told you to listen while eating.”

“Do you think this is something I can listen to while eating? Stop straying from the topic and explain!”

Zich shook his head as if it couldn’t be helped and opened his mouth. “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. To be exact, I’ve been thinking of this since I became certain that Glen Zenard completely twisted my life.”

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Zich’s eyes automatically turned cross as he talked about Glen. This was evidence of how much he hated Glen Zenard.

“If he planned to kill me after raising me as a Demon Lord, it would have been better for him to control my actions. In order to do that, the best method is to put a spy in my group.”

“…You’re saying that Marilyn Frill is that person?”

Zich swirled his portion of the stew with his spoon. “Marilyn acted as the planner in our group since she was smart. When I was weak, I used my brain a lot. However, I began to rely mostly on my strength as more of my mana got unleashed and I could use more of my power. My mana was large enough for that to be possible, and it was also due to my bitterness from getting chased out of my house because I wasn’t able to use mana.”

Lyla quietly listened to Zich’s words.

“However, even then, when I made the whole world my enemy, I couldn’t just continue without using my brain. Even though our attack power was superior, our opponents began using just as many traps and resources to fight us.”

“That’s when Marilyn began her role as the planner.”

Zich nodded his head. “Marilyn has good sense, and her brain works fast. She was also good at reading her opponent’s plans, and of course, she was good at avoiding our opponent’s traps. So naturally, after she joined our team, I left all the brain work to her and focused my attention on going crazy on the battlefield. For that reason, we began relying more and more on Marilyn’s plans.”

“…If Marilyn was a traitor like you said, that would have been the worst scenario.”

“Before the final battle with Glen Zenard, we were caught up in our enemies’ scheme and were torn apart. All my four subordinates were completely crushed—Joachim, Evelyn, Tim, and even Marilyn. However, Joachim, Evelyn, and Tim all lost their lives to Glen Zenard and his party members. Marilyn was different.”

Tap! Zich’s spoon, which was swirling in the stew, hit the bottom of the bowl and stopped. “I was told that Glen Zenard defeated her by himself.”

“…That means that Glen Zenard’s other companions weren’t able to witness Marilyn Frill’s death.”

As the circumstantial evidence came to light, Lyla’s face became very serious. “But the affection she shows for you is…real?” Lyla showed a bit of hesitation as she said affection; she was still unaware of her emotions.

“Yep. It was like that even before my regression. Her emotions towards me are probably real.”

“Then, aren’t you perhaps mistaken?”

“If it was me, Lyla.” Zich put down his now lukewarm stew to the side. Then he swirled the stew in the pot that was still letting out steam. “If I had tens of thousands of opportunities and I was able to know my opponent’s likes and tastes perfectly and I had to plant a spy under them, I would thoroughly educate my subordinate.”

Educate. That one word sounded extremely chilling to Lyla.

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“I would educate them to perfectly match my opponent’s tastes and send them out so that my opponent would easily favor the subordinate. If it was possible, I would also implant real emotions into my subordinates so that they would love my opponent. Since their love itself is real, even a person with very sharp senses wouldn’t suspect that subordinate. If I really did this, a lovely and fatal poison that matches my opponent from head to toe would be completed.”

A memory of Marilyn’s past flashed through his mind. It was when she called Zich her ‘destined match.’

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