“…To tell you the truth, I came here to check if the earthquake made an impact on the mine.”
Because of all the crazy events that happened so far, Sam forgot why he had come to the mine in the first place.
“Was that earthquake also related to the magical beast?”
“Yep. But to be more specific, it’s because a shitty bastard forcefully fused Snoc and the magical beast together.”
“…That shitty bastard was the one who made Snoc like this, right? What kind of bastard was he?”
“I don’t know. I’m sure that he is part of some mysterious organization, but no matter what I did, he wouldn’t open his mouth so I killed him.”
Zich really had no idea what organization the robed man had been part of, even with the memories before his regression.
“But don’t worry.” Zich laughed, “Since they’ve already made me their enemy, I’m going to fuck over every single one of them.”
“I’m so happy because I don’t have to feel guilty about beating up bad guys.”
Even though Sam was furious at the assassins and the mysterious organization that harmed Snoc, he could not readily support Zich’s words. Fortunately, the smile on Zich’s face did not last long.
“But couldn’t you have checked up on the mines during the day? Why would you come all the way here at such a dangerous time? It’s no wonder you got involved in such a dangerous situation.”
Zich half-opened his eyes and rebuked Sam. But Sam felt more comfortable at the Zich who rebuked him rather than the Zich who smiled eerily at him.
“Yeah, you are right.”
Sam’s voice was full of regret. It sounded as if he also thought it had been a foolish decision. But Zich could understand why Sam wanted to go check up on the mine.
‘It’s probably because of his father.’
Sam’s father died from a collapsed mine shaft. Even though no one would be inside a mine after sunset, Sam was worried that someone could be trapped in the mines. There was a low possibility that this would happen, but Sam’s trauma made it difficult for him to dismiss them as low possibilities.
“But thanks to Mr. Hans, I was safe.”
“Oh yeah, I was wondering about that. Why is he here with you?”
Hans blinked his eyes as all the attention went towards him.
“When I told him that I was going down to the mines, he told me that he could take me there.”
“Sir, while I was waiting for you, I saw Mr. Sam walk by our window. He told me he had to check up on the mine…it was late in the night and because he is your friend, I thought I should escort him.”
As expected of a former servant, Hans was very adept at quickly judging the situation. If Hans hadn’t been there, Sam would have met his end inside a dark mountain. Moreover, it would have been a tragic end for Sam as his brother would have killed him.
“You did well.”
Zich praised Hans for his efforts. It was Hans’ second compliment—all on the same day. Hans felt happy that he got some praise from Zich who usually yelled and insulted him all the time. Zich scratched his chin with his fingers and snickered.
“But you are also really impressive. I didn’t think you would forgive him.”
Sam was traumatized by his father’s death to the point that when an explosion erupted, the first thing he did was go check up on the mines late into the night. Zich was still surprised about Sam’s decision to forgive Nowem who was deeply tied to his trauma.
“Is that so surprising? As Snoc said, it's not like the magical beast caused the mine to collapse on purpose.”
From Zich’s experience, humans acted on emotions more than reason, especially on sensitive matters like a parent’s death.
“I would never be able to forgive that magical beast if he did it on purpose, but that’s not what happened. Snoc would also never side with a being like that. I also thought it was fate as well.”
“Fate…" Zich repeated Sam’s unexpected mention of fate. “What do you mean by fate? When you were talking to Snoc about it, you mentioned fate when you were talking about a song, right?”
“You probably also know that song. It’s a song about a monster sealed inside the Iruce Mine. It’s famous everywhere around Suol.”
“Yeah, I know.” Zich nodded his head. “But wasn’t that song a warning to fear the Mining Monster? I don’t think there was anything about fate in that song.”
“There’s actually another version to it.”
Sam opened up one of his fingers.
“This is a song passed down by Snoc’s family, and his parents used to sing this version. In this version, there are actually a few more verses at the end. Snoc and I liked this version of the song more than the one spread around in the city.”
Sam used to sing that song whenever he felt like it, and Snoc sang that song whenever he was sad or hurt to comfort himself.
“I don’t know which one is the original version. But if the version passed down in Snoc’s family is the original version, and one of Snoc’s ancestors preserved this song and passed it along to their descendants, it would not be far-fetched to say that Snoc and Nowem are destined for each other.”
“What is the song?”
Zich became curious after hearing so much about it.
“Should I try singing it?”
Sam inhaled a deep breath and began singing. His voice echoed under the dark sky, in a messy and demolished mountainside wrecked by battle.
* * *
Snoc opened his eyes. All he saw was desolate earth. It was a completely different view from the mountain top.
‘Wow, this really is possible.’
Snoc looked around in curiosity. From what Zich said, he was in Nowem’s mind. No matter how compatible someone was, going inside another being’s mind was extremely difficult. But Snoc and Nowem were forcefully fused. Their special circumstances greatly lowered this barrier to the extent that Snoc just had to follow Zich’s directions and want to go inside Nowem’s mind.
‘Where is Nowem?’
As expected of a beast of the earth, only dirt and ground existed in Nowem’s mind. From his feet and to the ends of the horizon, Snoc only saw earth. There was not even a single weed, a trace of a stream, an insect, or anything. Snoc felt overwhelmed by the vastness of the earth. He didn’t even know where to start looking for Nowem.
However, contrary to his feelings, Snoc’s footsteps were light.
‘I think it’s here.’
As his heart stirred, it seemed to tell him the directions of a place. His feet didn’t stop for a moment. He climbed on top of the nearest hill next to him and saw a cave inside a gentle slope. Snoc went inside. The cave was pitch-dark, but strangely, Snoc had no difficulty seeing the insides of the cave. Snoc tilted his head as he wandered inside the cave.
‘Isn’t this our mine?’
The structure and support systems were the same. The remains on the walls and traces of digging were also the same, and Snoc’s footsteps became a bit lighter. Snoc continued to go deeper inside the cave and stopped in front of a pit. He stared at the pit for some time. This was where his father died.
After letting out a deep breath, Snoc entered the pit. After the roof-fall, the entrance was open and clean. Snoc passed over the area and continued walking. He did not have to walk far to reach the end of the pit; and in front of him, he found what he was looking for.
Nowem was lying down on his stomach, and he opened his eyes. When he saw Snoc, he bared his teeth. Nowem’s reddened eyes indicated that he was still under the influence of the sealing stone. Although Zich had warned him that this could be the case, physically seeing Nowem in this state pained his heart.
Snoc tried calling his name again. Just a couple of hours ago, he had no trouble calling out Nowem’s name, but now, the name felt unfamiliar to his lips.
Nowem made a loud cry. Just a moment ago, it seemed as if Nowem had cried out in happiness to welcome Snoc. Nowem’s cry now was strange and filled with hostility, but Snoc remained calm.
Snoc barely managed to open his mouth; he felt as if he was forcefully trying to open a sealed door, or as if he was forcefully opening a blocked stream inside a mountain belt.
His first words were an apology. It was the only way he could start talking.
“I’m sorry for trying to push you away. I’m sorry for ignoring you too. I’m sorry for everything.”
After the first couple of words, everything else flowed out easily.
“I was resentful and angry at you. I was confused after hearing that you were the reason for our fathers’ deaths. And I also felt guilty. If I kept staying by your side, I thought I would be sinning against my father, Sam’s father, and Sam. I felt like this because Sam is a brother and a family member to me.”
Snoc met Nowem’s eyes.
“Like you are to me.”
Nowem’s eyes were still glaring at Snoc. It seemed like Snoc’s words weren’t reaching him, but Snoc didn’t linger on his disappointment.
“But you know, I can’t seem to stay mad at you. As people say, is it because our mana properties are so compatible?”
Honestly, Snoc was a bit disgruntled that the reason why he felt great attachment for Nowem wasn’t because of the time they spent together or the faith they had in each other, but for some innate reason. However, it wasn’t as if someone had forced or brainwashed them to feel these emotions.
“But I still can’t accept you. Even if you didn’t do it on purpose, it doesn’t change the fact that the earthquake you caused was the reason for our fathers’ deaths. However, Sam said that he forgave you.”
Snoc was able to find the courage to continue because of his brother’s precious apology.
“Still, I can’t act the same as before when I didn’t know anything. So, Nowem, let’s think about what would be best for us.”
With firm resolution, Snoc reached out his hand that had been previously used to push away Nowem; with his movement, Nowem’s eyes moved towards his stretched-out hand. Would he react to Snoc’s sincerity? Sweat collected on Snoc’s palms.
Snoc’s expectations and hopes were completely shattered. Nowem continued to growl while baring his teeth, and it didn’t seem like he would regain his senses any time soon. Perhaps, it was because Snoc had turned away from Nowem’s tears when the robed man told him the truth. Snoc became overcome with grief.
However, Snoc gritted his teeth and calmed his shaking heart. He still had a chance.
‘Sam told me that my meeting with Nowem might be fate.’
The song that his father and mother had taught him since his childhood was proof that they were fated to meet each other. His vocal cords rang, and a voice flowed out. It sang with rhythmic beats and changing tones. Snoc’s skills didn’t compare to professional singers, and he kept singing out of tune and going slightly offbeat. Yet, everything else was steady and clearly indicated how often Snoc sang this song.
“An ancient being filled with wrath comes down upon us like a tidal wave. It's a disaster that has never been seen before. People shiver in fear at his presence. His name is synonymous with fear.”
It was a song that invoked fear towards the beast of the earth. Everyone in Suol, including Snoc, thought that the song had been spread to prevent children from entering the mine. After all, the lyrics were unpleasant.
Nowem’s eyes turned menacing. Snoc succeeded in pulling out a response from Nowem, but he wasn’t happy about it since the response was on the negative side. However, Snoc’s song didn’t end there.
“But the ancient being seals himself for the sake of his friend’s happiness.”
These were lines that were passed down only by Snoc’s family and showed another side to the mining monster, which had always been a subject of great fear.
“With each passing night, the ancient being swallows his sadness and with a hopeful heart, falls into slumber.”
Snoc sang out the last line like he was breathing out a sigh.
“Dreaming that the happy future his friend spoke of would soon arrive.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter