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113 Small Bones

    Up ahead, there was a spot shrouded with darkness. In that area straight ahead, there was not a single torch that had been lit. It was as though even the servants who had once lived here cautiously avoided this place.

    It was filled with an ominous air.

    Xue'er walked a few steps towards the darkness before halting altogether. Her gaze was directed at the empty darkness. It wasn't simply a dark corner that no one dared to walk towards. From that corner, she could smell a thick medicinal scent that was coming from the darkness.

    The smell of thick and musty dregs of medicine was similar to the smell one would find in a home of a person who was usually ill year-round. Since Xue'er could not tell where it was,\\ precisely that the smell was being emitted, then it must have been rather strong, considering she could smell it here.

    In the darkness, there was an old stairway that led downwards. These stairs were not made by wood, instead, it had been carved into the stone of the mountain. The stairway was quite old, yet despite that, it had not corroded away as things used for a long time should be. Even if it was the hardest metal known to man, such things should have fallen apart with constant use. Since this stairway was still standing as strong as the day it was built, it would suffice to say, the path it led to was not one a person would just casually tread upon.

    Such a sight did not discourage Xue'er from deciding to venture down into the darkness. Her cloth shoes were silent upon her descent down the stairway. She did not need the assistance of torches or the slightest hint of light to see where she was going, her amber gray eyes that were speckled with crimson did not waver as she took the steps downward. The stone was slightly chilly as her cloth shoes touched the stone. It was as though those who lived in this mountain had a fate of forever feeling chills when living here. Or perhaps, there was a mountain's heart that was as cold as unmelting ice deep within this mountain, always emitting a chill that spread through the stone.

    It was a long way down, but as she stepped on the last stone step, she came to a moss-covered stone arch overpass that was secured by an iron gate. The gate was fairly strong, and she could not be sure whether its purpose was to keep something in or to keep something out. Either way, it was slightly open, rendering it useless at doing either of those.

    The iron gate was open at a fairly reasonable gap, allowing Xue'er to slip in soundlessly. This would seem to be a place that would be fairly well guarded, but that was not the case here.

    After entering, she could feel the air around dampen. As though she was walking by a swamp. The air didn't smell too nice either, it was a foul smell one would find in decaying vegetation. Though it was not pleasing, she had smelled worse things and continued walking ahead to find the source of the smell. There was definitely water ahead, as she inched closer in the stone chamber, there were many pools of water. The pools were spaced apart, with about ten steps between each. The space in the water seemingly the size of a bathtub, perhaps it was enough for one person to be completely submerged in the water, but there was no way to tell, as the water was murky.

    She would have simply jumped in to test the depths, if not for a peculiar pungent odor that came from the small pools of water. It was a smell that seemed to have stayed around for so long. Seeming to belong to the chamber, yet she wasn't sure if the underground environment was the cause of the smell, or if it was the pools of stagnant water that gave the underground environment this smell.

    Looking at the pools, and then to the side where there were iron chains attached to the stone wall, fortified by iron bolts, she felt a sense of unease. The chains did not lead anywhere, but instead, sank into the murky water.

    Xue'er's heart dropped as soon as she saw where it led.

    As though out of pure desperation, her cold hands grabbed onto one of the chains and pulled frantically, until she could see the other end of the chain that had been submerged deeply underwater.

    With a 'CLANG' the chain broke free and there was a small and long object that was brought up with the chain as well. The iron that had been submerged in the water was thoroughly rusted, with what could only be described as a shackle on the other end. Its size was too small to fit an adult's wrist into, so it must have not been intended for adults.

    The small object that had been pulled up along was a dark color, feeling so brittle that it could break with a single drop. Xue'er's fingers gently slid around it, until she felt a notch indented into the object. She froze for a moment. It was at this moment, she knew that this was a human bone and a very small one at that.

    She stayed rooted in one place for what could be described as a while before there was a sound of water splashing that she looked up. The sound had no intention to harm her, merely snapping her out of her dazed state.

    She carefully placed the bone away from the pool.

    It had been a while since she had felt such raw emotion. It didn't feel good to experience such a thing. She could only look around to see if any of the other pools were different. It was out of the dozen or so pools, she could find some that had broken chains, perhaps the person within had escaped far away from this place. She could felt slightly better, knowing that some had escaped and that not all had died in this forsaken place.

    Her gaze peered through the entirely dark chamber, that was neither small or large. To her, spending time here, she could not say that she would find it unbearable. Yet to be secured to one place and submerged in the murky water, and be forced to endure the treatment given, she had nothing to say.

    Just, perhaps if she had not been lucky enough, the bones submerged in the murky waters in a place unknown could have been hers'.
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