Chapter 17 “Cave”
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Cold, damp, and the foul smell of carrion mixed in with the noise of chains rubbing against the ground, many strange perceptions flooded into Duncan’s mind, yet he’s unable to open his eyes despite the fact.
He felt his soul had been divided into two parts, one part remaining on the Vanished, and the other stuffed into an utterly unfamiliar shell, which was as difficult to control as an old and broken tape recorder.
The chaotic perceptions were rampaging through the nerves that left his limbs numb and dulled.
This uncomfortable sensation lasted for several minutes until it finally faded, allowing Duncan to finally awaken from the long hibernating state and move a little.
First opening his eyes, Duncan took in his surroundings.
This was a crypt-like space, with burning torches inserted into the stone walls in the distance, and the shaking light of the fire reflected the terrible state around him.
Duncan saw many people, or many dead corpses to be exact, thrown together into a mound atop of the mud and rocks.
Most are mutilated and ragged with obvious signs of decay from what he saw, which explained the buzzing carrion smell.
Eyes aside, his ears also picked up some faint noises: droplets of water dripping down from the top of this cave and the distant sound of sewage water flowing like a river somewhere in these channels.
Going by these clues, this cave must be connected to some kind of sewage system.
Duncan blinked in confusion and attempted to figure out what’s happening.
Ignoring the strange environment, he needed to make sure this was even his body for one.
Staring down at his right hand, what he saw were five scrawny unfamiliar fingers.
As for the compass he’s been holding before all this, it had disappeared completely.
Then glancing around to recall what happened, images of the starry sky and webs of light hit him like a tidal wave.
From what he recalled, that shadow at the end should be some kind of bird, but of course, there’s nothing like that next to him now.
It looks like that bird didn’t come into reality like I did.
Duncan gently tightened his fingers to form a fist as a means to force the unease back down.
Once done, he began to fiddle with this new hand of his until a puff of faintly green flame emerged from his fingertip.
It must be said that this ghost fire was far weaker than the one Duncan was used to.
Nevertheless, it did dispel the fear of losing this new power of his since he had barely managed to learn to use it yet.
Also, his connection with the flame was strange.
He clearly noticed another part of his soul not being here but rather back on the Vanished sitting at the desk with the brass compass in hand still.
It was a peculiar feeling of having split bodies, but Duncan still had a vague awareness of what was going on: a part of his spirit had been projected, or extended, to another mind across unknown distances and burrowed itself in this strange body.
This must have something to do with that brass compass! Could this be the power of that “item”
Duncan had some speculations in mind, but he didn’t let the matter take up too much time.
After confirming his main body back on the Vanished was fine, he began assessing what’s the deal with this second body.
First of all, he’s no longer out at sea anymore, but on land.
Actual land that he’s been searching so hard for in the past week.
Second, this eerie cave doesn’t look like a safe place, and the bodies scattered around didn’t look like a normal “burial” scene either.
The shell I now occupy… what sort of bad luck did he have to be trapped in such a hell
Inhaling deeply to gather strength so he could sit up, Duncan suddenly noticed something strange with this shell’s bodily function.
Looking down at where the strangeness was coming from, he widened his eyes at the sight of a huge gaping hole in the chest where the heart should be!
Even if he’s nonchalant about a lot of things, Duncan still found himself sweating heavily at this discovery.
There are goosebumps rising up from his skin until he realizes something even more frightening: how was he still standing around and able to curse
“This is… a corpse”
After a few moments, Duncan now got a firm understanding of the situation and calmed down.
He had no reason to freak out.
That was only out of reflex.
After all, he’s a ghost captain on a cursed ship with an evil goat head looking gargoyle thingy.
If that doesn’t scare him then this much shouldn’t.
It’s not the first time he saw someone lose an important body part – like Alice.
She’s often dropping her head.
With these chaotic thoughts swirling in his mind, Duncan regained his composure at a speed surprising even to himself.
Flexing his arms and legs to adjust to the new body, he began stepping over to the corpses strewn about in the cave.
“I knew it…” Duncan found the chests on these corpses were also hollow and missing their hearts.
Take the closest body to himself for example.
It was a middle-aged man with a gaunt face.
Likely a beggar on the streets and has been dead for a while now based on the sunken eye sockets and decaying flesh.
Nevertheless, the despair and struggle conveyed in the facial expression told how horrific the experience must’ve been for the victim.
Continuing forward, he soon came upon two other bodies that caught his eye.
Unlike the others who mostly only had their hearts cut out, these victims had been violently smashed on the head with a stone.
This brought some ideas to Duncan’s mind – perhaps these two had killed themselves off to avoid the pain of having their hearts cut out.
To tell the truth, the things in this cave were a little too thrilling for the ordinary folk, and even Duncan felt a little overwhelmed by what he saw.
After examining all the corpses, he then found a relatively clean stone in a distant spot to sit down.
This gave him time to tidy up and clean out his thought process.
Obviously, this spot was the crime scene of a horrific murder case, but judging from the overly cold and uniform way of killing, it must be more than one murderer, but an evil ceremony of some sort like a cult.
Duncan summoned the ghost flame again, feeling the connection between himself and the “main body” back on the ship.
He doesn’t know how, but he knew this projected state could be cut off at any time by him.
But no, that’s not what he wanted.
Even if it’s only to get some information about the land of this world, it’s good enough.
After a brief rest and an awkward moment of finding the air coming out of the hole in his heart, Duncan quickly pulled himself up to peer deeper into the darker parts of the cave.
He still hasn’t located the source of the chain rattling sound he heard earlier.
A sign there are probably still living people moving about.
At the very least, prisoners….
Naturally, carelessly rushing over to check the situation was certainly not safe, but Duncan does not care – he’s got an open heart right now anyways.