Along with the priest, Pides headed to Sang-je’s prayer room. As always, the stairs that lead down to the prayer room were guarded by the knights on sentry duty.
“I need to see His Holiness this instant.”
“I’m sure you are fully aware that we can’t let you pass as it’s His Holiness’s wish not to be disturbed by anyone.” The knights answered while shaking their heads in disapproval.
“The matter is regarding nothing else but priest Anika. I’ll take full responsibility for the consequences of disobeying His Holiness’s order.”
Knowing that Pides is usually strict with rules, as well as the fact that he has the full confidence of Sang-je, the knights hesitatingly open the way for him, after a moment’s contemplation. Pides then asked the priest to wait for his return before he descended the stairs by himself.
Even after he took the last last step of the stairs, the door remained tightly shut in front of him.
“Your Holiness, this is Pides speaking. I have an urgent matter to discuss with you.”
Despite having called out to Sang-je several times, Pides received no single response from within. Normally, he would have just returned. However, this was a matter concerning the safety of the Anika Sang-je cherishes. Resolved to face any consequences should his arbitrary judgment incurs Sang-je’s wrath, Pides pushed the door open.
Pides cautiously looked around the empty prayer room, which was basically an open, expansive space without any blind spot nor place for a human to hide.
Without lingering any further, Pides turned back and left the room. His eyes were clearly shaking with confusion as he climbed up the stairs. Indeed, as far as he knows, this prayer room is supposedly a sealed room without any secret passage. Therefore, should Sang-je have left the prayer room through the staircases, which was the one and only passage that leads the prayer room to outside, the knights on sentry duty must have noticed his leaving.
“Did you manage to see His Holiness?” The priest asked impatiently as soon as he saw Pides coming up the stairs.
“I’m afraid not.” A deep sigh of disappointment escaped the priest at Pides’s remark.
“However. His Holiness has asked me to go check on priest Anika in his stead.”
Pides flustered when a lie blurted out from him, unwittingly. However, it was too late for him to confess to the priest, who was now smiling with a great relief, that he had just told a lie.
Feeling much uncomfortable about the lie he told, he had no choice but to follow the priest to the lift to Anika’s prayer room. An underground prayer room which is only accessible to Anika, was located much deeper in the underground compared to Sang-je’s prayer room. Therefore, instead of a staircase, there was only a straight passageway that led down to the prayer room.
The principle behind it was simple, as it basically used the same method as we draw water from a well with a bucket. However, instead of a bucket, a huge wooden pail, which was big enough to withstand a person’s weight, was fastened to the pulley. The lift was always guarded by the priests, so they could pull up as soon as they received the signal sent by the priest Anika from below.
Pides sat himself down on the wooden pail, holding onto a lamp handed by the priest. The wooden pail that carried him began to descend in a slow manner. Although the lamp in his hands was bright enough to illuminate his surroundings, all he could see was nothing but walls made of bricks.
‘It almost seems fathomless.’
As the access to this prayer room was strictly restricted to the priest Anika, there had been no occasion for a knight like himself to have ever come near this far. Therefore, this whole scene unfolding before his eyes was quite a shock for Pides, as never in his wildest dreams had he imagined that priest Anikas have been giving their prayers from such a dark and dismal location.
It took long before the wooden pail finally touched the ground.
‘It would be great if improvements could be made to the lift so that it becomes a more comfortable ride.’ Pides thought to himself as he gazed up to the distant hole above his head.
In fact, the lift was very inefficient as it could only withstand the weight of one person at a time. Just by switching to a sturdier pulley, would enable at least three people to come up and down at the same time. Pides couldn’t help but to wonder why no such reform was made earlier, especially as it’s not like the palace is short on funds or anything.
Using the flame from his lamp as a guide, Pides took his steps along the single path that stretched out before him. Though this was his first time here, there was no risk of him getting lost since all he had to do was to follow straight along the path. Then, as he had reached the end of the passage, he came upon a door standing tightly shut before him.
At once, Pides knocked on the door. Despite having waited for a moment, he received no response from within. This time, he knocked once more as he called out to the Anika who must be inside behind the door. However, there still was no reply. When Pides doubtedly pushed the door with a slight force, the door easily opened to his surprise.
“Pardon me for entering without permission.” Pides went inside after asking to be excused.
As soon as he stepped inside, he got the feeling that this was rather suited to be called a cave than a holy place for prayers. In fact, the room seemed almost like it was cloaked in complete darkness, not to mention humid. Despite having a few lamps hung sparsely around the stone wall, the light wasn’t bright enough to lighten up the place. Pides carefully inspected the roughly finished ceiling before he shifted his gaze to look around the room.