I’m going to try to stick to using honorifics for this series. I usually just translate around them, but I actually really like this author’s writing style and using them just seems right for the characters.
Section 5: Fairy Village
It was relatively warmer inside the cave. Of course that’s only when compared to outside, and my hands and feet are still felt numb from the cold. So while sticking close behind Toslin, I placed my hands over my mouth and tried warming them up with my breath.
“Watch where you’re walking Iris. If you slip and fall, it’s going to hurt.”
Carol walked in front with a torch in hand. Rocks were scattered all over the cave floor, and water was seeping through. As a result puddles were all over the uneven surface making it extremely slippery, especially with the moss that had managed to grow all over the place.
“R-Right……..I’ll be careful………awawa”
Just as I was saying I’d watch out, my foot ended up catching on something, and I started to fall backwards. Luckily Rose-san had taken the rear and caught me before I fell on my butt.
“T-Thank you very much………Rose-san.”
“Think nothing of it. As long as you’re not injured.”
Rose-san was wearing her usual smile even during a time like this. Surely she’s experienced all kinds of different things when compared to me. Obviously.
“Heeeey. Are you all right Iris?”
“Yes. Sorry. I’m fine.”
So far the cave has been only a single passageway large enough for three people to walk down shoulder to shoulder. But with these puddles all over, the footprints and bloodstains have completely disappeared.
“Ah~, that’s how it is. Iris is heavily equipped, so you might get a little wet, but it wouldn’t hurt if you fell on your butt right?”
“It’d still hurt. Seriously………..”
Carol is using every opportunity she gets to try and make fun of me and my wool underwear. But it’s fine. Who cares what she thinks as long as I’m warm.”
“Nevertheless, it’s unfortunate we can’t track their footprints anymore.”
“Yeah, the smell’s already disappeared too……… Well, it’s fine for now since there haven’t been any branching paths yet.”
The second Carol said that, my feet came to a halt.
“Is something the matter?”
Seeing me stop, Rose-san walked next to me and tilted her head.
“What is it this time?”
Even when Toslin asks, I don’t know why my body had stopped or why an “Ah” had escaped my lips as if I had noticed something. There was definitely something………something had galloped through my brain forcing me to stop my feet………some kind of feeling.
“Umm………hmm sorry. It’s nothing. Or something……….”
“I know it’s scary, but everything’s fine. We won’t make the same blunder we did last time. Rest assured we’ll properly protect you this time.”
Toslin was probably talking about that goblin outside of the Swansea Forest the other day. But, that’s not what’s bothering me right now. It’s true that I’m scared, but this is………not anxiety, maybe something closer to a premonition.
But, I hesitate to say that. Since Toslin is trying to comfort me, I should just obediently get comforted.
“Come, let’s keep going. Quinn-san is awaiting our arrival in the cave’s depths.”
Rose-san placed a hand on my shoulder.
Once again we started for the cave’s end with Carol taking the lead.
We walked for maybe five hours after that? Suddenly the cave opened into a wide space like a grand hall. A light far stronger than the torch Carol was holding shined down from above. It was so bright my eyes that had gotten used to the darkness started hurting.
My voice came out without thinking about it, and I looked up. A deep blue sky was right overhead, and the sun was looking down back at me. It’s like we are in a giant, circular chimney right now. The only real difference from a chimney would be the fact that rather than being colored pitch black from the baked-on soot, it was a vibrant green with the dense ivy and short trees growing everywhere.
“A place like this exists……….”
Seeing it like this, even Toslin, Rose-san, and Carol had their eyes opened wide, fascinated by this fantastical sight. This green chimney was probably about twenty meters across. And it was easily at least fifty meters high. The leaves of the thickly growing tress were all wet with dew, reflecting the light of the sun making everything sparkle. I can’t help but think this gleam is more radiant than any gem, even if I usually live a life far away from any kind of jewelry. The broken and rugged surface of the rock we’ve had to deal with until now has been covered with a fluffy carpet of moss.
“Still, it looks like there’s something in the back.”
We all came back to our senses at Carol’s voice. Turning to where she was looking, I found another wide cavity on the opposite side from where we entered. The sun’s light couldn’t reach that far, so I couldn’t tell what it was.
“That’s right. Let’s move. But be careful. Bandits could still be hiding in here.”
I tighten my focus at Toslin’s warning. Carol took the lead while Toslin and Rose-san followed close behind with their weapons already drawn. Fearfully, I follow them too, albeit a little further back. The moss covered floor completely kills the sound of our footsteps.
“Huh……..what, it’s the end?”
Carol muttered to herself after stepping into the darkness and raising her torch. I timidly peeked through the space between Rose-san and Toslin. Sure enough, it really was a dead end. There wasn’t another passageway like I expected, nor were there any bandits like I had feared.
It was a snug, hollowed out space that’s ceiling you could probably touch if you reached out for it. There was some rubble scattered about inside, but when I looked closely, I realized it was actually the remains of a statue.
“What is it?”
Suddenly Rose-san’s hands flew up to her mouth, and she began to grieve.
“A stone statue of Illya. But what is it doing in a place like this?”
Carol got closer to the rubble. The remains of the statue touched by the torch’s light certainly had features I recognized. Long, straight hair and a somber expression. A robe over its shoulders while it prayed with all its heart. There were statues like this in the town I was born and raised, enshrined in both the church and the city square.
“Ah, there’s something else here too. Eh, this…….”
There was a clattering as Carol started digging through broken pieces of the statue. Soon she was pulling out a dust-covered box from the pile of rubble.
“Ooooh, a treasure chest!”
Toslin’s face lit up brighter than the sun, and she ran up next to Carol. The two of them carefully carried out a chest about as tall as our knees out into the light.
“Uwa, it looks so old……”
The framework of the wooden chest was made of rusted iron. There were parts here and there where the wood was rotting to the point that even gently setting it back down on the ground could’ve made the thing collapse.
“So, is it fine to open it?”
Carol excitedly starting patting the chest’s lid. Enough dust billowed up to make me cough as a result.
“Do it quickly.”
Although Toslin was trying to rush her, Carol was taking the time to carefully examine the chest. She lightly tapped on the chest again and confirmed an echo before feeling around in the cracks to check inside.
But that caution only lasted a few seconds. She almost immediately tilted her head and abruptly opened the lid.
Toslin suddenly jumped back a step even though until then she had been practically drooling over the chest. Of course I instinctively pulled back as well. Because, I’ve learned from the hundreds of adventure novels I’ve read that you should always be careful when opening a treasure chest. A monster lurking inside could suddenly eat you, or the thing could explode if you open them carelessly. Seeing Toslin’s reaction only adds on to the authenticity of what I read, but it seems like the treasure chest this time was fine.
“It’s empty. Unfortunately.”
Carol hit the chest in regret. She always called herself a thief, but to think she’d be able to find out there wasn’t a trap there in such a short amount of time. I wondered how the heck she could do that, but it seems it isn’t something she can explain in words.
“Well, I figured it’d be like that. But it’s still a shame. The person who did this must’ve gotten it.”
Toslin lifted the head of the smashed statue of Illya and sighed.
“So, what was in there exactly? I can’t help but wonder.”
The treasure inside that chest must have been set underneath this statue for years. And since such a magnificent statue was charged with protecting it, whatever was in there must have been extremely rare.
While thinking something along those lines, I suddenly felt as if someone was looking at me and raised my head. The only person standing there was Toslin though, so I ended up staring at her.
“Something wrong Iris? You kinda made a weird sound just now.”
Toslin was staring at me curiously. A gentle breeze made her long hair sway ever so slightly. But, that’s wrong. Someone else……..I can’t explain it very well, but it was definitely someone else. Toslin was looking at me because she heard me make a noise. But, I felt like somebody was staring at me before she had looked at me.
“I-I’m not sure…….I don’t know………”
It was that same weird feeling I had back in the cave’s passageway. This time, I was feeling it from the broken piece of statue in Toslin’s hands………I could sense it. My hands shook as I reached out towards it.
“This? There’s something wrong with this?”
Toslin passed the broken head over to me. The statue had been mercilessly crushed, and yet, it had a mysterious beauty to it.
“Something……………I wonder what. This……….something………”
I don’t understand what I’m feeling exactly, so anything I try to say turns into senseless babble.
“What……I don’t really understand it, but before………I sensed something. This feeling…….what it is…….”
I’m starting to feel uneasy, so I turn towards Rose-san. I thought if I saw Rose-san’s always friendly smile, I could escape from this uneasy feeling I don’t understand. But, Rose-san wasn’t smiling.
“Heartrending…….. Who would do………the punishment for something like this………”
Rose-san was grieving. The feelings of fury and rage she would normally be able to easily hide behind that friendly grin of hers were coming forward clear as day. Rose-san reached out and grasped the fragment of the Goddess’s statue from my hands. And then……
The broken fragment abruptly shown with a bright, golden light, and the hollowed out room lit up like a day at noon. I held my hands in front of my face to block out some of that dazzling light. But, the light was too strong, slipping through the cracks of my fingers and burning me through my shut eyelids.