Section 1: Hidden
[Ashel]: “I see, this is where we were transported?”
Ashel-sama glanced around us to confirm our position. She didn’t look surprised about this development in the least. Her question was entirely rhetorical, having completely accepted everything that had happened.
Mippo and Moppo were still holding each other’s hands as they followed Carol off the magic circle.
[Iris]: “Ashel-sama, were you perhaps already aware that there was another castle buried underneath your own castle?”
I timidly extended my toes from the magic circle to check the feel of the ground. Before I could take a real step though, Ashel-sama came up from behind me and walked onto the grass. She then turned around and assured me it was fine to walk on.
[Ashel]: “I did. This would be my third time here I believe? Originally it was customary for someone to come down here about once a year to see if anything has changed.”
[Iris]: “Then, did you know too Litzreich?”
[Litzreich]: “Let’s see, I think this is my fifth time here? For the record, if you follow the ordinary path, you will come out onto this enclave through a door erected in these plains facing front of the castle over there.”
A vast grassland spread out in front of where Litzreich pointed.
But on the other side of that grassland was an erect door standing before the castle’s front entrance. Assuming the structure of this castle is the same as Oshunel Castle, that would be the spot where we always park our carriage after a day in town. There’s this feeling of disconnect seeing this huge, manmade structure sitting in the middle of some pristine grasslands.
[Litzreich]: “Sky enclaves like this are rare. No matter how deep underground or how far down in the ocean it is, they are special spaces that somehow connect to the sky above them. They’re also known as air veins, heaven fragments, et cetera, et cetera.”
Litzreich knows her stuff. Just what I’d expect of a professor from the most prestigious school in the country. I’d be impressed if I hadn’t seen her dragged here like a prisoner a minute ago……
[Iris]: “Hold on, wait. Are you saying we’re actually floating in the air right now?”
[Litzreich]: “We are, and we aren’t. We’re still beneath the castle. It’s more like the sky has been buried with us.”
So what Litzreich is saying is that we are currently on an island floating in the air buried underground. Apparently Oshunel had the gnomes build the castle along with this island all for the sake of greeting the hero Ranroot.
[Iris]: “…….Oh, I get it. We didn’t move to the sky, but rather the sky was moved here.”
[Litzreich]: “Something like that. Unfortunately I’m not too certain on how such a phenomenon occurs. There is one theory that posits the spaces are like footprints from the Goddess Illya, her mere presence having distorted the space…..I’m not interested in the subject though, so you will have to do some research if you want to learn more.”
[Iris]: “Isn’t researching your hobby?”
[Litzreich]: “That doesn’t mean I am going to go out of my way to research things I don’t care about.”
By the way, currently we are on the left side of the castle. From our point of view, the castle is a ways away on our right while the door we normally would’ve entered to get here was on our left.
[Carol]: “Well if you know this place was going to be like this, you should’ve told us.”
Carol climbed up into a nearby tree and laid back on one of the branches. She looked comfortable soaking up the sun and using the leaves as a pillow, but the edge in her voice showed how annoyed she really was.
[Ashel]: “I do apologize for that. Only members of the royal family and those close to it know about this ground-buried sky and castle resting on a floating island. The school’s students may use this dungeon for magic training, but they are forbidden from venturing this far down.”
I’ve read all sorts of adventure novels, but I’ve never heard of this place before. Even in The Adventures of Ranroot, which depicts the battle between Ranroot and the Evil Dragon Oshunel during the Illyarian War never mentioned any of these structures.
[Litzreich]: “What do you think when you see this castle?”
[Rose]: “It looks just like Oshunel Castle.”
Rose-san had to narrow her eyes to get a good look at the castle because of how brightly white it shined beneath the sun’s light.
[Litzreich]: “Exactly right. Although, this castle isn’t similar to Oshunel Castle. Oshunel Castle is the copy here. I never understood why the kingdom would model its castle after this thing buried underground. Until a couple days ago that is…..”
[Ashel]: “The Evil Dragon Oshunel’s body is sealed away in Endura while its soul rests beneath the Goddess’s silent castle. He should be sealed for the rest of time however in the unlikely event that he is ever resurrected, he will most likely retake this castle and use it as his base of operations. Thus our soldiers will have an easier time taking the castle if they already know its layout…….”
Oshunel wasn’t overthrown; he was sealed away by the Goddess. Litzreich hadn’t known about that fact, but it looks like as the descendent to the hero Ranroot, Ashel-sama did.
And according to her, the reason why this castle has been kept secret is for the sake of hiding the royal family’s preparations for Oshunel’s possible resurrection.
Oshunel is supposed to be dead and gone however if it becomes known that Oshunel Castle is modelled after the one underground, someone might figure out the reason. To avoid that from ever happening, any knowledge about this original castle has been limited to a select few people over the past thousand years.
[Toslin]: “…..so what you’re saying is, you’ve been been testing us until now.”
Toslin had been silently listening as she watched Carol climb up the tree, but after everything had been said, she turned to Ashel-sama while holding her hair from fluttering in the wind.
In response, the prince looked apologetic.
[Ashel]: “I have no excuse. My apologies.”
And she bowed her head.
[Saluena]: “Then is that why you came with us today? Or perhaps that has been the case all along, ever since that first night you came to visit us.”
[Ashel]: “……Yes. I heard about everyone from Yuhanna and Rinrin-sama, but I had to meet you for myself. I had to make sure you were trustworthy enough to be privy to the royal family’s secrets.”
[Litzreich]: “If he decided you were unfit, I promise you I was intending to change his mind. Well, he didn’t trust me when we first met each other either. But I didn’t mean to lie to you!! Please, believe me!!”
Litzreich stormed over to me like a force of wind, throwing her arms around my waist and clung to me while running her mouth like a husband who was just caught cheating.
[Lapris]: “Hey, you bitch!! Where do you get off hugging Iris!?”
It was the same old fight–although it’s always just Lapris snapping at Litzreich on her own–when Goldmund suddenly began neighing.
All at once, our eyes turned towards him.
[Carol]: “What’s the matter Goldmund?”
Carol was the only one whose attention wasn’t stolen away, her eyes still focused straight ahead. Naturally we raised our faces as well to see what she was looking at, but it was a exactly what you would expect. A clear blue sky. The sun was kind of intense though. And the…….what’s that?
I’m not sure who did it, but somebody couldn’t keep their surprise contained.
Because there was a river flowing through the sky up there. The reason why the light was so bright was because it was being diffused through the clear, flowing water.
[Iris]: “The Water Dragon’s Tail……”
I saw it just month ago over Soletta Ritta.
The Water Carpet, the Sky’s Royal Road, the Milky Way. The river with many names that somehow flows through the sky was now hanging overhead.
[Iris]: “How close is it? I assumed I was looking at the sky with how close it is.”
In Soletta Ritta, the Water Dragon’s Tail took up around thirty percent of the sky when you looked up. And yet even with just that, the power of the tail is more than enough to overwhelm you.
But right now I would say it covers at least seventy percent of the space above our heads. You could climb to the peak of the tallest mountain, and you would still not be able to get this close to it.
We completely forgot we were in a dungeon for a moment and simply watched the water flow through the air in mute amazement.
[Iris]: “Huh? Just now…….over there……”
Suddenly, something flashed in the corner of my eye. At first I thought it was a trick of the light playing off the surface of the water, but I quickly realized that couldn’t have been it. The shape was too dark and well-defined.
Everyone else turned to where I was pointing, and soon, I realized what it was.
[Carol]: “Wha-, that……..That’s!!”
A tail swayed through the clear stream as it flowed through the sky…….and a giant goldfish just kept swimming along.