The mission was over, so we shouldn’t have had anything to do with Epiax anymore, but I still ended up returning to the ancient castle for different interest-oriented reasons.
I found out that I would be given achievement points…
I wondered if the three of us could even figure out something that even Temple couldn’t figure out.
At first, I thought I might invite the other kids who were interested in coming with us, but it occurred to me that Harriet might not like it, so it was just the three of us who set out for the ancient castle.
Ellen, Harriet, and me, the three of us, tracked through the snowy forest.
We wouldn’t face any danger. They had originally been able to set that mysterious place up as a venue for group missions due to how safe it was, after all.
Harriet’s tension was rising, perhaps because she was excited to uncover the secrets surrounding that unknown, suspicious, ancient castle, or it might have been because she enjoyed going on an adventure with us.
Of course, that excitement sharply dropped as soon as we arrived.
The gloomy silhouette of the ancient castle of Epiax revealed itself once again in the snow.
I had originally been wary of the place because it was a mission venue, but then I learned that the castle was actually built in an unexplored and uninhabited area.
It couldn’t be helped that we felt a bit of anxiety when we arrived.
There wouldn’t be any ghosts, but it still felt like something would definitely pop out.
Of course, Ellen, our ever-so-reliable bastion of calm, was just blankly looking at the eerie castle.
“I-I’m going to use these.”
Harriet took something out of her pocket, perhaps because she felt the tension in the air.
—They were the earrings with tranquility magic cast on them.
…She seemed to always carry them with her. Anyway, I had given them to her to use in exactly that sort of situation.
Harriet put them on and took a few deep breaths.
“…It’s still scary.”
Of course, they didn’t change Harriet’s personality to the point that it felt like the complete opposite.
“But… I can tell now that I look at it…”
Harriet, who had regained some of her composure with the assistance of the magic artifact, nodded slowly. Was she saying that she could do it if she had to?
“This isn’t a castle…”
Harriet was referring to Epiax.
“It’s a palace.”
It was a palace, not a castle.
When I thought about it, I realized she was right.
There was no defensive moat, no castle tower with cannons, nor a drawbridge.
It wasn’t a fortress or a castle built for the sake of defense…
It was a space created to be lived in and to hold ceremonies—a palace.
* * *
I didn’t go there with any expectations of discovering anything, but there were a few things that I noticed when I looked at ancient castle Epiax itself. It wasn’t a defensive fortress, but a palace built for the sake of being lived in.
Harriet couldn’t help but notice those things to begin with because she actually lived in such a place.
She was a thoroughly wealthy young lady, after all.
Although there were no walls surrounding it and all the buildings seemed to be connected with each other, the main area, which was the central building, was arranged in a square shape with a clearing in the middle.
I didn’t know if it had a garden or something similar, but it was a very spacious area.
The more I looked at it, the stranger Epiax actually seemed.
All of the staff members who had been temporarily staying there had also left, so that spacious palace called Epiax was completely empty.
They hadn’t even locked it up or anything.
As such, we simply walked into the dreary old castle.
Even if someone tried to occupy it without permission, nobody would know.
However, if anyone actually tried to occupy it, even without permission, rather than be punished, they would probably deserve a reward. There were no signs of life anywhere around there.
“If it’s a palace of this size, its owner had to have been someone that was the equivalent of a king…”
Ellen and I couldn’t help but agree with Harriet’s words. However, according to Mr. Epinhauser, it was an uninhabited area, and it took a long time to even reach the small southern country of Glamos.
“I don’t really know much about Glamos, but would their royal palace even be of such a scale?”
Harriet shook her head at my question.
“No, I don’t think so. I also don’t know much about Glamos, but judging by the fact that I didn’t know it existed, it doesn’t seem to be a big country.”
Look at her looking down on a country.
The citizens of Glamos would most certainly feel hurt if they heard her words because she didn’t even mean it in a mocking way.
“If it’s of this scale, I think it was used by a nation with considerable financial power, although not on the level of our duchy. The location is quite the problem though.”
If one took the entirety of Epiax and just gave it to some decently-sized country to use as a palace, there would be many countries who would be grateful for it.
It was so quiet that the sound of our steps echoed through the hall.
Ellen didn’t really look scared, and Harriet could tolerate it thanks to the tranquility earrings.
I really wanted to go back, achievement points or not.
That place was scary, you know?
Of course, I couldn’t say those things out loud.
“I don’t know much about architecture, but this palace is really well made.
So, unlike me, who was somewhat scared, Harriet confidently walked down the hallway while talking. The ceiling, windows, and columns weren’t built roughly but were actually quite aesthetically pleasing.
There were also some sculptures placed along the walls.
“What are these pieces? They don’t look like the gods.“
Although there were a lot of statues, it didn’t seem easy to infer from their characteristics what kinds of people lived there.
“When was this all made, who lived here, and where did they all go…?”
We weren’t there for a mission but to investigate that castle itself. There were various rooms within. Harriet was leading the way because she was the only one who knew the structure of those kinds of palaces due to her background.
“Hmmm, going by the structure, this seems to be the audience room.”
I didn’t know by what criteria Harriet based that on, but it seemed that the characteristics of palaces were rather similar.
So, structurally, we should have been in an audience room.
It was a wide-open space with extremely high ceilings.
“Isn’t this where we held the meetings?”
There was the round table.
The place where I had been executed on the first day… It should have been the audience room, however, that place was actually used as a gathering place to determine the identity of the assassins during the game of mafia.
“Looking at the room, it doesn’t seem like there was a throne in here originally.”
It looked like Harriet had deduced that the space was originally like that. It wasn’t like there had originally been a throne there that Temple had removed or something.
“That would mean that the people who resided in here weren’t royalty or anything like that.”
A round table was placed in what was supposed to be an audience room occupied by royalty.
While it was a palace, it could be presumed that it wasn’t a royal palace.
Of course, as the castle seemed to have a long history, all objects other than the sculptures and structures attached to the castle that could be broken or destroyed had been removed.
“I think they brought all the beds and utensils from Temple. They weren’t here originally.”
The rooms had already been emptied out by the time the students had left. There were no other specific pieces of furniture left inside the castle.
“While it wasn’t built by a nation, it was built by a group that could build structures on par with the royal castles of other countries in a polar region like this…”
* * *
Translator – KonnoAren
Proofreader – ilafy
* * *
Harriet continued to nod her head as she walked, thinking that the entire thing was ridiculous, to say the least.
“But why did they build it here?”
Ellen seemed to have different questions.
“The conditions here are pretty bad.”
It snowed all year round, so it was difficult to get any supplies there, and the living conditions were also rather harsh.
“If they used people to build a palace of such a size, the builders would take a really long time to finish up the work in this extremely cold environment. Even in a normal environment, it would have taken a very long time, but it should have taken a lot more time and money to build a building of this size here.”
Although there wouldn’t be any problem with space, since the palace was uninhabited, building something of such a scale in that frigid area would have cost an astronomical amount of money compared to building a palace in normal places.
Harriet nodded at Ellen’s words.
“That’s right. It would have cost a lot more money and time to build a building like this in a place like this. However, the fact that a palace of such a size is located here—”
“Would lead to two assumptions.”
I also had come to my own conclusions
“Either it had to be built here specifically…”
“Or the environmental conditions didn’t bother them.”
A gigantic palace built in no man’s land…
We didn’t find any definite clues, but the more I got to know how strange that place actually was, the closer I arrived to the truth.
Ellen slowly nodded at my words.
“Or it could be both.”
“It had to be in this location, however, the location might not have affected the ones building it.”
Ellen seemed to have figured it out already.
“It might not have been humans who lived here.”
Harriet and I both seemed shocked, the color leaving our faces.
Why did I get scared?
I wasn’t human either!
Anyway, it might not have been humans who lived in that palace, so it might not have been humans who built it either.
Ellen’s assumption was quite plausible.
“Then… does that mean demons or something? Was this place inhabited by different… beings?”
“I don’t know. There might be races that can live anywhere regardless of the temperature.”
I had learned a bit about the ecology of demons, but I still didn’t know everything about every race.
“This isn’t the Darklands.”
Harriet seemed to have some doubts. While we were in the northernmost area of the Empire, the place wasn’t part of the Darklands.
“It’s possible that demons don’t only live in the Darklands.”
Demons didn’t necessarily have to live in the Darklands. In fact, demonic beasts and monsters occasionally appeared in areas inhabited by humans as well and needed to be subdued.
Of course, we couldn’t tell for sure that it was demons who’d built that place yet.
“It might also have been the headquarters of something like a secret magic society. Buildings like this could have also been made through magic. High-ranking wizards should be able to procure as many materials as they want.”
Harriet was a wizard herself, so her thoughts seemed to lean toward magic as well.
If it was the doing of some secret magic association, there was a possibility that they might have wanted to build their headquarters in an uninhabited area where no one would come by. The issue of material procurement would have been solved with magic, and construction would have been more than possible if there were enough wizards around.
Ellen nodded her head, apparently thinking that it was a plausible explanation as well.
“Then that would explain why there’s a round table in this place that should be an audience room rather than a throne.”
The leader of a magic society wasn’t something like a king, so it was more than plausible that they would have a conference room in that place that should be an audience room.
Non-human entities or magic societies…
It was clear that the original owners of Epiax wouldn’t have been ordinary people.
* * *
It was unclear who had originally lived in Epiax. However, even though it was still daytime, it felt really creepy walking around that dark, old castle.
Maybe it was because of a draft, but we could hear the sounds of wind here and there.
It seemed to be howling, or that was what it felt like at least.
“Oh, this sounds so weird.”
“It’s just the sound of the wind, you idiot.”
After walking around for a while, Harriet turned around, not seeming to be scared, perhaps because her curiosity outweighed her fear, or maybe because of the tranquility earrings.
Shouldn’t she be all scared and clingy in situations like this?
Were the earrings I gave her too much of a cheat item?
“Are you really scared of things like that?”
“It’s weird not to be scared of these things, you know?”
Fear is felt by anyone regardless of age! I was especially weak to those kinds of things! One managed to hold on by using some items, and the other one seemed to have the attitude that even if a ghost popped up, it would just be a ghost.
Harriet was happily watching me, as she had never seen me that cowardly before. I seriously didn’t know what would happen.
“Yeah, I sure hope a ghost or something pops out.”
“What bullshit are you saying?”
Rather than being scared of ghosts, it seemed like she wanted to see me get shocked by one. What the hell was wrong with her head?
“Oh, the wind really does sound like someone crying, huh?”
The sound of the wind sounded like sobbing. However, that wasn’t the thing I seemed confused about.
“What crying? It’s just the wind…”
Seriously, that was just straight-up crying!
“U-urg! What the hell?!”
Both me and Harriet reflexively hugged Ellen, who was walking between us.
She looked rather puzzled when the two of us suddenly clung to her.
It seemed like she reflexively hugged Harriet and me as if trying to protect us.
Harriet’s and my eyes met as we hugged Ellen from both sides.
Both her and me…
We instinctively knew that it would be best to run to Ellen when things got dangerous.