Here's the continuation! And so more ship-tease, more affirmation that love is a no-no for Erica, and more legends.
ED: (will be edited)
We activated the golem again and resumed the investigation.
The black dragon was on the lead, followed by Actorius-sensei.
The rest of us was following behind them silently.
"I'm really sorry for the depressing story."
Perhaps because he felt the awkward air, Actorius-sensei began to speak once again.
I listened while watching his tattered back.
"I mean, you must have felt troubled when I disclosed such a story, ahaha."
His voice was as bright as usual.
"In the past, it was difficult for me to carry this secret, and every time I remembered my own circ.u.mstances, I became depressed."
I feel like he's doing his best to brighten the atmosphere.
Talking about such a story in a joking manner would have been a rather painful act.
"And, even though many people risked their lives to help me, I was ashamed with my own self that I was such an ungrateful person who couldn't even enjoy the happiness of living."
Actorius-sensei walked with his back straight.
Perhaps, what he saw in that lake and marshes area was the people who had risked their lives to help him.
"It doesn't seem that way. You live by thoroughly reflecting upon the joy of your peaceful daily lives, right?"
A low voice rang from the side.
Looking up, Brad had a sarcastic-looking smile just on the corner of his mouth.
"……you, you don't have to say it like that……!"
Actorius-sensei turned around and complained at Brad.
It was unusual for Actorius-sensei to be angry.
"You were able to properly enjoy your good fortunes with the life they have saved."
"The people who helped you would have been satisfied just by knowing that."
Brad smiled derisively as usual.
"So you don't need to live while feeling obliged. You don't have to burden yourself just because you were helped, but I won't stop you if your soul wants it. Because your life and will are yours only."
Actorius-sensei showed an unguarded expression on his face.
Brad, who was looking ahead, sighed unnaturally after a while and cast a glance at me and Chloe.
"……That's why, when he is discovered, this guy will be no more than a little political plaything, so please treat him as you like."
"Brad! Since some time ago, aren't you being too much!"
These two, they seem to be good friends.
Just now, Brad has said words of affirmation that were disguised as a snide comment to Actorius-sensei.
"You should blame your past self who had no eye for friends, Elric."
"Uu……you were so quiet and gentle in the past……!"
"I guess the me you saw back then was just an illusion?"
Ah, if this is how they converse normally, they must be very close, huh.
This is already at best friend level.
Even so, Actorius-sensei's social status is far too n.o.ble to decide the appropriate response.
Isn't he the only legitimate successor of Gigantia which is in the midst of civil war?
I mean, just by exposing what he holds inside him would cause a disturbance.
There might be a faction on that continent that wants to make Actorius-sensei their new King.
……On the other hand, there must be many factions that want to a.s.sa.s.sinate him as soon as possible.
I mean, this fact, do only some Hafan n.o.bles know about it?
Uwah, isn't this a completely unacceptable information?
From his previous speech, Actorius-sensei will eventually head to Karkinos.
As the only legitimate King.
Hafan will be his backing, and if possible, he will also ask for the Federal Kingdom's support.
If all goes well, a peaceful and friendly Gigantia will be born.
The Federal Kingdom will spare no effort to the new Gigantia, who would have abolished the slavery and became a friendly country.
Actorius-sensei would become the savior of the southern people who is struggling with the civil war.
(Aah, but, that's right—)
Wouldn't that make Actorius-sensei the hope of the Southern continent?
After that, Brad and Actorius-sensei argued and exposed their past.
There was a time when Actorius-sensei was cool and was called the Ice President.
It is said that his interest in food made from magical beasts was strong even then.
"You can go to Karkinos to eat the magical beasts, while also saving your subjects. That kind of gourmand would be just right for you."
"That's terrible! Ah, to think that you, who were such a gentle child back then, would say this kind of thing……!"
"As I said, that was just an illusion. I've always been cold-hearted and unbelieving."
While listening to their conversation as we headed deeper into the cave, Chloe suddenly raised her voice.
"There's an underground lake ahead."
I squinted my eyes.
I could see a large s.p.a.ce far ahead.
We followed after the golem and proceeded to an area with an underground lake.
"Apparently, the golem's destination is this geode's underground lake."
When Brad cast a spell, a very bright flame materialized near the ceiling of the underground lake.
The non-heat-generating flame created in the magic layer illuminates the entire lake.
A large clear dome made of crystals and a bright and clear lake spread out.
The false image of the magical flame flickered on the mirror-like lake surface.
When I looked into the ice-blue water surface as if stunned, I could see through the surface into the deep to a remarkable extent.
Only the darkness was calmly sinking in the bottom of the water where light did not reach.
The golem's jar was floating on the center of the lake.
"Maybe there's a magic-deactivating substance at the bottom of the lake. Be careful."
Brad warned everyone.
Everyone stopped a few steps before the lake.
"Um……would it be okay if we don't go to the center of the lake?"
"Observe the flame properly, Chloe Cloacina. The surroundings are already affected."
Certainly, Brad's flame gradually weakened.
It is now less than half the size it used to be.
As Brad cast once again, the flame regained power.
"The characteristic of this place is similar to the snowsilver ore, but it has a wider range of magic nullification."
Snowsilver ore has a property that could destroy the magic it touches.
If it is refined, the effective range will be narrowed.
While we were listening to the conversation between Chloe and Brad, the core inside the jar fell into the lake unnoticed.
Along with small ripples spreading from the center of the lake, countless white hands were born and spread out.
Mist spread throughout the dome gently, and the surface of the transparent gypsum crystals was covered with h.o.a.rfrost.
Cold air envelops us.
The lake surface began to freeze with a small creak.
Numerous white hands moved around the surface of the frozen lake.
Those white hands polished the surface of the lake and engraved small characters there.
It is the same special golem character that was used 300 years ago.
Can this artificial spirit make a golem?
……No, this seems to be an extension of the original golem.
For example, is it like a program that dynamically rewrites its own program?
When the golem characters covered the entire surface of the lake, a sound heard from somewhere shook the air inside the dome.
At first it was like a distant ringing of a bell.
The sound gradually gets closer and sounds like some kind of music.
"Ericsan, look down…!"
Hearing Chloe's voice, I looked down into the ice.
Something was shining brightly at the bottom of the lake where there should be only darkness.
The light flashes strongly like a spark for a moment and then fades away like a ripple.
Suddenly I realized that the sound and light are paired.
The regular rhythm reminds me of a familiar scene.
It was the sound of a hammer hitting an anvil.
The invisible hammer hit something inside the water.
Each time, snowsilver particles contained in the lake sparkled.
The artificial spirit incorporated inside the golem is trying to make something.
I recalled that will in line with the melody I could hear from the bottom of the lake.
『Please accept this instead of me, who can no longer protect you.』
『This is my living proof, the proof that I loved you.』
This is the proof, huh.
Before I knew it, I forgot the time and kept listening to the golem.
The cave, which was already cool from the start, was cold like a freezer.
"Please wear this."
Actorius-sensei put the blanket he brought around mine and Chloe's shoulders.
Then, when I waited, the light at the bottom of the lake flickered intensely and then the hammering sound stopped.
At the next moment, a heavy snowstorm swirled and robbed us of our sight.
Before I knew it, a sword was stuck there.
The sword has a transparent ice-like blade, and the handle is delicately decorated with snows and stars.
"Why is something like this……?"
Chloe let out a faint voice.
I feel like she knows something.
"That's not a mere ice sword, isn't it?"
When I asked that, Chloe nodded sleepily.
"I heard that my ancestors were pursuing a lost metal."
Chloe began to tell the legend that was transmitted to her maternal bloodline.
One of the princes of Aurelia 300 years ago was a genius alchemist.
The person he fell in love with was the Princess of Lucanrant.
He was robbed of the technique to produce snowsilver ore from ice and then he was killed by the said princess.
However, after he was killed, a problem was discovered.
The Aurelian Prince found a way to smelt a metal that could surpa.s.s the might of the snowsilver ore.
He died while concealing the essential refining method.
What left behind was only a fragment, and that metal was heavier and harder than snowsilver ore, and was clearer than ice.
The prince intended to dedicate the metal, which was named the icesilver ore, to the princess.
"And so, the icesilver ore was lost forever with the alchemist……or at least, that was what I heard."
I recalled a few variations of the legend while pondering about Chloe's story.
The prince who died after doing his best to fulfill unreasonable demands in order to marry a princess he fell in love with.
A pitiful alchemist who had been deprived of the essence of alchemy after he fell to the North's schemes.
Of all people, he was killed by the princess he fell in love with.
The true ending is so much worse than the legend.
Brad grumbled as if he couldn't take it anymore.
"…no, wait, but why didn't the princess refine the sword right away using the mist golem, Brad?"
"The princess might have intentionally crushed this information with her own hands."
Hearing Actorius-sensei's question, Brad had an expression as if he realized something.
What did the princess, who was forced to betray the prince because of political circ.u.mstances, think of his last message?
There is no one who knows the answer to that question anymore, but—
"Maybe, she regretted betraying him and had been listening to this golem's singing voice all the time……"
Or maybe that was glossing over too much, Chloe continued.
The prince who was going to dedicate everything.
After killing him, the princess finally realized her love for the man.
After everything was ruined, the princess concealed the alchemy that was most desired by her country.
It was a love story without salvation.
As expected, the thing called love is almost the same as h.e.l.l the more serious it is.
"After all, we don't know the truth. History is like the light of the stars; it only flickers away beyond our reach……or that's how the saying goes in the west."
Brad carefully stepped on the frozen lake surface.
The ice on the lake seems to be thicker than expected; it seems to be a stable foothold.
"Now, I'd like you to accept it. The one who tried to see this golem until the end is you after all, Erica Aurelia."
Urged by Brad, I went to the center of the lake and pulled the handle of the long sword.
It didn't even budge.
This, this is much heavier than an ordinary sword, and I can't even lift it with my strength.
"Uuh, such a heavy weapon is impossible for me. I can't have a weapon that is heavier than a wand."
"If you're going to say whatever you want, you should pretend harder. Your action is not convincing at all."
"Haven't you ever had an athame knife along with your wands?"
Brad is merciless.
Even though the athame knife is completely different from a long sword.
It's not a weapon, but for work and rituals.
I threw a glance at Chloe.
"…I'd like to leave this sword to Chloe-san, is that alright? Please, Chloe-san."
She is originally a snowsilver sword user, so she already has the affinity.
Plus, as if it was fated, the creator wanted to give it to the Princess of the North, so it would be reasonable for her to receive it.
I will leave this to Chloe.
"Eeh……?! Such a rare sword……?"
Chloe shook her head in bewilderment.
Gripping the hand of Chloe who was confused, I stared at her.
"……I, I can't accept such a precious thing."
"Rather, I think it has to be you. As far as I know, there is only you who I can leave this sword to."
I said it with a feeling as if raising her up to the sky, and she is not as heavy as a normal sword.
Chloe is my only friend who seems to be able to swing such a sword easily.
"If, if this is because you heard the story of the Prince of Aurelia and the Princess of Lucanrant……"
"I don't care about our ancestors' history. Because we are friends, right, Chloe-san?"
A pearl for a pig, an opal for a cat, a long sword for a feebler alchemist1.
If I were to own an edged tool, I prefer an athame knife or a slender sword.
"If I were to have it, this sword will only become a decoration. That would be blasphemy for our ancestors."
Chloe, who seemed to be a little overcome with emotion, closed her eyes and opened them slowly.
"Yeah……I'll take a good care of it."
Chloe put her hand on the long sword that stood struck in the frozen lake.
At the same time, a singing voice echoed in the cave.
It's a foreign song with a gentle tone in a language I've never heard before.
"It's a very old Lucanrant wedding song……I see……that's right……"
Listening to the song of ancient Lucanrant, Chloe's shoulders trembled a little.
While listening to the singing voice, I also thought about the lovers from 300 years ago.
Chloe pulled out the sword lightly.
The singing voice turned into a cheering voice, then silence came.
"I'm sure the mist golem will be satisfied."
In celebration of the successful strategy, I high-fived Tirnanog who was beside me.
It seems that I can finally feel self-satisfied.
Chloe wrapped the icesilver sword carefully in a large cloth and tied it to her back.
In the meantime, I rescued the salamander that was frozen in the place where the sword was stabbed.
The salamander was curled up in hibernation.
Although it is alive, its heartbeat is very weak in its apparent death state.
When I warmed the salamander with my palm, its pulse returned to its original state and it started breathing.
Good job. Thank you for your hard work.
Giving the salamander plenty of lump of honey and dried meat, it began to eat heartily.
At the same place, the mist golem's core was also buried in ice fragments.
You have been troubled for 300 years due to your master's will.
Now that you have fulfilled your mission, you should rest slowly.
"Is your business over? ……then, let's go back to school."
Urged by Actorius-sensei, we returned home.
And so we finished our field investigation in full.
1 All of these mean that anything precious is useless to those who don't know its value.
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