Crackle. The sound of a burning fireball which Erna summoned echoed in the wide space. With Kalion’s cloak blanketing her, she kneeled on the soft carpet. The fireball, about the size of a standard bonfire, emitted warmth, but Erna shivered even more. Weird.
The ruin was a peculiar place. Tilting her head up, she stared above. Stones neatly trimmed with straight lines with no decorations were piled up, reminiscent of a huge castle gate. Above them was the ancient wording, still shining subtly.
Erna. Kalion. Hessenguard.
No matter if she read it dozens of times, her name and Kalion’s name were clearly written.
When she had first seen the text, it felt like her heart was about to burst out of her chest. Had Kalion not been next to her she probably would have screamed and ran away. When she stepped back in surprise, almost sobbing, Kalion quickly gave strength to his hand holding hers. It was only thanks to this that Erna was able to calm herself.
"Are those really our names?"
At his lower-than-normal voice, she could tell he was also nervous.
"Is there someone here?"
If Erna was afraid of not being alive, Kalion was wary of those who were breathless.
"Do any of your magic tricks have an exploration function?"
She trembled as she drew an orb in the air. Because of her shaky hands, however, it kept dying out without completing. It was too much to summon with her quivering fingers because it was so delicate that it would deviate even if her hands made a slightly wrong movement. When she sobbed after failing a third time, Kalion lowered her hands, "Stop."
"N-no. I can do it. Just one more…"
"You’ll die before you can draw it. Just stay here. I’ll be back after I look around inside."
"You’re telling me to stay here?"
Erna freaked out at his words, clinging faithfully to his arm. It was a desperate move, like someone hanging from a cliff with only a single string.
"There aren’t any demons inside the ruins. I haven’t witnessed a single one up until now," Kalion said.
"You think I am scared of demons?" asked Erna, almost as if protesting.
"Right. You certainly are not scared of them." That he knew, as he had seen her relentlessly handle the demons before their sudden descent. "Then, well, don’t tell me you’re scared of ghosts."
Erna jerked back heavily at that word: ghosts She didn’t even have to answer back for him to know that she was scared of them. He exhaled briefly. Not a single demon had been discovered in the ancient ruins up until here. The dangers in the ancient ruins were this place’s defense mechanism.
Kalion looked at the sign before him. Just by looking at the writing, I can tell it says "Do Not Enter."
On the contrary, they would be safe here if they didn’t touch the side where the demons were on. That’s why it was good for one person to explore the inside while the other waited in the spot where they’d fallen, to check just in case the passage opened again.
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When Kalion stared at Erna while wondering what to do, she, blanched, held on to his arm tighter and said as if begging him, "If y-y-you leave me alone, I’m not going to l-l-let you g-go."
Was it a plea or a threat?
Looking at her tremble as if she would faint immediately if he pulled his arm away, Kalion decided to give up one of the two. Either give up on exploring the inside or give up on waiting to see when the passage would open up.
He stared up at the ceiling. There was no sign of the passage opening. It’s a different passage than normal. A while later, Kalion made up his mind.
"Okay, let go of me."
Erna’s grip on his arm tightened.
"We’ll go together," Kalion said. He looked at Erna’s head shaking, lamenting in his mind that his words weren’t so trustworthy. He never knew she’d be afraid of this. Now that he had thought of it, he didn’t know one thing that Erna was scared of. Wait, he knew one thing. It was herself.
It was obvious why he didn’t know anything else. He was not interested, and Erna would have made every effort to make sure he didn’t know anyway.
I didn’t know you’d reveal yourself like this. A chuckle came out of his mouth despite the situation. He fixed his sword to the other side as if he had no other choice. Actually, it wasn’t all that bad since Erna was clinging to him. In the event of an emergency, it was advantageous for those who were together to respond simultaneously.
With a trembling Erna wrapped in his arm, he scanned the inside of the ruins. It was an underground place well-decorated with straight stones. Kalion, who was looking at a nearby room, soon noticed another strange thing.
It was unknown in what style it had been built, but the things inside looked familiar.
"They’re not that old."
Erna, after she also noticed them, tugged on Kalion and approached the furniture in the room. From the time they entered, she had felt an unknown familiarity, to the point where she would have thought this was a room in the Grand Castle if only this wasn’t an ancient ruin.
"You see this here?" Erna pointed to the side of the furniture. When Kalion looked, there was a crest too familiar. Two pillars. This stamp meant the Grand Duke of Hessenguard. "This is a mark written only on objects in the Grand Castle."
This time, Kalion’s back felt a bit chilly at Erna’s voice. The current ancient ruin was where objects that might have been around hundreds or thousands of years ago were found. But how could there be more recent objects here, even ones that belong to the Grand Castle?
Erna was looking around a bit more, when she said with confidence, "Looking at the style of the furniture, I think it was popular about thirty years ago. It’s similar to the stuff in my room. I remember this because Vanessa told me that the legs of this table had been carved in the shape of this flower, and I liked it and tried to take it, but it was a little out of fashion."
At Erna’s words, Kalion’s face stiffened even more.
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Erna continued, "Based on the amount of stuff here, it’s clear that someone was determined to take them out. But if these are from 30 years ago…"
This was absurd. Because even though this was an ancient ruin it meant that people had been coming in and out of this place until decades ago. Silence hammocked in the room.
Even from there, the two continued to look around the ruins. Feeling reluctant, however, they took only a few blankets for immediate use and returned to the place where they had fallen.
Having returned, when Kalion wondered if he should go find something to start the fire again, Erna, wondering why he was worried about that, summoned a fireball.
And it was too early for that.