Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
The princess led us out of the square, through the main gate, and to the inside of the castle. “I will take you somewhere you can relax,” she said.
“It all started seven years ago when a sorcerer came to this island. He settled in a forest situated in the middle of the two kingdoms and spread Magic to the citizens of both places.”
She met a servant on the way and told them to prepare some clothes. We then went through a gaping hole in the middle of the courtyard, down a spacious staircase that led underground.
“Is there another country here besides Nordis?”
“There was a country, to be precise. It was destroyed because of war involving Magic.”
“What?” Zero said, her voice low. “So the sorcerer taught Magic as a tool for warfare?”
“No. The Magic he brought to us was of two kinds. One was for hunting, and the other for agriculture.”
“The Chapter of Hunting and Chapter of Harvest,” Zero said. “My guess was right. There are two chapters in this kingdom!”
I blinked repeatedly. “You mean you expected this?” I asked.
“The spell that the Magic Corps cast earlier was Steim from the Chapter of Hunting. And the spell used by the princess was Kudra. Which means at least two chapters were brought to this kingdom.”
After descending a long flight of stairs, we arrived at a square landing. We then turned a corner where the stairs continued further underground. How far do these stairs go? I wondered. We had already gone so deep that I couldn’t hear any sound from above ground.
“The two countries have always been on bad terms,” Raul said, picking up from where the princess left off. “Originally there was only one country, but for some reason it split into two. They were at war for a hundred years after that, and there was always a shortage of supplies and food.”
“War is expensive, yes,” I said.
Equipment and horses were expendable resources. People could not farm or hunt while they were out fighting. Everything you did required manpower, but these men were recruited to war and died, never coming back. Exhausted, the country repeated a cycle of cease-fire and war over and over again.
“But seven years ago, Magic was imparted to the people, and everyone learned little by little. It made life easier for both countries. I remember those days well too. Everyone forgot about the war and worked hard to learn Magic. Sometimes both countries exchanged crops and game with each other.”
But peace did not last. As people ran out of space, they began to want more. They thought they would become more prosperous if they had more land.
Both Magic for hunting and Magic for farming were used the right way, but eventually, it became a tool for war. Both kingdoms fought for territory, dreaming of a more fruitful life.
In the end, one country perished. I recalled someone once said that war was the most useful way to spread new technology. Humans are creatures of conflict. If a war broke out, they would accomplish a decade’s worth of evolution in just one year.
“We went into a full-scale war two years ago. A lot of people died in a year. Both countries were exhausted and running out of supplies. It was then that the ruler of the neighboring country set foot into the Forbidden Land where the dragon sleeps, and woke it up.”
“Was he stupid? Why cause another problem in the middle of war?”
“They probably thought that if they could get the land occupied by the dragon, they could stop the war. Half of this island is the dragon’s territory, called the Forbidden Land.”
“It was a foolish thing to do,” the princess said in a condescending tone. “They became too full of themselves. They probably thought that they could kill the dragon with Magic. Since ancient times, that kingdom worshipped the dragon and protected it for ages. Yet they turned on it and were subsequently destroyed. The ruler was devoured by the dragon. With Altaria’s unconditional surrender, the two kingdoms became one. This was a year ago.”
Finally, the end of the stairs came into view. Beyond the last step stood a huge double door, wide open, with two guards standing in front. As soon as they saw the princess, they clicked their heels and gave a solemn salute.
“Status report,” the princess said.
They looked to be well-trained soldiers. Nodding with satisfaction, the princess walked through the door. I froze on the spot at what I saw, speechless. A world underground.
“It’s a city.”
I thought the door led to narrow tunnels and underground passageways, but what I was standing in now was a bustling town that stretched underground.
The ceiling was quite high, and judging from the wooden pathway on the upper portion, they seemed to have bore a hole above to turn the place into a huge dome.
It was no different from your typical city. Stalls were nestled around the public square where streets stretched from and extended to all directions. Crowds of people and sometimes carts came and go. The torch hanging on the walls made it incredibly bright.
The colorful ores peeking out of the walls and ceiling made me realize something.
“Is this a mine?!”
The princess nodded. “Indeed. It’s an underground mining site that took hundreds of years to build, even bigger than the city above ground. This is the heart of Nordis. That is why our kingdom has been able to withstand attacks from the dragon all this time.”
Crouching, I picked up ores lying around like trash and held them to the light. I could see pale-blue gems inside.
“It’s fluorite.” Raul said, peering into the same ore.
“It’s a gemstone, right? Shouldn’t you be taking good care of them?”
“Well, you can get fluorite all over the island. Anyway, since trading ships stopped coming, there was no point in mining the gems anymore. Now this place has been turned into a shelter.”
“More like a residential area, if you ask me. The dragon went on a rampage a year ago, right? Can you make all this in such a short period of time?”
“This has been here for a long time,” the princess said. “Miners spent most of their day underground, so facilities were installed to make sure they havd at least the minimum necessities to live. There have been some modifications, of course. With Magic, we can finish a ten-day job in an instant.”
“Wow. That’s great application of Magic.”
Zero looked around the square and smiled. “I would love to live here even if there was no dragon. It is just like the cellar I grew up in—the smell of soil, groundwater, and animal.”
“Let me show you something better,” the princess said. “Come.”
We walked deeper and deeper into the underground city. Compared to the ruins above ground, the city was full of life. Store merchandise sat on shelves carved into the earthen walls. There were chambers separated by woven textiles.
I took a peek into a chamber and found a marble water tank filled with water. Many people gathered there to fetch water. Water running down from the ceiling like a waterfall constantly filled the tank. Any water that overflowed went out the chamber through a ditch in the ground. I followed the stream with my eyes to see where it went and apparently it flowed straight towards the cattles for drinking.
“What is up with this mine?” I muttered with a sigh.
“The water’s from an underground water vein,” Raul said. “The mining site is located quite deep underground. There’s an underground stream above so if you drill a hole in the ceiling, water flows down like that. Convenient, right? The princess made it so people could live comfortably in these otherwise normal tunnels.”
“I’m impressed you all managed to carry out her plans. It’s a big construction project, you know. What is the king doing anyway?”
“His Majesty has been sick for a long time. He expired a few days ago.”
Expired. So he’s dead. Wait…
“So she’s no longer just a princess, she’s a queen! How can someone so important just roam around freely like that?!”
“She has not been crowned yet, so technically she’s still the princess…”
“Who cares about technicalities?!”
“Raul, Whitey!” the princess called. “Quit dilly-dallying and get a move on!”
Apparently we had stopped moving. Raul and I quickly resumed walking.
“Whitey?” Zero said as I caught up to her. She was looking at me curiously. “Yes, you are indeed white.”
Zero probably thought that names were just a way to identify an individual. Whether I was called by my profession or by the color of my fur was up to the individual.
“Shall I call you that too?” she said. “I think it is not a bad name. It ties directly with your features.”
“Don’t!” I barked.
The princess raised one eyebrow. “You don’t like the name I gave you?”
“Of course, not! It sounds like a cat’s name!”
“Huh?” Raul looked surprised. “I thought you were a feline Beastfallen.”
“That’s not the point! I have a name that my parents gave me!”
“And what would that be?” Zero asked.
“It’s… No, I’m not falling for that one, witch! You’ll never learn my name!”
“So close,” Zero said. “I almost turned you into my servant.”