09-19 Side Story 9: the Ancient Country
There was a young boy.
As he had been born as the third son of some reasonably affluent merchants, he was raised rather freely.
His grandparents were also healthy, and you could say that instead of his parents he was mostly raised by his grandparents.
The boy loved old legends. His grandparents often told them to him.
The Great Magic War. One large decisive battle against the devil race.
The boy’s heart pounded as he listened.
Once the boy turned 15 he set on a journey.
That didn’t mean he went a very long way. He went to a place inside the country which you could go to and come back within ten days.
One-way trip there took four to five days. There were ancient ruins there.
According to rumors, the ruins dated back to the Great Magic War.
There was also an elevated spot which overlooked a large lake.
After being developed as a tourist attraction, most of the people who went there were there to see the light and the other attractions.
But the boy showed no interest in the lake, and he only went around touring the ruins.
“So these are the ruins…”
The ruins were something like a half-collapsed castle. The tourists were allowed to go to the areas where there was no concern about the place coming apart.
The other parts were considered off limits, except for archaeologists that sometimes got permission to come investigate.
“There must be more interesting things over there for sure.”
The boy thought so. And then he waited for the night when the tourists had gone, and set foot in the area that was off limits. He brought a single small Magi Lamp with him.
That changed the boy’s life.
Suddenly the floor under his feet crumbled and a hole appeared.
Event though until now dozens of people had trampled over the spot, there had been no hole there.
Maybe it was fate.
A hole had appeared in the stone floor with a thickness of over a meter. The boy had fallen through it.
You could say he got lucky having not been crushed by the stones that fell with him. The largest of the stones was as much as two meters in all directions, had he been crushed by it the boy would’ve likely become nothing more but a lump of meat.
Aching all over the boy forced himself to stand up.
He was now in a room that looked like a hall. He hadn’t fallen through the hole straight down but slid diagonally. If it wasn’t for that the boy probably would’ve lost his life from the impact of the fall.
However, the hole he expected to have fallen through had been completely blocked by the crumbled stones, making getting out that way simply impossible.
The boy muttered, but he didn’t look to be so troubled.
The reason was that the boy was now standing in a place which he thought the tourists were completely ignorant of, and not even the archaeologists had entered.
The boy’s heart pounded ceaselessly as he thought of how this place was unmistakably the interior of the castle where formerly, around the time of the Great Magic War, generals and knights had swaggered about.
“Now then, where should I go?”
That hall-like place had two ways to exit or enter. One of them was large, and the other was small.
The small one was about the size of the entranceway of a regular house. The large one’s height and width was were both five meters.
After worrying about it, the boy headed towards the small entryway.
The boy began to walk, then realized that for some reason he could see his surroundings. It was supposed to be night, and the Magi Lamp he had brought had been buried under stone. Despite that he could see around him.
That was because the walls emitted a faint light.
Yes, the boy had planned to come here to see all sorts of new things but this kind of lighting had never been seen before.
“I wonder if this is technology from the past.”
Led by the light, the boy passed through the smaller entryway.
Beyond it was a very long passage that curved gently. In addition, it slightly sloped down, so the boy continued on even deeper underground.
After about ten minutes he reached the end where there was a single door. It was made out of iron and it was red with rust.
“I wonder if it will open?”
The boy pushed the door with all his strength, and with a creaking noise the door moved little by little. And when it had opened enough for a person to pass through, the boy entered the room beyond the door.
If you thought about it, this was the last chance for him to turn back.
But by now fear and hesitation and the like had already disappeared from the boy. The boy was simply attracted to the unknown, and he continued into the room.
On the other side of the door there were innumerable Magi Tools.
A lot of them were broken, and yet a third of them at the very least looked to be intact.
Among them, one thing caught the boy’s attention.
It was a human puppet. It appeared to be a young girl. But it wasn’t alive, it was sitting on the floor leaning against the wall.
There was another reason he concluded it was a puppet.
Its left hand was broken. From precisely the elbow joint down everything was missing, and something like strings dangled out of the remaining portion.
At the very least, it did not look like a human’s body.
For all that, the puppet was beautiful.
It had hair which glittered like gold and felt like the finest silk. Its skin was white as porcelain, it truly had the looks of an angel.
“I wonder if it can still move or not.”
The boy tried gently touching the puppet.
It was cold. He couldn’t feel any body heat.
“…So it was a puppet after all, huh.”
He traced its face with his finger.
It felt just like a human, but cold to the touch, giving a sense of unease.
“Its eyes are also closed, huh.”
The boy couldn’t help but wonder what color its eyes were. A puppet this beautiful would surely also have beautiful eyes.
“I wonder why it doesn’t move.”
He tried grasping its shoulder and lightly shaking it. The puppet’s hair wavered softly but it didn’t open its eyes.
The puzzled boy remembered an old tale his grandmother had told him.
It was a story about a princess confined and forever sleeping in a tower.
A princess, the sole heir of an ancient kingdom, simply slept. Until the day the kingdom was revived.
She would wake up from her sleep when the kingdom was reborn.
That’s the kind of story it was.
The one who woke her up was a lone hero. The hero’s kiss woke up the princess.
Then the awoken princess married the hero. That was the kingdom’s revival. That is, the hero became the king, and the princess became the queen.
“Should I… kiss it?”
The boy had yet to fall in love. Of course he had never gone out with a girl either.
If you could call this love, then this puppet was the boy’s first love.
Despite no one being there to see, the boy looked around him and then softly brought his face near the puppet.
And after much hesitation, he kissed those pink lips.
The boy’s face was flushed and he separated from the puppet.
He cast his eyes down as if embarrassed, and when he once again looked up at the doll his face was filled with surprise.
The puppet opened its eyes.
Those eyes were red as blood. But the boy thought them pretty.
“Are you the one… who woke me up?”
Her voice was clear and beautiful, and the boy was charmed.
The girl slowly stood up.
“It seems I’ve slept for quite a long time indeed. Oh my, with a broken left arm too.”
The girl muttered and began walking.
“I’m a little worn out I see. But oh well, as long as it doesn’t hinder my movements.”
Step by step the puppet walked until she stood in front of the boy.
“Thank you. If you’d like, would you please give me a name?”
Being told so, the boy managed to speak out a name despite his head being nearly blank with surprise.
It was the name that had popped into his mind the first time he saw the doll.
The boy said and the puppet smiled sweetly,
“My name is Elena. Please treat me well from now on, my lord.”