Sorry, I was wrong! The action starts next chapter! >< Enjoy!
ED: eristol, xtostos
When I opened the door following Chloe, there was a descending staircase.
The stairs were slightly wider than the door and were large enough for two average adults to walk side by side.
It was dark, I couldn’t see anything.
I received a star crystal lamp from Tirnanog and illuminated the stairs.
After forty to fifty steps below is the landing and the stairs turn to the right from there.
Chloe is already out of the visible range.
After confirming the situation, I was a little relieved.
This should be the 「Staircase to the Underworld」.
The name is disturbing, but it feels safer than the morgue, which Chloe’s older brother was involved with.
There was no reply from Chloe.
I can’t afford to lose sight of Chloe.
But, I wonder if I should rush into a probable location of one of the Seven Wonders without waiting for Klaus and Auguste.
『What should we do, Erica?』
“First off all, I will check using the Eyes of Overworld. Tir, I wonder if you can take it out for me.”
I asked Tirnanog to take out the Eyes of Overworld from my bag, then I put on the lens.
I immediately activated the magic loaded into the lens and looked over the entire museum.
『How is it?』
“In addition to us, there is one person ahead of these stairs. And there are three people on the third floor.”
The one person on the stairs should be Chloe.
Her movement is unusually fast; I wonder if she’s using any physical enhancement.
I guess the people on the third floor are the staff on patrolling duty.
At a glance, there are no dangerous creatures in the building.
“This staircase looks quite long and deep. It keeps turning clockwise after the same distance and continues like that for about six times.”
『When converted to man-made buildings, it is about 12 floors underground, huh.』
“There’s a short corridor at the bottom and a room that’s a little larger.”
While looking over the entire museum, I saw many sets of long staircases and open cellars of similar construction.
Just what exactly are these structures for?
And why is only this staircase hidden?
I wonder if this is connected to the strange happenings after all.
I remembered the rough landscape before ending the effect of the Eyes of Overworld.
I pulled out some wands and used Glam Sight and Leap.
“The staircase itself doesn’t seem to have any magical mechanism……”
『Even if we leave that woman alone, there seems to be no danger, but shall we go?』
“Yes. That Chloe has finally relied on me a little bit. I will leave the role of the vanguard to you, Tir.”
Even though it is just a silly trust, I don’t want to betray that trust.
I asked Tirnanog to be at the front, and then we went down the stairs while lighting up the way with the lamp.
『But, that woman, how did she proceed without any illumination?』
“I wonder if she perhaps enhanced her vision with bio-enhancement……how convenient.”
The material of the staircase was beeswax limestone, but it changed to gray sandstone along the way.
It looks like a series of buildings with different construction dates.
When we reached the bottom, there was a door at the end of the 5-6 meters long corridor.
As was observed from the Eyes of Overworld.
The old wooden door was unlocked and opened just a few centimeters.
Chloe is probably inside.
As a precaution, I set the duration effect to a longer time and used Glam Sight.
There seems to be no trap around the door.
Other than that, there is no sign of magical mechanism.
I asked Tirnanog to keep silent and opened the door.
Chloe was crouching on one knee in the empty room.
Is she looking for something? Or is she hanging her head down because she found nothing?
“Chloe-san! Are you alright!?”
When I called out to her, Chloe finally looked over her shoulder and stood up while dusting off her skirt.
“Did you find anything?”
“No. Even though you went out of your way to help me, Erica-san, looks like this room is not the one we were looking for……”
Chloe said apologetically.
It was a completely empty room.
There was nothing placed on the stone floor, and no traces of dirt or anything like that were found.
I looked around with Glam Sight, but there was no magic trick.
It has also been confirmed in advance using the Eyes of Overworld that there are no hidden doors.
I also looked at the area where Chloe was crouching just in case, but still, nothing was found.
Why would they hide such an empty room?
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it, Chloe-san.”
Chloe apologized with an air like a dejected puppy.
For me, safety is above everything else.
Although it is a strange hidden room, if there is nothing here, then nothing is better than that.
While I was thinking about that, Chloe suddenly turned to look at the entrance.
The door opened with a creaking sound.
There, Lièvre the curator stood with a lamp in her hand.
“That should be my line. Sneaking into a place like this at such a time. This place should have been sealed so no one could enter.”
Lièvre said so in a somewhat angry tone of voice.
Chloe released her hand from the handle of her sword quickly while looking guilty.
So it’s not that the door wasn’t locked, but Chloe cut off the seal, huh.
“You guys, aren’t you the eager first years who come to the museum frequently? I don’t believe you’re thieves, but what are you doing here?”
“I’m sorry. We were really interested in seeing the Seven Wonders of this academy no matter what.”
“We heard there is something called the 「Staircase to the Underworld」 in the Phantom Beast Museum.”
“Aah~ I see. The director said something like that. Every year, about three or so students with high curiosity would sometimes sneak in to ascertain the truth of the story.”
I gave an explanation with some truth intermingling.
It’s something that will become a trouble later if I lie at times like this.
“It’s fine if you’re not specimen thieves. Luckily, I’m the only one who noticed; I will not tell the teachers about this. But still, you really shouldn’t sneak in here in the middle of the night.”
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
We bowed our heads obediently.
Lièvre let out a small sigh.
“If you understand, you should head back now……it seems there are various problems with this room, so you shouldn’t linger here too long.”
Hearing Lièvre’s words, Chloe became really interested.
Lièvre covered her mouth with an expression that says she said something that shouldn’t be said.
“Do you know what happened?”
“Please tell me.”
“Hmm, I’ve only heard an inkling of it from my predecessor, but……well, this is just between us, alright?”
Being beaten down by Chloe’s persistence, Lièvre seemed to concede.
Lowering her voice, Lièvre began to speak.
“Do you know about the legend of the Golden Wolf Prince?”
I have read it before in a story book I bought at Knot Reed.
If I remember right, the title is 「The tragic love story of the Eastern Princess who loved the Golden-haired Werewolf Prince」.
It was this kind of a story.
Once upon a time, a prince had fallen in love with the youngest princess of the country of mages.
However, an evil sorcerer held a deep envy for their love, and cast a curse on the prince to change his face to that of a wolf’s.
The princess tried to dispel the curse and restore the prince to his original form, but the curse was so exceptionally strong that the princess died instead.
Ever since then, longing for his beloved princess, it was said that the prince wandered the lands in that form, searching for her.
I read it expecting a tale like The Frog Prince or Beauty and the Beast, but it stayed in my head because of its tragic end.
“You mean the tragic love story between the prince whose face got turned into that of a wolf with the Eastern Princess?”
When I answered that way, Lièvre nodded.
“Yes, that’s how it was transmitted in the West. But in the North……that’s……”
“By the hand of the Lunatic King Cain, the prince of Lucanrant was skinned alive, and was covered with the head of the wolf who was our guardian beast. Or rather, he was beheaded and then a wolf’s head was attached on him. The prince was later said to have been resurrected as a ghoul.”
Chloe continued the story that Lièvre was saying.
It was a grotesque story close to the historical fact, unlike the folklore.
“The mage of Hafan royal family, who was his fiancée, tried to kill the prince, but in the end, the mage died and the prince also went missing for eternity, right?”
“Even in the North, there are various theories about the ending. There are plenty of variations from region to region, and it seems even in the historical fact, the life and death of the prince and the princess are unknown.”
Chloe nodded absentmindedly to Lièvre’s addition.
Hearing up to that point, I felt shivers running down my spine.
Golden Wolf Prince, or the Golden-haired Werewolf Prince.
The prince of the former royal family who cannot die despite being headless due to a strong curse.
Didn’t I hear something similar from Dolores?
I wonder if the headless prince was referring to this Golden Wolf Prince.
Viewed in this way, it is understandable why Chloe is familiar with the legend of the Golden Wolf Prince.
Starting with the legend in Lucanrant, she was closing in on the true identity of the headless prince.
“I don’t know if it’s directly related to this story, but there was a student who sneaked into this place while investigating the legend of the Golden Wolf Prince many years ago, and apparently, they had caused a violent incident……no, a murder attempt.”
More ominous stories were added to the already-ominous story.
It is on a disturbing level that is obvious even to me who has a low danger-sensing ability.
A murder attempt in school, just what exactly does she mean by that?
“I don’t know the details because it was an incident when I wasn’t at this academy. I guess the only people who know the details are the principal and the involved party. But, I heard rumors that they went mad because they came to this place……see, isn’t that horrifying?”
‘Went mad’, huh, that keyword is suspicious.
Didn’t Chloe’s brother Claude go mad and kill almost everyone in the family?
“There is one more problem. It may be related to the 「Staircase to the Underworld」 that you were looking for. This room seems to have a mechanism to move underground.”
“How does the mechanism work?”
I looked around the room.
I couldn’t find any magical mechanism a while ago, did I overlook something?
“No, I guess it’s not exactly this room itself. Although the conditions are unknown, it seems that the underground structures in the vicinity are gradually drawn further underground. There does not seem to be a way to prevent it as the cause lies in the layer of ancient underground ruins even deeper below.”
“If it’s that dangerous, why didn’t they bury the museum’s basement?”
“If the basement is buried, it seems the pulling effect will crawl up even above ground. It’s not a final solution, but especially susceptible rooms were sealed to minimize overall damage. That said, there are still students who sneak in like the two of you.”
Hearing Chloe’s question, Lièvre shrugged.
The reason why there are many mysterious basements in the Phantom Beast Museum is that it is a measure against interference from the underground ruins.
Certainly, this seems to be the true identity of the 「Staircase to the Underworld」.
The ruins under the academy are the ruins of the capital city during the reigning period of the Lunatic King.
It is probably because there are multiple locations affected by the transition that the activation condition for this particular Seven Wonders is said to be more than one1.
In other words, the Phantom Beast Museum is both the 「Morgue of the Headless Prince」 and the 「Staircase to the Underworld」.
It is a paradox of double structure like the 「Infinite Corridor」 and the 「Man-Eating Mirror」 inside the school building.
I glanced at Chloe who was next to me.
Chloe had an expression as if she was brooding over it.
I don’t want to go back just like that after coming here with great pains, but seeing that we have been found by Lièvre, we have to withdraw.
“Hey, Chloe-san, let’s go back soon, okay? It appears to be a place that we shouldn’t approach even if we’re interested.”
“……yeah, you’re right. We better retreat for tonight, Erica-san.”
When I warned her, Chloe nodded while emphasizing ‘for tonight’ as the condition nonchalantly as the last bit of stubbornness.
I feel grateful that Chloe has agreed to return temporarily.
Since I know how dangerous it is, I will take my time time to dissuade Chloe from coming to this place again.
In response to our reaction, Lièvre seemed relieved.
If I think about it carefully, she was persuading armed opponents, even if we are only students.
While being led by Lièvre, Chloe and I went up the stairs where we came from.
1 Look at ch 115. There are 4 rumors about when the Staircase to the Underworld appears.
Changes this past week:
Henry –> Henri, as it’s a French name.
Ch 121 was edited and added with critical information about The Pattern. Please read the footnote on that chapter.
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