|Author: Ryuusen Hirotsugu||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3202 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1682 words|
Throughout the abandoned buildings there were multiple stained white crystals scattered about. Those were the Sky Crystals which at one point helped the city escape the darkness of night. There was a time when the Abandoned City in the Sky was instead known as the City of Light, always filled with light from early morning to late in the night without exception, and that made even the souls of the people there more bright.
Those crystals, the symbol of the city, did not only help with dispelling darkness, but also kept evil at bay, making the city a holy site. They held the special feature of retaining and amplifying any light, and when surrounded by darkness, that light was released.
That history was the result arrived at by eccentric players who spent time reading all the pieces of literature strewn around.
But now it was impossible to witness the glory that light held back in those days. The old crystals that once lit up the city had completely lost their glow.
「This place looks good from what I’ve seen. We’re close to the forest here as well, so let’s set up camp here.」
After wandering around the city district that faced the forest in search of a place in a convenient spot, the group finally found a large white building that would serve for their purposes.
There was a statue that resembled a decaying quadruped and a round sphere tumbled around, and the building itself was a nice amount taller than the surrounding buildings, a pointed roof on top. It did not seem to have any major fissures or cracks from outside, so just like Gilbert had said, it would be plenty for their goals.
They still had to check the interior however, so they entered the building.
A large room greeted them inside. Multiple marble benches were arranged one after another inside, as if they were praying at something, and further inside there was the main symbol of that building.
A large statue built out of crystal. The furniture and utensils that adorned the interior walls were of an ashen color and had decayed with time, as if they had forgotten their original color themselves. Only the statue seemed left as it was from that old world, shining without fading away.
(Ughh… Isn’t this the Crystal Temple already?!)
Seeing that statue with crystal orbs held high in its hands as if some sort of offering, Mira checked the map. Doing so, she confirmed that their current location was, in fact, the Crystal Temple. Considering a temple was an important building, it made sense that it was built more sturdy than the other buildings.
Mira thought about finishing her business right then, but then she figured that if they were going to camp there, she could go do it at any moment. If she were to collect the shavings at that moment and leave, it would still be possible for her to arrive at the closest town before night was over, but it was already past six, and her rear had already been tired from sitting during the endless climb through the stairs, so she did not want to punish it even more sitting on a pegasus.
What she wanted to do was really simple and could be done at any moment, and she was still curious about the weird phenomenon happening in the forest.
「Well, our camp is all set then. Should we go take a look around the place we’ll be investigating now?」
After Gilbert had examined the interior of the temple and confirmed that it was a safe place, he said that with a slightly excited voice. Their actual investigation would start the next day, but he was unable to contain his excitement being so close to what would become his first sight of it. Heinrich had known him for so long, he already was ready to leave with him.
「Hmph, are you leaving already?」
Mira was already sitting on one of the benches, drinking some sweet berry ale while taking deep breaths to expel all the pent up exhaustion she had built up.
「Yeah, though it’s just a quick look at it. If we leave now, we should be able to be back by sunset. I really want to avoid being out in the forest at night after all.」
「Hmm, it still looks like a far place. Maybe I should let you ride with Garuda again? That ought to make it faster.」
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Gilbert and Heinrich’s faces clouded over as soon as she said that. They had recalled how they were carried away like some sort of prey the day before.
「Ah, no thanks. This forest has a different ecosystem than that of the surface, so I want to walk and check that as well.」
「Nothing I can do to help then.」
It was true that the forest adjacent to the Abandoned City in the Sky was surrounded by a mountain range, isolating it from the outside world and allowing for independent evolution. There were many materials that could also only be harvested there. His reply convinced Mira, so once she was done with her drink, she stood up from her seat.
Gilbert and Heinrich only sighed without speaking any more words.
Half an hour after they left the Crystal Temple, they crossed through the city devoid of any signs of life and arrived at the start of the forest closest to them.
The serene wind coming from the forest felt somewhat cold as it caressed their cheeks. The rustling of leaves from the trees sounded almost as if the trees were chattering and gossiping with each other.
「There should be no dangerous creatures here. Almost all of the carnivores are just small ones. Though from time to time a flying dragon might appear, so don’t let your guard down.」
After that simple warning, Gilbert headed into the forest while guiding the other two behind him.
The sunlight that managed to pierce through the treetops reflected off leaves, giving off the appearance of a school of fish with glistening scales. They could feel other creatures there, but none showed themselves, only making voices, or they would see something spring up and quickly disappear in some nook of the forest. Men’s hands had never touched that place, so they pushed their way forward through paths that were never a path before.
「This is Salt Grass. I had heard about it, but to see so much of it growing on the wild… Oh, these particular speckles, this must be a Spirot tree. The fruits look fairly ripe too. This is amazing. These rare fruits would never be sold in a market. We should take a few when we’re going back.」
Inside the solemn vegetation, he alone kept running around enthusiastically as if his personality had changed completely.
His reason to reject the Garuda flight did not seem as much of a lie now, his mood had only kept bettering ever since they entered the forest.
「When you said we would be back before it was dark, you did take into account these little detours of yours, yes?」
「He didn’t, probably… Now that he’s like this, there’s no telling if things will go as planned.」
Heinrich and Mira felt like they had been abandoned inside a ravine as they watched how Gilbert climbed up a tree like a monkey.
A bit more than an hour had passed since they entered the forest. And as they delved deeper into the forest, past the branches and treetops, they caught a glimpse of a large empty clearing. The first one to notice the density of the foliage fading away was obviously Gilbert.
「I saw it, it’s over there!」
As if driven by instinct, he darted off running. Mira and Heinrich looked at each other and shrugged helplessly, then they followed Gilbert who was already starting to fade in the distance.
In the middle of the forest, the shrubbery and trees growing thickly together suddenly cut off, giving way to a large and unexplainable crater.
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「Hoh, so this is the Earth Eater. It’s more incredible than I had pictured.」
The view did look like the mark a giant spoon would have left after gouging out a chunk of the forest. On the exposed earth, they could clearly see strata like the annual rings of a tree, and in the bottom there were crumbs of mud that seemed to have fallen there afterwards.
Just like with all the previous cases, the hole was massive, spanning around 500 meters in diameter, the far end of it covered by a slight white haze illuminated by the sun.
Apart from the damage done by the Earth Eater, there was nothing else disturbed in the scenery around them. In a way, that also explained how Gilbert had arrived at the conclusion this event had taken place recently.
「There was a point to coming here after all! It’s incredible that we’re here so soon after it happened. We’ll do the full investigation tomorrow, there’s a lot of things that can only be checked while we’re here. But I’ll go fetch a sample real quick, wait for a bit!」
Gilbert sprung like a compressed spring, without waiting for a reply of any sort, and jumped down into the crater.
「Hey, when he said we’d be back by sunset, it also included the time needed to gather this sample, yes?」
「That’s obvious, it wasn’t.」
Seeing Gilbert with a small bottle on his hand, running around inside the crater, Mira slowly looked away and heaved a deep sigh.
Heinrich felt nervous, realizing that Gilbert would take a long time and would leave him alone with Mira, so he sat at the border of the crater and began some small talk.
They mostly spoke about more personal things, Mira greatly expanding on her made-up backstory of being a Wiseman’s disciple, and then Heinrich spoke pridefully about his past exploits as a warrior.