“I think this is as far as I can go. Please take care of things from here,” murmured the wizard as he collapsed in front of Orpé, who was carrying tea and snacks from the kitchen. Shortly after, he began snoring loudly.
It had been five days since the underground passage between the Forest of Irgis and the Grand Castle was connected. So far, only Erna and Orpé had been able to withstand the constant work and lack of sleep among the wizards.
“Erna, please eat something while you work,” said Orpé, placing a plate of food beside her.
Without even turning around, Erna continued examining the pillar on the side of Irgis. Orpé, with stiff eyes, struggled to stay awake. Hessenguard had been too preoccupied with post-war processing, leaving no time to properly study the pillar, which was the first giant magic tower in Hessenguard. But now, after four years since the war ended, everything was finally over and Erna could begin her research on the pillar.
“I’m tired of going back and forth all the time!” Erna grumbled after several visits to the Irgis Forest. Frustrated, she flicked her fingers in annoyance.
“Wait, we just need to connect that place to the Grand Castle, right?” Orpé was taken aback by Erna’s sudden idea. It was something she had never even considered, yet Erna made it sound so easy.
From then on, Erna became immersed in creating new magic. After six months of hard work, the gate magic that could connect two places, breaking through the protective magic of the Grand Castle and the ancient ruins of Irgis, was successfully created.
As they studied the ancient ruins with a structure similar to the Grand Castle, they discovered not only new magic that had never been known before but also various magic formulas. The value of the data was enormous, enough to instantly raise the level of magic in Hessenguard beyond the Mage Tower. As a result, the Mage Tower was willing to bow their heads and come to Hessenguard to obtain the data at any cost.
As Orpé observed Erna, who was practically fused with the pillar that served as the core of the Hessenguard protection spell, she couldn’t help but feel a pang of concern. Being a true magician, Erna had become so deeply entrenched in her studies of the ancient ruins and the pillar that she had no time left even for council meetings. When was the last time you rested?she wondered, knowing that the answer was likely ‘never’.
The council had recently seen a significant influx of new members, with the older ones retiring. While the enthusiasm of the newcomers was appreciated, their lack of sensitivity was becoming increasingly apparent. At the last council meeting, they had made a comment that had caused the air in the room to freeze. “Now, if only you two had heirs, there would be nothing else to wish for,” they had said.
Erna had appeared calm, but the other council members present had glared with such anger that they could have devoured the speaker on the spot. After the meeting, the offending member had been called in by Vanessa and likely received a severe scolding.
Orpé couldn’t help but think that the issue of heirs would become increasingly troublesome. Despite the fact that four years had passed since the war ended, Erna and Kalion still had no child. People who loved to gossip about other people’s problems were already worrying about the future of Hessenguard, joking about whose problem it really was.
Orpé shared the same worry as many others in Hessenguard. She knew that the lack of a child for Erna and Kalion could potentially lead to political instability and unwanted expectations from neighboring countries. Despite this concern, Orpé kept her thoughts to herself, hoping that fate would eventually bring a solution to the matter.
But fate was not always kind, and Orpé feared that without a clear successor, the future of Hessenguard might be in jeopardy.
As she pondered these thoughts, she suddenly sensed a presence behind her. Turning around, she was surprised to see Kalion. He motioned for her to be quiet, and she watched in awe as he quietly approached Erna from behind. Seeing this, Orpé quietly tiptoed out of the space, taking care not to disturb the Duke and Duchess during their intimate moment.
“Hmm…” Erna’s brows furrowed as she concentrated on the pillar. Suddenly, a clatter of a teacup interrupted her thoughts, and she was about to tell Orpé to leave her drink on the table when she felt a tickle on her armpit.
“Kalion!” she laughed, surprised by her husband’s sudden appearance. He always knew how to lighten up the mood, even in the midst of their serious work. Kalion lifted Erna with one arm and handed her a cup of warm tea with the other. As she took a sip, Erna relaxed in his embrace and let out a contented yawn. Kalion gazed at the pillar, holding Erna more comfortably in his arms.
“Erna, no amount of work is worth jeopardizing your health.” Kalion replied, stroking her hair softly.
“I know, but there is still so much to uncover. It’s frustrating not having the answers.”
Erna’s voice trailed off, heavy with exhaustion. The research into the ancient ruins and the pillars had revealed a wealth of information. Firstly, that the castle and the pillar were constructed almost simultaneously. Over time, the castle underwent expansion while the pillar remained unchanged, so the correlation between the two wasn’t immediately apparent.
Moreover, Erna’s research had shown that she wasn’t the only one to have harnessed the power of the pillar. From examining the traces of magic power remaining in the Irgis Forest, it was clear that there had been at least two major magical explosions in the past that had caused damage to the pillar.
But there was no recorded history of these events, Erna had discovered. The only recorded history she had found was of past dukes dying young without any notable reason around the estimated time of these events. They must have been in need of great power for some reason, and it appeared that they had failed to obtain it.
“Did you uncover anything new?” Kalion inquired.
Erna nodded. “Yes. Remember Richard? The supposed ghost we encountered when we first arrived?” Kalion’s mind immediately harked back to that eerie encounter.
“I suspected as much, but it turns out it was a type of recording magic. See that magic circle on the wall behind the pillar? That’s what was used to capture the recording at a specific time…I tried to restore the remaining records, but the older ones were too faded to discern. Nevertheless…I believe we can recover most of Richard Hessenguard’s accounts.”
Erna wrapped her arms around Kalion’s neck, and whispered softly, “I don’t think I want to see it, though.”
Kalion fell silent at her words. It was the tale and the document of someone who had been injured, enraged, and eventually took his own life.
As the atmosphere grew heavier, Erna spoke up again, her voice cheery. “I found something interesting,” she said.
“What did you find?” Kalion asked.
“This column records our past and present. And if I’m right…” Erna looked up at the top of the column, which represented herself and Kalion. “Do you see the letters up there? They seem to be slowly moving, almost as if they’re carving out our future.”