One night, as Norfe relaxed in his room.
Came a voice from the other side of his door. It was the voice of his usual guard. But it shouldn’t have been him that was here today, Norfe thought with suspicion.
“It’s you, Alan. Come in.”
He called. The guard who slowly opened the door was an old acquaintance. He had been with Norfe since he was fourteen, and had been with him for five years now. He was a man that Norfe could trust.
“Your Highness. Things seem rather clamorous near the basement of the castle.”
“Basement? But isn’t the temple the only thing that is there?”
The guard wasn’t really looking towards the temple, but the garden as he answered.
“It seems like the birdfolk have brought in something fairly large a moment ago. Ever since they started coming here, they would occasionally bring rare things from the three territories, so we didn’t really pay too much attention. But this time, not only is it quite late, but it’s also very big. And they carried it to the underground.”
Indeed, there was a temple inside of the castle. Saintesses were summoned every few decades, and so they knew that there was a god. However, he had not gone to that particular temple since he was a child.
It wasn’t until he visited Midland and met the Merfolk chief that the adults told him that there was no point in believing. That being said, seeing the shiny merfolk and birdfolk in Midland had only strengthened his belief that there was a god. Chouze had gotten very excited and would repeatedly ask to go back to Midland. However, they had stopped going at some point.
Norfe thought back on these old memories and shook his head. No, those memories were no use to him now.
“The birdfolk can be troublesome, but I doubt they are involved in criminal activity. They are too simple-minded for that.”
Norfe said. Alan shrugged his shoulders.
“It’s true that they are simple, and perhaps it really is nothing. However, if it is happening right under your nose, wouldn’t you be curious?”
“We royals must be calm at all times.”
“Ah… So you are still saying such things, Prince Norfe. I thought that your time away had changed you.”
“Hey, Alan. What are you talking about?”
Norfe’s eyes widened in surprise.
“You become such a bore when you are in the castle. It’s unfortunate, because you had left to go to the villa, enjoyed your time on the road and talking to the people. You were even having so much fun with that cute girl.”
“You make it sound scandalous! I was only helping a poor girl who was selling oranges! Well, it’s true that she was rather charming.”
“Then why didn’t you tell Lord Adol that the girl was actually a Saintess?”
“Because I am not certain about it.”
Norfe said, and then turned his face away awkwardly.
“Well, that doesn’t matter now. Your Highness, we must go to the underground.”
“Prince Norfe. How long are you going to stand there and do nothing? This castle and this country will be yours. It’s not your uncle’s, or any of the others. I’ve always been interested in rare things, and so I don’t care how many birdfolk, merfolk or Saintesses come here. It’s rather amusing. However, even you should realize that something strange is afoot.”
Norfe realized how annoying it was when someone knew you for a long time. They just talked without restraint.
“The birdfolk can do what they like. However, I cannot ignore them if it involves the people of the castle. Is that it?”
“If you understand, then get off of your tired bum.”
Still, Norfe got up to his feet. His heart was lighter than he thought.
“The underground temple? So it’s that route.”
“Aye, it’s been a while.”
Norfe and Alan chuckled. They went out onto the veranda, which was connected to Norfe’s room on the third floor. From there, they would be able to climb up the walls and reach the roof. The roof allowed them access to a secret staircase that would take them straight to an underground area. He and Alan had found it while they were exploring as children.
“Can you even climb?”
“I’ve been training. Of course, I can.”
A grown adult was scaling the walls. It was quite amusing. Once he reached the top, he pulled himself up and looked around.
“Don’t worry. Norfe, over here.”
He was talking as if Norfe was a child again, but it was rather comforting to him. Here, there were a row of statues that stood tightly next to each other. But if you took one step to the right and then two to the left, there was a gap. And just up ahead were the stairs downward.
“Judging by the dust, no one had been down here for a long time.”
The staircase went alongside the statues, and so some light seeped through the cracks, and they were able to see where they walked. Once they were at the bottom, they were in front of the temple’s summoning hall. He remembered thinking it was rather odd, since no one was ever summoned here. This place also had intricate carvings and statues that allowed you to slip through and go outside.
“So, it really is connected.”
“Yes. I thought I wouldn’t be able to fit through now that I’m bigger. But I managed.”
“Of course, you can. These areas were created as emergency escape routes for the royal family. What point would there be if adults couldn’t use them?”
“That’s true. Shh.”
The temple had lamps made of magic stones, and so it was dimly lit during the night. So even though no one worshipped here, it was still managed properly. They sensed a group of people entering from the hallway, and the heavy doors of the temple slammed open, and someone walked inside.
“The birdfolk and my uncle. And the castle guards. Why are they here?”
“Norfe, look carefully. The birdfolk are carrying something.”
“What is that? It’s wrapped up in a blanket. Ah, it moved! It’s a person!”
“Shh. They’re coming over here!”
Norfe and Alan hid behind a statue.
“Don’t struggle, Saintess. We’re almost there.”
Norfe and Alan looked at each other. The voice was familiar.
The group walked up to the summoning table and pulled open the curtains and touched the wall.
There was a loud clanging sound, and then the wall opened up.
Norfe and Alan nearly gasped out loud.
“So it’s in here. Even more lower.”
The birdfolk were inspecting it.
“That won’t do for us. I already feel sick being here. The underground is no place for birdfolk.”
So saying, they handed over the wrapped up person to the guards.
“Is the Saintess’s freedom really to be found down there?”
“While the underground is harsh for birdfolk, it’s fine for humans. We made it very comfortable. Besides, she will only stay there for a short while as the others search for her.”
“Please treat her well.”
“Of course, we will. The miasma is so thin here, and it will be most relaxing.”
So saying, the castle people took the struggling bundle and went further underground.
“Hey, brother. Will she really be able to live freely here?”
“That’s what they said. At the very least, it should be better than being forced to fight monsters until they kill you.”
“Ye-yes. You’re right.”
“Now, let’s go. We’ll also need to hide for awhile.”
And so the bridfolk left the temple hall.
“What the hell is happening here…”
“In any case, let’s go to the wall.”
And so the two jumped out of their hiding place.