An Investigative Expedition

 

Though I didn’t quite believe that I would come across more pertinent information regarding the evil dragon, I nevertheless decided to head for Honol Village and take a quick look around.

Honol Village… Honol Village… Wait. Why couldn’t I find it?

I went over to the reception in disbelief.

“Ma’am! Do you have any books about Honol Village?!”

The look she gave me when I addressed her appeared to be one of pity.

“…Haah. All books regarding Honol village are in that room. Since her Highness already went home, I can’t really let you in anymore.”

What. A. Screw. Up.

In any case, I couldn’t find out about Honol Village if I couldn’t get to the books.

Though I was more than ready to sally off and inspect the spot where the village had once been, a scan of the map that outlined the royal capital’s surroundings showed no sign of the place.

So that was their plan. First, they’d erase the place from all maps and pretend it didn’t even exist, and then they’d wait for the memory itself to die down…

Damn it all, what could I even do without information…?

Well, nothing I could do. It was better to stop there.

“I’d have liked to know where it was, at the very least…”

The older woman’s ears picked up the words I mumbled as I walked past the reception desk.

“Hold on, just wait for a minute.”

“Pardon?”

The woman stood and made a beeline for the section containing books on all sorts of monstrosities.

What was she up to?

“A book about the distributed investigation of monsters…? What’s this supposed to do?”

“Our kingdom actually makes sure to investigate every ten years or so to make sure that monsters haven’t relocated. That book, on the other hand, is thirteen years old now.”

“So… what are you trying to say, exactly?”

“You certainly don’t pick up on hints, do you…? In there, you won’t just find the names of different regions. You’ll also find maps. Including one that covers Honol Village’s surrounding areas.”

“…Which means that…?”

“That you can find out where it is if you use it, why don’t you get it yet? Listen, I just feel like playing along with you is more trouble than it’s worth. I’m going back to my job.”

“Thank you so much!”

“Good grief, you certainly know how to run someone ragged…”

The older woman returned to the reception as she spoke.

The first thing I saw when I opened the book was a table of contents. Only the areas around the more major cities found introduction there, under lines such as, ‘Distribution Close to the Royal Capital, Neighbouring Villages, and Neighbouring Cities’ and ‘Distribution Close to the Town of Orald and Other Close Regions’. So, I went to work and started reading.

The writing made passing mention of the areas surrounding Sils, the village that was now my home, and the regions around Ein, a different village that was close to Sils. More so…

“There we go…”

The village of Honol appeared to be remarkably close to where I was now. It was only a two days’ trip away by carriage. If I used my stats to investigate further, I shouldn’t need more than a day.

Marking down the location on a piece of paper I’d already had on my person, I put the book back.

That was enough investigating for one day, I thought. Tomorrow, I would go to wherever Honol had once been.

When the next day came around, I gripped the notes I’d scribbled down in one hand and ran in the direction of Holon Village. I passed both people and monsters as I ran, but paid them no mind and continued on my path.

Within no time at all, I’d made it to where the village should have been. Still…

“This is awful…”

While the deceased farmers appeared to have been given a proper funeral, at the very least, the buildings in this place were either half-crumbled ruins or fully destroyed. They had all been abandoned for quite some time, and weeds and grasses grew all over the place.

Of course it’d look like this after being abandoned for twelve years…

I walked about the place, trying to find anything that might be of use to me and couldn’t help but notice just how small the village was. It was about half as big as any village I’d lived in.

“…Hm?”

Close to a lone building which had gone largely undamaged was a patch without the slightest hint of even a single blade of grass.

Had something been buried here? I put my faith in a hoe I’d borrowed from some random houseowner and began digging.

It clanged loudly a short while after I’d begun, impacting against something. I upturned the rest of the earth with my hands.

What I dug out… was a human skull.

“Whoa?!”

I was taken aback, naturally. Not moments earlier I’d assumed that the people here had been given proper funerals, but what if that wasn’t the case? What if they’d never been found, kept buried inside the earth?

“Thank you for finding me.”

“Huh?”

I raised my head in response to the voice that had called out to me while I was lost in thought, and was met with the sight of what appeared to be a seven-year-old blue-haired boy, bathed in light and floating in front of me.

This wasn’t what I thought it was, right…?

“Are… Are you a ghost?”

“Yes, that’s right. No one ever dug me back up, and I’ve been stuck here for a long time because of that. You saved me.”

“Yeah… don’t mention it…”

“Hahah. You look a lot like me, Mister. If your hair was the same colour as mine, I’d think you to be some long-lost twin of mine.”

“You don’t say.”

Now that he mentioned it, I did feel as if we looked quite similar.

“Well then, why don’t we move on to the true topic of the day?”

“What topic?”

“That dragon, of course. The pitch-black one. You know something, don’t you?”

Was he talking about…

“Are you talking about the evil dragon Ouroboros?”

“I don’t know its name, so I couldn’t really say. I think it fits, though. Well? Can I leave it for you to handle?”

“…I’m not sure myself.”

“Well, it’s better than being told no, in any case. I want you to defeat that thing, see. For my sister’s sake.”

“…Your sister?”

“Yes, my older sister. She’s always smiling and dancing around, but she’s never had the best constitution. She was always good at hiding that fact from the people around her, though. No one even found out about it until she became sick. She always propped herself up, so she’d tell papa and mama that she was fine. They’d go out hunting for days on end, and she got even lonelier whenever I fell asleep. She’d cry to herself, even.

“She’s weak, but she never acts like she is. I thought I’d be the one to protect her. I started training, working on my physique. I even stopped talking like most children should.”

“That explains it. I thought it was a little odd that someone your age can talk so well…”

“Exactly! Can’t protect my sister if I don’t put in some effort, right?! But one day, that thing… what did you call it, the evil dragon? It attacked us, and I was separated from my sister. I died, you see.”

Huh? The way he said that made it sound as if…

“You’re talking like your sister’s still alive.”

“Yes, that’s right. My big sister’s still among the living.”

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