Chapter 33 – Library

 


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Fortunately, acquiring the marriage certificate did not prove to be all that difficult.

They just had to fill out a document at the municipal office and exchange a kiss at the public notary. It was a little unexpected that a kiss was part of the official procedures, but the Kiss of Oath apparently existed in this world too. While Kei and Aileen blushed as they had to kiss in front of others, the notaries and the other office workers didn’t pay any heed to it, their expressions clearly telling, “We’ve seen more than a fair share of this.”

The inspection and procedures for issuing the certificate followed thereafter, and safely ended shortly after they had their lunch break. But by the time they left the municipal office with the certificate, the sky was already darkening, so they two decided to delay the library visit to the next day.

“Man, the issue with the marriage certificate really came out of nowhere.”

“See it in a positive light: we managed to obtain it smoothly.”

Apparently the city and its inner workings had trained them to the extent that Aileen had started to think that finishing a procedure could be regarded as smooth. Although the two felt somewhat fed up with all the waiting, they did not seem particularly exhausted.

On their way back to the inn, they went around the market, looking at carts and stalls without buying anything. Aileen pulled Kei’s hand whenever she saw something interesting — a sight often seen in Urvan these days. The merchants warmly watched over these two. Although some of the men also stabbed Kei with looks full of jealousy as they had fallen for Aileen.

Eventually, the two bought crystals that seemed usable as magic catalysts, as well as your ordinary peaches that were called pêche plate as is, and then returned to the inn.

“…Oh, welcome back. How was the library?”

Jamie greeted them with a calm smile, holding a broom in her hands as she had been cleaning the tavern.

“Ah, no, we haven’t gone there yet.”

“We needed a marriage certificate for me to be allowed entry into the high-class district together with Kei, and getting it took the entire day.”

Aileen showed her the parchment after pulling it out of her pocket.

“I see… So you two officially entered your names in the family register, huh?”

Ignoring Jamie who looked like she would vomit blood any moment, Kei and Aileen quickly sat down at a table. Once the two ate and drank their fill while they were served by Jamie who wore a damn expression, they flirted in their room as usual and then went to sleep.

The next day greeted them with a clear sky, only blemished by cirrus clouds trailing high up in the air. Kei and Aileen were finally able to pass through the gate, entering the area within the first wall.

“…I see, so this is the first-class district.”

“As expected, it’s amazing. The difference between here and outside is like night and day.”

The two restlessly looked around them while walking, acting almost like country bumpkins who are visiting a city for the first time.

It was a world where everything was made out of high-quality stones and red bricks. The streets extended in a radial shape with the castle in the center. The buildings on both sides of the streets were at least three stories tall, and surprisingly, almost all of them had glass windows. This orderly arrangement of the entire district made them somewhat feel like being in a modern world’s city, and coupled with the chilly morning air, it carried a somewhat cold impression.

Usually this district would look deserted when peeking inside from outside the gate, but now that they were here, they could see people bustling around, despite it still being early in the morning. Most of them were servants dressed in simple yet clean clothes. Every once in a while they also spotted merchants riding small carriages. Moreover, guards in red uniforms scrutinized the passersby with coercive stares.

On top of their uniform, which was adorned with the dragon crest signifying Urvan’s emblem, they wore a metallic breastplate which had been buffed, and a flashy feathered helmet. They held well-ornamented halberds in their hands — making Kei think that they looked like toy soldiers. But as Kei observed them, his eyes suddenly met with those of a guard.

“—Hey, you over there!”

The guard pushed his way through the pedestrians, lumbering over with heavy strides. Kei reflexively looked around, searching for someone suspicious, but unfortunately, he himself turned out to be the suspicious person in question.

Kei wondered why he would be suspected. He looked down at himself in doubt, not remembering having done anything that would warrant any suspicion. Aileen and him had even made sure to not look poor by buying new clothes before coming here.

“…You’re talking to me?”

“Yes, you! What’s that on your waist?”

The guard pointed at Kei’s bow case with an accusing tone. Ahh, Kei finally realized with that.

“It’s a bow case.”

“…It is strictly forbidden to carry weapons inside the first rampart without permission. Not to mention, projectile weapons… Are you carrying this with you despite being aware of that?”

“I have the permission though.” Kei presented his ID to the guard, who let loose a dangerous atmosphere for some reason, while shrugging

Ordinary citizens aside, Kei was an honorary citizen, and thus he was allowed to carry blades and archery tools inside the first-class district. It was limited to things you can carry on a person but Kei was only carrying the Dragon Stinger and his longsword right now. Hence there were no legal problems.

Incidentally, even as an honorary citizen or whatever, it was still forbidden to carry items that could injure targets from afar like arrowheads and crossbow bolts for the sake of preventing assassinations. If one was found out to be carrying such things without permission, they would be immediately sentenced to capital punishment unless they were under the protection of royalty or titled nobles.

Then again strict inspections were not performed at the gates, different from Satyna with its check for drugs, so it wouldn’t be impossible to sneak something in, but either way, that had nothing to do with Kei.

“Permission…Hmm, so you’re an honorary citizen, Keiichi Nogawa… This name…”

The guard scanned the ID and closed his mouth shut under the helmet.

“Ah, captain. This person is the winner of the tournament’s marksmanship division.”

Another nearby guard pointed at Kei as he unsteadily approached.

“I saw him at the assembly place so I remember his face.”

“Hmm, is that so?”

At his subordinate’s words, the captain started to closely compare Kei with the ID in his hand. Kei thought he was quite unreserved, be it this or his earlier threatening attitude, though he didn’t put his impression into words, merely staring back with his head tilted.

“…I see, my apologies. Incidentally, who may she be?”

“She is my wife.”

“Here’s the marriage certificate.”

Aileen quickly opened the parchment and showed it. This time the captain just scanned it with his eyes without taking the certificate.

“I see, my apologies. It looks like you weren’t suspicious individuals.”

“Your colleagues are standing guard at the gate, so how about putting a little bit of faith into them?” Aileen commented with her cheeks puffing out, earning her a wry smile and a tap of the helmet by the captain.

“Well, yes, you’ve got a point. It’s just that I can’t exclude the possibility of some lawless folk scaling the wall to sneak in,” he remarked. “At any rate, my bad,” he added and returned to his post.

“Please don’t let that affect you. Despite his behavior, our captain is a very diligent man.” The guard excused his superior with a shrug, and then faced Kei, “By the way, can I get your handshake? I saw your exploits during the tournament! You were amazing! It got me really excited!”

“S-Sure. I’m glad that you enjoyed it.”

The guard’s forcefulness overwhelmed Kei a bit, but he still took the man’s hand and shook it, not really looking all that dissatisfied with it.

Watching this scene play out, Aileen knitted her brows, “Hey, Kei, your name and face aren’t very well known despite winning the tournament, are they?”

“Huh? Uhh… I guess…”

The guard who was still holding Kei’s hand answered her in slight doubt, “…I think it depends on the person. They wouldn’t know his face if they weren’t present during the tournament, and many likely lost interest when they heard a stranger won.”

“Aww, what’s up with that?” Aileen complained with a voice lacking enthusiasm and her body losing its tension in dejection.

“Oh, our captain’s an exception, though. He had some business in a different city until just recently, so he missed the tournament and doesn’t know anything about it.”

“Ah, I see. But still, it’d be pretty irritating to get stopped like this over and over again.”

“…Are you planning to come here so often?”

“Yeah. We have business at the library. We’ll be investigating things for a while.” Kei nodded deeply.

“I see. The library, eh…? The number of guards is limited, so it won’t take long for everyone to know your faces. But if you don’t want to wait for that, how about riding a carriage? This would prevent anyone from stopping you once you pass the gate.”

“…I see, makes sense since you can’t sneak in with a horse and carriage. But are there any stables at the library?”

“There are. After all, many esteemed nobles come to visit the library from afar. As long as it’s not some ferocious animal, they’ll keep watch over most things.”

“Oh. Then I guess we’ll visit with our horses next time.”

It would probably make Sasuke and Suzuka feel better as well, if they took them out for a bit when going to the library, instead of forcing them to stay at their stable all day long.

With the handshake finished, Kei and Aileen thanked the guard for his advice and continued their walk.

“Though I have to admit it sounds pretty silly that we’re going to ride horses because we can’t handle the questioning.”

“I mean, it’s really annoying, so what can we do?” Aileen responded with a shrug to Kei’s mutter.

After spending so much time with Aileen, Kei had noticed that she apparently was very bad at being outside of her comfort zone. When it came to things she could not accept culturally or psychologically, or when she had to deal with people she could not handle, it stressed her out quite a lot. Especially because the government officials and citizens of Urvan all faced outsiders with cold attitudes, Aileen had recently been in a fairly sulky mood.

On the other hand, Kei was quite familiar with this kind of isolation as he had played the game as the sole Japanese person among western players.

Kei glanced at Aileen walking by his side. She had a somewhat bored, somewhat dejected expression, a common sight as of late. He nonchalantly reached out towards her golden hair.

“Uh, what?” She blinked in surprise as Kei started to stroke her hair. “…What is it, Kei?”

“Oh nothing much, I was just thinking I’m glad to have you with me.”

“Huuh?”

She blinked again, making Kei scratch his cheek in embarrassment and shaking his head with, mumbling, “Nevermind it.”

Before they knew it, the two arrived at a square with a fountain. The paving beneath their feet was no longer made out of red bricks, but marble tiles. In front of their eyes spread a shiny, white world as the marble reflected the sunlight, and further down the square stood a white palace.

“…So this is it.”

We finally reached it.

The crystallization of wisdom that Urvan boasted of.

The ducal library stood there to welcome the two.

 

†††

 

At first, they swallowed their breaths when faced with its imposing appearance.

Its decorations and architecture clearly stood out from the other buildings around it. Its height was not all that different in comparison, but its overwhelming length was proof of the tremendous amount of books stored within.

The structure was, putting it frankly, shaped like a half-moon, ushering the visitors inside with its gentle arc. The width of its facade was well over a hundred meters. It had arch-shaped windows from the first to the third floor, all of them equipped with exceedingly transparent glasses.

Its walls were of a refined white color. The marble shone in a smooth brilliance. The reflection of yellowish-brown light, as if the sun itself was painting the facade anew, was beautiful. And the stones’ luster made the reliefs etched on one of its sides stand out even more.

The detailed carvings of flowers, vines, and small animals made one feel the passion of the craftsman who had worked on it, and the shadows they cast gave birth to an exquisite contrast with the marble color.

Just how much would this building be worth even as just a piece of art — the two sighed in admiration as their eyes followed its lines, filled with astonishment.

Moreover, the elaborate sculptures that were integrated into the walls at every place also captivated the two. As if they were going to move any moment — was a description you could often hear, but these sculptures were the exact opposite of that. They were so vivid that they looked as if someone had stopped the time of living people and perpetuated them in stone. Perhaps models of the Elemental Spirits, or perhaps reproductions of historical figures — young girls clad in the angelic robes who smiled bewitchingly, while an old man with a thick book in his hand glared up to the sky with a fierce gaze. Every strand of their hair, and even the clothes’ rustling in the wind, had been entirely depicted with incredible detail.

And the sculpture drawing the most attention was the one enshrined on the roof of the library’s central part. The figure of a fine man, a sword lowered in his right hand and a wand raised high in his left. On his back, a big pair of wings like those of an angel. However, those wings didn’t resemble those of a bird, but looked more like those of a bat or a reptile — or maybe, a Dragon. Their membrane and sharp talons made them seem aggressive.

As he stared straight ahead, the man looked extremely dignified. His fierce glare seemed to be lording over the lower world, yet harbored a tinge of kindness. On top of that, a maternal gentleness was contained within his draconic wildness. It was a statue full of elegance, extolling both the victory of reasoning over one’s desires, as well as the harmony brought about by wisdom.

For a while, Kei and Aileen could only stare in fascination.

“…Amazing. It’s just like the Louvre.”

Eventually Aileen was the first one to speak up.

“Louvre?”

Kei repeated, followed by Aileen’s nod.

“Yeah, the Louvre Museum. The one in Paris.”

“…Have you been there?”

“Yeah, just once, when I was little…”

Aileen’s expression looked vacant, maybe because memories of a distant past revived in her mind.

“Did the Louvre look like this…?”

“Ah, well, the building itself looks similar, but it didn’t have these kinds of statues. If I had to say, the statues feel closer to Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican.”

“I see…”

Kei nodded his comprehension while at the same time also looking somewhat absentminded.

“…Shall we enter then?”

“Right. No point in standing around here amazed all day long.”

Thus the two psyched themselves up and started to slowly walk ahead.

The front entrance was a giant double door. It had glasswork added to its wooden frame, allowing a peek inside. It virtually offered no protection against theft, compared to the first floor with its iron-barred windows, but two brawny guards flanked the sides of the door.

Both of them were lightly equipped unlike the guards out on the streets, not even wearing breastplates or helmets. They wore attires with black and yellow stripes, holding metallic poles that exceeded them in height. Compared to halberds, these were rather gentle weapons, but with these two burly men holding them, they looked more than intimidating. Both stood on attention with watchful, serious expressions, making it clear that they took their duty very seriously.

Even when Kei and Aileen approached, the guards did not budge at all. Then, without either of them stopping him, Kei reached out to touch the doorknob — only for it to soundlessly open on its own.

Kei and Aileen were both petrified for a moment, but then Aileen exclaimed, after finally realizing what was going on, “Isn’t this a magic item?”

On a closer look, the door’s ornaments were skillfully concealing a spell written in Esperanto. And apparently the gems embedded everywhere weren’t mere decorations either.

“They really didn’t save on money for this…” Kei muttered, both impressed and exasperated.

From a modern person’s perspective, an automatic door was nothing impressive in itself, but it was extremely hard to create magic items that could perform such physical actions. It should have been impossible to implement it unless one used a high-ranking Spirit — and the higher the rank, the rarer the required catalysts. Considering the size of this door, you could probably buy a house with the amount that was spent on the catalysts.

As he entered while pondering about this, a wide hall spread out in front of them.

You could not describe the interior as anything other than gorgeous. It was similar to the facade outside in regards to the walls following a white color scheme, but the fresco painting on the ceiling depicted Spirits dancing in the blue sky, and every part of it, be it the beams or pillars, was full of decorations.

Right as you entered, you could see a wooden counter that appeared to be the reception. Behind the counter lined up bookshelves — a part of the library. The floor was covered by a fluffy, high-quality carpet. Near the windows stood sofas, looking quite comfortable as the sun gently shone upon them. Several tables and chairs of decent quality could be seen at the end of the hall. Maybe these were also part of a tearoom as waiters were hurrying around while people in fine dresses were sitting on the sofas next to tables, enjoying their chats.

All of them focused on Kei and Aileen who had just arrived.

“……”

It felt quite awkward. The two clearly stood out here.

They were wearing new clothes, but those were still of commoner quality. Compared to the silken clothes of the people here, Kei and Aileen’s attires were undeniably inferior. Everyone quickly averted their eyes, resuming their conversations as if nothing had happened, but they were obviously continuing to pay attention to them, albeit inconspicuously.

That said, neither Kei nor Aileen had such a weak mental fortitude that they would be intimidated by something of this level. They just looked at each other, and shrugged it away. Then they quickly approached the reception.

Two young women, seemingly receptionists, stood behind the counter with its calm colors.

“…Good day. What kind of business do you have with us today?”

In no time, one of the receptionists, who had a short hairstyle and wore a monocle, initiated the conversation. Kei wondered for a moment whether they were working while standing, but then he realized that she was sitting on a tall chair. Looking at the receptionist, who was actually just a bit lower positioned than he was while standing, Kei spoke up.

“We’d like to use this library.”

“…This is your first time visiting, yes? You will need to pay an annual fee of fifty silver coins.”

But can you? She left that part unsaid.

“Can I pay right away?” Kei took out his wallet, placing it on the counter. As it flopped down on the hard surface, a heavy clinking of coins grazing against each other resounded from within.

Although she did not voice it, the receptionist tilted her head, seemingly surprised.

“Yes, of course.”

“That’s great.”

He put a gold coin on the tray the receptionist held out to him. She calmly blinked as she let her eyes wander between Kei and Aileen.

“Would you like to pay for two?”

“Yeah, please.”

“…Understood. I will register you, so please present your IDs.”

Her attitude seemed more polite than before. Kei showed his ID while Aileen the marriage certificate, resulting in the receptionist creating the library cards for them.

The receptionist started carefully writing something on the palm-sized parchment with a silver fountain pen. The blue ink gleamed dully as she seemed to carefully carve the words out, letter by letter.

“…Alright, please sign here.”

She handed them the pen and the two wrote down their names. Just as they finished, the signatures on the parchment started to shine in a bluish-white color.

“With this, the card will be effective for one year. Please keep in mind that the card will get automatically destroyed when that time period is over.”

Kei scrutinized the fountain pen in his hand with keen interest while listening to the receptionist’s dispassionate explanation.

Is this a magic item as well..?

The ink must have been special too. He started to suspect every small tool.

“Thank you very much. Now then, as this is your first visit, would you like an introduction of the facilities?”

The receptionist asked expressionlessly while readjusting her monocle. Kei glanced at Aileen who returned a small nod.

“Yes, please.”

“Very well. In that case…”

She suddenly stood up from her seat. She was apparently leaving the desk duties to the other receptionist. Once she stepped out from behind the counter, it became evident that she was fairly tall. From the counter, the monocled receptionist appeared to be quite tall. At a glance her height seemed to almost reach 180 cm.

“Then I shall start by explaining the entrance. First, the tearoom over there can be used for free by our members. There are also private and conference rooms on the second floor, so as long as you reserve them in advance—”

She continued to explain the tearoom, salon, and restrooms, while gradually moving deeper into the library.

The library’s inner area was a serene space. Bookshelves packed full of books and scrolls formed orderly walls. The carpet under their feet had a calm shade of green, with chairs and sofas in the center of the floor.

“The first floor mainly has literature like poetry and novels, as well as historical writings. They are normally divided by authors, but if you would like to look up a specific genre or contents, you can request it at the reception or ask the librarian.”

The receptionist lowered her voice, so that she was almost whispering, “The librarian can be found in the office over there,” she continued her explanation, while Aileen tugged on Kei’s sleeve.

“Hmm? What’s up?”

“Key, look… look there!”

Aileen pointed at a nearby wall, sounding strangely excited.

Confused, Kei looked in the indicated direction, just to find a lamp fixed to the wall.

A faint light shone inside colorless and transparent glass. For a moment, Kei thought it was a luxury to be burning oil during the daytime — but he quickly realized that it was not a flame and became astonished.

It was a magic light.

An exceedingly precious illumination magic item.

He immediately looked around, realizing that everything starting with the lamps on the walls to the chandeliers hanging down from the ceiling were magic items that did not use fire.

“Are you kidding me… even in the game I’ve never seen this many…”

“Even if this is supposed to be a measure against fire, it’s still ridiculous.”

The two were dumbfounded. The difficulty and the costs of making them were ridiculously high, and during the game you could only obtain them in ancient ruins and dungeons. And there were so many of them gathered here that they covered the entire vastness of this building.

Kei and Aileen could not hide their shock at the productive capacity and economic strength of Urvan.

“…Is everything clear so far? Then let us move to the second floor.”

Meanwhile, the receptionist continued her monotone explanation. Led by her, they headed to the second floor next.

“Now, the second floor is dedicated to academic books and “encyclopedia.””

“”Encyclopedia?””

“Yes. These ones.”

The receptionist pointed at the twenty-six giant bookshelves lined up at the window-side. They each had alphabetical A, B, C, etc., letters designated to them. And in those shelves were no books or scrolls to be found, but something like leather-bound files that were packed to the brim.

“This is our pride, the encyclopedia. All of these shelves function as a single encyclopedia. You can investigate things from multiple angles starting with a term.”

The receptionist approached the nearest shelf with the letter A. “For example,” she pulled out a single file, “if you wanted to look up Apple, you would take this.”

She passed Kei the file with Apple written on the spine. He flipped through it with Aileen next to him. They discovered that it was filled with basic information about apples — botanical features, main producing areas, species, harvest seasons, cultivation laws, and such, adorned by insert illustrations.

What was most interesting was the fact that the calligraphy changed from page to page. And at the end of the file was a list of cited works and editors.

“Among our users, those with a high level of education and deeply specialized knowledge are known as “editors” which grants them the right to compile encyclopedias. They add new information upon discovery, and fix any mistakes they find. Thus, our encyclopedia constantly evolves.”

“…In short, it’s like an analog Wikipedia, huh?”

“That’s a fitting description.” Kei deeply nodded in response to Aileen’s muttering.

“Analog… Wiki? Um, this is an encyclopedia.”

The receptionist corrected them with a serious expression, not understanding what they meant, but the two’s attention had already been captivated by the shelves.

They quickly moved to the N shelf, trying to find the Northland entry. Then they discovered an unexpectedly thick file, and browsing through it, it seemed to record Snowlander customs, folklore, and legends, with historical sources.

“…Looks like we’ll be using this for a long time.”

Kei smiled as he closed the file with a thud. Either way, it would be faster than randomly reading every book they discovered.

“I’ll start from Northland, I guess.”

“Then I’ll go with fog.”

Perhaps this library also contained information about the reason why they had come to this world.

Their quest for answers had only begun.

 

 


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