Sleeping Beauty, A Princess of Thorns (Part 5/7)
Only two parts left! (I say this when the next part is by far the longest).
「茨姫」”Episode 04: La Belle au bois dormant” from Volume 2 of ダンタリアンの書架/Dantalian no Shoka/Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian/The Mystical Archives of Dantalian.
Sleeping Beauty, A Princess of Thorns (4)
Just as Talia and the workman had said, the shape of the land around the mansion was terribly confusing. The road was often cut off by landslides, and would either end at a sudden drop, or run into the bottom of a steep cliff. After taking several hours longer than they had expected, Huey and Dalian finally made it to the entrance to the mansion. Then, standing in front of they gate, they frowned.
The iron gate was hedged by a high wall, and countless thorned vines had wrapped themselves around it barring anyone from entering. Furthermore, caught in the thick vines was something, greyly glimmering.
It was a dead body.
Real human bones raised up, with faded clothing still about them, a dried corpse was left to bleach in the sun, still wrapped in the vines of the gate – and there was more than one.
“If these are meant to be a decoration, the owner really has some incredible tastes,” Dalian said coldly.
“These corpses are fairly new… All the flesh has fallen from the bones, but the clothing is still fairly intact… It can only be a year at most since they died… From their clothing, they were probably servants of this mansion…” Huey calmly analyzed the scene.
From what they had in front of them, it was impossible to tell whether the growth of the vines had lifted the bodies up, or someone had tied them up in the vines while they were still alive. If one thing was clear, it was that anyone who abandoned corpses at the gate where they lived couldn’t be in a right state of mind.
“So what do we do Dalian? If we don’t do something about these vines we’ll never make it into the mansion.”
“Isn’t it obvious? We’ll just break through them. There just so happens to be a useful tool lying around.”
Without changing her expression, Dalian pointed to the ground under one of the corpses where there was an axe. It probably belonged to someone who was trying to save their friends caught in the vines. The fact that the axe was left here probably meant that its original owner met the same fate of the one he was trying to save. It didn’t seem like it carried a very good omen.
“We’ll break through…? Don’t you mean me?” Huey muttered as he reluctantly picked up the axe.
So, with a surprisingly skilled hand, Huey began to hack away the vines locked around the gate. There was rust on the blade of the axe, but it hadn’t dulled very much. The vines fell away and the way in front of them opened up.
Just like the workman had said, there weren’t any lights on in the mansion. Huey and Dalian made their way past the skeletons at the gate and headed toward the entrance. The door wasn’t locked. Huey pulled on it and it easily creaked open.
The inside of the mansion was dark. Huey took his military oil lighter out of his pocket and used it in place of a torch.
“No sign of anyone huh… Still, it’s cleaner than you would expect,” Huey said, looking around the hall.
There was a thin layer of dust on the carpet, but there were no signs of a struggle of any sort. All of the furniture was neatly in its place. If someone had told him that the owner had only been absent a few months, he would have easily belived him. Well, if it weren’t for all the vines and corpses at the front gate.
Dragging the axe along in one hand and carrying his lighter in the other, Huey climbed the stairs to the clock tower. In the observation room above the clock tower the master of this mansion, the princess of this castle of thorns, Florence Carabosse should be there. Huey had seen her with his own eyes just hours before.
However, when Huey reached the observation room, he froze in his tracks.
Certainly, there was a woman there. It was a long haired woman wearing an expensive looking dress. She was standing at the window, which was covered in vines, as if she were looking down at the village. She was probably the same age as Talia. Surely she would have been a beautiful woman – had she been alive.
“This is…” Huey looked around the room and groaned.
You could say the woman was “standing” at the window, but nothing below her torso was there. The lower half of her body had been hewn off by someone, and was lying on the sofa. Her head and arms had been ripped from her body as well, probably while she was still wearing that dress. Vines draping from the ceiling had wrapped around those severed parts and held them aloft. The reason it looked like she was alive was because of those vines. Her torso, head, and arms had been hung from the ceiling, as if she were a marionette.
“I guess this is… Ms. Florence?” Huey walked over to the corpse at the window and sighed.
There was no need to confirm she was dead for some time. Her body had dried out, but her clothes weren’t very faded, so the corpse wasn’t very old. She had probably been dead maybe a few months to half a year at most, about the same time as the corpses at the front gate.
“Well it doesn’t look like a suicide.” Huey looked at the splattered blood stains on the carpet.
Dalian placidly agreed. “Yes. If her legs didn’t walk themselves over there, then she was killed by someone.”
“I wonder if it was the same person who set fire to Carabosse’s main mansion…? Wait.”
As Huey questioned himself, he noticed a fundamental contradiction.
“Then who was the person our witness saw at the foot of the mountain if it wasn’t Ms. Florence?”
From examining at Florence Carabosse’s corpse, it must have been almost half a year since she died, but Florence had been sighted at the foot of the mountain not more than a month ago. The witness was a merchant that had a long relationship with the Carabosse family, so the credibility of his information was high. It was hard to think that he simply mistook her for someone else.
“Does that mean that someone that should have died is out living and walking around? Don’t tell me that that’s the power of “The Book of Deep Green”… Dalian?”
“No.” The black clothed girl determinedly shook her head.
“The dead don’t read books. If “The Book of Deep Green” really does exist, its owner is not her but someone else.”
“…Does that mean someone killed her and stole the phantom book?” Huey asked with a severe expression on his face.
Dalian quietly continued. “Either that or the phantom book’s owner wasn’t her to begin with.”
“Then it wasn’t Ms. Florence? Then who…?” Huey asked, perplexed.
“There is only one other possibility. You haven’t even figured that out yet? Idiot.”
“Huh?” Huey was dumbfounded.
Dalian looked back at Huey with a mix of disdain. “It’s just as that peasant said. Other than the people at the mansion, there’s only one other person who can read books.”
“Talia… but… why would she…?”
“I don’t know either, but I think it’s safe to say that there’s a phantom book in this village,” Dalian muttered as she looked to the window. Her cheeks on her emotionless face were white, as if the blood had drained from her face. Before the small patch of night sky cut out by the window, something was rustling, undulating.
It was the rose vines. Under the reddish moonlight, thick green vines were squirming, very much alive, and trying to surround the mansion Huey and Dalian were in.