Minoa-san would be available to give me a guided tour of the castle, but would need a quick ten minutes to prepare. Alica-san smiled while telling me “Please feel free to take your time with Minoa”, as she did have another task to attend to at the time. Having to work so hard, having all this work to do as my exclusive maids, it looked difficult being such a maid.
“Please do not be so concerned about us, Seiren-sama.”
Hearing my name called suddenly, I stopped startled. Turning around, I saw Minoa-san had just returned recently and was now ready to guide me around.
“What? Oh, was it something I said?”
“No, I could just tell by the look on your face, Seiren-sama.”
“Oh, I see.”
Minoa-san tried to relieve my notable stress, noticing my slightly troubled frown. Well, I guess my expression was really easy to read. Either that, or Minoa-san was just that good at reading people. That seemed rather remarkable, having almost telepathic powers.
“Alica is taking care of some work for Seiren-sama, which is part of her job as Seiren-sama’s exclusive maid. So, please do not worry so much, Seiren-sama.”
Minoa-san tried to comfort me, explaining that Alica-san was only doing her regular job. Even so, it wouldn’t be like me to not worry about being such an imposition.
“… ah, thank you.”
“Then let’s get going.”
Arriving at the bottom of the stairs as we talked, we arrived at the main entrance. There were other maids present, who bowed as I arrived. They were carrying brooms and cleaning rags, working to clean up everything. They looked like they were working hard. Anyway, it seems the tour will begin from the entrance of the first floor. Usually this would be where someone would first arrive, so this might be a normal place to start. The entrance hall was also huge. I didn’t get much opportunity to check out much on this floor earlier, so I wanted to get a good look.
The floor tiling was made of huge stones. It was probably cleaned regularly, as it looked amazing. There were huge arabesque hung in the central portion of the hall, woven to match the same pattern as the thinner carpet that came from the main doors. The carpet didn’t seem as practical as would be normal, it didn’t look like the sort of thing to wipe shoes on. Doing so would seem selfish. Symmetrically designed, there were stairs that circled up from both sides of the hall, which included the wing I was staying in. It was on the right-hand side of the railing corridor that connected both sides of the stairs on the second floor, on the opposite side of the hall from the main doors. Beyond the stairs, on the first floor, was a plain door hiding behind the stairs. There was even a huge potted plant which seemed to be trying to further hide the door. The areas not hidden by potted plants held a variety of decorated paintings. These portraits, they probably represented my ancestors. These pictures of nobility were painted, and then further decorated. Further behind the stairs was a hallway, with the right side leading to the door going to the dining hall I had breakfast in. The other direction would lead to another room, I guess. Minoa-san gave a quick cough, before explaining such details.
“This entrance hall is approximately the centre of the Shiya family castle, with the door leading to the courtyard outside. In the back of the hall, across from the dining hall, is the castle’s grand hall.”
“It is where we would gather guests, in the event of a party. If we were to have a large number of guests over, we would open the doors to that hall.”
So then that would mean the door on the other side of the dinning hall then leads to the grand hall, like a sort of banquet hall. That grand hall, I wonder, might it be even bigger than this entrance hall? No way, it couldn’t be that big. But considering such, the even the entrance hall is this big. I worried about how much time it will take to go over everything.. oh well.
“Another thing I was wondering, what about these? All of these pictures along the walls..”
“They were here before I started working here. I believe they are portraits of your ancestors from long ago.”
“My ancestors. So one of these might be someone like my hiijiji-chan or something.”
Looking along the hall, at least three generations of my family were represented here. Actually, I don’t know if these pictures are older than that. So then, their only daughter disappeared suddenly, Saryuu was adopted into the proper family because of the need of aheir. They did still continue looking for their daughter, and found her again after she had turned 18.
In other words, I have some very foolish parents. I will need to stay strong. I should be fine, I just need to keep going forwards. I’m going to have to become a proper heir to the family, after all.
Unexpectedly, I heard a muffled crash suddenly. Lost in thought at the time, I was abruptly pulled back to reality. That sound… I think it came from within the door hidden at the bottom of the stairs. I wonder if someone was inside. Who? I had no idea, I would have to ask first.
“The door hiding at the bottom of the stairs, what’s in there?”
Oh no! Stopping for a moment, it looked like Minoa-san had become upset all of a sudden. Oops, did I just step on a landmine?
“That door, it leads to the staff room. It is not a place for Seiren-sama to visit.”
After a distressing moment, Minoa-san returned back to her regular expressionless self, to my great relief. So then earlier, that was the sound of staff busy at work, on the other side of the door. Still, it was something would have liked to seen myself.
“I’m not familiar with the sort of lifestyle Seiren-sama had, while growing up. But here, there exists a significant different between Seiren-sama of the Shiya Family, and ordinary people. Please, make sure you remember this.”
Minoa-san scolded me with such, locking eyes with me using a stern gaze.
Convincingly, I was left with nothing to dispute her. It is clear this world has such a distinct societal hierarchy which separated people. That’s just how things worked here, Minoa-san made that completely clear to me, still… the other world, she didn’t know how difficult things were there.
The tension seemed to settle. I thought so at least, because at least Minoa-san’s expression lightened again. She turned her head lightly, implying that we should just continue the tour.
“… would you like to continue to see more of the castle?”
“Oh, right. Sorry… If you would please.”
I apologised promptly, and hurried to follow Minoa-san. Really, to be so completely distracted, I was very sorry.
Minoa-san slowly opened the door leading to the grand hall. Even considering how big the entrance hall was, the grand hall was much bigger. The grand hall, it was indeed grandiose. The stone tiles of the floor were much brighter, but had the same pattern as the entrance hall. Descending from the undeniably extravagant ceiling, were an expanse of chandeliers of different sizes. The pale marble-colored wall was also covered with a further expanse of new paintings like before. Deep in the back was a set of thick, red curtains. Because of how it was displayed, it felt like the curtains before some type of stage. In the corner of the room was two sets of doors, the first being considerably more plain than the other. It was probably another staff room. Next to the door, laid what look like another one of the same potted plants we saw earlier. Across the room were various maids who were cleaning the room, such as cleaning the floor with a large mop. There were maids who were also tending to the pillars scattered across the hall, and others were going over the frames of the pictures carefully. One of the maids rushing to complete work nearby stopped momentarily, offering a quick bow. Well then, I was left speechless in wonderment at seeing this.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Please continue cleaning, I only came here to look around.”
“Of course, excuse me.”
After saying such, the maid turned back to resume her work. It occurred to me that what Minoa-san said earlier was true, my status here does have a visible affect.
“This is the grand hall. It does not see very much use, mostly for cleaning as you can see.”
“Well it would be much harder to work with, if it wasn’t regularity cleaned. Though it is such a big room.”
“That is true.”
To think this room would be used for a party. It’s amazing, to have so much space devoted to such. There is so much to this grand hall, way more than what I was remembered it was back at the orphanage. It might have only been yesterday, but the other world has gone so far away now that I don’t remember most of the details anymore.
After we left the grand hall, Minoa-san started heading out towards the dining hall. Because I already saw it this morning, I wondered if there was any value in going there. Was I to go over there now, to see it being cleaned as well?
“In the back of this corridor is the dining hall, which is where you had your breakfast this morning. It is the place where your family always eats their meals.”
“My family? In a room this big? I wonder if it was always like that.”
Considering my family, and excluding the staff, there was only the four of us, father, mother, Saryuu, and I. It was absolutely too much space for just four people. And considering even my ancestors, they would have eaten in this room as a family too, so it’s always been like this.
“I’m not certain if this has always been like this. Oh maybe, ifdanna-sama or oku-sama have friends or relatives over, they might decide to have them eat here too.”
“It’s just, this seems too spread out.”
That might make sense. If there are a few guests that show up, there would easily be room for everyone to eat together. It’s just such a big hall, it feels like a waste. The orphanage had such a different occupancy. In the single room, with a single table, everyone had to squeeze tightly together. There was even quite a scramble over portions of curry. Things were much different here, maybe even the prayers before meals, “We give thanks for these blessings from the heavens and the earth” if I recall right…. I wonder if that’s changed too. While considering such details, Minoa-san turned over to face me. Oh, and she had the same stern expression that she had earlier.
“In the back of the dining hall is the kitchen area. Because that is another staff area, you should not go inside.”
“…. I know. The same as before. I’m sorry.”
I accept docilely. I kinda wanted to dispute this with Minoa-san, but first I wanted to finish exploring the castle. Still, it was important to know where I was expected not to go.
“Oh, and what is that over there next to the kitchen?”
“Ah, yes. Further back behind the kitchen is the food pantry.”
I asked Minoa-san another question, quickly getting a reply. Ah, that was good to know too. So behind the dining room was the kitchen, with the pantry even further back. That sort of setup kinda made sense. Considering this world probably doesn’t have a refrigerator, it would have to routinely cycle its food stock. At least, unless it was pickled or dried foods. Hmm? There, I could faintly see it deeper in the back.
“I can hardly see it, only faintly, but might the food pantry have a door going outside?”
“It does. I’m impressed you were able to see such.”
Oh, it seems I was correct. Also, Minoa-san seemed happy I noticed.
“That door is important, it makes carrying food inside easier.”
“Considering it is just us four, I hope such also includes food for the staff here. Things seem hard every day for you all.”
“It’s just something we’re used to.”
Offering a reply without much comfort, Minoa-san nodded off any signs of caring. I wondered, maybe Minoa-san just felt she was too powerless to change anything?