Next, Lord Lau took Beatrice and Emi to a new sight altogether: the National Museum of Mammoth Pass, one of Dannark’s many cultural museums dedicated to preserving its history and art.
In Balarand, the construction of a museum shortly after the occupation was a source of great controversy. It housed the Jewel of Elince, the nation’s most precious artifact, and the occupational government refused to allow the people to take it out it during the Winter Ceremonies. Many boycotted the museum in protest, and there was word of serious financial troubles already.
Emi imagined there had been tensions about the same things here in Mammoth Pass long ago, but it had settled out over time. Would Elince ever become the same way? Would the occupation even last such a long time?
They entered the museum and were immediately greeted with a huge skeleton of a Mammoth on display, right at the entrance.
That seemed blasphemous to a high degree.
“Do not worry,” Lord Lau said. “It is merely a model. Mammoth bones always burned in this city, not stored and displayed. As if we were savages, really…”
“That wasn’t there the last time I came here,” Emi said.
“The Empress herself requested it last year,” he said. “They had to make do with an imitation, but it was the best that could be done without upsetting the Gods.”
Hmm… Emi didn’t like this.
Beatrice had come here, excited to learn a lot from the museum and even wore her traditional ancient Balarand-style outfit, the one with the sash and cape and everything. But the first thing here was a sight that could be outright blasphemous to her whole religion. Was this really okay? Emi wondered what Bk’Man would think if Balarand performed rituals to appease Him, but kept an effigy of one of His servants on display as well. It seemed mighty suspicious. She wasn’t the junior priest, though, so what did she know?
Her girlfriend seemed to notice the way Emi was fretting. “It’s fine,” Beatrice told her. “I think it’s pretty cool. My Dad would absolutely love this place.”
“Ah, your father is interested in this sort of place? He must be an esteemed scholar,” Lord Lau said.
“Not really,” Beatrice said. “He just likes studying about the ancient cultures in Tsubasa. They used to have more magic and completely different languages, apparently.”
“You must tell him everything you learn here, then,” Lord Lau said. “I will give you the most comprehensive tour I can.”
Emi most certainly did not want to be given the most comprehensive tour Lord Lau could give, because she had known this man for most of her life. If he spoke, they wouldn’t make it past the first exhibit by the end of the day.
“I do wish your Dad was here,” Emi said. “I love that man.”
“What do you know, I love him too,” said Beatrice.
“I wish I could have taken your whole family and shown them all of this cool stuff so they could be happy. But I’m not good enough yet.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Emi. My parents are happy just like they are. My Dad has to stay and support the library, because there aren’t many people who work there. And my Mom won’t go anywhere without him. So really, it’s okay.”
“If you say so…”
“Let us explore history and nature,” said Lord Lau. “Follow me. I shall show you the latest discoveries by researchers that have explored the northern portion of Tsubasa looking for preserved specimens of ancient life. So far, they have found a great number of promising…”
Beatrice began following him towards the exhibit on “Animals of the Plebias Mountains” and had a happy smile on her face. No! She didn’t know what she was in for!
She tugged on Beatrice’s jacket and whispered, “Come on. We need to get away from him.”
“What, how come?”
“…fifteen years since the previous fossil, and in that time they suspected the whole species was naught but a…” Lord Lau stopped and turned around. “Is anything the matter?”
“Nothing, we just need to visit the ladies’ room,” Emi said. She pulled her girlfriend with her towards the bathroom, but after they turned the corner towards a display of ancient tools used six thousand years ago, she stopped.
“What’s wrong?” Beatrice asked.
“Lord Lau lectures lots,” Emi said. “Once, when I was five years old, he told me about the Romance of Zahn, that old epic poem, and how the real-life events differed from the story. He went on for over six hours. I was five years old.”
“And you listened the whole time? That’s so sweet.” Beatrice leaned in for a kiss but Emi put her hand in front of her face. It was not a deserving moment, and Beatrice was not getting away with it.
“I just think that, even if this museum is really cool… maybe we should try to find more things to do since we only have a couple days left in Mammoth Pass.”
“But Lord Lau is so nice,” Beatrice said.
“You’re right, but… Oh hey, look at that.”
Emi walked up to a painting in this display of ancient traditions, titled The First Winter Ceremonies, by Tormod Benici. “This is the same painting I have in my bedroom. Isn’t that neat?” It was a swirling mix of blues and whites showing off ancient Balarand, with pink-hued decorations adorning the snow-covered buildings. Beatrice and her dark-gray outfit complimented the painting well.
“Why do you have a fake painting in your bedroom again?” Beatrice asked. “I think I’ve asked this before but I forget. It’s kind of weird, isn’t it?
“You haven’t, because the answer is… I have no idea.” Emi shrugged. “It’s been there since I was a child. I like it.”
“That’s cute. You’re cute.” Beatrice leaned in for a kiss, but was again rebuffed by Emi’s palm. Not right now buddy.
They passed by another small exhibit, one showing off magic golems, like the one Runa was working on in her lab. Right now, all that was showing was a metallic core, but there was a large crank in front of the display. Beatrice seemed to be intentionally ignoring it, but Emi stepped over to the display and turned the lever. As she did, a bunch of rocks on wires emerged from holes in the exhibit and moved close to the core, forming a humanoid body. Haha, it was a self-assembling golem using levers and pulleys. Emi thought it was so neat.
Beatrice had long since moved on from the exhibit, though. She really didn’t like Runa’s experiments, did she?
“Oh, Emi, look at this!” she suddenly exclaimed.
“Oh yeah, what is– Ack!”
Emi let out a shriek as she saw the next exhibit– a massive greyback bear, twice the size of a human. It was a fake model, painted, but still. Terrifying stuff.
“It appears that this was the greyback of many thousands of years ago,” Beatrice said. “They got smaller over time and now they’re just your friendly neighborhood scavenger. Man, this thing looks like it could eat a human though!”
“I wish I never saw this,” Emi said. “Knowing a creature like this ever existed is bad for my mental health.”
“You’ve got more problems than your mental health, so don’t worry,” said Beatrice.
Despite the brazen insult, Emi only giggled.
Lord Lau finally caught up with them a few minutes later when they were in an area that showed off the architecture of ancient tribes around the Plebias Mountains.
“Oh, there you are. I had wondered if you had not been suddenly whisked away by pesky spirits.” He saw the crude stone tools on display next to them and his eyes lit up. “Actually, this is a fine exhibit as well,” he said. “Elince had a wide variety of early historic traditions, but they were far from the first civilization to form on the continent. Did you know the earliest evidence of civilization on Tsubasa actually comes from the Frozen Desert? Archaeologists have scoured the mysterious region for clues to its history, but all that we can find are broken-down structures and tools like these, stretching back ten to twelve thousand years in the past. Because we cannot find similar evidence in the rest of the continent that is as old as this, we can only assume that the climate must have been significantly different back in those times, as…”
Emi groaned and Beatrice laughed.